What it Takes to Finish a semester….

To- Do List:

1 final comparing Calvin’s concept of idolatry of God to Coomaraswamy’s argument that religious exclusivism is equal to idolatry of God. (currently I have an introduction and ideas), Due in January

1 final comparing Calvin’s exegesis of Genesis 18-19 to Origen’s analysis of the same passage. (currently I have an extension ūüôā ), Due in January

1 final explicating the role of art and the aesthetic in public theology (currently I have an art piece and the majority of a paper), Due on Tuesday

1 first draft of a 40-page thesis on hospitality  (currently I have 31 pages), due in January



This is what I have before me as I prepare to return home for Christmas. It seems like a lot and not a lot at the same time. ¬†Mostly, I am concerned because I need to finish it before I leave on a cruise in early January, so it has to be done by the end of December. ¬†I am sure I can do it; if only I FELT like doing it….. ūüėČ

Defining the indefinable

So this dude facebooked me today with the following message:

Hi Sarah, 
I was hoping to find out more about what the term Emergent Church means. I’ve done some Internet research, but have, so far, been unable to clearly grasp this concept. I checked out the blogger and facebook emergent church cohort, and I thought I’d message you to ask if you could provide any clearer idea as to what it is.

You can see how I was led down this path in my blog (and the comments from that post):http://hyperactivegadfly.blogspot.com/2008/11/church-hopping-trinity-church.html

Any info you might have would be helpful.


Of course, this is a daunting task, but I decided to at least try my hand at it. ¬†I was, of course, flattered that a stranger found me and asked me…. so here is my response. ¬†Let me know what you think:

thanks for the message- i read your blog and suggested a couple churches. 

In terms of defining emergent, that is a good question. There are a lot of different definitions out there I think, mostly because the movement has resisted being defined so strongly (I will say that the individual you commented on your seeming to be interested in an emergent church was pushing it a bit… everything you stated you wanted in a church could be found in a traditional church.)¬†

Generally speaking, however, emergent is organized around the idea that theology and worship are a conversation–between us and God, and within a community. It recognizes that philosophically we live in a postmodern world, meaning that absolute truth claims are viewed with suspicion, the general outlook is in the direction of a global worldview, etc. HOwever, emergent resists postmodern in so far as it upholds the absolute claim that is the Christian story.¬†

Emergent churches tend to be oriented towards pushing the edges of worship, incorporating experiential elements such as prayer stations, lectio divina, and the recovery of ancient church traditions such as labyrinth walking. This is not true of every emergent chruch, however. Emergent churches tend to be, but are not always, intentional not denominational, more interested in connecting people despite backgrounds, open to incorporating elements of other traditions, etc. There is an emergent service at the Cathedral, for example, called the CRossing which uses Jazz music in its worship and incorporates reflection space into the sermon, where the worshipping body responds to the message.

I hope that some of this helps. You are certainly welcome to visit the emergent cohort (we meet once a month in Cambridge) if you would like to learn more. Good luck in your search for a church home and congratulations on your engagement.




UPDATE:  If you would like to see how the person I wrote this to responded, check out his blog and what he had to say.  I must say, it is really neat to see conversation develop, and this sort of thing is what makes blogging exciting for me.

Real Life Seminary

Those of you who know me or have read this blog before possibly remember that I spent probably one of the most exciting and challenging summers of my life working in Philadelphia at Broad Street Ministry. ¬†And if you have had the privilege (hah!) of meeting me since then, you likely have heard that church come up at LEAST one or two times. ¬†Because it was really extraordinary. ¬†It was hard, of course, being in a place where you are brought face to face everyday with everything that lies in the road on the way to the Kingdom, but it was also satisfying and powerful to be tackling those stones as a church rather than tiptoeing around them and pretending they didn’t exist ( I have experienced churches that DO that…. not so faithful, in my own opinion.)

Anyways, I am writing all of this because, as I sit here in the 30th Street train station in Philadephia, after an amazing weekend in the city (yes, I commute here once a month or so now, and always go to BSM… it really IS that good…), I find myself reflecting back upon those experiences, as well as wanting to share with those who might like a listen.

More importantly, I am writing to get the word out.  Last year Broad Street began thinking and dreaming of a Seminary Immersion experience, a program in which seminary students could take a year off and live and work and learn in the melting pot that is BSM.  It was a great idea, but a long-shot, but, as improbable as much of the magic at BSM, it has happened.  Broad Street is now accepting applications for a newly minted Seminary Immersion Program, and I must say that I am jealous that I will no longer be a seminary student when it begins (if I were, I would have applied the minute the application was up).  I had the opportunity to sit in on some of the planning meetings for this program, and I can vouch for the fact that it will be real and it will be life-changing.  The folks running the program are amazing folks, the sort that every seminary student should have the opportunity to work and learn with, and they have some amazing plans in store.

Here is what BSM has to say about the program:

The formation that will occur during this experience will be unique for each participant, but will also bear the unique marks of the contexts which fuel it: an inclination toward collaboration, a taste for risk-taking, openness toward the other, and a holy impatience for the realization of the Kingdom of God. BSM House Alumni/ae will be unleashed with a sense for what is possible within local churches, and with skills and networks that will help them translate dreams into first steps once they graduate from seminary.

So if you are thinking of doing a full-time internship, or need a break from seminary for a year, or feel possibly called to check it all out, PLEASE check the program out.  Or let your friends know, or your Field Education office at your Seminary.  It is COMPLETELY worth considering taking the leap.  I did it, and I have never been quite the same since (in a good way!)


Get ready and wait

Man am I ever really feeling the season of Advent. ¬†Maybe it’s something in my water, but I have been feeling the disease and lack of comfort that comes with waiting earnestly– for a future, for answers, for certainty, for God to direct me in the right place. ¬†And I will say, that I am getting the sense that sometimes it feels less than restful to be fully in the liturgical season. ¬†Usually, I feel expectant in a hopeful way right about now, for it is time for a break and a rest from school and for time with my family. ¬†I get excited about classes for the following semester, for everything that I could and can be doing in the following summer. ¬†

This time, however, is different. ¬†I feel like I am anticipating graduation physically right now, subconsciously getting prepared for the reality that my life is about to change drastically, and it is disconcerting. ¬†I have been a full-time student for almost my whole life, never taking a year off to do anything different, never taking a break, never trying something new. ¬†And now, finally, all of that education has built itself up into an end… no more degrees to pursue, so now I have to try my hand at this other part of reality, move into a new phase of life that doesn’t revolve around academics but instead is focused on the lived experience and practice of the theoretical that I spent so long thinking about.

Not knowing what to expect is running my mind for a loop or two. ¬†For now, however, I can do little else but wait for what will come, and trust that God will be acting in it. ¬†Let’s just hope that I can sort some of this out soon.