All posts by rhys

Emerging, Emergent, Missional and Deep Church

Q. What is your relationship to/ involvement in Church? What is your relationship to/involvement in Emerging Church? What is your relationship to/ involvement in Emergent Church? What is your relationship to / involvement in Missional Church? and finally what is your relationship to / involvement in Deep Church?

At this point I am guessing that I have a few readers who can answer all those questions. I welcome those visitors who are here because their Macs, (and they will be probably be macs), are set up to find stuff which contains these “buzz” words. However beyond these visiting “professional practioners” I’m thinking most of us will be struggling to answer all of the above.

I’m guessing that there are a few more people amongst us, particularly the Greenbelt regulars, who will be able to answer some of the above and will have, atleast some understanding of what these questions mean.

And then there will be the humble reader whom I welcome most of all, that is the person who understands the first question but isn’t quite sure what b****ks the rest of it is on about.

What the above should have illustrated is that we have come to a place where the language is becoming a barrier. If other people are like me, in this murky world of specialised terms, they aren’t quite sure how what they do fits into the relevant categories. Therefore, what has sought to be an inclusive movement is increasingly becoming self-defeating due to it’s increasing use of exclusive terms that those outside it’s inner circle of professionals fail to understand or get to the point of not wanting to understand. This over-reliance on buzzwords we don’t understand is something which comes clearly out within Mark Sayers article on Emerging It is also something which makes me worry that Jason Clark of the Deep Church site may be disappointed when he talks of wanting to have “church goers”, (and one presumes the word “ordinary” should be going before it), involved in the ongoing Deep Church conversation.

What I think the “professionals” need to recover is the fact that this “movement” whatever it is, is primarily made up of people simply doing what they do. For example, I am sure that there are those who would argue, (and I would be one of them), that the Wibsite fits somewhere into the web of “church” the questions above referred to. My reasoning here is we are a community, primarily made up of Christians, engaged in regular conversation, sharing our journeys with each other. As a community part of what we are involved in sometimes, through our reading and writing of blog posts and comments, is sharing what God (father, son and spirit) has done in our lives and through this building relationships which have resulted in some of us supporting each other and being supported through prayer and in practical ways at times of crisis. It’s also a place where you may sometimes find icons posted, or prayers, or spiritual poems, (but not normally on this blog), which can be identified as forms of worship. So the Wibsite becomes one of our forms of church, although not usually the primary one.

Many of us are creative people, who naturally reflect God within our creative endevours. This fruits of our creativity may be used in “formal”, “institutional” – “normal” church services, they might be used in themed services, they might simply be shared with others as gifts or they might be kept by ourselves and used or not within our personal spiritual activity. The thing is with it all, whilst what we do and how we do it might be be something which connects us into one of these different types of / ways of doing church we actually normally don’t know or care – we simply like making / creating stuff and often sharing it with other people.

As for the ecumenical stuff and the learning of different practices we don’t necessarily do it in a conscious way, but we do it. Again coming back to the Wibsite, I know I am sharing with amongst others Orthodox, Anglican, Catholic, Mennonite, Methodist and Baptist people. Through what they blog about their everyday I learn stuff about their traditions which I might or might not follow up further. This coming together with others of different denominations is something which is multiplied in my every day life through ordinary interaction with friends, colleagues and such like. Equally I learn this stuff through books and through coming into contact with heritage sites. It all impacts my thinking and wider (spiritual) life and practice. Yet I don’t think of it as getting involved with any new ways of doing stuff, rather I think of it as “chatting to my friends”, “reading blogs and books” and “visiting interesting places”. In terms of how it’s translated it’s not a particular type of “church” it’s prayer and stuff.

So, returning to the questions I posed at the beginning I have to admit I can’t answer them. I know I am involved in some if not all of the above to some extent, even if I don’t even understand what half of them mean. Yet, my involvement is chosen, in that I have to decided what to do and how to do it but it is not conscious because I don’t even know where half of the stuff I do fits in. That is what I think “the professionals” have to realise, particularly if they are trying to build a movement, we don’t need boxes to tick – we just need to be acknoweldged as getting on with it… what ever it is and encouraged in doing so. The role these “professionals” and “facilitators” should have is in helping us think about our practice so we can identify, through discussion, bible study and prayer, which aspects are useful in building ourselves and others up and in helping connecting ourselves and others to God and which aren’t, according to the time and space we find ourselves in.

On this basis I’d be really happy if the ongoing conversation weren’t entitled “Emerging”, “Emergent”, “Deep”, “Post-Evangelical” church or anything else but rather we could all just have a massive chat about what we’re doing and why and what we’ve found useful and why. Perhaps one of these professionals, and it would probably need to be them, because they have the right set of networking connections, could set up it up on Facebook, at Greenbelt and in other spaces. Within this chat we could, perhaps have a talk about the Christian sites we network on and why we find them useful. This, perhaps could then lead to a central directory of organisations and groups involved in all this stuff becoming available. Ok, I know it would soon be out of date, and some groups would want to be below the radar, but if it were online somewhere and became a popular well known resource it would be updated as people went along.

It would be enevitable that the conversation and directory would then be taken into working groups and stuff, and the professionalisation of it would occur but then as is the case at the moment the grass roots would always be doing something. So there you have it, a dream – a dream that we’ll stop getting bogged down by the language and just all get involved in sharing in a big conversation and doing stuff which doesn’t need a technical name.

Pink – Funhouse (A Review)

I admit it, I regressed yesterday and got an ickle excited, going out on the first day of hard copy release, spending money I didn’t really have on something I didn’t really need. So for those of you taking a more of a um, thinking about it attitude here is a review of Pink’s new album, Fun House.

We start with the now, almost annoingly, familiar So What which takes us into the land of sing-a-long cartoon punk. Catchy with attitude, good chart fodder.

The second track, Sober, is classic soft rock; slowed down verses and a power ballad style chorus. Nice string arrangement at the end.

Then it slows right down for I Don’t Believe You. It’s got an acoustic type feel to it and contains beautiful, husky vocals. The word haunting kind of comes to mind and from my first couple of listens it’s my favourite track on the CD.

One Foot Wrong is another track where part of you wants to reach for the throat lozengers, but this one’s got a more blusey feel to it. It’s “nice”, but that’s all.

Please Don’t Leave Me takes us back into jangly sing-a-long land, but again has that acousticy type feel which I love to hear Pink doing.

With Bad Influence we’ve travelled once again into the land of cartoon, pop punk. This one is fun.

Funhouse moves us into more of a funk based dance groove. Not sure why, but Pink’s voice on the chorus really reminds me of Kate Bush. Overall, it’s a really cool song which I liked.

The rich instrumental and vocal arrangements which make Pink’s music a bit more intelligent than the average pop tarts are shown off on Crystal Ball, to great effect.

Mean is another depressing piece of musical mastery, with the lyrics yet again reflecting this album was written around her marriage falling to peices.

It’s All Your Fault decieves with a bit of piano and haunting melody in the first verse before launching itself full throttle into a real f**k you rock chorus, but then it changes direction again with a bit of electronica being thrown in.

Ave Mary A is essentially a dance track, but one with slightly better lyrics than the average.

Glitter In The Air sees the return of the piano and the depressing lyrics.

This is How it Goes Down is another dance track reflecting on a broken relationship and what follows, but from both sides.

The final track, Boring, mixes up dance with cartoon punk and is sufficiently upbeat to ensure you are smiling again by the time the CD ends.

So overall verdict, not quite as good as some of her previous stuff. In part because it seems alot more personal and so lacks the biting social comment of tracks like “Stupid Girl” and “Dear Mr President”. Yet, what should, listening to most of the lyrics, be music to slit your wrists by is transformed into an eclectic mix of beautiful melodies and vocals which are haunting, cutting and ball breaking by turn. In my humble opinion, this eclectic feel to her records is what puts Pink in a field of her own if you look around most of the artists who have commerical success in the popular music industry today. So, a good record worth going out and buying, even if it isn’t as outstanding as “I’m Not Dead”.

Lone Parenting and The Uni Thing

For a few days my flat is filled with silence, until I choose what to put onto the tv or stereo and I don’t have to consider anybody else regarding how much time I spend out of the house or in what to cook. The thought of it is always nice, but when it arrives it generally tends to be a mixed blessing. Within that space is also the opportunity to fall apart without anybody else seeing, and the lack of background noise gives too much time to think and reflect. Additionally, the treats that you stock the house with because you treat it as a holiday at home when you get a break can act as something to induldge in to unhealthy excess. Thus, it has been over the last few days which have in equal measure seen me reach highs and lows of emotion. As I found when I was doing the research for my MA this is not unusual amongst lone parents.

One of the things that has been going on, in part because I also need to get a serious chunk of work to my supervisor by the end of the week, is I have been reflecting on the reality of the move. I realised that being one of the few English people living in an international community and being the only lone parent I am aware of in the building, (or indeed what is developing as my circle), is something I’m taking some time to adjust to. I’m aware that I am making few contacts with people in their thirties and forties, the group who have formally made up the majority of my close friendshp group, due to their proximity to my own age. I’m aware that come Christmas we reach a vaccation when alot of the people I’m getting to know outside of the building where I live will be going home but that Durham is now my home and in some ways through making this choice I have made myself rootless. I am also increasingly aware of how the location of my college is an ickle bit of an issue in terms of being the wrong direction out of the town centre. Add to that the feelings, that I was warned would come, about thinking why did they let me in – I’m not bright enough to be here and I have had a few hours worth of being glad I had got the comfort food and drink in for the weekend. (As an aside here because I know the way this one can go I never buy full size bottles of wine, rather just the ickle two glass bottles – a tip I’d heartily pass on to others who want to be able to control what they have available when they go on a downer).

However, last night something happened and I realised that my attack of the “poor me’s” was not quite what it appeared to be. I got chatting to a few other people about stuff generally and found out from what they were saying that many of my feelings are ones that others in the city experience to, not neccessarily in relation to single parenting, but in relation to similar, related issues.

Then we had a bit of a “hippy spirituality” session at Methsoc which made me wake up to what I haven’t been doing in my spiritual life much since we moved. Alot of the more Celticie, medative stuff works in a similar way to relaxation techniques. I know this stuff does me loads of good and last night it was just what I needed. Part of the benefit of this stuff for me is that whilst it does have a real community aspect to it there is also a place for being alone in it. Thus, the lonliness I can sometimes feel, particularly when Third Party is away, moves from being lonliness to being space to both relax and connect with God in, using a range of techniques which require silence and space.

The other community based side of this spirituality is something else I had been leaving out of my thinking aswell, though, since I got here. With this type of spirituality the fact that I am currently journeying predominantly with people younger than myself is not such an issue. Whilst they are happy to have my company and I am sensitive to their journeying there is stuff we will be unconsciously learning from each other. Similarly, in being placed in my current accomodation I have in some ways been given a gift. If I stop having the “poor me’s” and rather start engaging with my neighbours, through things like the Halloween party I will be using an amazing opportunity, which many in my culture don’t have. Equally in learning to “do” young children and couples more I will be developing in community, rather than wanting only a journey that involves people like me. That’s not to say I don’t want to find more people with similar interests to myself, but it is to say I need to recognise that the nature of the spiritual life is often that we grow through what we struggle with, even though we can’t recognise this until later.

Apologies to anybody who is still here and has realised that today I have basically been writing to myself. I hope you have also been able to get something positive from my rambling, basically the message for the day is summed up in advising you to go explore some hippy spirituality – it’s good for you 😀

Efficient Trick and Treating

It’s another cultural difference I guess – attitudes to Halloween and Trick and Treating.

Over the years I have gotten used to the Christian hysteria about trick and treating followed by the attempts to celebrate something, but not “that”. However, this year it is back to Halloween being a non-sinister excuse for kids to dress up if they want. The difference, I’m living in a block with a whole load of Americans.

Despite the fact that alot of the US contingent appear to be quite heavyweight Christians Halloween is being celebrated in a very organised way. Yesterday, in our mail boxes, appeared mini flyers explaining the arrangements for the festival.

Children are allowed to “trick or treat” between set times and if you are happy for them to do so you attach the pumpkin side of the flyer to the door – to indicate that you are happy for them to disturb you. After that there will be a party, to which one imagines the kids all bring their candy, sorry sweets (getting dragged into the language on the flyer), so the adults can eat it.

Now, I have already had a tip off from an early conversation with an American parents that the costumes I’ll be seeing at the door won’t automatically be what I’m expecting. Apparently, rather than the horror based costumes we have in the US kids go out in more fluffy fancy dress outfits, like rabbits and stuff.

I have to say I am finding the experience of living in a multi-ethnic situation facinating, it really is changing how I look at some stuff.

Also on a sort of related note but sort of not was going to blog about the other nights programme The American Future: A History, by Simon Schama which looked at how faith has shaped American political life. Ignoring the first and last couple of minutes which were “standard documentary” have to say this is one of the finest pieces of broadcasting I have seen in years. As it is don’t have time to go into detail and so will just flag it up as well worth spending an hour with i-player for. Am beginning to realise what an gem BBC Two is.

Academic and Social Networking and e- Learning

The college I am part of organises regular, student-run and student-led, interdisciplinary seminars and today they had one on the use of virtual technologies.

The first presentation was by Esther Dingley who has been involved in setting up Graduate Junction which is an accademic networking site, specifically intended for use by people doing Masters, doctoral or post-doctoral research. She explained the basic values of the site are that is intended to be “simple, uncluttered and necessary”. The basic idea is that it is an international, interdisciplinary site where people academically network, getting in touch with others doing similar research; giving each other support and advice and basically suppporting each other as they do post-grad research. It’s free to register and as a fairly new site,(only started towards the end of the last academic year), is growing. The site already has about 11,000 members in 70 countries, and is endorsed by several universities, including Durham. Yes, I know that was an obvious plug, but it sounds like what has been going on in a very limited way recently on this site, with posts like Jacks’ advice for new PhD students, is something going on on a much wider scale on the Graduate Junction. Therefore, I’d encourage any readers who are post-grads or working with post-grads to go explore and then spread the word about the site, if you like what you see.

One of the other presentations was about the use of Web 2.0 technologies and specifically addressed the differences between Blackboard and Facebook and why teachers may prefer blackboard (or similar VLE type tool) but students often prefer the less regulated world of Facebook. It was an interesting presentation which looked at how social networking is being used by people and how teaching is having to adapt accordingly. The point was made that there is probably a place for both types of network and whilst the teacher will be passive on Facebook they can use what they read there to formally address issues. What is becoming increasingly obvious, through presentations such as this, is that there is a new ethical minefield opening up but that as teachers we must be ready to adapt to the world our students live in. Within all this, from my experience as a teacher and as a general user of networking sites I think the key things to bear in mind are (i) these are best viewed as an addition to the existing tool box, rather than a replacement and (ii) use your common sense, these are public spaces and professionals in these areas, as in any spaces they inhabit with their students, have to think of the possible consequence of everything they say and do. The seminar did give the basic groundrule for the use of sites like Facebook, within them the teacher should remain as passive as possible. There are also a whole range of other issues related to what access to your profile information you allow people to have if you are using Facebook as a professional aswell as a social tool which weren’t explored. Yet, these questions are important on both a practical and ethical level.

The other encouraging thing coming out of the presentation was about how the growth of these new spaces is giving growth to DIY and Edupunk approaches to teaching and learning. This, in English, means that the growth of using informal spaces for learning is letting teachers get creative again.

The final presentation was about using Second Life for educational purposes. Have to say whilst I could see the potential use in some practical based subjects, I was somewhat skeptical about using this type of technology in a humanities classroom. The issues relating to intellectual property and ethical issues relating to the psychological effect of immersing oneself in such sites (where differentiation between the “real” and “virtual” world becomes difficult) were raised. The second issue is one which particularly worried me. Using community space gives issues linked to benchmarking, assessing and control, as the speaker made clear and it is these very issues which would make it hard to assess the psychological affect of the use of such areas on students. However, what the presentation did illustrate is how the resource toolbox is changing and as it does so are the issues which we, as teachers, need to think about.

So all in all an interesting morning, which made me think about the world we now inhabit and the teaching environment which is yet to come. There is obviously far more grey in the world now – for example as our social networks start to link with our professional and academic networks. There are times when the cross over is useful, but equally there are many times when being able to differentiate between the two is equally important. This is why I think Graduate Junction has it’s place. It enables you to network professionally with other researchers in a way that Facebook doesn’t, maintaining the professional role more easily.

Worried Momsie

Can somebody explain when my daughter has been using public transport all her life and has done trips before on her own by train why I have just turned into a bit of a wussy mum when waving her off to head down south? I suddenly got an attack of “it’s a long way for my ickle girl to be going on her own”.

Anyway sure she’ll be ok and have a great time down south and as for me, well I have some work to do but may enjoy the opportunity to socialise an ickle aswell.

Morality Check

Church Times has a facinating article about “moral maturity”. Have to say that I find the article very interesting, particularly the bit about prinicpled conscience and the groups is is highest and lowest amongst.

Not got time to comment – should be working. Read it yourself and come to your own conclusions. What I would say though is remember it is making generalisations. For example I know some very nice civil servants who are actually quite moral 🙂

Reading between the lines

Last night Third Party produced the “Ofsted” feedback letters from her bag. I read her letter first and was immeadiately able to work out what grade the school had got, from my knowledge of what the words Outstanding, Good and Satisfactory mean. Yet I knew that the wording would have none of the loaded meaning to the children reading.

Reading through the 12 page report the parents got, together with the letter from the head gave me a clearer insight into the school my daughter is going to, but only because I understand the jargon and what indicators they are apparently looking for. I wondered exactly how meaningful these documents are to the majority of people who get them with no experience of what the phrases mean in this type of context. I also felt sympathy for the staff who you could tell reading it had been working really hard, but who are facing the problems which are common throughout education.

I am extremely pleased with the school and am glad that it got a grade which will take some of the pressure off.

Guardian Stereotyping and Progressive Coalitions

Looking down the Guardian front page this morning I groaned to myself when I say the headline saying, Evangelicals Ponder Prospect of Obama and then clicked onto the article entitled “Evangelicals start soul-searching as prospect of Obama win risks Christian gains in politics”. Yet again the E word is being used as is if it is automatically belongs to the Republican right and a picture is being painted in the mind of the reader about what an evangelical is.

Having read some of the progressive evangelical work coming out of America from people like Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren it’s obviously not that simple. Whilst the article made brief reference to the wider concerns that are now being looked at by evangelical Christians in the States, (and which Wallis’ latest book The Great Awakening addresses) it doesn’t recognise that this means that evangelicals are now thinking more about which way to vote.

This 2006 article in Christianity Today, by George G. Hunter III explains, from an American perspective what I think the Guardian article is trying to get across. However, the fact it was written in 2006 shows how this change of thinking is not a sudden thing and cannot be related to Obama, rather it represents a shift in American thinking generally which has been happening over the last few years.

For an insightful, and interesting article exploring this in relation to the current election, from a US progressive evangelical perspective I’d recommend Jim Rice and Jeannie Choi’S article in Sojourners. This article explains how age is also an important variable here and how wider questions are now being asked in terms of what it means to be “pro-life”.

Then, just as in the UK, we need to recognise that there are faith based groups within all the parties, not just the Republican Party. There are Democrats who are also evangelicals; the two are not mutually exclusive. Matthew 25 is a faith based campaigning group which is endorsing the Democratic campaign. It describes itself as a group who are “Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal and Evangelical”, again this reflects changes in thinking which are occuring due to Christian becoming, again, the key identifier – although the sub-cultural self-identification is still occuring.

In the UK, I think, we can sometimes fall into the trap that the Guardian has of still holding onto old ideas about American evangelicalism and creating a stereotype. Hopefully, a bit of intelligent reading around the subject in the run up to the elections will help educate us on the wider picture.