Monday, 29 September 2014

Anglo-Catholic Future: Liturgy is Messy

I was unable to attend the recent Anglo-Catholic Future event, but  Prof. Alison Milbank’s keynote is now available on-line. It is worth reading, and much of it I agree with. With Prof. Milbank I acknowledge both the strangeness and beauty of the catholic tradition. But where we may differ is our experience of what is beautiful. I truly believe that liturgy is messy, that this is beautiful, and that we need not fear mess.

My first experience of the catholic tradition was as a child in a mission parish on an estate in Gravesend. Holy Family still looks pretty much the same today as it did back then. I remember the richness of the experience, the images and colour - but a cathedral it is not.

I re-entered the catholic tradition through suffering. After my mother died I found myself, by accident, in a church where suffering was not packaged away but hung messily from every crucifix. Catholic spirituality embraces the reality of pain and suffering in the world as well as seeking supernatural healing.

I have been nourished in the catholic tradition through spiritual encounter. Catholic worship and practice is essentially ecstatic: an inability to move from adoration of the sacrament, a glimpse of Christ through palm branches, a strangeness of a statue of Our Lady. These and other supernatural experiences have shaped my relationship with God, even during those seasons when I have struggled to believe in God.

I have persevered in the catholic tradition through the sacrifice of the mass. The disruptiveness of the sacrifice offered corporately on the altar even when God may seem distant to the individual. Christ present in bread and wine, broken and blessed at the heart of a wider sacramental life. I long for a renewal of our shared intention at the altar in the catholic movement.

I have been renewed in the catholic tradition by walking with the apostolic teachers of an early missionary church. Seeking to engage in mission within a diverse and fractured culture around us. A plain reading of those who knew the apostles makes little space for obsessive aesthetics.

Mess does not mean disorder. Mess can have shape and form. But none the less embracing suffering is messy, the charismatic and ecstatic is messy, the disruptive sacrifice is messy, mission is messy. I believe that catholic worship and community lives and thrives when space is made for mess, for contemporary worship, for creative prayers, for prayer ministry and charismatic gifts, for flags waved and hands lifted high, for risky evangelisation and invitation.

I cannot help but return to Augustine:
Then, indeed, such a shout of wonder rose from men and women together, that the exclamations and the tears seemed like never to come to an end. ... They shouted God’s praises without words, but with such a noise that our ears could scarcely bear it. What was there in the hearts of these exultant people but the faith of Christ, for which Stephen had shed his blood?
Messy yes, and profoundly catholic. As it was then so may it be in our anglo-catholic future.

Friday, 29 August 2014


This Blog follows on from asking questions about Changes at Greenbelt and about the lack of UK Emergent Speakers.

Part of the reason that we have fewer UK 'Name' speakers is that emergent movements in UK Christianity have tended to follow the pattern of Symposia - either communicating through worship or short talks. This does not naturally produce single name speakers.

For the Rural Fresh Expressions events we did book a couple of named speakers, but they were not the focus of the conferences. The idea was that all who attended were contributors and practitioners. Everyone who wanted to come to the conference was invited to submit some background and part of their (communities) story. This was distributed to everyone before the conference, so we all knew something of one another. The conference was open to non-practitioners too (although they had a lower booking priority), but they too had to share what they were interested in learning and sharing.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Where are all the UK based Emergent Speakers?

So @vahva asks - where are all the Brit speakers? To which Tim responds:
So where are we now? Surely some of us who came through post-evangelicalism and alt-worship 20 years ago have or had something to say. After all this website has been running since July 2003 - have a look. And what happened 10 years before this website still exists on WorshipCafe. It all looks very familiar if you dig through it. Over the years I have shared these ideas with others - mostly through symposia and forums and actual worship. None of us have become Christian celebrities.

Whilst drifting off to sleep at Greenbelt this year I overheard a conversation on the path: the words 'Power Mad Bishops' hung in the night air - which made me smile at an event so focussed on Christian celebrity. Because Bishop's have very little actual power, and are seldom listened to. UK Emergents have taken the same path. Where are we?

Greenbelt 2014: Changes

Greenbelt has changed this year, just as I am sure that Greenbelt has changed many times over the years. I am not a lifetime Greenbelter, but over the last five years it has become part of my spiritual rhythm. This year that pattern included Naturally Supernatural at Soul Survivor, On Fire, and the Walsingham National Pilgrimage.

The site was the biggest change. Boughton House is brilliant as a venue, and Greenbelt creatively made use of the lie of the land to craft an experience that Cheltenham could not offer. However there were hiccoughs: access on and off site was difficult especially for day visitors. Where we were camping the toilets were frequently over full - sanitation seemed to be an issue across site, with some nasty outbreaks on the caravan field in particular. Mobile signal, especially data was variable to non-existent on many networks and there was no WiFi available, which meant that the vital extra social and interactive layers provided by social media were absent from talks and discussions.

The change in site also had an influence on the venues available. There was less AV technology available and fewer medium size venues. The Goth Eucharist for example was squeezed into a 200 capacity youth venue. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Doors Were Shut

The questions. What to wear, Will I fit in?

Your friends encourage you … ‘you will be fine’. Hair, shoes, make-up – that top – no the other one.

Will I like the music?

You arrive, there is short queue … and so the waiting. And then you are at the doors – guarded .. the doors are shut. You are looked up and down …

Deep breath. You are okay.

And the doors are shut behind you. – you are in .. you are welcomed …

And the music …