(This post is a contribution to July Clawson’s call to blog about “What is Emerging” in the Christian church on Monday the 19th.  She called it a syncroblog and I am terribly out of sync.  That’s nothing new.)

Well, I thought this question would be easy but it is so not easy to answer. As a matter of fact 10 years ago, when my husband Don Heatley and I co-planted Vision Community Church, we didn’t consider ourselves emergent. I actually never heard of the movement until some local Christians starting “accusing” us of being in it.

I guess there were a few things that God had led our church to do that seemed different to them. We felt called to meet at a community center. Maybe it was because we placed our chairs in the round so everyone could see each other. It could have been because we don’t speak from a platform but stand on the same level as fellow worshippers. These are just esthetic issues, so my guess is it was deeper than that. Or at least I hope so. Probably the most likely reason to label us as Emergent is that God had put on our hearts that we accept all people into the body of Christ and are open to a wide breadth of Biblical interpretation. Having said all that, for whatever reason we were labeled emergent. I am grateful. I kind of welcomed the label, in part, because I liked the name.

See the word “emerging” conjures up a specific image for me. Don’t laugh, but I keep seeing a swamp monster emerging from the muddy waters of some secluded and foggy woods. They always seem to emerge from someplace secluded and mysterious. The place everyone knows but doesn’t dare go there – the swamp. It’s loaded with so much muck and mire that everyone knows it’s dangerous. Except now you can’t help but look because this thing has arisen and it’s coming out into the light of day.

These monsters are always scary, always messy and always dripping of the place in which it’s been. This particular monster is dripping of all the thousands of years of church history, the early church principles of community, ancient artifacts and icons, stories of people welcomed and stories of people excluded and oppressed, great strides of justice and glaring mistakes, different forms of prayer, worship and interpretations of Biblical stories. And just like those science fiction monsters, this lovely emerging monster can be very scary but certainly not evil and usually misunderstood.

The scary thing about this emergent movement is that it pushes our buttons. It challenges the preconceived ideas we hold to be central to our faith. For each of us, those might be different things. To hold all of these things together under one roof and in community, we are forced to communicate with one another, to listen, to argue, to accept. You will only feel safe if you allow yourself to be willing to really examine why you think what you think and listen to why others think the way they do.

From the day we met this creature soaked in all the lovely fractured moisture of our splintered Christian roots our community hasn’t been the same. More and more what I see emerging are Christians who don’t want to be categorized, who don’t want to fight about the dividing lines, and who are willing to relate to other disciples of Christ who may see things differently.

Sometimes it’s a relief, sometimes it’s exhausting, but I truly believe for us it’s the right path. Just this week we were challenged yet again to ask ourselves at Vision, “Do we want to politely smile at one another here and avoid the hard issues or do we want to experience real human relationship as it plays out in our quest to connect with God?” We decided we want the latter. It’s not finished, but it’s emerging.