Humanity reshapes itself, so another little think about church…

I do not usually repost anything from Jonny Bakers blog- despite being a very frequent visitor- simply because I always assume that most of you have also already read it! However, I will make an exception today as he pointed (via Steve Collins) to an article about ‘Curated Membership Communities.’

Jonny’s interest in curation as applied to worship was the subject of his recent book, that takes a journey through communities whose experiments with worship have interesting parallels with how art might be shaped, curated and displayed.

But I am more interested in what implications these apparent changes in dominant social entrepreneurial groupings might have for church. That is, church in the broadest sense.

I liked this from the article-

even in a world of immensely powerful social technology, shared experience is what drives us to care about and contribute to others. As the social graph has come online, we’ve been able to keep better track not only of our friends, but all the amazing people we haven’t met yet. The explosion of curated membership communities is an attempt to create the shared experiences which bring us into contact with those people, giving us access to the amazing world which we can see, if not fully yet grasp.

We have become used to discussions about post modern society, shaken loose from the ordered structure of modernity by the coming of a new communication revolution, and perhaps characterised above all be individualism. It has been a regular theme on this blog too- as have my own grapplings with the feeling that I have that we post moderns still crave connection. And this has to be collectivised in some way beyond what might be possible on a computer screen because this is simply not enough- it is not human enough.

It has not been clear up till now what might replace our empty social clubs, community centres and (of course) churches. What might come to facilitate our shared journeys of faith? What channels might the Spirit of God find in which to travel through and in our society?

We have tried so hard to force some kind of solution- both to try to preserve the old, and also to convince ourselves that there is a methodological answer to evangelism in this new context. It is almost as if we forgot that we are followers of Jesus into culture, not his advance guard.

Meanwhile, it seems that the humanity shaped petri dish may indeed be producing some new organic shapes and formations.

Which brings us back to this idea of the ‘Curated Membership Community’. Here are a few thoughts that occur to me in relation to church-

  • Leadership- curation implies facilitation, encouragement, hospitality, nurturing and a celebration of creativity. It is far less interested in management, or hierarchical structure, or hard measurable outcomes. This sounds remarkably similar to the church-I-would-love-to-be-part-of.
  • Membership- this is an interesting concept.’ Belonging’ in this new context seems to come through friendship, aspiration, inspiration from those who have pioneered new ideas, and to be more driven by ethos than specific tasks. Membership is fluid, flexible, and might also be fairly shortlived, as streams of connection merge and cross-fertilise.
  • These new groupings are perhaps a re-invention of the idea that our collectives are more than just the sum of individual one to one relationships- rather that there is also an aspect of human character that emerges when we are part of something larger- when we share our hopes, passions and values, and when these things allow us to flow together- not as our primary purpose, but rather as a natural consequence of our togetherness.
  • The emphasis then is in the creation of ‘social capital’- “The benefits of participation tend to come in the form of the members sharing their extended network of skills, connections, and other resources with one another. In other words, it is other members more than the organizer or curator who provide value to each other.” So rather than becoming passive consumers of religious product, we might be learning to become co-conspirators with one another to discover and celebrate for ourselves, and in the process of doing this, carry each other forward.

None of this is really new thinking- it has been the very substance of the ’emerging conversation’ as we have called it- but what is more interested is how these ideas are playing out in the wider world- perhaps in particular in the commercial world, sick to death of megalithic faceless conglomerates, and looking for something on the human scale that they can once again believe in, and share with their friends.

What was on the edge, is becoming part of the mainstream.

Hmmmmm….

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.

Another one of those discussions about church…

I shared lunch with some friends today- I meet with three other blokes to pray every couple of weeks. It is a really good mix of folks as each of us are very different, but share a desire for honesty, friendship and to create a safe space to share faith and life.

Today we spoke about church.

It is a familiar theme. I am the only one of the group who is no longer attending a regular Sunday morning service in a church building. All of my friends are still hanging on in there- just.

It is not that any of us do not appreciate the value of meeting and worshipping communally- it is just that the baggage that comes with this seems to have a high price- and also that the activities through which communal worship is celebrated can just be so suffocatingly irrelevant- for us, let alone for our kids or our friends and neighbours.

The question of what might be possible as an alternative has exercised much discussion, including on this blog.

In particular, today we asked a local version of this question…

A couple of days ago, in response to a comment on this piece by Aileen, I wrote this-

I wonder  if  we were ‘over sold’ some of the ideas about what it means to be a Christian. We have been told repeatedly that people are of two sorts-
Saved and unsaved
Good and ‘of the world’(or even ‘evil)
Transformed and untransformed
Enlightened and deceived by the devil
We have the Holy Spirit who will sort us out- they don’t.

This dualism allows us to then suggest that Christians are elevated above all other people- more holy, more loving, living better lives. And then when we discover (as we inevitably do) that Christians are often just as screwed up and damaged /damaging as the next person, we are exposed to a great disappointment- and what the Americans would call a ‘disconnect’ between our rhetoric and reality.

I have come to believe that the Kingdom of God at loose on the earth is NOT the same thing as ‘the church’. Rather “God plays in ten thousand places, from the father to the features of mens faces, lovely in limbs and hands not his”

The question is, if this is true, what the POINT of the church is? If Christians are untransformed by encountering Jesus- what is the point?

I think I would reply that we are not untransformed- the very fact that you and I are asking these questions is proof of that. Rather what we come to is an awareness that we can reach higher, and deeper- and expect an encounter with the divine as we do this that is so much more than a one directional intellectual exchange of religious ideas/doctrine. But also that we are called to walk humbly- and to hold ourselves in awareness of our sinful state- not other peoples sinful state, but our own.

Perhaps then the purpose of the church is to be a sprinkling of salt, bringing out flavours of the world, and a source of light that illuminates good and beautiful things. This kind of church I can belong to!

I have no desire to start a new church though- in the sense of a new institution, or a new exclusive gathering of people who try to sell their ‘product’ and their version of truth to everyone on the outside.

But what began to emerge today in our discussion was the possibility of a more regular celebration event, in partnership with others where possible.

In many ways this might compliment some of the more intimate small group church things that I love.

Who knows what might emerge, but I have a feeling that it might be time to make some noise again…

Meet up for emerging types in Ayrshire and the West of Scotland…

largs

Anyone in the Ayrshire/South West Scotland area (or further than this if you don’t mind travelling) fancy being part of a meet up of some Emerging/Missional types?

Dave and Vince have set up this meeting as a chance to network, and explore possibilities of further meetings and activities in this area. These guys are people that I have a lot of respect for- they both have a background in church leadership, and after some real adventures have found themselves seeking out new ways to be ‘church’.

We will be meeting on Saturday the 3rd of October from 6PM  in a hall is (literally) connected to The Green Shutters Tea-Room, Largs-not far from the Cumbrae ferry slip, in a southerly direction.

A few of us will be going down from Aoradh in Dunoon- and I am really looking forward to it.

If you want to know more, drop me a line, and I will put you in touch with Dave.

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.