Well, there’s a kid on the blogk at Emergent.ca, where there’s now somebody home. It isn’t obvious if this is a new kid on the blogk or one who’s been there a while. I’ll warn you now, this is a lengthy post… bit I’ve provided a few images to help distract the reader and break up the tedium. Onward, then. Emergent-Canada (Emergent.ca) is starting to organize from the looks of things, and it’s being discussed at Emergent-Voyageurs, and being announced and linked to by the Tall Thin Kiwi before being reflected upon by Robbymac and commented upon by Len Hjalmarson. Naturally, Jordan Cooper has published his thoughts as well (link seems to be to a second response, an earlier version having apparently been pulled), since people immediately started bugging him for comment on behalf of Resonate as soon as the Emergent.ca questionnaire appeared online. Note most or all of the foregoing links have comments and discussion following the posts; I’ve placed some thoughts into that discussion and of course into analog conversations while I’ve attempted to formulate a more thorough opinion. To be honest, I was somewhat concerned I would hastily say something unhelpful that I’d come to regret if said publicly. For having waited, I am glad… I hope it makes me look more intelligent than I really am.
Lots of things have been said within my earshot, and I’ve said a lot of things as well. In the interest of keeping everything relatively open, here is a paraphrased sampling in no particular order of sentiments that have been expressed:
- Emergent.ca? Who are these guys? Their blogs are mostly just announcements of events for their community… where’s the conversation?
- Lambrick? Isn’t that a megachurch? Not very emerging-sounding…
- A survey? How modern of them. Are they going to tabulate the results and organize all of us?
- Brian McLaren “handed them the ball”? Who says Brian had the ball to begin with?
- What’s wrong with just promoting Resonate, and everyone getting involved there?
- Why do we need an American franchise?
- Isn’t it a little early to talk about fundraising when nobody knows what the organization looks like or what if any expenses there are?
- Friendship should be free, and let donations be donations (if we’re going to talk about fundraising).
- Isn’t this a little out of the blue?
- Who’s on this list of 350 people, anyway? I don’t think I’m on it…
- How are a couple of pastors on “The Island” going to understand the nature of what’s going on on the prairies, let alone “down east” in TO or in “La Belle Province” or the Maritimes?
- Who’s Jordan Cooper? Who’s Brian McLaren, and what’s “Emergent” anyway?
That last one just to illustrate that not everyone is paying attention to the conversation in the same way, even if they are living out emerging/missional values… but it is an honest question from some quarters. I must admit to sympathizing with and/or saying some (or many) of these over the weekend, but I’d like to re-adjust things a little and see where we’re at now and where to go from here. Don’t worry if it sounds bad in the middle somewhere, it’s going to come out happy and cooperative. So here we go again, in some vague order at best:
- Firstly, to Simon Goff and Randy Hein (though it’s mostly Simon we see commenting all of a sudden!), we want to welcome you to the conversation. We recognize that you may feel you’ve been involved all along, since your “Shifting Realities” conference was back in 2003. To us in the blogosphere though, we feel we haven’t heard from you since the conference — which I myself and I’m sure many others heard about for the first time just now. Most of us feel we don’t really know you yet, but as they say on The Dukes of Hazzard, “A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet!”
- Simon, we’ve seen your contact info on the Emergent Village website for some time now, but had gotten to wondering why nothing had been said or done about it… it looked a bit odd that there was only one church in Canada listed and not one that we immediately thought of as emerging. You’ve already talked about this a little bit, so there’s not much point belabouring it. Since others have been engaged already, it would have been nice not to delay the conversation until your particular local church was ready for it (unless I misunderstand what you’ve said), but now that it’s getting started, we’re glad that it is.
- We’re pretty sure you don’t mean it this way, but to say that Brian McLaren “handed you the ball” sounds like some kind of divine heirarchical appointment. We’re sure Brian didn’t mean it this way either, we figure he just said, “Well, go and organize, sombody’s got to do it — grab the ball and run with it!” which doesn’t come over quite the same way. Like I said, we’re sure you don’t mean it like that, but when it started pushing buttons, some of us were tempted to think the worst.
- We’re glad that during the “quiet period” since your conference up until now, Resonate was formed and began taking up something more like a wider national conversation than we’ve seen so far. They’ve been at it a while (a year or more?) and are doing a pretty fair job of it — we want to wish them well with their new journal. We also want to affirm that we don’t see them being replaced or superseded anytime soon. We think Resonate has its own unique spot to fill.
- Speaking of Resonate, we want to thank those guys for their contribution as well. I myself have never been contacted by them, but nor have I gone out of my way to contact them to be listed as a regional contact person or get them to link my blog (maybe I should). The closest I’ve come is commenting on and linking to Jordan’s and Len’s blogs… not the same thing. Sheesh, even with bullet-points I digress! Although there are regional contacts listed on Resonate, I see that most of its members are in the Saskatoon area, and there’s a lot of conversation between them… for this reason I personally see Resonate as being more regional, even though they’ve made an attempt to foster national conversation. And good on them for it, too.
- Let’s talk. Simon, Jordan, Len, Rob, Jamie, and others… let’s have a few conversations via email or conference call or whatever works, and plot something. We want to pitch in and row together (the rowing image is just for Jamie the voyageur). The questionnaire is a good start, but we’d like to see something more organic, where we can interact a bit more, and let that drive things rather than the questionnaire only. (For my part, I look at the questionnaire and want to add a comment, qualifier, or explanatory remark for almost every line!) Perhaps we can lay some groundwork and lead up to an in-person meeting.
- I kept saying “we” but I could be speaking only for me… others whose voices I’ve been hearing for the past several days may chime in of their own accord at this point. I do think we’re in general agreement on the foregoing though.
- There are already some recognizable national emerging church voices, and perhaps these could be surveyed directly to solicit their input and see if they would participate on a leadership level. I’m thinking here of Jordan Cooper, Rob McAlpine, Len Hjalmarson, Pernell Goodyear, Darryl Dash, Mike Todd, and others. Hint: the ones already talking probably care enough to get involved.
- I would like to solicit the advice of guys like Jason Clark in the UK about how they relate to Emergent-US. I know there was discussion about the whole franchising and branding and identity things, so I think it behooves us to consider the experience of those who have been through this before, and see what wisdom we can glean from the process.
- I’d like to know what’s up with Emergent in Australia. Like Emergent Canada, there’s nothing but a contact email address, and in Australia there is already another identifiable group that’s is rather emerging and would be considered Emergent-friendly… namely, Forge. There was a recent toe-stepping and makeup dance that we all remember, but I’d like to hear from the folks at Forge… what is the perceived place for Emergent Australia when Forge is already in place? Are there parallels for us with Emergent.ca and Resonate?
- I’ve talked elsewhere about regional differences in Canada. We’ve got a huge geography that sometimes the Europeans don’t grasp, with some cultural differences that can be much more pronounced than moving between most American states. For those who don’t quite get the picture, take note that the town of Kenora, Ontario was recently talking about seceding from Ontario and joining Manitoba — largely because of such differences (they’re 1800KM from Toronto and 200KM from Winnipeg). In order to recognized this, should we perhaps have regional groups that relate together on a national level?
- Someone sagely observed in analog conversation on the weekend that the picture in Canada will look more like Australia than like the USA. Something in my gut agrees with this completely… but is it actually true, and if so, how should we reflect it as we seek to broaden the conversation to the national level? (To flesh this out, it probably means missional-emerging rather than emerging-missional, and more house/simple church than megachurch… but in saying that, we might admit that in Toronto or Vancouver, it could be more American than Australian.)
- Regarding the whole question of franchising, branding, and sleeping with an elephant… Canada does have a bit of a complex about being closely tied to all things American. In some respects we need to get over it, but in this respect I think we need to consider it to some extent and allow it to be what it is. I think that regional groups would facilitate this, and whatever Emergent-US is or does, Emergent.ca could be a bottom-up group with its own national identity. If there’s a perceived threat in adopting the name, I think we could still happily claim friendship with Emergent-US even if we ditched the Emergent name.
- I’ll say it again: groups of groups. For any church with a cell group structure, or house churches that relate with other house churches, you’ll probably already think this way, and get this picture. Actually, I should clarify — a cell-group church that genuinely sees itself as made up of cells rather than something that breaks down into cells will get this. One is top-down, the other is organic. I’m thinking “groups of groups” in an organic sense. There is already a strong regional group for Saskatoon in Resonate, and initial feedback in Winnipeg indicates a desire to get together. I’ve also spoken with pastors of emerging churches in Winnipeg who were unable to attend our little pub night last week, and it seems to me that there’s a general and genuine desire to connect with one another. My rather strong suspicion is that it’ll eventually become an identifiable group, whether formally or informally. I don’t know exactly what the situation is in other regions of Canada, but I suspect that with a bit of assistance, people in each of those regions could begin to connect with one another in a similar way. This strikes me as being a lot like Emergent Cohorts, but maybe with different names or regional identities of their own.
- Facilitating gatherings is one potential role for Emergent.ca, but note that this is very likely to require regional support. Holding a conference on one coast elevates the cost to those on the other end of the country so that they may just as well attend a gathering in Europe. Or Bermuda. Last time I checked, most of us ec/missional types weren’t the overly-wealthy ones. This facet alone elevates the importance of regional gatherings and regional groups to support and facilitate them. By the way, this doesn’t have to be anything grandiose, and is already happening… witness Peregrinations: An Emerging Church Forum (for those who were already aware of this, note the date change and filled-out schedule)… note the list of big-name, high-power speakers at that one (well done, Len! Very pomergent). Conversations and conferences are also taking place in unexpected places (even if they really haven’t quite figured out the pomergent way to do things yet).
So. Where have we gotten to? I want to encourage all Canadian ec/missional types to go on over and complete the questionnaire at Emergent.ca. Those who are already in “the conversation” should look for additional ways to connect and dialogue about what role Emergent.ca should play, and what type of overall structure, goals, and character we’d like to see the emerging church conversation take in Canada. The appearance of this questionnaire and the resulting conversation that has resulted is a large indicator of growing momentum for the ec/missional conversation in Canada. It’s a good thing.