Over the last few days, the e-mails coming into my Inbox regarding the role of the institution in supporting emergence in faith communities and networks have been so confirming. They have confirmed for me that this is an important moment in the long history of our Christian dialogue. I have come to believe that, in our relationships, there is always more potential than we realize. What is it that we say in Eucharistic Prayer C — something about “Open our eyes to see Your hand at work in the world around us . . . “?
Most of the time, the only real obstacle to moving into new life is our fear — nothing else! Fear of the unknown, fear of the known, fear of giving up control, fear of the hidden motivations of the institution, fear of __________ (please fill in the blank!). In the story of 2 Kings 7, there were four lepers hanging out at the city gates, in fear because their city was under siege. They couldn’t find a home in the city and they were terrified of the enemy outside the walls, as well. Mind you, they’d never actually encountered the enemy – just heard about it. Finally, the storyteller quotes them as saying, “Why stay here until we die? So let’s go out . . .” Well, the story goes on to confirm that the threat we are familiar with may actually be worse than the one we’re imagining!
As I respond to some of the fear-filled correspondence, I’m learning that asking, “What is it that you fear?” only makes things worse. People can expand on fear, forever. Lately, I’ve started asking, “What would you need in order to feel safe enough to try . . . ?” Now, instead of expanding on their fears, they are working toward a plan, an approach, a venture — even new partnerships!
Much of what we fear exists where there is a lack of love. In our Christian Scriptures we have the assertion that perfect love casts out all fear. I often wonder, when feeling fear (even institutional anxiety), “What (or who) is it that I need to love, right now?” I can tell you that, when the answer comes to me, and I follow the Spirit’s leading to Love, it’s actually OK to feel insecure, rather than fearful. I can live with not knowing; I cannot, however, find life through fear. Rudolf Bahro (German activist and iconoclast) explains that “When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure.” Imagine us leading – loving but insecure with asserting Truth – “insecure” enough to stay curious and loving enough to stay clear of the sticky web of fear.
Postmoderns are sometimes critiqued for too glibly denouncing that which smacks of modernity. Reading religious ‘blogs lately convinces me that most of us could spend the rest of our days apophatically asserting our various realities. If we’re to prepare ourselves for the “not yet” Kin-dom of God, though, we have to gird up our loins to walk in that in-between place where the old language is inadequate and the new language is still coming to us. We’ll daily be humbled by recollections of the certainties we used to herald. We’ll more freely admit that, well, we just don’t know (yet!). All we’ll have is the Holy Visions that wake us in the night and a longing to be a part of what the Spirit has been birthing for millenia – right in our collective midst. Some of us will paint our memories of those visions; others will put music to them; fewer still will design buildings and sacred spaces and most of us will try language – old wineskins for new wine!
I imagine that when the original drafters of the 20/20 vision first came together with their love and hopes for the Episcopal Church and all that it has to offer, they shared a passion not too dissimilar from what we share on this virtual community. They were afire with visions of what might happen if we were to open our hearts and hands and churches in new ways to new possibilities. They too were concerned that the “same old – same old” might subsume their Spirit-led ventures and they were cautious not to limit the Spirit’s work with small expectations. They prayed and they hoped and they shared, tirelessly. I know, because I’ve been blessed to hear their stories. Many of them are now watching and praying and listening to this conversation regarding Angli-mergence – hoping from the sidelines that the baton they passed will be cherished, regardless.
Here are the questions that shape my conversations, these days: “How might we choose love over fear? How might we get comfortable with insecurity in this strange place we presently traverse? How might we honor the Episcopal Church we’ve inherited while preparing ourselves to offer ancient gifts to new cultures? And most of all, how might we do that, TOGETHER?” I think that courageously answering that question may be more important than many of us realize.
With crazy hopes and growing cheer,