This blog was set up over five years ago, just ahead of me beginning fieldwork in researching for an MPhil thesis. The original post and explanation is 'here' and I can't quite believe it was so long ago! Well, it's all over - the thesis has finally been written, examined, corrected (I was asked to make minor modifications following the viva), and has been passed! This morning I've sent the final version off to the printers to be printed and bound (not a cheap exercise!) and then it's all done!! The picture (left) is the title page - hopefully it's not as dull as it sounds! In fact, my examiners were really encouraging and enthusiastic about it, claiming it is an excellent piece of work and should be published - we'll see!!!
I thought I'd post again to kind of bring this blog to some kind of closure (yes, it has been very quiet recently) now that the initial reason for setting it up has passed. I'm not going to close it down because I want to keep the archive of discussions to look back on and, who knows, I may even post something from time to time! If you've been a part of the conversations on this blog over the last five years, a big thank you. I've really enjoyed engaging with others over some of the stuff I've been thinking about and working on.
The thesis may be finished, but the mission continues - cheers!
Things have been very quite on this blog front recently, but I'm breaking the silence (!) to post this interesting interview with the three main Political Party leaders concerning their attitude towards the church. It's well worth a watch...
Of course, this isn't the only, or maybe even the most important, issue that should concern us as Christian voters. The people at the 'Robin Hood Tax' have made it easy to canvass our politicians views on that issue, which could well expose their attitudes towards poverty and wealth more generally. I only sent the email yesterday and have already received an extensive reply from our local Green Party candidate. Click 'here' to send it to your candidates.
Now the Electorate was out in Middle England, and Sky News and other members of the Media brought Gordon Brown to them. They made him stand before the group and said to the Electorate, "Voters, this man was caught in the act of speaking rashly in private. He left his microphone on, and it caught him accusing a woman of being bigoted." They were using this question as a trap, in order for having a basis for people not voting for him.
But the Electorate bent down and started to write something on their Twitter accounts. When the Media kept questioning them they straightened up, and said to the them. "If any of you - journalists and or other party leaders – if any of you has never spoken rashly in private, let us cast our votes for you."
At this, those who had heard began to go back to their campaign buses and leave, one at a time, the older ones first, until only the Electorate was left, with Brown still standing there. The Electorate straightened up and asked him, "Prime Minister, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
"No one Sirs." he said.
"Then neither do we condemn you." the Electorate declared. "Go now and DON’T BE SUCH A BLOODY IDIOT AGAIN OR WE’LL CERTAINLY NOT CAST OUR VOTE FOR YOU."
it's a simple, relatively pain-free (unless the bankers are really greedy!) but revolutionary idea that could raise hundreds of billions each year to boost the NHS, UK schools, the fight against domestic child poverty, as well as tackling poverty and climate change around the world! Oh yes, it's also being supported by, amongst others, Christian Aid, Cafod, and our own Prime Minister!
This is awesome! It's a flipbook 2100 pages long, created entirely with biro pens, and was submitted as a final piece for an AS Level art course. The creator worked on it for about 3 weeks on and off! Oh yes, it passed with full marks (unsurprisingly)!
Not sure if anyone is still out there (given how quiet I've been on this blog recently) but I thought it was worth directing anyone interested to a good paper written by Kevin Ward for the online New Zealand journal 'Stimulus' entitled It might be emerging, but is it church?
I found it a good well-balanced critique of the emerging church, although I have to admit to not really recognising some of his cited characteristics of the emerging church as being ones I'd really own. Nevertheless, Ward gives a good background to the 'movement', deals extensively with questions of church, culture and contextualisation, and critiques the emerging church (or, at least, his version of it) against the creedal confession of the "one holy, catholic and apostolic church".
You might not agree with all of his arguments or conclusions, but this is definitely (in my humble opinion) one of the better critical engagements with the emerging church.
Download the full paper from the Stimulus website 'here' (pdf format)
Let me address some of these, uh, burning issues: The emerging church is not an "it." It is not Emergent or Allelon, or Forge, Catalyst or ReImagine! It is not neo-monastic, or universalist, for that matter. It is not a bunch of Birkenstock-wearing, granola-crunching, Yoga-practicing midwest urban folks. It is not a "church within a church," gen-x service, candles and worship installations, liturgy practicing, hours prayers. It is not daily blogging with cool names and ipod loaded teaching. It is not a fad, anymore than Methodism, Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, Catholicism, Lutheranism, uh, you get the idea, were passing fads. It is no more a fad than the Calvary Chapels or the Vineyards. It has no more apostacy than the rest of the apostacy that passes for Christianity today. And by the way, it is not Rob Bell, Mark Driscoll, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Spencer Burke, uh, did I leave anyone out, yes, of course I did!
And yet, it is all of the above and so much more. It is what God is raising up to reach the rising culture and the rising generations.
Pastors, if you think you are prepared to deal with today’s cultural atmosphere, go watch the 2007 film, Juno. Then ask yourself this question: What is my congregation doing to make Jesus real to the Juno-Generation in my community?
there have been so many bomb blasts in Pakistan in recent months that I have not blogged about them for fear of repetition, even though I have been praying for friends in that troubled country. But today's blast in Peshawar, which has killed over 90 people, can't pass by without comment.
I continue to pray for the people whose lives have literally been torn apart by this and other atrocities; and also for those who are planning future such acts of violence - that they would be moved by God's love and compassion to reconsider and seek peaceful means of promoting their cause. For surely no god worth worshipping could approve of such indiscriminate slaughter in their name.
As I mentioned in a previous post, Dream was involved in a day long worship installation at this year's Greenbelt festival in collaboration with three other emerging church communties. For anyone who wants to see what it was like, Mark Berry (from Safe Space) has uploaded some photos to flickr. You can see a slideshow here.
This is a really interesting and challenging conversation prompted by Mark Berry's initial honest post about his struggle with the church's unstated expectation that pioneers will become pastors. I'm particularly stuck by Mark's comment later in the thread where he writes, in response to one person's practical question, "I don't think it necessarily means moving to a new place... but about keeping true to gifting in community... as I say it seems to be generally accepted/expected that Pioneers will become Pastors, but that assumes that leadership is held, I wonder what might happen if leadership were not held..."
I'm recovering and catching up after another great Greenbelt. The highlights of this year's festival for me were...
Athlete on Monday night - the best music set at Greenbelt for a good few years (in my humble opinion)
Gene Robinson - for a man who has been lambasted and judged by so many you can't help but be moved by the grace with which he speaks about issues that he is deeply passionate about, be challenged by his clear teaching, and be blown away by his deep personal spirituality and faith. I don't care if it does get me into trouble (with some) for saying so, but his seminars were definite highlights of the festival for me, and are well worth downloading if you missed them
Rob Bell - the queuing was a pain but I can't think of a more effective and absorbing communicator in the Church of today
the Long Worship in New Forms on the Monday (see photo above) - yes, I know that I was involved in organising and running it, but maybe for that reason it was moving to see so many people (over 900) connect with God in the space in so many unique and personal ways
the atmosphere and catching up with friends - but that's always a highlight of Greenbelt!
I'm already looking forward to Greenbelt 2010!!
If you were at this year's festival, what were your highlights?...
Greenbelt begins at the end of this week - I can't quite believe how quickly it's come round (did I say that last year?) but I'm really looking forward to it again. This year there's a pretty good music line-up too with Athlete heading the bill on Monday night. The new Greenbelt iPhone app has really helped in trying to work out which things I'm going to try to go to - I've got loads of stuff on my 'favourites' page, though I know realistically I won't get to half of it!!
I'm involved again with Dream, only this year instead of hosting our own hour-long service, we're partnering with Grace, Safespace and Feig to run 'The Long Worship' in New Forms on the Monday from 10am to 6pm. It's an interactive multi-media worship space involving this...
The chances are that if you drop in early in the day, you'll want to come back later to see how things have moved on. Make sure you come along if you're at the festival - you won't regret it!!
I'm also co-leading two Spirited Exchanges short (half-an-hour) seminars, both in G-Source...
Friday at 9:30pm - Faith:Beyond Certainty. 'Do you want to explore new and more life giving faith paradigms? What might these be and where might you find them? Malcolm Chamberlain and Jenny McIntosh of Spirited Exchanges UK look at what might help form the new faith mosaic to be more robust and integrated with all of life.'
Sunday at 7:30pm - Faith: Past its 'Use By' Date. 'Our faith journey has numerous dimensions. One is a time of questioning and faith unravelling. Beliefs and practices lose their meaning and cease to be life giving, bringing loss and confusion. Malcolm Chamberlain and Jenny McIntosh (Spirited Exchanges UK) explore the uncertainties and challenges of this difficult space.'
This may sound like a rant (because I guess it is!) but I am getting fed up with the complete rubbish (I could have used a much stronger word here) that is being churned out by the US conservative right concerning Obama's proposed health care reforms.
A few weeks ago I had a bit of a health scare and had to go to hospital for some tests, including an invasive procedure (thankfully everything came back clear). The fact that I could be treated by well qualified and experienced experts in the field using state of the art equipment with very little wait and no fear of a hefty bill afterwards is just one indicator of how great our National Health Service is. The further fact that anyone in need of such treatment, regardless of social status, race, gender, creed or financial standing, could have access to it, is the crowning glory.
So when you read of "Christian pastors", such as Rick Joyner in South Carolina, coming out with such paranoid nonsense as... "As incomprehensible as it may seem, this [i.e. Obama's health care proposal] is about euthanasia, the power to determine who lives or dies in America. Hitler and Stalin would have loved to have had such a means such as this for dispatching the millions they killed"(1) it makes me both angry and somewhat embarrassed to be associated with them as a fellow Christian (even if I might try to distance myself from this brand of Christianity). I'm no expert in US politics, but I don't think that Obama has any plans for using a national health care system to commit genocide!
Which is why I have signed 'this petition' - if you're as fed up as me over all this, why not do the same!
(1) reported by Andrew Clark and Ewen McAskill in The Guardian Weekly, 21.08.09 (p5)
I saw U2 at Sheffield Don Valley Stadium last Thursday and they were great (as always!) This is the 5th time I've seen them and I don't recall seeing the band look so relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves. The music was tight, the set and visuals jaw-dropping, and the birthday celebrations for show designer (and former Greenbelt mainstage link-man) Willie Williams was a nice extra touch. Thirty years in the business and they've still got it - best band in the world?... You bet!
Further to my last post, I received another email this morning, part of which reads...
"It all started at Shanty Nagar, Punjab, then the Christian community fell victim of Islamic extremism in Shangla Hills, the Christian community of Kasoor was attacked by the miscreants, and now a massive attack on a large number of Christians in Korian and Gojra.
In all the incidents Christian community and / or individuals have been falsely accused of desecrating the Holy Quran, thus once again the discriminatory BLASPHEMY LAWS have been misused against the peaceful Pakistani Christians in their own country, Pakistan.
According to News Reports thousands of Muslims, spurred by banned militant group, attacked a Christian neighbourhood in Gojra, on Saturday, burning more than hundred houses, and 7 people which include 2 minor children were also burnt alive, after report surfaced that some Christians had desecrated the Holy Quran."
I know I'm on sensitive ground here but I can't help but comment on this, having lived in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and witnessed first-hand how Christians live in almost constant fear of such attacks. The Pakistan Christian community has strongly denied the charges of desecrating the Holy Quran, which led to the events of the last week, and this seems to have fallen on deaf ears with no due process.
I'm not a Moslem myself, and therefore have a limited understanding of Islam from my own experience, reading and Moslem friends. But, even so, I confess to finding it difficult to reconcile such actions of extremists with the writings in the Quran they claim to follow. Every Surah (chapter) in the Quran begins, "In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful" - the fundamental tenet of Islamic faith. My struggle is that even if people had desecrated the Holy Quran (again, it's worth stating that this is strongly denied) how could a Most Gracious and Merciful God sanction the indiscriminate burning of entire villages and murder of innocent people as a just response? Surely God's grace and mercy far exceeds the importance of a book, even one as sacred as the Quran (or Bible for that matter).
Interestingly, in the same week that these awful events have been taking place, an art installation involving the Bible caused controversy in Scotland. Naturally, there were complaints from people who were offended by this apparent defacing of Scripture (personally, I didn't really have a problem with it but can see why it could have offended others), but I didn't read of any villages being burned to the ground in response.
Once again, I know I'm on sensitive ground, but when we are faced with such injustices and such extreme persecution of innocent people surely it isn't good enough to brush it under the carpet without comment for fear of offending the guilty. The church in Pakistan has condemned these attacks and we ought to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in doing the same. I'm equally convinced that many Moslems feel just as sickened by the events of the last week in Pakistan and would want to distance themselves from these ugly forms of extremism.
As a comment on my previous post pointed out, the challenge for the Christian community is to avoid the temptation to retaliate, and we must pray for the strength to forgive and, by doing so, demonstrate the gospel in action. That's my prayer for the Christian community in Pakistan; but I'm also praying for their safety and for the Most Gracious and Merciful God to convict those who would cause such suffering in the name of religion and supposedly defending the sacred.
I was horrified to receive an email just a few minutes ago that read...
"... on the night of July 30, 2009 in the village of Korian Toba Tek Singh, that falls in the Pastoral and Episcopal jurisdiction of Faisalabad Diocese – Church of Pakistan, some Muslim extremists set on fire about 75 houses of the Christian community and 2 Churches of the locality were also damaged.
The Diocese of Peshawar Church of Pakistan condemns this insane and brutal act of violence against peaceful poor Christian communities and on behalf of the Church of Pakistan humbly appeals to all partners and friends to pray for the comfort of the affected families and where possible extend support for the rehabilitation of victims of this unfortunate incident. "
Sadly attacks like these are all too frequent and rarely reported in the Western press. If you are a praying person, please do pray for the families affected, and for the wider Christian community in Pakistan living in fear of further attacks. Pray too against the misguided religious loyalties that lead some people to commit such barbaric acts.
The Pakistan Christian Post gives more information 'here'
Dream did their second 'Guerrilla Worship' on Saturday, this time hosting a 32 metre square labyrinth on Crosby Beach, near Antony Gormley's 'Another Place'. The weather wasn't great, restricting the number of passers by, but it was still worth while with around 50 people walking the labyrinth in a couple of hours. It was hard work setting it out (have you ever tried raking vast areas of wet sand?!!) but, I think you'll agree from the below video, well worth it. You can find more photos 'here'.
'This' is an interesting article by Rowenna Davis from the Guardian comparing religion and environmentalism. Dave Walker offers some interesting reflections on it 'here', not least the observations that "many... find it important to combine religious belief with environmental action."
I was at a conference last week in which Jim Wallis was speaking. In one of his sessions he made the observation that there are two great hungers amongst young people in the USA and UK today - the hunger for spirituality and the hunger for social justice. Wallis argued that the two must be held closely together - spirituality without the desire for justice simply leads us into a selfish consumer-driven 'feel good' faith, whilst the quest for social justice without a spirituality offering hope simply leads to cynicism and anger. I reckon Jim Wallis got it about right, and that it is up to those of us that claim faith in God to make the connection for those who don't but are deeply passionate about justice. It seems to me that this is the very stuff of the kingdom of God.
I've been asked to write something about sacraments for some pioneer ministers in Liverpool to comment on as part of their networked learning, but I’m keen to open the discussion out more widely, so feel to comment whoever and wherever you are! Be warned, this is quite a lengthy post for this blog!
I’ve blogged before about Eucharist 'here', following a conversation I had with my Bishop about what policy I practiced in admitting people to Communion who have not been baptised, let alone confirmed. I remember feeling a bit uncomfortable with the question until he assured me that he wasn't trying to catch me out! He went on to recommend a book by Timothy Gorringe called 'The Sign of Love' and lent me the book, which I reviewed 'here'. The gist of Gorringe's argument is that the Last Supper was, for Jesus, a continuation of the table fellowship that had so characterised his ministry, and through which he had included those often considered outsiders by the religion and culture of his day. Gorringe sets out a clear case for Jesus using table fellowship redemptively, which culminates in the Last Supper. Therefore, he suggests, Communion should be offered widely and becomes, for many, the means of connecting with God's grace and the community of faith. Rather than admission to Communion following on from baptism, Gorringe argues that the Eucharist should be offered unconditionally to all, and may itself become a significant part of a person's story leading them to a fuller identification with the community of faith.
For some time I've been unsatisfied with the Evangelical Anglican fudge concerning invitation to receive the Eucharist! I used to trip off the standard "if you love the Lord and know him as your saviour then you are welcome to receive", thinking I was being radically inclusive by not demanding that participants be confirmed. But I've become dissatisfied with this because it is still surrounding Jesus' unconditional table fellowship with certain requirements, those being ‘loving Jesus’ and ‘knowing him as saviour’, so why not go the whole hog and demand the traditional Anglican line of confirmation?! Nowadays, in my parish ministry as well as in pioneer ministry, the invitation I give is totally open – something like "if you'd like to come and receive you are welcome to do so - this is not my table or the church's table, but Jesus', and he welcomes all." I'm not sure how this would go down at a Bishop's team meeting, but given the fact that Eucharistic ministry seems to be so central to emerging churches because, in its mystery and non-cerebral engagement, it is missionally attractive, it seems that the Spirit is leading us to step down from our hierarchical protectionism regarding gifts of God's grace and get back to the Jesus way of offering hospitality to all.
In a similar way, my position on baptism has changed over the years too! I used to want to put baptismal candidates (or the parents and godparents of children being baptised) through a thorough course to ensure that they properly understood ‘the gospel’ (or, at least, my version of it) before going ahead with baptism. Now, as with Communion, I have a much more open approach. There is a significant difference with baptism, however, and that is that the candidates or their sponsors are making some public statements of belief and intention regarding life direction (turning away from all that is against God and turning to Christ). For this reason, I like to meet up with parents and godparents to go through the words of the service, so that they know in advance what is being asked of them, and try to answer any questions they might have, offering in the process alternative arrangements (such as thanksgiving or dedication services) if they felt unable to make these statements with integrity. But that said, I don’t see it as my role to ‘judge’ whether they are taking the rite seriously or being completely honest with me. If they say they are ok with all this and that they want to go ahead then that’s good enough for me – after all, baptism too is a visible sign of God’s grace, so who am I to ring-fence it or deny access to people? Surely it is between them and God, and the sacraments are God’s initiative and invitation, not ours.
In pioneering mission all of this takes on a sharper significance in that we want members of the new emerging community, who may not yet have owned faith personally, to be fully included in all aspects of community life and worship. What do we do if we are involved in taking a baptism and someone else in the community shouts out, “I’d like to do that too”? Do we insist on a future baptism after some instruction or do we simply baptise them there and then? It seems that the way of John the Baptist, and Jesus following him, would have been to simply get on with it!
And what about the words we use? At Dream we often write our own Eucharistic prayers, rooted contextually in the community and the occasion, but that has gotten us into trouble in the past! Should pioneer communities be restricted to the authorised form of words that the Church of England (or whatever sponsoring body) has decreed acceptable or should there be liberty to reframe sacramental worship in the culture of the host community? And I haven’t even touched on the ‘lay’ or ‘ordained’ question! When it’s a recognised and often stated fact that many ‘fresh expressions’ are lay-led (surely a cause for celebration!), what is gained by shipping in an ordained person from outside the new and fragile community just so that the community can experience the grace of Jesus’ table fellowship? If the Eucharist is a visible demonstration of the physicality of God – God incarnate, flesh and blood, bread and wine – why can’t we allow it to be fully incarnate in a community that has no ordained person present?
This is a splurge of thoughts and I’m looking forward to the comments, but just to finish it’s worth mentioning that I am seeing people beginning to identify with Christian community and own faith for themselves through their experience of the sacraments, be it in emerging church or conventional church communities. Being welcomed into the mystery of the Eucharist, or being trusted to take on the promises of baptism without a faith grilling, has enabled people to feel included and a sense of belonging - that they are a part of what God is doing, that they matter. My fear is that our past (and still current) attempts to ‘uphold the integrity’ of the sacraments, by building walls around them, have only served to undermine their integrity as tangible vehicles of God’s grace and unconditional love.
"This might sound like the trivial stunt of a few oddball God-botherers to you – I beg to differ. I think it the most significant bit of Christian culture I've come across in years. It's one of the first "alternative church" initiatives that has made me feel positive about this vague movement."
Sadly, some of the comments there are less than constructive so I added my own (under the user name 'foxile') - scroll down and contribute if you want! Read Hobson's post here.
What a difference a year in football makes!! At the end of last season it was all doom and gloom for Leicester City, made worse by the fact that Forest were promoted and Ben was able to have a good gloat on the pages of his blog. But how the tide has changed - Leicester City are League 1 champions at the first attempt, and Forest are struggling for survival in the Championship!
I remember Ben telling me at the end of last season that it would be grim in League 1 (after all, Forest did struggle to get out of it!), but I have to say that, a few dodgy away grounds aside, I've quite enjoyed winning nearly every week!! Even so, I'm looking forward to the challenge of next season and a push towards the Premiership. Of course, it would be poetic justice if Forest are relegated but, if not, it will be fun beating them next season! Congratulations Leicester - bring on the Championship!
I'm Malcolm Chamberlain
from Liverpool, United Kingdom
. I'm married with two young children and, in addition to Liverpool, have lived in Leicester (for the first 18 years of my life), York, Peshawar (Pakistan), Oxford and Walsall. I've been actively involved in the emerging church since 2001, as a founding member of Dream in Liverpool City, and coordinator of the Dream network. I'm currently engaged in research into emerging missional communities, and work as a parish priest and pioneer minister.