- 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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Belonging and Not Belonging: The creative margins.
The “Body Art” Of Emerging Church
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FutureChurch - A Platform for Emerging Forms of Spiritual Community
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Thursday, July 31, 2003

Off to Auckland to hear Gerard Kelly tomorrow, to catch up with friends, and generally hang out with a group of leaders exploring and thinking about the future and its implications for church leadership and mission - should be cool...

Gerard Kelly, 43, is the author of the book RetroFuture and is an outstanding British Christian creative thinker in the areas of mission and leadership.

US Christian leaderTom Sine has recently said that he believes Gerard Kelly provides 'new insights I have never come across in any other literature on the future. Gerard Kelly helps us to grasp the implications of waves of crashing change for our lives and churches and to find creative ways in which we can respond.'


Paul Fromont 7/31/2003 12:57:00 PM
Found these on-line "sample" articles from "The Way Supplement" interesting - Desire for the spiritual in popular culture by Thomas Casey; and Lear and Eurydice: Religious experience, crisis and change by Rowan Williams.

To find them, go here, then select"back numbers" and scroll to the bottom of the page.


Paul Fromont 7/31/2003 12:38:00 AM
Monday, July 28, 2003
I just want to echo Steve's blogpost from yesterday, and draw attention to Jordon Cooper's fine reflection - "Seeking Goes Digital...Church Stays Analogue" (posted July 26th)

Another exciting development and as Jordon highlights, a real challenge for us "analogue churches."

Quote for the day

"Why do I read? Because I don't know everything.Reading is an act of humility!"


Paul Fromont 7/28/2003 01:31:00 PM
Sunday, July 27, 2003
Reflecting on a conversation I had with a friend from church – reflecting because it resonated with broader issues of church and mission, and a ‘cut and paste’ commentary I read on Darren’s blogsite over the weekend –

If I can be a little blunt, most of the Christian blogs that I read are not about experiences of people engaging in first world mission. They seem by and large to be the collective "cuttings and pastings" of people with little or no practical experience in postmodern mission. Any kind of original thinking is simply cut from one site and pasted to the other until a small circle of bloggers are talking second and third hand about someone else’s experiences, living vicariously though others (the few) mission experience, simply feeding our "blind to our own eyes" consumerism.”

Comment by Stephen from “Stinky Convoluted Past”

It was a life-giving conversation yesterday morning at church. The one small opportunity to bring something of my ‘inner’ life, thinking, and feelings into ‘church.’ An opportunity to listen and to share honestly – a brief conversation that moved beyond the ‘shallows’ – an opportunity to be a little more transparent. It centred on a person (outside of ‘church’) observing, wondering why Christian’s often have few or no deep friendships with ‘non-Christians;’ why we tend to live in Christian ‘bubbles’ disconnected from the world (outside).

My friend felt that her conversation with this person was like a mirror – a mirror in which the reality as seen by someone ‘outside’ of a ‘church’ context was reflected. I liked the analogy. People ‘outside’ of church. People who believe but don’t belong. People who don’t believe and don’t belong are all potentially “mirrors” (like Jesus; like Scripture) allowing us (‘church’ in this case) to see ourselves as we are seen; allowing us to be critiqued and challenged. The ‘tragedy’ – we often don’t listen, we have few deep connections with the wider culture (“outside the “bubble’…”); our language and topics of discussion are ‘in-house’ and therefore serve as barriers; we have few deep friendships with people outside of church; we prefer the comfort of the Christian ‘club.’ The conversation resonated in lot’s of ways – 360 degree performance evaluation in the business world; visiting a large church campus in LA in 1995 – complete with it’s own bookshop, gym, restaurant etc. (it’s own little self-contained ‘village); my MSN conversation with Rachel on Saturday. It resonated with lots of experiences, observations, and thoughts; it’s resonated with me as I am. On one hand I need to be more intentional about not just living “vicariously.” On the other I need the conversation (with 'outsiders' esp but also with 'insiders'); I need to “cut & paste” – to engage with; to think; to question; to be enriched by the insights of other wayfarers; to be connected with wayfaring and growing others. Thanks for the conversation; thanks for the openness, thanks for the encouragement.



Paul Fromont 7/27/2003 12:10:00 PM
Saturday, July 26, 2003
Feature on a musician I have a lot of time for: UK's Adrian "TRICKY" Thaws in today's Sunday Star times:

"...The dull, mainstream pop stuff ain't working for people any more. You know, after 9/11, and after Bush has gone and set all that negative shit off, stuck his stick in that beehive, music that genuinely touches your soul is going to come back into fashion...people are going to need their souls touched any minute now and it'll be us independent artists, the risk-takers, who'll be doing the touching..."


Paul Fromont 7/26/2003 08:34:00 PM
More commentary from Sally Morgenthaler – this time from her February 25, 2003 column.

“…Walter Brueggemann wrote a book entitled, Finally Comes the Poet. Perhaps that title should be applied to our worship. Finally, comes the poet. And the poetry. The watercolorist, and the watercolors of the Via Dolorosa. The local writer and the responsive readings with cello accompaniment. The local theologian and the digitized Apostles' Creed, read against a panorama of local photography. If our responses were spread across a full palette of expression, I wonder if we would care as much that the worship style was dead-on our target language.

Not only that, but what if the poet, the artist, the photographer, writer, and the theologian met each week to plan worship for their community…”

I like the notion of a team getting together to “craft” worship for their community, but I’ve never experienced it, I’ve mainly ‘crafted’ content for gatherings like SPACE by myself (but not everytime), I’ve never been in a team that really knows what they doing, does it really well, and is energised by the experience. What are some of the components of these team-get-togethers? What does a good one look and feel like? What does it assume with regards to its members? What does it expect by way of output? What nourishes the team, its life together, and its creativity?



Paul Fromont 7/26/2003 01:34:00 PM
Friday, July 25, 2003
Rugby football was the best of all our pleasures; it was religion and desire and fulfilment all in one

John Mulgan, Report on Experience, Oxford University Press, 1947.

Thought this quote was appropriate as the country gets down to some serious “religion” later this evening when the NZ All Blacks play the Australian Wallabies.


Paul Fromont 7/25/2003 04:49:00 PM
Thursday, July 24, 2003
“…Compelling worship also enables people to express a diverse range of emotions and circumstances, from tender moments of lament to unbridled praise and all the increments in between. Doubt and trust, patience and pleading, anger and peace, dejection and euphoria . . . as opposing as these emotions seem, they're all a part of the human emotional palette. And as such, they should be part of the worship canvas, at least, if we want people to be able to bring their real selves when they come through our doors…”

Sally Morgenthaler

In her April 20, 2003 column, “Worship Focus Column” for PreachingPlus.com. “Thanks” to Jordon Cooper for drawing my attention to Sally’s column – it’s very good and I'll be following it.

I don’t know about your experience, but this is one of my big laments: that we don’t create that kind of spaces, whether spatial or chronological, within which people can give expression to the whole range of human emotion as response to God – we minimise worship down to such a very narrow range of emotions and life circumstances…I leave most of who I am, my needs with respect to God and others, my preferences, my feelings etc. at the door.



Paul Fromont 7/24/2003 01:02:00 PM
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Some on-line articles by Kevin Ward who spoke recently @ our Cambridge "Unconference". Enjoy!

Christendom, Clericalism, Church and Context (pdf)

Church and Rugby

Religion in a Postaquarian Age (pdf)

Spirituality, Fantasy and Film. (pdf)

Believing without Belonging (pdf)

Rethinking Church for New Zealand (pdf)

Spiritual Survival in Ministry (pdf)




Paul Fromont 7/23/2003 01:32:00 PM
Monday, July 21, 2003
Referring again to the High School mentioned yesterday, the number 1 influence on changing its culture from complacency and mediocrity to “high achievement” was “strong leadership.” I’ve been reflecting a lot on church leadership (in general) and wondering if there is sufficient understanding of the distinction between “management” (planning, e.g. specific details, timetables, resource allocation; organising; controlling and problem solving; stability) and “leadership” (establishes direction and the values which underpin ‘culture’; align people (gifts, skills, and focus); motivate, encourage, and inspire; introduce change and resist equilibrium within the community). My experience of churches has been that leaders focus almost exclusively on management tasks, and very little on the more demanding role of exercising leadership (a role which demands more by way learning; prayer and discernment; strategic (medium & long-term) thinking and reflection; investment in research, evaluation, and informed debate; the building of strategic partnerships etc.
Fair / Unfair?



Paul Fromont 7/21/2003 01:10:00 PM
An article on our local high school got Kathryn reflecting on our church experiences in provincial, small town New Zealand and wondering if there was a connection…? “One of the things I had heard during the year, mainly from within the school rather than outside of it, was that you really couldn’t expect much of country kids…that country kids were nice and amiable, but they were pretty average and complacent…” Do we settle for mediocrity with regards to who we are in Christ, to doing and being church? It was a good question.


Paul Fromont 7/21/2003 03:08:00 AM
Friday, July 18, 2003
Caught in the flutter of Steve 'the butterfly' Taylor's wings I found myself in a movie theatre at lunch time with my eldest daughter to watch, "Piglet's Big Adventure."

Steve's reflection

"All this has interesting parallels to how we read the Bible. In modernity, we placed tremendous emphasis on the book. We dedicated a lot of energy to arguing about direction.

I suspect we forget to tell the story.
As we tell the story, our lives are changed.
And in doing so, we just might find the object of our search and become Jesus people, tremendously energised to live his story..."

Mine

Piglet's book of memories - storied snapshots - moments in time - is destroyed...the stories are lost and Piglet is lost, but Pooh and company decide to communally recollect / rewrite history, this time paying attention to the fringes of the story, usually inhabited by Piglet, whose heroic's pass unnoticed until now - Pooh and friends see the edges of the stories in new ways, they notice Piglet and the very central role he plays. They draw Piglet, placing him in the centre of the stories, and stick those images to the inside walls of Piglets home.

First point - We often tend to focus on the centre - the gifted person up the front, the obvious people contributing to the gathered life of the church but so often we miss and fail to appreciate the fringes, the Piglet's whose presence enriches the whole, whose contribution isn't noticed or appreciated until they've left or aren't around anymore.

Second point - Thinking about church spaces - the physical places where we meet. The walls of Piglet's house tell stories. The walls have texture. The walls as frames for visual images and stories told. What communal stories do the physical spaces of our church building tell? What experiences of God are we carrying with us from the 'gathered community' into our everyday context? What everyday stories are they bringing with them into the gathered community? What adorns our 'walls'?

For those who know Rachel and read this blog. I talked to her last night and she's a bit brighter and seems to be on the mend. Keep her in your prayers. She needs to take it easy. Also keep Steve in your prayers as he presents his lecture tomorrow (Sat.) morning at 9.30am at the "Poetics of Exile" conference.



Paul Fromont 7/18/2003 02:39:00 AM
Monday, July 14, 2003
Thinking about this statement by Ron Martoia overnight,

"If leaders aren?¦t healthy, learning, dreaming, praying, and creative individuals, then how are we to expect the church to be any of those things?"


Questions I?¦d like to ask church leaders (lay or full time) one day (feel free to send me an e-mail in response to any or all of them. Some of which I most post on this blog)

What were the last three ?§church?¨ leadership books you?¦ve read? When were they published and when did you read them?

What were the last five books you read on the emerging church, western mission, or postmodernism? How many were authored by practitioners under the age of 40 years?

What specific church leadership training have you participated in the last 24 months?

What resources have you most learnt from with regards to change management?

What periodicals and websites do you regularly read or visit?

Are you being mentored as a leader?

What were the last three books you?¦ve read on biblical and/or theological topics? (an example could be Miroslav Volf?¦s book, Exclusion and Embrace)

Are you receiving ongoing Spiritual Direction?

When was the last time you went on a guided retreat where contemplation was one of the central focuses?

How do you actively engage with culture and mission?

Who are the five people who most inspire and encourage you with respect to the leadership role?

What helps you renew, refresh and nurture your creativity and energy for leadership?

Would others describe you as teachable? Why?

Who, living today, most inspires you to engage with the biblical text?

Who, living today, most inspires you to biblical / cultural engagement and praxis?




Paul Fromont 7/14/2003 12:56:00 PM
I finished my written report on the June 13-14th “unconference” and noted the question of “leadership” as a challenge facing our church community going forward. It was therefore interesting to read the following paragraph in what looks like a very interesting, and nicely published book called “MORPH” by Ron Martoia (If I’d had the book when I wrote the report I would have put his statement in it – a nice way of endorsing my reflection!). I remember Jordon Cooper (read his 12th February, 2003 review and interview with Ron. Linked from his blog page - here) positively endorsing (as has Leonard Sweet and Sally Morgenthaler) it some time ago so it was nice so see it finally arrive on the “new releases” section in our local Christian bookshop. I note also a brief comment by fellow blogger David Finch – see his archive 8th March 2003.

Martoia writes

“…Leaders are the ones responsible for the flavour, feel, and direction of the local church. If leaders aren’t healthy, learning, dreaming, praying, and creative individuals, then how are we to expect the church to be any of those things? A changing, healthy, growing leader cannot but have a church that s l o w l y, over time takes on that kind of ethos…”

Jordon asked him this question, “What are some of the things that help refill your creative spirit and keep you fresh in ministry over the long term?

His response perfectly echoes what I would say, except that I’d add “hot showers,” “spiritual direction,” and a quiet/reflective environment.

“…Reading is the single biggest breath of fresh air for me. It is simply my learning style and it keeps me fresh and reflective. Writing, travel, being in community with others that really are hungry to grow contribute hugely to the freshness quotient for me…”


Paul Fromont 7/14/2003 01:57:00 AM
Friday, July 11, 2003
Nice quote in today's Weekend Herald by Kiwi rapper, Mareko:

" I'm trying to open a door and build a bridge for my brothers to walk over..."

Seems that that's what a lot of us living in the "margins" - the leading edge of change with respect to church are trying to do...


Paul Fromont 7/11/2003 02:57:00 PM
Thursday, July 10, 2003
In his own gifted and unique way Alan Creech has recorded his attempt at a Kiwi accent (it had Kathryn and I rolling around in fits of laughter) - a timely twist on a post by Darren Rowse yesterday (July 10th) when he explored the links between a blog persona and reality.

Steve Taylor has posted my first attempt, ever, at using a "bach pack" to create an easter "tomb scene." Visit the 'dedicated' web page and read more about the experience - nice picture of Rachel and Regans reproduction using glass from the broken window in their car...



Paul Fromont 7/10/2003 11:55:00 PM
A great 2003 interview with Tom Wright.

Tom was consecrated as Bishop of Durham in York Minister on Thursday 3rd. July. He begins his ministry in the Diocese in October 2003.




Paul Fromont 7/10/2003 12:26:00 PM
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
I had a brief conversation with Dan (MSN) yesterday afternoon about why we read and why we blog. It made me think of something Michael Moynagh said in Changing World, Changing Church -

(p.79)"...Today, although people still identify strongly with where they live, with familiar landmarks…increasingly they know people in their locality less well. Their friends are drawn from further afield. They still want to mix with people who are like-minded, but ‘like-minded’ are less often people from the same place or the same social background. ‘Like-minded’ are people who share common interests…communities of place are giving way to networks of interest..."

This is becoming increasingly true of my experience.



Paul Fromont 7/09/2003 12:26:00 PM
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
Not much to say today...got a nice e-mail from a Canadian couple who read and article I write for THE OOZE last year. Very encouraging -

"Dear Paul --
I greatly appreciated your article, "Belonging and Not Belonging." I'll be passing it along my pastors. We have a young, Saturday night congregation that is very much unstable in the sense that we have a small core, but lots of "drop-ins." How to encourage commitment without bashing people over the head with tithing, serving, faithful attendance sermons . . . I love the idea of being "open at the edges." Jesus always was, after all. In any case, thanks. I'll look for future articles of yours
. . ."


A couple of little Ronald Rolheiser columns I've really enjoyed and found very insightful and useful:

The value of ritual in sustaining prayer

Obstacles to prayer

Merton and contemplative prayer


Paul Fromont 7/08/2003 01:00:00 PM
Monday, July 07, 2003
An interesting article in Sunday’s newspaper, Spirits in a Strange Land (a feature built around a recent award-winning anthology of New Zealand Spiritual verse called, Spirit in a Strange Land.

The columnist writes….”the popularity of this book belies two myths about New Zealanders. Supposedly we don’t like to discuss – or even think about - religious matters, unless the religion is rugby. And supposedly we dismiss poetry as the reserve of sissies…[however] poetry is one of the places where New Zealanders have wrestled with problems of identity – including spiritual identity.”

Wind of the Spirit blowing inside and outside of the fences! So why isn’t this book, Glenn Colquhoun’s poetry collection “Playing God,” (this years Montana Poetry Award winner), or Simon Brown’s “Parables and Poems” (This collection springs from the tradition of revealing God by telling stories.) in my local Christian bookshops? I wonder how many people outside of church communities are wrestling with Spirit, identity, the stories of their lives, and the kind of poetry giving voice to deep struggles and deep questions and everyday living? I wonder how central discussion of Spirit, Biblical text, culture, or religion more generally is within the everyday life of the people of God? Certainly these topics amongst many others served as markers around which our journey through the weekend with Rachel and Regan was formed and shaped – where six people were gathered God’s Spirit was blowing amongst us – we were church gathered around the sacramental moments of food, of wine, of beer, of conversation, of silence, of friendship, of storied lives, of rugby league at the pub, of grocery shopping, of movies…



Paul Fromont 7/07/2003 12:02:00 AM
Saturday, July 05, 2003
Read this article in Saturday's regional newspaper under the headline, "Weekend Ritual Not to be Missed"

It was talking about the "ritual" of Sunday morning walks with friends - "the plan was that a small group of friends meet in town, park our cars by a favoured cafe, walk for an hour around the lake, then back to the cafe for coffee, breakfast and catchup..."

"...The lure of exercise, good food and good gossip was hard to pass up. Added to this was the worry that I might miss something if I wasn't there...four of us have been assembling for about seven years to walk and talk...a lot get's covered: children, husbands, in-laws, work, health, elderly parents, big stuff, small stuff. Rule 1: Never walk so fast that you're two puffed to talk..."

A ritual built around movement, journey in the company of others, the opening of lives to others, conversation, food, coffee, deep commitments, friendship...

Would that that was true of the church ritual that many of us go through each Sunday morning...would that it was a Jesus-centered community built around the rituals / practices of friendship, community, biblical engagement & reflection, deep conversation, connection to life and living (the everyday stuff), meals, coffee, around journeying together, around actually moving and growing in the company of energised others etc.

And the first rule, "travel slowly enough together that you get to talk, make space regularly, share life, share life experiences, get below the superficial, journey in the same direction..."


Paul Fromont 7/05/2003 08:20:00 PM
I'm just chatting to Alan Creech, and scared him by sending him a voice file or three...again it impresses upon me how small our world is...John Janzen's CD playing in the background...two of my blog friends inhabiting my space via two different media...

Alan's view of my accent.

"dude - you've got a thick accent - true Kiwi I reckon"


Paul Fromont 7/05/2003 07:26:00 PM
Friday, July 04, 2003
Thinking about church and about "perpetual cycles of innovation" and trends. I've heard a few people wonder aloud - "is this post-modern / emerging church 'thing' just a fad, or is it the leading edge of significantly different ways of being and doing church that - something with longevity?" Does it really matter? As a consequence of belonging, of being a part of new things that are emerging, my central questions will remain - "am I increasingly loving God in a holistic fashion, and am I increasingly loving myself through God's eyes and am I therefore increasingly able to love others as myself...? John 22:37-40.



Paul Fromont 7/04/2003 04:19:00 PM
Thursday, July 03, 2003
I went to see "Bruce Almighty" last night. I enjoyed it. I few thoughtful moments, lot's a laughs...

Rachel and Regan are coming down for the night...always great to see them...an evening or two of fine food, wine, conversation, and movies will be the central rituals of our weekend.


Paul Fromont 7/03/2003 01:19:00 PM
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Today we remember the life and death of St Thomas, Apostle and Martyr.

Collect – Christ our light, like Thomas we need to see, need to touch, need to be sure before we believe. When we don’t know, help us to trust; when we can’t see, help us to keep on walking.

A wonderful prayer for these transitional times. Jesus’ reaction to Thomas’ request encourages me that he knows my humanity; he knows my multi-sensory needs to see, taste, touch, taste, and smell.

The gospel reading was John 20:24-31 with verse 31 in particular reminding me again that Jesus came that we might have LIFE in his name...I got to wondering what kind of "life: church presents to the world, and are we in fact more about restricting and narrowing life than living life...?

A good little article by Ronald Rolheiser, “Faiths Darkness



Paul Fromont 7/02/2003 11:16:00 PM
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
I’ve been a man between texts today. I read, at lunch time, the final chapter of A Better Way: Rediscovering the Drama of God-Centered Worship (pub. 2002) by Michael Scott Horton today (The Rev. Michael S. Horton (Ph.D.) is associate professor of historical theology and apologetics at Westminster Theological Seminary in California) – a book recommended by Sally Morgenthaler. His quoting from an essay, “Talking to Generation X” by Sarah E. Hinlicky, and is words about “perpetual cycles of innovation” with regards to Church practice stick in my mind, and make me a little uncomfortable, but I don’t know whether I need to be. The other text was some great writing by Steve Taylor, which blew away the uncomfortableness and restored clarity in my mind. Thanks Steve.

Hinlicky writes:

“…You may think that fashionably cutting–edge liturgies relate to us on our level, but the fact is, we can find better entertainment elsewhere. The same goes for anything else you term "contemporary." We see right through it: it's up–to–date for the sake of being up–to–date, and we're not impressed by the results. In any event, you're not doing us any favours by telling us we're so important that age–old prayers and devotions can be rewritten to suit our personal whims. We know intuitively that, in the cosmic scheme of things, the stakes are too high for that…”

Read more here or click on the essay title above.



Paul Fromont 7/01/2003 11:48:00 PM

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