there are many ways that newness comes and if i attempted to suggest newness came in only one way it would doubtless spring up in another. so please don't read my attempts to reflect on newness into determining only one strategy or tactic. after all the wind blows where it wills but i still do have some thoughts...
refounding is what arbuckle explores in several books - the three i have read are out of chaos: refounding the congregation, refounding the church, and from chaos to mission: refounding religious life formation. this discovery of arbuckle began for me actually in thinking about developing the cms pioneer training. following on from previous posts on newness i was definitely pushing an adjacent possible, i was convinced that this new pathway belonged elsewhere, and it was dissent in the sense of a definite imaginative alternative to what already exists - i was the pathfinding dissenter and there were various authority dissenters brokering the space. but once you have that, where do you look to create something new that has depth? and really i was after what might be at the heart of formation for pioneer mission leaders beyond just my own set of instincts and experiences. i won't elaborate on that journey here but it's how i got into this question and became convinced that refounding is a very good route to explore if newness is to come.
refounding is a return to the founding story or experience of a community, connecting with the energy of it in its day, re-owning it and then creatively applying that to today's most urgent needs. i.e. it's a drive to the heart or roots of a tradition sometimes reclaiming it over and against itself in order to break open newness in the present.
prophets are often misconceived as future tellers but actually they are covenant refounding persons, calling communities back to the giving of the law for example where the blessings and judgements of following particular ways of life are spelled out. brueggemann suggests that it is impossible to speak a future that none think imaginable by simply inventing new symbols. the prophet has to move back to the deepest memory of a community and activate the symbols in their story such as the exodus or abraham's journey. jesus is supreme in this. he drives to the heart of the tradition and reframes it in the present where its essence has been lost. i think a lot of people have this instinct when they arrive in a position of leadership in a place or community - to re-tell the story and make it live. refounding is doing that and then making it creatively live in the present through faithful improvisation.
when i was younger i would not have liked this suggestion. but now i am completely convinced that wherever its possible, more depth will be attained in the new through this locatedness in the story and life of a traditioned community and looking into its heart to find the energy to carry it forward, than there will be leaving. there are of course exceptions and exceptional circumstances. but my own observations are that the track record of those who split away from a community to find newness struggle to find depth and struggle to create something that carries forward. in many instances they seem to create something equally dogmatic or controlling as the thing they left in order to be free! it's too easy to stick two fingers up to the church or to whatever else and start something new with a 'radical' tag. it's the story of protestantism but i think perhaps we protesteth too much. that is in part why i loved doug gay's book so much because it suggested a pathway to newness but through a refounding (not that he used that word - audit, retrieval, unbundling, supplementing, remixing are his five themes but they actually provide a neat summary of refounding) and a deep ecumenism.
underneath this drive to refound lies something equally if not more important which is the kind of person that can do this. what sort of person is a refounding person? i don't think this is easy to discern and there is certainly plenty of evidence that there are plenty who have the sound of a refounding person but who are bogus in the old testament. but minimally surely there must be a huge overwhelming love for christ and his body as part of it - all the grief and dissent and speech must come from this place of love and commitment. in postmodern times it is so easy to avoid this and sit on the sidelines - it's our dis-ease. and secondly can i be as simplistic to say that we should ask whether they exhibit kindness, gentleness, patience, peace, love, self control… and the other fruit of the spirit? arbuckle in each of the three books has sections where he considers this question. but it would be a rather lengthy blog post if i combine them all together though i am of a mind to do that for my own reflecting at some point. if i do i'll let you know.
do come back at me on this. as i have said at the start there are many routes to genuine newness. and i am of course in danger, as i suspect we all are, of drawing on resources that make sense of my own locatedness and chosen tactics - in my case in cms a mission community within the church of england. i hope refounding will continue to open up the new.