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.