Monday, July 17, 2006

blah...Emerging Church Tour, Part 1

We’re back from a fantastic weekend in London, staying with a friend in their luxurious basement flat in Shepherd’s Bush. On Saturday, Jo, Susannah and Noah were taken on the big red buses to see the soldiers at Buckingham Palace, explore St James’ Park, Green Park, and Hyde Park, and dip their toes in the Diana memorial fountain; while I took the tube to the blah…emerging church tour.

Here are some thoughts from the day:

Ryan Bolger spoke about his research for Emerging Churches, asking what it would look like for a community of Christ-followers to emerge in a given culture, as opposed to importing a (church) culture into another (community) culture? As illustration, Ben Edson spoke about sanctus 1 in Manchester, which came about in response to the growth of city-centre living in the heart of Manchester as it was redeveloped after the IRA bombing of 1996. I was struck by Ben’s long-term commitment to live as one of the community, learning to understand them, and identify “glimmers of God” already present in the neighbourhood. I think we are mistaken to assume that we – perhaps those of us who grew up within the Church culture – can just engage with the people that live around us. If we were to go as missionaries to South East Asia, our first three years would largely be spent learning the language and culture (perhaps this in part accounts for an increase in such ‘traditional’ missionaries coming home after only one term, because they had expected to be telling people about Jesus and found that they could only just manage to but vegetables in the market? I don’t know). But England is just as cross-cultural a mission context (and I’m not even talking about the multi-ethnic dimension)…

…I also valued Ben’s ‘revised cultural correlation’ – a revision of the idea that Christianity provides answers to the questions being asked by our culture; to the idea of a two-way conversation, in which both sides can mediate truth and goodness. This is not relativism or syncretism; but the idea that God can teach us through those we go to in his name – an essential humility, which also keeps us open to child-like wonder…

…Missional activity engaging with missional reflection: on contextual ecclesiology, referencing David Bosch – “mission and ecclesiology as contextualisation involves the construction of a variety of local theologies” – and on the hermeneutic of community, referencing Lesslie Newbiggin – “…the remembering and rehearsing of Jesus’ words and deeds…[the community] exists in him and for him…its character is given to it, when it is true to its nature, not by the character of its members but by [Jesus’] character…”

Steve Collins also shared from the experiences of the grace community in London. Good thoughts on everyday spirituality – not ‘bringing things to God’ (as if he wasn’t there already) but attending to the relationship that already exists between God and other things, and perhaps changing our own practices in response…I was challenged by the idea that doing things in the home privatises the thing/event/action…therefore church/mission that is meal-based in the home may in itself be a barrier…which brought me back to those spaces that blur the boundaries between public and private, such as the café, pub or restaurant (and the observation that the house churches of the New Testament met in the blurred public/private space at the front of the building, where commerce took place in the pre-industrial setting).

I’ve posted about Emerging Churches before, but here is the summary form:
“Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.” [p. 45]

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