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The Best Singing Emerging Church

posted by xscot mcknight

I write out of ignorance, but The Emmaus Community may well be the best singing emerging church in the world. How do I know? I don’t except to say this: if singing gets better than this it would be world-known! Kris and I drove down to Chicago Heights Sunday morning, got to Emmaus plenty early, and were treated to wonderful hospitality and a morning of engaging worship and fellowship.
Pastor Alise Barrymore is a pastor-leader at Emmaus. A Bible study formed last Fall, Easter was the first Sunday morning service in the church building, and the place is already busting at the seams. They are in a wonderful church building that was probably glad to pass it on to a church that could fill it up. It’s full. It’s also full of the Spirit. One thing I’ve always appreciated about mostly African-American churches is the emphasis on invoking the presence of God — we find this in all the standard prayer books (see The Divine Hours) — but in my experience this has never been a central element of church life. Alise was North Park’s former campus pastor, and we’ll miss her — but she’s doing such great work that I’m excited just to see what happens down there.
(Pastor James King was on an anniversary weekend with his wife, so we’ll have to meet him another time. We have a feeling we’ll visit again.)
A young woman with great dreds led our pre-service time, her name is Cynthia, and I kept calling her “Serenity” (sorry, I often make up names for folks) because her serenity, tranquility, and presence impacted both of us. She’s a Dean at Rich Central High School, and that school is blessed to have her.
The music rocked! The worship leader, Brian Scott, scared me a bit. Besides an already burgeoning selection of singers up front, Brian seemingly randomly picked out folks and gave them a mike and asked them to sing the next verse. Well, it scared me that he might choose me and I’d have to decline or make a fool of my voicelessness. But, he must have had wisdom in his choice because he handed the mike to the right singers. I can’t say enough about the singers.
We met a bundle of wonderful folks — folks with questions, comments, observations. Emmaus is intentionally emerging, multi-generational, and is led by creative pastors who know the community, know where folks are from and where they need to go, and I can’t imagine this church not setting a standard for emergence in the African American Christian life experience.
Ira Rounsaville met us in the parking lot and escorted us in. We learned he’s the maker of Jenira’s Sauces. You may well know that the South Side of Chicago is famous for its barbecue and meat sauces, so we had to support Ira by buying a few bottles. I’ll be posting about this sauce soon. It was so good on fish last evening I thought of putting it on my breakfast routine of yogurt and raw oats.
The open space upon entering is nothing short of a cafe. They were serving coffee, fruit, and breakfast. That’s the way it ought to be. They make good use of it, because in the middle of our gathering time we took a break, got some coffee or whatever, and then went back into the sanctuary for more worship and teaching. (When I give my students a break in the middle of class they often don’t come back!)
Emmaus Community is a learning community, and the Thursday night Bible study is not just a perfunctory thing good Christian folks do but a time when these people gather to go for it. Well, my enthusiasm is obvious. Kris said five times already that if we lived near there, that’s where we’d be gathering weekly and even more often.
By the way, they asked me to do some teaching on The DaVinci Code. Good response and good questions.



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John Frye

posted June 12, 2006 at 8:03 am


Scot,
Oh come on, take the mic when it is offered. Surrounded by great singers as you were, you would have surprised yourself how good you sing. Remember, you are a new kind of scholar. I’ll patiently wait for your CD. ;^) Also, thanks for the link to the Jenira Sauce.



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Scot McKnight

posted June 12, 2006 at 8:40 am


John,
Where’s the luv — it would have ruined the worship!



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John Frye

posted June 12, 2006 at 10:09 am


“I luv ya, man!” [slapping repetively on your back]



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Bill

posted June 12, 2006 at 10:33 am


Thanks for sharing this experience! It’s great to be reminded of the bond that is shared by those who share a commitment to Christ. How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!



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Dennis Wood

posted June 12, 2006 at 11:25 am


Scot,
If I lived there, I’d probably go as well, love your attention to details and how you express enthusiasm through your writing.
Just for the record, I don’t recall cutting your classes mid-way through, but I can’t say it wouldn’t have crossed my mind.



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Luke

posted June 12, 2006 at 11:25 am


I’m probably going to be the fundamentalist downer here, but Scot, are you egalitarian?
I like the Spiritual atmosphere of mostly African-American churches as well. I attended a funeral at a COGIC church and it was amazing. Yes, I said a funeral was amazing.



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Scot McKnight

posted June 12, 2006 at 11:43 am


Yep, but that has nothing to do with this post.



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Luke

posted June 12, 2006 at 1:03 pm


I know it doesn’t, but I didn’t know. Sorry for the comment.



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Kim

posted June 12, 2006 at 1:26 pm


It’s great to hear the glowing report…just sad to hear about a veering away from complementarianism with male eldership.



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shari brown

posted June 12, 2006 at 8:20 pm


Kim,
Please clarify your comment for me, I do not understand. I do not intend to oversimplify, but it appears that a balance in leadership is found with Pastor Barrymore and Cynthia. Forgive me if I have misunderstood your intent.
Shari



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Scot McKnight

posted June 12, 2006 at 8:29 pm


Shari,
Maybe I’m not clear, too. I think Kim was offering an observation that Emmaus has veered away from male leadership with Rev Alise as a pastor.



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BeckyR

posted June 13, 2006 at 3:58 pm


Is emergence really being broken up that there are versions for different ethnic groups? “setting a standard for emergence in the African American Christian life experience.” As a 30yr part of a house church, I have long ago stopped the divisions of christians according to whatever divisions we use : young marrieds, singles, young marrieds with children, old geezers. In my accumulation of old geezer years, I did go to a church that was largely of color and the stereotypical Black church – rousing. I’d still be going if it was feasible.
Just one word : Georgia Mass Choir. Oh, that’s 3. As my dad would say “wowzeeboo!” Knock your sox off wonderful, be dancing and praising God.



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