Monday, September 21, 2009

ways into small missional community [6] small is good

here's the latest in my series of postings for the Small Missional Communities online network

It may not always feel like it, but I want to suggest that when we start something like a missional community, small is good! I'd go on to suggest that smallness may even be good throughout the life of a community.

Be assured that there are really tough things that go with smallness - fragility, vulnerability, lack of recognition to name just 3 - but these challenges are full of possibility and hope.

Small is good because it opens the way to participation. If the thing is small it requires us to be involved - and when we get involved we both shape and are shaped by the experience.

Small is good because it takes us into relationship. This path can, of course also be hugely uncomfortable. But it's in relationship with others that some of our rough edges become beautiful shapes, that Christ may be glimpsed as we learn to live, argue, accept and perhaps ultimately love our traveling companions.

Small is good because it has a vitality that cannot be easily defeated by difficulty, let-down or even persecution. The experience of people who attempt this way is that in the exposed state of smallness there can be a rediscovery of the God who is closer than we can imagine.

Perhaps we should not be surprised to discover that small can be good. For 2000 years would-followers of Jesus have banded together in small groups to share the journey. It could be argued that the Church has been at its most vital and authentic when characterised by being small - and that we have struggled to live the way of Christ whenever we have become big, powerful, or the majority. So don't be afraid of smallness. Work with it, embrace it, love it. Small is good!

visitor to our yard

emerging conversation

Emerging people here's a brief piece I've done on Emerging Church for Fresh Expressions. Anything you'd want to add or change?

Emerging Church is a term that has been used to describe a coming into being from the early 1990s into the 2000s of communities of people trying to follow Jesus in postmodern culture.

Emerging Church is not one single unified movement, and is not contained in any one denomination, but is rather a flowering of low key, grassroots and diverse groups, primarily in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Emerging Churches understand themselves as being part of an evolving conversation. Most would resist being closely defined, and use of the term 'Emerging Church' is seen by some as carrying complications and restrictions. Shared themes include participation and non-hierarchical patterns of organisation, the place and possibility of community, engagement with the arts, a commitment to issues of justice, peace and the environment, and through it all a desire to work out what it might mean to follow Jesus in diverse and fast-changing cultures.

In the UK Fresh Expressions is currently taking the inspiration, learning and questions of the Emerging Church to a wider constituency.

For a wider view on Emerging Church, and an analysis of the main themes worldwide, the book 'Emerging Churches' by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger [SPCK 2006] remains an excellent resource.

Friday, September 18, 2009

ancient prayer practise day

Looking forward to the next StillPoint day conference on the ancient Eastern Orthodox Jesus Prayer practise with Simon Barrington-Ward. Places still up for grabs - go to the StillPoint website to book.

with Simon Barrington-Ward
Friends Meeting House
St Giles Oxford

Friday, September 11, 2009

a slow-burning revolution in Christian identity

thanks Jonny Baker for flagging up this article in the Guardian by Theo Hobson on Greenbelt. Seems to capture the current spirit of the festival well.

ways into small missional community [5] being shaped by our setting

Here's the next in the series of postings I'm doing on ways into small missional communities:
At various times in history Christian mission has tended to clone what has gone before, with little attention being paid to the context. One example might be the way in which, with the best intent, some 18th and 19th missionaries simply took the model of an English parish church and [literally] rebuilt that church and way of life around the British empire.

But the Gospel - the good news of Jesus - is a story of incarnation, of ‘God with us’ where we are, as we are, coming into our experience of the world. Christ’s coming gives dignity and attention to human culture.

So, whilst holding key elements in common - such as the new beginning of baptism, communal life nourished in the Jesus meal, love of the scriptures, and Jesus's practises of prayer and action - we should expect the life of Christ-following communities to reflect something of the brilliant diversity of human culture.

One of the most compelling possibilities for small missional communities is that they can reflect their context, celebrate their setting and energise their local culture. A truly authentic communal following of Christ will be shaped by and shaped for our setting.

There’s lots of ways into this, but here’s 2 opening questions that may help us to find a way in where we are:

What are some of the elements that make this community/neighbourhood/network distinctive? And if Jesus was one of us in this place, where would he be, what might he be doing?

[Look out for the next posting coming up in this series: small is good]
Peace to you

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Greenbelt 09

Great Greenbelt festival again. Can't quite get round to cutting off my wrist band yet. Highlights included staying with Matt Pippa and Lily, the Welcome Wagon in the Performance cafe, a moving talk by Bishop Gene Robinson about his story, going to mayBe's fashionable pace event, the bluegrass eucharist by HASS, inspiring conversation over coffee with theologian Rita Nakashima Brock, catching up with friends and making new ones, the Visionaries art exhibition, hanging around with Gail on Monday - and heh I enjoyed doing my material too, seemed to go well. Pics are of Gail and Heather at the Tiny Tea, the Welcome Wagon and Harry Adams brilliant 'Study of the Thames 1711' pic.