New Monasticism podcast…

It is snowing here!

So my plans to go and work in the garden have been thwarted, and I am drinking tea and listening to podcasts. It’s a hard life.

But I came across something that I think is really important- a discussion at the London Centre of Spirituality about New Monasticism and Fresh Expressions of Church.

Bishop Graham Cray goes as far to describe New Monsasticism as a ‘New Wave of the Spirit.’ If he is right, then these small experimental groupings have a deeper relevance for the whole of church.

The discussion has a clear resonance for me, and my small community- Aoradh. Like most small groups, we ebb and flow, then ebb again. The energy we find as a group is easily drained by external and internal forces, and the need to seek renewal within practice becomes very real and urgent.

Strong themes that emerged from this podcast are perhaps those which most reflect our own situation-

  • Rule, order, seriousness
  • Spirituality allied with action
  • Courage, challenge
  • The pain/joy of community
  • Incarnation- being deliberately present, not removed.
  • Spiritual direction
  • Mission- rediscovering what this is about for us
  • Thanks to Moot for making this available, as I feel the need to rediscover a passion for what I do- to set my face in the Wind of the Spirit again…

    Fresh expressions, medieval stylee…

    Saw this and it made me chuckle. I think I have tried all of these options for revitalising church- before more or less settling on the last.

    But lest I kid myself that I am cutting edge, lets remember that they were probably doing the same sorts of things 500 years ago.

    When this video was made.
    Vodpod videos no longer available.

    The future of Church in the west?

    Following on from my somewhat negative previous post, I have just been reading a couple of reports from this conference.

    The discussion focused on the future of Christianity in the USA- and this is clearly potentially very misleading. The global growth of Christianity is a very different discussion. However, the influence of American Evangelical Christianity on the UK religious scene is huge- all the TV channels, the publishing juggernaut and the big name preachers. We watch changes there with interest, knowing that the impact of these changes will be felt this side of the Atlantic.

    Brian McLaren believes that over the next period, the Conservative Evangelical denominations (protestant and Catholic) in the USA will “constrict, tighten up, batten the hatches, raise the boundary fences, demand greater doctrinal, political, and behavioral conformity, and monitor boundaries with increased vigilance.”

    He believes that this will drive out many, whilst increasing the anxiety and ‘bunker mentality’ of those left inside the denominations. At the same time, he sees a new coalition forming-

    That new coalition, I believe, will emerge from four main sources:

    1. Progressive Evangelicals who are squeezed out of constricting evangelical settings.
    2. Progressive Roman Catholics (and Eastern Orthodox) who are squeezed out of their constricting settings.
    3. Missional mainliners who are rediscovering their Christian faith more as a missional spiritual movement, and less as a revered and favored religious institution.
    4. Social justice-oriented Pentecostals and Evangelicals — from the minority churches in the West and from the majority churches of the global South, especially the second- and third-generation leaders who have the benefits of higher education.

    Scott McKnight points out that Conservative Evangelical Mega churches in the USA (and I believe,the UK equivalents) are in fact growing. He does not believe that ‘Evangelicalism’ is made up of one stream- believing that some incarnations will be around for a long long time to come.

    However, what he sees as now having ended is the old ‘Evangelical coalition’-

    The evangelicalism that formed in the 1940s and 1950s, more accurately called “neo-evangelicalism,” was a reaction to strident forms of fundamentalism, a call to serious intellectual engagement so that evangelicalism could gain both theological and academic credibility again, and a formation of a big tent coalition to work together for evangelism and theological development. By and large, this big tent coalition combined the Calvinist and Wesleyan segments of evangelicalism, found places for Christian colleges, parachurch ministries, missionary societies, and a plethora of magazines and radio stations, and gave a privileged place to evangelical leaders like Billy Graham and Carl Henry.

    But perhaps the most powerful piece was by Philip Clayton who had this to say-

    A major national survey recently published in USA Today shows that 72 percent of “Millennials” — Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 — now consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Even among those who self-identify as practicing Christians, all of the traditional forms of Christian practice have sharply declined from previous years: church attendance, Bible study, prayer. Doubts are higher, and affiliation with the institutional church is sharply lower. All of us who are still connected with local congregations already know this pattern, up close and personal. Still, it’s sobering to see the trends writ large; after all, we’re talking about almost three-quarters of younger Americans!

    The decline of traditional churches and denominations will presumably continue, so that by 2020 the effects will be as devastating in the U.S. as they already are in Europe. (On a typical Sunday, for example, 0.5 percent of Germans attend church.) Numerically, two-thirds or more of mainline churches will close their doors or struggle on without a full-time pastor. Denominations will merge in order to be able to maintain even minimal national staffs and programs. A larger and larger proportion of those who still go to church will attend large “mega” churches, those with 2,000 or more attendees on an average Sunday.

    Clayton issued what he called a ‘call to church’-

    We churchpeople were the center of American society since this nation was founded. We enjoyed power and prestige; we were the center of the action; we counted presidents, educators, and industry leaders among our numbers. But those days, it appears, are over. We still have a crucial role to play in the world. But it’s no longer a world that revolves around us.

    This new role actually makes it easier for us to model ourselves and our communities on the Head of the church, who “has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him” (Isaiah 53:2). As Dwight Friesen puts it in Thy Kingdom Connected, the church can no longer be a “bounded set,” defining itself by the people and ideas it’s opposed to. We now have to be a “centered set,” pointing toward — and living like — the One whose life and ministry we model ourselves on. If we can’t communicate our Center with power and conviction, no one’s going to listen. Oh, and by the way: we have to find ways to do this that don’t sound or look anything like the church has looked over the last 50 years or so.

    Finally, Clayton talks about an age of experimentation in church-

    What does “church” look like when you take it out of the box, replant it, and let it grow organically? It’s going to stretch and challenge you; it’s going to take openness to forms and practices you’ve never seen before:

    • churches that meet in pubs, office buildings, school classrooms, or homes . . . or virtual churches, like those at SecondLife.com;
    • churches that have no leader, or have leaders who don’t look like any pastor you’ve ever known (OMG, what if they have piercings?);
    • pastors who are hosts to discussions, who can listen long and deep to doubts and questions before presenting the answers on which they center their lives;
    • churches that don’t have buildings, denominations, pastors, or sermons; that don’t meet on Sundays; that consist mainly of people who don’t call themselves “Christians”;
    • churches whose participants are drawn from many different religious groups; churches full of “seekers”; churches that consist mostly of silence (like the Quakers) or of heated discussions between participants.

    Not only conservatives will wonder and worry where one should draw the line. And that’s the point: we’ve now entered an age where we no longer know how to draw lines, because the old criteria just don’t work anymore — except to exclude the vast majority of the people whom we hope to interest.

    All this sounds very familiar from this side of the Atlantic. We are much further down the line that it all.

    We have our Evangelical enclaves- who tend to be exclusive, embattled, and increasingly fuelled by an agenda that looks either to African or American Mega churches. Despite their vigour and apparent success, they are largely irrelevant to the larger cultural situation- and their engagement with mission is simply to attempt to create more ‘converts’ to their own kind of belief system. These churches feel to me to be about marketing and mass consumerism.

    And then we have the huge majority of spiritually interested consumers, who may have been inoculated against Christianity, but not against Jesus.

    And then we have a growing number of experimental pioneers, whose methods are increasingly being adopted by the mainstream traditional churches- through things like Fresh Expressions-

    …and all the mixed madness to be experienced at Greenbelt Festival.

    We live, my friends, in interesting times, where change is normal, and the future uncertain. But I have no doubt that church will continue, and that the mission of Jesus will be carried forward into new generations. Some will resist any change fiercely, others will embrace it.

    But change will happen- it has already happened…

    Some commercials, and a little rant…

    Thought I would give a couple of things a plug- information being viral and all…

    The Scottish Network Churches asked us to spread information about a speaking tour in Scotland by Bishop Graham Cray, who (amongst other things) heads up the team responsible for the Church of England’s Fresh Expressions initiative. Might try to get to some of this…

    The CofE has done so much to promote innovative and experimental forms of church- which has given leadership to many other denominations too- the Methodists, URC, Salvationists etc. It is encouraging indeed to see some of this coming north.

    Here is the blurb-

    How will we encounter God in all of life? And especially in those places where Christians most often cross paths with non-believers and have opportunity to influence society? Can we encourage Christians and church leaders to develop a personal vision for their own growth and effectiveness as disciples who are missionaries and as missionaries who are disciples? Should we provoke Christians and church leaders to possibly re-imagine life in the “gathered community” so that it effectively resources life on the front line of every day life?

    LICC and Bishop Cray are “thought leaders” and have enormous practical wisdom to share and so to help us understand the theology, build principles, develop the practices, create the resources, to become Jesus’ disciples in the 21st Century. Mission Scotland hopes that exposure to this work will create an imagination for whole-life discipleship and a deep desire to engage with the questions and challenges we face as God’s people to make disciples, and to live as disciples.

    The launch conference, which is the start of a series, is planned for November 28th, 2009 at St. Paul’s and St. George’s, Edinburgh. It is designed equally for church people and for church leaders. Both Mission Scotland and LICC see these events, not as stand-alone events, but as a linear discussion leading to changes in church life, and backed up with ideas and resources, changes in practice, leading to fresh confident expressions of Christians being the church, being disciples, being missionaries, wherever they are placed in Scottish culture and context.

    Therefore for those who come this could become more of a journey than simply listening to one of God’s leading thinkers on His Church in Britain today.

    FURTHER INFORMATION from Sarah-Jane Biggart; sarahjane.biggart@missionscotland.org.uk. 07734-101358

    Also- for those of us that are interested in training and equipping leaders and visionaries for this kind of stuff, check out this training being offered by CMS.

    resource

    It is English based, rather than Scottish, but at least the units are bite sized, and based in Northern England rather than the deep south. It is not something that I feel I can commit to, but I mention it as I know of nothing else in Scotland that appears to offer the same level of practitioner-practical-network based learning (with apologies to ICC in Glasgow!)

    Here is the blurb from Jonny Baker-

    well we’re getting closer to resource starting for this year. the web site has had a makeover and looks pretty funky. resource is a course over a year of four weekends exploring themes of mission, culture, leadership, transformation, discipleship and church. each weekend is in a different location/context where we encounter a local community or two and hear their story and what they are up to, as well as some teaching, discussion and reflecting on how it all connects with our own context.

    who’s it for? – this explanation is pretty good

    how much is it? – each weekend is less than £100 though you have to sort accomodation. there is a bursary so if you’re strapped for cash still apply.

    the weekends this year are in sheffield, london, leeds and southampton – and yes the london one is being hosted by grace and moot with a focus on alt worship and mission. you can either sign up for the whole thing or just come to individual weekeds. the whole thing is best because a big part of the learning is hanging with other people and sharing the journey together.

    the first weekend is the last weekend in october in sheffield so book now! if you can’t pay now you can book and pay later.

    (NOW FOR THE LITTLE RANT!

    I am quite happy to be corrected if I am missing something, but it seems to me that north of the border we have a lot to learn from the old enemy in terms of renewing and refreshing expressions of church. It also seems to me that we have a particular need to build supportive partnerships in an age when Scottish Nationalism appears to be leading to a certain snobbish separatism in some parts- which I feel has no place at all amongst Christians. The tendency to build confidence and identity by denigrating the other is a dangerous and unpleasant human characteristic- and when we see this in the very heart of power, I start to feel very uncomfortable. So when we have anti English jokes made by leading politicians, allied to distorted and simplistic versions of history, and school ground popularist prejudice and abuse, then I think it is time for the people of God to stand aside and gently model a different way of being.

    And if you think I have no right to say this because I have an English accent, then I ask you to consider our shared history in these islands- our mixed blood lines, and the inevitability of the misuse of power and wealth acquisition by the worst of what we are as humans. In this context, we Christians have a different responsibility- to shine light and to savour good things with salt, not to stand on narrow prejudices and perpetuate poison. There is a real chance that it will fester.

    So perhaps one way we can be challenged is in the way we approach faith- how we collectivise our gatherings in a generous and graceful way- and how we can both learn from English brothers and sisters, and teach them from our experience.

    Rant over.

    Emerging Church/Missional church network- lets get started!

    (Check out this series of posters- here)

    I have posted some stuff before on our embryonic Emerging Scotland network (or whatever it comes to be called!) here.

    Today I circulated a document as follows- if you want to know more, get in touch!

    Emerging Scotland Network… getting things started.

    What?

    It is clear in my mind that the proposal is for a facilitated network, which imposes few restrictions or obligations on members. We need to decide pretty early on what we would seek to embrace and include. My preference is for a very ‘generous orthodoxy’- and again, this seems to fit in with those who returned the questions.

    The object is to support and sustain one another, share ideas, resources and find companionship and encouragement, and there may be grounds for formal/informal mentoring or partnership arrangements.

    People may be part of existing church situations in which they are seeking new ways of being or doing, or they might be planting something new- or perhaps just dreaming of doing…

    How?

    By a variety of means: websites, blogs, on-line networking, but also face to face meetings, retreats, information sharing events etc.

    We are clear that the development of a website is a priority, but only to facilitate real human contact! Stewart has a possible way of making this happen- but might appreciate input from anyone who has skills/interest.

    Sharing ideas/ skills/ resources – labyrinths, prayer rooms, musicians, poets, and people who know how to support and empower through prayer. Not to forget preachers and evangelists etc etc!

    What next?

    This is up to you!

    Below is a list of dates. Michaela and I will facilitate the first couple to get us started, and then others can take their turn. Please give consideration to whether you could host such an event or meeting!

    These meetings will have an open invitation, but for practical purposes, we will need to know numbers in advance…

    What will we do at the meetings?

    This too is up to you! I suppose it could be a shared coffee, or something more developed?

    But I would suggest a combination of the things below-

    Ø Business stuff- organisation of the network, ‘leadership’, accountability etc

    Ø Creative prayer and worship

    Ø A focus on key themes, for example- kids in the new context, the Bible, sectarianism, poverty, worship, rural/remote issues etc

    Ø Specific local stuff relevant to the host area.

    It might be that if you have an event or activity that coincides with one of these meetings (or we could make fit) then this is an opportunity for people to lend a practical form of support to one another.

    So – dates… please put these dates in your diary, and we will try to fill them all… IF PEOPLE WANT TO SUGGEST OTHER DATES, let me know!

    Date

    Where

    What

    Facilitators

    24th January, 2009

    Starbucks,

    Borders Bookshop

    Glasgow Fort shopping centre

    Just off the M8

    Glasgow

    Meet and share session

    A chance to check out the thing a bit closer- and find out more.

    Sort out some business issues- fill some dates, and allocate some tasks,

    Chris and Michaela Goan

    01369 707009

    chris@goan.fsnet.co.uk

    28th-29th March, 2009

    Chris and Michaela’s house

    179 Marine Parade

    DUNOON

    WEEKEND RETREAT/OPEN HOUSE.

    A chance to spend some more in-depth time with people, and God. Come for the day, or for the weekend (we have room for quite a few, but obviously first come, first served!)

    Kids are welcome, but we need to plan things around them- so let us know!

    No cost- but you might need to bring some food along to throw into the communal pot.

    This might include- quiet room, walks along the shore, worship sessions, specific group discussion times, sharing meals and sitting round log fires…

    Chris and Michaela Goan

    01369 707009

    chris@goan.fsnet.co.uk

    16th May 2009

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    27th June 2009

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    12th September 2009

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    21st November 2009

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    Chris Goan

    14.10.08.