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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!

it's happened again...

Monday, April 30, 2007

The death toll from Saturday's suicide bombing in Charsadda (just North-East of Peshawar, Pakistan) is now up to 31 according to this report. The disturbing thing for me is that this type of attack is becoming so commonplace in Pakistan, a country I love, that the BBC don't seem to even be reporting on it anymore (though there is an online article 'here').

As I've said here before, prayer can sometimes seem like such a weak activity (though faith tells me otherwise), but it's often all we can do...

Images (some of which are shocking) related to this tragedy can be found 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 1:47 PM | link | 5 comments |

celebrating in style...

Last night was the Dream network's 5th birthday celebration service in Liverpool cathedral. The high points for me were the prayer stations, which were brought by members of the different Dream groups including two new groups that are soon to launch, and the celebration of Communion with champagne!

There were 60+ people there and there was a great atmosphere. We had a photographer present taking pics, so watch this space and I'll post some as soon as I get them! The new-look Dream website is also live now, so take a look if you haven't already done so and let us know what you think!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:09 PM | link | 0 comments |

you sang what?...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

this is hilarious (with apologies to fans of 'Songs of Praise' and the easily offended)...

hat tip... Matt Rees


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:10 PM | link | 3 comments |

thinking blogger award...

Wow... it's an honour to be receiving the Thinking Blogger Award, especially from such an inspirational thinker as Maggi Dawn. So, I'd like to begin by thanking my wife and children for continually putting up with my musings without the luxury of being able to close the page down...
I'd like to thank my agent and all who read the blog...

Ok, enough of the acceptance speech. Seriously though, thanks Maggi for your very kind words and for directing others here through this award. I started this blog as a place for me to play with the ideas and discoveries arising out of my MPhil research but, as with most other bloggers, I've caught the blogging bug and am likely to keep this going beyond that formal study. The thing I really appreciate about blogging is the ability to try out thoughts and gain insights from the wisdom of others, either through comments and responses to posts I've written or through their own blogs (which is why I tend to do a fair amount of linking!)

I'd echo Maggi's own reflection that my experience of church has often been that thinking is ok so long as the 'right' conclusions are arrived at, but blogging enables you to play with the 'wrong' conclusions too and not be judged (or not that I'm aware of) for it. Surely this is at least part of what Christian discipleship is about and why Christ, in his wisdom, called us into community as his followers - community (physical or virtual) where we can help one another think and reflect as well as act in seeking and living for the Kingdom of God.

According to the simple rules of the Thinking Blogger Award (see below), I now have to nominate five other blogs to receive this honour - blogs that I regularly read that help me to think, wrestle and grow. So here's my list...
  1. Prodigal Kiwi(s) - Paul Fromont and Alan Jamieson. Lot's of links to reflections past and present, with a particular focus on telling the stories of those on the edges of church.
  2. the church and postmodern culture conversation - perhaps the most intellectually stretching blog that I read (often way over my head) but well worth dipping in to.
  3. Dream community blog - I know this could look like a plug for the community I'm involved in, but Richard White's posts on this site are always thought provoking (the award is his!)
  4. Pete Rollins - I'm sure he's had numerous nominations as he's a deep thinker, but he regularly stretches and frequently challenges my own thinking, so I have to have him on my list!
  5. Pilgrim's Progress - Richard Lyall's digital artwork inspires me and he's also a deeply honest thinker. His blog strapline "In relentless pursuit of REAL" is deserving of the award in itself (I wish I'd come up with it!!)
If any of these blogs are new to you, make sure you take a visit and enjoy the reflections of other thinking bloggers...
The 'Thinking Blogger' participation rules:
  • If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  • Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  • Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:41 AM | link | 0 comments |

from silent to absent...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"We are the people formerly silent… now speaking with our feet."

'This' is a striking and thought provoking post from Brother Maynard, which captures some of the reasons why people leave church and stands as a warning to those of us in positions of leadership...


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:47 PM | link | 1 comments |

if you're in liverpool next week...

a special network service (open to anyone) to celebrate the fifth birthday of Dream...
Sunday 29th April, 8pm, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral

P.S. check out the new-look (under construction) Dream website!!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:52 AM | link | 0 comments |

if you're in liverpool next week #2...

Press Release...

The Truth Isn’t Sexy

Liverpool Guild of Students Fair Trade Fashion Show

Date: Tuesday 1st May
Time: 7.00- 10.00
Location: Mountford Hall, Liverpool Guild of Students

Liverpool Guild of Students, in partnership with the University of Liverpool’s Faith Express, is to host a Fair Trade fashion show to raise awareness on the consequences of unjust international trading systems and the growing problem of human trafficking

The injustices that exist within the international textile manufacturing industry amount to a form of modern day slavery, which can lead people to seeking ‘better futures’ in other countries only to find themselves victims of human trafficking and, in many cases involving young girls and women, forced prostitution.

Friday 23rd March saw the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery here in Britain, yet according to the government 4,000 women and children were trafficked into prostitution in the UK in 2003. Many come from Eastern Europe or Africa on the promise of good jobs or education. They end up sold into the hands of sex gangs.

From children sold by debt-ridden parents to the boom in human trafficking in a world without borders, the United Nations estimates that in the 21st century 12m people are trapped in slavery.

The event will showcase Fair Trade garments that are becoming increasingly available on the high street and through internet retailers. All proceeds from the event are being donated to The Truth Isn’t Sexy campaign, which has been devised to expose the truth of human trafficking and prostitution through an extensive awareness campaign directed at the demand side of the sex industry. A key component of this is the distribution of beer mats in local pubs, and the hope is that money raised through this event will enable this to happen across Liverpool city centre.

The Truth Isn’t Sexy had its own Parliamentary launch last month supported by a number of Ministers, MP’s and peers including Liverpool Riverside MP, Louise Ellman, who has shown her support for the event saying...

"It has been 200 years since the abolition of slavery in this country yet there is still a significant human trafficking industry. This is a very worrying reality. It is however, encouraging to see students being proactive in campaigning to raise awareness of these issues."

For more information see

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:01 AM | link | 0 comments |

who's afraid of postmodernism?...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I've just finished reading James K A Smith's Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, and would say that it's essential reading for anyone who is engaged in the emerging church 'conversation' or is concerned about being missional in the culture(s) of postmodernity. Smith takes a fresh look at what he refers to as the 'bumper sticker' quotes of Derrida ("There is nothing outside the text"), Lyotard ("incredulity towards metanarratives") and Foucault ("power is knowledge"), arguing that by pulling these popular quotes out of the context from which they originate (the original texts of the respective writers) we have largely misunderstood the authors' intentions. As such, these insights, and those of postmodernism as a whole, far from being opposed to Christian theology, may act as timely catalysts for the Church to rediscover in practise what it means to be the church.

Smith resists popular calls for the Church to be 'relevant' and non-confessional, seeing such trends as merely extensions of the modernist world view. Instead, he argues that in order to be fully post-modern we must reclaim pre-modern practices and insights (especially those of Augustine and Aquinas) and take up the invitation, given by postmodernism, to articulate a robust confessional theology (the unapologetic telling of our 'story'). Further, he envisions a postmodern church that is rooted in history and tradition, and which fully affirms the physical body, temporal space and place, and the community, all of which have been sidelined or neglected by modernity (and, consequently, the evangelical church). At the heart of all of this, he argues, is the centrality of the Incarnation.

Smith writes in a pacey and thoroughly accessible style, drawing on the stories of recent movies to illustrate the points being made by postmodern philosophers. He is clearly sympathetic of the emerging church, but also raises a useful critique asking if even the emerging church is still unwittingly too tied to modernity. As you might expect of such a book, there is no shortage of quotable passages, but here's one illustrating how incarnation shapes ecclesiology, which has certain resonances with current trends in alternative worship and the emerging church...

"The story of God-become-flesh is best rendered by the poetry and painting of affective worship rather than the narrowly cognitive didacticism of Power-Pointed "messages." Properly postmodern worship resists such reductionism by reclaiming the holistic, full-orbed materiality of liturgical worship that activates all the senses: hearing (not just "messages" but the poetry of the preached Word), sight (with a renewed appreciation for the visual arts, iconicity, and the architectural space of worship), touch (in communal engagement, but also toughing the bread that is Christ's body), taste (the body and blood), and even smell (of wine in the cup of the new covenant but also the fragrance of worship in candles and incense). God's taking on a human body also takes up our bodies into worship and participation in the divine." (p140)

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:34 PM | link | 1 comments |

the truth question...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Pete Rollins posts a fascinating reflection concerning the problem of entering the 'is Christianity true' debate. He writes...

"it is [the] very acceptance of the question, ‘is Christianity true’, that lies at the heart of why Christianity is losing the popular debate being brought to the fore by the ‘new atheists’. For there is a much more basic question that one must ask before this question can be understood properly. The question that one must ask is not, ‘is Christianity true’ (at least not yet), but rather ‘what is it that Christianity claims when it claims to be true’. To put it another way, the issue is not to attempt to ascertain, on rational or empirical grounds, whether or not the claims of Christ are true, but rather to work out what did Christ meant when he claimed to be the truth." (bold highlight mine)

Read the whole post 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:48 AM | link | 1 comments |

dawkins' rottweilers...

Friday, April 13, 2007

According to 'this Guardian report', Dawkins and his followers are now organising themselves into a movement of sorts. I always thought that movements or organisations gathered around a central belief system roughly equates to 'religion', but I guess that Dawkins would argue otherwise! After reading the article and the posted comments, I felt compelled to add...

"Dawkins provides us with the ultimate meta-narrative! So is this action a last gasp attempt of modernity to hang on to its credentials in a culture that has largely left it behind? I have a feeling that, in the postmodern age, Dawkins and his followers will face (and are facing) the same marginalisation as institutional (conservative) religion - that will make for interesting bed-fellows!!"

I'm just waiting now to see if this provokes any response!!

hat tip... Mark Berry

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:43 AM | link | 0 comments |

electric shock treatment...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

as told by Tom Wright in the Guardian newspaper...

"And whatever Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were doing in writing the final sections of their books, they were not telling the story of Jesus's resurrection as a happy ending. They were telling it as a startling new beginning. Easter morning isn't a slow, gentle waking up after the difficult operation. It's the electric shock that brings someone back to life in a whole new way."

Read the whole article 'here'

hat tip... Si Johnston


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:38 AM | link | 0 comments |

the end of strategy?...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Kester Brewin has posted a series of reflections ([1], [2], [3], [4]) comparing Jesus with Judas and Paul, and arguing that the latter two fall into the trap of power play and strategy whereas Jesus subverted this agenda by, for example, remaining quiet at his trial and refusing to enter the power struggle. Kester wonders "whether Christ's passion is in some way 'the end of strategy'." The question he poses for the emerging church is whether it too can resist the pull towards strategy and power play.

I'm personally involved in the emerging church through Dream, but also have a foot firmly in the institutional church by virtue of my job. The struggle I often face is with the institutional pressure to strategise for the emerging church. In response, I constantly raise concerns about this and keep arguing that by imposing a strategy we may end up killing genuine emergence. However, in the comments to Kester's third post of his series, Jonny Baker writes "so your strategy is not to have a strategy ?!" My guess is that Jonny had his tongue firmly in his cheek when typing this, but it does push the issue... is not having a strategy still a strategy?!

I can imagine some of my colleagues arguing against Kester's posts by saying that the actions of Jesus are incredibly strategic in order to subvert the status quo and promote the values of the Kingdom; and what's more, if they did I'd have to concede that they may have a point! Maybe we can't avoid strategy at all! The important consideration must instead be what underpins or roots our strategy - is our strategy aimed at gaining power and empire building, or is it focussed on working towards the kingdom as Jesus described and modelled it?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:53 AM | link | 0 comments |

authentically church?...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I've just finished reading Ian Mobsby's book 'Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church - how are they authentically Church and Anglican?' It's a book form of Ian's academic research into 4 emerging churches (3 in UK and 1 in USA) that have links with the Anglican Communion, and is unique in the fact that it focusses on ecclesiology and, in particular, Anglican ecclesiology, whereas most other published books on the emerging church tend to focus on missiology. In short, it does exactly what it says on the tin (well, in the title anyway).

It's a well written and researched book which, refreshingly, is as aware of its own shortcomings as it is of its findings. It's definitely worth reading as it goes a long way towards addressing many of the theological issues that 'Mission-shaped Church' overlooked. Ian's analysis of contemporary culture is also informative, going beyond discussions of postmodernity alone to look at the impacts of consumerism and information technology on the spiritual landscape of the West.

Ian's book can be ordered direct from Moot, or from SPCK or Amazon if you prefer! It's worth stating that all the money raised from the sale of this book goes towards Moot, the community Ian is a part of, so in buying the book you'll be helping to fund a growing emerging church!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

(un)reality TV...

Monday, April 02, 2007

It's a real shame that 'this' is only an April fool prank (or should I say, "thank God this is only an April fool prank"?)! It made me laugh anyway, especially this bit...

"The show is set to replace 'Songs of Praise' - the long running BBC Christian show which media bosses have long thought promotes an outdated view of church culture. The new show will have the same prime-time Sunday evening spot in the TV schedules but instead of a church filled with 100+ worshippers, viewers will tune in to see a dozen 30-something Christians play with tealights and data projectors whilst debating the impact of postmodernism on the core beliefs of Christianity."

Great article (and hoax) Adrian - I presume it was you! Go read...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:49 AM | link | 0 comments |