It seems to me that the emerging church is emerging because people are finding the ability to have a grateful foot in both camps - tradition (the mother church) along with a new consensus, a new support group that parallels, deepens, broadens, grounds and personalizes the traditional message. But you don’t throw out the traditional message. The emerging church becomes an accountability system for the Tradition.
There's got to be a new kind of reformation in which we don’t react, we don’t rebel, we don’t hate anything. You can’t start a spiritual reformation by hating things. You have to be for something.
And so the emerging church questions are: What are you in love with? What do you believe in? What is the heaven that you have discovered?
(Richard Rohr, from the CAC webcast, Nov. 8, 2008: What is The Emerging Church?)
The kind of Reformation Rohr is talking about here seems to me distinctively Franciscan (Rohr is a Franciscan himself of course) as well as Emergent, and very close to the heart of the Franciscan way within the Anglican Communion.
It would be possible to argue that the beginnings of the Third Order in 13th Century Umbria and Tuscany were as much the source of New Monasticism as the Celtic religious who so often provide the conscious inspiration for the movement, and for much else that is Emergent, perhaps.
The Anglican religious orders seem to be facing something approaching a crisis of numbers, as Sisters and Brothers grow older and move on to join that cloud of witnesses, and novices are few and far between. Yet the associates (Tertiaries, Oblates, Companions, et al.) of the religious orders continue to grow in numbers - see Helen Julian CSF, "Finding a Home"
, New Daylight
I spent a number of years with the Vineyard Church, learning a great deal about forms of worship and "doing church" very different to the Anglo-Catholic tradition I had been used to, and as a musician I simply had a blast exploring the different threads in Vineyard music, from the Eagles to Irish Traditional!
It seems to me that there might be something to find along these paths, though a bear of so little brain as myself is having a hard time figuring out what it might be.
I can't help but remember that while Cannara and Poggibonsi where the Franciscan Third Order was founded were rural communities, so much that goes by the name Emergent - with the obvious exception of some New Monastic communities - takes place in urban contexts. I find myself now living and serving in a rural community (rather over 4,000 people) in South Dorset, where God is strongly calling us as a parish church to become a "church without walls", to come down off the physical hill where the church building is, out into the community, in ways that aren't circumscribed by the traditional understanding of what the village church does and looks like.
I'd love to hear how these ideas resonate, or otherwise, with others here, and most particularly from others with experience of trying to "do church" in new ways in rural communities...