Many of the discussions were not directly theological as much as they were practical, dealing with daily congregational concerns. What became clear to me was the depth to which American religion (and not just the church) has adopted the language of consumer spirituality. In my observations at the S3K/Emergent event, I heard voiced desires of 'attracting young people', of relevance, of meeting needs, and of gaining numbers. This way of speaking and thinking captured the heart of American congregational life over the last twenty years, for both Christian and Jew.
"I hope you are going to share how you attract the 18 to 30 year olds to your service", a Boomer from the S3K community blurted out. I saw the resultant expressions on both the Emergent Christians and Jews faces -- 'you don't really understand what we're all about do you'?
"Do you know how we deal with numbers?" an emerging church leader later remarked. "We don't care about them". Consequently, on the Boomers face, I saw a similar perplexed look: 'What could you possibly mean?'
Two utterly different visions of how to embody their faith. Some of these conversations were identical to the many Boomer/consumer church vs. Emerging Church discussions I've witnessed the last few years. These conversations go like this:
Boomer: How do we become relevant so you'll come?
ECer: You are asking the wrong question. The question is, how do we live the way of Jesus in our culture. In other words, how do we create a way of life that has integrity both within our faith tradition and in our culture, regardless of numbers...and, by the way, please, please, please, never do church for us...
Because of the strength of this consumer/boomer mentality on congregational life in America, I saw a real connection for those not buying it: the emerging church and emerging synagogue types at this gathering. There was a solidarity between each other that often was lacking with those in their own faith traditions. "Whew! There are other people going through the same frustrations that I am!!" It was very cool to see. Remove the yarmulkahs and you would think you were at an Emergent gathering.
Tomorrow I'll talk about the very inspiring spiritual dynamics I saw between the groups, and yes, yes, the pictures...