Friday, May 11, 2012

“Finding Faith” and the serendipities of study leave

An odd set of serendipities yesterday.

I arrived home to find Richard Flory and Donald Miller’s Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation waiting for me. John Drane had recommended it to me, in light of some of my recent posts about faith and gender. On that recommendation, I ordered the book and it was waiting for me as I arrived home from work.

A quick flick through a book recommended by a colleague, and I find myself (The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change) being summarised over half of page 35.

[Taylor’s] is a journey that is both descriptive of what other churches are doing, taking full advantage of both digital and live networks of innovative church leaders, and prescriptive in what churches can do to better minister within the emerging postmodern framework.

An interesting serendipity.

What was even more interesting was that during the day I had been reading Tony Jones The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement (perhaps more on that soon). And I had been appreciating his use – without realising it was the book I had ordered – of Richard Flory and Donald Millers Finding Faith.  Another interesting serendipity – to hold a book that I’d just been reading about, wondering about – during the day.

Such are the moments that make up my study leave. (Yes, I probably need a life!)

Flory and Miller propose that we can understand the contemporary post-boomer spiritual quest under four headings

  • innovators – those who represent an evolving approach to religious faith and practice. (BTW that’s where my book is placed). Their focus is on building community and engaging with culture.
  • appropriators – those who seek relevance by appropriating, or imitating, from surrounding culture, ultimately forming “a particular from of pop-Christianity that is primarily orientated toward an individual spiritual experience.” (14)
  • resisters – those who resist incursions of the culture into what they see as historic Christianity.
  • reclaimers – those seeking to renew their experience of Christianity through ancient forms of Christianity. “These are converts, either from other nonliturgical forms of Christianity or from nonexistent or lapsed faith communities.” (15)

Flory and Miller use a “snowballing” sampling plan, following leads, networks and recommendations from those they initially contact. The result is 10 physical site visits and 100 individual interviews.

They conclude the book with a chapter looking toward the future. They argue that religious groups that practice an embodied imagination, and that organise organically, from the grass-roots, are more likely to have a future.They affirm the role of the

“organic theologian … [who] understands the importance and role of popular culture in the shaping of ideas and the communication of values” (190)

They conclude that while Appropriators have a greater natural audience (and thus a greater surface appearance of success), Innovators have the most potential for nourishing the contemporary spiritual search.

As long as they can survive the threat of routinisation.

Posted by steve at 10:47 AM

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