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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!

overheard...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A friend emailed me this morning and told me of the following recent experience...

...in Starbucks yesterday [I was] reading Gordon Lynch's new book when 'Imagine' comes on over the system. I'm thinking, 'Actually that's no different to Revelation: no sun and stuff. Lennon's doing the same thing as John.' The old woman in front starts talking to the young guy passing her with his coffee:
"What's that song? I've just been writing about it all and there it is in words... No heaven... a perfect future... "

The guy doesn't know, so I pipe up, " The song's Imagine"

The woman and the guy fall into conversation about the song, and I return to my book. And the woman says, "When things like this happen, they're a sign... lots of signs". And the guy says, "In the end, it comes down to the individual. Do you know Jesus?" And the woman says, "Of course, Jesus is among us..." And I think, 'Here's the book, alive in front of me: the traditional individualistic religion meeting the progressive searching community model...'


I wonder which model you most easily relate to?! It seems that the more 'churched' we are (especially in the evangelical tradition), the more we will struggle to relate to the progressive searching community model, in favour of the safer confines of individualistic religion with its neat theologies. And yet, it's the more 'messy' model we find in abundance all around us (expressed most explicitly in places like 'this'), which doesn't seem a million miles away from the approach taken by Jesus, along with his 'searching community' of 12 (plus extras!)

Thanks Steve for the story and for your permission to post it here.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:01 PM | link | 0 comments |

consuming spiritual experiences...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I really enjoyed being at the Mind Body Spirit Northern Festival over the weekend. I spent much of my time talking to people about their spiritual experiences and searching, praying for people and explaining how we continue this tradition because we believe that Jesus the healer lives on and is with us by his Spirit, and (a new experience for me) giving readings from the Jesus Deck (a contextually appropriate form of applied Bible reading really!)

I think what struck me about the whole experience is how genuinely open people are to engage with 'the divine' and look beyond themselves in order to better know themselves. It's not stretching the point to say that I found a greater sense of openness to 'God' at this festival than I often find in many churches. In fact, people are so open that they are prepared to try all sorts of things and pay quite large amounts of money in the process (though we charged nothing at Dekhomai). I met and prayed with one young man who had already been to the Reiki healers and had his Aura read (at the modest cost of £25). It was the latter experience that was now concerning him as the 'reading' was not very positive. As we talked and prayed he expressed how he had felt a weight lifting from him - maybe a genuine activity of God.

I guess my overall reflection on the experience (and I'm sure it's overly simplistic) is that festivals such as this are in many ways an indictment on the Church, rather than an external expression of 'evil' competing with the Church. Many people I met had been raised through church or had some church experience in their background. For a whole range of reasons they were now continuing their spiritual journey detached from the Church. These people largely responded positively to Dekhomia because Jesus remained central to their spirituality, even though they had openly rejected the Church.

Which all raised a series of questions for me... what led these people to give up on the Church in their spiritual exploration? (I may have some handles on this one though!) More importantly, how do we (is it even possible to) enable people to freely journey in their own spiritual exploration within church communities, even if their present understanding is, in places, at odds with orthodox Christian doctrine and theology? Can we provide the space for such a journey centred on Jesus which will, potentially at least, negate the need that many feel to plough so much of their hard-earned money into Mind Body Spirit festivals? I'm reminded of an elderly lady who was a member of the first church I was a minister at who was greatly loved by everyone in the church and seen as a pillar of the church community. She had a strong belief in reincarnation... was it right that the church still counted her as 'one of us'?! Right or wrong (I'm not really into dogmatics) at least she was able to develop her relationship with Jesus alongside others who would challenge and encourage, rather than being cast into the void at the mercy of the multitude of confusing and contradicting messages.

But I say 'is it even possible to' because maybe consumerism has seduced our lives so fully that even spirituality and the search for God has been made an essentially individually 'purchased' thing. Many people I met over the weekend had 'consumed' several spiritual experiences through what was on offer at the festival and were still floating around, with little or no anchor points, looking for the next experience to 'buy'. If this is the case, then surely the Church has been complicit to some extent in this individualising of faith and spirituality, and must now find ways of being both contextually rooted (speaking the right language) and yet also counter cultural if we are to stem the tide and help people to (re)discover Jesus. I guess in some small way this is what Dekhomai and the stand at the festival was and is trying to do.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:51 AM | link | 1 comments |

oh the irony...

Yesterday I ordered my MacBook - yes I'm finally making the switch from PC to Mac! So how ironic it was when my PC blew up on me this morning (artistic license in the use of dramatic language - what actually happened was that I switched it on and heard a 'bang' then it was dead!) All very humorous you might think except for the fact that I hadn't got round to doing a back up of emails and data - doh! Just waiting now for a techie to arrive to (hopefully) retrieve the hard drive! Please somebody reassure me that I won't have these problems with a Mac!!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:17 AM | link | 2 comments |

the welcoming place...

Friday, October 19, 2007

I'm at the annual Mind Body Spirit northern festival today and tomorrow on the dekhomai stand, offering healing prayer and resources in Christian spirituality. Dream is working with Sanctus 1 on this - check out the dekhomia approach by clicking on the below logo...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:36 PM | link | 0 comments |

attack on Bhutto - 130 innocents die...

posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:50 AM | link | 1 comments |

ssshhh...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last Thursday's Dream in Liverpool City is well worth blogging about! It was led by one of the community members, Danielle, and was given the title 'ssshhh' - I knew that it was about the place of silence but didn't really know what to expect.

When we entered the worship space there was a simple set up - the room was dark, lit only by a projector-lamp, that lit up one of the walls with a slowly changing bubble pattern, and a candle in one corner of the room. There were cushions on the floor of the main space to sit on, and three smaller spaces - one with sheets of paper and pens, one with play-dough, and the other with candles to light - were set out at one end of the room.

We were told at the start that the entire service would be in silence - no background music at all (a bit of a departure for Dream!) At 5 minute intervals there were some passages (many written by Nenri Nouwen) projected on to a wall for us to reflect on - each collection of passages began with a screen stating how many minutes remained (i.e. "30 minutes left"... "25 minutes left"...). We were invited to use the space and quiet however we wanted, and to make use of the three set-out spaces as we felt appropriate (if at all). The service was to be 45 minutes long... 45 minutes of complete silence!

Now, I don't really do silence very well, so the thought of 45 minutes in complete silence was not a wholly welcome one. At first I wondered how I would use the time - should I go and play with the play-dough or draw pictures on the paper, or should I just sit still and read the projected passages when they came up? I resisted the temptation to move for a while and began to relax allowing my thoughts to be led by what I was reading on the screen... and time began to speed up! Sure, I made use of one or two of the spaces during the 45 minutes, but definitely not to fill the time - it all seemed to flow together (for me at least) as I engaged with God in a way that I seldom do when rushing from one thing to another.

Having struggled in the past with silent retreats, extended prayer times and the like, I came away from Dream last week thinking that maybe Henri Nouwen and others like him were on to something. Maybe silence is not such a bad idea after all! Thanks Danielle for taking a risk and departing from our norm, if indeed we have one!


On Silence
by Henri Nouwen

"Silence requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go again as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is close at hand. It offers the freedom to stroll in your own inner yard, and to rake up the leaves there and clear the paths so you can easily find the way to your heart. Perhaps there will be much fear and uncertainty when you first come upon the "unfamiliar terrain", but slowly and surely you will discover an order and familiarity which deepens your longing to stay home....... whenever you come upon this silence, it seems as though you have received a gift, one which is "promising" in the true sense of the word. It promises new life. It is the silence of peace and prayer, because it brings you back to the One who is leading you."

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:06 AM | link | 0 comments |

fun new widget...

If you like playing around with widgets (sounds dodgy to me) then scroll down and check out the new NeoPod in the far right column of this blog. If you click on the different icons you get lots of fun stats about where visitors to this blog originate, complete with pretty maps - there's even hidden bits of info to find if you scout around with your mouse! A bonus addition is the chat function which I haven't used yet so if you're on the blog when others are give it a go! You can get your own NeoPod from 'here'

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

church search...

Friday, October 12, 2007

King of the Hill surveys the US church scene in a great clip 'here' - it lasts 5 minutes or so but it's funny so worth it!

I've edited this post to remove the embedded clip because it you can't stop it automatically loading, which is a tad annoying when you've already seen it! So go see it here!

hat tip... Jonny Baker

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

in rainbows...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Today's the day... Radiohead's seventh studio album, In Rainbows, is released as a download with the groundbreaking (maybe even record industry breaking) 'you name the price'! I downloaded my copy this morning (but I'm not telling how much I paid!) and on first listening it's pretty good. Check out NME and Wikipedia for more info...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 5:18 PM | link | 1 comments |

ASBO adventures...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Ongoing Adventures of ASBO Jesus is fast becoming one of my favourite blogs. Jon Birch has a knack for capturing realities and challenging attitudes through wit and humour. If you haven't yet encountered his cartoons, go here and see for yourself - there's 138 of them (to date) to catch up on!

To be going on with, here's the ASBO on...

faith...


church culture...


and mission


click on each to go to original better quality version!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:11 PM | link | 1 comments |

two years on...

Monday, October 08, 2007

Today marks the second anniversary of the catastrophic earthquake that stuck Northern Pakistan and killed more than 88,000 people. I blogged about this on the first anniversary 'here' following a visit I had made to Balakot, the town worst hit. These events miles away are so quickly forgotten by those of us unaffected, but spare a thought (and a prayer) today for those whose lives will never be the same a result, and for the ongoing effort to rebuild fragile communities torn apart by the quake. Find out more from the BBC 'here' and wikipedia 'here'.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 12:50 PM | link | 0 comments |

world clock...

Friday, October 05, 2007

This world clock is amazing and disturbing all at the same time. Launch it, click the 'now' button, get on with your work (leaving it running in the background) and return to it later to see what's been happening statistically in the world during that time. In the time it took to write this short post 31 people have been infected with HIV.

You'll need the flash plugin to see it

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