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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

a happy halloween?...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

'This' is a great seasonal post from Richard White of Dream! Do I detect a note of irony amidst the very well-made serious point? Go see for yourself...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:43 PM | link | 1 comments |

does size matter?...

Andrew Jones (TSK) posted two articles earlier this month that are well worth reading:
I love the balance that Andrew manages to strike in these posts between resisting the constant pressure towards building big church communites as a mark of 'success' and remembering that all Christian communites belong to something so huge (with its positive and negative facets) that we'll never fully get a handle on it.

Dream in Liverpool City has recently been reflecting on its own size and future. Members have commented on the fact that they value being small and enjoy the real relationships that can develop as a result. Alongside this, though, is the realisation that its often only in the larger gatherings, where people can be more anonymous, that many feel able to connect, at least initially. The Belonging-Believing-Behaving process that is so often talked about should also include an initial 'Being' - sometimes people simply need a place where they can be, and, in being, can connect with God and with others before committing to belong. Dream is geared towards 'being' in its open approach to worship - there is no compulsion to join in all (or even any) of the activities offered but simply an invitation. People are invited to be themselves and to engage as they want. However, when a group is very small in number it is difficult for someone to come and simply 'be', as they are so visible to everyone else.

So, how do we keep together the small and the large whilst remaining a missional community rather than a closed community that does large 'outreach' events?! Answers on a postcard (or reply post) to...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

worship as bedazzlement...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Jonny Baker has written an excellent review of the Ikon 'Fundamentalism' service at Greenbelt this year for the latest issue of Church Times (read it 'here' - update... this article is no longer online, sorry!), where he comments that "worship as drama, retaining mystery and ambiguity, is a refreshing change from predictable, routine worship that leaves very little room for mystery."

I went to the Ikon service and was deeply moved by it without being able to put my finger on why! I wasn't even sure that I'd been in a 'worship' service, but I knew that I had been deeply challenged and had engaged with God at some real (as opposed to superficial) level. I think the Paisley sermon was the thing that got me most!

Anyway, when I read Jonny's piece in the Church Times, I felt he summarised almost perfectly my own experience of the 'Fundamentalism' service, and writes in a much more eloquent way than I ever could! So, thanks Jonny for putting into words some of my own reflections (without even knowing it!!)

For Pete Rollins' own take on the service, see 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:40 PM | link | 1 comments |

pause and pray...

Friday, October 20, 2006

There have been two bomb explosions this week in Peshawar in the north-west of Pakistan, where I was just over a month ago with a CMS Encounter group (see several posts archived in September). The first blast on Monday didn't seem to cause any serious casualties, but the explosion earlier today has killed at least seven people and left many more injured. It's very sobering to hear of such attacks on cities that you know and love, and it brings home the harm that is done to real lives when these atrocities are committed.

You can read more about today's bomb from the BBC, USA Today and Reuters India.

Please remember Peshawar in your prayers...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:22 PM | link | 0 comments |

apply to be an angel...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

'This' is fun!!

hat tip... Laura


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:07 PM | link | 0 comments |

religion and rationality...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

An interesting article by Martin Newland, the former editor of the Telegraph, appeared in yesterday's Guardian, which gave a different perspective on the debate over Jack Straw and the niqab. The gist of his argument can be gleaned from this quote...

"I do not therefore see Straw's comments as an attack on Muslims, but rather an attack on religious observance in general. Secular society does not allow for openly religious people to be seen also as normal and well-adjusted. There always seems to be a desire to pigeon-hole them as semi-rational, spiritual fifth columnists."

The article can be read online 'here' and is accompanied by equally interesting comments from readers of various view points!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:36 AM | link | 0 comments |

what is spirituality?...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Matt Stone posted the below short video 'here' and asked some pertinent questions...

Do you agree with what they say? Disagree?
What do you think this is saying back to Christians?
What do you think Christ would say to them?

I guess, with this being a collection of American voices, I would have to add the question...

Does this reflect people's understanding of spirituality in the UK too?

My guess (educated from experience of conversations had) is that there's much here that resonates with the UK, so carrying a challenge to the UK 'Church' - how to make meaningful connections with people on a spiritual journey who have rejected institutional religion. How do we enable (or maybe better... how do we stop preventing) the message of Christ to break free from 'Christianity'?

Watch the video and see what you think. Feel free to add comments here or on Matt's blog!


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:14 PM | link | 0 comments |

five years of side door...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This month sees the five year anniversary of Side Door, an arts based worshipping community in Christchurch, New Zealand. In March 2004 I had the great fortune of spending several weeks with Peter and Joyce Majendie who coordinate Side Door and are responsible for many of the art installations used in their worship. The web site describes Side Door as...

"... an expression of where we are on our faith journey, originating from a desire to share the liberating experience of being real, open and honest within a small Christian community.

Depression, and living with it, doesn't seem to fit with the "victorious Christian living" doctrine found in much of the institutional church. We have a desire to express worship through the weaknesses and strengths of who we are as individuals, and connect with God and others through artistic and creative avenues.

The healing experience of belonging in a small understanding and caring group of Christians helped begin the rebuilding of our faith in Christ to be relevant in everyday life.

Our artistic endeavours aim to touch people at a deeper level and facilitate an opportunity to respond to Jesus."

My time spent with Peter and Joyce opened my eyes to the amazing way that God works through art when the interpretation is left open to the viewer. I'd go so far as to say that Peter and Joyce set me on a journey in new worship opportunities which enriched my own life, spirituality and ministry, so I owe them a BIG thanks!

Peter & Joyce, along with members of Side Door, also throw themselves 101% into their art installations around the times of Christmas, Lent, Easter and Pentecost - I was with them during a Lent installation and was blown away by the creativity and level of commitment they showed (it's not every day you see a church hall transformed by tonnes of sand and a river running from the stage down the centre of the hall!). Many people with little or no church background visit the installations and are often moved to consider their own life in relation to God through the experience. Below is a slideshow of stations from the Easter 2006 installation, Easter Journey. You can visit the collection for a better look 'here', and see the station titles (as an aside, Peter makes a Cameo appearance in station 11!). Thanks to Peter and Joyce for the photos and permission to post them.

Happy Birthday Side Door - thanks (on behalf of so many) for the journey so far and may God continue to meet with you through your creativity and openness in the years to come...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:03 AM | link | 1 comments |


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Click on the above image to go to the 'church and postmodern culture: conversation' blog, which has just started a series engaging with Pete Rollins' book How (Not) to Speak of God. Going by previous discussions on the site, this promises to be a good series and is well worth checking out - it's been kicked off by Adele Sakler, whose article can also be downloaded as a pdf 'here'. Adele gives a good overview of Pete's book and finishes her piece by quoting a parable that she first found on Ikon's web site.

I personally found the parable engaging and challenging so, with thanks to Ikon and to Adele, I thought I'd reproduce it here too...

Whoever shall lose their life

There is an ancient story, passed down through the generations that tells of a group of unknown disciples who witnessed the bloody crucifixion of Christ.

Not able to stay another moment in the place were their Messiah had just been crucified they packed their few belongings and left for a distant shore. With great sorrow they turned their back on the place of their birth, never to return. Instead they founded an isolated community far away from Jerusalem. On the first night that they set up camp each disciple vowed to keep the ground holy, they promised that as long as they were permitted to live they would keep the memory of Christ alive and endeavour to follow the way that he had once taught.

The community lived in great solitude for over a hundred years, spending their days reflecting upon the life of Jesus and attempting to remain faithful to his ways. All this despite the overwhelming sorrow in their hearts and the harrowing sacrifices that such a dedicated life required.

Endless days passed until at dawn one morning, a small band of missionaries stumbled upon the isolated settlement. These preachers of the Word where amazed by the community that they found, they were startled by the fact that these dedicated disciple's of Christ had no knowledge of his resurrection and ascension. Without hesitation the missionaries gathered together the entire community and taught them about the events that had transpired after the horrific crucifixion of their Lord, telling them of His victory over sin and death and the subsequent rewards we can partake of because of this.

That evening there was a great celebration in the camp. Yet, as the night grew dark, one of the younger missionaries noticed that the leader of the community was absent. This bothered the young man and so he set out to look for the elder. After some time he eventually found the leader kneeling in the corner of a small hut, on the fringe of the village, praying and weeping.

"Why are you in such sorrow", asked the missionary in amazement "for now is the hour for great celebration".

"Indeed" replied the elder, who was all the while crouched on the floor, "this is an hour for rejoicing, but it is also a time for great sorrow".

"For over a hundred years we have followed the ways taught to us by Christ. We emulated his teachings faithfully even though it cost us deeply, and we remained resolute despite the belief that death had defeated Him and would one day defeat us also."

The elder slowly got to his feet and looked the missionary compassionately in the face.

"Each day we have forsaken our very lives for Him. Why? Because we judge Him wholly worthy of the sacrifice, wholly worthy of our being. You find me now, praying for myself and for my future generations, for I am fearful that we may one day follow him not because we love Him and believe him to be worthy of that love, but rather because we love ourselves and want the treasures of eternal life that he offers". After offering these thoughts to the young missionary, the elder left the hut and made his way to the celebration, leaving the teacher on his knees in quiet contemplation.

(Adapted from an Islamic story)


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:35 AM | link | 2 comments |

my very own slideshow!...

Monday, October 09, 2006

The above slideshow of some Pakistan piccies is thanks to pictobrowser, a very clever flickr related webtool that gives you the html code for displaying a set of slides in your blog or web site. Check it out for yourself!

N.B. if you can't see the slideshow above, you need to install flash first.

hat tip: Jonny Baker


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:57 PM | link | 0 comments |

one year on...

Friday, October 06, 2006

At ten to nine (local time) on the morning of the 8th October 2005 the most catastrophic earthquake the Indian subcontinent has seen struck Pakistan. The 7.6 magnitude quake was felt in parts of India and Afghanistan, and estimates but the death toll at between 70 and 100,000 people, whilst 3.5 million people lost their homes. Buildings were destroyed as far away as Pakistan's capital Islamabad, but the worst hit city was Balakot in northern Pakistan, the scenic gateway to the Kaghan Valley. Balakot was pretty much flattened, as the picture shows, and one year on, despite the tireless work of many NGO's (relief organisations) it remains a scene of devastation. More than a quarter of the Balakot population died in the earthquake.

As part of the Encounter trip last month, we visited Balakot to see first hand the work that the diocese of Peshawar is involved in. We heard several personal accounts of when the earthquake struck - one member of the Peshawar Youth Council told of when he switched on his TV, after experiencing the quake in Peshawar, to hear of Balakot's plight. He was so moved that he immediately called round his peers and, with the support and help of the diocesan youth officer, arranged for a group of them to travel to Balakot the following day to help out. They were the first relief group to arrive and have been involved in the area for the last twelve months helping to rebuild small communities in the surrounding mountain areas. What these young adults found when they arrived will remain with them forever... schools that had collapsed on top of children who had just started their lessons, one alone trapping 300 children with many still to be found, completely flattened houses, rubble everywhere, the overwhelming stench of death, gaping chasms in the ground, and desperation and grief in the faces of everyone.

Through an interpreter we spoke to one local man who told us of his experience. He was unloading his van when the quake struck and all he remembers was his van lifting off the ground and turning over before he himself was catapulted into the air. He lost his wife and two of his children to the earthquake, and took us to see the immaculately kept graves in the yard of what remains of their home. Seeing that mound of fertile ground in the midst of rubble was one of the most moving experiences of my life - I will never forget the look of grief in this man's eyes as he showed us this grave.

The tragedy for people like this man is that Balakot cannot be rebuilt. The city sits on top of an incredibly volatile fault line and is likely to experience a far more severe earthquake at some future point - indeed, a 4.2 magnitude tremor was experienced there just last week. The Pakistan government has consequently halted the rebuilding work on one side of the river and is seeking to relocate the survivors of last year's earthquake. I suspect, however, that many will not want to move, chosing instead to remain in danger themselves. How could people like the man I spoke of leave behind the graves of their loved ones? For many the story is even more tragic - the bodies of their loved ones are still buried under rubble, perhaps never to be found.

As a group reflecting on our experience of Balakot afterwards we displayed a range of emotions but the strongest was anger - not necessarily the expected anger at a God who could allow this to happen or at the seeming arbitrariness and injustice of disasters like this, but anger at the lack of interest in this event in our own country. Anger maybe tinged with guilt that we, like so many, had largely forgotten about this disaster only a few weeks after it had occurred. Two members of our group were angry that they didn't even know this earthquake had happened until they signed up for the Pakistan trip. How could such a disaster, declared by the UN as a worse humanitarian crisis than the December 2004 tsunami, have had such scant media coverage in the UK? At least The Guardian are keeping faith with a full page feature on page 25 of today's paper, which can be read online 'here'.

So one year on (Sunday is the anniversary) why not spend a moment with google finding out about the Pakistan earthquake? Why not spend some time praying for those affected? Why not see how you might be able to support the ongoing relief effort?

Or, alternatively we could all just get on with our lives and let the world go by...

some of our team with Diocese of Peshawar relief workers
at a project in Pateka near Balakot


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:00 AM | link | 0 comments |

the tip of the iceberg...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"This is just the tip of the iceberg" - so says Youth Pastor Becky Fischer about Jesus Camp, the subject of a new US documentary film. The trailer (watch it 'here') is unsettling to say the least!

The 'Kids on Fire' camp, which the film focusses on, calls children to become dedicated Christian soldiers in "God's army" and to "take back America for Christ". I can't help thinking... is this a genuine invitation for children to become followers of Jesus, or simply another cynical step in the worrying trend towards using 'Christian' religion to push people into a right wing political agenda? Is this really what Jesus meant when he said "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them" (Matthew 19:14)?

I'm afraid my internal alarm bells were going off big time when I watched this, especially when Pastor Fischer gives the following justification for the full-on (dare I say manipulative) approach of the Jesus Camp: "you go into Palestine and they're taking their kids to camps like we take our kids to Bible camps and they're putting handgrenades in their hands". Oh well, that's all the justification we need for using Jesus to unhelpfully politicise our children then!

Watch the trailer and the ABC news item 'here' and see what you think. Maybe I should reserve final judgement until I've seen the full film!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:01 PM | link | 2 comments |

the new dissidents?...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Without doubt, one of the most informative, uncomfortable and challenging articles I've read recently is Stuart Murray's 'Christendom and Post-Christendom' (which can be downloaded as a pdf from 'here'), which charts the rise and fall of Christendom in the West and looks at how the reality of Christendom has adversely affected both Biblical interpretation and approaches to mission.

Throughout his paper, Murray refers to the dissident marginal groups and movements in the Church, such as the Lollards, Waldensians and Anabaptists, who have consistently opposed the marriage of church and state, challenging the very foundations of the Christendom church. Their constant refrain has been one of reasserting the central place of Jesus, whose humanity and earthly ministry has been largely sidelined since the fourth century in favour of a more celestial 'emperor' type figure.

Murray argues that in the post-Christendom context we now find ourselves in (in the West) we need to rediscover the voices of these dissident groups and recover the impetus towards being a truly missional church. We must be prepared to reassess not only our models of church and mission, but the theological foundations that have underpinned Christendom faith for sixteen hundred years. We must re-establish the central place of Jesus - his life, ministry and teaching (and not only his death and resurrection) - at the heart of belief and ethics, both personal and social.

Murray's paper is riddled with quotable passages, but this is perhaps my favourite which seems to sum up the missional task in the 21st century Western world:

"Christendom is dead or dying. We live now in a post-Christendom society and we desperately need to stop thinking in Christendom categories. Europe has decisively rejected the institutional form of Christianity known as Christendom. Arguably it has not yet seen enough of Jesus to decide what to do with him. Perhaps it is time to read the Bible in a new way, to recover the Christocentric approach of the pre-Christendom churches and the marginal movements, to rediscover Jesus for ourselves and to follow him into a world that is heartily sick of Christianity but which might yet be intrigued by Jesus."

It seems that this has been the central agenda of the emerging church conversation, and of related books such as those from N T Wright, Brian McLaren, Kester Brewin and Steve Chalke. So, is the emerging church a new 'dissident group' in Murray's use of the phrase? And, if so, might there be a good reason for remaining at the margins of the Church so that we can continue to raise the prophetic call to Christ-centred discipleship? (As an aside, at a recent gathering of people involved in the UK emerging church, a significant proportion of those present had connections with the Church of England - the established church! Is this simply an interesting irony or a source of hope?!!)

Murray's article is well worth reading, as I'm sure are many more of the articles which can be downloaded from postmission.com

Stuart Murray is Oasis Director of Church Planting and Evangelism and Lecturer at Spurgeon's College, London, England

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:41 PM | link | 1 comments |