All of us *cino staff members have been doing our own informal research and field trips over the past few months. Being invited to speak at the Missio Conference in Cincinnati provided a great opportunity for Rob, Tim (board member and friend) and I to explore emergent church issues and to see what's going on in another neck of the woods.
For the pre-conference, we visited the Norwood neighborhood, where some cool work has been emerging from a Vineyard Church community--gardens, aquaponics, a coffee shop, a retreat center, an intentional community, public park restoration and so on. Our friend Larry, who was our connection to the conference, also operates his many projects out of 1801 Mills in Norwood. Then, we spent Friday and Saturday at a downtown Episcopal cathedral, worshipping, listening to keynote talks and participating in conversations. It was good to be reminded that our project is one of many creative forms of Christian community and that many of these groups share the same joys and struggles.
Below are some of my notes coming out of the conference, including some questions that were raised for me and perhaps worth some more discussion. I'd welcome your reactions and questions in the comments.
- Is *cino an intentional community based in Three Rivers?
- We and many of the others we encountered at the conference who are doing work in underserved areas are almost all transplants--how do we move from transplanted strangers to homemaking exiles? Many of the people we met share the challenge of connecting with locals on projects. This presents many problems, but is it just the way things have been and will be (see Jeremiah)?
- Also, "fresh expressions" (the term coming out of the Anglican church in the UK to describe new forms of Christian community) are notably white and intellectual. What does this mean? Is *cino a "fresh expression" and/or "emergent?"
- Have we been trying to fund and structure *cino based on an old model of church and institution-building? New communities are supporting themselves through part-time work, micro-enterprise, Americorps positions, etc. All members are living lives of simplicity on less. Some, however, are connected to existing institutions and the old is funding the new (ex. Episcopal Church grant for a bike shop in Columbus). That's not sustainable, but is it a key part of the transition? What institutions are willing to fund the projects that will replace them? Some are, if they're attentive to where the spirit is moving in to the future, rather than self-preservation.
- The major presence in Norwood neighborhood is a Vineyard Church. Most other projects--Good Earth Farm in Athens, Franklinton (Columbus) group, etc.--are connected to a particular congregation or denomination in some way. *cino has been specifically ecumenical and not connected to a denomination or church, while seeking to connect to congregations in Three Rivers. Is it good to continue this commitment? If so, what is the nature of our relationship with local churches and the Church?