Mar 032010

No surprise there then.

Having spent some of this afternoon discussing Emerging Church, I got the names of a few projects to follow up on as possible research subjects for my dissertation. I’ve just spent some time looking at their websites and I’m left with the feeling that either I’ve completely missed the point of Emerging Church or someone else has (or I’m missing something very obvious).

The projects I’ve looked at are what I would refer to as ‘detached youth work’. Or, in one case, ‘semi-detached youth work’. One project doesn’t restrict its outreach to any particular age-group, but its focus seems mainly to be pastoral care, in the very broadest sense. None of this means that the projects aren’t worthwhile. In fact, they are all doing a great work in their community and all praise to them for it.

But I’m left wondering what makes this ‘Emerging Church’. Yes, I understand that EC is characterised by its very missional outlook, but missional outlook alone does make a project EC. It must go hand-in-hand with a number of other factors, otherwise, surely, it is ‘just’ mission?

Or maybe these are simply the first tentative steps towards finding an expression of EC for their particular communities. Get alongside people first, earn their trust and respect, then begin to think about spiritual guidance. But isn’t this just ‘church’ and the sensible (only?) way of outreach into a community – itself an imperative of the gospel?

But that still leaves me confused because it doesn’t, in my mind, adequately deal with what EC is. In fact, these projects, arguably, are not ‘church’ – merely the work of the church.

Or am I simply too impatient? Is it unrealistic to expect to see ‘church’ in these projects at these early stages? But is anything else not being a bit ‘dishonest’? Shouldn’t an EC project be characterised by aiming to be ‘church’ – that is, a worshipping community’ – as part of its project work?

Ah well, plenty of food for thought there for an essay or two and a dissertation.

May 292008

On my blog feeds yesterday, my attention was caught by a couple of video clips. They’re of Reggie McNeal, from Fuller Theological Seminary, addressing a Reformed church conference. I do encourage you to listen to all of it, but if you don’t have the time, at least catch the first 10 to 15 minutes of the first one. They obviously have a US bias, but they’re a message, I think, for all of us.

Dec 132007

David recently posted on a Sunday of very contrasting services and I thought I’d chip in my tuppenceworth.

The morning service was largely done by Buskit, a charity group from Grangemouth High School who take humanitarian aid across to children in Belarus. The three young people were very confident and spoke eloquently of their experiences. One even took the children’s address – a daunting enough task even for the experienced. Mind you, with some of the activities they were leading in Belarus, they’ve all got good experience in communicating with groups of children.

I think that the thing that struck me most was how much they said they had been affected by their experience. It was a very genuine sense of personal change that they communicated – not just a simple ‘yeah, it was meaningful’, but a very deep understanding that they had learned much form their trip. Schools often speak of learning lessons ‘for life’. Well, it’d be difficult to get a more effective teaching experience than the one the Buskit group get. I don’t know if there is any Christian ‘drive’ within the group, but you’d be hard pushed to find a better example of love and care for others.

Which brings me to the evening service – a very different example of concern for others. At this time of the year, KHR have a ‘bereavement service’ where those in the parish and the congregation who have experienced a bereavement are invited along to a service of remembrance. It’s very thoughtfully put together with comforting words of poetry, prose and scripture on the order of service, on cards in the pews and in the read reflections of the service. The act of remembrance is to drop a pebble into a bowl of water (for those who wish to come forward), using the action to symbolise a letting go, or a remembering of the ‘ripples’ caused in life, or whatever else may come to mind. It’s a deeply affecting time and very emotional. David is on hand with a comforting hug or a warm handshake and words of blessing.

What struck me was how busy the service was. It’s obviously something that is very meaningful for those who are there and is very much appreciated by them. I can be a bit of a sceptic when it comes to symbolic actions, which may sound odd coming from someone who has put together labyrinths, although perhaps it would be fairer to say that the symbolism needs to be ‘sound’. It can be too easy to come up with something that is a bit ‘tacky’ and is too open to misinterpretation. That’s most definitely not the case here, where the liturgy for this service works very well (although quite how it might be taken if the deceased had drowned is another matter).

The day of contrasts comes, in my opinion, in the direction they take. The morning is one of looking outwards to others and the evening is looking inward to our own needs (or far and near as David termed it). The good thing about the ‘inward-looking’ part was that it wasn’t done simply as a inwardly focused experience, rather it was about bringing Christ into our inner life to help heal hurts. The outward, of course, was about ‘being’ Christ to the world. A reminder that we are to look after ourselves as well as one another. “Love your neighbour as yourself” is very difficult when we ourselves are broken and in need. And, this is true not just of bereavement, but in many things. When we feel the love of Christ for us, as we are; when we feel His acceptance of us, as we are; when we can know the riches we share in Him; we can learn something of sharing that with others in their need, whether it is a sick child in Belarus or a grieving relative close to home.

Oct 042007

I had an opportunity to tag along with David on a visit to a local primary school today. David has the enviable position of being school chaplain with virtually unrestricted access to classes. This is a rarity these days and I guess that brings with it a lot of pressure.

The kids were very attentive and keen to contribute (but then they’d been told to pay attention by the teacher and she scared me!). It may only have been a short lesson, but its longer term effect has to be worth it.

One thing I did notice though – David clarified with the teacher how his theme would be developing for the next visit. She asked if a particular Bible story would fit with that and it gave David a chance to speak with her a little about the significance of that particular story. So it’s not just the kids who get the benefit of the visit.