column 5 for the christian herald:
In a drama studio in a local school a bishop is kneeling in front of a huge projection screen, a drum and bass track is playing, and an ancient litany is being prayed with a sung chant over the track after each section. This is Eden, a youth congregation in rural Sussex and it is an ordination service. Derek Spencer, a youth missioner in the deanery who has pioneered this fresh expression of church is being ordained not to be a parish priest but to carry on his mission amongst young people. Bishop Lindsay Urwin has had the courage and imagination to adapt the service and take it into the context of Eden. There is a huge clash of cultures but I get the impression that the results are inspiring for both crowds as ancient meets (post) modern. The service concludes with the local youth band playing a funky and uplifting remix of the hymn How Great Thou Art. The bishop gets caught on camera caught up in the praise with his mitre on and hands in the air lost in praise. This is frankly astonishing! Tradition runs deep in village life (I grew up in Sussex) and change is invariably slow, nowhere more so than in the church.
Something is happening in the Church of England. The report Mission Shaped Church which calls for a reimagining of church in response to the emerging culture has become a best seller. Bishops in particular seem to be taking it seriously. Admittedly there is not (yet) the reallocation of resources needed but there is a new culture of permission. Eleven years ago when Grace, the alternative worship community I am part of in London, was begun it was in a climate of suspicion and people found it threatening. That is gradually changing. In previous columns I have commented on café churches, house churches, and indigenous mission movements in various places round the world. But one of the unique things about the UK emerging church is that a lot of it is taking place within the structures of or the blessing of the main denominations. This is a wonderful gift as it is the whole church that needs to emerge into the present and the future. There’s a very cheesy line in the film Once Upon A Time In Mexico - 'are you a Mexi-can or a Mexi-can't?' For some unknown reason when I saw it a few years ago it made me ask about the church 'are you an Angli-can or an Angli-can't?' (and the implicit answer was the latter at the time). But it seems I might have been wrong. Let the Angli-CAN church emerge.
Eden web site | Eden blog | Grace web site