We have come to the end of this journey. The research team no longer exists. My writing is done. You, dear reader, and I have finished our interaction. Hopefully, we have found a fusion of horizons that has expanded each of our theological imaginations.
I come to the end of this leg of the journey in a fixed moment in time. I will move beyond this paper and change, while the text of the paper becomes a temporal frame of my theological imagination at its moment of completion. You will encounter this paper at another moment in time, and it will intersect with you in that space, and invite you into a dialogue of its own. My prayer is that the dialogue is fruitful.
This paper has been a part of my journey that began several years ago. I have slowly evolved from my fundamentalist and conservative evangelical roots, across the fields of the emergent church, and into the world of missional theologians in the ELCA. I had a specific encounter with the social Trinity in 2012 that impacted my ideation and praxis of spiritual formation. I wondered if other people—specifically people in suburban ELCA congregations like the one in which I find myself—would have a similar experience. I constructed a participatory action research project as a holding space in which to ask that question. I brought the social Trinity, spiritual formation, and the suburban context into conversation and placed that conversation as the “great thing” around which the research team would gather. Then, I facilitated the communicative action of that team over a nine-month period.
Did the findings of this project come out the way I thought it would? No, praise God! I thought I would discover amazing insights that would change the world. I thought I would make a compelling argument that the social Trinity is the preferred way to imagine God and provides a solid structure for the missional church and suburban spirituality. Instead, I encountered a deepened understanding of communicative action by engaging in communicative action. I cannot make any claims that there is a connection between the social Trinity and spiritual formation. Yet, I believe that, both in the DITB project and your reading of this paper, we have engaged in Trinitarian praxis. However, I also realize that you may completely disagree with me regarding the Trinity and its connection to spiritual formation.
This project has helped me to understand that it is OK for us to disagree. Our goal in missional leadership is not to reach agreement. That is a static and lifeless prospect. I believe that we, as missional leaders, specifically in the ELCA suburban context, are called to invite people to be continually formed in the Creator’s preferred and promised future, through the way of the Redeemer, and in the power of the Sustainer within holding spaces of communicative action where we dwell in the Word and in the World. If the missional leader of the suburban congregation can learn to cultivate these types of spaces in the community, then, perhaps, we can go deep in the burbs.
I conclude this paper with a prayer written by a member of the research team.
Dear God, you have promised that whenever two or three are gathered in your name, you are there also. As we gather together here in this place, we remind ourselves that you are already here, fully present as God our Creator, the One who made us in your own image and who even now knows the thumping of each heart in this room. We remind ourselves that you are fully present as Jesus, our Brother, our Savior, who walked the earth as we walk it, who lived within human relationships we live within relationships. We remind ourselves that you are fully present as the Holy Spirit, the one who gives life and breath and ignites each of our own spirits. God, Three in One, we ask that you would help each of us to also be fully present to you and to each other. Help us to really live your command to love one another, and in doing so, let this time together be a reflection of your own great glory. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.