one of the great things about being in london is the number of people i get to meet from other countries who are passing through. blogging and the internet have usually been the connection point ahead of meeting. yesterday evening i met al roxburgh and bill kinnon, both of whom are involved in allelon, a network of mission leaders based in canada.
i hadn't realised it was going to be but the chat was recorded so will appear in an edited form on the allelon netcast in the next month i guess. my only knowledge of bill is that he wrote the blog entry the people formerly known as the congregation which made quite a splash in the blog world. i didn't find out much more as he was quiet for the interview. i first came across alan in his wonderful little book the missionary congregation, leadership and liminality. since then a number of things he has been up to have caught my interest but our paths had never crossed.
one is the stuff he and chris eerdman wrote on ethos. this was a short blog entry but it has ended up framing the way i have thought about how to develop the heartbeat of a christian community's life. it has had a big impact on how i have viewed the ethos in grace and the encouragement to focus on ethos rather than practices has been very wise advice. they are referring to monastic communities but i think it's a great approach for any community. we stumbled in conversation across the difference between ethos and strategy as an approach. whilst they don't sound very different, actually the sensibilities are miles apart. so in grace for example an ethos of engagement means it is gently shaping my choices about who to spend time with, where we want to put energy as a community and so on. if it was a strategy it would feel much more clinical and cold. i may reflect on this more another time.
another is his thinking on mission orders. cms have been exploring this idea for several years - whether to reconfigure as a recognised christian community rather than just as an organisation. i'm not so keen on the word order, but what this would mean is that to be part of it would be to share a common ethos and spiritual rhythm and it would be recognised by the c of e with some oversight from a bishop. this may still happen and we have lots to learn from the likes of alan.
then i am also interested in the tone of what alan writes and does. several of the voices in the emerging church conversation in north america are not located in a way that they work easily with mainline denominations or churches (though others are). they take a more independant approach. i've said before that this is one of the big differences in the emerging stuff between the context in the uk and us. but alan is passionate about existing churches and working with leaders to help them dream again and remember their forgotten narratuves of hope - he had some lovely turns of phrase about this (which i can't recall at breakfast today!). in my role i work with people at the edge/margins and with churches and leaders in denominational structures. i want to learn from alan in this regard. i hope this is the first of many conversations.
and then our work is in the same area - mission in western culture developing leadership, networks, resources, communities and so on. so it was a great opening conversation that i hope we get to follow up before too long. kindred spirits and all that...