Monday, January 03, 2005

Central Jersey Cohort: Check-In time

For those of you in the Central Jersey Emergent Cohort, please use the comment section on this post to chime in regarding these questions/comments. After a week or so, we'll see if a consensus builds about how to move forward.

1) The Content: Do you want to keep meeting? Does it have value to you? What are the things you'd like to see us discuss? Dr. Guder came to our first meeting, and that shows a unique opportunity we have in the Princeton area -- are you interested in us extending invitations to other theologians from the seminary and the university to join us? Do you want conversations tilted more toward theory of the church, praxis of the church, or an attempt at balance?

2) The Venue: There were many pro and con comments on Adam's blog following our last meeting regarding Charlie Brown's, and, I'll admit, the fact that that couple sat right in the middle of us was a bummer. I've checked with Mark (the waiter), and we could reserve the room to the immediate left when you walk in the door, which would be quieter. But then there's the problem of the last person there getting stiffed with the check for those who underpaid or undertipped (it was I who got stiffed in November and someone else last month). Those are the cons to CB's; the pros are cheap beer, a casual atmosphere, and following in the long tradition of theological conversation over a pint. Further, there's something to be said about theological/missional conversation being more grounded when it's taking place in a bar than when it's in a seminary classroom.

On the other hand, we could drive down to Buck's County and meet at The Well, we could find a coffee shop setting in the Princeton area, or we could gather in someone's home or in a church. Pro: all these would be less raucous. Con: all these would be less raucous. What say you?

3) The Time: Should we stick with the 3rd (or 4th) Thursday of the month? If that's the case, I won't be around for any more of the gatherings. Is evening better than daytime?

4) Leadership: Because of my schedule, I shouldn't be the point person for this anymore -- I'll only be at PTS for short stints this Spring semester, and only four or five times. Of course, I'd love to be around for the cohort, but I think there's enough momentum right now that you all have to schedule them when they work for you. So who wants to be in charge???

OK, weigh in...


Blogger Will said...


Since I will probably still be coming for a time (no cohort near) let me weigh in:

As far as the content I would love to see a balance between praxis and theology. I could editorialize on reasons for that but I will save it for the cohort. re: theologians I would love to see more. Also would love to involve Cornel West for a discussion on race and the emerging church.

On the subject of the venue, how about if we alternate? I would recommend reserving a room at CB's if we are going to meet there, but we could do a bar one month and something coffeehouse/academic the next? This would give a chance to keep things lively and not create any sense that any one type of group was the "target audience".

Don't have any preference for time, and as long as I still get the emails I will be happy with whoever leads it.

6:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Thoughts..

1) The Venue:
Do you want to keep meeting?
I’d love to keep meeting- Once a month is perfect for me.

Does it have value to you?
Yes, it has value- If nothing else, it’s encouraging to hear other peoples' journeys and thoughts.

What are the things you'd like to see us discuss?
urban renewal, church in the east coast, community building/church planting, worship & the arts, race & gender issues, social impact. It might be good if a different person or group of people brings up a topic(s) for each time and sends out articles, thoughts etc. ahead of time. They can also potentially host that month (see location suggestion below)

Are you interested in us extending invitations to other theologians from the seminary and the university to join us?
West, Guder, Campolo- He’s near enough. It would also be good to include people from New York City & people with more of a practical church planting/leading bent. There are several plants in the city and North Jersey...

Do you want conversations tilted more toward theory of the church, praxis of the church, or an attempt at balance? Balance.

2) The Venue:
CBs is cool, but limited due to its noise and other things you mentioned. I’d want to stay away from a “classroom” setting, so maybe alternating it between CB’s and other "lounge-type" places every month might be good... We have enough space in our home and would make that available once in a while. Alternating from venue to venue might be a bit tough on the logistics side, but it might also give us an interesting perspective on others’ lives & ministry contexts- i.e. I would love to hang out in Philly w/ Steve & Belinda's crew for an evening, check out The Well a few months later, etc. Key things for me are are 1. Enough space for everyone 2. Place where conversations can be had...

3) The Time
Whavever works for everyone.

4) Leadership
I’m fine with whoever leads it, as long as they actively communicate what is going on, keep it fresh & give the whole thing a sense of purpose other than just hanging out.

Happy New Year to all!

Camilo Ruan

8:47 AM  
Blogger Andrew Zirschky said...

I agree with Will that a "traveling cohort" might make for a good balance both in atmosphere and style of discussion. The biggest problem I encountered at Charlie's the last time we met was the narrowness of the room; I'm not talking viewpoints, I'm talking about the fact that it's difficult to have a discussion in a room that is longer than wide. It creates separation between people at different ends of the table. I'd like to see us have somewhere we can meet in a more "roundtable" format, and then when we meet at Charlie's, the format changes so that we discuss in random small groups of 4 or 5 people instead of trying to include everyone in one big discussion.

It'd be great to see some "visitors" coming through; yes to the theologians.

As far as time, I'd love to see us move it to another night. I can't speak for anyone else, but Thursday nights are a huge study time for me because of seminary precepts the next day. Personally, I'd like to see a time set that allows Tony's participation; he's plugged into the core of the movement in a way that the rest of us aren't, and that gives some framework for the discussion.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Bill Arnold said...

I agree that it would be great to try to involve Tony if at all possible. I would like to see the meetings stay in the same place, although not necessarily CB's. As someone coming from a distance, I would like to be able to find it easily. I would be all for meeting in a more quiet environment. Why not have people bring a six-pack of their choice? It could be like a pot luck! ;-)

Some possible questions for discussion:

1. What do you (the individual) want emergent to be? (At the last meeting it seemed that people were good at saying what they DIDN'T want it to be, let's come at this from the other direction.)
2. What do you value about the emergent conversation? How can these "strengths" be communicated to more of the general public?
3. How can we value inclusivity and still be a unique organization/movement/conversation?
4. How will emergent interact with an increasingly globalized world?

Also, I think it would be great if we could spend some time talking about some basic theology. How do people imagine this conversation informing some of the basic doctrines of the church?

Thursday is the worst weeknight for me, for what it's worth.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Bill Arnold said...

At some point (maybe not yet) it might also be good to discuss "Reclaiming the Center" and D.A. Carson's forthcoming book.

9:33 AM  
Blogger EL MOL said...


Quit planning your damn inductive Bible Study on this blog.

When's the Knitting Circle?

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The discussion is definitely worth having. I'm just beginning a church-plant in Reading, PA and it actually WAS worth driving two hours.

Things that would keep me driving two hours:

1. The discussion is facilitated well by a theologian/practioner. Tony facilitating is great because he has pastored, is doing the PhD thing, and has history in the emergent movement. Having someone who is simply a Princeton student run the conversation would not be as helpful. Quickly develops into the paper we had to do last semester talk- and often doesn't compute into what is happening in the churches. At the same time having any Johnny come lately preacher boy running the show without theological acumen can quickly run the other direction. Who else besides Tony can lead this?

2. Need articles to read ahead of time and someone facilitating or the discussion degenerates- fast.

3. Guder, et al would be great additions. The more brilliant thinkers around, the better.

4. Beer and tobacco is always a plus. Way better than any latte' somewhere.

5. Day time is cool OR later at night, after 9. Some of us have spouses and little tots running around, hard to make an excuse to leave them all behind to go talk. However, when its later- everyone is bed already.

Also, I am kind of curious about the desire to talk about "race." I am certainly all for multi-enthnic congregations- and Lord knows segregation in the church needs to die soon. However, I have often found it interesting in the "Emergent" conversation. To be emerging, or post-evangelical, or post-liberal, or postmodern, typically means that one has come the university system, has had ample education, has abided in all modernity has to offer and has found it wanting and wants to move on there. Has tasted privledge and power and decides that is not very kingdom of Godish at all. Unfortunately, there are not alot of minorities in our nation who have had those privledges and expereinces and opporunities. (Part of the slam on the old system.) However, that means there probably are not tons of marginalized groups in our society who are thinking about deconstruction, post-anything, etc. So if we have a discussion on justice and jubilee by all means this is so key. But if we are talking about post- this and post-that, and not holding on to dominance and privledge and listening to other voices- it tends to be white, middle to upper class, educated, men, who need to talk about this an realize there are other paths. Because we are the only ones who did well in the other system. Just a thought?

Brian Ross

4:40 AM  
Blogger Jake said...

All of the suggestions above seem like good ones. I don't want to lose touch with Tony's connection with Emergent on a national level. If we can't accomodate his schedule, it doesn't mean that he can't facilitate the conversation via his blog and emails. I'm open for the coffeehouse venue or CBs (on Thursday nights--I just can't stand to pay $4 for a beer). I like the idea of changing venues, but experience has led me to be cautious of this, people tend to get displaced when you have a nomadic meeting. Definately getting theologians/biblical scholars involved in the conversation is a great idea. In ATL they just had a theological conversation with Bruggemann, perhaps we can do the same in Princeton. I'd like to hear more from those pastors who are working in the field (Brian and Jared from Koinos/ Steve and his Philly crew/ Todd and Brad from the Well. As a seminary student, I could talk all day about theory. Personally, I am interested in how I might glean insights for future ministry after I graduate. So my vote is this: keep the theology going, add more praxis discussion. Also I would like to think more about ways to open the discussion to people from different perspectives.

6:06 AM  
Blogger chad said...

Central Jersey Emergent Cohort? I thought this was the Tony Jones Fan Club that met each month? Now that I am fully aware of out gatherings, some thoughts...
Being a part of the first meeting was beneficial in the ablity to connect with others feeling, thinking, saying, and doing what others of us are feeling, thinking, saying or doing in our own context. As we move forward, the ability to invade the minds of a Dr Guder for insight, thoughts, ideas, theology, etc is a beautiful tool. Balance is a good thing too...
The venue makes no difference as I feel as most of the others do. And I did not stiff you in November. I gave you a buck or two!..
And in terms of when we meet and who 'leads' it, I believe having your presence there gives us a better insight into what the authors of this movement/organization/cult had in mind from the start. And of course, the wonderfully talented Danielle Shroyer is in the area and could possibly lead us on in this conversation being a birther of this thingy...
and to finish off I weigh in at 215...

10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Don’t want to divert too much but…A short response to your thoughts about talking race & diversity...I think the desire to talk about the race/diversity for many of stems from exactly what you mentioned in your post about so many being “outside the system.” Most church leaders who influence the the church in the U.S. are from post-white-flight-affluent-upper-middle-class-suburbs, mainly in the Midwest, SouthCal, and the South & Texas. Therefore a lot of the thinking about church structures, philosophies, theologies come from that background. That’s not an indictment on middle class or white church folk. It’s just the way it is. As a hispanic (Colombian), I would love to see the church here in the east coast become an effective carriers of the gospel in our current multicultural context. I think the conversation around Emergent has a great shot at doing that. Central Jersey and its surrounding areas and big cities (New York, Philly) has, for the most part, been devoid of effective church communities that have been able to speak a language that is understood here, and we’re seeing the social consequences of that. Diversity in this area is higher than other places, so it is both a great opportunity and a great challenge for new churches….

You bring up a great point though- not too many people outside of seminary walls & church seminars are talking about post-anything, which is why it’s important to talk about all the issues in the context of real-life ministy and culture. The terminology we tend to use is helpful to identify some issues, but not the issues themselves. All of our talk about post-(fill in the blank), deconstructing (fill in the blank) is helpful, but ultimately just a means to an end- Having effective communites of faith with a theology & methodology that effectively lives out the gospel in this culture.

A good effective conversation leads to something bigger than talking about the conversation itself. So while talking about what Emergent is and whether is a movement or conversation is a great and needed start, I would love to see future conversations framed in the context does in the contect of shaping & changing church and culture.

Thanks for kickstarting this Tony- I agree with others- it would be good to have you be around as much as possible. It’s great to have this budding cohort here-It is much needed! I hope everyone will stick around and see it as worthwhile.

Camilo Ruan

12:11 PM  
Blogger dave p said...

Huh, and here was I thinking only engineers were cheap enough to undercalculate the cost of sharing the check... (typically pare to the bare cent, forget tax and tip)

8:11 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

Sorry folks, a little late to chime in here, but here are some thoughts:

The Content:I appreciate this cohort – I just wish I could have had something like this while I was in the backwaters of southern Idaho just getting involved in this. I had to rely on the blog-world, which I think is great, but the face-to-face contact is necessary. I’m kind of a “so what” guy: sure, the theoretical, philosophical conversations have value, but if someone can’t answer my “so, what?” (what does this look like in “the church” – whatever that is…), then my response tends to be, “Okay, next….” We need a balance of the theory and praxis. And while for those who may be new to the whole “emergent” idea the question “What is emergent?” is helpful, I think we need to stop talking about what “emergent” is, and start talking about our hopes, our visions, our dreams, our desires and our passions for the church in the 21st century.

The Venue:I want a place that everyone feels comfortable. So there may be some (male or female) who aren’t comfortable in a bar setting, so mixing it up a bit sounds good to me. Charlie Brown’s one month, then perhaps…..(this is where the more local folk who have been around here need to chime in with a thought). I’m up for switching it…I don’t always need beer [well, I do ALWAYS need beer, but I don’t need beer to converse about “emergent”]. Too bad we don’t know anyone who has a sparsely furnished apartment a few blocks from Charlie Brown’s…oh wait, I think we DO KNOW someone like that…

The Time:Evenings still work, and I like Tony Jones, so it’d be good to keep him in the loop. Not that it can’t happen without Tony, but it is still nice to have that immediate connection with Emergent. Besides, he just looks so damn good in all the photos on my blog, hopefully he’ll wear his hat next time…

Leadership:I think even the question of leadership doesn’t quite make sense in this conversation. We’re not looking for any more hierarchy, and we’re not looking for someone to be the ‘teacher’ at these gatherings…and Brian, I don’t think a PTS student would simply lead the conversation into strictly-PTS stuff (papers, exams, what not; we have enough time to talk about that stuff on our own), so I would disagree with that. I think we could take turns as to who will frame the discussion with a question or two for the evening, but other than that, the group kind of tends to take the discussion wherever they’re wanting to take it, and that seems to be the point of this cohort: to be a place where people can come and talk about the things they don’t get to talk about anywhere else. Let’s be that place. If you need someone who is going to be in charge of simply doing the emailing, date-picking, etc., I can handle the administrative tasks no problem. But if we are looking for someone to be “the leader” who will lead all discussions, set the “vision” and “mission” for the cohort, then I think we’re not thinking about this correctly. I think the cohort will naturally come to form a direction we want to head, but it should be a unified decision of the entire cohort, not the direction of just one person in charge…thoughts?

10:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I hope you did not misunderstand me. I certainly am for being inclusive, for a multiplicity of perspectives, and God knows us white-middle class folks desperately need to learn about God and the work of the kingdom from those who have been marginalized and are a little closer to the expereinces of the Biblical writers and communities themselves. There is no question.

I just find an irony in it in some of the emerging conversations. For example- at Emergent this year in Nashville an African American christian rapped and hip- hopped his way through some scripture. It was cool and certainly redemptive. But it was strange. There was alot of white people there that were wanting in spirit to enjoy it and were realizing that God works and shows up in a whole bunch of ways than besides in our WASP culture, but it was awkward for many. It was awkward because they do not listen to rap and hip-hop. It was awkward because people tried to get into it- but it was clear they don't get this stuff and this world one little bit. It came across to me like a bunch of white people who wanted to be cool and into it but had no freakin' idea of how. I guess in many ways that is redemptive. And that is what a bunch of intellectual white folks with grad degrees need. But it also seemed, to me, as well- like a bunch of white people trying to be into something and like it- when in reality it was real clear they didn;t all that much, it didn't fit them, and they were just trying a little too much. This is probably not clear- but does it make sense?

The other thing I thought about was the sessions. I loved them. I drank deeply from Roxburgh, Grenz, McLaren, Webber, Tomlinson, et al. And issues of justice often worked their way into the discussion. And there is often a spirit of how can we make this more diverse. Which is cool. I just found it ironic because it tends to be only privledged, educated, confortable people who come through all of this and want more that tend to talk about all this though. I certainly do not want ot pigeon hole anyone, but unfortuantely, oppressed and marginalized people are simply wanting to be given some stability and a voice, and are dealing with issues of survival while only those who have too much talk about things like deconstruction, death of meta-narratives, post-foundationalism and the like. While many times (I am trying not to stero-type but be honest), those we have oppressed are trying to get to a place of construction, having a meta-narrative, and finding foundationalism. It is just strangely ironic and conflicting to me. I.e. progressives in the academy are struggling with diversity and what do we do with homosexuality and not being oppressive etc., while minority voices are often the strongest against homosexuality. Anyways, I find the whole thing fascinating . . .

8:32 AM  

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