- 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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The “Body Art” Of Emerging Church
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Sunday, November 30, 2003

The Ooze have been kind enough to publish an essay I wrote in the third quarter of this year. A bit rough in places, and the first section has been subsequently (prior to me knowing the Ooze were going to do anything with it) re-worked in the Next Wave essay "Kama Sutra."

The “Body Art” Of Emerging Church

Paul Fromont 11/30/2003 10:03:00 PM
This quote from 'The Shaping of Things to Come' by Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch (Follow the link, pdf contents page, sample chapter, and introduction) was something I tried to communicate in yesterdays sermon - I feel encouraged...I'm not on another planet...

"To contextualize is to understand the language, longings, lifestyle patterns, and worldview of the host community and to adjust our practices accordingly without compromising the gospel. Many churches change the style of their Sunday services without any research into the host community. We often change things because we want the change, not because of a heart for cross-cultural mission in our own context." (p.85) - "The shaping of things to come")

Posted as comment by Darryl on Darren's blog.

Paul Fromont 11/30/2003 11:50:00 AM
Incubators of the Emerging

We watched an interesting television programme last night about "Business Incubators"

A Business Incubator is a facility designed to assist businesses to become established and profitable during their start up phase.

They do this by providing:

shared premises
business advice
business services
a full time manager
The incubation period for an individual business is normally one to three years.

US statistics show that Business Incubators increase the success rate of start-ups from 20% to 87%.

So, do we need to have church incubators, networks that intensively work to nurture, nourish, and fund creativity; that resource new and emerging expressions of church? That fund and resource spirituality?

I'm grateful to have a good friends down here that incubate my spirituality, my sense of church, and mission - Mark and Steve, Andrew, and Mike, an " Invisible / distant friend" (These people often remain at the distance unaware of any connection with us. These are the people, living and dead that inspire, teach, and encourage through the example of their lives, their writing, their art, their music, or their teaching) who fund me, encourage me, and enable me to better incarnate and earth my Jesus-following life in this land.

Paul Fromont 11/30/2003 11:24:00 AM
Today (1st Dec.) is the world premiere of "The Return of the King," 6 hours drive south from where I am now, in Wellington, the capital city of Aotearoa-New Zealand....I'll be down there next weekend - 10 wedding anniversary - but am really disappointed that the movie doesn't publically open for another 2-weeks, so we won't be able to go and see the movie in the cinema that it premiered in.

Paul Fromont 11/30/2003 11:02:00 AM
Friday, November 28, 2003
Are "we" the problem? Part 1

“…Our God is a God of beginnings. There is in him no redundancy or circularity. Thus, if his church wants to be faithful to his revelation, it will be completely mobile, fluid, renascent, bubbling, creative, inventive, adventurous, and imaginative…”

Jacques Ellul

We can tell a lot about our theology of God by the ways we “do” and “are” church. I can tell a lot about the unspoken theology of my church by sitting back and listening, by watching, by asking questions, by listening to conversations over lunch, by listening to conversation at small group gatherings, by listening to questions being asked, by watching for what is being read, by listening to sources and people of influence in people journey’s, by listening for the music that people are listening too…by looking for the ways they distance themselves from the world within which they are called to serve, and with which they are called to engage for the sake of the gospel.

Given yesterdays post (Alan Jamieson’s research), if church = “people”, and churches are shallow in their format and approach, poor listeneners, conservative to the point of actually squeezing out life, too inward looking, boring, superficial, dull, numbing, narrow, a hindrance to connecting more deeply with God, and a hindrance to fully and creatively expressing a relationship with God; does it follow that we’re all these things as individuals because we are church?

If we are, “Why are we?” ‘What does it say about our Spirituality?” and “What are we going to do about it?”

Paul Fromont 11/28/2003 10:07:00 AM
Thursday, November 27, 2003
Why People Leave Churches

A section from my sermon notes for Sunday - Broadening our reflection on Acts 15:1-35.

"People leave churches; people have damaging church experiences. For all kinds of reasons this is a reality. In drawing attention to the struggles that people have, what I'm trying to do is to encourage the kind of communal reflection that really listens to the life-quenching experiences that many people are having in churches; listens in order to better love, change, and serve the needs of people who want to grow in and deepen their relationship with God revealed in Jesus, who want to become more fully human after the likeness of Jesus, who want to nurture the diverse work of the Spirit in their everyday lives, who want to more authentically and creatively engage with the renewing work of God in Jesus in the world."

"Like Paul and Barnabas we should "protest fiercely¨ (The Message, Acts 15:2) when the outcome of belonging to church is brokenness, rather than wholeness and life more fully lived."

In Friends Exploring the Frontiers of Faith: A study of post-church groups in New Zealand, Alan Jamieson lists a number of reasons people leave churches. Here's a list of several:

The structure and orientation of the churches

 The shallowness of the format and approach
 The church was dysfunctional
 The church was too inward looking
 The church was boring
 The church contributed to people's burnout
 They wanted to explore new ways of 'being' church

Personal growth and the spiritual/faith journey of individuals

 They had grown beyond [their] church
 Church was like a stuck record
 Church hindered their connection with God
 Church provided them with no support
 Church was too narrow
 They had too many questions
 They were not heard
 They wanted to be freed to make contact with non-Christian people
 They wanted more contemplation
 Church did not scratch where they itched
 They wanted a more intimate and participatory environment

Most people spoke of a combination of church related concerns and personal issues of growth or needing something 'different' for their own spiritual development."

Kathryn and I were reflecting on the list last night, and talking about how many of these "symptoms" were true for us........hmmmmmmmm

Paul Fromont 11/27/2003 10:25:00 AM
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Mindful, contemplative and compassionate

Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." - Matthew 6:33 (The Message)

Read this on Chris Marshall’s site. A couple of weekends I did a “mindfulness” retreat – a retreat creating space to recognise God and his gift to me in the “sacrament of the present moment;” creating space for me to discern the “wind of the Spirit,” trusting the Spirit to form meaning and significance out of the “chaos.” We call the giving of our “entire attention to what God is doing right now,” contemplation. Listening with ear and heart. Contemplation – wondering, marvelling, revelling in God encountered in the present moment, encountered in the “right now.” It’s that simple. It’s living “mindfully”, it’s slowing down, it’s looking, listening, touching, feeling, smelling. It’s “breathing in” through our senses the still small voice of God, God’s loving wink, God’s smile, and God’s loving embrace. It’s “breathing out” of our lives joylessness, fear, a lack of trust, self-hatred and loathing, our unwillingness to allow God to forgive us, our unwillingness to let God love us

Contemplation, gives rise to proverbs, draws skill-for-living (‘wisdom’) from the simple act of noticing – noticing our environment. Noticing what we overlook, which we pass-by everyday.

Andrew Pritchard writes “we grow in contemplative living by taking time to reflect on our experience of life. Block out time in your diary for 2004, register a booking for space in a monastery, register for a workshop on contemplative prayer, organise your own retreat – a good book to use as a help is Emilie Griffin’s, “Wilderness Retreat: A Guide for Spiritual Retreat” or Brother Ramon’s “Seven Days of Solitude: A Guidebook for a Personal Retreat.” If you struggle to hear the invitation in Scripture, listen to culture, as Nike exhorts us, “Just do it!” We often say we ‘learn from experience’. Unfortunately, all too often that is not true. We actually learn by reflecting on our experience.”

Again, Andrew Pritchard, “Compassionate living grows out of contemplative living.” In living contemplatively, “giving attention to what God is doing right now,” we learn to listen to God, we learn to listening deeply to the lives of others. We listen for their need for healing, their need for love, their need for forgiveness, for hope, for a sense of identity and meaning. We listen first, then we embody God’s love, God’s healing – acts of kindness, taking time to care, to send a card, to gift some flowers, sharing the Jesus-story, meeting for ongoing conversation over a beer or a cup of coffee, pray. Be the solution to a practical need: something to be fixed, a lawn to be mown.

Paradoxically, if we gave “attention to what God is doing right now,” if we saw in the present moment an opportunity to encounter God, self, and neighbour, if we listened and felt first, perhaps then we would have something to say about Jesus, something to say about God’s gospel gift.

Paul Fromont 11/26/2003 09:42:00 PM
Tuesday, November 25, 2003
Soul-Shaper - Postmodern Youth Ministry - Tony Jones Interview

Cutting Edge now have online the latest of their newsletters - the feature of which for me was a great interview with Tony Jones (author of Soul-Shaper). You can find it here. Lot's of valuable insights for church.

"The biggest concept I’ve been able to explore successfully with them has been 'inhabiting the Biblical narrative.'..."

"...Youth ministry is broken significantly, I think. Kids think church is about fun, about being entertained, and then they graduate and get out of youth group and realize, “church isn’t all that fun” – the programs in most churches for adults pale in comparison to the programs for youth, in their ability to keep people engaged. I think for kids to be spiritually formed, kids have to develop some sense of true commitment to the local embodiment of the Body of Christ. The youth should infiltrate the whole church. The ghettoized youth ministry programs where they are never with the adults are dangerous.

Paul Fromont 11/25/2003 10:06:00 AM
Monday, November 24, 2003
Struggling with church?

This is a quote that helps me in my own struggles with church. It needs to be better ‘earthed’ in my reality but its discovery is a good start…something hopeful

“…The late great Lesslie Newbigin was once asked whether he was an optimist or a pessimist about the future of the church. His reply ‘I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead’…”

Quoted by NT. Wright


Today I am a year older.

As someone has said recently, "I'm closer to 40 than 35..." I have a lot to be grateful for as I reflect on my last 12 months - lot's of wonderful people and new friendships to be grateful for. Grateful for new opportunities to be creative and reflective. Grateful for LIFE and for a wonderful family. Grateful for the "Whale Rider" DVD, my movie of the year and my brithday present...

Paul Fromont 11/24/2003 12:03:00 PM
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Sundays "service" - is it really serving anyone's Jesus-following journey?

“…Traditional film aesthetics assumes…that everything you need to know will be in the movie... The Matrix isn't playing by those rules: it is experimenting with a new kind of popular culture, one which is by design more open-ended, more multilayered, more provocative and evocative, more exploratory than any one spectator is going to be able to process…The Matrix isn’t designed to be the end of the communicative and creative process but rather the beginning…”

Henry Jenkins, in “Why The Matrix Matters” (thanks to Stephen Garner for the link)

After reflecting on this (‘lectio divina’), I wondered…

What might happen if we re-imagined the content and shape of gathered church, such that these gatherings were less directed and programmed, if they were less the high point of the Jesus-following life, less an “end” in and of themselves, and more an “open ended,” “multi-layered” funder (amongst many others) of the creative and formational experience of becoming more like Jesus communally and individually? What would being “scripture-shaped” look like if our gathered experience was more about communal, experimentation, participation and exploration? What would it sound like and feel like? What would we need to do in order to enable that to happen? What would make our gathered experiences less ‘self-contained’ and more an experience that ‘spills over’ into the everyday, nourishing and energising the following of Jesus? What would many churches need to do in order to even start informed and reflective conversation about these kinds of changes...?

Darren reflects (by way of Wolfgang Simson) on another related issue - churches that focus soley on Sundays "service" - is it really serving anyone's Jesus-following journey?

"The image of much contemporary christianity could be summarized as holy people coming regularly to a holy place on a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual led by a holy man dressed in holy clothes for a holy fee. Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called 'worship service' requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional one or two hour 'worship service' is very resource hungry but produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, i.e. in changing their lives. Economically, it is a 'high input, low output' structure."

Paul Fromont 11/23/2003 10:55:00 AM
Saturday, November 22, 2003
We had a good night last night - we were honored to have been invited to Steve, Lynne, Shannon, and Kayli's farewell BBQ and story telling night in Auckland. It was also great to have the "Birthday girl" in attendence.

I didn't have any funny stories to tell about Steve and/or Lynne, so I got to listen to the stories of others - all of which broadened and enriched my sense of Steve & Lynne. Thanks for the invite Graceway.

Anyway, tonight is their final service as Pastors together, amongst Graceway, and we won't be able to get there, so thought I jot down some of the things I'd want to say:


 You nourished and enriched (andwill continue too...) my Jesus-following journey through your use of the "DJ" metaphor - helping me maintain a creative tension between Christian tradition, history, Scripture, culture & context. Your most influential essay which for me brought these 'strands' together - "Scars on the Australasian Heart: Anzac Day as a Contextual Atonement Image."

Thanks for trusting me with ideas, words, images, and your creative thinking and writitng.

 Lynne, thanks for opening your home and for being an important part of the developing friendship between our families. We really treasure your warmth, friendliness, and thoughfulness - extra tickets to save money on entry to Kelly Tarlton's - that kind of thing...You've reinforced for me again, how important "team" is for pastoral ministry...

Thanks for sharing time, experience, and learning. For allowing "strangers" to enter into to your lives. Thinking of the first time we talked over a beer, Steve. "Me" the stranger - unknown. Thanks for the conversations.

 Thanks for the care and encouragement - phonecalls and e-mail.

 Thanks for the gift of friendship. May it continue to grow and deepen over the coming years despite the physical distance.


 I remember Steve once saying that a DJ can never forget their relationship to their community. Those who 'dance'. If the mix is bad, the community stops dancing, stops entering into the music and the experience of 'dancing.' You have all faithfully 'danced' together on the Graceway 'dancefloor'. You've enabled Steve and Lynne to share their giftednness. You've trusted them and valued them. You've been faithful partners in the relationship.

Thanks for allowing your church community to have permeable edges - whether at Ellerslie, in Steve and Lynnes home, @ Cafe Ultra.
You've allowed me to experience what words like: "earthed," "creativity," "relevant," "real," "honest," "relational and relaxed". look like.

Thanks for sharing Steve and Lynne. We've been enriched down here in the Waikato as a consequence.

Thanks for incarnating and earthing the journey, for your experiments with worship, for your willingness to operate outside of the "box" - As a consequence you have seeded much hope and creativity around the edges of your experiences together.

Paul Fromont 11/22/2003 10:17:00 AM
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Spirituality / Inspiration Books

I was looking through the “spirituality / inspiration” section of one of our cities bookshops, specifically; I was ‘flicking’ through books on prayer, meditation, becoming more human (i.e. compassionate, dealing with anger, forgiving, becoming more loving of ‘god,’ self, and others – that kind of thing), and contemplation. None were explicitly from within the Christian tradition (but some did include Christian content), the majority derived from the Buddhist tradition.

These are very popular books, and this a very popular section in this bookshop. Why? A few thoughts: (1) these books are nearly always eminently practical, i.e. they don’t simply deal with a subject like prayer at an intellectual level. They focus on prayer in the midst of life, practices to assist prayer & reflection, prayer / spirituality for “everyday living,” they address the realities of living and being human; (2) the content and presentation of these books are very visual, i.e. they utilise art, image, and symbol to visually convey meaning, e.g. on a chapter on “loneliness” the accompanying images were of a white yacht with it’s sail up, on a vast expanse of blue ocean – the yacht being very small and the sea large. Text and image enrich each other; (3) related to point (1) they are very often full of practical and simple suggestions – side bars – praying while walking, prayer and relaxation, prayer and health, praying with prayer beads, use of icons, prayer symbols, reflecting on “change,” music and prayer, prayer and settling the mind, prayer and ecology etc; (like the simple responses on the back of Graceway’s postcards) (4) They’re written for a wider audience than those who may inhabit the tradition out of which the book emerges. Accordingly they better connect with those exploring their spirituality, or those seeking wisdom, those seeking to connect with their humanity at it’s spiritual level.

On the other hand, my observation is that very few explicitly Christian books, or books whose core derives from the Christian tradition, actually focus on practical issues of living, and the struggles of being and becoming more human (i.e. more like Jesus); they are poorly presented and fail to meaningfully utilise image, cultural icons and symbols etc. Books published by Eagle & Lion Publishing in the UK are typically exceptions on this latter point; they lack practical suggestion and rituals.

Christian books are predominantly focused on those inside the Christian “bubble,” within the bounded set of Christianity; there is often little attempt to engage with different religious traditions and the wisdom and insights within those traditions. There are very few ‘connection’ points that connect with the human experience outside of an explicit Christian worldview, “connection points” that draw searching people on a journey toward Jesus. Christian books are often less about helping people to live fully, and more about diminishing what it means to be a human being created to “image” God. They are often more focused on the head than the heart and spirit.

All of this seems odd to me when in the West (and certainly within England, Australia, and New Zealand) where we are an extremely minor voice in the public arena. Haven’t we got something wonderful and life giving to gift…? Where are the writers and publishers who will build bridges, who will begin to write and publish for a much broader and larger grouping, those outside of an explicitly Christian “world”? Where are those who will engage with society at a much more practical level, those unwilling to see the Christian story rendered impractical and irrelevant to those asking questions and seeking meaning and significance Spirituality for people on the move...!

Paul Fromont 11/20/2003 10:43:00 AM
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Putting Learning in Perspective

To grow in the things of the Spirit…love must go hand in hand with learning; nay, at a certain point it must leave study and dally behind while the heart runs ahead with inner joy to the gift that is God himself.”

(Bonaventure / 1217 - 1274)

Paul Fromont 11/19/2003 11:57:00 PM
Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The biblical injunction to “encourage” one another has been a very real experience for me this week. I got a couple of lovely e-mails, one from a friend and the other from somebody I’ve never met. I am both encouraged and freshly energised …Let us continue to be genuine encouragers of one another...

“…Had a quick look at a number of your entries and came away very stimulated and inspired. It's so refreshing to hear people saying the sorts of things you're saying. Keep it up man!”


“…I just read Belonging and Not Belonging.

I started into some kind of journey a few years ago (not knowing that it was a journey but more feeling like I might be loosing my faith). As I have found more books and articles about post modernism and the emerging church, it has been both heart warming and (frankly) kind of bizarre to know that there are lots of people experiencing the things/thoughts that I am.

Thank you for your article. It was one of those heart-warming moments that caused me to know I'm not alone on this path. Particularly comforting to realize that it's not my faith I'm losing...but maybe my faith in church-as-usual…”

Paul Fromont 11/18/2003 10:46:00 AM
Drum and Beat / Holistic Health

A couple of things caused me to reflect as I drove to work this morning:

Listening to ORB on the CD-player. Thinking about the drum & bass “beat, about the practice of contemplation against the backdrop of drum and bass beat instead of music that is typically quieted, classical, or ambient. Hearing the “beat,” the heart of God beating in creation. The soft, gentle, and rhythmic beat of God’s presence. The passionate beat of God’s love. The raised tempo and beat of God’s anger in the face of injustice and war. The skipping heartbeat of God at play. The sad heartbeat of God’s compassion and tears for the poor and the marginalised…Thankyou God, you’re in the beat of drum and base as well as in the silence.

Drove past a sign advertising a holistic health festival. Wondered if there’d be a Jesus-presence. The creative, life-giving presence of God's Spirit brooding like a bird above chaos and bottomless emptiness. A loving presence for gospel wholeness. A voice and presence for the hope of becoming more truly human after the likeness of Jesus, the perfect "image of God". A voice and presence for re-creation and restoration, for an end to tears and suffering, for a new heaven and a new earth. The voice and presence of the “wounded healer”…

Paul Fromont 11/18/2003 12:48:00 AM
Monday, November 17, 2003

I’ve stumbled across a couple of reflections on “community” lately – Jason Evans’ blog post – and I read an interesting reflection on “community” by Mike Riddell (in the publication Tui Motu, May 2003).

“Mike discourses over various attempts to establish communities based on the Gospel ideal. Many failed. So how do we as Christian respond to this call to love?”

Drawing on NZ poet James K. Baxter’s unpublished document “A Handbook for the Christian Militant,” Riddell notes that taking the “Kingdom of God” seriously means that “the call of faith in Christ requires us to work at building community not among ourselves, but among people everywhere...Community is an ideal not to be enacted merely in the presence of the surrounding population, but rather among the members of it…social and political activism, in [Baxter’s] vision, become clear expressions of Christian faith, if indeed they are devoted toward communal and compassionate ends. The goal advanced by Baxter is not that of making a constantly fragmented society into the kingdom of God, but rather of slowly working to transform it in that direction. In this way the task is not the building of communities so much as community…[we work to] strengthen bonds of belonging…the aim…cannot be to have everyone living under the same roof, nor indeed to be nominally equal in some communitarian sense. Rather it is to foster and nurture those strands of human connection which already exist between people, and to resist what ever divides them…If I dream of community still, it is the hope of ordinary people beginning to recognise their responsibility to and for one another…”

Perhaps therefore, Miroslav Volf’s book “Exclusion and Embrace” or Richard Hays’ “The Moral Vision of the New Testament: Community, Cross, New Creation. A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethic” or DA. Carson’s “Love in Hard Places” should become texts for deep reflection on Christian community - for constructing a theology of community! I wonder what kind of community might grow out of the hard work of wrestling with books like these.....?

Paul Fromont 11/17/2003 10:42:00 AM
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Back from Retreat

My retreat was a good time of doing nothing, of silence, of reflection, and of listening for the still, small voice of God. Interestingly I was the only male, and the second youngest person. Neither was an unhelpful factor, in fact, it was good to hear and interact with a wide range of female voices and their experiences of God. If any of you felt lead to pray for me, thanks.

One ‘handout’ we were given was one that contained this reflection by Australian author Paul Hawker (most well known for his book, Soul Survivor - review here, written before Philip Yancey’s one of the same title)

We are what do we do with our silence.

When the world tells us we are what we do with our activity, acumen or achievement let us learn we are what we do with our silence.

When the world tells us we are what we do with our spending power, selling power, or our power of speech let us learn we are what we do with our silence.

When the world tells us to drown the silent sufferings of others with indifference or noise or to forget the art of stillness even in the storm let us learn we are what we do with our silence.

When the world tells us to rush in where angels fear to tread let us learn that angels listen first before they take a step, for the voice of God in the silence

Paul Fromont 11/16/2003 10:05:00 PM
Friday, November 14, 2003

My response to my good friend Alan Creech’s post – “Artificial” – I’m on retreat for the weekend – a “mindfulness” retreat.

Mindfulness” being the art of living fully in the present moment. For many of us, very little of our attention is focused on the present. Instead, we expend our energy reliving the past or planning the future. Doing so robs us of much potential richness and joy. The practice of mindfulness draws us deeply into our life as it actually is, rather than how we interpret it to be, and to a deep encounter with the God whose name is I AM, who always meets us in our life as it is right now.

Paul Fromont 11/14/2003 01:10:00 AM
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
An update on my attempts to get to Kentucky/Cincinnati in January 2004. It's in God's hands. Below is a portion of an e-mail from my travel agent received earlier today:


I am patiently waiting to see if some waitlists will clear

I have spent hours on your booking. Anything through to US is totally full, as well as through to UK (and you are not my only client I am having problems with).

I have confirmed - NZ/ United Airlines to Paris return at a cost of NZ$3499 plus taxes. CRAZY BUT CONFIRMED!!!

Other than this I have 6 other options with different airlines on waitlists
from Auckland to Los Angeles.

Paul Fromont 11/12/2003 09:38:00 PM
Monday, November 10, 2003
I couldn't resist it. A light-hearted reflection on this weekends rugby test between Australia ('The Wallabies') and New Zealand ('The All Blacks').

An Australian school teacher explains to her class that she is a Wallabies fan. She asks her students to raise their hands if they, too, are Wallabies fans.

Everyone in the class raises their hand except one little girl.

The teacher looks at the girl with surprise and says, "Emma, why didn't you raise your hand?"

"Because I'm not a Wallabies fan," she replied.

The teacher, still shocked, asked, "Well, if you are not a Wallabies fan, then who are you a fan of?"

"I am an All Blacks fan, and proud of it," Emma replied.

The teacher could not believe her ears. "Emma, why are you an All Blacks fan?"

"Because my mum is an All Blacks fan, and my dad is an All Blacks fan, so I'm an All Blacks fan too!"

"Well," said the teacher in a obviously annoyed tone, "That is no reason for you to be an All Blacks fan. You don't have to be just like your parents all of the time. What if your Mum was a moron and your Dad was a moron, what would you be then?"

"Then... Emma smiled, "I'd be a Wallabies fan."

Paul Fromont 11/10/2003 08:49:00 PM
God's Richly Varied Wisdom
a sermon at the national launch of 'Fulcrum'
Holy Trinity Church, Clapham: 5 November 2003

by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright

"...What is an Evangelical? I refused, because even to ask that question is to be looking in the wrong direction - as though by giving a satisfactory answer one might thereby possess a tool designed to make some people feel safe and superior (as though we were not all called to continual reformation) and other people feel snubbed and excluded. I suggested a rather different topic, which remains the more appropriate way of asking the question. Granted that the euangelion, the evangel or gospel, is precisely not a message about those who believe and proclaim it but a message about God for the world, the appropriate set of questions is this...First, what gospel tasks is God calling us to undertake in the world today and tomorrow? Second, what resources are there in the evangelical tradition to help us in those tasks? Third, what resources will we need which are not in the front rank of evangelical traditions, or not in our particular sub-traditions, and of which we need to be reminded by others?

Thanks to Jordon Cooper for the link.

Paul Fromont 11/10/2003 08:44:00 PM
Friday, November 07, 2003
Sorry, I've already written a lot today, and for that matter over the last few days, BUT I wanted to link to a post by Marsh that I really related too:

New Monasticism

"...We have found a coherence and identity within the Desert and Celtic monastic traditions that has made sense of God's leading in our lives. We believe that here, in Northumbria, the Lord is touching peoples' lives in the same way as He touched the lives of our forefathers and mothers in the faith who first brought the gospel to us. We too are experiencing a call upon our lives regarding the nature of our faith, a call to repentance, to self denial and a resisting of evil. A call of God to find a Way for Living that relates to being a Christian in society as it is today. We are not escaping from the world, nor is there any condemning of the Church of which we are members. There is no intention to set up some new movement, strategy or programme, but simply an exploration into how we should live as Christians in a changing age with all its challenges and opportunities..."

Thanks Chris.

Paul Fromont 11/07/2003 02:14:00 PM
Justice and Resistance

I want to ask some questions! To provoke! Does the “Christian Mix,” amplified by the “emerging church,” have space for the sentiments expressed by Ched Myers below?

Emerging churches helping “…equip everyday disciples to overcome their sense of disempowerment and denial in order to engage in the evangelical works of mercy, service, advocacy and resistance.” Helping to “battl[e] against dysfunctional theological concepts and domesticated biblical readings that refuse to address the deepening violence and broadening socio-economic disparity around us.”

Emerging churches helping “…examine contemporary cultural discourses critically and the ancient texts contextually, [helping] find resonance through analogy and symbol and a constant analysis of power…”

Emerging churches helping enable people to locate themselves at “the powerful intersection between Word and world” such that “vision,” “faith,” and “social imagination are re-ignited” and “lives are turned toward the tasks of liberation and peacemaking…”

Is there space within the “emerging church” for art and justice? Image and resistance? Participation and protest? Cutting edge technology and simplicity? For creativity and compassion? For cultural affirmation and cultural critique? For alternative practices of church and the critique of church as a fallen “power”?

I think a bit of what I’ve written touches on an unhealthy implication of something Matthew Glock has helpfully highlighted recently “…Much of what you read concerning the emerging church could bear the title, "The emerging church in the white, Anglo, post-modern, post-Christian subculture"…” Darren Rowse, and Rachel Cunliffe have made similar or related comments. I’m sure others have too.

The reality is that who we are, the ‘worlds’ we live in, our education, our competencies, our passions, and our specialisations can’t but help but shape forms and practices of emerging church. We would be inauthentic too ourselves if who we are didn’t…

Accepting that, the challenge then becomes how we ensure that we make space for, and encourage the speaking of divergent voices, for the gifting to our respective “mixes” of voices like Ched Myers, William Stringfellow, the voices of those from Asia and South America. The challenge becomes too encourage the gifting to our mixes of experiences and insights from the ‘margins’ – voices speaking for social justice, for racial justice and reconciliation, for peace making, for economic and political justice, for non-“spam evangelism” (but evangelism none the less), for ecological concern etc. Voices challenging the ways in which being technologically savvy, “white,” male, rich by global standards, “Anglo” etc. obscure and distort the full implications and significance of a very Jewish Jesus, his story and his mission.

Imagine the possible implications of having Ched ‘hanging-out’ and inputting into a few Allelon, Emergent, or Soularise events, Ched (and others) in conjunction with those exploring the implications for church of operating within a so-called “post-modern” context, Ched (and others) in conjunction with those on the leading edge of “alt-worship”? Ched (and others) in conjunction with those experimenting with house churches? What might that do to breadth and depth of vision and practice? What might that mean for a re-igniting and broadening of the sense of church as missional? What if it wasn’t about “either / or”, but more about “and”? Who might be the female, Asian, First Nation, Polynesian, and Hispanic voices we could lovingly welcome into the conversation and practice of being churches, churches that mix biblical narrative, tradition, and context to create a contemporary “Christian mix?”

We need divergent expertise to broaden our tendency to myopia. The implications of the gospel are always broader than my “seeing,” my experience, and my understanding…

Paul Fromont 11/07/2003 01:12:00 PM
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Another quote from Rowan Williams (same source as earlier in the week, and like that post, Rowan's quote features at the top (bold text / speech marks) with my comments below.):

I would see the role of the arts as most powerful, in saying to people, ‘this is not a shrinkage of your humanity. On the contrary, there is room here for you to explore and express.’… The central mystery of God taking human flesh has huge implications for the arts...[It’s] not repetitive tradition versus creativity, but what degree of newness we bring to the absorption and apprehension of tradition…”

I took a couple of wayfarers and explorers to “Sacred Space” in Tauranga last Saturday night (All Saints day, Nov. 1). Multiple “spaces” in an Anglican church (“being” with God, confession, hearing God’s word, intercession, Eucharist, response through art and writing, water and blessing). It was a rich experience, the creative bringing together of tradition and multi-sensual spaces within which to encounter God.

I was reminded by one of my travellers that the liturgy of the Anglican Church contains within it many ‘spaces’: silence, Eucharist, confession, intercession (can express concern for the world, injustices etc.), engaging with scripture (Psalms, OT, NT, and Gospels), singing, and music. There is much that is ancient, practices and spaces within which to breath new life, within which to resource and nurture spirituality, within which to nourish the arts, spaces within which freedom and personal creativity can be exercised, spaces within which the breadth of what it means to be humans created in the “image of God” can be bought, can be gifted to community. (I know these sentiments are not always the reality for many in Anglican contexts, but there’s lots of potential.)

Baptist churches like Cityside in Auckland draw from and utilise the kinds of spaces (with ‘twists’) that traditional Anglo/Catholic liturgy provides, in order to birth creativity, rejuvenate experiences of gathered church, to make contextual connection, and to communally encounter God-revealed-in-Jesus who creates, calls, forms, and sends. Many so-called “alt-worship” communities flourish in the spaces created between tradition and contemporary arts and artistic mediums.

Maggi Dawn gives an example:

“…The title "Ambient Mass" was coined because we (friends and I) decided to do our first experimental version of the Eucharist in a setting inspired by Ambient Music (Brian Eno being the principal composer/artist here). We were thinking not just about the words in the script, but the whole setting of the Eucharist - the building, the atmosphere, what it looks like, smells like, feels like - the ambience of the whole matters in the reception and interpretation of the experience.

The scripts so far (there are now 2 versions, and more in the making) are based in translations of the Latin Tridentine Mass, and another medieval mass…”

We are gifted tradition and we mix in the contempory to sample, create and amplify what Steve Taylor calls “our new Christian mix.” Let it be increasingly so, for as Faithless have sung, “God is a DJ” (see Steve’s sermon, DJ’ing Salvation.)

Paul Fromont 11/05/2003 09:53:00 AM
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
A little reflection I recently wrote for NEXT WAVE. Thanks for the invitation Alan, and Steve for the early editorial comment.

The "Kama Sutra" of an Emerging Church: Positioning Ourselves to Engage the Senses

I also liked this article by Dave Crampton from Wellington, also posted on the Next Wave site

Why some Christians would rather go to the pub than to church...

Paul Fromont 11/04/2003 12:17:00 AM
Monday, November 03, 2003
Healthy Church - Taking Responsibility, Sharing the Load

A quote from Rowan Williams (below), published @ Third Way ('interviews'), got me thinking

“…I think the real issue may go a bit deeper [Christianity as counter-culture in the West]: it’s about how people actually live together…The problem is not so much that people don’t want to belong to churches as that they don’t feel they want to shoulder the moral responsibility for community. Now, that’s not just about a sense of community, it’s people actually saying, ‘I want to carry a vision for the community.’…”

Building church community is not just a “moral responsibility,” it’s also a formational responsibility, a missional responsibility, a pastoral / incarnational responsibility to care for and love the “sheep” that God has entrusted to particular congregations, it’s a leadership responsibility, its our responsibility because together we are church.

When these “responsibilities” aren’t shared, it becomes incredibly tiring, frustrating and lonely. All of these dimensions of church, especially in transitional times such as these, requires more than the sowing of good intentions, cliché, and sentiment.

Healthy church becomes people taking responsibility for maintaining an individual and collective spiritual ‘diet’ that grows and nourishes them, for allowing God to form them…it’s wayfarers on a journey home together, bringing their giftedness to a mix of theology and praxis, it’s accompaniment not duty, it’s dreams and hopes nourished by Word, Spirit, meals, and the ‘give and take’ of conversation; it’s “doing” more than speaking; it’s people nourishing, loving, praying, receiving, and generously supporting the sense of giftedness and call that rests on each other. It’s friends encouraging and creating the kinds of base ‘soil’ conditions (e.g. values, practices) within which Christian community can deepen and flourish. Friends together “carrying” and enriching the vision.

Healthy church is about growing collective responsibility; it’s not just about me or you carrying the dead weight of others who don’t bring themselves, their growing, their questions, their teachability, their willingness to step outside of the box, their learning, their Jesus-following praxis to the “mix.” The paradox is that it's not about doing more, it's about wisely choosing to do less. It's not buying into the 'rat race'!

Sadly, over time, where there is unwillingness to share and jointly shoulder responsibilities for building communion, spiritual friendship, and community, there becomes a need to put protective boundaries in place, for us to recognise what about our experience of church is toxic to our Jesus-following lives, and for us to discern when it’s time to step back or move out…to shoulder less of the weight of one-sided arrangements, of being unvalued save for cliché and hollow words…

Reflecting on whether to stay or go is a place more and more Jesus-followers are finding themselves in in the West, contemplating the options for “believing without belonging” to institutional and life-sapping expressions of church. Deep communion and community – the gospel enfleshed relationally – rather than being countercultural, mimics the spirit of the age: clichéd, hollow, busy, constrictive and lifeless.

God, gives us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to be touched by the pain of others. Give us the means too grace your healing touch both to ourselves and others

Paul Fromont 11/03/2003 08:01:00 AM
Saturday, November 01, 2003
The new Emergingchurch.info page is up......join me for an Emerson Oatmeal stout and a converstion - pull up a chair - here

Paul Fromont 11/01/2003 10:27:00 AM

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