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