Notes on Phyllis Tickle’s “The Great Emergence”


As a Christian, I had been interested in the history of the faith. I got wind of Phyllis Tickle’s “The Great Emergence” through a friend who wrote a book using Tickle’s idea of a “Church rummage sale” every 500 years or so.

The last such “Church rummage sale” was the Great Reformation, which shaped the history of the church in Europe and, arguably, the whole world.

As is my usual reading process: I would listen to the Audiobook and then pick up the printed or electronic book to delve more deeply into the ideas of the book.

This blog post contains my notes–most of them will probably be in the form of direct quotes and paraphrases. I will put the page numbers as much as I could. I also include my reflections and questions as I wrestle with the material.

Part I The Great Emergence: What is it?

Ms. Tickle attributes the idea of a “church rummage sale” every five hundred years to an Anglican bishop: the Right Reverend Mark Dyer:

“the only way to understand what is currently happening to us as twenty-first-century Christians in North America is first to understand that about every five hundred years the Church feels compelled to hold a giant rummage sale…. we are living in and through one of those five-hundred-year sales.” (p. 16)

This phenomenon of “five-hundred-year rummage sale” is essentially an upheaval and Ms. Tickle, again, attributes Bishop Dyer with the three results of this upheaval:

  1. “a new, more vital form of Christianity emerges…”
  2. “the organized expression of Christianity, which up until then had been the dominant one is reconstituted into a more pure and less ossified expression of its former self.” This creates two new entities: “a brand new expression of its faith and praxis” and the older, more dominant, expression of the Church is “refurbished” or revitalized.
  3. the faith spreads exponentially into new geographic and demographic areas resulting to a wider and deeper reach of Christianity. (p. 17)

Chapter 1: Rummage Sales: When the Church Cleans Out its Attic

Chapter 1 presents the major themes and events that affected the Christian faith in a reverse chronological manner. Ms. Tickle starts with the Great Reformation of the 16th century and backtracks every 500 years until the birth of the church and when Jesus conducted his earthly ministry.

Although there are years and dates associated with each important era of Church history, Tickle says that the dates are used merely for our convenience. The developments leading to those events move slowly until those events actually happen.

This chapter helps identify the events, the issues surrounding the events, and the major factors that led to the event.

1517: The Great Reformation

1054: The Great Schism

Around 590 CE: Gregory the Great and Monasticism in the Midst of the Dark Ages

1st Century CE: the birth of Christianity and the church

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