Saturday, December 29, 2007

Further on the unspoken model of church - church as business

Blimey - that got you thinking!! See comments section to original post. Responding to the comments...

As has been said, there is a difference between utilising good working practices around money and activities, learning from business. It is quite another to base church as a model on a business. It is the latter I am talking about and question, whilst fully supporting the first. Yes - churches need to be sustainable, which means many have to be entrepreneurial, and when thinking about mission in particular, need to consider communication and event type management, BUT these need to be based on values around the meaning of Ekklesia. Ekklesia is a greek word most common in the New Testament for Church, which playfully takes the word used for a town council which was dominated by rich usually men and excluding everyone else, and turned it on its head as a word for church as an alternative community which scandalously included slaves, children and women. It was focused on the Kingdom of God and the counter cultural teachings of Jesus that are sometimes called the 'upside down kingdom'. They were called to be radically inclusive communities of love. This is something which Moot holds very dear. Secondly, these churches were called to worship the Creator, Redeemer and Companion - the Trinity - although this was not fully understood until the Cappadocian Fathers and the Nicene Creed - so that churches should engage with worship, mission and community that enable people not only to encounter God, but to participate in the divine, and model this in the way they do community. In this way Christianity is profoundly different from other religions where worship is more about what you do for God, where the focus in Christianity is about being transformed by being brought into relationship with the Trinity in all that you do.

So unlike the other models of church which draw scripturally on the significance of Jesus, and different focii of Jesus' teachings. I am concerned that churches modelled on businesses do not know or hold to these central teachings of Christ, and are based on business which can never reflect the Kingdom of God, and therefore based on different values.

However, where churches need to be involved in business ventures, I do think they can use more creative models of how they do business learning from previous christian innovation, for example the co-operative, the not-for-profit organisation. But this doesn't define the church - it defines the churches particular business initiative. There is a subtle difference but an important one for me. Otherwise you just end up with a form of Christendom which I have already outlined in my previous post.

Responding to Andii's comment about working with business people as a form of contextual church - I would argue that the place first is to radically challenge such people with Jesus' teachings and model a way of church that challenges much of business values about economic worth, markets, and products, with the stuff about how to be fully human, to live beyond the addiction of consumption, how to find centeredness, how to give, how to live beyond individualism - and all of this has to be learnt in the context of doing and being church which is counter cultural. Contextualisation for me, is not about absorbing values that go against the Kingdom of God, but more about how we can live and do church with out being syncretetic but holding on to Christ's teachings, exploring how to be in culture but not of culture. I hope that Moot in its future can do this. Moot is considering running a prayer and anxiety group as a contextual form of mission - as many people suffer from anxiety as a result of the pressure on people in modern life - so exploring life skills and forms of contemplative prayer to bring peace, so teaching counter-cultural living skills rather than anything offered so far from within culture if you see what I mean... We are not running self management skills courses, or skills on how to be a better individual and be independent - stuff of culture - as these we believe just drive people further into consumption, addiction and the myth of independence.

To come clean about Moot, we are exploring it becoming a church plant, and the possibility of Moot and I taking on a church in London, with the desired will to set up intentional communities, alt worship services and a cafe/art centre for mission. Now clearly this art centre/cafe will need to be run as a business, it will need to cover its costs, but we are not going to start with this business defining what and who Moot is - as I state is the case for some churches in my previous blog - but take Moot and its governance and inclusive approach modelled on new monastic interpretations of Christ's teachings - a mixture of a Mystical Communion model with a Sacramental model as a basis to what it means to be church in a postmodern urban context, using our rhythm of life from this to answer 'how should we live' and from this seek to set up a form of business for the cafe and not the other way round which would completely distort what Moot is supposed to be.

So I come back to where I started - there should never be a model of church called the business model, as for me, this says that church should be what ever culture dictates and is therefore the ultimate form of syncretism - but rather, we should seek authentic models of church, and then seek how we do business where we need to, based on these Kingdom values, and not the other way round. I never want to be part of a church where it becomes a hierarchical board, with departments where I as a cleric - become the managing director - never - no matter how large a church gets, I don't think that is right - if we are truly to be an authentic body of Christ. So we need to consider how do model servant ministry as radical hospitality, particularly to and with those who are excluded from our market understandings of business.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Salvation through into the Wild

Not sure why especially this year, but I found the whole run up to Christmas to be extremely unspiritual, with the ridiculous consumption and passionless Christian Church services, and what seems the enormous stress and depression of many of my friends. In the last week I have felt more alone and disconnected from those I have loved, than I have for a long time. At the start of today I felt over-whelmed, in pain, and a tad lost.

Well, my own salvation happened when I went to see the film tonight with mates, 'into the wild'. I have so gained from seeing it, to touch the things that matter. It is an extremely good film, and most of it resonated with a lot of my own life, other than the absence of God other than that expressed by an old bloke who talked of God as Love who lived in a communion in the desert. It has a very sad end, one that reminds me with gratitude for God's presence and expression of love to me at times of my own liminality and pain. No, this film has reminded me gratefully of how rich my life has been, where grace and the love of God has drawn me to become more human, I laughed and cried in the film. So this Christmas time, I seek to recommit to questing in life to be who I am and to seek God in all that I experience, so that stuff, things, possessions and the rest do not get in the way of my walk with God.

I am left feeling sad, that for so many, the Christian faith is so distorted so that some never know or hear that it is about Love and acceptance, and a God who comes as a helpless baby to seek the salvation of everything.

It has reminded me how sick I feel at the decadence and lack of humanity I feel at this time of year. Why is it we do less Christian things at this time? Yes family are important, but why is it we separate rather than celebrate? I don't really know.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The new unspoken model of church: church as business

On a recent visit to St Paul's theological Centre in London, I completed a recent lecture on Models of Church using Avery Dulles' models of church as a starting place. In the session we explored the seven different forms of church reflecting different emphases of the significance of Jesus, and looked for examples of local churches that reflected these differing models. These are traditionally 'God as King - Church as political society', 'God as Trinity - Church as mysticial communion', 'God as Sacramental - Church as Sacrament', 'God as Servant - Church as servant', 'God as Proclaimer - Church as Herald' and finally 'God as teacher - Church as discipler'. These are pretty well known, and I cover the Church as mystical communion model & sacrament as the emerging church in my book.

But what I did not say, and something that has increasingly troubled me, is the unspoken model that seems to have seeped in with little questioning due to the financial pressures of the modern world - is the model of 'Church as business'.

What has increasingly astounded me, is that there is so little written about this model, which has been absorbed by many churches, particularly those that are large. Clearly this model is not based on the significance of Christ, but purely on business cultural import.

For me, there is something deeply dangerous about churches going this way without thinking through the consequences. Firstly, because it can distort a high view of the 'Body of Christ' as an alternative community reflecting the Kingdom of God, that seeks to include those who are excluded - with a vision of human community at its best. As soon as church becomes a business this has to change to become something of a process model. From my experience of a church like this, your PCC quickly becomes a Board meeting, your congregants become share holders, and the church becomes divided into departments sustaining business activity. In such a church - where is the place of the poor? for those of little economic or work value? for those with out middle class business skills? For me this is far more of a challenge to the church than the issues it seems more vocal about such as issues concerning sexuality and gender. So why is the church so silent on this issue? Where is it being counter-cultural regarding models of church?

In some ways I can trace the development of alternative worship and the emerging church as a reaction to churches that increasingly became task orientated and dehumanised - as the focus became orientated around the business vision of the organisation. And yes, it shifted from being a fluid community to an organisation. I would argue that many of the successful Charismatic evangelical churches in London are built on a model of 'Church as Business', and demonstrate the weaknesses of this as a model. The question needs to be raised - how are these churches being IN but not OF business culture if they are to be contextualised forms of authentic church. I think many of us who have been part of these forms of church, have experienced the downside of these forms of church. Where Vicars operate as powerful managing directors with significant financial and political power. The danger of such forms to distort the function of the 'body of Christ' is substantial.

Don't get me wrong, I am not against business innovation or the need for creative entrepreneurialism where it is considered and used wisely. However, I am concerned that many do not seem to be aware or have considered the consequences of taking on very capitalist and business models of the church. For me, the greatest downsides - has to be that such churches are not really enabled to take on mission activities that are counter to business values, particularly those that might be counter cultural. They again target the powerful, the rich and successful and avoid the poor, the disdvantaged.... And again have a very Christendom focused approach to Church and mission.

This could be an interesting area for research

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Monasticism UK Conference 3rd May 2008

The Place of New Monasticism & The Emerging Church
I met up with Stuart Murray Williams yesterday, who is part of Urban Expressions , emerging type church projects coming from a more Anabaptist perspective. We talked about new monasticism, and Moot's developments concerning its rhythm of life. Many know that I am very pro new monasticism as it promotes a model of church that seeks a fraternity as authentically being church in an age of renewed spiritual interest in spirituality rather than religion.

Well I am really pleased to say that the Northumbria Community, Urban Expressions and the Anabaptist Network are co-sponsoring a day conference on the 3rd May 2008. I know that are UK sister groups MayBe and hOME in Oxford are also attending, so it shall be very good. I strongly commend this conference. Click here for further info and booking form.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Our culture of new mysticism as spirituality

Its two years now since I read Eric Davis's book Techgnosis which heavily influenced the hypothesis of my book, that what is driving this new form of mysticism in our culture (spirituality not religion) is a cocktail of consumerism as an individual life strategy combined with the influence of information technology.

Information technology and consumerism - as a cocktail - are also heavily linked to globalisation - and hence they are now influencing many previously diverse cultures - and in some - bringing a sense of convergence through global technological development.

The hypothesis that Davis and Caputo hold - is that technology has created a re-appreciation of spiritual transcendence. In the ancient premodern world - reality was about heaven above and hell below as a form of transcendence. In modernity - with the focus on science - transcendence was seen as a myth - and all that was - was here and now. In postmodernity - information technology has driven a re-apprecation of transcendence - through cyber-reality, mobile telephones and such like, there is what some have called - hyper reality - or an impossible faith of neo-mysticism.

In the west - this means that what was more of a secularised culture - now has a deep sense of spirituality - and spiritual tourism, even when people don't realise they are spiritual tourists. As this is heavily influenced by individual consumerism - this spirituality tends to be more of a 'pic-n-mix' type - where people choose the bits they like and hold it as their spirituality.

This is now the cultural context for many cultures and subcultures within the world. I would argue it is heavily present in Europe, UK and USA, and would explain why some are heavily resistant to religion - as it requires and expects conformity of belief - rather than consumptive choice, and also focused on spiritual experience - rather than focused on right thinking - the greatest challenge to the church. So the challenge remains with the church - whether it can engage with this postmodern hyper real spiritual sensibility, and shift from 'is it true' to 'does it work'. Only if spiritual experience of the church - brings transcendence and spirituality - will people explore it. And if those involved in it seem to have a form of peace and centredness will it be seen to have something of worth. Often our churches fail on both these fronts.

My hope, is that forms of the emerging church and fresh expressions of church - will be able to radically re-orientate themselves around this emergent culture of new mysticism, in the way of being church. Offering places of spiritual engagement and hospitality for people who are searching for deep spiritual meaning and centredness. In this way they take inspiration from the mystics, the premodern wandering monastics, and many others - in the vision of assisting people to shift from being spiritual tourists to becoming co-travelling Christian pilgirms - shifting from an individually driven, never ending journey, to a place of travelling community, cented in the hope of Creator, Redeemer and Companion.

The challenge is if we can truly be this type of Christian spiritual community.
For me personally - I see new/old forms of church as the emerging church as the best hope. The ones experimenting with outward focused intentional communities in combination with alternative worship and radical hospitality through art cafes and other public forms of spiritual engagement engagement as the best hope. Moot, MayBe, COTA, hOME, Sanctus 1 seem to me to be heading the right way with all of this, but we will see if they become embedded and sustainable in the long term....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Book review by John Twisleton, Mission & Renewal Adviser from Diocese of Chichester

Emerging and fresh expressions of church - how are they authentically church and Anglican? Ian J Mobsby 2007 Moot Community Publishing ISBN 978-0-9555140-0-5 £10 122pp

This is a rather Anglican book full of what many would see as the right sort of questions, shy of over simple answers and giving critical loyalty towards the main sweep of Christian tradition. Ian Mobsby, priest missioner in a London church, gives a defence of emerging and fresh expressions of church that will connect with those who look to the catholic vision of Christianity where God is seen ‘equally in the Eucharist and in drinking beer together in the local bar’.

Four groups are studied including MOOT, the author’s own alternative worship community at St. Matthew, Westminster. Their Anglicanism is discerned in a flexible structure, a focus on bringing relational presence into particular places and networks and the light hand of ecclesiastical authority. Fresh expressions are presented as a leading prong of the contemporary strategy ‘to proclaim afresh in each generation [the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds]’ (Declaration of Assent).

This ‘proclaiming afresh’ is at the heart of the contemporary debate between inherited and emerging approaches to church growth. Is this proclamation a translation of the faith of the church through the ages (inherited view) or is it a synthesis in which the local culture reshapes the church (emergent view)? The writer, a man and a missioner of his age steeped in postmodernism, favours the latter. Ian is frustrated by the Christendom mindset that survives in the Church of England. In that frustration he is one with the Anglocatholic pioneers even if his interpretation of Anglican worship would be worlds apart from theirs.

Since many of those early pioneers were Catholic-Evangelicals they would miss in this book passionate reference to Jesus and to the priest as Jesus’ man (sic). The main theological bearing of the book is an inclusive Trinitarianism that fits a less linear, missionary approach to church than that of Jesus eg. in John 20:21 ‘As the Father has sent me, so I send you’.

It is a book that speaks powerfully into the current ecclesiological and missiological divide with a brilliance both traditionalists and synthesisers can profit from it. The perception that the miracles of information technology are breeding forms of mysticism is quite fascinating. High theological flight is sandwiched by sharp reality checks such as the prediction that in 2040 average church attendance age will be 64 years.

Ian Mobsby is passionate that the good news of Christ should get out into the 60% of the population who now have no contact with the church and are suspicious of any who hold over-arching world views. Whatever your ecclesiology if you share this concern there will be something for you in this book.

John Twisleton, Chichester diocesan mission and renewal adviser

To purchase the book - click here

Monday, October 29, 2007

UK & European Emerging Church Site, Deep Church Site

Pleased to say the October update of the emerging church site has been uploaded. Click here for info. Also really pleased to find that the Deep Church movement have a website too - with a series of interesting seminars drawing on Kings College in London - click here for info.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Community as beyond individual Condition & Cure

For the last two days I have been ruminating on this subject after a profound conversation with my good friend Padraig of the Ikon Community in Northern Ireland, who has just performed in our Moot Arts Cabaret in London.

My thoughts are still about community. It seems to me, that much of modern life is about comodification of everything - and that we are labelled with various conditions and allergies that somehow assist modern living in the categorising of everything - and for me - unhelpfully reduces everything down to a medical model of inadequacy compounding our sense of reduced humanity.

Another benefit of Christian community, is that it is about profound betterment and affirmation - at its best - it is about our collective human becoming. That in community and the love of God, we are able to find acceptance, love and wholeness.

In the Moot Community I am known as Ian, slightly eccentric and over working. These things are true, and I feel greatly loved by my brothers and sisters in the Moot Community. Left on my own, I can retreat to self-depreciation and frustration with my constant health issues and allergies, and my own sense of inadequacy. So it is in knowing others, and the relationships and care that has built up, that I see reflected another me that I have learnt to accept and love.

The challenge is again, that this is utterly counter-cultural. In community we find our place as a counterbalance to personal anxiety, in community we find a place and a sense of belonging, and it is in community that we ultimately experience God.

So in a culture obsessed with the individual, looking beautiful and finding the cure, community offers something beautiful of another way of being - the foretaste or moment of the Kingdom of God.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Anglimergent global

I am pleased to say that my good friend Karen Ward, of COTA in Seattle, and fellow Anglican Emergent Priest, has launched an Anglimergent group on Facebook.

There is a need to promote the place of Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church throughout the various provinces of Churches in the Global North and West.

Although I see the Emergent Church Movement as an Ecumenical movement, I do think there needs to be champions in the various denominations to bring change - Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists - what ever - to work with the historic Church to seek Ancient Future forms of church reflecting tradition - but honest to now.

For a link to the facebook group click here

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Exploration of Kester Brewin's Complex Christ/Signs of Emergence Book

I am pleased to see that New York City's very own Emerging Church, Transmission, Sister Group to Moot London, are exploring the thinking and work of Kester Brewin regarding complexity, gift and the rest.

Kester's work is provocative - some I like, and some that challenges me. He is an important voice that needs consideration in the radical end of the emerging church. For info on transmissions plans regarding the explorations click here.

For those are interested, I wrote a review on Kester's first book on the emergingchurch.info site, to read it click here

New emerging church venture in St John's Cathedral Denver

One of the great privileges of the tour Aaron and I completed in June 07, was to hear the passions of people starting up new things in a variety of different settings.

One of these, was St John's Episcopal Cathedral in Denver, and their vision for setting up an alternative service and community.

Cathedrals are uniquely placed to provide opportunities for emerging church type projects where they are aimed at those who are spiritually searching, and I was greatly encouraged to hear about the wilderness creative service at St John's. I like this play on words, very ancient future, as the cathedral was called St John's of the Wilderness because the nearest Episcopal Church at one time, was 700 miles away in Kansas. The concept of wilderness connects with our postmodern situation of complexity, and our very disorientating and fast culture. Wilderness for me connects with the Desert Mothers and Fathers, particularly the Capadocean Mothers and Fathers, the beginning of the Orthodox church, and the form of church that inspired the celtic church... and therefore in a distant form, the inheritance of the later formed Anglican Church in Britain.

I really like the mix of service and going to the pub after for discussion. So if you are looking for an alternative form of church - this looks great - for more info - check out info on their web pages here

Monday, September 10, 2007

Planning American Tour 2008

Following on the success of this year's tour - I plan to complete a further tour to do more speaking and training around new forms of church and mission. I hope to bring one of the highly skilled artists and leaders of of the Moot Community with me - to do much more 'indepth' training particularly in the use of arts-as-mission.

I hope to be able to include some cities in Canada as well, that I was not able to do this year.

If you are interested in using us for training/speaking in June next year - do let me know.

The Emerging Church in the UK: Personal Reflections

Recently wrote this for the Mustard Seed Associates for a conference they are running on the emerging church next year in the States....

Background about the Emerging Church in the UK
Because culture in the UK is far more secular than that which is general in the United States, there has been an emerging church scene since the late 1980s responding to the gap between traditional forms of church and contemporary culture. In the 1980s, this began with forms of church responding to new forms of community and clubbing in the dance scene, which gave opportunities for new forms of mission and church. This began with alternative worship communities in the first wave of the emerging church, as the first form of models of emerging church. Initially, these did not start off as churches, but became churches as the gap between mission initiatives and forms of church were too wide to bridge. From the 1990s, to the twenty-first century, these models of emerging churches widened to include a number of different models, which now include:

- alternative worship communities
- café church models of emerging churches
- new monastic forms of ‘postmodern’ friaries
- community initiatives that have become churches
- missions to new age communities that have become churches
- youth congregations and churches of a more emerging and evangelical perspective
- youth congregations and churches of a more catholic, Anglican perspective
- new contemplative and anglo-catholic emerging church projects
- new emerging church initiatives instigated by Anglican Cathedrals aiming at interacting with spiritual tourists
- Emerging Church initiatives from the Free Church traditions
- Emerging Church initiatives from post-church groups
- Emerging Churches specifically who are gay-affirming
- Emerging Churches that are specifically multicultural

Analysis – so why all these new groupings?
I would suggest that these new groupings have developed because British culture is complex, pluralistic and increasingly contextual. I think all are attempting to do “worship, mission and community” in a culture driven by individualism, consumption, information technology and an increased interest in holistic spirituality. BUT – on top of this – emerging churches are attempting to engage with the complexity of particular localities. This, therefore, is an exciting and significant development, as it says that many of the emerging churches are attempting to engage in real situations with those who are either ‘de’-churched (left churches for what ever reason – around 50% of the population) and ‘un’-churched (never been churched – now around 30% to 80% of the population, depending where you are). The emerging church in the UK appears to be attempting to engage with a mixture of the network and locality – a both-and approach.

Themes increasingly recognised as needed for doing Mission
Small & Relational
One of the greatest learning areas of the emerging church in the UK is the recognition that mission to the de- and un-churched requires a very relational approach. So you are talking about projects aimed at groups of 60 to 100 people max, or they become impersonal and ineffective. Un- and de-churched mission projects require a lot of time and effort where more attractional approaches to mission just do not work. Attractional models of mission seem to work for the open de-churched, which is less than 10% of the population. In the UK, initiatives such as the Order of Mission are set up to tap this form of grouping, but regarding mission to the UK, this is a minority grouping. So emerging churches are small, but this raises real issues about how they can be sustainable.

Social Capital
The greatest challenge to emerging churches in the UK is human-power to sustain projects and initiatives. Due to changes in work patterns, people increasingly have little spare time that they can volunteer, increasing the need for paid employment to create the human resources for projects. This is a real strain for main groups. However, some have started exploring a new model – first set up by Church of the Apostles in Seattle – of creating intentional community spaces at reduced rents in return for time in various projects. So, for example, some projects such as Moot in central London, are now seeking to set up intentional communities for students, artists and musicians and volunteers in return for their input of time into various projects. This may be an important model for establishing sustainability.

Hunger for community – but no skills
One of the greatest issues in the emerging church is that many people seek more relational forms of church and belonging, but because of general individualism and deskilling, many people do not have the social skills to be able to live this way due to the extreme individualism of our culture. This means that groups such as Moot actually need to help people acquire life skills to be able to live and interact in a more communal and intentional way. Being Church therefore needs some consideration, as many people do not know how to live this way. This, therefore, requires UK Emerging Churches to consider how they can live this way. For some such as Moot, having a Rhythm of Life becomes crucial as an aspiration to assist people to grow into becoming Christian Communities. We can no longer assume that people can simply switch into living this way. We need to consider how to teach people to live this way.

Engagement with a culture of consumption
The greatest challenge to the UK Emerging Church Scene is how it should live in the context of operating within a culture of consumption but not being of a culture of consumption. In other words, being in the real world but not sold out to the real world. Many sell resources online or in book form, some offer café churches as places of engagement in public space; the challenge is how this is developed. Many emerging Churches are having to be entrepreneurial to make money to sustain projects, but the danger then is that your mission activity becomes targeted to money making. There then is a tension between mission and money making, particularly when it comes to mission to and with the poor.

Emerging Church in a culture of hardening Christianity
Much has been written about how the Church in the UK, along with other faiths, has increasingly shifted to become more conservative and in places quite fundamentalist. One of the challenges for the church in the UK is how it responds to a culture of complexity. Some have followed the simplistic path of withdrawal, of the increasingly ‘black and white’ where the emerging church has attempted to remain present in the complexity of modern life. So the emerging church increasingly has a difficult relationship with traditional forms of church, which are becoming more conservative and disconnected from culture, and where Christians tend to be more specifically conservative evangelical or Pentecostal.

Engagement with increased interest in spirituality
Statistics in the UK again show an increased interest in holistic spirituality rather than religion. This remains the key missional focus for the emerging church in the UK. As church-going is predicted to decrease over the next twenty years, the emerging church’s approach to engagement with holisitic spirituality through festivals, music festivals, engagement with shops, courses, café churches, etc., seeks to engage with assisting people to shift from being spiritual tourists to becoming Christian pilgrims.

Mission Orders & Rhythm of Life
Clearly the UK Emerging Church is in an ‘apostolic’ context of mission. In response to this, some emerging churches have focused on developing mission orders, spiritual rules and rhythms of life to structure and focus on what it means to be Christian in an apostolic missional situation. The advantage of this approach is that it allows churches and projects to be fuzzy or fluid-edged and at the same time prevents projects from being dumbed down by having such fuzzy edges, and therefore having a deeply Christian centre. Not all Emerging Churches in the UK have gone this way, but a significant number have.

The Emerging Church in the UK has become increasingly diverse – driven by differing missional contexts. It will be interesting to see how things continue to develop.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Perichoresis - The Divine Dance of God

Heads bowing, hands sharing, hearts racing
Feet poised suspended in the support of the other.
Holy Three yet one, laugh, cry, celebrate and lament their co-creativity.

Time burst out as the by-product of a hurling helix
of mystical presence
swaying through the dance.
Life and all things became real
Out of the dynamic of joy and love expressed in movement.

The Creator led the dance from sumation to incarnation,
The Redeemer led the dance from incarnation to Pentecost
The Companion leads the dance now from the time of the church
to the consumation.
But Holy dance,
don't slow down,
don't wait on us inattentive humanity.

Free us Holy Three in one to learn the dance
Teach us to be free from our selfishness and greed
Let us relearn how to dance spiritually
And be a blessing to the Cosmos
And be the spiritual community
The dancing God calls us to be

By Ian Mobsby

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Intentionality & Mission & Table Meals

Well I have now been back in Blighty for nearly two months after my lecture tour of the States. And some key themes have stayed with me.

Firstly - in a postmodern urban context - if you are serious about contextual forms of emerging church - then your mission is only as good as your community. Coming back to Moot, has reminded me of the incredible depth and commitment that little old Moot has in its heart. it is this central community, place of sharing and giving - that drives the community in its life. Without this quality - there is no real spirituality. That is why I think sometimes it is better to allow churches that have lost this - to die - particularly those which have become institutions where relationships are impoverished - or churches that have become little more than businesses or conversion conveyer-belts. If there is not real love, compassion, mercy and care - then I truly believe Christ is not present. So the intentionality of the Christian community is fundamentally important and must be a starting place.

From discussions I have had since the tour - I am convinced with the need to build a community as a starting place - in the hope that church emerges. This is why intentionality and sacramental approaches to worship are so important - but they don't just happen over night if they are going to be contextual and not imposed - they need to be built towards.

So how do to do this - well for me - the starting place is for simple table liturgy and feasting - these are natural incubators of the divine. You can create real liturgy as the work of the people and not the expert - you can inculcate the powerful symbols of bread and wine - to make connection with Eucharist - such events can be bottom up - and therefore promote Christian expression and contemplation.

It is one of my little plans to take a simple table fellowship around the Moot Prayer groups to help shape some of this. So we will see what happens.

Finally - truly contextual mission then can built out of this - where you increasingly have a community that is shaped by its dreams and hopes realised in simple table fellowships....
From my travels - I found it fascinating how the most progressive and sustaining emerging church projects were a combination of the following:
- intentional communities
- alternative worship
- cafe churches
- regular Eucharist services
- drawing on new monasticism

And from what I understand - table fellowship has played a key part in this vision for true mission.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Looking Forwards ... Looking Backwards

One of the phrases that Karen Ward uses that has greatly influenced the way I think is the idea of 'ancient future'. This phrase for me is a hopeful way of looking forward. I was really interested and surprised on returning to the UK - where this simple phrase really seems to trouble some. For example - my Bishop prefers the phrase 'ancient fresh'. I know why he takes this view - a high regard to to scripture, reason and tradition. With the focus on tradition - believe me - I think there is a strong place for this. But I am troubled. Troubled because for me - Christ looked forward - not backwards.

The road to Emmaus story is a classic example - in that story - symbolically - Jesus unpacked the hebrew scriptures to enable the two co-travellers to understand tradition and scripture in the context of what was being revealed in Jesus on the way. They were walking forwards - searching forwards - awaiting the Kingdom - and the eschaton and consumation of all things.

Taking the concept of 'Scripture, Reason and Tradition' - where does Justice fit? Justice matters to God - in both Old and New Testament it is a key theme. So is there a tension between Scripture, Reason and Tradition and Justice - is the former about looking backwards and the latter about looking forwards? I am beginning to think there is a huge paradigm shift between these two. Why is the church always so resistant to change? Why are so many churches such unhealthy and dysfunction places? Why are some America Christian so-called satirical magazine (I stop short of giving its title) full of hate dressed up as cynicism and clever chat. I found a so-called-article on the emerging church in this magazine utterly offensive, intolerant and unloving. Why - because basically it was strongly conservative whilst pretending it wasn't.... looking back in cynicism at a whole movement that seeks God in todays culture. It goes deep!

What impressed me about the Diocese of California in San Francisco - was how they managed to do 'both And' more than most places I have seen. The ability to hold to Scripture, Reason and Tradition as well as justice and hope in the future and the importance of change - the reception of the Holy Spirit - to change - is important......

When it comes to the emerging church - I wish people would cut it more slack - that we are called to seek mission and community. We do this because we believe that in time - God will build church out of this, and in time it will develop forms of worship and sacramentality. These emerge - hence our understanding of the emerging church.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Reflections on things emerging & cultural change

Now that I completed the whirlwind tour of a number of US cities, I intend to post some reflections about particular things of interest that came to light. Much arose from discussions about the following:

1) spirituality arising out of our pomo consumerist culture and information technology (techgnosis)
2) forms of christian community to reflect changes in culture
3) evaluation of mission forms of church.

Intentionality v Conservativeness
To start I want unpack what some see as the success of the mega church and that of the more conservative evangelical. Michael Barlowe in San Francisco got me thinking, when he came up with some US research that questioned the hypothesis that it is about being conservative that has led the conservative evangelicals to grow. The research he raised - pointed to evidence of intentionality and the depth of the spiritual community was the key factor - rather than the evangelicalness or catholicness of the church or project.

This has struck a chord in me. That in a culture that seeks spiritual authenticity and integrity - it is logical that the more intentional and relational a community, the more successful that community will be in terms of how it does worship, mission and community as well as numbers. The truth is that the evangelical side of the church is generally more intentional - and the more catholic more impersonal and distant. This research would then back up the importance of the emerging church to foster highly intentional communities which seek not to be controlling - but more permission giving yet relational. It will be interesting in a few times to see if it is this intentionality that increases effectiveness - we will just have to wait and see.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Updated UK Tour related to the book

June 28th | Blah Birmingham | 6.30-8.30pm |
5th Floor, 3 Temple Row West(opposite Birmingham Anglican Cathedral)

Title: Exploring the Significance of Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church from the insights
of practitioners.

For more info and to book a place please see here

Further dates in the UK ...
We hope to have more speaking engagements in the UK for the summer & autumn – so check out the Moot blog and Ian’s new blog for future dates.

Friday, May 18, 2007

American Tour

June 2nd – 20th | Emerging & Fresh Expressions Speaking Tour in the States

OK, we have now completed 8 out of the sessions now, and have said good bye to Clarion, Pittsburgh, Syracruse and now finishing off in New York before going on to San Francisco. All the sessions have really gone well, and I have much to blog about when I get back and have time to think. So now having a day off collapsing before next city.

9. San Francisco | Morning/Lunch Time | Sun June 10th 2007

I have been invited to preach at St James' Church, San Francisco - Diocese of California, and then to do a presentation on Anglican approaches to Fresh Expressions of Church. Click the link for the Church website.
Contact: For more information please contact Revd Shari Young

10. San Francisco | Afternoon/Evening | Sun June 10th 2007

I have been invited to preach at St Macrina in Marin, San Francisco, Diocese of California. details on the church - contact Betsy.
Contact: For more details, please contact Betsy

11. San Francisco | 9.30am-4.30pm | Mon June 11th 2007

Title: Contemporary expressions of intentional christian community a consultation with Bishop Marcus
The Bishop and Diocese of California are hosting a consultation on intentional communities and mission. I have been asked to be involved in discussions, and also to do a presentation on 'Anglican approaches to Fresh Expressions of Church'. The consultation is at Grace Cathedral. Click here for a poster of the event.
Venue: Grace Cathedral.
Booking places: Contact Jonathan or phone 415.673.5015
Michael Barlowe

12. San Francisco | 9am-2pm | Mon June 11th 2007

Title: Emergent Event: The Spiritual Ecology Project: faith practice connected to all of life involving Ian Mobsby, Nathan George, Karen Sloan, Doug Pagitt, Mark Scandrette, Ryan Sharp, Tony Jones
Location: 1040 Mariposa St., San Francisco, CA. Click here
Cost & Registering: Free - call 415-786-7927 or contact Amy as below.
Contact: Please contact Amy
Plan for the day:
We will be offering a pancake breakfast at 8:30 and hope to begin the event promptly at 9am.
9-9:30 Mingle coffee and food
9:30-10:30 Introductions & Soundbites
(short ritual by Karen, Song by Ryan, conversation descriptions)
10:30-11:45 Break Out conversations facilitated by featured conversationalists
11:45-12:00 Closing comments, announcements, song, prayer.
More info: See Mark Scandrette's blog here

13. San Francisco | Evening | Tues June 12th 2007

Title: Return to Mystery – the inspiration of Trinitarian theology for modelling fresh expressions of church in a spiritual age
Location: tbc
Cost & Registering: No cost, to attend please contact Betsy as below
Contact: Betsy

14. Denver, Colorado | Day | Thurs June 14th 2007

Title: Why it's important for mainline churches to become experimental, missional and radically inclusive in today’s post-Christian world: A Trinitarian perspective
Location: St John's Episcopal Cathedral, Denver
Cost & Registering: Contact James as below.
Contact: James Wall

15. Pasadena | 3-5pm | Fuller Seminary | Fri June 15th 2007

Title: Church, Mission & Evangelism in a new age of holistic spirituality
Location: Fuller Brehm Centre
Cost & Registering: Contact Ryan for who to contact
Contact: Ryan

Title: Dinner Talk | A questions and answers session with Ian Mobsby - invite only
Location: Fuller Brehm Centre

16. Santa Monica | 10am to 4pm | Sat June 16 2007

Title: Fresh Expressions Of Church Tour Presented by Risen Church & Emergent Social
A day to explore the following themes:
9am-midday: Techgnosis & Post Modern: Understanding our Social Context for doing mission.
1pm - 4pm: Celebrating Unity in diversity: A model of being church where there are differences of opinion.
Location: Risen Church, Santa Monica - click here for info.
Cost & Registering: $20 for early birds, $25 normal fee. To register click here
Contact: For more information contact Trevor Debenning

17. Portland, Oregan | 7-9pm | Mon 18th June 2007

Title: Praxis Lecture - Trinitarian Theology for the Emerging Church & Mission
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Portland Oregan
Cost & Registering: Click here
Contact the Cathedral as above, otherwise contact Karen who organised this.

Seattle | 7-9pm | Tues 19th June 2007

Title: Praxis Lecture - Trinitarian Theology for the Emerging Church & Mission
Location: Trinity Episcopal Church, Downtown Seattle
Cost & Registering:
Click here
Contact: contact Karen who organised this.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

New Book | Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church

Pleased to say that the new book is out now, and available through the Mootique for £10 plus P&P, for more info or to buy it - click here.

The book draws on the narratives of a number of Emerging Churches in the UK and one in the US. It distinctly looks for the significance of the Emerging Church regarding socio-cultural considerations, contextual theology and ecclesiology.

All money raised will be going to Moot initiatives.