Wednesday, April 07, 2010

being church in a time of cultural change

Flat out preparing for a class on changes in religion in Australia. Amid all the sociological theories and depression over declining numbers, the work by Kevin Ward back in 2002 stood out.

“One of the great points of hope for the church is that sociologists suggest we are moving away from an era of rampant individualism into a new communitarian era .. one in which people bring a strong sense of individuality and will therefore be marked by a high degree of diversity and variety … We urgently need to finds forms of church life that resemble a community of touch teams much more than they resemble the local rugby club … If we are willing not only to give the freedom for this kind of evolution to occur, but also to provide resources to foster it, we may find not only a form of church life that actually engages with and incarnates the gospel into the culture in which we are placed, but also, surprisingly, one that more resembles in essence the church we find in the pages of the New Testament.”

Probably the last thing exhausted ministers might want to read this side of Easter. But it does provide a window on the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection, that sense of impermanence and willingness to meet Thomas in a different way than Mary, in a different way than Peter.

Posted by steve at 05:14 PM

Monday, February 22, 2010

Archbishop Rowan Williams on fresh expressions of church, ministry, sacraments

There is a fascinating podcast of Archbishop Rowan Williams being interviewed about fresh expressions, especially in light of the Synod report just out regarding fresh expressions. (Hat tip Jonny and originating from a collective in Nottingham called Nomad (who seem to have a knack of interviewing some interesting people, including Tom Wright, Greg Boyd and others)).

I’m teaching a class on Church, Ministry, Sacraments in the first semester and might just use the podcast in my first lecture. Here’s is my summary of the Archbishop:

Church is people encountering Jesus, with others, in a life changing way. This happens through the baptism and communion (sacraments). This has also happened in the past, and thus we have the tradition of the church. The task of ministry includes the gift of discernment – of seeing God giving gifts to the church, both in contemporary culture and historically in the tradition – and of learning how to use these gifts – God’s gifts to the church – creatively and well. Key challenges for fresh expressions of church include giving time to listen, to appreciate the words rubbed smooth by generations that can carry us when we find life thin. Key challenges for existing churches are to appreciate new forms as real stuff, and not just an eccentric fringe.

Note how similar the ecclesiology (understanding of church) is to what the Archbishop wrote in 2004, in the Foreword to Mission-shaped Church: Church Planting and Fresh Expressions of Church in a Changing Context

‘church’ is what happens when people encounter the Risen Jesus and commit themselves to sustaining and deepening that encounter in their encounter with each other (vii)

I wonder what would happen if all Vicars pinned that wee definition to their Prayer Book?

Posted by steve at 10:40 AM