Great excitement in Adelaide all this week, as we’ve been teaching at Tabor College. Lots of engagement with themes that, to be honest, we’ve become so familiar with that we’re surprised how much excitement we’ve stirred up. New forms of church, Fresh Expressions, Mission Shaped Ministry – all stuff that we take for granted in the UK, but which is news (and very good news, it seems) to Christians in this city. Meetings with the archbishop as well as students (all of whom are also church leaders – and from a wide variety of traditions and types of church). Some of them have found it a bit challenging hearing from a female church mouse, but that’s not especially new in the grand scheme of things. Overall, the experience has made us quite proud of all that has been accomplished in UK churches in recent years, and also makes a trip to the other side of the world worthwhile as we realize we have been bringing totally new thinking into this situation. Whoever would have imagined that tired mainline churches in the UK would have so much to share with others worldwide. Something to do with the missio Dei, probably.
Archive for November, 2009
Walking round the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, we came across this exhibition:
People are often telling us we need to ‘grow up’ and ‘act our [supposedly very old] age’, yet in terms of how we see the world, its potential and possibilities, we often feel we’re still teenagers. How can people who are not in their 20s or 30s possibly qualify as ’emerging’? Well, this theme may be the answer. The notion of being ’emerging elders’ appealed to us as soon as we saw it. And of course we are not alone, by a long way. Emergence doesn’t automatically correlate with age. Meeting with Robert Banks in Sydney the other day, he commented that for some of the people he meets, it looks like ’25 is the new 70′ in terms of young people’s outlooks (specifically, some Christian young people), which for him (now at 70) looks like they’re going backwards. We recall Lesslie Newbigin saying something along the same lines twenty years ago, which shows how old we really are – and gives us something to live up to as well. Growing old and staying young is a great adventure.
While this blog has been quiet for a bit, we’ve travelled to Australia and taught a week long intensive course in Sydney – hoping that we might find an odd moment to blog here, but it’s all been so busy this is the first chance, now the course has ended. A good week with Australian church leaders, mostly young (20- and 30-somethings) and mostly seriously engaged with the missional questions of what church might look like for the 21st century. And the minority who weren’t quite ready to engage with all this at least kept their opinions to themselves and didn’t disrupt things for everybody else – which is probably about as good as it gets.
The questions here have a familiar ring about them. When is a spiritual engagement ‘real church’ being one of the most prominent. How do you tell the difference between something that’s an outreach activity designed to get people into the churches we now have, and a missional community that is itself ‘real church’? Issues of power and control surfaced perhaps more than they might in some UK contexts, and it’s probably fair to say that some people (maybe a majority) found it hard to believe some of the creative things happening in UK mainline churches. Just as well we have the Fresh Expressions DVDs to show them, and all the website resources connected with that, otherwise some would have thought we were making it all up. So we have ended the week with a feeling of gratitude for all the networks we are a part of in the UK, and those of you who are reading this in that context need to know that what we are all engaged with is out in front when compared with other places around the world. Of course one reason for that is the reality that we know our traditional churches are in bad shape. But we’ve also learned how to read the culture in such a way as to recognize signs of God at work. In one discussion this week, somebody commented that our emphasis on connecting with those people we have called ‘spiritual searchers’ wouldn’t work in Sydney, because there are none here. The reality is that Sydney is host to the single largest Mind Body Spirit festival in the entire world! How easy it is to be so insulated in our own spaces that we don’t see the bigger picture. Yet the importance of building bridges is right there in the city centre:
And we took this ourselves. Clearly, having something iconic helps develop your photographic skills.
Next stop is Canberra, and meetings with the Anglican diocese to help them work out how they might introduce Fresh Expressions and the Mission Shaped Ministry course there.