We had a great conversation tonight about the future of Peacemeal (thanks to Daniel Gunn for facilitating our discussion!). We didn’t reach any conclusions about where we go from here, but we did have some good honest sharing about the life of our community, what inspires us, what drags us down, and what holds us back. After getting home, I was checking out some blogs and found this article (referenced on Jonny Baker’s blog) about emerging churches within traditional structures. I thought of Peacemeal as I read this description from Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs:
Although emerging churches are diverse in their expressions, they embody a number of shared practices. In our book Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (2005), we defined the emerging church as “those who take the life of Jesus as a model way to live (one), who transform the secular realm (two), as they live highly communal lives (three). Because of these three activities, they welcome those who are outside (four), they share generously (five), they participate (six), create (seven), they lead without control (eight), and function together in spiritual activities (nine).”
We see those patterns holding today. These communities center on the life of Christ and his mission. They playfully remix popular culture and ancient spiritual traditions to make their faith their own. They live in tight, hospitable communities. Rather than participate in verbal apologetics, they live their Christ-patterned life in public ways, in hope that others might be inspired and do likewise. These communities value participation—seeking to lead from the back and from the margins rather than from the front.
So, perhaps one of the questions for Peacemeal is how are we going to “center on the life of Christ and his mission”? What will that look like for us? How will we do that in a way that makes our community different from other congregations and parishes in Scranton? In what ways will we “welcome those who are outside”? While I’m sure all of our recent conversations about Peacemeal have been important and will continue to enrich us, I’m also aware that focusing too much energy on survival is the surest way to perish. Only as we turn our gaze outside of ourselves to welcome in the poor, the struggling, the lonely, and the outsider (as well as the creative, the self-possessed, the happy, and the well-off) will we regain our sense of calling, mission, and joy. And as we do this, we may find ourselves growing to a more viable size – not because we are enamored with numbers but because we believe that the goodness we have found in this community ought to be extended to others. We are small, but with twelve followers Jesus changed the world. I know that sounds cliché, but we shouldn’t dismiss the power of a small number of people willing to commit their lives to the conviction that this-could-change-everything. May God bless our deliberations and discernments in the coming days and weeks.