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.


Lamont said...

Thank you for drawing from the church in Acts as a starting point. Eating together, sharing life and the sacraments and such. Sometimes discussions of what the missional and emerging church is and should be carry on for so long that opportunities pass us by. A community in life and worship together following Jesus seems like a wonderful place to begin again.

Makeesha said...

In my experience so far, your observations are spot on and people would be wise to heed the rich wisdom presented here. We have been fortunate to stumble on this..primarily by being totally clueless ;)

Malcolm Chamberlain said...

great post Ian, thanks. If you haven't read it, I recommend reading The Sign of Love by Timothy Gorringe - he writes about the table fellowship of Jesus, and argues that at the Last Supper Jesus simply continues in this vain of using table fellowship redemptively. As such, Eucharist should be a rite offered by 'the Church' to anyone who wishes to partake, as it becomes a means of connecting with God's grace and with the community of faith - a sign of the gospel being proclaimed.

Rather than admission to communion following on from baptism, Gorringe argues that the eucharist should be offered unconditionally to all, and may itself become a significant part of a person's story leading them to baptism and identification with the community of faith.

I like his take on all this and it fits in with what you've written here about the cenrality of the community and its life.