Tuesday, May 17, 2011

is it my eyebrows? or my ecclesiology?

Prodigal Kiwi, ever the electic, has been listening to Rowan Williams at the recent Fresh Expressions launch, while reading my The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change book alongside an essay by spiritual director, Sheila Pritchard.

He reckons there’s a link. I hope it’s not the eyebrows! As, I suspect, does Sheila Pritchard!

I suspect it’s because as Rowan Williams in 2011 peers into the future (from under those eyebrows), his vision for diverse forms of church finds concrete expression in some forms of church that I suggested back in 2005

  • house
  • labyrinth
  • collective
  • weekly participative
  • festival
  • monastic

including a table in which I outlined strengths and weaknesses of each. (Cos there’s no such thing as the perfect church!)

Posted by steve at 07:21 PM

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

Friday, October 01, 2010

pioneer leaders as attending to birth narratives (thanks Rowan Williams)

A few days later, I wrote a post reflecting on the need for pioneer training not as technique and structure, but as a way of deepening spiritual and emotional intelligence. I read the following quote this morning:

“And the sense Christ makes is not in his masterly reorganization of the world, his provision of explanations and programmes, but in his comprehensive loving, forgiving attention to the world that has somehow brought him to birth.” (Rowan Williams in the brilliant Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin).

This fits with my presentation at the Evaluating Fresh Expressions Research Consultation, including the image that I used during the presentation, of fresh expressions emerging from the Orans icon.

Christ is wanting to be made real in the world. As Mary says yes, so to we are invited to say yes, to be part of bringing to birth fresh expressions of the body of Christ.

This is not steady as she Sunday goes leadership. This is why I major on listening and discerning in my leadership courses. In the 21st century, new forms of church are being brought to birth and we are invited to pay attention to what is being brought to birth, to recognise the contours of Christ. This is leadership that seeks to be both spiritually and emotionally intelligent.

Posted by steve at 11:16 AM

Saturday, September 11, 2010

icons as theological treats

Some theologies use words, a hard, exact and careful reflection regarding the best words to use to articulate limited human perceptions of God. In contrast, icons use pictures, not words. This is not a creatively free-flowing task, but a careful task, aiming to faithfully pass on Christian thought.

I’ve found myself tremendously enriched in recent days by two of Rowan Williams books: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin is a theology of the Incarnation, while The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ, offers a theology of Resurrection. Both utilise Orthodox icons as their starting points. I love this explanation of icons:

the art of making icons is often termed “writing” rather than “painting”; an icon presents the figures and events of the Bible and church history in paint rather than ink.

Icons for me do three things extraordinarily well. They help me think theologically. They help me think visually and in colour. They remind me that theology is about relationship with God.

It’s been a joy to sit with these two books on that explore icon’s theologically by Rowan and realise just how deep these three wells can go. With Rowan’s gifts, the theological depth is extraordinary. The invitation to prayer and contemplation is artful. They have been such a helpful gift for me in the last month or so, reading until a sentence or two captures me, and then using that for prayer and God-focus during the day.

Posted by steve at 07:16 PM