Time Travel

OK, this just made me laugh!!

The ‘Grand Challenges’ for Theology in the 21st Century

The Complex Christ asked what these ‘grand challenges’ are.  Here are a few highlights that inspired me to think:

Vanessa Elston (teacher) In very basic terms how do we move from a reformation/protestant/enlightenment emphasis on the salvation of the individual to one of communal participation in salvation.

As protestants we get so hung up about the reformation and the need for personal salvation.  When taken to the extremes, people can become only concerned about the moment of conversion.  When this happens we lose all grasp of discipleship and community living.  We forget the shared experience and how to carry each other on the journey.

Becky Garrison (writer / satirist) The challenge is finding ways to communicate theological change without becoming yet another crass Christian marketing machine.

This is a difficult one.  We are to be missional.  We are to attract people to the gospel.  We are to market Jesus.  And yet we’re not…

And a word from Kester himself:

However, finally, the question is whether any of this is any different to any other time in history. If these are the grand questions now, have they ever been any different? And if not, are we failing in our theological practice, or simply evolving to cope with a changing world?

The challenge is believing in a God who is the same yesterday, today and forever whilst living in a world that is not.  Truth was present before the world and after it and yet we move through a time of change.  I don’t beleive that the church facing the challenge of change is a new phenomenon, I am sure that in all centuries there have been great obstacles that need to be overcome, issues that need to be faced and conflicts that need to be resolved.  The question is, how do we today engage our issues with the God of truth who was and is and is to come?


Why start a new alt. worship event?

I have been asked to “be involved setting up an alt. worship service” in a church “aimed at the 20-30’s”.  This raised many questions for me – such as are the 20’s-30’s an appropriate target group and should we be looking to see what the demographic of the area is?  It has made me get back to basics and dig out Dan Kimball’s emerging worship and start putting together the list of key questions that I need to be asking at the meeting we are having next week.

  • Why are we going to do this?  Us it just to jump on the band wagon?  Are we just trying to be hip and groovy and down with the cool cats?
  • Who is the service going to be aimed at?  Are we just looking as supplementing the worship of people who go to other congregations or are we being missional?
  • What is the relationship between this service and the rest of the church?  Are people just going to see it as a way of funnelling people into the ‘main’ Sunday services?  What about finances?  What about the long term planning groups….etc…
  • What about the ongoing spiritual journey?  Is there going to be any additional structure for the people attending the service?  How are real relationships going to be fostered?
  • How are we going to organise the services?  Who is going to be involved and how do you get them involved?  How do we facilitate people as they develop the social capital to be involved and use their gifts?

The list goes on and on…  At least I will be prepared to ask the difficult questions.

When does Worship Start and Finish?

I am currently writing a dissertation about how to engage alt. worship with Anglican Liturgy.  One of the interesting dilemmas it raises is the language we use to describe our worship.  I find myself using phrases that try to explain a cohesive theology through each and every sentence.  It is difficult to find a wording that sums everything up that isn’t a paragraph.  Let me show you…

When the singers get up to worship…

But worship isn’t just singing.

And the musicians got up to lead the sung aspects of the worship…

But the worship isn’t confined to this service.

As the singers got up to lead the music in the sung aspects of the service that formed part of the ongoing worship throughout each day of the week…

I’m sure you can see the problem.  The language is either insufficient to convey a complete theology of the nature of worship or it is so unwieldy that it becomes unusable.

My old lecturer in liturgy once complained about the way each service he leads ends.  At the end of each service he would instruct everyone to ‘go in peace and serve the Lord’ and lead them out of the door.  As this happened each and every member of the congregation would sit down in silence.  He called them to action and they proceeded in typical Anglican fashion. 

I wonder what would happen if the Church of England authorised the words “Time to leave church and go and worship” as a form of dismissal.

Fairtrade Fortnight

This marks the start of fair trade fortnight.  A self employed man from our lent group was espousing the joys of fair trade in the world of business last week.  He had been challenged by another entrepreneur that fair trade goes against the principles of business.  Business is there to make as much money as possible.  He then went on to explain that fair trade may be against the principles of business but making money at the expense of others was against his own principles.  Personally, I feel that even this fair trade ideal is the only way that society can function and still call itself ‘human’.  To use others in slave labour and sweatshops is inhuman. 

However, I get the feeling that what started as a great ideal may have become sucked into the world of corporate branding.  Why do I say this?  The leaflet I was handed yesterday was produced in a wonderful glossy format resplendent with fantastic images. The tea picker in Africa was washed and dressed in the finest clothes money could buy before the photographer went out and took a very arty shot (plenty of bokeh) of her in the field. It looked more like a model shoot for Vogue.  Having spent a month last year working in Kampala, the whole thing looked very artificial. It felt like a brand marketing exercise has begun from this inspired ideal.To put it another way, there is another company that has an ideal that benefits those it touches. 

Weight Watchers produce products that are low in calories and fat.  Many of them are only produced as weight watchers products and have no other counterpart.  However, weight watchers wine is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same dietary requirement as any other bottle of wine.  In the same way, fair trade wine sits on a shelf next to bottles of Sancerre.  In the same manner, at what point does fair trade become a branding exercise and miss the real issue behind it – making the mainstream brands sit up and take notice and fairly trade their products.  Fair trade should in theory be putting itself out of business as it no longer becomes necessary to change your brand to ensure that there is global trade justice. 

Think fair trade.  Eat fair trade, drink fair trade and wear fair trade.  Insist on fair trade.  Not just from Café Direct but from whatever brand you would like to drink!

Emerging Women

A cartoon at ASBOJesus has prompted some interesting debate about the role of women in emerging church leadership.  The consensus is that the number of women in leadership of the emerging church is “criminally low”.  This made me reflect upon the people I know who are in leadership of various things that could be categorised ‘emerging church’.  Here are the statistics…

  • They are all between 20-40.
  • There is a 50:50 split male female.
  • They don’t have kids.
  • They are either single or in a relationship with someone else who is involved in EC leadership.

So what are the official statistics?  Has anyone done an EC census?

Make the Worship Change Me

I have recently been discussing the worship at our local church with a member of the PCC and the new vicar.  I was asked what I wanted to happen in worship.  My response was that I didn’t really mind what style of worship it was but I wanted to be changed by the experience.  I want to arrive at church as one person, be taken on a journey and leave fired up to do something important about it during the coming week.  One of the things I said was that, for example, a sermon should inspire me to action.  It should lift me up and kick me up the bum.  I don’t even need to agree with it for it to affect me, but I need to be spoken to.

As I sat down to my dissertation this evening having not looked at it for a while the first thing I should come across is a quite from David Stancliffe, the Bishop of Salisbury in his book God’s Pattern:

It is the preachers task to make this encounter with Jesus a living one, where the incarnate word is enabled to take root, and the radical change in us that the gospel demands can be helped on the way.


We have been watching Kevin Smith’s latest offering with the TV series reaper.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Kevin Smiths work, he is a bit of a cult film director whose films usually deal with American teen dropouts like Jay and Silent Bob.  Reaper slots straight into this category with all of the usual Kevin Smith cues and styling.  Teenage dropouts?  Check.  Low paid job?  Check.  Officious manager?  Check.  Failing love interest?  Check.

Reaper is an ongoing tale of a teenager whose parents sold his soul to the devil.  He is recruited to bring home those who have escaped hell through the use of strange demonic artefacts.  It’s all good fun 😉  Now in the words of my wife “Kevin Smiths theology is usually very good”.  Considering he is an obvious atheist with a cutting wit, there is some truth to what she says.  When you watch Dogma, he challenges the norms but he does it with a good degree of knowledge about the orthodox.

So why does this make it’s way onto my blog?  Well my wife and I just spent 5 minutes dissecting the view it gives of the underlying theology of hell/the devil that is predominant in society.  The devil is set up as a guy who has been given a task by God.  He is the policeman who needs to ensure that wrongdoers are kept in prison.  It is just a job.  He isn’t portrayed as evil as such, just performing a nasty function and enjoying it a little.  He is a bit like ‘the freak’ Ferguson from Prisoner Cell Block H just enjoying being the person who was given the task.

“When your parents signed over your soul they didn’t think to negotiate holidays”.

The big shame is that God doesn’t even get a mention


General Synod

It is with great interest that the controversy over Rowan Williams remarks chunters on.  The BBC’s correspondent had this to say after his speech in synod after which there was some very outspoken criticism.

And he should have had some idea of how the very word Sharia is enough to drive reason from many minds.

All that said, though, the damage he has caused is minuscule by comparison both with what his critics are doing and with the good he himself has done.

I think this sums up my feelings on the whole matter.  There is so much emotion running the debate that academic reasoning seems to be cast aside as an unnecessary inconvenience.  People on both sides of the church want to use the debate to wield a big stick.  The secularists want to wield a the debate as a big stick.  I think it is time people stop arriving with an agenda before the debate takes place.

Sharia Law

There has been huge controversy surrounding the Archbishop of Canterbury this week because of his remarks in a radio interview about the inevitable adoption of Sharia law parts of the UK.  As with most modern news reporting there is “widespread recognition that the shape and form of his remarks was inappropriate but have been spun out of recognition”.  It would seem that most people are not concerned with what he has said but more with what he is perceived to have said.  The heated debate between the various factions within the CofE will no doubt continue regardless of anything I have to say here in this little corner of the internet.

However, the debate that the Archbishop has started is an interesting and important one for those of us who live in areas like West Yorkshire or Lancashire.  We have increasingly large Muslim communities living in these areas paralleled with a sharp rise in support for the BNP and their right wing views.  Communities are becoming deeper entrenched into separatist areas with little contact between communities.  There are large areas where the languages that are spoken are predominantly not English whilst in other areas, the cross of St George is brandished as a warning shot across the multicultural bow.  To suggest a two tiered system of law is to further erode the social cohesion to which many are working towards.  The Archbishop has sparked this debate on a national level but it has raging for years in the North of England.  That said, his remarks may at face value seem to be in the interests of a multicultural society but they are in fact divisive.  It will be interesting to see how the matter is treated in General Synod this week.

Hopefully the north can work towards the greater levels of social integration experienced by the cities of the south.  The debate continues…