Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Fresh expressions as church at Advent birth

I’ve been working hard over the last few weeks on an article for the Anvil journal, titled Evaluating Birth narratives: A Missiological Conversation with Fresh Expressions. It’s the write up of what I presented in September in Durham in which I interview UK alternative worship leaders and communities about how they began, and then reflect on implications for being church/ecclesiology.

In trying to make sense of what I was writing on Friday, I made the following graphic, based on the Orans Icon.

And here is a section of the paper, which I post because we are now in Advent.

The most likely place to find a birthing ecclesiology should be with regard to Incarnation. Indeed, for Williams, in Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin “[i]magining Mary in words and pictures has always been one of the most powerful ways of imagining the Church, and so of imagining ourselves freshly.” This is based on a theological meditation on Orthodox icons, specifically The Hodegetria, The Eleous and The Orans.

With regard to the Orans Icon, Mary stands facing us, hands extended in prayer. For Williams, “Here is Christ praying in Mary. Mary becomes, as the Church becomes, a ‘sign’ in virtue of the action of Christ within her … There is plenty here for us to think about in relation to the Church’s life.” Given that “the art of making icons is often termed “writing” rather than “painting”, such an Icon offers what could be termed a birthing ecclesiology, in which the body of Christ is linked with the Body of Christ, most specifically in the pre-natal life of Christ. (here)

Williams’ ecclesiology is formed in the invitation to consider Mary; hands open to God, with eyes open to the world. “If Mary is indeed the image of the true Church … [it is a church] … Hands open to God, eyes open to the world; and within, the hidden energy that soaks the Church with divine action, divine love.” Further, “[t]he church is the humanity Christ has made possible; its real history is the history of particular persons realizing by the Spirit’s gift the new potential for human nature once it has been touched by divine agency, divine freedom, in Christ.” This provides a way to evaluate Fresh Expressions.

With a (birthing) Mary as an image, so can (the birthing) of Fresh Expressions be evaluated by considering how it imitates the posture of Mary, hands open to God, eyes open to the world, a gift of new potential.

Posted by steve at 07:58 AM

1 Comment

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by emergentkiwi, Mark Berry. Mark Berry said: RT @emergentkiwi: Fresh expressions as church at Advent birth. With pic! http://tinyurl.com/33jhbka [...]

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