I’ve just returned from Christianity 21 in Denver. I’ll say right away that the sunshine and warmth in Denver bested the rainy gloom I left behind in Vancouver. But that’s another story.
The story worth pondering is the amazing array of speakers and the intensity of this second gathering of Christianity 21 organized by Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Sarah Cunningham and their JoPa organization. The first gathering took place in 2009.
Many will recognize the names Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt from their work on Emergent Village and their books putting forth powerful ideas for what Christianity might look like as we move further into the 21st century. With several other scholars and thinkers like Diana Butler-Bass, Phyllis Tickle and Brian McLaren – to name just three – Jones and Pagitt are, when you meet them in the flesh, enthusiastic followers of Jesus whose deep desire is to nudge us all forward into a renewed Christian presence in our world that will reach people where they are and move beyond cultural, institutional Christian “religion”. It’s definitely a place where we Anglicans need to go – personally and as a larger Christian community.
I’m hoping that soon we can find a way, perhaps working with others in the Greater Vancouver Christian community, to follow up on Diana Butler-Bass’s visit among us by hosting Jones, Pagitt, Cunningham as well as some of the other powerful speakers at this event. I even suggested to David Ewart, Vancouver area retired United Church minister who also attended, that we might get up enough steam to host the next Christianity 21 in Vancouver. Life changing for all of us, assuredly.
Over the next while, I’ll be posting some summaries and comments on what I heard – and felt- at Christianity 21. There was a lot to digest. As my fellow attendee Ann McGlynn, director of Communications at a large Lutheran church in Davenport, Iowa observed – “It’s like drinking from a firehose”. Amen to that!
The event was structured like no other I’ve attended. In addition to a series of 21 “21 minute” main stage speakers, there were sessions of seven “7 minute” speakers presenting a total of 40 voices… brilliant, concise creative ‘bites’, and a couple of opportunities for small group discussions on a variety of topics. In addition, the large gym / meeting room at Denver’s Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where the event was held was filled with publishers’ displays and displays by various para-church organizations. Have a look at http:www.Christianity 21.com to get a closer view.
A highlight of the event was a book launch featuring two books: Phyllis Tickle’s latest offering in her “Emergence” series, entitled, The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy is Shaping the Church (co-authored with Jon M. Sweeney – a fine scholar in his own right), and Phyllis Tickle: Evangelist of the Future – a festschrift edited by Tony Jones that includes sections by Diana Butler-Bass, Brian McLaren, Jon Sweeney and Doug Pagitt. Both are published by Paraclete Press.
There’s the overview. I wish more of our Diocese of New West folks could have been there to drink from that fire hose. At any rate, more next time when I’ll reflect on the joy of meeting and hearing Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner and Saint. If you haven’t read Pastrix, you are in for a unique treat. She’s one special Lutheran pastor. Get the book and enjoy it with your friends in a book club, or in a congregational discussion group.
But more of that anon.
Next: Journey to an Emergent Frontier, part two: Nadia Bolz-Weber
Steve Bailey is a deacon at St. Laurence, Coquitlam and a blogmaster at NW Anglican Blog. He’s excited by the possibilities of a future where the love of Jesus is shed abroad in new and exciting ways. Your comments and contributions are always welcome.