Category Archives: General

Lecture on New Monasticism at Cramner Hall, Durham UK

I had fun last night and today hanging out with Michael and Rachael Volland in Durham, and then lecturing a gathering of methodist and anglican ordinands on the subject of New Monasticism.  This was also a mixture of those seeking traditional and pioneer vocations.  I talked of New Monasticism as a particular model of church based around small missional communities that draw on a Trinitarian mystical communion model.  I also talked of a Rhythm of Life as a key missional tool as it allows people to belong to work out if they believe and also focus on the faith in terms of a subjective orthopraxis.  This is key in the context of post secular spiritual seekers.  Anyway had fun, and learnt a few things from the responses and questions.

I am really impressed by the set up at Cramner, so if you are thinking and trad or pioneer training, I commend talking to Michael Volland.

Twelve Steps to Spiritual Wholeness

Well, it has been great speaking to numbers of different people over the last couple of weeks.  I have been talking about mission, evangelism, new ways of being church, and engaging with spiritual questers.

I have had a few emails about the resource Vanessa Elston in the Moot Community found, written by a Roman Catholic Priest in the USA looking at how to approach spiritual formation using an experiential, accountable approach based on the hugely significant 12 step approach.

In this approach, the importance of accountability, honesty, facing stuff and believing in a higher power is essential. For more info on this resource, click here.

We in Moot hope to pilot a trial catachetical approach combining a number of resources and see what happens, next Lent.

How do you do formation with Spiritual Questers?

This is such an important question.  Many of us involved in emerging and fresh expressions of church have been on a journey for the last twenty odd years.  More recently we have been focusing on the question – how do you do mission and evangelism with those who are spiritual questers rather than religious followers.  For some of us, this journey has taken us to the Contemplative Christian tradition and new forms of church such is new monasticism.  The Moot Community is a good example of this form of community, now extremely committed to mission and evangelism through dialogue and the practice of meditation for stressed out workers in London’s financial district.

So through an openness to follow God, we have been led to the riches of a rhythm of life, spiritual practices and postures to help us engage with this agenda.  For some of us, this has evolved out of a greater Trinitarian understanding of the Christian faith leading to participative and sacramental understandings of the ecclesial community.  My first book, ‘Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church‘, was a first participant study looking at the significance of emerging and fresh expressions of church.  My second book, The Becoming of G-d which I hope is going to be published by Canterbury Press in a revised second edition, explores the Trinitarian basis discovered through being an emerging and fresh expression of Church, and the book I am currently writing, New Monastic Friars, seeks to explore new monasticism more fully.

However, most emerging and fresh expressions of church have not yet adequately explored how we do formation with spiritual questers.  However, we are beginning to build up an understanding to start experimenting with Christian formation.  Our mission and evangelism has relied on a transcendent model of contextual theology (using Bevans terminology) of invitation and transformation, sustained in a community seeking to become a deeply resourcing expression of church as a combination of a ‘mystical communion’ and ‘sacramental’ models of Church (using A Dulles’ understanding). So how do we hold onto this more questing and praxis approach to spiritual growth?

Well I think we are learning from two sources what this may look like – the combination of a 12-step course as a form of praxis and experience of transformation holding onto the Enneagram to help us understand ourselves better particularly around formation.  The Core Team in Moot is currently reading through the book ’12 Steps to Spiritual Wholeness by Philip St.Romain’ to open up the Christian faith.  Next we are reading through a book Aaron Kennedy is suggesting (from our community) on formation and the enneagram.  So we hope then, that this approach may help us draw together a proto-type to explore this as a more cultural resonant way to engage with formation in a more experiential relational way.

This is an important next step, and we will see where it leads us.

Farmville and post-secular searching

At this year’s Greenbelt Festival, I enjoyed talking about postsecular spiritual seeking, and some of the issues around new media technology, with a little bit of a rant at Farmville.  As some know, I have a few issues with it and its focus on competition and consumption, creating a form of cyber-fudelism.  So if interested, check out what I said in the .mp3 in the Greenbelt talk recordings.  See here

Speaking Engagements and Book Launch

Pleased to say I have a number of speaking engagements now in June, July and August including Greenbelt which will be fun, see the speaking section of my website.

I am also now in the final editing stage on my new book on new monasticism for Paraclete Press in the States, and will be seeking to to organise a book launch and speaking opportunities for this in the UK and US and beyond.  So if you are interested in my possible speaking, please get in touch.

New Books in Preparation – New Monasticism & Spirituality in the City

Well its now a new year, and I am now well on the way to completing the manuscript for my next book exploring New Monasticism, which I am writing for Paraclete to be submitted by the end of February 2010.

Writing  this book has really helped me think quite deeply about this important model of church, and I have enjoyed interviewing a number of people including a Benedictine Abbot, a Franciscan Friar and a number of new monastics including Shane Claiborne, Mark Berry, Ian Adams and others.

I have also written a chapter in a book exploring spirituality in the city, which is a multi-authored book which I think is being published by Continuum.  In this chapter I explore the increasing phenomena  of post secular spiritual tourism, and in particularly that evidenced by the many flower shrines you see where people have died.  It names something very important symbolically. So I hope that contribution assists people to explore the subject.

I am also pleased to let people know, that I am involved in three other books. All three are all multi-authored books in the Ancient Faith Future Mission series published with Canterbury Press.  These will cover Fresh Expressions and New Monasticism, the Kingdom of God and Small Missional Communities.

So I seem to have become involved in a number writing projects!

Lecturing through Skype – an ecologically just way

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.

Participation & Mediation by Pete Ward – Book Review

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.

Jesus, Trinity, Mission & Inclusion in John 4:1-42

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….

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