(This is not a step by step retelling of the EV DC 09 weekend, but a brief reflection a week after the event. There will be more posts following this one. Photos thanks to Tim Snyder)
As I mentioned before, on April 24-26 I joined 24 sisters and brothers in a process that I refer as of re-membering Emergent Village (EV). However it was not a nostalgic retelling of memories or good old tales from 10 years ago. [Yes, when time and people move this fast, 10 years is plenty of time to look back and re-member – heck, I have a 6 years old daughter and I find myself reliving some of the beautiful memories she has given me so far in her short live.] It was a time of discerning the future of such network/organization/tribe.
As mentioned by many of the sisters and brothers in the gathering, the 3 days together were intense and exhaustive. There was a lot of emotional and relational energy to harness and channel. Big ideas and passionate people. Tears, laughter, push backs, individual process, collective listening and collective articulating.
I am assuming you are reading this wanting to know my personal reflection on the weekend – well then, I’ll jump in. As I said before I went to the meeting with hope in joining what the Spirit might be stirring inside this network. Knowing that in spite of what I’ve considered wrong turns in the journey, EV has been a point of connections and a space for people to find kindred spirit for mutual transformation and creative expressions of God’s Kingdom in their local settings. After a weekend of hard work and much listening and conversations, I am very hopeful for the future of EV.
Let me briefly give you some reasons why I feel that way:
People: The people gathered in the Festival Center in the hip and colorful neighborhood of Adams Morgan in DC were a diverse group of sisters and brothers, walking different paths of life, experiencing life through multifold lenses of cultural heritage, color and spiritual formation. There was a deep feeling of respect for each others voices and experiences. I was able to experience a sense of trust and gentleness that I have only been able to experience after years of sharing life with others. This was a true gift. Each person was present, with a common concern in the future of EV, but not just about EV, there was a genuine interest in the larger expression of God’s Reign. Gifts were given and received. There was no obnoxious name dropping. No calling for personal attention. No sense of anyone trying to bring up their gigs to the top of the lists.
Death: It was very evident that we were in the presence of a wilted and dying organism. EV was once a being/network vibrant with life, but like any living thing the end of it was evident. Many of us struggle (me included) with the fact that now it was up to us to decide what to do with this thing, should we buried or cremate it? Should we do it quietly or let as many people know? Wait… is it really it’s season to die, or has something gone wrong in the body that has caused it to get sick? When facing death in a healthy way, we should focus in what is truly necessary to be said and done. No one talk about traffic or football at the death bed of a friend. People speak their heart and what it of utter importance. And so we did. We spoke of deep relationships, family and gratitude. We also spoke of what might have caused this network to face death so soon. We did it not as to throw blame around or judgement, but as if this thing was to regain life again; we needed to know how to avoid nocive actions of the past in order for it to live a healthy life. We focused on the seeds that could still bring delicious fruits.
Humility: Non of us were the self-appointed “experts.” None of us knew more that the other. We all knew that we needed to hear the experience of the “other.” We knew that given to our own devices we were bound the messed up things again. Gone was the once ubiquitous exclusive concept of “who get’s it” and “who doesn’t.” There were the confession of how many people have been hurt by EV in the past, and there been a need for repentance. There was a sincere gratitude for those whom have gone before crafting and curating EV. There was a collective understanding that EV is just one part of a larger movement of the Spirit, in many ways a late comer to the party. In a larger dance of God, EV is another dancer among many beautiful and talented moving bodies.
“Outsiders”: We were not the “rock stars” the self-appointed experts, the EV Intelligentsia, the Super Friends, the consultants, the popular published authors or the ones that social perception have granted the power to become the face and voice of EV. Actually to my surprise and to the surprise of many, most of the 24 people invited to this discernment felt like outsiders. Now, this is not to be taken lightly. The people in the group were healthy individuals, all of us with our scars, quirks and neurosis’, but not all given to extreme self-deprecation. So whatever caused us to feel like outsiders was a real thing. Personally, I’m not one to agree to the concepts that are usually thrown around as “self-inviting,” “self-welcoming,” “self-inclusive.” There are good hosts, welcomers and bringers. There are homes I visit where I know I am completely welcome. I even have fridge-privileges. I do not need to ask permission to open a fridge at some friends home’s. I just go, open the thing and grab a beer. Then I asked my friend if he was one too. However, there are other houses where I do not dare to just jump in. I know I’m welcomed, but I need to be invited first. And there are just places where even though I have been invited, I know is not the place for me. I will not feel quite “welcome” in a place where everyone is wearing kilts, speaking Gaelic and discussing the history of their clans. I might as well be curious, but it is not my place. That is how many of the EV events, conversations and gatherings have felt for me in the past. A gathering of friends, where I can hang if I want, but it is clear that I am not one of the friends. That is OK, as long as it is clear, that it is not an open friendship. Because of the importance of this point, we collectively discussed the importance of the openness and transparency of EV concept of generative friendship. It was clear that much have been missing by not allowing the “other” in, intentionally or unintentionally, and that must change. Coming into the meeting I felt included (see more about my reflection on the concept of inclusion) while leaving the discernment I felt embraced.
This “outsider” subject promise to bring much more to talk, discussion and need of listening in months to come.
At times the discernment fell tense, especially for those whom are driven and task oriented. For them, there was not enough time to deal with the structure that was to keep this beast going. For others it was the submission part, the aspect of listening to submitting to what God was telling us as a collective. For me the tension was when to let go of my judgement and idealism. I’ve said this before, my ideals tent to be so high that I tend to become a fundamentalist. I am learning to live with the fact that I am not the Holy Spirit. I’m learning to hold my values and ideals strong but not to choke them. Also I am learning on how to generously shared them gently and not throw them violently at people.
Someone describe the gathering as a love-fest. And it was. Just a few times have I sensed such a deep respect and care at similar events. People were honest about their interest in each other and EV, but also to the larger expression of God’s Kingdom.
In re-membering, we were collectively present bringing (re) into the future what values/vibes/concept/metaphors/artifacts (members) gave a life to EV and what is life-giving in a broad sense as well.
We ended up holding a container that was wide enough for a lot of life to flourish. Now as any organic gardener knows, it takes lots of work to keep an organic garden. We are now to move into deeper faculties of responsibilities and duties as we try to bring a sense of new structure (board, budget, website, publishing partners, etc) without quieting the beats of life. In my opinion this will not be the only gathering of this kind EV will have. Living organizations and grassroots movements must have parameters but not gates, and they need to often re-evaluate, dis-member and re-member those parameters in order to keep them fluid and the organism healthy. Movements need to live with honesty and humility knowing that we are bound to make similar mistakes as in the past if we build with old and concrete models.
I am very grateful for my time among such a fantastic group of friends. It was a profound spiritual time.
Now, I realized I have not said much in spite of all the words I’ve written. Probably you’ll be better off reading some of the other participants reflections, following this link.