I hope to blog out my thoughts about EmeringUmc2: Restoring Missional Methodism over the next several days. Here is my first attempt to summarize my experience at the conference.
EmergingUMC2 has come and gone. You can see the twitter conversation (#emergingumc2) here.
It was an event that my congregation, Lockerbie Central United Methodist, had lobbied hard to get. We were a small congregation that had been left for dead but had found new life in the emergent/missonal way. We wanted to show and tell our story.
I went into the conference feeling a little bit out of it though. In this season of the H1N1, I woke up Thursday morning–12 hours before the conference started–puking my guts out. Lucky for me, it wasn’t the flu and I made it through the weekend.
We screened the movie The Ordinary Radicals to start the conference and as part of our normal Thursday night film series. We had about 1o0 people in attendance. Director Jamie Moffett was in town and it was exciting to see Lockerbie Central’s brief appearance in the movie. The film tells the story of “Ordinary Radicals”– everyday people whose faith and commitment to community have begun to provide an alternative to what it means to be a North American Christian. Imagine a Christianity that actually took Jesus seriously–that is what the Ordinary Radicals are. The film follows Shane Claiborne and his merry band of Christian troublemakers (in the best of that word) and jesters (in the best sense of that word) across the country in a grease powered bus during the summer of 2008 as part of the Jesus For President (book] tour.
The movie was inspiring but I could tell that for many conference attendees, the Ordinary Radicals’ movement wouldn’t quite translate to the county seat churches. Well, lets just say it wouldn’t happen over night.
After a worship gathering, we took a three hour walk across downtown Indianapolis. We wanted to give conference goers a sense of our missional context.
We headed from the church, across Lockerbie Square, and over to Mass. Ave. , where we met Pauline Moffett at the Indy Fringe Building. Pauline is executive director of the Indianapolis Fringe Festival, a 10 day uncensored and unjuried theater and arts festival, where all ticket sales go to the performers. Our church has worked with Indy Fringe for the last four years and last year hosted the festival’s dance performances. I’ll talk about it more in a later post, but it was quite amazing how much the mission of Indy Fringe met up with the ideal of the conference.
From there, we walked towards downtown, talking about Indianapolis history—the good, the bad, and the ugly– and then met with the Justice For Janitors campaign on the steps of Monument Circle. A half decade into the struggle, janitors won their first union contact last year with the help of clergy leaders. If the campaign continues to succeed, 2,000 lowpaying jobs will be tranformed into living wage jobs that can support a family. From there, we walked a few more blocks, saw the state house, and then met with Stuart Mora, a hotel worker and Lockerbie Central member, who is working with his coworkers to organize a union at downtown hotels. Like the janitors, if the hotel workers suceed thousands of jobs will become living wage jobs. If clergy and the church get involved in real and meaningful ways in these types of struggles, our economy will be transformed and perhaps the church might have a future.
Having walked three miles or so, the group headed back to Lockerbie Central UMC and had lunch. We read this qoute off of our church sign:
It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case we will gladly stop working toward a better future. But not before. Dietrich Bonhoeffer