Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Visit to an Emerging Church

Last Sunday we were in Houston visiting my son and his fiancée. When we were making our plans the night before the word was, "We'll have to get there early or there won't be a place to sit."

So we hurried ourselves up, took the dog for a walk, got overdressed, and headed for ecclesia. No, I'm not trying to show off my Greek skills; that's the church's name.

When we arrived we got in the coffee line. Not just for the standard Mr. Coffee brew, but rather for a muko-choco-latto, or something like that. So while most sanctuaries have a sign outside saying: "No food or drink in Sanctuary," this one was just the opposite. Proceeds go to support the place.

What the church's name lacks in originality, the venue makes up for. The meeting was held in an art gallery with a name that seemed quite fitting for some of the artwork on display.
Two walls were a permanent display of interesting religious art; the other two were dedicated to moving exhibits.
The congregational singing was a combination of contemporary music and hymns, led by an average guitar player. The congregation was of many colors, mostly on the young side, and more comfortably dressed than I was. When the pastor got up to lead the opening prayer he was interrupted by a cute two year old asking, "Do you know where my mommy is?" The pastor smiled, held the child up so we could all see her and her mom could find her. That taken care of, back to his prayer. Not long after, the children were dismissed to their own service.

By this point I was beginning to suspect that this was an emergent church, but when I heard Brian McLaren's name invoked, then I knew for sure.

Next was the scripture reading, and I'm afraid to say this is the one part of the service that I had a little objection to. The reading was from Luke, but instead of actually reading from Luke, the pastor read from The Voice of Luke, Not Even Sandals, a retelling of Luke and Acts written by Brian McLaren. Don't get me wrong--I'm not opposed, in general, to paraphrases and even oral storying of scripture. But what bothered me, is it didn't seem like the pastor actually mentioned that's what he was doing. Here’s a link with info about McLaren’s book, if that interests you.

The service ended with communion, done by intinction, with both grape juice and wine offered. Having both options available was a new one for me.

I enjoyed my visit to ecclesia, and found it a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. Since the place was busting out the seams, it must be doing something right. I'm aware of the criticisms of the emergent church movement and feel that some of those criticisms are valid. But, I also know they are not all cut from the same cookie cutter and I'd be willing to learn more.


Melchizedek said...

So did someone else tell you what he was reading?

It is strange he didn't say, maybe he just forgot.

Thainamu said...

Well, I don't have a tape recording of what exactly was said, so I can't reconstruct the sequence perfectly. Yes, he did mention the book's name, which is how I knew to look it up, and he did encourage everyone to buy it. What he didn't do was explain what it was. So when he started reading it didn't sound like any Bible version I knew, yet it sounded vaguely familiar. It was on the overhead too, but no Bible reference given, no verse numbers. So I knew that he was reading from the book but then it dawned on me that this reading was supposed to be the scripture reading. Which it sort of was, but not quite. I just thought it would have been intellectually more honest to say something like, "For the scripture reading today we are reading a scripture retelling done by Brian McLaren from his book The Voice of Luke."

Melchizedek said...

Ok, I see.

Maybe he considers it a translation more than a retelling? I'm not familiar with it, and the interview you linked to wasn't very informative on that.

Lapa said...
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