I first met Fred Burnham at a meeting at The National Cathedral, where I was impressed at the way he facilitated a fast-paced and largely unstructured (and yet purposeful) conversation with an almost effortless combination of ‘light touch’ and ‘firm hand’. As someone whose been practicing these elusive skills for several years, I was impressed. But not as impressed as I was by his description of his practical experience with a self-organizing system in the relief efforts following 9/11 in NYC (which he describes in this video). Fred has long studied emergence from the theoretical perspective of the new sciences, and he saw spontaneous organization (in spite of a lack of centralized control) and network theory illustrated and expressed through the winter and spring of 2001/02. Now, he’s following his curiosity toward the theological and ecclesiological expression of this culture-wide phenomenon that he sees in the emergent church, and acting as both a sage and a support for those of us who find ourselves flocked thusly.
And I’m not sure if it’s because Fred shares my experience of losing a son, or if the remembrances of this week are so fresh for me, but I couldn’t help but think of my own experience of struggle that started several years ago. My church community, along with several other networks of friends around the world, organized themselves in a most unorganized and yet effective effort to support us through the pregnancy and birth and care of our twins, and who also carried us through the loss of our son, and who continue to this day and beyond. Of course they’re not perfect, but their love is undeniable and their support is all the more moving for the fact that it is so genuine and untamed.