I want to add to the reflections offered by Rozko, Hiestand, Sternke, Hart, Briggs, Fitch, Chandler, and others on the Ecclesia National Gathering. They have already offered great summaries, but I want to add my impression. My over all impression is that while disappointed with the church, most there had yet become cynical.
It seemed that this group of people actually still loved the church even though we had all been wounded by the people in it; this group of people still worshiped though we have all been manipulated by music and technique; this group of people still preached even though we had all been merely talked at; this group still prayed even though we’ve all felt the abandoned silence; this group still sought the Spirit even though we have all been burned by those with a ‘word’. And I could go on.
But for the most part, from what I can tell so far, the people in Ecclesia have not adjusted to what they lack or lost, but are still striving for what they hope. Certainly we hope for what we lack, but when the lacking dominates, hope is always tinged by cynicism and ironic distance. At some level with cynicism you begin to sneer at actual belief and practice. Here’s an example. Once, at another emerging/missional conference, a woman was asked (on the spot I believe) to lead a concluding prayer-slash-prayer for a meal. She stood up and stumbled through the Aaronic blessing (equal parts uncertain of herself and how it might be received). I felt bad for her, but more for the group because she was evidently effected by the pressure of the group and by not knowing whether people actually still prayed in this group. The conference was so busy deconstructing everything that a cynicism toward actual belief was creeping in. When I saw that I thought to myself, “I’m done with this. If people can’t still pray without embarrassment then what is the point.”
But gladly, I didn’t get a whiff of that at Ecclesia, and it’s not like a fair share of the people there didn’t have reason to be cynical. Because of all this I’m very exited for the future of Ecclesia Network, and look forward to being a part of it for a long time to come.