Put your wetsuit on

It is not often I write out of a sense of frustration, and accordingly I have held off this post for a while. However I have growing sense that the majority of the missional conversation is still paddling in the shallow end and asking the wrong questions.

Norman Iverson blogged about a sense of a lack of real change around Fresh Expressions and church. It is interesting to see an insider raise some the same questions those on the edge have had for a number of years about the FE Movement, perhaps it is time to review those questions. My comment on the post was “The unwillingness to embrace death (of ideas, orthodox Ecclesiology , power) will mean a lack of interest on real change, so the sense of cognitive dissonance that things that FE bring will be embraced instead. But like the institution I fear they too are not really interested in real change.”
Another place of paddling in Fresh Expressions and the emerging church conversation is around the idea of relevance. As if we listened to the community we would discover how to become a relevant expression of church. But we will never really hear the community whilst we are so rooted in our current models of church and orthodox Ecclesiology . An example was a recent post Is your church too cool. My comment again was rooted in the need to practice a completely new way of being and engaging with the question. “Church can never be relevant in our understanding of the word whilst it remains rooted in a concept of gathering outside of the wider community for a supposed experience of worship. Articles like this are asking the wrong questions”
It is easy to fall into the trap of meeting with other christians and thinking we are doing something new, doing something differently. However this, gathering in an exclusive way (i think we often kid ourselves that we are more open than we are) outside of a wider community is part of the gravitational pull that produces the sense of cogitative dissonance that means a lack of real change and keeps us in the shallow end. It is rooted in our false history that we can suggests we can get closer to G-d through a worship service. There is a brilliant article here exposing this myth and its problems.

I am part of a number of emerging (note not gathered and most of which have christians as a minority) communities, and more and more I am convinced that we need to loose any ideas of coming together for a time of prayer, a time of worship, or a church service. They all simply produce a sense of security that stops us finding out what it really means to love and serve. That is not say we give up meeting together but we meet head on the myth that god is present in the gathering more than anywhere else and work out what it means to put our wetsuits on and ask better questions and swim deeply with G-d.

7 thoughts on “Put your wetsuit on

  1. Do we need to learn to seperate finding security in God from finding security in institutions and traditions? I know that finding security in God increases my capacity to love and serve. I am convinced that we need to do this with others rather than just individually – the nearer I get to the deep end the more I need others around me, which brings us back to some kind of “coming together”. A test of the gospel value of this should be whether or not it helps us “find out what it really means to love and serve” and empowers us to put it in to action. This is surely the true meaning of the Mass!

  2. I have been reading a book on truama called Shattered Asseumptions which uses the poetic story of Job. The author uses this story as example of how our schemas, scripts and coginitve concepts developed early on in our lives or belief systems have a tight hold on us. Even though Job’s life was falling apart(shattered) and made no sense within his belief construct he clung onto his truth and onto an evolving undertanding of god. His beleiving freinds could not understand it….. and berated him and cursed him.

    I don’t think a construct/ theology can really change until people assumptions of the old construct are painfully shattered – I agree with you Richard about the emerging church – isn’t it is same old contruct with some modern and fasionable clothes on?

    Mark – is it possible to seperate yoru view/ security in god from security in the institution? I suppose it begs the question of why you need to find your security in god and what is your god like?

  3. Another thought – I’m wondering if any real change will ever happen from those who are still part of and paid by the system/instituition. They have to much to lose.

  4. thanks Richard. Really insightful.

    I wonder if there’s am also a ‘both and’ aspect to this. The worship gathering (in the tradition I’m from this is primarily the eucharist) both symbolising and mediating in a space and a moment what is going on everywhere all the time – let’s call that in theological terms ‘the kingdom of heaven’. So if, for example, we can see and sense the Wonder in bread and wine, we can begin to see and sense the Wonder everywhere. Perhaps like any love relationship. It’s good and important to know that 2 people love each other and tell each other so. But the kiss or the love-making act as signs of that all-the-time love and they mediate it, enable it to flourish and deepen. Does that make any sense?

    There’s also perhaps another way to view the place of the worship gathering? This is a monastic insight. Rather than being outside the wider community it’s possible to think of its as the (sometimes unseen) heart of the wider community, deep within wider community, quietly subverting the status quo, signing and mediating the possibility of a new world starting here and now…

  5. Great article.

    With experience I can say that wetsuit will help you float rather than swim deeply. Perhaps some fins are a better option deep diving, or even better perhaps its activity that keeps us afloat. Constant movement that keeps us paddling, maybe we need to stop and sink without regard for how or if we will ever get back to the surface. If depth is what we seek then we will have to endure the pressure and fight the urge to return to the comfortable surface to draw breath.

    Or maybe I’ve taken a analogy too far…

  6. Ian I like idea of mediating a space that all around and now and not yet, but still wonder if the eucharist tradition is way enabling people to cope where can see every meal as sacred and every space as holy. I really like the spatial change of the idea as gathering as being deep within a community but not sure this should be bounded as it doesn’t allow that other to play active role in the subverting process.

  7. Dylan I like idea of sinking as it fits with embracing death ideas. The wetsuit idea is mainly because I got the vaccines album for Christmas

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