Wednesday, July 26, 2006

emerging church get-together

(thanks to Andrew Jones for the picture)
I really am a bad, bad blogger. Nearly a week has gone by (a long time in the blog world) and I have yet to record my thoughts and feelings about the 24 hour get-together I went to last week at High Leigh conference centre for those involved in the 'emerging church' in the UK. It was a privilege to be there and great to connect with many friends from around the country (too numerous to link to here).

As usual with these things there's as much value in just being together - at the meals, down the pub etc. - as there is in the actual sessions, as good as those were.

We were there principally for two reasons : to have some time reacting to Ryan Bolger (and Eddie Gibbs's) book - Emerging Churches - from a UK perspective, and to talk about whether or not we needed to be more intentional as far as networking individuals and groups together is concerned.

As far as the first of these aims was concerned it was great to have Ryan Bolger present with us to talk about the book. I think it's a great book - I loved the stories etc. My concern is that the '9 marks of the emerging church' that it presents (don't have it to hand so can't list them - go look it up!) sound to me simply like authentic Christianity rather than any particularly post-modern form of Christianity! I think it was helpful to have these characteristics mentioned - on the level of practices - but I also think that if the emerging church is truly about incarnating Christian community in postmodern culture then we also need to tease out what is specifically postmodern (not simply biblical) about the way we are expressing faith together.

So, for example, I think that one of the features of churches who are intentionally seeking to exist in the postmodern context is a desire to operate beyond conservative/liberal polarities.
In other words - if the emerging church is about engaging with postmodernity what are the things that make it postmodern? I'm not sure the book answers that question although I think maybe one of the 9 points (doing away with the sacred/secular split) begins to.

As far as the other aim of the get-together is concerned there was some lively discussion about whether or not we should name an intentional network and have some more shape to what we are doing (together).

My gut feeling is that there should be some more intentionality but we don't need to name it. Let's just let it evolve naturally. I would be happy to get together again like that next year and maybe all the people who were there this year could suggest others who could be invited and it could just grow naturally and organically.

(BTW on the naming thing, some were concerned that if we don't name ourselves others will do it for us - but in the scriptures naming was always done by others).

So intentionality : yes (so thumbs up for get-togethers and gatherings) but naming and structuring it too much: no. (Unless we called it something like 'Old Wine'(which incidentally I always thought was supposed to be the best anyway!).

One last thing - I'm really looking forward to us getting beyond the self-referential stage in our get togethers i.e. getting together to talk about the 'emerging church'. Don't get me wrong - I thought last week's content was good and necessary. It's just that there is a stage beyond being very conscious of a new tool and that is incorporating the tool into yourself (almost as an extension of the body) where you become less conscious of the tool and more conscious of what you are doing with the tool.

So I look forward to more times of gathering together when we're moving beyond talking about who we are and we give more attention to what we are trying to do. My suggestion would be to have a conversation about theology (get a theologian in to spark us off) or spirituality or mission.
Anyway - sorry about the long, rambling post.

Had a great time - thanks to Jonny and Ben for organising it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

warning: controversial post

Today's lectionary readings (gospel reading) afford me an opportunity to share a view which will probably make me unpopular with some people (so why would I want to?...hmmm.. am I a theological masochist?).

Today in Matthew 10 we read this verse:
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded." (v 42).

This, I would suggest, is pretty obviously an anticipation of the longer parable of the Sheep and the Goats that we find later on in Matthew (25: 31-46).

I've got to say that I think The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is one of the most misused passages of scripture I've ever heard. The message, we are told, is usually something along the lines of:

'it's really important to minister to the poor because when we do so we are actually ministering to Christ. Jesus told us that whenever we feed or clothe someone, or give them something to drink, we are actually doing it to him'.

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard the Sheep/Goats story used in that way.

But I don't think that's what Jesus is saying in that passage at all.

The key to understanding it is surely the phrase "the least of these brothers and sisters of mine" (25:40). This was a phrase that Jesus used (also in Matt 10:42 quoted above) to refer to his disciples. In fact in the Matthew 10 passage he makes the link explicit ("one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple").

So the sheep/goats story isn't about how we treat poor people. IT'S ABOUT HOW PEOPLE TREAT JESUS' DISCIPLES!

They were the ones who Jesus was sending out with nothing - no food, no extra tunic, etc. i.e. in relative poverty and reliant on the generosity of those they encountered. (see the gospel texts from last week - the fourth Sunday after Trinity). How they were received and treated would influence God's judgement of people.

All of that is not to say, of course, that we shouldn't care for the poor and those in need. OF COURSE WE SHOULD. Just not on the basis of the sheep/goats story which is making a different point entirely.

Ok - rant over. Thanks for listening!

answer phones

I swear to God I can't remember the last time I tried to call somebody and they actually picked up the phone! No one ever answers the phone anymore. What's happening to our world?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

brownie points

Do brownies really get points? and if so, what do they get them for??

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

today: robes, viola, and mooters

Today is looking good.

I will be pretending to be a proper Anglican priest when I go and pick up some new robes in a few minutes. I say 'new' which makes it sound like I already had a set but that is not true. I have been ordained for 3 years and all I have owned is a single clerical shirt. But I am having to borrow robes too often now and so I am now finally getting some of my own.

Then I'm doing a little bit of recording with Tom at lunchtime as we try and get the first hOME EP finished.

Then I'm off to London. On Jonny's recommendation I am going to check out the Bill Viola exhibition at the Haunch of Venison gallery.

Then I'm meeting Ian Mobsby for a spot of dinner before going to Moot this evening in Westminster. Ian has invited myself (and I'm bringing along a couple of others from hOME too) to go and share with Moot the story of the new-monastic journey we've been on.

Should be a good day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

reflections on wimbledon

2 Things that annoy me about Wimbledon:

1. the way they only display the score (in the top left corner) when the action is happening and remove it when the action has stopped - THAT'S WHEN YOU WANT TO CHECK THE SCORE!!

2. The way that the ball boys are now, as part of their job so it seems, expected the continually hand a towel to a player between every point. IT'S NOT THEIR JOB! I've played tennis in very hot weather. You don't need to towel down after every point. What next - ball boys expected to give quick rub downs and massages? THEY ARE THERE TO COLLECT THE BALLS! (Now I know that the towelling down thing is a little mental routine thing and nothing to do with actually needing to towel down - Sharapova always tucks hair behind both ears just before serving..even if there's no hair to be actually tucked in - but COME ON!).

1 thing I would like to see at Wimbledon:

a player reading a book in installments each time they sit down on their chair every 2 games. If it was a 5-setter they could maybe complete a whole short novel. Can you imagine? That would be great (especially if when the Umpire calls 'Time' the player asks him to hold on until they've finished the chapter!).

The Convent - form and content

Pip and I have really enjoyed watching The Convent on BBC2 the last 4 Wednesdays. There are a couple of things I want to comment on though.
Firstly, there is a very interesting article in this week's Church Times (no weblink available unfortunately), by Nick who was in the programme The Monastery and is now training for ordination. His basic point is that religion is not therapy and to confuse the two does a disservice to both. Religion is always focussed on the other - God primarily, and our neighbours (and is essentially corporate in nature)- whilst therapy is focussed on the self (and is essentially individualistic in nature). He felt that to a certain extent The Convent has allowed a blurring between the two. I think it's definitely true to say that the show did very much talk in terms of MY path, MY journey etc. etc. So Nick's point is that in a consumer culture, religion is now viewed as one more lifestyle option and is essentially about a personal 'detox for the soul' (which is how the show was advertised actually). What do other people think about this?
Secondly, I have been thinking about the monastic life in terms of form and content. Regular readers of this blog will know that the monastic tradition plays a very important part in the life of our community. Last Easter 8 of us made vows and committed to live by a Rule. The deeper I get into this whole thing the more I realise the power of these rhythms to change us individually and corporately.
The 4 women who entered the Convent were certainly shaped by the pattern of the communal life - the regular times of prayer etc. But the content did seem to be often very dreary. Does that matter? Is it simply the patterns and the rhythms that shape us or does the content within these patterns matter? I guess we're probably all going to say that both are important, but what are the relative values?

RSS Comments

does anyone know a way of creating RSS feeds for comments on Blogger (or other formats for that matter)? It would be great to be able to track conversations happening in comments through my newsreader rather than visiting the different blogs directly.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The da Vinci Code - what's the problem?

I realise I may have missed the boat on this one, but allow me to play catch up (as they used to say on cult 80's daytime telly - 'Going for Gold' - ahhh student life..).
The basic premise of the Da Vinci Code plot is that the church has been guilty of covering up a secret that, if discovered, would rock the very foundations of Christianity. And the secret? That Jesus was married and fathered a child.
Now, whilst wanting to make absolutely clear that I don't believe Jesus was married or fathered a child, what exactly would be the theological problem if he had?
I mean, he was fully human - no debate there (any more) - so where is the theological conundrum (another game show reference - sorry!) if he had??
Obviously, if he had and it had been left out of the gospel records then that would throw up interesting questions about the reliability of the scriptures, but leaving that aside for a moment - where exactly is the problem here?