Big Tent Christianity- Part 3

The other day I got an email from Steve Knight asking me to participate in a Synchroblog for the Big Tent Christianity Conference happening in Raleigh, North Carolina this week. I'm hoping to join other Christian bloggers, including Beloved, in setting out a vision for what the church will look like in the future. Here's the theme prompts we were given:

1)    What do you think?
2)    What are your hopes and dreams for the Church?
3)    More specifically, what does “big tent Christianity” mean to you? And what does it look like in your context?

Here's my answer to question #1. Here’s my answer to question #2. Here's my answer to question #3.

3) I'm pretty excited about this question, mainly because of some conversations I've been in over the last 2-3 years and some more specific meetings I've been in in the last 2-3 months. Here in Bend, OR, where I serve, we are trying some stuff. Stuff that I think might be some seed planting for the future of not only the PC(USA) denomination but other mainline churches as well. (specifically ELCA and The Episcopal Church)

In Bend, a Nativity Lutheran (ELCA), First Presbyterian Church (PC(USA)) and Trinity Episcopal Church (Episcopal Church) have partnered to open a locally sourced cafe that "endeavors to serve extraordinary food to all people." Common Table is growing into an example of what a partnership for the betterment of the community and world could look like.

Because of the conversations that were happening around Common Table already the three youth leaders of the three churches (who were already friends) began dreaming about what it would look like to bring our middle and high school groups together. While these conversations are ongoing our plan is to begin having our youth meet together weekly as well as join together for local, regional and international service opportunities.

Here's the letter that was sent out this week:

In a sermon to the participants of Presbyterian Youth Triennium the Rev. Dr. Tony Campolo said, “When Christianity stopped being radical it stopped being Christianity.”This fall youth in Bend will take a radical step out in faith. Members of Nativity Lutheran, First Presbyterian and Trinity Episcopal will follow the call from God to combine our gifts and skills to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. We seek to serve our community with energy, passion, thought and a whole lot of fun - together.

3 churches                  Þ                  1 community

3 traditions                 Þ                  1 faith

3 histories                   Þ                  1 future

The team leading this effort consists of Ron Werner, Director of Youth Ministries at Nativity Lutheran, Rev. Greg Bolt, Associate Pastor of Youth and Family Ministry at First Presbyterian Church and Donna Jacobsen, Youth and Family Ministries Leader at Trinity Episcopal Church.

What does this mean… really?

What it means is that our Middle School and High School groups will meet together, sharing our histories, sharing our traditions and sharing our church grounds and, in so doing, live out the mission we all share – acting as a reflection of God’s love to our community and the wider world. We’ll also meet in the wider world. For instance, we intend to have the High School group call Common Table, the locally sourced café opening up at 150 Oregon Avenue, their home base.

There will be a weekly Middle School youth group gathering and a weekly High School youth group gathering. We are planning an international mission trip and an “urban immersion” trip closer to home. We are brainstorming ways to coordinate confirmation class sessions and a retreat. In short, we are breaking down any perceived walls and giving our youth the gift of peer support regardless of individual church affiliation. We are combining the skills and experience of three gifted leaders and three wonderful church families in support of each youth’s spiritual formation.

How cool is that?

We do realize that this is unusual. And, much as that may energize the three of us, it may make others uncomfortable. We welcome the opportunity to talk with anyone who has questions of us or ideas for us. We can come together in small groups or talk with you individually, just please make sure your concerns or support are known!


So, that's basically it. "Big Tent Christianity" looks like three mainline, progressive churches partnering together to try to feed, grow and advocate for a better community in hopes that in some small way we do our part to bring about the kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.