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I love the phrase 'culturally commute'.

I had a discussion about this with a friend who was trying to define 'spirituality' as a personality type and 'spiritual music' as a genre. Everything was to be quiet and silent and contemplative... And I'm not. I'm a loud extrovert - so by definition not often those things classified as 'spiritual'.

What happens when God calls big loud heavy metal harley riding bikers into His church? You get big loud heavy metal harley riding biker Christians. If you plant acorns you get oaks.

One of my biggest criticisms of the EC has been the application by some as a genre of worship. When people take the 'let's do it like this book' approach it tends to look very middle class. We end up with everything looking like the tate modern. I want to see what EC looks like when it happens on a council estate in Barnsley. Unfortunately zondervan are unlikely to find someone who has written a book about it.


i agree robb... good thoughts. i actually had a discussion with another biker this week who was complaining about worship always being quiet or reflective or downbeat as he perceived it around cms. and i think you're right that spiritual can be associated with a particular tone/mood. like you he wants loud and up! i know i am not very good at that so over to you for some thrash biker spirituality!


Hold on, church can never be irrelevant plus you do not evangelise in church.

I have loads of converts doing the old fashioned things well.

I hate to be a spoiler but I think the emerging church should not call itself christian but a new age version of Chritianity.

John Davies

By definition, then, Christian communities that 'emerge out of' very particular cultural contexts will be basically irrelevant in every other cultural context...? Which leads me to conclude: we're all irrelevant now. How liberating.

Why do these churches always want to 'emerge out of' their cultural contexts? What are they trying to get away from? The strength of so-called 'traditional' church (submerging, I like to call it, in my housing estate parish, 78th most deprived in the UK) is that it's committed to staying in context. Deeply. And going by the large proportion of postmodern urban youth who we meet around baptisms, funerals and occasional weddings, it's still known and valued.

You can't blithely state that say there's nothing wrong with traditional church when you've previously defined it as irrelevant. I wish these people would watch their language.


Nadia didn't actually say there is nothing wrong with traditional churches, after clearly stating that her community is not ideal she also states that her actions and thoughts are not a accusation that there is something wrong with the traditional church. Much more I think they are a affirmation of herself and of her culture and community.

I think you kind of miss the point John, As much as we are all irrelevant, we are totally relevant to those who we are present too. Which is great when the tradition church is present to people, but for many the tradition church just isn't present, and culture and cultural norms are as much a contributing factor as proximity.

I don't think Nadia is levelling irrelevant as an acusation of failure or invalidity at the tradition church just a observation of reality and I think her actions are simply affirmation of herself and her freinds/community/culture as good enought for God


it seems to me that pretty soon the idea of having a christian community committed to a geographical area because its where we live will become crazy and radical, and everyone will be doing it.

oh look - the parish system.

Here's to you John & Dawkins, daring to LOVE people you don't get. Having travelled a very deconstructed journey through very emerging churches, i just want to be part of something local that is bigger than me & my friends. oh look, the local anglo-catholic church, with silent mediations in the dark and everything! Sooo EC!



i wanna T-shirt emblazoned with the words, "i am not a cultural commuter". genius!


if traditional church is so great why do we have such a massive problem?! i just don't buy it. it's great where it works but even there the point is it will never appeal to all the cultures in that community. but in many places it's washed up and depleted and dying with 10 elderly faithful people in about 8 churches with a vicar driving round the countryside dishing out communion, trying to keep the roof on and being exhausted. it's unsustainable so even while we can hold to romantic notions of the parish, it's not going to be around in that format in 20 years time in a lot of contexts. newness has to come in many ways.


why define something that 'emerges'?

steve taylor

Is this debate ever going to break out of it's deadlocks?

deadlock 1 - emerging is about new; traditional gets irked;

deadlock 2 - traditional church has all the resources and emerging needs some of those; traditional church is dying

deadlock 3 - traditional works for me; traditional does not work for me

deadlock 4 - emerging works for me; emerging does not work for me

deadlock 5 - love the other in the trad church; love the other outside trad church.

steve taylor

Tom Brackett


Thanks for sponsoring this conversation! Love it. 'Love the Biker Church flavors alongside the Inherited Church flavors. Here's what I hope, phrased in a question: "Can we separate out conversations concerned with issues of institutional anxiety (Sustainability of our pre-modern understandings of authority and the institution that perpetuates those) from conversations concerned with celebrating our work with the Spirit "out there"? I don't believe it's an either/or conversation but the two converations do seem to be pushed along by very different concerns, imho.

Gratefully sighing (hey, steve),


steve taylor

while i agree with you that we need to follow the spirit out there, surely that is not at the expense of the fact that the spirit can be "in here." why can't the Spirit be a reformer of the traditional?

So to rephrase your phrase: "Can we separate out conversations concerned with issues of institutional anxiety (Sustainability of our pre-modern understandings of authority and the institution that perpetuates those) from conversations concerned with celebrating our work with the Spirit, in all cultures, spaces and places"?



ok now you guys have got me sighing!...
yes of course both and - 'bond'. (i just thought of that?!)
i tend to celebrate and encourage the traditional as much as the old. alt w has very much re-embraced tradition rather than reject it as you know.
but i guess i think that even of there was no emerging church, no fresh expressions, no mixed economy or whatever the old structures were going to have to change at least in a lot of places. hence my (over)reaction. i'm back to my mellow self :-)


hi Tom - hope your visit to UK was good.

i'm not particularly por-traditionalist, but i am pro loving people who you find yourself with, rather than finding people who share a common interest etc.

anyway, the areas of life we push to the edges like birth, death, disability, i think are the places where people really engage with each other. not talking about it, but experiencing it together. if we're honest, we all push those bits of life to the edges becasue they're uncomfortable - and we wonder why churches don't really engage people. maybe its because we aren't really engaged with life & each other, coz it means we can't sustain the large networks we're in and all the exciting stuff and theological discussions if we are really committed to the people we live around.

just a thought. not really sure if i should be sighing right now!

Pam Smith

I spent four years driving round dispensing communion as a trad curate, the tiring and dispiriting thing is that all but one of the churches I was dealing with were completely uninterested in serving the community around them, and felt resentful of local people that they didn't come along to boost their numbers. Most of the church council meetings were about how to prop up the buildings in one way or another.

The exception was the church in the regeneration area in a building which was literally too broken to be mended. There was a big influx of African families onto the estate who all started coming to that church, which meant for the first time in a long time there were enough children to start a Sunday School. All of a sudden people who were very rigid about doing things a particular way loosened up as the most important thing started to be relationships and worship not how you did it. We had no musicians so we used CDs, gradually people were offering to play, gradually people were offering to do things, gradually it started to feel as if something really good and exciting was happening, all in a falling down building with hardly any people.

Last time I heard most of their time was being taken up with endless meetings about financing a new building.


Tom Brackett


'Love the revision and the hopefulness. 'Would also love to see us go back to understanding "tradere" as a verb, first and a noun when necessary. Traditioning and retraditioning seem to be the call of the day for our institutions.


Thank you, again, for hosting this conversation. Keep sighing . . .



Jonny - "it's unsustainable so even while we can hold to romantic notions of the parish, it's not going to be around in that format in 20 years time in a lot of contexts."

I agree. If we hang on to the romantic notions of parish we are missing the point. It is unsustainable and it is becoming unfit for purpose – declaring the good news and enabling people to encounter God. However, the parish system is fundamentally brilliant whilst being flawed. The CofE is (theoretically) committed to everyone in every area regardless of the affluence of that area. For each and every person there is a priest charged with the task of looking after them.

I went through selection in the year that ordained pioneer ministry was first introduced. My DDO asked me to consider it. On reflection I said no. I feel called to be an ordained pioneer parish priest.

I didn't agree with a lot of what Pete Rollins said at Greenbelt this year but he said something quite profound about this. If we put 'pioneering' into a different box, we can ignore it. If we say that we are "and/both" it implies that 'some of us are over here' and that's OK because 'they are over there'. We all become scared of ‘the other’. What we need to start developing is pioneering parishes who are prepared to be and/both in the same time and space as each other. "Some of us are over here and some of them are over here also".

If we don't start thinking like that we are going to end up with a two tiered system of "us's" and "them's".

Some people wear their rejection of fresh expressions as a badge of honour. I know one person doing research into fresh expressions in cathedrals. Some of the responses have been “we don’t do that sort of thing in here”. Sounds bad doesn’t it. I know people who go to emerging churches who are equally disparaging about the inherited church. It is human nature to elevate one’s own sense of worth by upholding the worth of the social group you belong to at the expense of another. We create in groups and out groups.

It is classic football supporter mentality. Boro are better than Chelsea despite being in the relegation zone. We have managed to do it all without massive injections of cash. :P

I guess we need to enable people to see themselves as enablers. We need to support those supporters. We need to break down the barriers between groups and fill in the moats that stop us from recognising Christ in ‘the other’. Siege mentality can’t get us to become those Christ centred communities we are called to be.

I ain't 'arf rambled on....


wise words...

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  • jonny profile pic

    i have been blogging for a decade or more in fairly eclectic fashion. i am an advocate for pioneers, lover of all things creative, an explorer of faith in relation to contemporary culture, a photographer and writer. explore the presences section below to find me in other spaces

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