Saturday, January 26, 2013

a (UK) sabbatical update 2

Well first, sadly, some more of team Taylor departed, leaving me alone in UK for next 4 weeks. The very isolating part of the UK sabbatical has begun.

This week I began trying to implement my book proposal and test if my method would work. In essence, I’m trying to think about the wisdom of experimentation by telling stories. Specifically, stories of churches doing things differently. The stories are congregational studies, and I am placing them in conversation, to see what themes emerge, what wisdom they can learn from each other. It’s an attempt to implement an approach to understanding church by Nicholas Healy, Church, World and the Christian Life: Practical-Prophetic Ecclesiology (Cambridge Studies in Christian Doctrine), who argues that the most life-giving way to be the church is through being the church, what he calls a “theodramatic” approach.

So we gain more insight about being the church on mission today by storytelling among communities who have lived it. The stories have to be ethnographic, based on people living with churches and surveying participants, not just interviews with a leader likely to spin and spruik. There is one major continuous story, my data on Cityside over 10 years, and ten other selected stories, from four countries.

So this week I was immersed in two concrete stories.

First, Matthew Guest’s study of one of the largest and most influential evangelical charismatic churches in the UK, St Michael le Belfrey, in York, in which is also nestled an emerging church called Visions. His book Evangelical Identity and Contemporary Culture: A Congregational Study in Innovation (Studies in Evangelical History and Thought) based on living with the church for 12 months, attending worship, interviewing, surveying. It’s a wonderful book, full of rich and perceptive insights into being church based on lived experience, not theory.

Second, Tracy Robinson who wrote a Masters thesis, based on participant observation and interview methods to explore a Fresh Expression in Oxford. She concluded that the worship of this emerging church emphasised movement and change rather than rootedness and stability, which is better for some types of people than others.

So a week of note taking and writing up what learnings emerge as these two churches talk to each other, and to my main case study, Cityside Baptist over 10 years.

Plus a week of organising – pulling together trips in the week coming to Bristol on Sunday/Monday and a trip to Cambridge on Thursday/Friday to do research on UK experiments 10 years on.

Posted by steve at 09:31 AM

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