a couple of shots of the bean in millenium park chicago - abstracted of course...
this is a sign we drove by in chicago en route from the airport to ctu - no idea what it is a sgn for! i'm here speaking at a conference on mission, culture and vocation which gets started later today and i'm looking forward to. ctu is the home base for steve bevans, roger schroeder, and robert shreiter among others - they have produced amazing thinking and writing on mission over the last 30 years that has influenced me profoundly. so it's a real privilege to come and do something sharing from our own experience with pioneers at cms. it's always wonderful to meet flesh and blood heroes.
on monday and tuesday we had induction for new students starting on a certificate, diploma or m.a. so it's been quite a week so far... it was fantastic to meet people doing such interesting things and am looking forward to getting to know them. it's our biggest intake so far which is encouraging though very few pioneer ordinands in the mix (as everywhere i think). i suspect that will swing back over time.
reflections is a magazine that is produced by yale divinity school reflecting on a theme in relation to theology and/or spirituality. the current issue (spring 2014) is on the challenge of faith in a changing culture and how that is impacting on a younger generation of adults. each issue has a guest photographer and i am the photographer for the current issue. i have a dozen of so magazines - if you are in the uk and want one let me know. if you are in the us you can sign up and receive it for free. all the articles are also online.
it was good to meet some presbyterians from the usa this week including darrell guder who has written on missional church for many years and been involved in american missiology and gospel and culture networks. i actually met a similar group about a year ago sharing stories of what we are up to and how to cultivate mission at and beyond the edges of the church. there are now around 200 new church communities or mission projects under the bold vision of 1001 new communities in 10 years. roger dermody is one of the drivers behind it and was in the group.
it was lovely to meet erin dunigan and hear about not church, a community exploring faith and spirituality but seemingly started at the request of seekers and athiests. in trying to find it i googled 'not church' and found there are several communities out there who can be found under the identifier of not church!
it was also good to hear yeseterday of a new initiatiove starting in nottingham - the sunday service - a club night at rock city. sounds like the good old days of alt worship...
encouraging rumours from across the pond as a fund is set up to invest in innovation and new ministries. it's one thing to talk of innovation, another to actually give it space and allow it to flourish. but with people like tom brackett in the loop hopefully the money will be entrusted to those who will actually pioneer things that are missional and genuinely new rather than a sneaky way to fund business as usual in the church.
chris yaw contacted me a month or so back and asked if he could interview me for churchnext.tv via skype. we explored imagination, creativity and mission. the interview has just been posted. i've not met chris but he is buidling up quite a collection of interviews around mission, church, culture and so on on churchnext
i am heading over to austin for a week duing SXSW which should be fun. i am there from march 5 to 11. bob carlton is organising the trip and what's happening. it includes
march 6 dreamers who do - a gathering with emerging church type people
march 8 mobile.faith - an event exploring how faith and practice can be enlivened with mobile technologies
march 10 - pause@sxsw practices for digital sabbath
i was also very pleased to see radiohead on the schedule when it came through!!!
in grace we are reading through ian adams book cave refectory road through lent. this week's discussion was around road and where you encounter strangers. jen sent round a link to this movie with someone experimenting with talking to people on the new york subway
i get sent books from publishers. sometimes they ask if i'm interested but more often they just arrive - addressed to jonnybaker blog! i never promise to review them though in many ways i wish i had more time as i think books are wonderful and do like to comment on things (unless i really don't like them and then i can't see the point of a review that is totally negative). well this week a book arrived that i had not caught whim of but was a real surprise - common prayer. no - i am not talking about the one that was out in 1662 but a brand new fat hardback that has come out of the new monasticism movement in the US - authored by jonathan wilson hartgrove, shane claiborne, and enuma okoro. it's delightful - laying out liturgies and readings for communities or families (or an individual though it's clearly a book for communal prayer) in the morning, midday and evening along with some songs and occasional prayers and reflections.
something's going on! the tradition is being opened up and re-discovered for a new generation in a very different way. you get the impression that for some this whole approach is very new with explanations of what liturgy is, the church year and so in the introduction. if you have grown up in a setting where this sort of stuff is normal i suspect it will be easy to dismiss this. but you shouldn't - this is genuinely exciting. i think some who love tradition will be shocked that this is out published by zondervan, and the relaxed tone of the intro with words like cool in the mix - it's not exactly a heavyweight religious community feel. but i like that - let's relax and open up the gifts of the tradition in ways that are accessible. many of those making the rediscoveries of liturgy and so on are from the evangelical end of the church where their worship has been dominated by worship bands, preaching and ministry. i think this affords a different kind of depth, reportoire and rhythm in worship.
if you want a flavour of it there is a web site which i assume will become a portal and hub that can grow this resourcing of a movement.
we're going to see more resources like this. i have come across several groups who have created rhythms for their communities and liturgies and a rhythm of prayer and so on. cms, the mission community i belong to, are working on a year book of prayer. it's part of a shift to understand church as being about a life that is lived and fuelled through a rhythm of prayer as opposed to simply being about a once a week gathering. it's also about a maturing recognition that to be a community in the church is to be connected historically and globally into the body of christ and to unite with that rather than ignore it.
it's also a massive piece of work to do something like this. as i say a nice surprise. i have yet to try using the prayers in a communal setting...
christian satirist - now there's a job description! it's what becky garrison does in life. having written for the brilliant wittenburg door and the equally brilliant geez and written a few books she has a new book out jesus died for this? she says in the intro
Ever wonder what Jesus thinks when Christians pretend to glorify his name while placing themselves in the center ring? Does he ever turn to his Dad and go 'I died for this?'
the book is an easy read, a travel book, a pilgrimage, a quest that took me by surprise. it's quite delightful. becky visits palestine/israel, jordan, the uk, ireland, poland, and various american cities dropping in on christian communities, trying to make sense of where christ might be present. she manages to serve up the satire in ways that are humorous but not bitter - it's quite an art i'm guessing because the church is packed with things that could easily be slammed! (i've met becky a few times and seem to always be gently encouraging her to tone down her satire without losing her wit. she could easily slam things a lot harder i suspect!)
you can read between the lines in places and becky is clearly allergic to the white male dominance in many of the communities she visits and sick of the culture of branding and celebrity that so easily surfaces. like this...
Labels like emergent, evangelical and even Christian can be helpful points of reference provided one doesn't take the label, turn it into a designer logo, and market the product as if it's more important than Christ. In particular how can anyone preach an anti-empire message while promoting oneself as a religious icon? This makes about as much sense as a Quaker owning a gun shop.
but even where it sounds like she has not found great hospitality and felt very alone she wears her vulnerability on her sleeve in brutally honest fashion at times - laying out some of her own brokenness and craving for acceptance. in her travels she finds many hopeful moments and rather than writing as a dispassionate journalist relays moments of epiphany where she senses the reassurance of the presence of the risen christ. it's a hopeful rather than a cynical read.
she does a good job it seems of sniffing out where people are seeking out creative and authentic ways to follow in the way of christ. she is one of many pilgrims who have found friendship in the emerging communities in the uk and grenbelt festival to take back as inspiration.
to accompany the book becky has been interviewing people and uploading movies and podcasts where she asks people to respond to the idea of what jesus died for - the video stream is here (the answer i wish i had given is spencer burke's where he suggests we should be asking what jesus lived for! i give something a lot more earnest) | the podcast stream is here (becky throws me a googlie question - what do i say to people who say that the mainline denominations are dead - the new is where it is at!?). the quality of some of the interviews is rough and ready but that's part of its charm...
the day before going to the USA we went to the richard long exhibition at tate britain which is well worth a visit. anyway i have added a set of photos from new york to flickr. and in the spirit of richard long the trip went something like...
as part of the week we taught at lancaster seminary the students created a worship experience. it was around a passge from 1 thessalonians 1 - not an easy one! we only had around an hour we spent planning but somehow pulled together a really amazing worship experience. the central idea in the passage is that the apostles imitate christ, the macedonians have imitated the apostles, and now the thessalonians are imitating them. it's like a chain of modeling. but it is effective because in the end if it is real it will be visible in peoples lives. i guess it's like leslie newbigin's idea of the hermeneutic of the congregation, or like christ's simple words - if you love one another people will know you are my disciples. so taking this idea the central ritual involved people coming up and looking in a mirror which had an icon of christ on and of paul, the idea being to see how we might reflect christ. as people walked back to their seat they passed another mirror with the words you are the message written on - simple but very powerful. that line is from the message translation of the passage...
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.