I had a very useful discussion last week with my academic supervisor. Very shortly I will have two research essays due and a presentation to do for what my dissertation will be about. All well and good if I knew where I was going, which is where the discussion ended up being very useful.
My last essay (from the Barth class) ended up being about ‘community’. Barth is very big on a Christian being called into a community. He pretty much says we can’t be Christians on our own. But more than that he has much to say about the fractured community that is the church catholic. The issue explored in the essay was whether Emerging Church adds to the fractured-ness or whether it exists within the church in the broad sense.
Anyway, the point was that it headed in a direction which I hadn’t really intended taking (I was originally more interested in the actual ‘theology’ employed by EC) and so it left me with a bit of a dilemma. Did I continue looking at the broad picture of EC or focus in on their theology. Given that defining Emerging Church is a bit like trying to nail jelly to a wall, the thought of trying to get to grips with theological issues was not a particularly enthralling one.
So I was kind of stuck on which direction to go – until I had a chat with my supervisor, that is. I was keen to keep my interests in a local context and not get dragged too much into the US-centric view of EC, so the plan is now as follows:
Book review: Emerging Churches, Gibbs & Bolger. This gives a good overview of what EC is in the US and UK. Lots of background material.
Essay 2: Having looked at one of the creedal marks of church (‘one’) in the first essay, I wanted to look at ‘holy’ in my next essay. Holy means ‘distinctiveness’ and in the church context is about the distinction between the sacred and the profane. In the context of EC, it raises questions about whether EC simply regurgitates popular culture or whether it ‘sacrilises’ it somehow.
Essay 3: The Church of Scotland have been keen to gather momentum in getting to grips with EC, particularly the idea of ‘mixed economy’ church as expressed in Fresh Expressions. But not all expressions of EC sit comfortably within the CofS, especially its presbyterianism. Many ECs seem to veer heavily towards the congregational model or even attempt to remain ‘structureless’. This essay looks at which expressions of EC fit within the CofS polity.
Dissertation: Pick an EC project currently underway within the CofS and examine its ‘mission statement’ or project proposal in light of the creedal marks of ‘one, holy, catholic and apostolic’ church. (If nothing else, it gives me a clear structural outline for the work.) To that end I also have a meeting with the CofS EC co-ordinator. Hopefully I will be able to get pointed to a usable project.
Just got to sit down and write all that now.