Julian of Norwich was a gardener then?

At least it would seem so according to todays minimergent meditation-

Live it

Be a gardener.

Dig a ditch,

toil and sweat,

and turn the earth upside down

and seek the deepness

and water the plants in time.

Continue this labor

and make sweet floods to run

and noble and abundant fruits

to spring.

Take this food and drink

and carry it to God

as your true worship.


— Julian of Norwich, 

(c. 8 November 1342 – c. 1416)






Changing the world by relationship…

I read this today via the Emergent Village ‘Minimergent’ bulletin…

Despite current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible. This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive future. Rather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections. We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits. Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change.

Read entire article at Faith Collaboratory by clicking the names below.

Margaret Wheatley & Deborah Frieze

The article make interesting reading as it was written a few years ago (2006) when the language of ’emergence’ was still fresh and exciting. We are part of a different time now. The article suggested an emerging process that goes something like this-

Berkana has developed a four stage model that catalyzes connections as the means to achieve global level change: Name, Connect, Nourish, Illuminate (see Appendix). We focus on discovering pioneering efforts and naming them as such. We then connect these efforts to other similar work globally. We nourish this network in many ways, but most essentially through creating opportunities for learning and sharing experiences and shifting into communities of practice. We also illuminate these pioneering efforts so that many more people will learn from them.

The article then suggested that the next stage would for communities of practice to develop an proliferate.

Is this what is happening?

Well- I think so…


The State of Emergence, 2011…

Just read this post by Jonathan Brink the Emergent Village website.

I hesitated to repost it here- although this thing called ’emerging church’ continues to be a vital one for me- and the theme of many previous posts. The hesitation was because the blogosphere has been over populated with emerging church obituaries. Some of them have been provocative, others gleefull. Most have been premature, and driven by a particular agenda.

Some too have been a natural consequence of the cooling of pioneer activism, and the breaking apart of fragile allegiances between some of the early adopters in the USA. These relationships were always likely to be tested, given the characteristics of prophetic pioneers.

But having said all that, Emergent Village- and it is always worth remembering that they are not, and have never claimed to be the voice of ’emerging church’- provides an important, if USA centric, perspective on the conversation.

I liked some of what Brink had to say- firstly on community-

If 2010 marked anything, it was the growing awareness that following in the footsteps of Jesus and gathering together in community is hard. People were tired of talking about it and just wanted to do it. Bradley pins the death of the emerging church to this awareness. Rob Bell, arguably one of the more important but undeclared voices in the emerging church recognized that he had become that big Mega-church. What was once cool had now become mainstream. And in losing its luster, the real work of ministry began to emerge.

And finally- on love-

The emerging church isn’t dead. It’s just finally wrestled with the angel and won. It’s shedding it old image, the one that got people so riled up in the first place. The conversations won’t ever go away because in the end, we’re looking for what it means to be human. We’re looking to discover the reality that Jesus was trying to present, one of infinite grace and beauty, stark reality of the kingdom of God in our midst, and a renewed sense of possibility for the restoration of the world.

Here’s to 2011 and a renewed sense of faith, hope and love. Because the greatest of these is love.

When it is all said and done, the labels are meaningless, unless they become a conduit for the Spirit.

For me, this conversation has been just that.

But man can not live on conversation alone- there are also the dishes to be done and the dirty business of learning to live out lives of love…

Emerging church and the new Charismatic-Mystics…

I came across a post on on the Emergent Village blog that really resonated with me. This was a piece by Dave Brown, who speaks really well about his background in the Charismatic movement. His ambivalence towards this background is very familiar- a combination of cringe and affection that I have spoken about before- here for example.

He talks about a new emergent kind of Charismatic movement, typified by the tripped out whacky stuff that surrounds John Crowder- Check this out!



Or just totally baffling?

My reaction is no surprise to me. Mostly I just recoil. But I have been in environments like this- usually hiding behind a guitar, but enough to feel a slight yearning for the uninhibited emotional and spiritual outpouring that such encounters provide- even the slightly more buttoned-down British version of them.

And talking of the British version, Dave makes mention in his article of Sloshfest- and other festivals in Wales, associated with familiar names (to us here in Aoradh anyway) like Godfrey Birtill. (We invited him to Dunoon once, and it was a bit of a road accident- but that is another story!)

Check out this site too- by the ‘Drunk Monk’.

What of all this then? Those of us who have escaped environments like these have common stories- of the oppression and madness that comes when you overheat and over sell ecstatic experience, leading to all sorts of leadership excesses and psychological damage. But we will also remember the freedom, then joy, the sense of release and belonging. Lots of good, mixed in with some really bad. I am happy to leave most of it behind…

But fringe movements like this are emerging at the same time as our own. People are forging a new frontier of faith, because the old one is whithering- and as Dave points out in his article our direction has been too often into the intellect- we have congratulated and celebrated deconstruction and theological debate. And we have eschewed emotion, and joy, and outward celebration.

And to be honest, I have simply never liked ambient chilled out music. I like music that engages, rather than simply providing a blank wallpaper.

I liked what Dave had to say here-

None of us on the fringes want to be held down by spiritual tyranny. That’s why we’ve voluntarily exiled ourselves to the desert of edge-pushing spirituality. And that was one of the things that attracted people like my parents to the Charismatic movement. They wanted more than establishment-friendly religion. And while Charismania has frequently (and often rightly) been criticized as all emotion and no substance, I think it’s unwise to adhere to the opposite extreme of all head and no heart. More specifically, I think we all could handle a little more emotion in our spiritual regimen. It’s okay to cry or laugh in church. It’s okay to express our passion with boisterous antics…or weepy, knees-on-floor reverence.

It’s okay to come out from behind the mask of objective distance. Because sometimes life sucks and we need to share the burden with somebody. And sometimes God has worked a miracle and we need to shout it from the rooftops. Sometimes we’re pissed off and it does more harm to hold it in. And sometimes we’ve experienced a hit of holy joy and freedom that we can’t explain, and we should share these things because that’s what community is for.

I don’t want this precious movement of the emerging church to end up as just another dry, debate-filled clique that gradually becomes the empire it set out to avoid. But I have enormous hope that that will never be the case. Because we are all part of a bigger story that will continue to evolve. Even as we sometimes try to distance ourselves from the label, we on the fringes are still an integral part of the larger Christian movement that’s been rolling on for millennia, and it always will be bigger than any one empire that tries to lay claim to it.

Amen brother (as I used to say)


Emerging church- the debate continues…

There has been some more chat on various sites about EC. The usual questions are being examined again- is the term useful? Did the ’emerging conversation’ promise much and deliver little? Does it still have any use or relevance?

emerging church

Creative (if rather unsympathetic) posters from here!

Followers of this blog will know that this has been a recurrent theme-

Back in September, I posted another review from the blogosphere- here.

Then in January, I spoke about the fact that our group had decided to stick with the word ’emerging’ for now.

Then in February, I asked what is emerging?

Then Jonny Baker pointed us to this post a week or so ago, which he responded to in a great post entitled

if you are disillusioned you’d better ask yourself…

Then there is a really good post from the Emergent village website- here, that responds to some of these discussions. As ever, it is useful to remember that Emergent Village (often foreshortened as ‘Emergent’) is one of the conduits for conversation about emerging church- but does not claim to represent, or even lead, the conversation. It is worth re-stating this, as some of the key figures in Emergent- Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, for example- have attracted much criticism, and controversy. I have an awful lot of respect for both, but neither would claim to lead anything called ‘the emerging church’.


I spent some time thinking about where I am up to with the ’emerging church conversation’ (I always feel I have to use parenthesis around the phrase!)

I realised that I feel really quite comfortable with the label now. For me, it has brought me into contact with greatly positive and inspirational people, ideas and resources.  I do not see myself as a member of ‘The emerging church’, because I still think that ’emerging church’ is a verb, not a noun.

Neither does the small church group I am part of call itself an ’emerging church’, although we might continue to hope that we are being drawn forward into new things by the Spirit of God.

Over on the Emerging Scotland ning site, Vicki Allen asked the question- ‘what does emerging mean to you?’ and encouraged people to list three things that were meaningful to them. I thought about it for a while- and then settled on these three-

1. The freedom to re-imagine and re-discover COMMUNITY.

2. The freedom to re-imagine and re-discover THEOLOGY- particular ‘small’ theology (by this I mean theology that is respectful of our inheritance, but interested in it’s application to our own locality and community.)Add New Post ‹ this fragile tent — WordPress

3. The freedom to re-imagine and re-discover the MISSION of the Kingdom of God.

I remain grateful for Emergent, and the emergence of rich ways of understanding the nature of our engagement with Jesus in our post modern context.

The rest, well that is up to Him.