Happy at Emergent Gathering


Thanks Glen Barbier for the photo. This is Mark Scandrette on the left. Michael Toy is on the right – we may be staying with him tonight in Palo Alto. This is me (center) feeling happy at the Emergent Gathering last week at Glorieta, New Mexico . . . and I will tell you why i was happy. The Gathering was a great experience and it modeled many of the core elements of what i believe a gathering event of this type needs to have:

– It was FREE.

– It took place in kitchens, and i love kitchens.

– Shared accommodation was encouraged and reasonably priced.

– The schedule emerged organically to fit the needs of the participants.

– It had a tribal feel – elders were honored and children were included as equals.

– Nothing took place on a stage.

– There were no key-note speakers. In fact, there were no speakers at all on the promotional material which means that people came to connect with God and each other rather to hear an important man speak from a stage.

– Cooking, food shopping and cleaning duties were handled by everyone. We all put money in the pot for communal food experiences.

– The final worship experience happened outdoors and was lo-tech.

– There were no candles.

– I repeat . . . there were no candles. Anywhere. For the whole gathering. Serious!

– There was freedom to add or take away from the schedule.

– They let our family throw a pizza party for 100 people (tell you more later)

– Lots of bloggers were there. Will Samson has the list.

Picture 100

Debbie and myself. Photo by Freddy [report and photo]

The Emergent Gathering was a huge success. 160 people (up from 60 last year) from all over USA and a few from overseas. The oldest person was a 70 year old from Hawaii and there were lots of kids and families. In fact, the poetry session ended up with more kids than adults – two of my daughters participated in that session.

I was never a fan of the Emergent Convention. You simply cannot reproduce church life on a stage and hope that people understand what you are about. Hanging out in a kitchen while you cook together and share stories is a much better way to go.

In 1998, Doug Pagitt and I walked over the same campus (its a Baptist convention center) to think through the Young Leader’s New Edge Conference that happened that year. It was a great event – a milestone in USA emerging church history – and it set the pace for many years to come. But this event took some of those elements even further and decentralized the innovation to the people themselves. I was impressed. Well done, everyone.


Well, there was no WiFi but that is something the venue needs to deal with. And . . . .

One of the things that bugged me about the direction of church planting efforts inside the USA emergent world was the dependence on eating out in restaurants to maintain fellowship and church life – too expensive for the poor and for families. Its fine for middle class folk and students but it does exclude a lot of people and may prevent it from becoming a movement – [missiologist Viv Grigg says most movements start among the working poor]. This is one reason we offered a pizza party – to try and steer church life back into kitchens and homes – the kinds of places Jesus hung out in when he modeled ministry for us – breaking bread among the working poor in someone else’s home and telling them to “do this in remembrance of me”. And bringing the conversation into homes gives more time, more reality, more depth, and more space for God to do something lasting.

Thanks to Damien, Mark, Doug, and their wives for all their effort to make this event really rock.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Joshua Rudd says:

    Yeah, the planned events centered around eating out kinda bugged me too. On one hand i felt like we were missing out on many conversations happening out and about – but on the other, the conversations we had staying back at the cabins/apartments and making food together… well, those were awesome.
    And the kids had a great time, too.

  • kristen rudd says:

    Pizza Party ROCKED! You guys have the best crust recipe I’ve ever had. It was like the feeding of the five thousand with how much food was left over.
    and NO CANDLES!! Take that, stereotypists.
    I loved it that all the kids were just as much a part of things and just as valued for being there as everyone else was. No one told my kid to hush, or that she couldn’t play or run around — that’s what they DO. As a mama, that’s really important to me.
    We are really glad we went.

  • Andy Fagg says:

    Don’t the wives have names?
    (don’t wish to sound discordant; I enjoyed your post; it just seems the vast majority of ‘leading’ figures in emergent are men)

  • Nate Custer says:

    I just wanted to say thanks again for the ride to the Gathering, and for the welcome your whole family showed me. It was really cool.
    The pizza party was one of the highlights of the whole trip for me. I got back and held one Sunday Night for my youth group … it is going to become a monthly tradition. The youth all loved it, even though I did not make near enough doug … the site of kids running around with flour smeared all over their face will help get me through loads of committie meetings. Our current plan is to time the Pizza Parties to co-incide with our church’s communion sunday’s … so that the youth can break bread together. There are also some kids talking about holding one where the entire church is invited. My pastor said if all I got from the trip was pizza parties it was money well spent.
    I really hope you and Debbie publish the doug recipe, she said its long, emotional, and involved … which is even cooler.

  • and thanks again for letting us keep dear Hannah and for Sam’s taking Jordan under his trenchcoated wing. and for the pizza; we replicated the party in microcosm sunday afternoon for a dozen folks
    we may just drive up to say hi on the 30th.
    paul & amt soupiset
    san antonio

  • David Berge says:

    There actually were candles and Mark Scandrette is to blame. The nightly parties at 202 Pinion did in fact include 8-10 tealights to set the mood. Hence, the group did fall once again into stereotypical emergent behavioral patterns. Speaking of stereotypes let’s not even mention the proclivity toward whole wheat flour…

  • Sarah says:

    Getting to re-read what was great about the Gathering recharges my idea factory. Does anyone have pictures posted? The smiling faces are the best…especially now that I have met, shaken hands, shared tears and hugs and thoughts with so many of those faces.
    My goal now is to find other people in Albuquerque/New Mexico at large who think this way and maybe try to re-create this in a smaller setting…a one-day conference perhaps. I’d like to get more people here where I am involved in the conversation, even if they can’t make it to Glorietta for something mid-week.

  • Todd says:

    I met you back in ’98 in Glorietta. I was in my final year of seminary, trying to decide whether or not we could find a way to interface with the system (Evang. Luth. Church) and allow God to make room so that we could be fruitful.
    So far, we haven’t been killed off yet. That event (YLN – Glorietta) changed my life. I remember you telling the story about the bleeding woman who reached out to touch Jesus. It was powerful – still is.
    I just want you to know that if you are ever in Charlotte, NC you have a place to land at The Well. For 6 years we have been offering a public space at no cost to the passerby. The starting point is we’ll give you what we have. We don’t want any “contract” or “purchasing power” tied to the cybercafe, or the church that gathers there. Our hope is that generosity will beget generosity.
    God bless you and your family, Andrew. I truly appreciate the work that God does through you.

  • Lorna says:

    Great post.
    filled with hope 🙂

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