column 2 i wrote for the christian herald:
In downtown Seattle there is a tea store called Living Room – apparently tea is the new coffee!
It’s open every day, serving 30 types of tea in Fremont, a poor inner city multi-cultural area. Prices are low and the tea is the best. While you drink your tea and make conversation, you can exploit the free wireless internet on your laptop or the two eMac computers provided.
Local artists display their artwork on the walls. There are regular events where bands and DJs perform – quite a network of artists buzzes around the place. On Saturdays at 5pm the Church Of The Apostles (COTA) have a worship gathering in the tea bar – they describe their worship as ancient-future in that it fuses the best of the Christian tradition, ritual and liturgies with postmodern music, art and culture.
COTA is an emerging church. It is a blend of Anglican and Lutheran church plant that is part of the creative inspiration of Karen Ward, who I met up and chatted with over a Belgian beer in the US last year. She is the most unlikely ordained priest I have ever met. Regulars at the tea bar are shocked when they find that Karen, who has been making them tea all week, is leading a church.
There are a team of people together with Karen who dream and pray and serve the local community. They don’t do evangelism – they are just there in the midst of the community, building friendships and serving tea, fuelled by the belief that their call is to be church 24/7 in the world.
People find after a while that Jesus and the church community is attractive and want to join, though there is no pressure to do so. It is small and fragile, but COTA now has about 60 members and is slowly but surely growing. Renting a shop to start a café and providing free wireless internet have proved to be a great strategy for mission and growing a new church community.
This is just one among hundreds of fresh expressions of church that are popping up across the western world. Something is clearly happening. God is at work in his world, beckoning us to join him in birthing the church of the future.
I regularly get asked what emerging church is – it is this fragile, organic and experimental movement that is re-imagining what church is in the changed cultural situation we are now in.