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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!

good in parts...

Friday, August 31, 2007

It's always an encouragement to read a positive independent review of worship that you've been involved in shaping, so thanks Kathryn for your comments about the Greenbelt Dream service - I'm glad that 'A Life More Ordinary' inspired you to engage with God.

Kathryn has also uploaded four photographs from the service as part of her Greenbelt 07 collection on flickr (the picture on the left is one of them), including a great one of our heavenopoly station.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:54 PM | link | 1 comments |

that was Greenbelt...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another great year in Greenbelt's rich history, certainly helped along the way by the fantastic weather! A scorching August Bank Holiday weekend in an otherwise pretty dreadful summer - makes you wonder if God is a Greenbelter! The two things I was directly involved in (see 'here') seemed to go well, with several good conversations and positive comments arising from each - Richard has posted 'here' about Dream's unintentional flouting of health and safety! (thanks Laura for your encouragement there too!) The photo to the left is of one of the stations from the service (click on it to enlarge).

So, given that I'm much too modest to highlight these things any further, here are my 5 Greenbelt highlights for this year (in no particular order)...
  1. Billy Bragg - still an inspirational and witty singer-songwriter who put in a great performance headlining Main Stage on Friday, not to mention his informative seminar on British identity and the discussions surrounding a Bill of Rights/written constitution. He'd still get my vote any day!
  2. The Organic Beer Tent - great organic real ale including 'Absolution' brewed especially for the festival! The venue was not just about the beer though - over the last couple of years it's become the Greenbelt hub where you arrange to meet people for a beer and chat. So this makes the list both for the beer and for the conversations had there.
  3. Ikon - always able to provoke and inspire, and this year was no exception. I went with someone who has never been to an Ikon service before and at the end she turned to me and said "well, I didn't understand a word of that!" - I think Pete and co would be proud! Seriously, it was a great event (worship or performance art? - whatever!) and I found the piece 'where does your faith lie' particularly challenging (in a good way!) During the service there was opportunity for people to edit the creed - see the final version 'here'.
  4. New Forms Cafe - another top networking venue serving several varieties of fresh coffee. It was home to most of the emerging and alt worship services as well as some hidden gems such as Pete Rollins discussing the 5 films he'd most like to see with God!
  5. Coldcut (pictured - taken on phone camera!) - not necessarily my first choice of music style but you couldn't help but be drawn in by what these VJs do on stage! A great set mixing beats and images ranging from 80s classics to present day. Before Sunday night I hadn't heard 'Pump up the Volume' by MARRS for years - oh the memories...! Steve Collins raves about the gig (no pun intended) with a link to video clips of it 'here'.
So that's my Greenbelt 07 - though there was lots more to 'write home about' (as they say) besides. If you were there, why not add your highlights to the comments...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:39 PM | link | 1 comments |

off to Greenbelt...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I'm off to Greenbelt first thing tomorrow - bring it on!


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 5:49 PM | link | 0 comments |

the conjunctive church #2

warning... long post!!

I've recently been in email correspondence with someone, concerning Fowlers' stages of Faith development and how faith stage transition impacts the church. With his permission, I thought I'd post the first two email (one each) that started the discussion, to see if anyone else wants to join in and add their perspective!

It started here...

Hi Malcolm,

Following your recommendation I've been reading Fowler (Stages of Faith) and also found your blog today. You mentioned some reservations that went with your recommendation of Fowler - I'd be interested in hearing them sometime.

One thing I found was your reference to Fowler's Stage 5 & emerging church..

(see post on Wednesday, August 02, 2006)

Fowler also writes : "Stage 5 also sees, however, that the relativity of religious traditions that matters is not their relativity to each other but their relativity - their relate-ivity - to the reality to which they mediate relation. [..] Conjunctive faith's radical openness to the truth of the other stems precisely from its confidence in the reality mediated by its own tradition and in the awareness that that reality overspills its mediation" (Stages of Faith, chapter 20).

My own experience in transition from stage 3 to stage 4/5 faith involved discussions in which I was accused of eclecticism, which I regarded as miles from reality, but it is interesting to note that it was perceived as such by someone in stage 3. Looking back on that period, I realize the extent to which what I inevitably found myself saying was both misunderstood and generated a fearful response.

Is it possible that some of the criticism of emergent church might in reality lie in a frightened response to the challenge to conventional stage 3 faith by those in conjunctive stage 5 faith? If so, then how does emergent church dialogue with those at conventional levels of faith?

Is there not a greater danger than "slipping into an epistemology without any convictions" inherent in "building authentic faith communities for people operating at Fowler's stage 5 - 'Conjunctive Faith'" that this merely becomes, for some at least, a continued search for an idealized church community of the like-minded, one in which people selfishly fail to engage rightly with those at earlier stages of faith.

(Although Fowler does not shy away from averring that his stages of faith represent advancement, I see this in a very limited sense - there's absolutely no room for pride or even complacency here - a stage 3er can be considerably more faithful in his or her stage 3 than a stage 5er in his).

For Fowler also states of stage 5 :

"And with the seriousness that can arise when life is more than half over, this stage is ready to spend and be spent for the cause of conserving and cultivating the possibility of others' generating identity and meaning" (ibid, chapter 20).

Does not a stage 5 faith demand an unselfish, selfless commitment to those in earlier stages of faith? Is there not also a requirement to be part of and contributing to "a faith community that provides for the nurture of ongoing adult development in faith (which) will create a climate of developmental expectation" (ibid, chapter 24)?

How can emergent church realize this if it consists solely of "people operating at Fowler's stage 5"?




thanks for this - excellent questions that you ask. I think you're right when you say "Does not a stage 5 faith demand an unselfish, selfless commitment to those in earlier stages of faith?" and I would reply 'yes it does!' The problem is not so much relating stage 5ers with stage 3ers, but more relating those in transition from stage 3 to 4 to 5 with those in stage 3. What tends to happen, especially in more evangelical churches, is that those in transition are seen as 'backsliders' questioning the great unquestionables of evangelical faith, so making it next to impossible for those in transition to remain. This turns things on their head a bit from what you point out in that it's not those who are moving beyond a stage 3 faith who separate themselves off from stage 3 churches, as much as them feeling pushed out or excluded from those churches. Evidence shows that many churches who operate at stage 3 (and most do) are unable to accommodate those who are in transition beyond this. And the more 'certain' the faith being held in the church (for this you could read 'the more theologically conservative the church is') the greater this problem seems to be. What the emerging church and Spirited Exchanges type groups have provided for such people is a place to process faith safely - a place to de-construct and reconstruct faith if you like.

What often happens is that when a person has made this journey and owns a more conjunctive faith (I say 'a more...' because, like Fowler, I doubt that many of us actually get to that point) they often find that they want to re-engage in a community of faith with a more varied 'congregation', i.e. a 'normal' church, though interestingly it may not be of the same 'flavour' as the church they left in the first place.

I think it needs to be stated, though, that the emerging church (to use a label) is not only functioning in this way - in Dream, for example, we do have people who are in faith stage transition but we also have engaged (and do engage) people who are exploring faith, people who still belong to other (more structural) churches and so on. If the emerging church were only a processing space for faith stage transition I wouldn't be advocating it as a missional response to postmodernity in the same way, and its raison detre would be very different - more akin to Spirited Exchanges groups that are, by definition, more temporary places of belonging.

Maybe if we could find a way of being church that allows for faith processing and deconstruction alongside a framework that positively supports and teaches those in stage 3, without judgements being made in either direction, then there wouldn't be a problem!

I don't know if this helps at all - keep your ideas coming and let me know if you want me to open up this discussion on the blog!! (he did!!)


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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:16 AM | link | 1 comments |

Greenbelt 2007...

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Today feels hectic in the extreme as I'm getting stuff ready for the weekend (as well as other things coming in!) but I know it's all worth it because I never fail to enjoy Greenbelt. As always, I'm looking forward to this year's festival, to catching up with friends and to getting inspired again! Check out the festival website for up-to-date news about the program.

I'm involved in the following two things...

Friday evening, 7:30pm
Panel: "Supporting Church Leavers"
programme blurb... "Building on the work of 'A Churchless Faith' and 'Spirited Exchanges' in New Zealand, a UK network of groups for church leavers has been growing over the last two years, with strong connections to Greenbelt festival. This seminar will provide an opportunity to meet a panel of people involved in 'Spirited Exchanges UK', and discuss with them relevant concerns and issues, as well as giving an experience of the 'Spirited Exchanges' ethos."

Sunday evening, 7:00pm, New Forms Cafe
Dream worship: "A life more ordinary"
programme blurb... "An invitation to fishermen, shepherds, vicars and tarts, and all other extraordinary people with ordinary lives: to explore the presence of God and reality of heaven in your story."

Hope to catch up with some of you over the weekend!!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:05 PM | link | 0 comments |

re-imagining terminology...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

After my last post linking to three very 'wordy' (though equally helpful) articles engaging with the term 'missional', Emerging Grace has a refreshing pictorial take on emerging church terms 'here'. I think this one is my favourite of the bunch because it resonates with my own phrase of the year, 'get real'! There are several others worthy of a look though!

hat tip... TSK


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:01 PM | link | 1 comments |

missional: what's in a word?...

Brother Maynard has posted three very helpful and pretty 'comprehensive' (read as 'long & meaty'!) articles this week, attempting to define the latest church buzz-word (one that I quite like) missional, 'here', 'here' and 'here'. Although his longer bullet point definition in his latest post is helpful, I particularly appreciated his short-list of two essential characteristics of missional churches...
  1. The church is organized around its mission, the Missio Dei. Brother Maynard writes, "In the UK, the term 'mission-shaped church' became popular, and this is the central concept here. The church exists for the benefit of the world, and has a purpose in the world for the glory of God."
  2. The church’s ministry is incarnational, not attractional. He continues, "There is a greater concern for getting the people of the church out among the people of the world than there is to get the people of the world in among the people of the church. A missional church is a centered set and not a bounded set, and there is much less concern (sometimes none) for getting people to “join” a local church."
I think these are helpful key principles as they 'include' (perhaps another essential concept of missional churches) an array of theological and ecclesiological nuances. It is certainly not the case that only evangelical or emerging or catholic or liberal (take your pick) churches can be truly missional. A missional church is one that is shaped by its involvement in the missio dei, and is truly sending, seeking to be incarnationally present amongst those in its 'mission field'. It seems to me that this pretty well encapsulates the focus of both Jesus and the apostle Paul!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:28 AM | link | 0 comments |

Pakistan - fear amidst the celebrations...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

As Pakistan celebrates its 60th anniversary today with fireworks, street parties and 21 gun salutes, the Christian communities in Peshawar and elsewhere live in fear following further threats from Islamic radicals. These most recent threats, delivered last week to Christian settlements throughout Peshawar, echo those delivered to the Christians in Charsadda district in May, which I blogged about 'here'.

The mentality of the extremists is summed up in a letter that was received by a church leader, which stated, "There is only death for the communities who share similar religion with America and are his agents. Our mosques, and children are being martyred at American orders therefore the Churches will also be wiped out from the face of earth. We will write new history with the blood of the infidels and our suicide attackers are ready to attack the Churches. The death of infidels, their extinction from the face of earth is the foremost objective of our holy war."

A letter from the Christian community in Peshawar, urging fellow Christians to pray for the situation, said...

"... In the present unstable political scenario the Liberal community of Pakistan, the security agencies of Pakistan and the vulnerable minority communities are being threatened and targeted by the Militants. Various suicide attacks have been recently carried out against the Pakistan Army resulting in heavy causalities. The Church and the Christian colonies have always been a soft target for the fundamentalists, and in past, numerous mob attacks have been carried out.

The Christians in Pakistan continue to follow the path of the “Prince of Peace”, Jesus Christ

The final statement sat with me for some time... as followers of Christ, we resist violence and retaliation, following the way of the Prince of Peace even to death. Easy for me to write as I don't face threats such as these, but for Christians in Northern Pakistan this is a daily reality and a living witness to the good news. As I've urged many times in this blog before... please pray for Pakistan.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:49 AM | link | 0 comments |

troubled Pakistan...

Friday, August 03, 2007

Regular readers of this blog will know about my connection with Pakistan (click on the 'Pakistan' link below to see my other posts). These are worrying times for that country, with indications suggesting a possible slide into civil war between the military government and the religious conservatives. Caught up in the middle of this are minority communities, such as the Christian community, and progressives who want to see the country live up to its founding principles of freedom and harmony.

Recently, we had some friends staying with us from Peshawar in the North-West Frontier (near the Afghan border), which has seen more than its fair share of trouble and unrest in recent months. They urged us to keep praying for their country.

If you're interested in finding out more about this troubled country, yesterdays Guardian newspaper carried a two page article which summarises the situation well. It can be read online 'here', and a catalogue of recent Guardian articles about Pakistan can be found 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:35 AM | link | 0 comments |

burn my shadow...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

This is one of the most gripping and disturbing rock videos I've seen, but it begs the question (as Jonny asked 'here')... what would you do if you only had three minutes to live?

you can download a Quicktime version (33mb) of the video 'here' - great discussion starter!!
In case you're wondering, it's by UNKLE.

hat tip... Jonny Baker

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:24 AM | link | 0 comments |