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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!

church leavers: faith journeys five years on...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Alan Jamieson, Jenny McIntosh and Adrienne Thompson's Church Leavers: Faith Journeys Five Years On is now published in the UK and can be ordered through SPCK 'here'. It's a valuable piece of research that revisits the stories of about half of the original church leavers in A Churchless Faith to see if the findings of that book still hold true. The biggest surprise is that, instead of there being a wholesale 'progression' through Jamieson's faith stages, he found that most of the respondents actually showed a stability of faith and a small number had moved to faith positions theoretically 'before' that of their previous one. It demonstrates that the faith journey outside the church is not necessarily a neat linear one and will come as a relief to some church leavers whose experience resonates with it.

The book also charts the development of Spirited Exchanges and the role of spiritual directors. To read what Alan Jamieson says about the book, see 'here' and 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:59 AM | link | 1 comments |

from Greenbelt to Pakistan...

It's a quick turn around! Flying to Pakistan tomorrow evening with a team of 5 others to visit the diocese of Peshawar and the Peshawar youth interfaith forum, before travelling into the mountains to see the relief work in the earthquake affected areas and then onto the capital, Islamabad, where we'll spend time with ICAN (Islamabad Christians Against Narcotics) - a drug awareness and rehab project. It's going to be a great 3 week cross-cultural encounter and I'm really looking forward to it, especially to revisiting Peshawar where I lived and worked 14 years ago, but life is all a bit mad at the moment!

If time allows I'll try to visit an internet cafe at 2 or 3 points and blog some reflections as we're going. If not, I'll be back at the end of September!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:49 AM | link | 1 comments |

another taste of heaven...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

So Greenbelt has been and gone for another year! When you have to go several days without a shower and use toilets that are, at best, a bit smelly, not to mention getting drenched in bank holiday rains... why do I love it so much?

Why... because Greenbelt brings together thousands of people with differing characteristics and perspectives into a weekend's celebration of creativity and faith. There is so much variety in terms of music, worship, talks, seminars, art installations, discussions, debates, comedy and animals (yes, there was even a mini farm this year!) In short, I always see Greenbelt, in its God-centred variety, to be a taste of heaven!

The highlights for me this year were the New Forms Cafe (pictured), which provided an excellent space for worship and discussion around a whole range of issues to do with emerging church (Dream and the two Spirited Exchanges UK sessions happened there) and the thought provoking Ikon service (see Pete Rollins' take on the service 'here')! Thanks Ben and Ian (and teams) for working so hard on New Forms - let's hope it returns next year!

If you took photos at Greenbelt, add them to the flickr group and post any comments/reflections on your experience of the festival here (especially if you were at Dream or the Spirited Exchanges sessions and have comments to make).

If you want to find out what others thought, Jonny Baker has some good reflections (with some interesting comments in response) 'here', and Paul Chambers has written a Greenbelt poem 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:13 PM | link | 2 comments |

half way through...

Sunday, August 27, 2006

a quick blog post using Greenbelt's (well, Cheltenham Race Course's) wi-fi network! Greenbelt is half way through and going great...

full house for both Dream and the first 'Faith without Church' session... several deep conversations as a result of both... good discussions at the Global Zoo... welcome return of the main stage... kids loving it (but tired!)... great communion service this morning with inspiring thoughts from Doug Gay... welcome return of the organic beer tent... just about to hear Jim Wallis talk about God's politics... looking forward to the second SE UK session tomorrow.

For a growing collection of photos from this year's festival see 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:49 PM | link | 0 comments |

off to greenbelt...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

off to Greenbelt we go!

here's where I'll be found...
Dream: travel notes for a rescued people - Saturday 12noon, New Forms Cafe
Faith without church - Saturday 2pm, New Forms Cafe
Global Zoo - Saturday 3pm, New Forms Cafe
Future journeys beyond the church - Monday 2pm, New Forms Cafe
other inspiring worship... Grace, Sanctus 1, Ikon...
other fascinating seminars... Pete Rollins, Dave Tomlinson, Jim Wallis, Maggi Dawn...
(this is already way too ambitious I think!)
random unknown bands
wrestling (metaphorically) with two young children around a racecourse
and various other places over the weekend

If you're going, have a fun time and maybe I'll catch up with you at some point!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:59 PM | link | 1 comments |

the truth isn't sexy...

The observant will note that I've added a new banner to my sidebar which links to an excellent campaign that protest4 have launched raising awareness about the link between prostitution and human trafficking. The core of the campaign is to distribute around pubs beer mats looking like the calling cards you might see in phone boxes (one is pictured to the left); on the back of these cards is some text that explains the link with human trafficking. For example...

Ellen was abducted from Albania and sold to a brothel in London's west end where she was forced to have sex with up to forty men a day. She was beaten, raped and threatened with death if she tried to refuse. Ellen was 15. The truth isn't sexy.

Check out the campaign site 'here', and sign up with protest4 'here'.

I remember Si talking about campaigning on the human trafficking issue at Greenbelt two years ago - it's good to see how this is gaining momentum, and that other groups are adding their voice to Stop the Traffik. This is a particularly apt (and sobering) post considering today (23rd August) has been designated 'International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition' - if only it was truly over.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:37 AM | link | 1 comments |

settlers and nomads...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In preparing for the 'Faith without church' seminars at Greenbelt, I've been gathering some stories (and story tellers) of faith journeys outside the structural church. Mandy Wright has written part of her story and submitted it to the SE UK web site (you can read it in full 'here'). In it she speaks of having a waking dream in which she saw 'huge fortified cities' in the desert; one for those who call themselves Evanglicals, one for Catholics and yet another for Liberals. Alongside these were smaller cities for those who held to a particular doctrine or way of believing. Occassionally the cities would exchange hostile fire over the walls, but generally they looked safe and secure for those living in them.

Mandy continues...

However, I noticed I was carrying a tent as I walked and I realised that my nature was not that of a city dweller but of a tent dweller. Although the cities were attractive in many ways, they were also static - rooted to where they were. I, on the other hand, was free to wander where I chose. It is a very insecure feeling to be a tent dweller - you were never quite sure where your path was going to take you or who you might meet along the way. I wasn't even sure of my destination. However, as I walked on I realised I had companions - or guides with me. One was Jesus and although I couldn't always see or hear him, I knew he was there, guiding me on my journey. Others included people like Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh.

And there were other tent dwellers I met along the way, all, like me, searching for God, for
wisdom and for truth. I found myself sharing with them my experiences of the journey and listening to theirs. And sometimes we introduced each other to our guides...

These reflections seem to touch on the discussions about 'conjunctive church' (see my posts 'here' and 'here') - it seems that, in Mandy's waking dream at least, the conjunctive faith community (that operates beyond the old polarities represented by the cities) is the nomadic one; the community/ies of tent dwellers. Such communities will necessarily be transient, as people feel the need to pack up the tent again and travel on, but they are no less genuine because of this. I guess this connects with my post on longevity 'here' too.

One of the oft-cited marks of genuine community is an ongoing sacrificial commitment to one another in the Acts 2 sense or that of Bauman's 'ethical community' (see my post 'here' for more on this), so the question naturally arises... are nomadic communites capable of this? For my part, I would argue that yes they are, and maybe in even more significant ways than the settled (citadel) type communities. If you've ever been back-packing then you will be aware of the sense of community that can exist amongst nomadic people. Several years ago when I was travelling in India I was staying in a back-packers shack on the roof of a tower block in New-Delhi when, one night, I developed pneumonia. It was great to see how people who I didn't know helped in that situation, giving me advice about how to deal with it (sometimes from personal experience), where to go for medical help, how not to get ripped off when doing so, and so on. I can't even remember the names of some of these people, and will probably never see them again, but, for that night at least, I felt like I was in some significant relationship of community with them.

Can the 'Church', whatever we understand that to be, take the risk of moving out of and beyond its citadel strongholds, be they those of tradition, theology or whatever, and facilitate genuine community for the spiritual nomads? What will this look like? Where will it lead us?

While on the subject of community, Paul Fromont has posted an interesting article 'here'.

(sorry for the numerous links in this post - have a good time travelling around them!!)

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:08 AM | link | 6 comments |

in relentless pursuit of real...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Back from a week's holiday for a few days of 'catching up' and 'getting ready' before Greenbelt. A quick post here to direct anyone who has not yet found it to a great blog from a good friend of mine! Pilgrim's Progress is an inspiring collection of digital artwork and written reflections that will definitely get you thinking and, more often than not, thanking the Creator for sharing such wonderful gifts of creativity. Richard has been blogging for much longer than I have (and gave me valuable advice when I started blogging), so it's a bit presumptuous to be thinking that I'm plugging him (!) but his last two posts outlining his dreams for the church and leadership are well reading and have prompted me to say so! Go read, enjoy and add him to your blog reader if he's not already there!!

p.s. the title for this post is Richard's own blog strapline, so I lay no claim to it!!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:12 PM | link | 1 comments |

the conjunctive church #2...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Just a quick link before I head off on holiday! Following on from my post about the conjunctive church 'here' (which incidentally I wrote before reading Kester Brewin's The Complex Christ - so now I know he got there way before me!!), 'this' post, from Cup of Jough, is well worth reading.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:16 PM | link | 1 comments |

coming up...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Looking forward to Greenbelt in 2 week's time - I've been a GB regular for 19 years now and can't keep away from it. It may sound trite, but to me GB is a taste of heaven! Anyway, this year I'm involved in the 'Faith without Church' seminars, with Spirited Exchanges UK (web site soon to undergo a radical re-design!), and the Dream-led service - 'Travel notes for a rescued people'. The seminars are on the Saturday and Monday at 2pm and the service is on the Saturday at 12noon - all in the New Forms Cafe. If you're at Greenbelt, it'd be great to catch up with you at one of these points or at the Global Zoo.

After Greenbelt I've got 2 days to get the washing and packing done before flying out to Pakistan on 1st September with a small group of students, graduates and generally younger-than-me people! We're going to be in Pakistan for three weeks, spending time with the Anglican diocese of Peshawar and CMS mission partners in Islamabad, as well as visiting the relief work in the earthquake and recent flood affected areas.

But before all that... a week's holiday on the south coast with the family! No blog post next week (my wife tries to keep me away from computers when I'm on holiday!) but hopefully I'll return to these pages before Greenbelt and Pakistan!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:52 PM | link | 7 comments |

religious forums...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I've recently come across the Religious Forums site, which is well worth a visit if you enjoy engaging with a whole range of discussions concerning faith and spirituality. In an email one of the administrators of the site commented...

"We are hugely diverse even for an interfaith forum, with every major religion and most minor ones represented by our members. But what we most pride ourselves on is the warm and welcoming environment we've created in which people gather to discuss religions and all related matters."

Go check it out 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:43 AM | link | 1 comments |

generation x-files...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

There's a fascinating article by Stephen Armstrong, in this week's New Statesman magazine, about the growing interest in psychic phenomena and new spiritualities. In the light of the findings of the recent report Making Sense of Generation Y, the following is particularly worth noting...

"Until about five years ago, most of the people interested in psychic phenomena were basically of a certain type," says Craig Hamilton-Parker, who runs the online Elysium Academy Psychic School, based in Stansted, and also practises as a medium. "You could call them the Doris Stokes brigade. They were usually over 50, might well have had a loved one who had died and were very keen to know what was on the other side. Over the past few years, however, we've had so much interest from people in their twenties or thirties who want to use skills such as aura reading, psychic abilities, mediumship and clairvoyance in their personal lives to help with relationships and careers and are unlikely to be wanting to contact and speak to the dead."

These students are part of a new, prosperous, younger generation whose desire for the psychic skills of mediumship and tarot reading sits comfortably alongside a range of other lifestyle choices, such as reading self-help books, going to the gym and dressing for success. Generation X-Files, if you will.

Of course, Making Sense of Generation Y is concerned with what it labels 'generation Y' (i.e. 15-25 year olds) rather than people in their later 20s and 30s, and has a fairly narrow (by its own admission) research base, so we can't set this article up against the report. Maybe what we can say is that whereas the report limits its research field and takes a detailed look at those in its sample, this article gives a broad brushstroke of the picture as it is emerging. Armstrong also makes the point that much of this growing interest in spirituality is fueled by "the gradual rise of psychic television" (programmes like ITV's Supernatural and Living TV's Haunted Houses, Unsolved Mysteries and Street Psychic), so maybe we should be prepared for a growing interest in such spiritual practices amongst Generation Y (and younger) over the coming years.

There is another reason for this trend highlighted by the article too...

The crumbling of politics and religion has helped spur the growth. Kay Stirling, the "Spiritual Journey" tutor, came to spiritualism via anti-Vietnam protests in Australia and radical feminism in the 1970s. "As the movement splintered, I became more interested in finding solutions in personal responsibility," she explains. "I think that drew me towards channelling my energy, and on into spiritualism. You'll find lots of people my age came through that route, but these younger kids are turning towards it because there's no sense of God in a world where people kill each other over religion the whole time."

All of this begs the question as to how we (followers of Jesus, 'Christians', the 'Church',...) are engaging with people who are searching to find meaning in such spiritual practices. Thank God that we have people like Phil Johnson and Matt Stone asking these sorts of questions in the blogosphere, alongside the excellent dekhomai.

The full text of the New Statesman article can be found (for free!) online 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:37 AM | link | 1 comments |

discussions about emerging church ex/in - clusivity...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I've just realised that my supposed 'quieter' period of the summer is getting a bit frantic! Amongst the usual work things (!), I'm currently working on a Dream service and a couple of seminars for Greenbelt, as well as trying to plan an itinerary for a 3 week trip to Pakistan at the beginning of September (I'm leading a CMS Encounter trip to Peshawar, Islamabad and the earthquake affected area - I'm sure more will follow about the trip on this blog in the coming weeks!)

As a result of all this (and the fact that I'm away all of next week with the family!) the blog posting is likely to be a bit quiet (unlike the summer!).

However, there are two great discussions currently taking place in the blogosphere about whether the emerging church is exclusive. So, if you haven't already, go read them at Steve's blog and Ben's blog.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:20 AM | link | 0 comments |

a new look...

Monday, August 07, 2006

I got a bit bored with the old blog layout so have gone for a new design!
Hope you like it - let me know what you think!!!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:29 PM | link | 1 comments |

the conjunctive church...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's a rare thing me blogging twice in one day (!), but as I was reading an extract from James Fowler's Faith Development and Pastoral care, I was reminded of so many current discussions in the emerging church. The following (fairly lengthy) quote is particularly helpful...

"In the transition to Conjunctive faith one begins to make peace with the tension arising from the fact that truth must be approached from a number of different directions and angles of vision. As part of honoring truth, faith must maintain the tensions between these multiple perspectives and refuse to collapse them in one direction or another. In this respect, faith begins to come to terms with dialectical dimensions of experience and with apparent paradoxes: God is both immanent and transcendent; God is both omnipotent and a self-limiting God; God is the sovereign of history while being the incarnate and crucified One. In physics, in order to account for the behaviour of light, two incompatible and unintegrable models must be employed - one based on the analogy with packets of energy, and the other on the analogy with wavelike motions somewhat as in sound. Similarly, many truthful theological insights and models involve holding together in dialectical tension the "coincidence of opposites." As regards faith and its expressions in this stage, we must speak of a kind of epistemological humility. The Conjunctive stage recognizes that properly we stutter when we speak of the Divine."
(Fowler, Faith Development and Pastoral Care, Augsburg Fortress, 1987, chapter 4: 'Stages in Selfhood and Faith')

This has so much resonance with Pete Rollins' How (Not) to Speak of God, Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy and Kester Brewin's The Complex Christ; as well as relating closely to Gibbs and Bolger's second mark of the emerging church, 'Transforming Secular Space', in Emerging Churches, and to the comment made by Matt Rees 'here' about the desire of the emerging church to "operate beyond conservative/liberal polarities"

So... is the emerging church (knowingly or unknowingly) in the process of building authentic faith communities for people operating at Fowler's stage 5 - 'Conjunctive Faith'? If so, it seems pertinent here to add a further quote from Fowler, by way of refuting the often made accusation that the emerging church is in danger of slipping into an epistemology without any convictions...

"I do not here speak of a wishy-washy sense of openness in which one has no strongly held convictions. Rather, I refer precisely to its opposite. ... Persons in this stage do have deep and particular convictions that account for their nondefensiveness in the dialogue with other traditions and perspectives."

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:27 PM | link | 2 comments |

is longevity necessary?

Having had several conversations myself recently about sustainability and longevity being a necessary indication of the success of the emerging church, I found this following comment from Si Johnston (reflecting on a seminar about EC at the New Horizon conference) really interesting...

"...having been asked what an ecclesial minimum might be for emerging churches, we were told that one of the main criteria in measuring the success of emerging churches, would be their longevity. I'm glad the same criteria wasn't used to measure Jesus' 'intentional' activity otherwise his 'paltry' three years would be deemed highly inconsequential compared to the average life span of 6 years for emergent communities which is apparently too short."


Read the whole of Si's post 'here'.

Update, 9th August... Kester's post 'here' about rites of passage, nomadic faith and the Vaux story may have something to say about the nature of 'longevity' in the emerging church too.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:47 AM | link | 1 comments |

more 24 hours...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

emergingchurch.info has 'this' great visual sketchbook of the '24 hours' emerging church discussion. If you want to take a closer look, download the PDF! I believe thanks are owed to Adrian for it!

Matt Rees, from 'Home' in Oxford, also has a post well worth reading 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:35 PM | link | 0 comments |