In my previous life, I worked as a Retail Buyer for two major retail companies, and one of the best parts of my old job, was the semi-annual trips to “Market.” Usually, these journeys included my Senior VP, Divisional VP, and my Assistant Buyer, who would make multi-day pilgrimages to either Chicago, New York, or New Orleans. Although “Market” offered space for people to show retail industry leaders their latest wares, there was something much deeper going on here. “Market,” was a “State Fair” atmosphere made up of multi-sensory booths, filled with the latest gourmet espresso machines, tri-ply stainless steel cookware, fine German cutlery, and any other housewares gadgets. Despite the plethora of product, signage, demonstrations, and chatter, the real purpose behind the “Gourmet Show” in New Orleans, or the “Housewares Show” in Chicago, was to give leaders the opportunity to develop, cultivate, and enhance relationships.
When I used to go to market, I recognized the relational importance of these gatherings, and I spent less time looking at the latest gadgets, and more time talking with my vendors, enjoying meals together, and dreaming about how we might enhance our relationship. Even so, I am a gadget junkie and yes, when I went to market I visited every booth I could, I listened intently and learned from each presentation, and through that process, I came to understand my products, my customers, and yes, the markets in which our stores resided– but what gave me energy, what helped me transform–was the relationships.
I wanted to go to the “Emergence Christianity Gathering,” from the first day it was announced. I wanted to sample first-hand, the prophetic wares of theology, ecclesiology, and the postmodern cultural upheaval, for which Phyllis Tickle is known, and by which, she shares her wisdom through her awesome books, podcasts, and blog. I also wanted to attend this gathering for the same reasons I used to go to retail markets. I wanted to seek out, develop, cultivate, and engage in new relationships with people who like me, are looking at the faith through what some say, is a different lens. At this gathering, I was not disappointed.
Over the last two days, I met several people in the Emergence conversation– folks with whom I had connected previously through social media. I shared meals with people who are actively engaged in fresh expressions of community, in a post-modern context. I listened intently and drank deeply from their wisdom and experience. I learned how little I understand about this movement now, how much I am beginning to understand now, and how much I need and want to learn. Relationships were cultivated, resources for further study recorded, contacts for further conversation catalogued, and a desire to learn more, drink deeper, and read with intention, was fervently ignited in me.
Am I fully indoctrinated, learned, and “up-to-date” on Emergence Christianity? I am far from it, but I am on the way to learning the complexities and nuances of this most important movement of the faith. As I look back at the last two days in Memphis, I believe I have merely scratched the surface, taken the first step, and maybe even with some trepidation, leapt off the cliff of some of my own modern mindset. I believe I am once again re-connecting with my formerly deeply held, recently buried, and yet now, is becoming my own re-emerging postmodern proclivities. Lord have mercy.
In my next blog post, I will continue to share my reflections on the Emergence Gathering, and offer some thoughts on “Emergence Christianity, Cultural Changes, Technology, and Religion”