Category Archives: General

John Maine & Trinitarian Prayer & Meditation

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.  

Mission & the Kingdom of God

One of the greatest criticisms of the mission shaped church report, is the lack of focus on the Kingdom of God. The danger, as the theologian John Hall has said, is that the Mission Shaped Church can become the Church Shaped Mission. Why? – because there is a difference between mission and maintaining an institution. A kingdom focus, is centred on people experiencing the narrative of God, of inclusion, justice, sufficiency, mercy and the focus on the poor. If the focus on institutional survival, then it becomes a narrative of economics, bums-on-seats, cost benefit analysis, buildings, keeping the show on the road.

There is a real difference. So governance, vision and focus are important if mission is to be Kingdom centred. Structures need to be light, (where light does not mean controlling or old school but participative, accountable and cost-effective). A vision that is focused on transformation or experience, that’s about people, not about institutions, and focus – the values and teachings of Christ.

in this way, we can avoid being church shaped mission and a mission shaped church.

Danger of CofE Emerging /Fresh Expressions of Church of becoming second class forms of church

It is five years now since the Fresh Expressions initaitve brought some good news to those who were involved in or started emerging/fresh expressions of church within the Church of England.  Many good things have happened:

1. Church Commissioners found money for start up monies for communities for 3 years distributed to Dioceses.
2. Discernment & training for non-ordained and ordained pioneers.
3. Change in church law to allow for full recognition of new forms of church as ‘Bishop Mission Orders’.

This is all good, but I have a distinct impression that in many Diocese, there is not a commitment to see our Emerging/Fresh Expressions of Church as equal to traditional or inherited forms of church.  Regarding financial resources, it seems that most Diocese are prioritising maintaining the traditional with very little commitment to funding new forms.  There are exceptions, like the Bishop of Reading, who is seeking to convert 1 in 10 of his stipended posts into an Ordained Pioneer post.  This is unfortunately too rare. Instead, I pick up an increasing cynicism about Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church, which saddens me.

Some of this is partly due to the branding and commodification that some of the Fresh Expressions promotional material has generated, it does feel a little too glossy at times. Such things can feel like a fad.  And clearly there is not enough theological writing and engagement with Anglican understandings of Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church and contextual mission.  BUT, there are some very good projects, and it is hard to see projects like my own in Moot, Maybe and hOME facing real financial difficulties in sustaining what we are doing.

I completely understand that all denominations and Dioceses are facing huge difficulties financially, but a church that does not invest in mission and the future rather than maintaining the status quo, faces a real crisis.

I am hoping some how we find a way through this financial difficulty for Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church that enable us to have sufficient financial resources to make our communities sustainable.

Emerging Church attention needed to governance

Thinking about the Emerging Church and governance, I have been reflecting on how many groups have deconstructed things theologically and socio-culturally – but many have not deconstructed governance or power structures.  This may be one of the reasons who there is not a 50:50 representation of women in Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church.

One of the challenges facing the Emerging Church is how to do governance so that its structure is light and not oppressive, but encourages accountabiility in the spirit of egaliterianism.

There is an inherent danger of not having accountability structures, that things default to power being held by young charismatic people usually white men.  These forms of community and church then can end up running under the logic and ideology of the charismatic person, which is not too healthy for enabling a community with a number of voices.

Also, when a project of community say they have no structure you have to ask yourself is that true?  To be able to do services and activities some form of organisation is needed, its just not visible.  So there does need to be openness about visible governance structures. One group I really like on this, is Sanctus 1, which seeks to balance gender in their governance structures, which appears to work really well. Here there is a balance between community and individuals who serve the community with particular roles.

It seems to me, that if you do not have explictly visible governance and accountability structures, then something not so healthy may fill the gap, or something like the very thing we criticise many ‘inherited churches’ as being. This is particualrly a challenge for those groups who think of themselves as post-church or not being ‘community’.

So the challenge to us all in new forms of church and community is to balance ideology with community and structures that are light but visible and accountable.

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