Tuesday, October 26, 2004

 

John Peel 1939 - 2004
R.I.P
.

I've just heard the sad news that veteran DJ, John Peel has died at the age of 67. He died of a heart attack in Cuzsco, Peru, which is a place I've been to, and holds many memories for me. I'll always remember seeing him DJ at Glastonbury ten years ago, or the time he came to an art show I had in Birmingham, standing in the corner with friends talking, laughing and pointing at my paintings.

I know that this is a bit of an odd posting for a Christian blog, but his passion for outlandish music of all kinds from reggae to ambient techno to bluegrass to punk displayed a real love for an aspect of God's creation that put me to shame (although he probably wouldn't have seen it that way).

I'll miss driving back from MOOT late at night, listening to his show, with the strap line : "You'll hear quite a lot of stuff in there that you won't have heard before - one or two things that you might even like....!"

See Radio One's website for more details.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

 
?Are There Transcendent Moral Facts by Chris Cowie

As some of you know, Chris Cowie from Northern Ireland is studying Philosophy at LSE, and has recently started coming to Moot. I have asked him if now and again we can have some philosophical content to the blog for us to chew over. See the link below and add comments if interest...

Moral facts.pdf

Friday, October 22, 2004

 
Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity.
Nor can you bully a subordinate into becoming a genius.
Since the modern, scientifically-conceived corporation was invented in the early half of the Twentieth Century, creativity has been sacrificed in favor of forwarding the interests of the “Team Player.”
Fair enough. There was more money in doing it that way; that's why they did it.
There's only one problem. Team Players are not very good at creating value on their own.
They are not autonomous; they need a team in order to exist.
So now corporations are awash with non-autonomous thinkers.
“I don't know. What do you think?”
“I don't know. What do you think?”
“I don't know. What do you think?”
“I don't know. What do you think?”
“I don't know. What do you think?”
“I don't know. What do you think?”
And so on.
Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded
creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And that's exactly what's been happening.
So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western
World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.
What happens to an ecology, when the parasite level reaches critical mass?
The ecology dies.
If you're creative, if you can think independently, if you can articulate passion, if you can
override the fear of being wrong, then your company needs you now more than it ever did.
And now your company can no longer afford to pretend that isn't the case.
So dust off your horn and start tooting it. Exactly.
However if you're not particularly creative, then you're in real trouble. And there's no buzzword
or “new paradigm” that can help you. They may not have mentioned this in business
school, but… people like watching dinosaurs die.

Quoted from 'How to be Creative', download it here. Change the word company to church and you have a rather succint view of the way that many churches operate. What we need are permission givers not power-hungry 'leaders'. People who 'bless' new ideas, encourage them and help people develop them, prayerfully, financially and personally. We sure could learn a lot from the creative industries.

 


Propaganda.
Excuse me if this looks clumsy or slightly wrong, but I'm struggling with the technical aspects of blogging, as this is my first time....(aaaaah!)

I recently read a book called "Easily Led: The History of Propaganda" by Oliver Thomson, & I've been thinking a lot about the subject, and I'd like to propose the idea that Church can be Propaganda, too. Propaganda has always been seen as a "black art" somehow, due to the way in which the word was first used, but I would like to argue that it can also have positive connotations. I appreciate that this subject can be quite emotive, so I'm going to deliver my thoughts as factually as I can to avoid misunderstanding (with apologies to Wittgenstien for format).

- Propaganda can be a tool for good as well as for ill
- A definition of propaganda by Oliver Thomson: "the use of communication skills of all kinds to achieve attitudinal or behavioural changes among one group of people by another."
- I'm using the term "Propaganda" in its broader context. For example: in medieval times, coats-of-arms, fortresses & castles, flags, art & music, army parades and official costumes were all tools of propaganda, in the sense that they create an impression, a sense of power and a worldview - an outlook that I will term "world-making"
- this has historical roots and precedents that go back as far as some of the world's most ancient civilisations.
- When I use the term Propaganda, I'm NOT talking (exclusively) about the sorts of posters and communication that one associates with fasicm or advertising.
- the sort of praise, hymns, songs, "marches for Jesus", flag waving, incense burning, and use of images in churches from evangelical to high church, are examples of propaganda in this more expanded sense, both good and bad.
- It is important to remember that God is not bound by the songs we sing, or the incense that we use, or the evangelical minister that we listen to - God is greater and sometimes more unknowable than all that - these are just things that we use in our attempts to grasp and know God.
- The thought occurred to me that we often see our own forms of church (whatever they may be) as intrinsically spiritual, when actually they're not. They're tools that WE use to remind ourselves of God and the world view that we associate with God, or spaces, where God may or may not choose to meet US.
- We must be careful that the forms/tools that we use accurately represent the God that we believe in. This is not an excuse to pick out the bits that we like.
- Another quote from Oliver Thomson: "one of the common characteristics which become evident in all ...propaganda is the urging of people to sacrifice their own personal comfort, pleasure, liberty, or even lives for the sake of the greater good... this is not necessarily a bad thing, but in the wrong hands it is very prone to being abused."
- Personal forms of meditation, such as prayer beads, liturgies, the act of crossing oneself, and other devotional activities (all of which I use regularly!) are all good forms of self propaganda in that they can be used daily to remind ourselves of the God that we believe in, and, if appropriate, can be incorporated into daily life, as well as being part of church service culture.
- Alt. worship services can be good examples of world view, or world-making spaces that enable us to re-connect with God and are in this sense examples of good propaganda.
- The potential for abuse of the methods of propaganda for personal gain or power abuses should be obvious, & are to be avoided. The need to discern between good propaganda and bad propaganda can't be overstated.

So there we are - lots more I could add, but that should be enough to get into for now!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 
Well my powerbook got nicked yesterday. Not a good day. One minute it was sitting in my bag in a café in Islington, the next it was off out the door in some scumbags hands! Luckily most of the photos we had on it off our wedding and honeymoon were backed up, and all my data was encrypted so addresses and stuff are safe. But its still amazing how much we rely on our computers for stuff.

As of today I have no-ones email addresses (so please email me if you sent me something you want me to reply to), no clue as to my schedule for the next few weeks, and no software resources to plunder in times of need for moot! Luckily my BA and MA stuff was mostly backed up, and most of the services and talks I had planned are on my work computer too. I ordered a new powerbook today as I need one to work, but its not nice loosing out on £1300 just like that! Lets hope I get the new one in time for Protest4 otherwise I could be in trouble.


Tuesday, October 19, 2004

 
ALL SOULS DAY


On November the 2nd, Many of the Orthodox, Anglican and Catholic Churches have a service as a place to reflect and to give thanks for friends and relatives who have departed. It is a moment for sadness of seperation and the hope of reuniting in the eschatological hope of the developing Kingdom of God. If you are wanting the names of people dear to you to be remembered then please leave their names below in the comments section, and they will be re-membered by the Moot and St Matthews Westminster Church Communty on that day.

These sort of days are very important as they take us out of just living in the present, and enable us to see beyond there here and now, to remember we live in 'in-between-times', of the now but not yet of God's purposes. In a very moving moment and story of a dear friend of mine, he tells the story of his family taking communion together with their dying father just before his death, and how that was a deeply poignant moment of temporary separation and the looking forward to the reunification of their family in God. It has the essence of the story of the prodigal son, and there is much about All Souls Day that resonates with these experiences and stories.

So please do enter the name of a departed friend or relative if you wish them to be included. Shalom

Sunday, October 17, 2004

 
Reflections in our times of lament & exile


I have been reflecting a lot this week on the increasing gap between the traditional church and our culture. It seems that our culture has completely sold itself out to being a consumer society. Where Blair gets away with lying to Parliament, that our society cares more about Fox Hunting than an unjust war, and the ongoing lack of compassion about the increasing number of young people on our streets. I have been moved to tears lots of times this week, not just by the deaths of a few people I knew well, but by the brokenness of relationships, and the mess that is our world and life today. I have realised that to lament the days in which we live is important, and often I just can't cope with the amount of pain there is all around us, and today was one of those days. But healthily, I think grieving what seems to be quickly dying of the good things of our culture, compassion, tolerance and commonwealth matter to God if they don't matter to the politicans. religious leaders, and others. I have to hope that something new will eventually replace this waste of potential.

This week will see the publishing of the Eames Report which I believe will put back mission years in this country as yet another angry report marginalises a group of people - and this time it is homosexuality, and once again we will see the soc-called 'new community' of God sling it out in public in anger and exclusion, relying on fundamentalism rather than the love of God. It is a time to lament, and a time to turn to God to rise above the brokenness of humanity, to hold onto the small shoots of hope that remain outside of the traditional church. So that we can hope that in our exile, the Spirit of God will bless our desire to be loving and incarnational in a world distorted by Chrisendom, and that by trying to love, to be gentle, to realise that all life is fragile, and that in each person rests the grace and love of God, that we are all made in the image of divine. I believe that through our lament, God can bring change, a change that is transcendent and transformative that restores and heals. We can sit and watch and hope, but pain and tears are part of such a calling. To follow the counter-cultural way of love and powerlessness

To reiterate this, I was deeply moved listening today to Gorecki's Symphony Number 3 Second Movement Lento e Largo. He was inspired by the deeply moving words of a Polish 18 year old girl, tortured by the Gestapo for her beliefs and unwillingness to submit to the terrors unleashed in the second world war. The following words were scratchd into the wall of the cell:

Mamo, nie placz, nie, Mother, no, do not cry,
Niebios Prezeczysta Krolowo Queen of Heaven, most chaste
Ty Zawsze wspieraj mnie Help me always
Zdrowas Mario Hail Mary.

Helena Wanda Blazusiakowna

She died in the cell.

May we have the strength to rise above the scrap and hatred of the next couple of weeks, to be and live being part of the new community of God, and may we lament the passing of our church into further brokeness. May it fix its eyes back on the liberating cosmic Christ and off institutional power and hatred. Amen

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

 
Moot explorations on the creeds Oct'04

In tonights (Oct 13th) discussion and next week's scripture space, we are looking at the 3 ancient ecumenical creeds, and how they apply to us trying to be a fresh expression of church community in a liquid-modern consumer society. The way we articulate the Christian faith must draw on an authentically christian narrative. For a copy of the session handout notes please click on Exploration of the Creeds.pdf

For the scripture space we will be looking at Philippians 2:6-11. A copy of the moot scripture interpretive tool is included in the Exploration of the Creeds handout above. It was agreed that the following people would prepare:

Qs 1-3 Mike
Q 4 Nick
Q5 Carey
Q 7 ?Sim
Qs 8-9 Gareth
Q 10 Stephen

For this, the best internet search engine is always Google and put in 'Exegesis Philippians 2:6-11'.

There are bound to be more issues raised out of the discussion tonight, so if there are particular issues including clarifications of the notes, please do blog on it in the comment section of the blog. The more we all explore the more we all learn..... Cheers Ian

Monday, October 11, 2004

 
Operation Noah the community climate change campaign.
I am pleased to say that with the continuing bad news regarding carbon dioxide increases in the earths atmopshere, that Christians are increasingly becoming more active and collaborative with other activists in promoting change and social responsibility regarding these global problems. The Christian Ecology Movement has launched Operation Noah.

See link for more information

Saturday, October 09, 2004

 
Onto Reconstruction?
French media reported today that Jacques Derrida sadly died on Friday night at the age of 74. A reluctant pinup philosopher for some and for others maybe a key figure in the development of the idea that some people in some contexts call postmodernism, he had plenty to say about the Church and about God. How about a challenge to "think of God and of the name of God without . . . idolatrous stereotyping and representation" or does the idea of a "Christianity that is at the same time evangelical and heretical" make any sense? There's plenty more where that came from. Check out his best known book on Christianity, the Gift of Death or get some Bible study notes with a difference.

 
PROTEST 4
Click here for the programme. protest4programme-3.pdf

With 2007 representing the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, we have not, unfortunately, been able to rid ourselves of such heinous injustice. As more people find themselves being sold and trafficked into slavery and bonded labour today than ever before, conversations amongst many of London's emerging Christian communities and beyond, have proliferated the desire to collaborate in mission.You are invited to Protest4 which has arisen out of these discussions and will see us gather at Christ Church (the church.co.uk centre) in Waterloo to take this forward. Protest4 will span the weekend of the 29th, 30th and 31st of October and will include input from Phil Lane (an international expert on people trafficking); input Kester Brewin (author of ‘The Complex Christ’) and Andrew Jones (aka tallskinnykiwi); a film and presentation from Gareth Higgins (author of ‘How Movies Helped Save My Soul’); music from Foy Vance; and worship with London Zoo. The weekend will kick off at the church.co.uk centre at 7:00 pm on Friday the 29th.We've set up a deal with a local hostel which is only 2 minutes from the church.co.uk centre see http://www.hostelz.com/display.php/437+Journey's+London+Hostel When phoning to book, simply mention protest4 for a discounted rate!Please circulate this email to anyone in your community and beyond who you think may be interested.For more info check out http://www.protest4.comEmail us back if you are thinking of coming or have any further questionsWe''ll look forward to seeing you.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

 
The Bishop of London's comments on Moot

As promised, please find the link to the Diocese of London's website below which links to three important addresses that +Bishop Richard has made to different forums that included content about moot. Bishop Richard continues to be a major support to what we are doing, which is greatly appreciated!! It was the Bishop's initiative to ordain me a Deacon to St Matthew's Westminster and to the Moot Community. A very forward thinking action.

click here for link
Finally for those who still can't believe me that I am ordained, please find photographic proof below - I am the pinhead to the right of the Bishop of London on the steps of St Paul's cathedral.
ordination.JPG

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

 
Living in a consumer society but not of it
Thanks to those who have said they liked what I said Sunday morning about this. As requested, what was said is downloadable from the link.

Consumer Society John 2,13-22.pdf

 
Frosty Reception
Have been mulling over Hirsch and Frosts presentation at the London Zoo on sunday night. Steve Collins has had a rant here, and has elicited quite a few responses, so make sure you check out the comments.

I had finished reading their book the week before and had found it pretty stimulating and came along to the evening hoping that what they presented would engage with the challenges | felt they presented to alt.worship. But I have to admit to being pretty disappointed with what they had to say, they only briefly touched on the contents of the book and spent 90% of the time focused on drawing a distinction between community and communitas (see Ian blog entry below and here for more details).

For me their argument that church should be like communitas was flawed in a few major ways: -
• they argued that communitas was a normative situation for the people of God, and gave examples of the first and second exile, the exodus as well as Jesus and his disciples and the church as we see it in the early chapters of Acts. They are however being very selective in their story choices. What about the Psalms and Yahweh leading people in times of rest and peacefulness away from business and liminality? What about Yahweh's desire to lead the Israelites into the promised land that 'flowed with milk and honey'? What about the whole wisdom tradition in Israel which is built around careful just community living with Yahweh and the earth? What about the church we encounter in some of Paul's later letters as well as the church in Revelation, they are no longer in a constant state of communitas but rather have elders and leaders, they are organised, pastoral, even established communities. In summary communitas is but one 'bilblical' example of the way the people of God lived in the bible, and it was ALWAYS temporary.

• the idea of communitas in Turners work (the anthropologist who first coined the term) is limited to ritual initiations into the community. The space which communitas operates in is pretty limited to a few months, it is not a permanent state of affairs for any group. It fosters a sense of identity in those who go through it, enables them to develop camaraderie with people they would not normally relate or speak to and gives the group founding myths or stories which are taught to them by elders during this time away from normal society. After these few months the group returns to the original community and a re-intergrated back in as fully grown adults, no longer children.

• From a medical sustained period of time spent living in communitas could lead to burn out as well as lead to the community being inaccessible to those who do not have enough drive or energy to get involved.

I think the bottom line is communitas is but one expression of community, and one that is not designed to be long term, but rather formational. Israel communitas experiences gave rise to the core stories or myths that sustained the community in hard times - similarly our stories of Israel, Jesus, and the early church are ones which sustain, refresh and invigorate us in times of need/liminality/doubt. And many of us have had experiences of setting up churches, doing services, and missional work that have also given us formational stories that we refer back to so I am not doubting how communitas experiences are useful today - but we still need all the other models of community to go along side this one.

They did talk briefly about the way the church should come about (its form, function etc...) They argued that :-

Christology > Missiology > Ecclesiology

That is that our experience of Jesus, in the stories in the Bible, as well as through the Holy Spirit should inspire us to mission, that is to share these stories and experiences with others, and out of this comes the church. Hirsch and Frost both argued that alt.worship started from ecclesioology, being a reaction against the non-creative, hierarchal experiences of church many of us have been in. They argued that we need to rediscover a sense of mission, not one that relies on an attractional model (they will come to us if we put on creative services) but rather a model that is public, out there in society. A sense of mission that comes from the stories of Jesus that many alt.worship groups have already re-discovered and re-imagined in very culturally embedded ways.

I whole heartily agree with their challenge to alt.worship groups about mission, and it was a shame they spent so long on this idea of communitas. I gather that the day they did in London they didn't do this so I'm a bit gutted I didn't go to that.

Monday, October 04, 2004

 
London Zoo@ Moot with Alan Hirsch & Rob FrostLast night Moot hosted a gathering of the London Zoo to hear and discuss the concept of Mission in a post-modern culture. The talk focused on an understanding of the church as a place of participation, action, taking risks and living life to the full. Drawing on social-anthropological research they looked at the idea of church being a sense of 'communitas' . This comes from the idea of rites of passage in African cultures where young boys are taken from their homes and forced to live in the bush as an expereince aimed at making them 'men'.

In this situation, these boys were forced together to become a band together in uncertain times, a liminal experience of disorientation. These experiences challenge the band to do things they thought they could not do and builds deep relationships through real participation in communitas. It is a far cry from our current understanding of community through the lens of consumer choice, as comfortable non-risk taking support group places.

Looking back at the New Testament, they made the connection between the early Church and communitas - in the sense that it was born out of liminal experience, when things were tough, which lead to the early church forming communitas as forms of church.

The challenge they headlined, was how the church was to get back to being communitas rather than consumptive forms of community which were increasingly not sustaining peoples spiritual lives. The talked about this form of church being quite a primal need - and quotes interpretations of Fight Club and The Wizzard of Oz films as examples of communitas.

Connections for me
A lot of what was said made connections with the ideas of shifting from an understanding of orthodoxy to orthopraxis - moving from right thingking to right action. This came out of the aspirations of liberation theology - for a church modelled on particpation, action and justice. You could argue that some of these form of communities resonate strongly with the concept of Communitas. The concept really does make connections with the biblical idea of Church as a gathering of people doing extra-ordinary things as the 'new community' of God, a sign for the Kingdom. Knowing that all models of church are always imperfect, I was left thinking about those who were 'not strong' to be able do Communitas. The danger is that it can leave out the weak and the marginalised. They tried to say that Communitas forces people who are different to get on, but remain unconvinced about this. Our culture works in networks, and the poor or those who don't fit in don't get included. The examples of communitas cited work of like-minded middle class people. This said, I did think that the connection between communitas and primal or even mythical archetypes has a lot of power behind it. People do hunger to belong to this type of community, and we do see this happening when alt worship groups get it right. I particularly remember the Epicentre Arts Cafe at Greenbelt sometime ago as a communitas moment for me.

Others thoughts
A number of other mooters were at the discussion, would be helpful if you could add your thoughts...

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