Wednesday, February 08, 2006

the emerging church in 2005: a visual summary

What does the emerging church look like? More specifically, what does the emerging church look like in 2005?

postcardsglobalmastersummary250.jpg And they say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. So, why not gather a visual date stamp? Why not invite an emerging church to send a picture of their life? Collected together, they could offer a visual narrative of a year of life lived.

Thus Postcards05 germinated. I posted the concept on my blog in mid-December and invited anyone who wanted to send a postcard. I worked up a generic template, hoping for visual continuity. I never got my wished for postcards from France and Serbia. But I did get fifteen postcards from 8 countries; Ireland, England (5), Australia (2), Canada (2), New Zealand (2), Germany, Malaysia and Denmark (and had email conversations with people in Japan and South America).

Today I printed out all 15 postcards and wondered if there were some repeated echoes.

Variety; emerging church groups were emerging among many denominations – Lutheran, Anglican, Baptist, Church of Christ, Pentecostal – to name a few. There were postcards from church plants and replants, from congregations and mergers. God is at work and life is emerging in very diverse contexts.

Beauty; half the postcards captured moments of beauty in worship. The aesthetics were rich and multi-layered. The spaces were diverse and creatively indwelt. The symbols – of paint and pastel, DJ deck and duct tape – arose from the whole of life. The environments pictured suggest a shift from performance to “aggregation”, in which the whole of worship is greater because every person participates. There is a sense of worship, not for internal pleasure, but as the outflow of a vibrant, world-facing Christianity.

Culturally engaged; their were pictures from cafes and pubs. When asked for a music track that summed up the year, music from outside the church was a recurring theme. These are groups that, in the words of Tom Beaudoin, are birthed in the amniotic fluid of popular culture. The Word is being enfleshed as God is heard and expressed in “our own language” to paraphrase Acts 2:6.

Integrated spirituality; the use of labyrinths, a missional presence at Mind-Body-Spirit festivals, the finding of a faith at work, all are evidence of the quest for an integrated spirituality that embraces the whole person in all of life. The postcards are shaped by a questing, not for packaged belief, but for a vibrant spirituality that can make sense of, and flourish within, contemporary culture. Christian traditions and Christian Scriptures were inspired the living of an authentically Christian life.

Relational gospel; half of the pictures were of people gathering, relaxing, talking, walking. Food, drink and café table are prominent. A relational gospel was enacting a relational mission. For many groups, the best missionary moment occurred relationally; as the poor were fed, the migrant welcomed, Tsunami victims blessed, a local hospital painted and the lives of prisoners transformed. Proclamation of God’s presence in the world was being embodied in action rather than word. Whether these mission moments are capturing the fullness of mission is worth pondering into a new year.

Conclusion; So that’s Postcard05, a visual datestamp of the emerging church in 2005. It’s not global, because if you didn’t speak English you would have found it hard to participate (and if you did speak American you weren’t invited:)). Nor is it representative, because if your emerging church moved in different networks, you might never know of the invitation. Nor did I offer any editorial control and attempt to decide whether a group was emerging or not.

I simply collected a visual date stamp of the emerging church in 2005; a visual montage that shows an immensely varied, yet relational understanding of faith; a collection of postcards that point to a culturally integrated and engaged spirituality that is expressed in moments of aesthetic, participatory beauty and relational mission.

Link for all 15 postcards

Posted by steve at 02:15 PM


  1. cheers for these steve, they have been a facinating read. Sorry moot didn’t get its act together and join in (doh!)…

    Comment by gareth — February 8, 2006 @ 11:12 pm

  2. Cheers Gareth. They were a lot of fun to put together. No sweat about not having anything from moot – I wanted it to be all relaxed, no heckling over Christmas – I will probably do it again so how about next year!

    Comment by steve — February 9, 2006 @ 10:13 am

  3. thanks for the compilation. it was cool and encouraging all at once.

    Comment by joe — February 9, 2006 @ 12:25 pm

  4. thanks a lot for that summary and conclusion of the postcard series. i really liked it. and if you are doing again, we will be with you ;]

    Comment by [depone] — February 11, 2006 @ 6:50 am

  5. I found this so interesting and encouraging. Thanks for doing it! Mum.

    Comment by Elizabeth T — February 15, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

  6. I found this so interesting and encouraging. Thanks for doing it! Mum.

    Comment by Elizabeth T — February 15, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

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