- Prodigal -

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling we shall not cease from exploration... (T.S. Eliot)
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Monday, June 30, 2003

A couple of interesting articles which I read yesterday...also, a great article by Steve Taylor, and one by Len Hjalmarson in the latest BCNZ Reality Magazine...both will hopefully appear in an on-line version at some point in the future.

Resurrecting the church, April 4 2003 By Barney Zwartz. In The Age (Australia).

falling in love with the sacred other - an interview with David Tacey - Anglican Media Melbourne, May 2003.

"RA: One of your students has said, "churchianity has virtually destroyed Christianity." What are some of the reasons your students are giving for not going to church?

DT: I think it's quite common for young adults in Australia to make a difference between "churchianity" and Christianity. They don't appear to see much connection between the radical spirituality of Jesus who was sort of meeting people out in the streets and in their suffering and darkest moments, and the church which seems to be, as one student of mine said last year, as far removed from human experience today as the church or the synagogue was in Jesus' time."

Paul Fromont 6/30/2003 01:03:00 PM
Sunday, June 29, 2003
"...I'm part of a growing group of Christians that is often labeled the "emerging church". Most of these people are not charismatic let alone prophetic but they recognize the
irrelevance of today's traditional church. In this group I see a much deeper reconsideration of what it means to follow Jesus Christ and what church should look like

Excert from an e-mail sent by a friend. Leighton Tebay is the author.

So what might an emerging expression of church look and feel like which takes the experiential - the presence and activity of Spirit seriously? What if we held the "Charismatic" in tension with the emerging - what if we drew from it like we do the "Ancient" - What if we regarded the emerging church as a prophetic sign - as prophetic embodyment? What about practical expressions of the gifts of the Spirit...what about words of knowledge....?

An interesting 'twist' by Steve Taylor last week, and which I see was picked up by Mike Riddell (again on Steve's blogsite)

"...Steve also saw a white rabbit when he drove into Carey Baptist College a few weeks ago. With the words, “follow the white rabbit” in his head, the rabbit looked at Steve, jumped off the road, over the edge, heading south. (Matrix fans will appreciate this guidance more than others!) ..."

"...right before Enliven I dreamt I was at the airport waiting to fly to Christchurch because (for some reason) we were having it down there. When I woke up I thought it was odd, but now I realise God was just preparing me for future expanded-Graceway ventures..."


"'Follow the white rabbit' - I like that. A postmodern word of knowledge..."

Paul Fromont 6/29/2003 12:55:00 PM
Saturday, June 28, 2003
Companions into the Future : Bibliography compiled by Kevin Ward, Steve Taylor, and Paul Fromont

This bibliography arose as a result of the recent "Unconference" here in Cambridge. People asked for a list of books, having to do with the emerging culture and church, that would companion them on their continuing journey into the future.

Liquid Church by Pete Ward.
The Missionary Congregation, Leadership, and Liminality by Alan Roxburgh.
Catch the Wind by Charles Ringma.
The Prodigal Project by Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson, and Cathy Kirkpatrick.
Retrofuture by Gerard Kelly.
The Church on the Other Side by Brian McLaren.
Changing World, Changing Church by Michael Moynagh.
In Search of Authentic Faith. How Emerging Generations Are Transforming the Church by Steve Rabey.
Soul Tsunami: 10 Life Rings for you and your church by Leonard Sweet
The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West . . . Again by George Hunter
Reaching a New Generation: Strategies for Tomorrow?¦s Church by Alan Roxburgh.
The McDonaldization of the Church: Spirituality, Creativity and the Future of the Church by John Drane.
Alternative Worship by Jonny Baker.
Ancient Future Faith by Robert Webber

Paul Fromont 6/28/2003 12:36:00 PM
Thursday, June 26, 2003
Some comments by a friend have got me thinking over the last week about “gathered church” and ‘spaces.’ How well do we create “pick and choose” ‘space’ for people, spaces that allow people to engage with God relative to where they are on their journeys and the kind of issues they’re dealing with in their lives? Multi-layered spaces - Quiet space, grieving space, conversation, communal, and mentoring space; multi-dimensional participatory learning spaces; singing spaces; prayer and contemplation spaces; liturgical space. How well do we respect, and make space in the gathered life of the community for the life contexts in which people find themselves? How well do we provide choices for people that respect their integrity and needs? How well do we create ‘spaces within which people can nourish their Spirituality?

Cathedrals perhaps made some allowance for this when they created space called “chapels” within the larger building. McDonald’s ‘restaurants often have “children’s spaces.” The July edition of NZ House & Garden has an article about NZ author Elizabeth Knox’s house – the text included the following, “…The new addition…is bare, spare and soaring…the perfect place for a vivid imagination to run free…Elizabeth Knox considers herself a migrator and a cave dweller (“I do tend to move around the house when I’m writing.”)…The house has small “womb rooms” and big spaces…”we said (to the architect) make our house a little Buddhist retreat…[as a matter of interest, what might it mean to make our homes a Christian retreat?]…

Paul Fromont 6/26/2003 11:56:00 PM
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
I’m in the early stages of organising an unconference in Cambridge (NZ). Dates are June 13-14. Kevin Ward and Steve Taylor will be ‘framing’ our thinking and conversation with presentations on the following:

Rugby and Church: Worlds in Conflict? Where have we come from? What’s been happening to the church in Aotearoa New Zealand?

Romeo & Juliet: A visual way of thinking about our changing world. Identifying some of the broad contours of the culture within which we find ourselves as church.

Gospel & Culture – The church in Aotearoa New Zealand as God’s mission. The contemporary culture/church interface. The church is missional.

Eating McDonalds in Aotearoa New Zealand. Cultural changes and their effect upon Spirituality in Aotearoa New Zealand

A Practical Story of Change Graceway Baptist as mission: Insights along the way; possible challenges for the future.

Christian Spirituality – The Disconnected Church. Spirituality and Modern Films. New Possibilities for Showing the Relevance of the Gospel in a spiritually hungry culture

The ‘programme’ will start Friday evening and conclude late Saturday afternoon. The hope is to create an unconference experience, one that will hopefully reflect a broader understanding of the ways in which we learn, and one which might model some creative ways in which we can resource people, individually and corporately, on their respective journey’s.

More details will appear in due course. If you'd like to be kept in the 'loop' please let me know.

Paul Fromont 6/25/2003 12:31:00 PM
Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Saturday was an interesting day - a parable of Spirit and Culture. Spiritual Direction with my director in Mt. Maunganui in the morning - the Spirit present in the presence of questions, speaking, and silence. Then, all the 'jazz' of international rugby that evening - the All Blacks versus Wales with Kathryn, my Father, my Father-in-law and myself in the crowd of 25,000 - the Spirit present in the midst of culture - in multicultural crowd of young and old. Modern and Postmodern.

Paul Fromont 6/24/2003 03:28:00 AM
Thursday, June 19, 2003
Moved from the "edge" to the "core" yesterday. From "unconference" and exploration around the edges of church to the gathering of a people within an Anglican lunchtime communion liturgy. Ancient tradition. Contemporary text. Scripture. Liturgy / communion at the "core" of my spirituality, at the centre of my working day, and at the centre of the business heart of the city. A parable of my holding in tension the grace that reaches down through time, and the grace to return again to the edges. I need the nourishment of ancient Christian tradition at the "core." I need both "core" and "edge". Both enabling me to be fully present to God who calls me...

"We who are many are one body for we all share the one bread."

Paul Fromont 6/19/2003 06:31:00 PM
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Church leaders as “entrepreneurs.”

I had my final board meeting as a member of the Waikato board of the Bible College of New Zealand (‘BCNZ’) last week. Related to the BCNZ I had an interesting but brief couple of conversations with Kevin Ward at the weekend’s “unconference” (Kevin had been involved with an lecturing at BCNZ in Christchurch). One of his comments was that Regional centres of BCNZ need “entrepreneurs,” be they board members (where the board drives the mission of the centre) or regional deans (where they ‘drive’ the mission). We didn’t get to tease the statement out particularly far, but it got me thinking. I think the times we are in need leaders gifted as entrepreneurs in our theological learning/resource centres. Entrepreneurs who will engage biblically and theologically engage with culture; who will build and create where once there was nothing, who will turn ideas into reality, who will deeply listen to church, margins, and culture; people who will be able to read the topography of the land, people, who like Joshua will actually physically scout/spy out the land on the other side of ‘the river’, and who will begin to develop, resource, and introduce ‘edge’ programs which recognise the importance of the core but at the same time ‘stretch’ the edges out into the ‘world.’ People who will take the kind of pioneering risks that will begin to ‘flesh’ our new futures, new possibilities, and new ways of connecting with contemporary culture.

Might leader as “entrepreneur” be an important need within church communities today and in the early years of this significant transitional era?

A BCNZ regional centre exists on the fringes of church and culture. As such it exists as a missional (a problematic but useful term) organisation. Like churches we still expect people to come to us, to fit into our programs, to choose from a menu of our constructing (i.e. no ‘customer’ consultation) etc.

Imagine if missional practitioners / writers like Newbigin, Roxburgh, Riddell, Taylor et al (contra “the 'pure' academic,” be they OT, NT, or Systematic) funded, at a very practical level, the activity and focus of the centre? Imagine if one of its primary metaphors for thinking about its life was that of a “missional outpost” – how might that metaphor ‘drive’ practices, values, praxis, and priorities? How might it form and shape both biblical / theological content, and the delivery of that content - church and learning institution...

Paul Fromont 6/17/2003 01:04:00 PM
Monday, June 16, 2003
Metaphors for missional engagement

Reflecting on an e-mail I sent to a friend, and the weekends "unconference."

Immigration has become a very divisive and evocative political issue in our Australasian context. However, with movies like “East is West” and “Bend It Like Beckham,” or a novel like Zadie Smith’s, “White Teeth” (together with it’s British TV adaptation) serving as a visual backdrop, I wonder if "immigration" might effectively serve as a metaphor or motif - a way of contextualising and thinking about the church as a “pilgrim people;” a marginal or exiled people who live in particular cultural contexts, but in that context are not fully at home? Might it serve as a way of talking about the missional engagement (whether to affirm, to hold a neutral position, or to subvert) with culture? How about conversation between generations, each new generation in effect having a role as “immigrants” within the cultural contexts and practices of preceding generations?" Immigration as a bridging metaphor; a way of talking about leaving my world to enter yours? Immigration as a way of bringing together distinct ‘worlds’? How about “immigrants” as a way of updating or contextualising the term, “missionaries?” How about “immigration” as a way of thinking about the reaction and response of culture to church? We are immigrants in a post-modern / emerging culture! We are present to it, live in it, but there is so much that is still foreign...so much to learn, to experiment with, and to do...

Paul Fromont 6/16/2003 11:51:00 AM
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Well, The Unconference has come and gone. It was a wonderful experience...registered participants early in the week for very low, but picked up to approx. 25 people at various times over Saturday. Not that numbers are super important, but they are very affirming that this emerging journey is the experience of 'flesh & blood' others. Steve and Kevin worked really well together - a good first time experiment for them. The two guys that showed up in their leathers and on their Harley's loved it.

Aside from the content which I'll blog about over the coming weeks, it was great to see the level of interaction, connection, conversation, and participation from a very diverse group. Kevin and Steve did a great job...I can't thank them enough...I got a real sense of some of the things that Jonny and others blogged about Steve's time in England...and in Cambridge he wasn't jet-lagged :-) The group really warmed to them and by the end of the day there was great naturalness with many staying, pulling some chairs into a circle, and asking questions of Steve and Kevin, sharing their own insights and experiences, and praying.

It's interesting that with a few very clear exceptions, the 'heart level' connections - the sharing of a common language, affirmation, dreams, passion etc. was most natural across diverse denominational and church connections, rather than across persons within the same church community...I wonder what that might say about going forward...the conversations, the sharing, seem to be one more thing that moves me increasingly outside of my church community, where the language, the stories, the values, the priorities, the energy, the creativity, the investment, the outward focus etc. is markedly different for a whole lot of reasons...I wonder about the marked differences in focus between this "unconference" and those 'conferences' and events that have more of a focus on self and are significantly more 'popular'. However, wondering aside, the 'smallness' and the comraderie of pioneers and marginal / edgy persons was a wonderful antidote for lonliness and the misunderstanding that tend to accompany any significant journey outside of the mainstream...

The Taylor's have stayed here for the last two nights - a time my household have really enjoyed...the children are watching "HI FIVE," laughing and singing along...I'm typing this, and every other adult is catching some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz's.

Thanks for your prayers everyone, and to Ben, Geoff, and Janette, a HUGE THANKS for all your help in adminstrating and pulling the day together...

Ben has revisited "The Beach" - if you click on the graphic under photo's from the unconference you'll find a few photographs..

p.s. I'll also link to some of the web-published content for those interested in a glimpse of what was covered.

Paul Fromont 6/14/2003 01:49:00 PM
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
I would appreciate your prayers over the remainder of the week. I have organised with some very much appreciated assistance an "unconference" in Cambridge this weekend - featuring Steve Taylor and Kevin Ward. Starts Friday night, and finishes Saturday about 5.30pm. Pray that the God as Creator, Wind, and Fire is active amongst us. Pray for Steve and his family, and Kevin and his family. Pray that lot's of people from my church community will attend, will learn, will be stretched, and will enjoy the experience. I see this as a significant learning / growing opportunity as we seek to be all that God has called us to be as a local expression of the body of Christ. It's a great opportunity to better balance our upward focus, our inward focus, and especially our outward focus.

Some of the topics include:

1. Rugby and Church: Worlds in Conflict? Where have we come from? What’s been happening to the church in Aotearoa New Zealand? [Kevin]

2. Romeo & Juliet: A visual way of thinking about our changing world. Identifying some of the broad contours of the culture within which we find ourselves as church. [Steve].

3. Christian Spirituality – The Disconnected Church. Spirituality and Modern Films. New Possibilities for Showing the Relevance of the Gospel in a spiritually hungry culture [Kevin]

Steve sent me an e-mail last night asking for the following:

one pastel per participant
paper A4 size - at least 3 per participant.
one CD per participant (these can be used or old - i just want people to write on them)
markers to write on CD's
fishing line and 2 sticks to make a mobile out of the CD's.

Can't think of the last time I got handed items like this when I sent to a "conference" :-)

I'm both nervous (as first-time organiser), and excited as a participant...it should be a fun, streatching, and creative learning experience. Looking forward to time with the Taylor's and connecting with lot's of people...

Paul Fromont 6/10/2003 01:15:00 PM
Monday, June 09, 2003
An interesting lecture, the Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Lecture 2002, titled, SPIRITUAL SOCIETY, SECULAR CHURCH? Delivered by The Revd Mark Oakley (excerpt below). I really enjoyed reading it over the weekend.

“…As well as acknowledging some failure we also, primarily, need to acknowledge what it is we love and are drawn to as Church, namely the reality and freshness of God as Mystery. To my mind, to reclaim the truth of God's hidden and transcendent Mystery will be absolutely vital over the next few years and it will be a truth that will need careful interpretation at a time when the word more usually translates as "problem" or "uncertainty". And here lies the problem. Where there is a quiet sense of regret that the Church just doesn't work for us anymore it is by and large, because the language being used lets us down.

This has been noticed well before now, of course, but so often the remedy has been sought by trying to make religious language and the words of worship relevant. Instead, I want to argue that the languages of faith should not so much be relevant as resonant - if you can, I hope, like me, see a distinction. Resonance touches us at a deeper level of understanding, it does not so much answer a need, impose closure, tie things cosily together, as recognise the need and push us, sometimes with discomfort, further into the exploration. A columnist seeks relevance in what she writes. A poet seeks resonance. Resonance is constantly engaged in, what Martin Amis has called, "the war against cliché".

Our society at the moment has a suspicion of authoritative languages but, in its desire for relief from its addiction to novelty, is searching for those words that we might just be prepared to die for. In his cell Bonhoeffer thought our most important prayer was that for a language that could reverberate and sound fresh, one layered with comfort and challenge, enabling recognitions only as the words are spoken. We are still praying…”

You will find the lecture by clicking here and then by selecting “lectures,” then the “Eric Symes Abbott Memorial Lecture 2002”. Then select the “2002” lecture by Mark.

Paul Fromont 6/09/2003 12:50:00 AM
Saturday, June 07, 2003
Lord, Holy Spirit, beyond, within, above,
Beneath all things, you give us life.
Blaze in our hearts, you who are Love himself,
So we shine like the noonday sun

James K. Baxter

Pentecost was expected - It was beyond expectation! (See Acts 1:6 ‘…Lord, are you at this time are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel…?”) – It’s beyond imagination. It warns against narrowly perceiving of God and God’s ways. One of our big dangers, as Eugene Peterson talks about in an essay on 2 Samuel 6-7 , is the tendency to “domesticate God,” to take charge of God. “…Uzzah was in charge (he thought) of God and meant to stay in charge. He had God where he wanted him and intended to keep him there. The eventual consequence of this kind of life is death (“death” to the aliveness of God), for God will not be managed…” We try to ‘contain’ God, to ‘box’ God in, “…but God will not be put and kept in a box, whether the “box” is constructed of crafted wood or hewn stone or brilliant programs, ideas, or fine feelings…”

Holy Scripture posts Uzzah, Resurrection and Pentecost as DANGER SIGNS for us. “We do not take care of God; he takes care of us…” “Uzzah’s death was not sudden; it was years in the making…”

Just as Uzzah’s death was years in the making, so is the inevitable ‘death; of a church or an individual that ‘dies’ to the “aliveness” of God; that ‘dies’ to an awe and worship of God; that ‘dies’ through becoming ‘small’ and ‘narrow’ in it’s thinking and practice; that ‘dies’ in its domesticating and ‘taking charge’ of God; that ‘dies’ in its inflexibility and unwillingness to change – in it’s narrowing of the scope of the prophetic word of God to words of comfort. Fires are a natural way of clearing old growth, and generating new growth. Fire is a natural part of a healthy natural ecosystem.

Fire of God clear out of my life that which is dead
Clear away death to make room for Life
Make room for mystery
Make space for BIGNESS, for imagination, for creativity.
Free me from the narrowness that constricts you
Free me increasingly from the tendency to take charge of you.

Paul Fromont 6/07/2003 03:19:00 PM
Friday, June 06, 2003
The latest North & South magazine (June 2003) for “thinking New Zealanders,” has a really interesting article (well written by Lauren Quaintance) on one of my favourite NZ Poets, Dr Glenn Colquhoun (pronounced, ‘Car-Hoon’). I ‘mined’ some good connections from his life to my perspective on issues of mission within culture, and “space”:

Colquhoun speaks in the vernacular of those for whom he is a GP (Medical Doctor in general practice - rural). [In NZ we talk about ‘speaking the lingo’ – the native vernacular of people groups].

It’s about old-fashioned doctoring, where physicians aren’t fly-by-nighters in a hurry to a more lucrative city practice but are part of the communities they serve…”

Colquhoun ‘…lived slowly enough so that my heart caught up with me…” [This seems to me an important reflection is a significant influence on my practice of creating space, in the presence of God, for people to let their hearts be moved, to create space for hearts and their feelings to be expressed…]

He “is someone who’s really made an effort to find out where Maori (the community he lives amongst) come from…” [Taking time to deeply listen too, and reflect on people’s life stories, to listen to where they’ve come from, the formative influences and shapers in their lives].

If you pay respect to the community and say ‘you’re worth visiting’ and wipe their kids’ noses or kiss their old ladies they will listen to you. You’re not inside until you’ve been there a while and show you’ve got a heart for the place. If you don’t why shouldn’t they tell you to ‘f**k off!”

Paul Fromont 6/06/2003 03:10:00 PM
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
A slightly amended statement from the May edition of Chrysalis Seed News that caught my attention...

"Christian art" (whatever that is) doesn't of necessity have to be deeply serious, angst-riven or religiously momentous. As triple Oscar winner Nick Parks, the unpretentious creator of claymation stars Wallace & Gromit, has said, "I've come to believe that [simply entertaining people and making them laugh] can be pleasing to God...there's pressure to be radical and make statements with your art. If you link that to being a Christian as well, then it get's really exaggerated."

Yeah! We need more laughter, more fun...so tell yourself your favourite joke and laugh heartily...

p.s. I'm suprised by Alan's voice, but then that might explain Guiness and a few other little characteristics...like...he's a great lad!

Paul Fromont 6/03/2003 03:37:00 AM

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