We talk about wanting to be more welcoming, particularly of young people. But our actions say that what we really want are young people who are willing to learn, participate in worship, and be part of our community, in the same way their parents and grandparents did. Statistics say this isn"t working. Technology is a tool.
The church world calls it a tool for ministry. Synagogues need to start thinking of technology as a tool for connecting with our congregants, and for them to connect with one another and the rest of k"lal Yisrael. And dare I say, in the most reverent Buberist terms, with God.
Archive for February, 2008
Updates about Dieter’s situation are available here.
Dieter is a true emergent-religion pioneer. In the mid-1980s, he founded the first-ever GenX Church, New Song, in West Covina, California. In the mid-1990s, Willow Creek‘s Bill Hybels invited him to launch Axis, Willow’s church-within-a-church for GenXers. Since 2000 he has lived in the Bay Area, where he and Mark Scandrette cofounded Re-Imagine; he now is the Pastor of Arts and Spiritual Formation at BayMarin Community Church, working with David Cobia, who also was with us in January 2006.
Our prayers for a speedy and complete healing, healing of body and healing of spirit, are with Dieter and his family.
The following is an excerpt from Tony Jones’s new book, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, coming out this spring from John Wiley & Sons.
…In late 2005, some of us emergent Christians were invited to meet with a group of young and innovative rabbis. Meetings between Jewish and Christian leaders are nothing new, and a lot of us, on both sides, had been involved in previous meetings (though not with each other). However, we were committed to making this meeting different. In the blogosphere, we began taking heat for even announcing the meeting, especially my quote in the press release that I was excited to meet with the rabbis to ‘‘talk about the future and God"s Kingdom."" Some of my Christian friends made it clear that Jews could not possibly be involved in kingdom of God work because they did not profess belief in Jesus. To emergents, this kind of thinking binds God"s work to the church and implies that outside the lives of professed Christians, God is handicapped.
Rejecting this belief, I set to work with Shawn Landres, the director of research at Synagogue 3000, the group that convened the meeting …to bring together the emergent Christian leaders and the emergent Jewish leaders. We decided that we would ask no one to leave anything at the door—who you were in your synagogue or church is who we wanted you to be at this meeting. To that end, Shawn began our meeting. We were all sitting in a circle—about two dozen of us—and Shawn said, ‘‘To my fellow Jews, I want to let you know that these emergent Christians are going to talk openly about Jesus and the Bible. This may make you uncomfortable at first, but that"s what they believe, so that"s what they"re going to talk about."" I went on to say something similar to my Christian peers about the rabbis talking about the Torah.
The resulting conversation was a thing of beauty. Though occasionally awkward, those moments were far outweighed by times of great poignancy. I led a meditation on a story of Jesus, and Troy Bronsink led songs he has written about Jesus. The rabbis taught from Torah, and the cantors led us in songs of Jewish faith. No one held back, which ultimately led to more candor and openness about what we really believe. And that, in turn, led to deeper friendships, since openness and authenticity are such important qualities in making friends. One instance from the gathering represents this best. In one small group, the question was raised about whether rabbis from older, established synagogues might bless and assist young rabbis who are attempting to start something new. After some discussion among the Jewish members of the small group, Tim Keel, pastor of Jacob"s Well in Kansas City, spoke up. He told the story of Eli and Samuel, found at the beginning of 1 Samuel, and of how the very old prophet, Eli, and the young boy and prophet-to-be, Samuel, formed a mutually beneficial and nonhierarchical relationship.
When Tim finished, silence ensued. Then a rabbi quietly said, ‘‘Yasher koach."" Shawn told me later that"s a Yiddish version of the Hebrew yishar kochachah, which means, ‘‘More strength to you."" He also told me that it"s a traditional expression of appreciation and respect for an interpretation of Torah.
It was a moment of beautiful truth.
Thanks, Tony, for this beautiful retelling of our time together. As they say, it was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
For more about our groundbreaking January 2006 meeting and its continuing resonances, please click here.