Lets dare to be the Mixed Ecology of church

As I wrestled with the non-dualist ways of being missional church I was seeing in and through my practices with young people back in the late 1990s and 2000s, I became a big fan of Walter Brugemann’s work and particularly his work on orientation, disorientation and reorientation in the Psalms. This alongside Hegel’s thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis, and Paul Ricour’s work on naïveté, complexity and recalibration, this flow and process started to give me a language and frame of reference for the less dualist way of being that I was sensing and observing in the emerging church. Then through my post-grad I stumbled onto the idea of an emerging Habitus that Bourdieu identifies as something that emerges as an interplay between free will and structures and is developed over time. Habitus is shaped by both past events, present practices and our ideas (perceptions) of these events and practices. ie coherence (reorientation, synthesis, recalibration) emerges through the process. In this sense habitus is created and reproduced unconsciously ‘without any deliberate pursuit of coherence… without any conscious concentration’ see here for more info.

Both the national church of england (here) and in our county we are looking to become a deeper mixed ecology of church. I have two thoughts on this. Firstly it seems entirely natural and in line with the flow and process I first saw in Brugemann and more recently in Richard Rohrs work on Order, Disorder and Reorder – Institutional church, Emerging church to Mixed Ecology. It’s pattern we see through church history and before throughout the scriptures, all of which is very positive. However, my second observation is how much we lose when we try to organise, and how an emerging habitus comes without conscious concentration. So I find myself caught between a place of concern and hope. A concern that the mixed ecology become a bit like Bonhoeffer’s saying “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” A hope that the hard work of the emerging habitus of mixed ecology is sufficiently embedded and that we are in this new place of metaphor and symbol, of connectivity, of Time honoured and Fresh Expressions of church, and not seek to return to a modernist approach that categorises what is happening as the mixed ecology. But live in the spirit with her daring mixed ecological metaphors of wind and water that resist categorisation, control and keep us humble and always emerging.

2 thoughts on “Lets dare to be the Mixed Ecology of church

  1. Interesting thoughts. But I think you might over romanticise the just letting it emerge.Ecology environments can just be left and they do fine. But many benefit from a tending that observes the environment and works with it. That’s true of an allotment or a woodland which are two environments I know something about. Woodland is an interesting case in point in that te wider view is that woodland is better if it is managed to some degree – thinned, clearings made for new life from time to time etc. Of course it can be over managed or treated in a forestry way of clear felling without much regard for the damage done to soil and so on. But I think the significant difference of the ecology metaphor might be that it calls for a different kind of leadership which is to think how to nurture a healthy environment. This probably involves some wisdom of the land and environment you are dealing with, paying attention, and in particular nurturing bio-diversity to dynamically respond to its life and threats to keep it in a state of flourishing over the long term.

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