Friday, December 02, 2005

purgatorio: You Might Be Emerging If... this is rather fun (thanks to Bob Carlton in the US for this) i think a bit US in it's bias...or am i the only guy in the UK who only recognised the U2 Album in the music section? my ambient dance and trance collections clearly make me 90's alt worship and not very emergent at all ;o)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

emergent UK Holy Spirit in contemporary culture day

it was good to be at this conversation last Saturday in St Albans (see Jason Clarks blog for more info ) firstly to find different people at this to other gatherings in other networks, yet people wrestling with mission and culture and faith in the UK. I was impressed by the genuine breadth of those who came too and the way that differences where shared and aired with no attempt to enforce a party line. I would recommend any future day to people interested in the kind of things I blog about.

I also think the day points to a small but useful part that emergent UK is now playing in it's own right separate from it's US big brother. Something I think will only aid the health of the debate over here. I say this because I also fear that at present UK emergent may not be fully on people's radar and it ought to be. I say this as someone initially suspicious of a US inspired group that might simply have been re-inventing the alternative worship wheel. It turns ought to be something different to that and I am pleased to say more mission focused than some sections of alt worship have been (though I think that is changing too which is good)

Monday, September 26, 2005

Mind Body Spirit

one of the things i do in the UK is train churches to run stalls at Mind Body Spirit fairs. i am involed in one this wekeend in manchester, with people from the Sanctus 1 community. this year i'm also doing a talk for the first time as part of thre programme. follow this link to find out about the fair look up 2nd october to find my talk lisitng.

i find these fairs fascinating places to be and meet a whole variety of people exploring the spiritual. it's a place people don't expect to find a christian presence, the Church often assumed to be 'unspiritual' on the one hand and automatically condemning of contemporary spirituality on the other. we try to enable people to discover rich resources from the christian tradition and open up the possibility that the Christian path has things to offer after all.

we spend much time sharing personal stories and i often have a lot to reflect on afterwards. I keep meeting people who, as i would understand it, are having encounters with the God I discover in Jesus Christ. i think Christians have somtimes got used to an idea that people 'out there' are secular and unspiritual and we bring God to them and have to persuade them of the reality of ther spiritual realm. either that or we assume that anyone who is having spiritual expereinces outside Chrsitianity must be encountering something demoninc. but what if neither assumption is necessarily true? what if God is speaking directly into the lives of people who are not at all interested in Christinaity but are spiritual explorers? how might that change the way we seek to connect with such people?

i think this is one of ther reasons i like speaking of 'a fellow explorer model' of evangelism, those we seek to open up the christian faith to are already often on the journey. similalry i think Christians are increasingly becoming aware of the extent to which we are also still on a journey, that 'becoming a christian' isn't the end of a journey but a key stage on the jounrey. and of course we are increasingly aware of the very different ways faith in Jesus comes alive for people so that for many knowing when they 'became a christisn' is not possible. in this world the evangelist becomes lead explorer ( i gather that Brian Mclaren has used this phrase BTW does anyone have information on that?) searching out the territory and inviting others to journey with them, rather than a salesman offering a product.

Friday, September 23, 2005

refreshing the not so new

a post greenbelt post. i've been involed in the alterantive worship scene now for 15 years. helped start two groups and been a participant in a third. i still think there is loads in here, indeed much of what has most inspired me has come from this approach to faith. yet i find myself getting weary sometimes. of finding much of what 'we' do rather lifeless over time. yet at GB this year amd last found really refreshing stuff comming from places abroad where 15 year ago little was going on. my highlight last year was Ikon from Belfast, real grit and engagement. this year may highlight was COTA from Seattle. groups like this have a frshness i find most Uk groups lack these days. this may jst be me! but i feel someting freash is abroad and that is deeply needed.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Change to settings

Folks sorry that I have added a word verification setting when you post. Hope it won't be too inconvenient, but I have had a spam attack and really don't want you or me to have to read spam!

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Off to Greenbelt Christian arts festival. running a night club including club worship and also helping with two Taize services, we'll be especially remembering Brother Roger at those (see last post). may be see some of you there?

Sad death of Brother Roger

Been meaning to write about this ever since I was phoned last Tuesday evening as part of a 'phone chain' to be told the news that Brother Roger had been fatally stabbed during evening prayer at Taize that evening. Hard to know what to say. So here are a few thoughts, more may follow.

that Brother Roger probably would not live much longer was clear to all who have seen his increasing frailty over the past few years, the manner of his death is however a shock, though oddly I wasn't in one sense surprised. There is something about the powerfully holy that seems to attract violent death, think how many of those who have made a big impact as people of faith even in this century and reflect on how many where killed. Brother Roger was a man of vision spiritual depth and with whom the Spirit of God was strong and in this sense exactly the kind of person who might also be killed. I am not really sure what the deep truth of this is. I do suspect it may enlarge brother Roger's ministry in death, and that this as in the other cases I could mention is an outwork of the power of new life the resurrection principle that causes death only to make those in Christ stronger.

as I reflected in my last blog taize was not only a place that drew people together from all churches and in this set a vision, it did much more. 100,000's of young adults from all of the world have had their faith nurtured by visiting there. The impact of that too on the world church is immeasurable. And faith, spirituality, wisdom and scriptural insight exist there in great depth. Further I do not doubt it will continue after Brother Roger's passing. That in a sense being the last great testimony to one of the key religious leaders of our era. A quiet man, who placed prayer at the centre and watched the ripples spread slowly out.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The importance of the Hellenists (feedback from Taize)

As ever as well as time to reflect and pray Taize offers deeply insightful bible input. This year we had a series on the mission of God in the Acts of the Apostles. I was particularly struck by the role of the Hellenists from Acts 6 onwards. The Hellenists were non Hebrew Jews who lived in the Greek world. We first become aware of them when they complain that their widows are being left out of the food distribution which has only been going to Hebrew Christians. This however is only a presenting symptom of a wider cultural issue, an issue that will define the direction of the mission of God through the church, the distinction between the Hebrew and Greek worlds. The Hebrew Christians led by the all Hebrew Apostles are in Jerusalem, maintaining Jewish custom and attending Temple worship. Unless this changes the real danger is present that Christianity will remain Jewish sect in Jerusalem and the Gospel will never reach beyond it. It is the Hellenists however who will change this. They see the world beyond Judaism and bring a question to the church 'will the church be for non Jews also?' . The Apostles lay hands on the seven leaders of the Hellenists, ostensibly to wait on tables. In reality they are ordaining the people who will take the Gospel beyond Jerusalem. The two key figures are Stephen and Phillip. Stephen can see that Jewish custom and temple must be left behind, that Jesus has ushered in a new order in line with the vision of the Prophets and makes himself deeply unpopular by repeatedly arguing his case with the Jewish authorities, indeed he enrages them so much they kill him, launching a persecution of the church. This persecution seems to largely miss the Hebrew Apostles who stay in Jerusalem but the Hellenists are scattered out into Samaria, and ultimately to Antioch from where the mission of Paul and Barnabas to the Greek world will be launched. The mission of God required those who were from the outside to come in and question the certainties traditions and worship of the established religious system. The conflict this brought, wisely embraced by the Apostles, was the creative place for God to allow mission to break out into a new world. Those who came with this new vision were persecuted for it, but God turned their persecution into the very means of achieving their vision.

we were encouraged to apply this story today, and I think there is much that springs from that as we look to mission at the end of Christendom. In many ways the Christendom church is like the Hebrew church with its customs and certainties, and of itself only brings to faith those who have been raised in Christendom, it cannot reach out to the world beyond its traditions. We need Hellenists who live within the world outside Christendom to come among us. However, the Hellenists will bring conflict, they will undermine the churches traditions and question its codes and practices, indeed they are likely to be persecuted by traditionalists and yet this oposition will become the place from which the baton of the Gospel is passed from the traditional church to the Hellenists who will eventually become the church as the Christendom church fades away.

in these terms my job could be described as 'professional Hellenist' someone called to look from the perspective of those who have no church background and seek to discern what the gospel means in that world and explore what kind of church will emerge from the seed of the Gospel sown in such soil. Seeing my name is Stephen I hope I won't also be martyred in the process! However when I look at the kind of vitriol piled on people like those associated with Emergent in the US I can't help wondering if again the Hellenists are upsetting the traditionalists.

Of course in Acts the traditionalist Apostles laid hands on the Hellenist leaders and embraced them, even if as the rest of Acts and the Pauline Epistles show they probably didn't really understand the radical change this would lead to in the church with the abandonment of Jewish custom. Will the leaders of today's church be able to embrace the Hellenists even if they are fearful of the consequences? What things are we fighting over in the church of today that will turn out in hindsight to have been about a shift in culture and not at all about the essentials of the faith? Will we be able to have our 'council of Jerusalem' in which we are able to find a way forward between the traditionalists and the Hellenists so that the wisdom of the past can also be carried forward into the future as well as that which is actually part of what God was doing and not for the future can be left behind?

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Off to Taize
unlikely to post for the next week and a bit as I am helping lead a trip to Taize in France for Manchester Diocese. If you haven't been BTW it is a special place. I find I always get challenged and get stretched. ....All of this includes an unexpected experience with an icon of Mary, as well as some very wise bible teaching from the brothers of the community. Likely to be 5-6,000 there next week! I'll report back if anything is stirred by the spirit.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Converse, Conversion, is there a relationship?

Read that a few times and play with its meanings.

Here are a few questions and a few thoughts.

Is relationship evangelism unethical?
Does the word converse have any relationship to conversion?
Is inter faith dialogue evangelistic?

What do you think?

It seems to me that to build a relationship with someone solely to convert them is to not build a relationship with them. However if I build a relationship with someone and it has any meaning and I am part of the mission of God then actually much of what passes between us will be an act of faith sharing that is evangelistic. If this happens between myself and someone of another faith we will be both entering into inter faith dialogue and it will be evangelistic. The key then perhaps is not to ask ‘how can I do ethical evangelism in a multi faith world’ but how do I build genuine relationships’? it is just a few thoughts!

BTW Converse has two meanings, one is 'to engage in conversation' the other is 'to be contrary to'. anyone offer any background to that?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Happy St Mary of Magdelene's day

July 22nd is the feast of mary magdelene. a women who has recently got rather a lot of press thanks to Dan Brown and the Da Vinci code. i don't intedn to go into all the stuff looking at the historical case for or against (and it is larlgely against) Dan Brown's use of a theory that first surfaced in a book called Holy Blood Holy Grail (that Mary married jesus had a daughter who was the real 'Holy Grail' and the Merovingian Kings are her and Christ's decendents). look at Wikkipedia on the da Vinci code for some good material and links. but what has this debate got to say about culture and mission?

i know several Christians have written books attacking Brown's thesis. some of these have then suggested that 'the real da vinci code' is the message of jesus. some have done this well, i like the take that we can ALL be sons and daughters of jesus in the christian story not just a particualr liine of Kings in France! the problem however with some of these attempts is that to those who find compelling the conspiracy theroy element of the da VInci code, the church suppressing this truth over centuries, the load protestation of Christians, calls to ban or boycott teh film next year etc, simply confirm that the book must be true and we are indeed supressing the truth agressively. we live in an age when in proclaiming our lessage the old apologetics of exposing the the arguments against Christianity no longer cuts ice. indeed to try and defend Christianity from criticism is often to appear negative and opposed to things. i suspect we need to simply offer the positive in the market place of faith and let others look critical if they wish. i don't necessarily mean stay silent in repsonding to criticism or views we feel to be wrong, but not to feel this is where the key debate happens, to respond with grace, wanting to win a friend and not win an argument. people i think are today looking more at how we debate than what we say, what messages are we sending?

Mary Magdelene and her legacy are an intersting thing to pick up on. i have sympathy with Dan Brown's suggestion that Mary has had bad press, the one who first met the risen Jesus ending up as a fallen women forever doinmg penenance in the desert. indeed the second Vatican council aserted that much medieval speculation about Mary in which she also became the sinful women who annoints jesus feet and the women caught in adultery were mistakes. (so much for the theory of the supression of this by the Catholic Church). i do think it tells us something about the way women have sometimes been stereotyped in sections of the Christian faith though. the two Mary's one 'forever a virgin' the other a fallen women. i suspect the problem with sex and bodies especially female bodies this dualism speaks of is a bad bit of the Greek heritage of Christianity. it is easy sometimes to understand why people think we are anti physical and anti sex and indeed anti women. one of the reasons Paganism is the fastest growing faith in Britian is that it affirms the physical, the sexual and the feminine. our attitudes on these things are not indeed some academic question, they are about our mission.

if the Da Vinci code has a message for us, it is that people today want a faith that holds a view of the female that is equal to the male, and of the physical that sees it as good. we ought to be at the fore fornt here with women as much as men made in God's image, with sex as a gift of God and our bodies as temples of his spirit. this is not to deny that all is not good with how we are and the need for salvation in all it's dimensions, but to say we need to learn afresh the message of God's misison as starting with creation and ending in new creation. perhaps we need to also be as quick to speak of God as a mother hen gathering her offspring as a father welcoming a prodigal son?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

well at some point a web site is comming on which more stuff can be posted connected to my work. but for now i thought i'd join the bloggsphere! well a discussion was always intended to be part of what i wanted to do online so this will do for a start. watch this space...composing some stuff sorting out links etc so be patient for the first day or two if you happen to find this