- 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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Friday, October 31, 2003

"Christianity though is more than paying heed to the ancients...We Orthodox affirm a Living Tradition...the living memory of the Church. It's more than recreation...it is sustenance..."

This statement by my friend James Ferrenberg captures something of an understanding and way of living that I'm growing into - growing into a Jesus-following life sustained by the ancient, by Word and Spirit; the Christian tradition passed down through the generations, passed to me; in Christ my spiritual history, legacy, and Story. Nourished by the ancient, contextualising gospel in my generation and cultural context, incarnating The Story, gifting an alternative to the stories of culture, of principality and power. The Jesus-following life, not recreation, not something worked in around the edges of life and living; rather it's at the core of who we are, the core of church, the core of our identity...

I think sometimes, what many of us are grappling with is is seen by many others as something trendy or irrelevant - something that will pass! The hope seems to be that we'll move onto something different...that we'll stop pushing out the sides of the box, the conservatism and cultural customs / practices which are in reality not anciently grounded nor useful for constructing a contemporary theology of church, mission, community, worship etc.

It's so much deeper for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear...

Paul Fromont 10/31/2003 12:44:00 PM
Thursday, October 30, 2003
I felt this post by Jonny Baker, dreamed I was in London, and echoed his comments about church and art...

Paul Fromont 10/30/2003 01:03:00 PM
I would like to contribute the following brief article to the conversation on prayer being engaged in by Kevin and the saints @ Vineyard Central, and Alan and the saints @ Vine and Branches. It's from the monks at Mepkin Abbey - The Techniques of Prayer. A beautiful, rich, piece of writing. Good for Lectio Divina.....what does God enliven for you? what experiences of God through prayer is God inviting you into?


"To be loved and to love stand at the center of our human and Christian experience – and so at the heart of our Christian prayer as well..."

"...is not primarily something that we do as it is something that God does in us. “We who have the first fruits of the Spirit...do not know how to pray as we ought, but the very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” Romans 8:23-26..."

"...The monastic tradition as a whole is very discreet on specific directives on how to pray. What it does emphasize is the quality of our daily lives, especially our relationships with other people."

"...We pray as we live is the teaching of the Bible and the spiritual masters, and that life is primarily one of relationships in love. Whether family, friends, business contacts or casual meetings, the way we respond to life is what we will bring to prayer..."

Paul Fromont 10/30/2003 01:00:00 PM
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
An interesting article posted as part of a bibliography (focusing on Techno Spirituality) pulled together by Stephen Garner, from up the road in Auckland.

Dialogue on the Cyber-Sacred and the Relationship Between Technological and Spiritual Development

The article is a dialogue between Michel Bauwens and Father Vincent Rossi on the notion of the cyber-sacred and the relationship between technological and spiritual development.

The technological quest is a spiritual quest

Paul Fromont 10/29/2003 10:37:00 AM
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Pilgrims of Hope

A sermon preached by the Rt. Rev. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, on the occasion of his enthronement at Durham Cathedral on Sunday 12th. October 2003.

"...Today's culture has largely recognised that the arrogant dreams of secular modernity are built on sand. In Christian language, the good creation of the gracious God has somehow acquired a twist. If we don't see this, we are not just behind the times culturally, not just naive theologically, but worryingly unobservant. If you doubt what I say, walk around the housing estates with 50% unemployment in parts of South Shields; or talk to the farmers in Upper Weardale, facing debts just as unpayable as those of Zambia. These aren't minor glitches in a society that's steadily improving; they are the tell-tale signs that, despite all our cultural and scientific advances, evil is still a four-letter word. And the biblical symbol for evil, structural evil, affecting earth and trees and animals, evil coiling its poisonous way around human hearts and lives - the biblical symbol for evil is the garden gone wrong, thorns and briers where there should have been fruitful shrubs and trees..."

Paul Fromont 10/28/2003 12:06:00 PM
Lots of churches shape my dreams about what church could be like, and what it might become. But five churches stand out as nurturers, helpers, and resourcers of my dreams for the kind of church I'd love to belong too:

Graceway Baptist, Auckland, New Zealand.

Cityside Baptist, Auckland, New Zealand.

Vineyard Central, Norwood Cincinnati, USA - A 2001 article about them from Cutting Edge here (pdf).

Church of the Saviour, Washington D.C, USA - A 2001 article about them from Cutting Edge here (pdf).

Visions, York, UK.

Paul Fromont 10/28/2003 02:38:00 AM
Sunday, October 26, 2003
The irony never fails to amuse me when I listen to some people who keep hitting everyone over the head with God's righteous judgment, and the "fear of God," but in the very next breath they demonstrate they have NO fear of God themselves as they stand in God's place and pass judgement on those who don't see things as narrowly as they do, on who has backslidden, on who needs to be "saved," on who is "in" and who is "out." They're mighty big judgments for mere mortals to be passing...but they keep on doing it...keep on 'standing in' for God, they keep on assualting and doing 'violence' against people with proof text after proof text. Where indeed is their "fear of God"? Perhaps they missed a text like Romans 2:1-4? I don't know, I wouldn't want to pass judgement.

Paul Fromont 10/26/2003 07:04:00 PM
Yesterday church was what we call a BYO experience ('bring your own'). It's an attempt to do lot's of things, but one of the main aims is to de-emphasise the experience of church and worship as something mediated by the leader-up-front. It's about emphasising the "priesthood of all believers" and an openess to the wind of the Spirit blowing amongst us, "inside and outside the fence". I talk about it in terms of 'framing' (think picture frame) space within which we can be open to one-another and to God; in which we gift the materials of praise, thanksgiving, prayer, and worship to God. I opened the time with a short reflection on Rom 12:1 and 1 Peter 2:4-5 and 9-10 ( I used the NIV translation, but Eugene's sense of the passages are beautiful)

 The giving of ourselves, our whole selves (we don't leave 80% of who we are at the door when we gather as church) as a worship response to God; as gift to the community. We offer the 'stuff' of our lives; our encounters with God etc. as worship. In the offering of ourselves church is built, the experience of church is broadened.

 We are priests, we take the 'stuff' of our lives and offer them up as worship to God.

Thirdly I read Steve Taylor's post about a conversation with his daughter - My Six Year Old Got it. "...de-centred spirituality; The church funding people to experience God individually"

 We as church resourcing others by sharing our experiences of God.

The sermon ended with some conversation around "why more mature Jesus-followers tend to leave church and positions of leadership after having spent many years in church and leadership?" Talked some about the research of Alan Jamieson, and the challenge of funding peoples discipleship for the duration, both the new disciples and the 'older' disciples; talked about the importance of space being created for questions and conversation. May these kinds of conversations spread and deepen amongst us.

Paul Fromont 10/26/2003 12:31:00 PM
Interesting new book, Get Up Off Your Knees: Preaching the U2 Catalog. Published Dec. 1. Foreward by Eugene Peterson.

"A thoughtful and provocative collection of sermons by a group of preachers from across the international church spectrum who have been moved to theological reflection on the art and work of U2. This book will appeal to fans of U2, students of homiletics, and everyone interested in the intersection of art, popular culture, and religion."

Thanks to Bob Carlton for the link. Interesting post on Therapy Bob.

Paul Fromont 10/26/2003 12:08:00 PM
Thursday, October 23, 2003
A couple of good e-mails yesterday from friends within an Anglican context. It reminded me again of Rowan Williams Presidential Address at General Synod, York, Monday 14 July 2003. He started it with this question - Does the Church of England exist?. My question reflecting on these e-mail 'conversations' - what will the Anglican church in Aotearoa New Zealand look like in the next few years? What new forms will church communities within the Anglican tradition look like? It's always interesting seeing what's happening in England as new forms and practices begin to emerge - forms and practices deeply embedded in the Christian tradition, but open to engaging missionally with culture. It's interesting when persons training for ordination in the church of England come "down other" to explore and engage with emerging forms of church. Being Anglican (on the inside) I'm quietly cheering them on...Will there be an emergence of freedom, leadership, creativity, energy, passion to step outside of the comfort zone....? I'm seeing signs......

One of the e-mails was an invitation:

The Sacred Space team are running a special service on All Saints Day,Saturday November 1st at St George's Gate Pa, Tauranga. People are asked to gather from 7.30pm. Drinks and snacks will be provided before worship commences. The service is open to people from any denomination. The service will take the form of an open communion space. After an initial introduction and sharing together in the great thanksgiving...participants will be free to move between stations in the church and reflect on the different components of a communion service at their own pace. These stations will include meditative, interactive and artistic spaces. Sacred Space is experimental worship. There may be particular people in your parish who are on the fringes of traditional worship but for whom this kind of service may be very beneficial. There may be people in the heart of your parish that would welcome this occasional
opportunity to worship in a different way.

A good summary of Rowan's Presidential comments about new forms of church is here for those of you who haven't already read it...Full text is here

Paul Fromont 10/23/2003 12:03:00 PM
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Sermon for Sunday, drawn from Acts 11:19-30 / Antioch & Jerusalem. A Tale of Two Churces - “Changing World, Changing Church!” (Sorry Steve, as at now haven't thought of a way of starting from something other than the biblical text. I'm working on it though. Any ideas welcome.)

It has been said, “the road to the future runs through the past.” How do we hold in creative tension a church that is anciently grounded but forward looking? One of the challenges for us that “Jerusalem” & “Antioch” raise is how to remain anciently grounded as we find creative ways to both engage with and connect to our culture, whilst at the same time also seeking to provide a resurrection contrast (both of these strands frame the “mission” of the church!). Of not proximating culture so closely that we offer no contrast; no sense of incarnational response to the question, “why is Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension such “good news” for all of creation?”

It raises important questions about how we can most effectively serve as missionaries within a “Western” context, how might we react to the “new,” and to change – like Jerusalem, blessing, supporting, equipping, and encouraging? Do we value and nourish diversity? What do we understand that it is which holds together diversity of Christian expression? How do we deepen our connection with and experience of the ancient, while being open to the new? And, what new forms and practices of being an “Antioch” church might God be inviting us too?

My questions for BRIDGES (the church I belong too)

(a) Can you identify some things about “Bridges” that demonstrate that in our gathering together we are anchored to what the Nicene Creed (first approved in AD 325) refers to as “one holy universal and apostolic Church”?

(b) Can you identify some things about “Bridges” that demonstrate that in our gathering together we are incarnating the Christian faith in our particular cultural context?

Paul Fromont 10/22/2003 11:30:00 AM
Finding God in Small Groups
Tom Albin's doctoral research reveals why the Wesley's system worked so well.

Paul Fromont 10/22/2003 10:38:00 AM
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Good posts on MOOT BLOG including a great review of Moltmann's book, The Source of Life: The Holy Spirit and the Theology of Life by Gareth. Thanks Gareth for capturing Moltmann's sense of the Spirit which I hold to very strongly and quietly in a church which comes out of the Pentecostal tradition...and thus provides a different context and praxis for understanding and experiencing the Spirit, and Spirit / Church.

Here's a thought from Gareth / Moltmann:

"The Spirit is found not only in the 'church' but also in the whole of creation, inspiring acts of creativity that bring about life as originally intended. This may be in a group of activists in Latin America trying to protect their land from corporate greed, or lobbying the EU on over-fishing, or the setting up of a homeless persons hostel in inner-city London. Each of these acts is comminted to trying to bring about life as it should be, and life within the whole of creation, not just amongst humans."

It's good to hear this sense of Spirit "in the whole of creation, inspiring acts of creativity" articulated more locally by my good friend Steve Taylor - Soulstice, recognising Spirit in earth, a monthly Christian liturgy, with an environmental and seasonal feel - Enliven, seminars + creativity + coffee + worship = celebrating the Spirit beyond church walls

Paul Fromont 10/21/2003 12:07:00 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2003
"...without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God."

John Calvin (born at Noyon in Picardy, France, 10 July 1509, and died at Geneva, 27 May 1564.) From, Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol.1, The Westminster Press, 1960, p.35.

Here's a Kiersey online temperament assessment that is useful in helping to sharpen and deepen your sense of 'self.

Paul Fromont 10/19/2003 11:08:00 AM
Saturday, October 18, 2003
The biblical notion of a "remnant" is one of those concepts that keeps 'bubbling' to the surface as I reflect on church, my role in church, and my sense of calling. It's hard when you feel like a minority voice, when you're becoming increasingly disconnected from local others, when you're drained and need the friendship of others who share the dream and sense of calling into the uncharted territory that lies before many of us. It's not easy when you don't fit the box that others try to put you in. After nearly five years I now have a natural tendency to "self-censor" because continued 'openness,' the continued opening of my heart through sermons, things I write, things I say in conversation, receive little of the affirmation of others who share the dream, or are even heard. I'm a remnant, not in the sense of being superior, but in the sense of inhabiting the margins, of knowing that the diet I need in order to be spiritually fed, in order to be nourished and in order to grow more like Jesus is not the diet others have expressed a need for. Perhaps that puts me into that group that Alan Jamieson describes as quietly leaving 'church' through the back door? Perhaps as Marg Gilling has researched, I'm someone who will find their meaning, fulfilment, and calling elsewhere? I seek the friendship of others I feel safe to be open with, who lovingly accept me, and who draw the best out of me. I hope I do the same for them.

I'm a "helper," I'm energised by helping others grow, by helping them explore, by helping to fund their journey's by encouraging them - but I have to have something to work with. I'm energised by their feedback, by the things they learn, the things they feel etc. But in terms of others, I'm also a "responder" - I respond to interest shown, questions asked, I respond to initiated conversation. I respond to others who genuinely want to accompany me (I blogged about this in March). Here's an example, if I know others are interested in deepening their prayer life, or want to do a retreat, I invite them to accompany me. If I know they're interested in church planting I recommend books or people they can learn from or connect with. I help resource them, but I get tired by to much initiation, by always needing to initiate things. It feels like I'm forcing something or others, so now I do it less. I give space for others to stretch, to initiate something, to give expression to what are the deep needs or giftedness of their lives.

In terms of myself, I'm proactive - if I have a need I seek those things or people whose help I need. I know I need likeminded and diversely gifted friends, and mostly that propels me outside of my church congregation. A reality that is no ones fault, but which I know people struggle to understand. But it's something I don't expect them to understand; they haven't walked in my shoes, our backgrounds and priorities are different, and we don't have the depth of shared experiences over time which provide the grounds upon which we understand and begin to deeply know each other.

Perhaps I will only ever be part of a small remnant of pilgrims and explorers, and perhaps those in whose company I travel will be in geographically diverse places...seen only rarely.

Paul Fromont 10/18/2003 04:37:00 PM
Friday, October 17, 2003
I just had a brief IM conversation with Jason Evan's - a first! I've followed Jason's blog / journey for over a year now. He's a good man.

Paul Fromont 10/17/2003 02:10:00 PM
I lent my good friend Jeff, down in Nelson, a copy of my book, "Catch the Wind" by Charles Ringma. Here's what he thought...

Paul Fromont 10/17/2003 02:05:00 PM
I'm 'bummed out' that I wasn't able to go up to Auckland last night for an informal dessert and coffee evening with Sally Morgenthaler at my friend Mark's place...

Paul Fromont 10/17/2003 02:01:00 PM
Am reading Letter to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. It reinforced, for me anyway, the importance of slowness, of not rushing ahead of God, of allowing things to 'birth' at the appropriate time - the right time. A sense of this was captured recently in Steve Taylor's very good reflection under the heading, "Emerging churches are not seeing people saved." (see his blog post of Monday 13th Oct 2003).

He writes:

"...I have agonised and searched for fruit. In the meantime, God has been quietly at work in the hearts of unchurched postmoderns around me. They have gently come to me, asking to be baptised. I have stood beside them at that moment, shamed by my lack of patience in the grace of God..."

Here's what Rilke writes:

23rd April, 1903.

"...Allow your judgements their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humilty and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as creating.

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn't matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn't force it's sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so uncomfortably silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything.

Substitute "artist" for Jesus-follower or Jesus-apprentice....Patience, a fruit of the Spirit.

Blow Spirit amongst us. Bring to birth at the appropriate time all that you are forming and shaping in us and through us. Nourish us. Deepen us. Dissatisy us with the shallowness and superficiality of impatience. May we take time for passivity, opening ourselves to you, but not become passive. May we be patient.

Paul Fromont 10/17/2003 12:11:00 PM
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
A New Zealand published book I'd ordered arrived today with a thankyou note from the author. The note was at the bottom of this:

The only eye of God that
will ever fall upon you
is the eye of another person
as they look at you.
The only hand of God that
will ever touch you
is the hand of another
person as they touch you.
The only voice of God you
will ever hear
is the voice of another
person as they speak to

St. Francis of Assisi

Also, an essay by NT. 'Tom' Wright - Communion and Koinonia: Pauline Reflections on Tolerance and Boundaries. Very relevant in the light of issues being debated in the Anglican church.

Tom has a new book out (October 2003, UK published, SPCK, 96 pages) - For all the saints?

This text sets out to clarify some aspects of Christianity - such as what happens to people after they die, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory, what it means to pray for the dead, and who the saints are.

This article in the Church of England times provides more insight into the content of this book. I'm not sure how long the link will 'work' however I've copied it as a WORD document if anyone wants me to e-mail it. It's a book that I will be adding to my library.

Bishop of Durham Beats the Protstant Drum

For All the Saints, is likely to offend Catholics for his outspoken rebuttals of their doctrine, and he is also highly critical of liberals’ attempts to soften the message of salvation Read more here.

Paul Fromont 10/15/2003 11:44:00 PM
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
I liked this statement by Mike Bishop in one of his recent posts:

"...The solitary aspect of this journey is not quickly replaced with connectedness; that is a process born out of countless interactions, mostly informal and benign. The more frequent those interactions - and as they move from benign to meaningful (or centered) - the closer we get to the camaraderie we long for and hope for..."

Friendship doesn't just happen. Relationships don't just deepen. You can have known people for years but never really known them. Friendships / communion between people grows and deepens as Mike says, "in the countless interactions," the little things, the shared experiences, mutual confession, shared vulnerability, genuine interest, opportunities to serve others and be served by others. I can't understand church congregations that describe themselves as "community" when the reality is that none of the things that Mike describes are happening; weeks can go without meaningful interaction; meals are not regularly shared; years can go by without ever getting below the surface. I shall continue to call these churches "congregations" because they are not scripture shaped "communities." Genuine "communion" doesn't happen quickly but hopefully there are the tell tale signs...

Paul Fromont 10/14/2003 11:29:00 PM
Monday, October 13, 2003
Aside from being an interesting post, being part of a church called BRIDGES drew me especially to point 9 on Phil's post about Spiritual practices and St. Catherine of Siena (Oct. 10).

"Catherine of Siena (1347-1380) wrote a famous book, ‘Dialogo’, a dialogue between God and her soul."

"It is a metaphor of spiritual life: so Christ is a bridge to God’s hospitality.
The church is on the bridge sharing the hospitality of communion to pilgrims on the way

Also, this

Was ‘flicking’ through a book on Friday, “Asylum” by Australian author, Heather Taylor. The subtitle tells you what the book was about, “Voices Behind the Razor Wire: The Voices of Australia's Refugees.” Dedicated to “asylum seekers, people just like us.”

Came across this moving paragraph:

“…He [Humam] even did a pencil sketch of Jesus Christ behind razor wire because he was struck by the thought that if Jesus came to Australia as an unauthorised arrival, would he, too, be detained?” (p.205)

Paul Fromont 10/13/2003 11:23:00 AM
Sunday, October 12, 2003
A nice relaxing afternoon...watched, on TV, Radiohead live @ Glastonbury 2003 - awesome! At the same time, read a great book review of Eugene Peterson's book, Under The Predictable Plant - Recovering the Contemplative by Thomas F. Fisher.

"Far to many pastors change parishes out of adolescent boredom, not as a consequence of mature wisdom. When that happens, neither pastors nor congregations have access to the conditions that are hospitable to maturity in faith..." (Eugene Peterson).

Also read / reread a few good articles about William Stringfellow - Faithful to the Word: The Writings of William Stringfellow. Listen, Trust, Discern, and Live the Word: The theology and life of William Stringfellow. William Stringfellow remembered for his vision of lay ministry. The assault on baptism’s politically transcendent citizenship (scroll down!) by Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Paul Fromont 10/12/2003 12:05:00 AM
Friday, October 10, 2003
Several things. If I disappear for a while, or you don't get a reply to an e-mail, it'll be because our PC has passed its 'useby' date - had all kind of problems with it last night. Realised how attached we've become to being able to 'connect' with the wider world.

Community is formed and deepened around mission. Mission does not flow out of community. Community forms around mission. Community/relationships need work, we need healing, but the tension is in these things occuring as we, the people of God give flesh (‘incarnate’) God's heart, God’s love for the poor, the marginalised, the persecuted, those who lack wholeness…“Jesus’ sense of Kingdom mission has to do with a concrete effort to make right: to make justice; to mend creation and human beings when these become broken by injustices, relational damage, and human violence in all it's forms. Community grows and deepens as we are deliberate and intentional in our focus on God, as we (1) Identify the activity of God (discernment, reflection, conversation & prayer), and (2) Make those personal and congregational adjustments needed in order for us to join him in that activity. Both the "discerning" and the "joining" become ways in which God builds 'communion' amongst us. If we focus on "community" without mission, we never get around to being God's mission; to responding to his call. Mission first. Community growing around mission. Mission sustained and nourished as our relationships with God and neighbour grow and deepen.

Jesus said, ""Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: "Love others as well as you love yourself.'

Unconditional love for our neighbours, those we live amongst, those we work with, or are being educated with – with all their idiosyncrasies and brokenness – is impossible unless we have a deep sense of the presence and power of God in our lives…When the “upward” (Godward) and “inward” (communal) dimensions are out of balance, it diminishes our vitality and our ability to influence and give expression to the “gospel” in our world. Our neighbour is both within our church community and outside of it.

Paul Fromont 10/10/2003 05:06:00 PM
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Appreciated the comments to my last post on mission / community / emerging church. I may expand on that theme in the coming days. Heartfelt thanks to those of you up in the States helping (via my good friend Alan) to cover my airfare to that top secret event in a city beginning with "C". I really appreciate it.

Something else I appreciate is my friendship and interaction with Steve. This lad stretches my thinking in all kinds of rich and wonderful directions. He's one of those guys that wonderfully connects the everyday to the Biblical narrative - to God's unfolding drama. Here's a fine example - "Spam" and "Evangelism" - check out his post of 8th October - "Spam Evangelism."

Brian Hathaway's funeral in Auckland @ 10.30am today. Rest in Peace.

Paul Fromont 10/09/2003 01:56:00 PM
Wednesday, October 08, 2003
An interesting comment by Susan Smith (who lectures at CIT in Auckland) which I came across in an article "Mission Today" (in the September 2002 edition of "Tui Motu":

"...At the risk of simplifying a complicated issue we can say that the institutional church is more preoccupied with mission as expansion [and] retention...mission as liberation and as reconcilliation do not tend to be major preoccupations...the challenge today would seem to be how to hold in creative tension mission understood as the growth and wellbeing of the...church, and mission as hastening the rign of God in the wider community through involvement in overcoming the sufferings endured by so many. It is my belief that were we to be blessed with such creative tension, then mission as churchgrowth would come about organically rather than through organised programmes..."

It is my view that many of us need a much more holistic view; a broader view of mission; mission and evangelism are not synonyms. Mission needs to be more at the heart, if not the heart of intentional Christian community.

The fruit of true conversion is mission” (G. Walter Hansen) …mission not an optional extra, an elective course that may or may not be taken, it lies at the heart of our being a converted community. JA. Kirk goes as far to say, “Mission is the heart of the Church’s life and if it ceases to be missionary, it has not just failed in one task, but it ceases to be the Church” Another comments, “The church that is not [engaging in mission] does not truly believe the gospel.” (Wilbert Shenk) .

How many of our conversations focus on church as community rather church as mission?
What might happen if people like Willam Stringfellow, Thomas Merton, Kenneth Leech, Walter Wink, Ched Myers, Desmond Tutu, Dave Andrew's and others funded more of our conversations about church? What if "creative tension" meant holding together Willard and Stringfellow; the Merton of "Faith & Violence" and Peterson; Walter Wink (and his trilogy of the "powers") and John Eldredge; Ched Myers and "The Prodigal Project" by My friend Mark Pierson, Mike Riddell, and Cathy Kirkpatrick; Dave Andrews and Spencer Burke; Alan Jones and Brian McLaren?

What if we more creatively held those tensions together in our own Christian Spirituality & Discipleship, what then might the emerging church, comprising us, begin to look like...?

Paul Fromont 10/08/2003 01:20:00 AM
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Had a lovely, stimulating, refreshing experience of hospitality and conversation yesterday afternoon...one strand of the conversation reinforced the importance of the following:

"...Our response to Jesus will be total the day we experience how total is his love for us. Instead of our self-conscious efforts to be good, we should allow ourselves the luxury of letting ourtselves be loved, not after we clean up our act and get all our ducks in a row, not after we have eliminated every trace of sin, selfishness, dishonesty, and degraed love from our resume, not after we have developed a disciplined prayer life..."

Brennan Manning (from "Above All", p.99)

Paul Fromont 10/04/2003 01:28:00 PM
Friday, October 03, 2003
Talking (IM) to Alan Creech this morning about how deepening glocal connections are forming and growing...wondering what God is shaping, forming, birthing and growing...why do some people connect deeply? Why have groups of us naturally clustered together? Blown together by the Spirit? Why have some virtual friendships endured a long time in an ever morphing world? Why have some virtual relationships become deeply incarnational? Why do IM conversations flourish among some people and not others? What is God doing beneath the obvious?

Paul Fromont 10/03/2003 02:42:00 PM
Mark Barkaway, in a blog post (Sept. 10, 2003) reviewing THIRD, made two comments, which I really warmed too because they connected with my thinking, and because the kinds of issues they raise were part of a conversation I was a party too last night.

“1. We don’t want to just be about ‘doing’ services as this is what we are trying to *escape* from – we feel creating community is of utmost importance. Styles and forms of worship mean nothing unless we can share meaningful relationships with one another…”

“Meaningful,” authentic relationships – with God, with each other, and with “neighbour” lie at the heart of being church. There needs to be real life & relational vitality. ‘Doing’ services does not create authentic community, but are rather an outworking of community. In a world where the “individual” is supreme, there is a great deal of loneliness and disconnection. Our church congregation needs to get better at community – less ‘cliquiness’, less exclusion. More genuineness and authenticity. Less superficiality and ‘masks.’ More welcoming of ‘outsiders’ without the ‘hooks’ of hidden agenda’s and persons as ‘special projects,’ who once they’re “in” get no further relationally and often find themselves subtlety pushed to the margins (which isn’t all bad, speaking from personal experience). Relationship needs to be more two-way. Less about what this or that person can do for me. Christian community needs to be modelled. Community needs to be formed around Christ not as an adjunct to the Jesus-following life. We need Christian communal traditions and practices that nourish community. There needs to be more encouragement. More love. More grace. More commonality of dreams and passion. More intentionality.

The other issue that keeps surfacing is the issue of a lack direction and a lack of structure. Again, Mark says it well.

2. “Trying to be too ‘fluid’ and vague has proved people are unsure what and who they are joining when they do *attend*…”

Structure provides important shape and focus to a community. Structure is not the antithesis of being ‘open’ to the wind of the Spirit. Structure frames and draws attention to life, creativity, and gift-giving which the Spirit births, nourishes, and enables as the community worships, celebrates, lives together, serves, gives ‘flesh’ to the gospel and prays.

Paul Fromont 10/03/2003 02:33:00 PM
Thursday, October 02, 2003
"We can't participate in God's work if we insist on doing it our own way." He cited two examples of "doing the right thing the wrong way": congregation and Scripture. We consider both to be our matters, not God's. Instead of forming communities that embody self-denial, sacrifice, and patience for God to become present in them, we form "consumer churches," using commercial methods to attract people and cater to their wants. And rather than reading Scripture as a way of "listening to God revealing God," we treat it as information for us to process to become more successful and enlightened people. In both cases, the ways and means—bowing to the gods of salesmanship and efficiency—are out of sync with the ends—forming a community of believers submitting to God's work within them.”

Eugene Peterson - Excerpted from “The Contemplative Christian” By Nathan Bierma (An article reviewing Eugene Peterson's lecture (the 5th Annual Christian Century Lecture) entitled, “As Kingfishers Catch Fire: The Contemplative Christian in America,” delivered on Sept. 25, 2003 @the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago). Read the whole article HERE. Thanks Jordon for the ‘heads-up.’

For me, Eugene captures nicely the tension I feel when it comes to the so-called “emerging church.” How much of what we do is actually the work of missional contextualisation? How much is gospel incarnation? How much of it is God at work birthing new life, new ecclesiology, and new content? How much of what we do needs to be in continuity with the richness of our Christian tradition (both East & West)? In contrast, how much of what we do is “bowing to the gods of salesmanship,” consumptive individualism, success and popularity, being part of the hip ‘in-crowd’, and with “commercialism” by any other name?

I suspect Eugene is quietly sounding a warning birthed in the wisdom of years, and the insights of being formed during a “long obedience in the same direction.” Typically though we ‘youngsters’ don’t find it easy to listen to our elders, nor do we find the “long obedience” easy with it’s prizing of “self-denial,” “sacrifice,” “patience,” submission to God’s work within and without us. God before “us.” We’re activists. We’re often incredibly dependent upon ourselves. We’re results focused. We’re often frantic. We value immediacy; Eugene advocates integrity, “wholeness, honesty, and “the alignment of who we are and what we do.” He advocates “slowness,” a slowing down rather than speeding up. He talks about God first, God at work “in” us and “through” us. “…the Christian life is not about us, but about God…”

I believe God is doing new things, and I believe many of us are working our way into it, but I do so slowly, trying to discern what it is that God is doing, and trying to hold continuity and discontinuity in a healthy tension. Both the ancient and the new fund me. Eugene’s is the warm and welcome voice of an “invisible friend” (a term I came across in a book, “The God-Bearing Life”).

Also, thoughtful comments by Father Alan Creech (proud owner of a new Honda Odyssey) on "the purpose of church" - his post of October 1.

Paul Fromont 10/02/2003 01:00:00 PM
Wednesday, October 01, 2003
jonny linked to the new "EmergingChurch.Info" site...after wondering how it would all come together it's nice to see it. Those involved have done a wonderful job. Lot's of interesting stuff, including Steve Taylor's "Easter Take-Away Spirituality;" Sue Wallace and the journey that is VISIONS; Chris Vermeulum and "The Emerging Church & Cultural Creatives" (made me think of work by Richard Florida, published as The Rise of the Creative Class which finally arrived back in the library today, so I could get it out and have more than a cursury read!). Lot's of other great stories and reflections... @ EmergingChurch.Info....add it to your list of regular sites to look in on and explore...go on!

Also, a good interview with Stanley Grenz, Community & Relationships: A Theological Take.

Paul Fromont 10/01/2003 01:44:00 AM

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