As I visit congregations in Fargo-Moorhead, I find myself pretty-much being able to guess what their worship services will be like from their website whether they’re a traditional ELCA congregation or a Baptist new church start. It could be argued this is a good thing for sure. But, in many ways, that seems problematic to me.
For folks who want to go to church there are options — an attractional service with big band and long sermon in an auditorium, a high church liturgical service in an old building with pews, to name two. But what of the woman who says to a bishop, as quoted in the book, “I don’t go in for that church shit, but I need something more, and this [worship experience] is my something more?”
In the closing chapters, the authors make this clarifying — and telling — distinction. “Emergent churches,” they write, “do not hold as their first matter of importance the survival of the church...This distinguishes them from many institutional churches who are primarily concerned with their own survival, and only secondarily with the spirituality hungry, or those otherwise in need.” The authors mean it not as a crack on the institutional church, but merely an observation. For this reader, however, it was both telling and true.
More and more books are being published which look at emergent congregations, but this analysis of Anglican-related emergent and/or missional faith communities is the best I’ve read yet. It has it’s flaws for sure — the authors’ voice is sometimes confused by different use of American or British English, I couldn’t stand the lack of pictures and videos, and the included liturgy just left me questioning more — but I wholeheartedly recommend this little gem.
If you’re a member of a traditional congregation, read this with your Worship Committee. If you’re not, read this book for a glimpse into what creative new faith communities can be, or at least, what the emerging faith communities the authors studied are exploring right now.