It's easy to become discouraged about the daunting challenges we face as the church: scarce resources for ministry, conflict among members, lack of direction sometimes, the obsession with survival.
And yet, I find hope in a fresh movement of God the Holy Spirit, who is renewing the church, Christ's body at work in service to the world.
That movement is called Emergent Christianity, which was the subject of a recent clergy continuing education conference in the Diocese of West Missouri.
Phyllis Tickle, a nationally known writer and speaker, described Emergent Christianity, which has arisen in response to rapid changes in the world and cultures.
In response to dizzying and disorienting change, many people are returning to the ancient traditions and worship of the church. They're deep connections with God, which enable them to live with faith, hope, joy, and purpose in the present.
Emergent Christianity is one of the works of Holy Spirit, who is God at work in the church and the world today.
I want to learn more about Emergent Christianity and how it might inform Christ Church and our proclamation of the Good News of God's love in Christ to young people. Many 18 to 25 year-olds are seeking the Divine, looking for community, and longing for lives of significance.
This summer, I plan to look carefully at Emergent Christianity.
Penny and I will again spend time at the Iona Community, which is located on an island off the west coast of Scotland.
Even before that first sociologist of religion coined the term Emergent Christianity, Iona was such a community.
It was started during the 1930s by Church of Scotland minister and WWI war hero George MacLeod.
MacLeod, who trained in law at Oxford University, had had a profound conversion experience to Christ during WWI. As a renewed Christian (he had been baptised an Anglican), he was deeply influenced by the ancient traditions of monasticism and Orthodoxy.
After and war, he went to theological college and then served traditional Presbyterian congregations in Scotland for a time.
He later went to Iona and, with other ministers and lay people, began to repair the ancient Benedictine abbey. Slowly, they created a new and dynamic Christian community there.
MacLeod was controversial in his day because of his radical vision of the church and stands on social and political issues. During WW II, for instance, he was an ardent pacifist, which brought the wrath of his countrymen.
George MacLeod is now with the saints in heaven.
And here on earth, the Iona Community is still thriving. With communities in Glasgow and elsewhere, Iona is expressing the life of the Spirit in stirring worship, including beautiful music, prayer and study, loving fellowship, youth work, and the vigorous pursuit of social justice locally and globally.
The Spirit is alive in the church, which gives me hope. More and more people are coming to the Lord, finding new life in him, and sharing his life and love in ministry and mission.
Thanks be to God for those fresh expressions of God among us, including Emergent Christianity.