Last Thursday, I did my first lecture using skype to Ordinands training within an American Lutheran Seminary called Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. The original plan was for me to fly out, but illness prevented this. But the result was stunning. They had kitted out a lecture room with microphones, projectors and lighting so that I could and talk to 30 odd people in a lecture using powerpoint whilst talking directly to students. I am very impressed with this set up, and it has to be a way forward, to reduce costs and more importantly to reduce carbon emissions. So if you have skype facilities as discussed above, and you want to explore my contribution to a lecture programme, please do let me know, as I am more than interested. The great advantage is that this can be anywhere in the world. So let me know.
It is not often I read a book that gets me excited but this new book by Pete Ward really did in this book Participation & Mediation. In this great book Pete unpacks in well reasoned and analytical form the journey he went on from Youth Worker to Practical Theologian. This is the same journey that many of us went on starting from different places, some from Youth Work others from involvement in mission initiatives evolving out of early emerging and fresh expressions of church. I began from involvement in alternative worship with a passion to make these new forms of church accessible and contextual to those outside the church. Pete unpacks the journey that many of us have also made. It starts from where people are – from cultural analysis, missional and contextual theology, the centrality of the Trinity and patristics, perichoresis through to pastoral and practical theology. I have never talked this through with Pete, but I am amazed how in synergy his thinking is with my own experience and the experience I know of others. His book is a credible and authentic understanding of the place of pastoral and practical theology for those involved as practitioners in emerging and fresh expressions of church. It is no coincidence that I completed an MA in Pastoral & Practical Theology as part of my ministerial education, from where I started from, becoming a Christian through an Alternative Worship Community in York. I just wished this book was around 10 years ago – it would have made my life easier!
In many ways Pete’s book echoes, reflects and forms the bedrock of the process I follow in my explorations of Trinitarian Ecclesiology and Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church in my book ‘The becoming of G-d’.
So this book not only offers a really practical way for practitioners to engage with pastoral and practical theological reflection of what they are doing, it also offers a model and process to help practitioners work through doing complex mission in a complex culture. Pete Ward’s book is a really helpful tool to assist Pioneers to build ecclesial communities out of contextual mission. So I highly recommend this book to all those who are seeking to be lay and ordained Pioneer Ministers, Youth Workers and all those passionate about building emerging and fresh expressions of church.
What is fascinating, is that Pete’s analysis also has synergy with the central core process of Fresh Expressions which is drawn from Roland Allens and Vincent Donovan’s work. See below:
So thanks Pete for such a great book. A must for all those seeking depth and reflection in what they are doing with emerging and fresh expressions of church.
Last Wednesday, Jon Oliver, (author and training Ordinand for Pioneer Ministry on placement with Moot) led our Quest Evening, designed to explore biblical texts and open them up as Stanley Hauerwas says to ‘an interpretative community’. Well we looked at John 4:1-42 and the Samaritan Woman at the well.
This text is always challenging and beautiful. It expresses the mission of God to blur boundaries of the sacred in the secular, challenging cultural taboos, and gives us a palpable foretaste of the Kingdom of God.
I love it that God seeks out the excluded and the lost, those that are hated within their own cultures. Why it gives me a hope that someone like me can be acceptable to God with all my faults, insecurities and complexities. But this time there was more. The Woman, was exposed to the reality of the Trinity. Christ is present as the Redeemer. Then in verse 23, But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. Beautifully Jesus finishes off the Samaritans question about the Messiah as coming with the words ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you’.
So in this encounter, the Woman experiences Jesus as the Redeemer, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the worship of the Father. It doesn’t get more Trinitarian than that, with a woman he was not supposed to speak to, and with a people the Jews despises as unclean. So what does Jesus do – he goes into mission mode, loving them into understanding, and then stays with them for two days – something a Jew was banned from doing. I love it. This is the radicalness of Christ and the New Testament. A radical love that seeks to restore all things into restored relationships. This is the context of real mission, and it inspires me to keep going when I feel so inadequate and crap so much of the time, in a dysfunctional church and a broken world. It is the hope of this Jesus that keeps me alive, in this Missio Dei of the Holy Trinity, and the love of the God Human Jesus, that my life has meaning and purpose. Without this God, I don’t know where I would be….
I have been listening to some of the words of John Maine on Christian Prayer and Meditation, and found these wise words on prayer and the Trinity.
We know from the doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that the fullness of God is to be found in our own hearts. We know that the full life of the Trinity is lived in our hearts. This means that Jesus Christ dwells in our hearts. His human consciousness is to be found within each one of us. And the journey of prayer is simply to find the way to open up our human consciousness to his human consciousness.
We believe that Jesus has sent his Spirit to dwell in our hearts. In other words the Spirit of God dwells in our hearts. In the Christian tradition meditating is simply the opening to the Spirit of love, the Spirit of God.
Silence is the essential human prayerful response to the mystery of God. To the infinity of God. It is though the mystery of God as a wonderful multifaceted diamond. When we talk about God, or when we think about God, it is though we are responding to one or other of God’s facets. But when we are silent, in God’s presence, we respond to the mystery which we call God as a whole, and that omni-dimensionally.
The wonder of it, is that it is the whole of us that responds to the entirety of the mystery of God. It is not just our intellect, not just our emotions, not just the religious side of us, or the secular side of us. Everything that we are, responds to everything that God is. In absolute harmony and in absolute love. This is what the experience of Christian prayer is. Our union with God who is one, how is this possible? It is possible through the incarnate reality that is Jesus. God is fully revealed in Jesus, fully present in Jesus. The love of Jesus has made us one with him, by becoming open in silence to God’s reality. We become open in wonder, to the reality of God. We learn to be silent by being content to say our prayer word in humble fidelity.
To tread the spiritual path, we must learn to be silent. What is required of us, is a journey into profound silence. Meditation is the way of silence. Silence is important for the Human Spirit to thrive, to give us room to breathe. Learning to be. The wonder of it is that in that experience you are completely free. You need not to be afraid of silence. We are so unused to silence.
Came across a great blog post today by Andrew which explores the issue of Trinitarian informed approaches to Christian worship. I really like what Andrew has to say. Continuing in my addiction of Trinitarian theology, I am reading Paul Fiddes book ‘Participating in God’, a pastoral and theological response to the doctrine of the Trinity. Its a good but dense book. One thing I am hearing loud and clear from reading, is the need for Ekklesia not only to imitate God in how it is a relational community, but further and more importantly, the call to participate in God as a life of Christian discipleship. It is this shift from imitating to ‘participating in’ that has really got me thinking.
My community Moot as a new monastic community I think has focused on imitating through its relational and participative approach to worship, mission and community, but I still think we have only been scratching the surface. It is this call to shift from imitating to participating in that I think is the greatest challenge. So not only do we have a Rhythm of Life, but that we need practices centres on praxis as participation which is the next step… food for thought and stuff I am reflecting on at the moment.
I have now finished two out of the three lectures I am giving at Carey Baptist College in Auckland. Today I explored the socio-cultural forces behind neo-spirituality driven by information technology and consumerism, and then explored a Trinitarian Ecclesiology as a basis of Christian Spirituality to engage with a context of neo-mysticism. Finally, we looked at issues around leadership as all the denominations face the challenge of reframing from a Christendom to a post-Christendom context.
It was a good day, I forcused on the need to let go of an attractional model of church born of Christendom as incompatible with a post-christendom context of neo-mysticism, and the importance of a missional relational model of Christian Community. Matt Stone has written a great blog on this, so check that out. So my use of New Monasticism is a form of missional model, where the communities Rhythm of life lies at the heart of the community. So offer the model below of a more new monastic missional model.
My reflections on the training morning with Baptist Pastors, is just how entrenched the attractional model is. There is still a desire to form sexy forms of worship to get people in, but as I said then, this just recycles Christians rather than makes an impact with unchurched people. It is hard to conceive of the missional model if you are operating within a model of attraction within a worldview of Christendom. My hope is that the training will play a small part to enable people to shift their worldviews to be able to see the need for an incarnational and missional model of church.
So I think the world church has much to learn from the likes of Missioners such as Vincent J Donovan of an Incarnational model of church, that seeks to use a methodology using a synthetic or transcendent contextual theological model. A good day, but we so need need to help people get beyond an attractional model of mission.
I am really pleased to say, that I think my small contribution to exploring new ways of being church in the context of Australia and New Zealand, has created some fruit, through some increased energy and interest in developing specifically Anglican and missional new ways of being church to engage with our post-religious, post-Christian, post-secular culture of spiritual tourism.
Accordingly, and following discussions with people, I have just set up a new Anglimergent Australia and New Zealand group which I hope will encourage the development of new networks in Australia and New Zealand, to then develop this indigenously.
So if you are interested in joining this and contributing to developing this new network within a global network, please click here
On Sunday 15th March 2009, I joined a recorded discussion in Sydney exploring the above title on Australia’s ABC National Radio. In the discussions, the group explored the importance of Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church engagement with our increasingly post-christian post-secular culture. For a link to the radio show click here
I have now had a bit of time to reflect on my experience of Australia, and of the Church here. I think the greatest challenge is going to be the letting go of an attractional model of church and mission. In the training days I have done here – people are somewhat resistant to let go of the strategy of ‘come to us’. This of course is based on a Christendom model of church, colluding with the separation of sacred and secular. It is interesting that this is the number one issue. The church must be able to re-imagine another way of relating to contemporary culture – much more incarnational – being IN culture but not OF culture. We must remember that the traditional church plant approach of taking some people from a church and planting them somewhere else, and then starting with worship, is an approach that recycles Christians and makes very little impact with de and un churched people. True mission is focused on those who are not members of any church.
I was really pleased that Diocese in Melbourne and Newcastle really understood this. So I hope this thinking will go deep in the DNA of these Diocese and a new form of the local church, to engage with it. I have talked a lot of the missiological approach of Vincent Donovan. We must start with incarnational projects that we hope will grow into community, that develop a fellowship that is mission centred, that then grows a contextual approach to discipleship which then finally develops contextual forms of worship, and that sacramental worship, is possibly the last thing to develop. This process, based on the work of Vincent Donovan, is crucial if we are going to form forms of church in a post-christendom and post-secular context. So below is a list I think of the essential focus for these new pioneering start up forms of projects which we hope will birth eventually, contextual and mature expressions of church:
1. Starting project needs to relate to a real collective local need – so time for listening is essential. This listening may require you to walk regularly around the suggested area of the project, get to know people, hear their stories, talk to people in bars and cafes. Time for proper listening is vital.
2. When starting a project – where it happens is important – consider creating a hub in the local community and not to using church buildings for the sake of ease. Remember that many who you are seeking to reach will be using the internet – so use the internet to help build connections with those you are not in relationship with.
3. Build a team of enthusiasts – a commitment to relationality is again crucial.
4. Develop the project so that it continues to meet the need and we hope develop some form of community.
5. As issues relating to spirituality and the Christian faith emerge (and they will), you will need to consider different ways of enabling learning through a variety of creative approaches, and you will also need to find a way of articulating the faith in the language of that context. A great tip at this stage is to ‘give on a needs basis’. No force feeding – exploring the faith in the context of people’s interests.
6. Once the project has become mission and community, you will need to explore worship. I do suggest that something around alternative worship is a good place to start, using an approach starting from where people are at or passionate about. Again this needs to develop at the pace of the community you have developed, and will in time, I am sure, develop the marks of the church.
7. When you get to 7 – then I suspect you will be facing the need to go back to 1 again as contexts develop.
For those that are interested, much of the challenge of the church in Australla relating to its increasingly post-church post-christian culture was the subject of an ABC National Radio broadcast I contributed to. To listen to it, click here
Well I have just finished four days of speaking in Melbourne, and I have to say it was a privilege. I hope that the talks and presentations will enable some real experimentation and permission giving to create risk. There is real potential here in Melbourne, as long as people go for it.
Everywhere I go, I always find it such a surprise, that people really are surprised about the Trinitarian & Mystical Communion basis to the Anglican Church. There is a lot of fear, that I pick up. Fear of the rise of fundamentalism at one end of the church, and withdrawal from the world at the other. I hope that the talks I have done will promote re-engagement – an incarnational approach to mission and evangelism. So we will see what happens. But thanks Melbourne Diocese, I have really benefited from your inclusion of me in your training plan this year.