- Prodigal -

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The "Kama Sutra" of an Emerging Church: Positioning Ourselves to Engage the Senses
Interview by Karl Thienes
Belonging and Not Belonging: The creative margins.
The “Body Art” Of Emerging Church
My voice
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FutureChurch - A Platform for Emerging Forms of Spiritual Community
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Saturday, August 30, 2003

It's been a good weekend. Preached this morning on "Persecution" - The Martyrdom of Stephen & The Persecution of the Church. TEXT: Acts 6: 1 to 8:4.
Friends, Rachel, and Phil MCredden were woven into it - Rachel's quote from, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (about Stained glass windows), and Phil's blogpost where he quoted martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero. People were edified by their unknowing contributions. Grace.

Challenged the kind of Christianity that is just worked in around the edges of our lives if we have space and time, rather than placed at the core - something nourished, nurtured, grown, something around which, and out of which every other dimension of our lives is funded and given meaning.

The "inward disciplines" are needful...they enable the reality of an interior life which is dynamic, capable of growing and changing…It is the life deep within; it’s a movement toward inner depth; a movement toward God. In a dark age, interiority makes it possible not to hate in the face of persecution - not to give up in the face of overwhelming negative factors surrounding one. See Clare Wagner OP, "Current Trends: Spirituality in a Dark Age; Some Reflections"

Friday night, watched the movie called "The Guru" - laughed a lot, reflected on Spirituality & sexuality.

Saturday, took Kathryn to Gengy's (Mongolian BBQ) - we both reflected on commodified eating - 'pick and mix' your own ingredients and have somebody else cook it - what do you feel like? What taste sensations do you need? What spices? What texture? What flavours. Talked about Spirituality as commodity - was it appropriate? Talked about what nourishes us. What do we need in order to grow in this Jesus-following life? Pick & mix discipleship. Talked about church needing to personalise and make choice available. Commodified church?

Sat in the sun post church at friends Geoff and Janette's (we were church) and deepened the sermon, made some connections, conversed, listened, talked about church, talked about deepening our gathered Sunday experience, talked about deepening our lives in communitas - communion / community, talked about road-trips as a 'spiritual' discipline, talked about some of the content of Alan Roxburgh's wonderful book, "Crossing the Bridge: Church Leadership in a Time of Change." We need to converse more about it; deepening the ways in which it connects with us, and the implications for leadership, mission, and church.

Got a lovely e-mail from Bill Bean. Hopefully next January will provide a chance to drink some "Honkers Ale" with him.

Vicariously participated in Allelon through the thoughts, notes, photographs, and reflections of Father Alan, Bishop Mike, Mark, Keck, and Malcolm. Thanks for taking the time lads! Pray for that gathering.

I'm disappoints that "comments" haven't been working for a couple of days, not that I've been inundated them in the normal course of things, but its nice to make the occasional 'connection.'

The end.

Paul Fromont 8/30/2003 08:23:00 PM
Friday, August 29, 2003
Happy Birthday today to my best friend Kathryn, the person that enriches my life the most, that stretches me and beautifully compliments me. I love you deeply.

Paul Fromont 8/29/2003 05:48:00 PM
A quote from one of the profoundest influences on the theology and praxis, William Stringfellow.

In the face of death, live humanly. In the middle of chaos, celebrate the Word. Amidst Babel, speak the truth. Confront the noise and verbiage and falsehood of death with the truth and potency and the efficacy of the Word of God. Know the Word, teach the Word, nurture the Word, preach the Word, defend the Word, incarnate the Word, do the Word, live the Word.

WILLIAM STRINGFELLOW, An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land

Paul Fromont 8/29/2003 05:21:00 PM
Thursday, August 28, 2003
In correspondence I often sign-off with a simple prayer for whomever I'm writing too - "Grace & Peace ('Shalom')." Confessed sin. Listened to Gospel. Exchanged "peace." Celebrated with bread and wine. In the heart of the city. Reflected on "grace" as defined by the catechism in "A New Zealand Prayer Book ('He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa')

"Grace is God's freely-given love for people, forgiving sins, enlightening minds, stirring hearts and strengthening wills. Through grace we are given strength to live as loving sons and daughters of God"

So when I sign-off, "Grace & Peace" - I'm praying God's love, God's forgiveness, God's wisdom & enlightenment, God's passion and the stirring of your heart, God's strengthening of your will in the following of his Son. God's strength in order that you might live as a child of God.

Paul Fromont 8/28/2003 12:38:00 AM
Monday, August 25, 2003
I talked about "conversion" on Sunday - Conversion to mission; Conversion and Community ('communities need to be converted: there needs to be at the heart of community an ongoing movement or motion in the direction of change, new beginnings, new growth, and new life'); and Conversion and Spiritual formation ('In conversion we do not suddenly change in essence, magically becoming new people with all our old faults left behind…we convert, in its root meaning, by turning around, so that we are forced to face ourselves as we really are...We convert when we allow God as “potter” to form and shape us as we are in order that we better reflect God’s intent for humanity, this intention being seen most clearly and completely in Jesus Christ.

Missional Bible Study: Discerning and Following God's Call.

 MISSION - How does this text send us and equip us for mission?

 CONTEXT - How does this text read us and our world?

 GOSPEL - How does this text evangelise us with good news?

 CHANGE - How does this text convert us in personal and corporate life?

 FUTURE - How does this text orientate us to the coming reign of God?

(from 'The Gospel & Our Culture Network')

Paul Fromont 8/25/2003 12:24:00 PM
Friday, August 22, 2003
Well this was a discovery yesterday, Alan Roxburgh co-wrote a book (with Mike Regele) called, Crossing the Bridge : Church Leadership in a Time of Change. The book was published in 2000. I purchased it in 2001 and have found it an incredibly helpful book in terms of the role of leadership and change. Anyway it's been 'out of print' so it was wonderful to discover it 'on-line' - you can find the whole text here (pdf). Enjoy.

"...We are in the midst of pervasive and profound change in Western culture. Consequently, we are that generation of leaders who find ourselves right at one of those fulcrum points of history where everything is tipping over into a very different world. We did not ask to be leaders at this time. We just are. It is what we will do with this fact that will shape not only our own leadership, but, even more, the shpae of the church and its mission for years to come.

This book is about leading congregations or denominations through a period of tumultuous transition. The information about change provided in this book is designed to assist you in the particular church leadership context in which you find yourself. ..."

Paul Fromont 8/22/2003 12:26:00 PM
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Watched the Robin Williams movie, "One Hour Photo" last night. Enjoyed it. Some very thoughtful commentary around photographs and why we take them. A reflection on lonliness and the deep sense of disconnection that people feel, especially when that lonliness is compounded and amplified by personal abuse. A reflection on what happens when we allow our worlds to become very small and turned in on ourselves...

In Sally Morgenthaler’s “Worship Focus” column dated July 27, 2003 she includes the following:

“…IDEO executive Tom Kelley, author of The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from America's Leading Design Firm (Doubleday/2001), is out to destroy the myth of the lone genius.

"If you distrust the power of teamwork, consider this fact. Even the most legendary individual inventor is often a team in disguise. In six scant years, for example, Thomas Edison generated an astounding four-hundred patents, producing innovations in the telegraph, telephone, phonograph, and light bulb—with the help of a fourteen-man team. As Francis Jehl, Edison's longtime assistant, explained, 'Edison is in reality a collective noun and means the work of many men.' Even Michelangelo couldn't have painted the Sistine Chapel without the help of a gang of artisans.

"At IDEO, we believe that the myth of the lone genius can actually hamper a company's efforts in innovation and creativity…”

Another reason why I value the stretch of diversity, the strength and resourcefulness of community, the interdependency of team, the ‘to-ing & fro-ing’ of conversation, the enrichment of dreaming together and working together, the fluidity and ‘glocal’ practice of being networked, and the love and care of friends.

Paul Fromont 8/21/2003 12:32:00 PM
Two things.

I spoke by telephone to my cobber from Kentucky, Father Alan Creech a couple of weeks ago – so my telephone account tells me, the call lasted for 8 mins and 47 secs and cost US 77 cents. Now is that value for money or not? That’s 85% cheaper than a pint of Monteiths “Black” at the Prince Albert Tavern ('Bar,' 'pub' - whatever you call it where you are).

I was interested this morning to hear on the radio that the Catholic Bishop of Auckland is releasing a discussion paper among Catholic churches in his diocese. In that paper he is seeking feedback on how Catholics might feel about creating large spaces where masses can be celebrated while at the same time closing down smaller community-based church gatherings. The issue is being raised as a result of significant priest shortages (present tense and future tense). I can’t help seeing this as a superficial solution to what are much bigger issues around ecclesiology, culture and societal change, mission, the priest / laity split etc. But it’s “change” and perhaps that might be the catalyst to further and more radical change. It will be interesting to see how Catholic’s feel about it.

We're not the only ones thinking through these kinds of issues...

Paul Fromont 8/21/2003 12:50:00 AM
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Alan Roxburgh is/has been consulting in Melbourne. He's always been a bit of an inspiration for me, and it was very timely that I should read Dan's post of Sunday 17th August this morning. One of the issues we're reflecting on is mission and the shape of our church going forward - incremental change and/or something more radical (e.g. the planting of a new church community) - the big kind of leadership questions.

Dan writes:

"...In the third phase [of three], something (usually external) happens so that your plans and structures don't work any more. Suddenly leadership becomes reactive - you want to go back to where things were working. And you no longer have the skills or structure to enable you to creatively innovate new solutions. So you just think that if you do the same things that you were doing better, then you will get back to a position where you are successful again.

Obviously the first phase is vital for the continuing ability of the organisation to function and cope with changes. But you can't run an organisation like that long term - there need to be structures and some idea of what is going on.

So the idea is to create pockets or elements of this type of thinking, even while you are doing the successful stuff in other pockets or elements. You have the overall structure to keep the organisation going, but you are fostering the type of creative innovation which enables you to continue to adapt to changing environments and challenges.

Certainly I was reflecting on how much this has been part of our experience at Northern. We kept many elements of the church the same and concentrated on doing them better - the sunday morning worship, some of the pastoral and visitation structures and so on. However, alongside that we planted new congregations which have been very much characterised by thoughts of "making it up as we go along".

Creativity around the edges or margins. I've been thinking of this creativity in terms of mission and the role that new or parallel congregations might play in us becoming more intentionally outward facing and acting. As Dan points out these 'new' congregations can be real 'centres' of innovation and change, with both the 'old' and the 'new' mutually enriching, funding, and stretching one another as each seeks to cooperate with what God is doing in the world; as each seeks to engage with and either affirm or subvert the wider culture; as each seek to be faithful in their call to be "gospelers."

Paul Fromont 8/20/2003 01:19:00 AM
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
Unlike Steve Collins, I can't say I've been there done that (note to self - I must lead a sheltered life), but I'd like too:

"...Describing the concept as "meditainment", it places the time-tested relaxation principles of meditation in an environment (the multiplex) designed to enhance the experience..."

Read more here.

Thanks for the link Steve. Tis a small world indeed.

Paul Fromont 8/19/2003 03:14:00 AM
Saturday, August 16, 2003
Had a brief MSN conversation with John Janzen yesterday - it was nice to connect again, and to update my link to his "...re-attempt at another blog again" Was looking through his posts, and a couple of statements by Leighton Tebay deeply resonated...thanks Leighton.

I think churches should have a regular cycle of birth, growth, and death. Individual local churches should die when it comes time. It is easier to transition the universal church through a cycle of renewal than it is to upgrade existing institutions. The cycle of death and birth can rid faith communities of excess baggage that can really hinder a congregation. Read more here.

By planting a church we become part of that renewal process. One day what ever we structure we create should die.

John made this comment in response...

"...Also, a church dying gracefully would be an awesome demonstration of trusting the spirit of God to continue birthing new things, trusting that Christ "will build his church", as he put it..."

Churches, like any living, dynamic organism don't escape the process of decay. There needs to be continual regeneration and rebuilding. Each community must rediscover those elements of the Christian tradition that are "alive" for them and which enable them to adapt to present realities while funding the Godward, inward, and outward movements.

Paul Fromont 8/16/2003 12:46:00 PM
Friday, August 15, 2003
Nothing original today. Pete Ward's book, Liquid Church was one of the recommended books on the post-"unconference" reading list for those who wanted to explore, stretch their thinking, and nourish church praxis. So, it's great to see two really useful reviews by Steve Taylor and Jordon Cooper. I love the way Jordon finishes his review, "If you think all the church needs is time and the postmoderns will return, you probably aren't reading this review."

Another quote from Douglas Coupland

"...The people to feel saddest for are people who once knew what profoundness was, but who lost or became numb to the sensation of wonder - people who closed the doors that lead into the secret world - or who had the doors closed for them by time and neglect..."

An upcoming book to be published by Eerdmans on behalf of "The Gospel & Our Culture Network," and which will be added to my library:

TREASURE IN CLAY JARS: Patterns in Missional Faithfulness (It develops themes from Missional Church)
Edited by Lois Y. Barrett.

 "So We Do Not Lose Heart"

 Congregational sketches.

 Pattern 1 - Discerning Missional Vocation.

 Pattern 2 - Biblical Formation and Discipleship.

 Pattern 3 - Taking Risks as a Contrast Community.

 Pattern 4 - Practises that Demonstrate God's Intent for the World.

 Pattern 5 - The Public Witness of Worship.

 Pattern 6 - Dependence on the Holy Spirit.

 Pattern 7 - Pointing toward the Reign of God.

 Pattern 8 - Missional Authority.

Embodying and Proclaiming the Gospel.

Paul Fromont 8/15/2003 02:27:00 PM
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Section from a report I've written as part of a conversation around the practical implications of the "Unconference" for the church that I belong too........

Church from my perspective is less about being “modern” or “post-modern.” It’s not about being ‘at home’ in either ‘camp.’ It’s not about being trendy or being “post-modern.” Both “modern” and “Postmodern” are convenient labels attached to two forces or polarities lying at the heart of what is a time of significant change and transition. Ultimately for me, the terms and their accompanying content are simply ways of more precisely understanding and talking about what is happening in culture and that in order to more relevantly and meaningfully engage in God’s continuing mission and process of re-creation. In the years to come there will no doubt be new ‘labels’, new terminology, and new implications for a church that wants to be faithful in its partnering of God.

Paul Fromont 8/13/2003 12:47:00 PM
Friday, August 08, 2003
Thinking of Steve's and my interaction with "The Piglet Movie" - the scene where Piglets book of memories is lost...thinking also of a comment from the guy at the petrol (gas) station. We were talking about dreams, even impossible dreams for the future, and he said "young people just don't dream..."

"One factor that sets us apart from all other animals is that our lives need to be stories - narratives - and that when our stories vanish we feel lost, dangerous, out of control and susceptible to the forces of randomness. I call the process where one loses one life story, "denarration. [We become] dreamless children, alive but not living."

Douglas Coupland

Ben Campbell Johnson has written:

"...the events that occur, the awareness we have of those events, the interpretation we give them, and the manner in which we weave them into a narrative, the story of our lives. The combination of these little vignettes forms the master story of our lives...all spiritual reality begins with this reality, the substance of our lives as we perceive them..."

Text, image, sound, smell, taste, touch nourish our stories; these experiences fund our dreams and create futures. I was praying last night, using St. Ignatius of Loyola's "examen of consciousness" - listening, looking for image, for presence, for sound, for the smell, taste, and touch of God is the events of my day. Allowing God to weave the narrative of His story into my story, or as Steve wrote earlier in the week, his context being families gathering for fish & chips" and communion, "Yes, yes, and let us “examen” ourselves, let us share together, adult and children; the presence and absence of God in our week. Let us trace the threads of God.

Paul Fromont 8/08/2003 01:00:00 PM
Thursday, August 07, 2003
Alan and I had a brief conversation on MSN this morning (as is becoming our custom), and we were talking about relational frustration; frustration as a result of not always being able to find the ongoing relational and communal depth that we both need in order to grow and stretch human being created to “image” God, i.e. to become increasingly like Jesus ( I hope I'm representing you fairly mate). Alan said the following:

“…He definitely forms us through frustration - if we let Him. I think more than not He's building in many of us a holy unsatisfaction with what is, and therefore, calling us, drawing us on to something farther down the road where some of the fulfillment we desire is located. In other words, it's not "merely" the frustration - it is a part of a longer plan - the part that pushes us onward. I mean we can simply sit and "die" in our frustration if we don't allow it to catapult us forward…”

This thought resonates with me. In the face of threat or crisis, or when galvanised by a compelling opportunity, living things move toward the edge of chaos. Threats or opportunities stimulate higher levels of mutation and experimentation. Creativity is encouraged and new solutions become increasingly apparent when a living system (i.e. a church community) is stimulated or galvanised. Frustration funding creativity; frustration as a means of nourishing a different future; frustration as a survival mechanism – a way of resisting the threat of equilibrium and the death of living systems that results.

Paul Fromont 8/07/2003 11:54:00 PM
Wednesday, August 06, 2003
For those who are fans of author Douglas Coupland and have access to Regent College's CRUX magazine the latest edition, March 2003, has an interesting article: Hope for the Denarrated Self: Revisiting a Decade of Douglas Coupland.

Second part of Jim Barr's reflection:

“…In the current era of church history there is much that is breaking up around us with the attendant anxiety and grief such loss entails. In all the efforts of the captains of the ship, and the soldiers of the Lord (to extend the metaphors of Acts 27) there is an energy and activism that subverts pastoral listening to organisational pain, and even panic. If we do have faith that death is not the end, can we face the possibility of organisational death, and in that very encounter discover renewed life in ways that we might never have dreamed? Such an encounter will require less activism and more quietness, fewer solutions and greater preparedness to live with powerlessness and impotence. It will require us to remain at our posts and continue in our callings, and finally, perhaps, even cling to the wreckage…”

Paul Fromont 8/06/2003 01:01:00 PM
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Lot's in Jordon Coopers book review of Dan Kimball's "The Emerging Church" (Wed, July 30th)resonated with me, especially as I reflected on the church leaders meeting I was at last night. A good meeting, but in reviewing a type of service, I don't recall reflecting on the implications of this statement by Kimball:

"...If you are part of a staff that evaluates worship services, what do you base your evaluations on? Do you immediately discuss the music, the video, or the length of the message? Or do you ask, "Did people encounter God here?...What have we trained people to think when they leave? Do they say 'I enjoyed that,' or 'That was a good message,' or are they thinking, 'I encountered God today,' and, 'I became more of a disciple of Jesus today'?"

Paul Fromont 8/05/2003 02:00:00 AM
Monday, August 04, 2003
WOW. No time for Part 2 of Jim Barr's reflection. I woke to an e-mail like no other that I've ever received. An e-mail from my good 'virtual' cobber - Alan Creech in the States - the e-mail and the subsequent telephone conversation was an invitation to incarnation. An invitation to embody the virtual.

This virtual world is throwing up all kind of wonderous things around: connecting, incarnation, community, God's Kingdom, shared journey's etc.

I just looked at a picture in the latest edition of a business magazine, E-Spy, and there's author JK. Rowling leaning against bookshelf (I wonder if it's hers?) and there above her right shoulder is a book we share in common - I have a copy on my bookshelf - above my right should as I stand against my bookshelf...

Paul Fromont 8/04/2003 01:16:00 PM
Saturday, August 02, 2003
Gerard Kelly spent a day with just about 60 of us yesterday, and is about to catch up with some of you guys from Aussie in the next little while. If you can go, GO! It was a very very good day. Kudos to Steve and Lynne for making the NZ leg of a his trip a possibility...thanks to Gerard for giving 'flesh' to texts and ideas...for humour, for resonance, and 'down-to-earthedness.' Nice to see friends including Rachel and Regan.

A diverse group of participants - for some the content was completely new - for others not so new but many fresh insights, new angles, and new perspectives for those willing to engage and be teachable - the day focused on: (a) culture and mission - future trends; (b) future trends leadership; (b) 'earthing' content and implications in the context of Aotearoa New Zealand - "where there are no maps we need to learn to read "lansdcapes"..." - "text, authority, conversation, and relationship" - "what do we see disappearing from culture? (responses included: committment, absolutes, optimism, stablility, 'traditional' cuisine ("meat and three vege"), slow food" - "what do we see emerging in culture?" (responses included: virtual community an identity, 'peg' communities, recovery of the 'village model' for community; menu choices, easy access to everything, increased disillusionment, fusion cuisine, fast food) - hope becoming more important than meaning - Prayer: "May the Holy Spirit show us: what must change, what can change, what must not change. Amen" - "Life is no longer about rational, logical consistency; it's about paradox, authenticity, and resonance" - "hypertext is dialogue" - "is the bible a book?" (I wish I'd had a tape recorder at this point. Ideas and issues brilliantly unpacked by Gerard) - Postmodernism = "leave us alone to get on with life!" - life is lived by trying and doing - 'authority' is usefulness - all text is tentative; all text is conversation; truth is emerges in conversation - for you readers: authors whose ideas seemed worth interacting with: John Finney - Fading Splendour? and
Stories of Faith (Resources for Evangelism) ; Andrew Walls: The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith; David Lockhead: Shifting Realities: Information Technology and the Church - Music to listen too: Faithless, their track "We Come 1" - Andrew Jones was tastefully reverenced: a salute to "the Kiwi Apostle" - final quote: "Not all who wander are lost" by JRR> Tolkein.

Paul Fromont 8/02/2003 01:21:00 PM
Friday, August 01, 2003
A couple of paragraphs taken from a little article, “What the Search for an Alternative Future Tells Us About the Church,” by Australian Jim Barr (the same Jim Barr (I think) who is the Director of the Zadok Institute).

“…St. Paul urged the Corinthian church not to try to change their circumstances (1 Cor. 7), because the time was short, and the Kingdom of God would soon come in its fullness and the purposes of God be made plain to all. What would Paul counsel for a situation in which the purposes of God seem to be lost in the turbulence of post-modern culture? This same Paul stood on the deck of a doomed ship, battered by storm and trapped on a lee shore (Acts 27). He again urged his listeners not to try to change their circumstances, to stop fighting the inevitable, and trust that the power of God would bring them safe through the shipwreck. And, “some clinging to the wreckage,” they all came safe to shore…”

(Continued tomorrow)

Paul Fromont 8/01/2003 12:18:00 PM

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