Friday Reflection September 6, 2019

Photo of Bishop David Rice in Church

Recently, I gave an interview and as it has been with most interviews over the last five-and-a-half years, I found myself referring to the evolution and emergence of this place and people called San Joaquin. Interestingly enough, and this is where the interview was unique, I referred to the time and events which prompted said evolution and emergence as something akin to a “rummage sale.” I endeavored to navigate this interview with great care thus I made it clear that a rummage sale reference could not possibly accurately capture the pain and consternation which occurred 10 years ago in and for the life of Episcopalians in SJ. I did however, articulate an interpretation on said narrative inasmuch as expressing that what occurred in that moment and time prompted a re-evaluation and reconsideration of identity, purpose and meaning for Dio SJ. And it was and continues to be that figuring out, that perpetual discernment which led to my “rummage sale” reference. Surprisingly for me, I don’t typically use that language and upon substantial reflection I realized it came from Phyllis Tickle. Tickle has written several notable books including: The Age of the Spirit, The Words of Jesus, The Divine Hours and The Great Emergence. It was in her tome, The Great Emergence, where I first came across and pinched her use of the term “rummage sale” as it pertains to any emergent ecclesiastical/spiritual system. She writes:

“It is the business of any rummage sale first to remove all of the old treasures that belong to one’s parents so as to get on with the business of keeping house the new way. As a result, there is also a very good reason why much commentary about the Great Emergence today remarks first that it has been both characterized and informed by increasing restraints upon, or outright rejection of, pure capitalism; by traditional or mainline Protestantism’s loss of demographic base; by the erosion or popular rejection of the middle class’s values and the nuclear family as the requisite foundational unit of social organization; by the shift from cash to information as the base of economic power; and by the demise of the nation-state and rise of globalization. Well, of course it has been! We are holding a rummage sale, for goodness sake! Cleaning out the whole place is the first step toward refurbishing it.”

San Joaquin, we are an “Emergent Community” and as our emergence continues we will need to pause, from time-to-time, and consider “what should stay and what should go.” Said another way, if honest, like really honest, like holy candor kind of honest, we will discover that having too much stuff is a typical inclination, moreover and with deeper significance, clinging to said stuff without substantial analysis and assessment regarding how it may or may not enhance our lives, namely our faith, is equally typical. So, periodically we have “rummage sales.” Sometimes they are invited and other times, well, they seem to happen to us.

These “rummage sales” about which I write and pinched from Phyllis Tickle, are a necessary feature in the life of a emergent community. And fortunately, we have built in liturgical cycles which affords us the opportunity to engage in those holy pauses and consider what is necessary to faith and life and service and what is potentially surplus to requirements. We do precisely that during Seasons of Repentance, the Hebrew word TESHUVA, to turn, to turn around, comes to mind. And we engage in this practice of faith as we acknowledge that we live in an ever-changing world and we, too, are ever-changing. Equally, with that knowledge, we celebrate our dependence upon God, in the ways we walk with Jesus and in the innumerable ways in which the Holy Spirit leads us into the unknown.

I look forward to hearing about and witnessing evidence of our own local rummage sales. And I look forward to hearing about it and witnessing our emergences as we continue to do so locally and beyond.

I can say with complete and utter confidence that We Are A Great Emergence, simply and humbly stated, we are “Emerging Aplenty” and refurbishing will continue to be a feature of what we do as we clean out from time-to-time.


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