The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Emergents: A sense of play

Many emerging communities incorporate a sense of play into worship and community gatherings. They are ministries of word and sacrament but "definitely [don't] look like a traditional worship service," said Jill E. Rowland, an ELCA pastor who serves Soul Café in Hood River, Ore. At its Thursday potluck dinner, participants may be asked to bring something that connects to Scripture, to write a group poem, or bring their favorite readings and music that illustrate what "Reformation" means to them.

The sense of play extends even to the language used. Ryan Marsh, a synodically authorized lay leader of Church of the Beloved , Edmonds, Wash., is called an architect. "I help to create a structure for us to play in and build around," he said. Creating that structure takes a lot of listening and "being keen to what God's Spirit is growing locally," he added.

Early on at Church of the Beloved , participants began asking where God was at work in their neighborhood, Marsh said. He described how a group took digital photos around their community. "We asked: Where are people being cared for?" Marsh said. "Where are areas of great need? Where is there disruption? Where is the prophetic voice? We realize that we must listen intently. What is growing out of this is not a resource dropped down from an institution or marketed from Nashville. It's something God is doing with us right here and it takes on an incarnational form."

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