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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.