Tuesday, July 21, 2009

a whole new spin on organic church

As part of my weekend, my hosts took me to Heronswood. It was interesting to wander the place, thinking about how mission and church life. You see, here I was an outsider. I’m not a convert, not an “organo-freak” and I’m a tourist, visiting Australia, just passing through. As I wandered, asking myself: how many entry pathways do communities of faith offer? how many types of learning do we encourage? how many “give-it-a-go,” beginners type resources do communities of faith offer?

Here is what Heronswood offered:
1. A space: a historic house and established gardens, around which one could wander, free of charge, absorbing the peace, or pay a small entry fee to wander another part of the garden.

2. A cafe: selling a range of food, a real try before you buy experience of new vegetables and imaginative possibilities.

3. A demonstration garden: ln which new vegetable varieties were grown, stretching the imagination, offering possibilities. Tied to this was a demonstration plot showing “the size of garden needed to feed 3 people for a year.” It was quite stunning to realise how little a space of land was required to grow vegetables.

4. Which was tied to “product” in the form of plants, seeds and books. You could buy those new possibilites you see in the garden. You could purchase the seed pack required to start your own garden. Lots of resources were targeted at beginners, both books and hands on starter kits.

5. Regular workshops were offered, in how to plant, compost, harvest. A chance for relationships, a chance for those who might not get books, but might learn by hands on practice.

6. A festival, twice a year, offered a chance to celebration.

7. A committed core, the diggers club (what a great name) in the form of a membership group.

What would it mean to stimulate our thinking by placing ecclesial life and mission alongside this type of multi-faceted place, the hands on experimentation, the one-off workshops, the festivals, the demonstration plots, offering a wide variety of ways to access?

Most churches offer a church service, which is essentially targeted at (7) the committed core, the members, those inside the community. If they get missional, they run (2) a cafe or a variety of community facing programmes. But it pales into insignificance alongside workshops, festivals, product, demonstrations, space and core.

A common response when I talk about spirituality2go is “lack of resources”, yet this was at heart a business, who have find a way to offer their resources in a sustainable financial model.

Another response is the limitation of buildings. Yet here was a place defined by a building – the old homestead – at their centre, who had simply built pathways and produces in and around this.

Opawa has made some moves in this spirituality2go direction. Our lenten wilderness blog, our 7 practices, our art installations (and an article on whether the Opawa art installations are foyer or signposts) are all hints. But there’s so much more to explore.

I tie this post to a chapter of my book, on spirituality2go, on Pete Ward’s concept of Liquid Church and to a recent post by glocal, asking where are the beginner resources in missional church.

Posted by steve at 11:44 AM


  1. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09152a.htm Why do we have to add unnecessary problems? The Bible says nothing about lent. It seems to be a custom started in the 2nd or 3rd century. (Acts 15:29) It looks like it was dropped in the Protestant church after the Reformation. Luther or someone must have considered it unbiblical. Do Baptists have Catholic customs?

    Comment by Ingrid — July 22, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  2. Ingrid, I might be misreading your comments, but they do by and large tend to be critical.

    I’ve talked here http://www.emergentkiwi.org.nz/archive/updated-why-lent/

    about “why lent.” it’s a tool for spiritual growth. that to me seems a gift, not a problem.

    and a question for you re church history: when do you think the catholic church started? you say hear that lent started in the 2nd and 3rd century and then say its “catholic”. So for you, does the church turn catholic as soon as the Bible stops?


    Comment by steve — July 22, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  3. It is somewhat late and I hope to answer later on, but what just came to me regarding the Catholic Church is Ephesians 4:11 He gave some apostles, some, prophets and some, pastors and teachers… What I’m missing is “and a Pope”. You wrote catholic with a small c, I wrote it with a big C. So in answer to the question, I’d have to say that the catholic (universal) church started A.D.30 or so at Pentecost. Concerning the inception of the Catholic Church however, I have to admit I don’t know much, but there were 11-12 apostles and I don’t see why Peter should have been made the head of all the church. If you read the article I quoted, you’ll see that it mentions, that Lent was a custom introduced by the Catholic Church…Looking at your link above it seems I’m not the only one wondering about this lent issue.

    Comment by Ingrid — July 22, 2009 @ 11:10 pm

  4. Regarding my comments being critical, which I guess amounts to me being critical, you probably have a point there. If being critical is a good thing or a bad one is debatable. If you want to be an artist a certain dose of critical activity will be required in most cases unless you are born as a Wunderkind artist, who comes up with a perfect picture, that does not need any corrections, every time…Aren’t we to inspect what we accept??? Jesus commends the Jews in Berea for their examining the scriptures and checking to see, if what they are told is according to God’s Word…Nathaniel was critical and Jesus called him an Israelite indeed… Jesus was critical of things that were not done the way God wanted them (see Cleansing of the Temple)………………So you could also call me purist, because I basically believe, that we are best off, if we do things the way God wants them done…We get a pretty good idea of God’s likes and dislikes from the Bible. And in Revelation it says that we are not to add or take away, which most likely applies to the Word of God in general and not just to The Book of Revelation…………Concerning LENT: Fasting in any shape or form is great. I’m all for it (nonetheless with caution, medical advice might be necessary for more severe fasts), but I don’t like the idea of fixing a time, a repeating time for it and making it another institution.

    Comment by Ingrid — July 23, 2009 @ 12:59 pm

  5. Where it comes to something called “Emerging Church”, I’m not totally clued in on this. If it means “REFORM”, o.k., nothing wrong with reformation, IF reformation means closer to TRUTH, which as I said above, means for me THE WORD OF GOD……………………One “holy catholic church” (from 1.paragraph of “Why Lent?”) or “One Holy Catholic Church”, THAT is the question. THE one holy catholic Church exists already, but not as an Institution, but as the whole body of believers. Are we aiming for ONE HOLY CHURCH as an institution? We might get there, but most likely everybody would be incorporated into the (Roman)Catholic Church, Pope and all. It might sound like I’m totally against the Catholic Church. Not really altogether. BUT, if we want to reform, we should seek to find the good and right that is present in most churches and discard the erroneous bits…With all the knowledge at our computer-fingertips these days, maybe we can figure out, how things were done originally and the Bible tells us pretty much where they are headed.(Romans 11)

    Comment by Ingrid — July 23, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

  6. And here something 100% positive: Heronswood looks lovely!

    Comment by Ingrid — July 23, 2009 @ 1:55 pm

  7. Andy Warhol seems to contradict my thoughts on the necessity of being critical. He said:”My instinct about painting says, ‘if you don’t think about it, it’s right.’ As soon as you have to decide and choose (which I guess amounts to applying criticism), it’s wrong. And the more you decide about, the more wrong it gets.”…………….Another artist said, a painter should paint and not talk…From now on I will try to follow his advise. (Actually I’ve tried before.)

    Comment by Ingrid — July 23, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

  8. Thanks Ingrid. Appreciate your chattering away. We really must connect face-face.

    I like when you say “we should seek to find the good and right that is present in most churches.” that is a much better summary that what I was trying to say – about church. And perhaps also about our approach to life in general.

    And perhaps it might also add an angle to what you say about being critical – of course there is a place for it, yet needs to go alongside “seeking to find the good and right.”


    Comment by steve — July 23, 2009 @ 2:55 pm

  9. I’d call it a day’s worth of hard work of thinking instead of chattering away. I’m the opposite of a chatterer.

    Comment by Ingrid — July 23, 2009 @ 5:14 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.