Monday, November 29, 2004
Gospel and Justice
The (emerging) church in the global North is grappling with mission in a postmodern world. The (emerging) church in the global South is grappling with mission in a postcolonial world. Brian Mclaren explores the intersection between the two and the justice issues that emerge. How does the emerging church engage with gospel and justice?
Brian is a prolific thinker, writer and speaker on mission and the emerging church. He is one of the visionary leaders of Emergent, a network of missional leaders in the USA. Select here to view his an extensive biog.This is a fantastic opportunity to hear him. Brian is in the UK speaking at the inclusive church conference 2 - 4 December. Make sure you catch him there if you have the chance.
In view of the theme, and it being a Christmas Blah... we will have an offering which will go towards supporting rape victims in the Congo – see http://www.cms-uk.org/appeal for details. Come prepared.
This is the sixth of a series of conversations hosted by CMS in 2004 on mission, worship, church and Christianity in today’s rapidly changing culture. It’s a time to keep listening, chatting and reflecting as God beckons us into the future.
Venue: CMS Partnership House, 157 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UU
It would help us to know numbers in advance so if you are coming please e-mail email@example.com
>Wednesday 1 December 2004 >6.30 - 8.30pm >Drinks and refreshments provided >Admission free
Sunday, November 28, 2004
The Moot community are celebrating Christmas early in advent. This year it is more low key. We have hired an eccentric pub in London Bridge/Borough. Tickets are £10, places are limited. Cost includes food - posh nosh. To book tickets, (payment is needed in advance) please contact Ian (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Venue: Simon the Tanner Pub, 231 Long Lane, London SE1
Map: Click here
Tube: Borough (Northern Line is nearest) London Bridge (15 mins walk)
Is happening at Headspace at the church.co.uk centre. in North Lambeth at 7pm tonight. This will be a joint service of the two communities, Moot and Head:space. This time Moot is leading the serivce "Beyond Achievement" that we did at this years Greenbelt Festival. For info on head:space click here for Si Johnston's story about the origins of the Church.co.uk centre. Click for their website, and here for directions.
See you there!!
Friday, November 26, 2004
Just got back from the above conference held at the Church Army Centre in Sheffield. Georgie 'wing commander' Lings and Bob 'Major General' & Mary Hopkins pulled a load of people together who are or want to be involved in network churches. I think there was about 50-60 people there over the three days from a wide variety of traditions (charismatic, conserv evo, liberal catholic etc...). Was great to see that many people are thinking in the same directions even if theologically they were miles apart.
We went up to lead people in worship on Wednesday morning and we repeated a service we did at greenbelt - went pretty well I think.
There were a variety of speakers (Ian took loads of notes so I expect him to upload some stuff). + Graham Cray led the first session and reflected on the space and permission giving the Mission Shaped Church report had granted new expressions of church.
But for me the highlight was Tall Skinny who was speaking on the 'Ryizome cowboy' - he blazed through emergence theory, super scalar networks, scale free networks, new media, chaos organisational principles, pattern recognition and the wisdom tradition. It was a great 2 hours of brain overload. For me I think Andrew is someone who gives us the language and construct to the things we observe and cannot seem to explain/connect. It was interesting how he did not really mention church in the 2 hours yet so many people went away envisioned with a new sense of perspective on the emerging new media context we find ourselves in. I particually liked his sense that the wisdom tradition would be something that needs to be re-discovered in the church if we are to help people make sense out of the complex world we live in.
Best of all though were the many conversations with people, Ben brought a crew from Sanctus 1, and it was great to chat with Stephen Croft, the archbishops Missioner, he seems to have an exciting few months ahead as he attempts to go to every diocese in the UK and meet everyone who is involved in fresh expressions of church. It was also good to meet people who went to the same conference 2 years ago with the intention of planting new expressions of church and now had - it was also good to see 10-15 people there who had the same intention, hopefully they too will come back in two years time with some good stories.
It also seems that for many funding is a key issue - there may be many Bishops who are banging on about the new time we find ourselves in, and the need for fresh expressions of church and how they are going to support them - but as always it felt like so many were wanting to shout, 'show me the money!'.
I think the only downer for me was having to sing 'Faithful one so unchanging' as the last thing we did before we left! God unchanging - I simply do not think so. Other than that I look forward to going again in 2 years.
How do they keep doing it ....yes the best band in the world are back and the boys from Dublin are still on form. Yes I'm talking about U2 and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb . Suffice to say its been on constant play all week since I got my legal copy ...Many stand out tracks but check out especially the song Crumbs from my table .....Bono singing to the church - "Would you deny for others what you demand for yourself." ......then for me in a style reminiscent of some of the madder OT prophets like my personal favourite Amos who really got going when he talked about our attitude towards the poor. “You speak of signs and wonders/I need something other/I would believe if I was able/But I’m waiting on the crumbs from your table.” As my good friend and long time writer on U2 steve stockman says .."The irony is that the “something other” is what the Church thinks it has in extraordinary miracles but the miracle that the poor need is the ordinary sharing and justice of very everyday things."
I could go on but instead will recommend the link below to Steves website and his review of what may quickly become the album of the year. Click here
Monday, November 22, 2004
You can read Archbishop Rowan's Christmas message here. I am constantly amazed my this mans capacity to write such moving and accessible words when entering the realm of popular public discourse - this is another wonderful example.
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Just back from the Moot weekend away. Thanks all for organizing, leading devotional times, entertainment, (Trine, you were stunning. Mike, I really just want to really thank you.) shopping, cooking, lifts and so on. It was good to go away and to meet some of you who can't easily make it to other Moot events.
A couple of snaps you know you want to see....
The Reverend and Godson.
Morning Lizzie. In addition, see Ian's snaps below:
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Friday, November 19, 2004
That is the last time I do something so grandeous as an overview of theology & emerging church. It has now continued onto Jonny's blog - check it out here
I am pleased to say that I met up this morning with Stephen Croft, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Missioner and Team Leader regarding 'Fresh Expressions of Church'. We talked about Moot. Its story and its contribution to Fresh Expressions. He was extremely supportive about what we are doing, and offerred some very useful advice for me personally and the Moot Community. I will share something of these in the next Moot community meeting.
Stephen heads up a new, national and small agency in the Church of England which seeks to support and develop fresh expressions of church, following the implementation of the 'Mission Shaped Church' report. It is all very new, and I am very encouraged. For more click here
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Maggi has posted some interesting thoughts following on from the discussion we had over the ealier moot post by Ian. I am hoping to get a few thoughts together to follow up the discussion myself.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Trickster Myths was written by Louis Hyde and has a number of resonances, where trickster is a character found in a number of world cultural myths.
There were 10 tricks that were pertinent to emerging/emergent church
1. To enliven life with mischief.
The church need mischief to keep it fresh and distinctive in the interplay between church and culture - e.g. adbusters.org, the film dogma.
2. Opens the road between heaven & earth
Often the church feels closed off to heaven, which needs to be reopened. This is the role that Christ played. Christ used the stuff of culture to challenge - alt worship is about using the stuff of contemporary culture to challenge. It is about refraiming - relocating God in the real world.
3. Crosses boundaries redefining who is in and who is out.
Examples of what is clean and unclean - in and oout - images and symbols of God which relates to culture.
4. Trickster creates culture
Renews culture, they are uncomfortable to live with. The church needs to create space for trickster. Interestingly Mathew Fox states that totalitarian states always silence the artists.
5. Trickster disturbs notions of truth & property opening possibilities of new worlds.
We often limit God by our own understandings. Creating an idol - such actions of liberation create new notions of truth.
6. Trickster breaks silence with talk
Saying what no one else if prepared to say - links with Brueggemann's prophetic imagination.
7. Plays with cultural categories
Messing with who is in and out. Challenges the sacred/profane divide. Grates with peoples sensibilities. e.g. Labyrinth at St Pauls Cathedral.
8. Messes with dirt to recreate the world
again challenging with what is in or out.
9. Trickster uses whatever is at hand to make a way out of no way.
10. Trickster has the touch of the prophet about them.
Lots in this, may be it would be good if people could add their thoughts of the session.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
It is true that only a minority of interesting world news stories ever get published. Editors justify this saying that they have to select the most important and balanced news. It is a difficult job, but sometimes I really wonder why the more radical stories concerning the church hardly ever get coverage. For example how many people know that the majority of American Churches minus the Southern Baptists were against the war before it started, and that Bush refused to meet with them. They were so outraged, that the Church of England arranged a joint audience with Tony Blair and had a conference afterwards. Practically nothing of thid reached national or international awareness. I was left thinking what would have happened if the media had given it as much coverage as they gave Martin Luther Kings speech and rally in Washington.
There are however news portals than can give you more direct and informed information about what is going on in connection with the church. One of the these is run by a moot supporter, Jonathan Bartley and the portal ekklesia www.ekklesia.co.uk where there is an email service of top stories. If interested, check out here.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
To keep you in the loop, Ian & Gareth are representing Moot at this years network church conference in Sheffield at the end of November.
Details: Conference for leaders of Anglican Network Focused Churches
Date: November 23-25 2004 (lunchtime to lunchtime)
Venue: Wilson Carlile College of Evangelism, Sheffield
Speakers confirmed: Rt Revd Graham Cray, Bishop of Maidstone, Andrew Jones, Paul MachonochieStyle of conference: mix of plenary, small group, story-telling and worshipPossible Issues to tackle:
survival of plant after pioneer leader
Christ and culture
When does a group become a church?
reflection on what is church in theory and practice
sustaining dispersed communities
nature of authority in network (de-centralised?)
where do you make contacts?
networks breeding networks
support networks for network church leaders
For more information click here
Couldn't help but feel a sense of comfort from this site, it even made me briefly take my lowly head out of my hands.
Full details here »
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Following on from our discussions about the Creeds we look at the final text 1 Corinthians 8 1-13. As before the following volunteered for the following:
So please use the usual scripture:space tool and see you at 8pm St Matthews Library.
scriptural space tool pdf.pdf scrpture space guidance.pdf
There has been much written recently about the Church, Post-modern Emergence & Complexity theory, some of it exciting and innovative and some of it ill-informed and worrying, so I wanted to post a few thoughts. As some of you know I am completing an MA in the ecclesiology of the emerging church, so I want to post a few preliminary views.
What ever else we may think about church, our togetherness matters to God profoundly. In a systematic investigation of the teachings of Jesus and then the Apostles shows us that there is a close link between our togetherness and the Kingdom of God. As some have said, the Church is the 'imperfect sign to the kingdom'. But what is church? Well, without going off on one, there is something about God's presence through what we do collectively and also the idea of being a community that is essential to being church. The use of the word 'Ekklesia' is significant. In the early church it was a subversive term, as it is greek word for the local government of a city or town or some 'polis'. Usually in the Roman Empire this was a forum for privileged Roman Men. What is so challenging about the Christian use of the term, is that it challenges the political autonomy of the Roman Empire. Its very use is seen as a challenge to the authority of the Emperor. Further, it included women, children, slaves and other social excluded people not only to be included and belong, but to have a voice. In short, it was promoting a subversive counter-community drawing on the authority of God as a corrective to the Roman policial and social world. This subversive form of community spread like wild fire around the empire, and was seen as a threat. The Kingdom of GOd was at hand. It was fluid, local, and crossed national boundaries.
We know what happened next, the Emperors realised that instead of being a threat, such a community could actually hold the Empire together and the church and state were merged which continued right up until recently. This way of being Christian and Church in many ways undid the good of the original form of Ekklesia which was distinctive, local and relational. The church as state became oppressive, imperial, power driven, and hierarchical. It is my view that the distinctiveness and subversiveness of the church as a sign of the kingdom was diminished at this time, but however God still did things through this form of Church
In the UK context throughout history, you can see how Christians have attempted to subvert the power-institution to try and return to a more ekklesia-expression of church in the reformation, and the development of denominations who have attempted to strive for the distinctiveness of the ekklesia in some form.
Now in our current post-modern times where the institutional church is in retreat, there is once again an opportunity to explore a more relational, counter-cultural and subversive form of being church. However unlike some recent writings on Emerging or Emergent Church I would stress caution rather than diving in to action or adopting a set or particular interpretation of what we should do next. In an important book Andrew Walker looked at those who set up House Churches in the 60/70s and established that instead of doing something new that reflected changes in cultural and socio-cultural opportunities, they tended to set up more pure forms of the churches they had left, which in House Church form were very calvanistic or occasionally rather anglican. They were unable to let go of the very forms of church they proposed to start afresh.
I am alarmed with some of the reading I have completed around the Complex Christ, Emergent Church, and Emergent Ministries - not only because they take quite a hard critical line, but also because what they say is often very narrow and exclusive. Church is not supposed to be for the exlusively intelligent or the supercool - it is for the ordinary. There is in the current debate, very little engagement in theology where most argument is based on social or anthropological reasoning. There is the assumption firstly that the Church should change uncritically with culture and that church is something that just happens naturally after you have successful built relevant and contextual mission.
Why does this worry me - well firstly history. The German Church uncritically changed to conform with Nazism - leaving martyrs like Bonhoeffer and a few others to make a counter-cultural stand. The Church in Germany has never fully recovered from some of the incredibly stupid conforming acts it injustly did. Some of the writing I have read on Emergent CHurch particularly doesn't seem to ever critique what is bad as well as what is good about operating in, but not of a consumer society. We need to be more discerning about the way we be church. Many fresh expressions of church may unknowingly promote spiritual comsumption which has little to do with Christian forms of discipleship. Secondly the idea that church just happens once you have got mission right is an almost pure form of puritanism where change is always bottom up. Don't get me wrong, I think change is essential - and it is a crime that the church is so out of step with contemporary society, but there are far too many bad forms of church around to merit taking this narrow line. Real Church needs careful theological consideration, building community and forms of servant leadership are essential if new forms of fluid/emergent/liquid/emerging expressions of church are to emerge instead of cults. After all, the Nine Oclock Service was a form of Mission to Church with little consideration about the ecclesiological needs of such a church. The truth is that mission and church are created simulanteously, and we can learn from the history of the church in what happened before the 'modernist' period for inspiration in how people did church.
Rightly, Kester and others have been inspired by forms of organic nature and information technology about systems theory - that state that communities do not need to be hierarchical or 'managed' to be real faith communities that are sustainable. We need to start thinking of church as relational communities. However, there has also meet an increase in people taking 'temple-worship' or going to cathedrals as church. We do need to ask the question - how do we prevent Churches from being heretical and also power-abusing. The instructions of Paul concerning the Church are mostly about trying to prevent the misuse of power. In an emergent form of church - how do we prevent it becoming a cult (what happened in many house churches & in NOS), and how do we prevent dictators. We need to consider the ecclesiological need of servant ministry which is missing in many books.
Lastly, we must not be arrogant to believe that everything about our current social situation is completely new, there is much we can learn from the past. I am particularly interested in what happened in the medieval and celtic churches - there are gems that can help us. The danger of our current liquid-modern situation, is to think we have to reinvent church - this is wrong. What we do need to do, is explore fresh ways of being church, in public space, in public debate and locally engaged, interacting with a consumer society, but remaining distinctive, and following God being true to the faith........
There is so much more I could say, but I will leave it til later - but be careful what you read..... In Moot we will be inviting Pete Rollins to share some of his philosphically driven insights which again I think will further things. In every age we must be careful not to run too fast with the radical or stand dawdling with the conservo. Christianity and the foot of the cross is somwhere between these too extremes, but change we must.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Alternative worship lives on the margins, the threshold, of institutional religion. In this respect I suggest that its role is akin to the trickster and prophet, continually crossing boundaries and moving boundaries, disturbing notions of truth and property, and doing nothing less than opening the way to new possible worlds. It's more anti-structure than structure. Community is developed en route between its members rather than as an organised structure. Taking the labyrinth as an example, all sorts of boundaries are crossed and property shifted. Contemporary cultural artefacts - televisions, computers, Discmans, are where they shouldn't be. What sounds at first like secular or 'new age' music is played behind meditations. All the rituals and symbolic acts are done without a priest in one of the most important cathedrals of the Church of England. In Holy Space there is bread and wine that the participant can help themselves to, while just innocently sitting there. It's not Eucharistic, or at least it hasn't been consecrated, but its symbolism is not lost on participants. All the words, images and rituals are invented by people who are not licensed, not 'experts'. Nothing has had approval from the liturgical committees. The artists have crept back into the church. Bodies, symbols, experience, the senses are involved in worship and prayer. Everyday language and items, rather than sacred are used. Where is the boundary now between sacred and profane?
In this kind of shifting of boundaries the Labyrinth constructs a new world. But in doing so those developing it claim to be being faithful to the tradition they are located in (albeit on the margins). Whilst many in positions of power in the institution view alternative worship as dangerous and a threat, the tradition needs to create spaces for the trickster to maintain its vitality. There needs to be a dialectic between structure and anti-structure.
Use of Popular Culture and the Everyday
'Matter out of place' is the title of one of the chapters in 'Trickster Makes This World'. In it Hyde discuses the significance of dirt in many of the trickster myths. He draws on the work of Mary Douglas who describes dirt as matter out of place. Any system orders the world in such a way as to designate some things that don't fit into the order as dirt - 'Dirt is the by-product of a systematic ordering and classification of matter, in so far as ordering involves rejecting inappropriate elements'. So for example shoes are not dirty in themselves, but they are on the dining table, and food is not dirty but it is on clothing. Hyde suggests that 'if dirt is a by-product of the creation of order then a fight about dirt is a fight about how we have shaped our world'.This is why trickster is always playing with dirt.
When the Sony Walkman first appeared it disturbed the boundaries between private and public worlds. It was 'out of place' in the symbolic ordering, or classificatory system of things. 'It offended people's ideas about what sort of activities belonged where'. The meaning of the Sony Walkman in this respect was not something essential to the Walkman itself but 'a product of how that object is socially constructed through classification, language and representation'. And further its meaning was in relation to other objects within the classificatory system and how it was different. Now today, the Walkman is much more an accepted part of everyday life, and perhaps the panic has moved on to other new technologies like the Internet or mobile phone. The strategic use of popular culture and the everyday in the Labyrinth is matter out of place, particularly because of its location in St Paul's. The prevalent view of culture in church still seems to be a high/low distinction. It has reified cultural forms located in the past. Putting on a Discman to listen to music that you'd most likely hear in a club in the early hours of the morning is transgressing boundaries. It's not what you expect in a cathedral.
In a consumer culture people use the cultural resources available to them to make meaning. For large numbers of people the resources of popular culture are what they use to construct identity and position themselves in relation to others, to develop some notion of authenticity. One use made of popular music in this way is to mark out space - 'forms of popular music and their stylistic innovations are one of the key ways in which local spaces can be appropriated and made habitable'. So the use of the type of music in the Labyrinth on Discmans is in this way a very strategic marking out of habitable space. At the tenth station, 'Others', the walker is greeted by a laptop computer with a screen of virtual candles. In the meditation they are encouraged to 'light' a candle by clicking on the wick with the mouse and then to pray for someone. The candles are from the Internet site www.embody.co.uk designed for an 'online' spiritual experience of prayer. The choice to use virtual candles rather than real ones is strategic. The surprising thing is that rather than being naff, they do evoke a sense of sacred space, and the ritual seems to work with the technology, at least for a large proportion of participants. They function somewhat like an 'icon of the present', representing the mystery of the faith in the language of the here and now. The use of popular culture, indeed the whole approach to inculturation, is under girded by a theology of the incarnation - 'The incarnation gives us the model of relevance. God shows up on our turf speaking our language so that we might understand'. The CDs of music and meditation were available for sale in the cathedral shop. Participants can thus reproduce the experience of the candles and pray at home on their own computer. In this way the ritual connects back into the everyday.
For more info see here See the Moot website for venue and event info. Jonny Bakers blog is listed on the left blog bar.
Phil Lane was the main speaker, and did a fantastic job of outlining the complex issues around people trafficking and suggesting some ways that the emerging church could help tackle this massive global injustice. I think his mixture of facts, stories and his obvious passion for this subject made listening to him very easy.
Kester Brewin also spoke about church needing to be the place which redefines who is 'inside' society, and suggested that the emerging church should be a place that embraces the outcasts and those who are marginalised. And how the church needs a bottom up evolution that challenges the way church is often perceived as white and middle class in this country.
Gareth Higgins from Zero28 also showed a film on Friday night called 'Lilya-4-ever'. It was a very powerful and moving film about a young Estonian girl who becomes slowly drawn in to the seedy prostitution underworld, and finally is trafficked to Sweden and forced into prostitution for private Swedish male clients. If you want a film that communicates both the tragic reality of life for many at the margins of poor countries like Estonia and the way traffickers so easily entice young girls then this is the film to watch. Would definitely make a good discussion starter.
On Saturday we had a series of break-out groups where people could share their thoughts and feelings about the weekend. I think it is fair to say that many people were genuinely moved by what they had heard and seen, and wanted to see their communities and churches get involved in tackling this hideous injustice. We are going to continuing the conversation over the next few weeks, and are in the process of collating peoples response ideas, hopefully a way forward should emerge over the next month.
We are going to upload the various powerpoint presentation people made onto the protest4 website so look out for them if you want to stay in the loop.
Monday, November 01, 2004
I am pleased to let you know that there a quiz on 26th November in the evening at St Matthews Westminster, so put it in your diaries now. Please contact Lisa Martell at St Matthews to let her know you are coming on email@example.com. There will be prizes!!