the hospitality of god: emerging worship for a missional church is the result of a journey of two bishops - michael perham and mary gray-reeves. they visited anglican emerging/new/alternative/missional churches/christian communities in the uk and the usa experiencing their worship and liturgies. this book is the result of their reflections on that experience. it's 146 pages and easy to read.
it's delightful, hugely generous and encouraging. they have clearly really enjoyed the journey. the book weaves together descriptions and stories of their encounters trying all the while to discern themes, discoveries, patterns and challenges along the way. they then seek to try to ask what the mainline/inherited churches might learn from the emergent and vice versa all the while focused around worship. they suggest that the emergent churches are quite small and the movement will probably never be huge but like a lot of renewal movements in the church it's impact will be widespread.
in the second chapter they lay out 20 principles that undergird anglican worship. i've not seen quite such a succinct accessible summary and i suspect it will be used in many courses on worship - i'll use it when i teach pioneers who are anglican i'm sure! and they reflect on each principle how emergent churches sit with those. the reason i say the book is hugely generous is that the lens with which they approach this (which reflects the title of the book) is really welcoming of this newness that is emerging as wholeheartedly part of the tradition and offering gifts to help the tradition be renewed. there's no sense anywhere of an attitude that 'you're not welcome because you're not obeying the rubric'. if anything it's the other way round - they are open to sensing that the rubric may need to listen and change because of some of the challenges of what the spirit might be doing.
so to take an example one of the anglican principles they identify is prescribing who can take communion via canon law. they suggest that this was the most universally broken piece of canon law in the emergent churches - all the communities create a theology of radical welcome and hospitality around the table. in fact they go so far as to suggest that the table and font have reversed positions (literally in one community) in that the table is near the entrance, a place where all are invited but baptism is something that is considered later. i found this incredibly interesting in itself but also loved the openness to receive this positively by michael and mary which they later descibe as a trend developing by stealth!
there are chapters that unpack different themes - music, ritual and gesture, authority, use of god's word and so on - all of which are good. i supect the big themes/challenges are around shifting notions of authority, welcome and inclusion , and eucharistic theology. then the final chapters develop further what emergent churches and inherited churches might have as gifts to offer each other and they identify five of each. so for example the sense of being church globally and down the ages - the church universal - they suggest is a gift that could be discovered more by emergent churches who are quite locally focused and have quite short term horizons. and likewise emergent churches approach to planning worship in creative and participative ways (curation though they don't use the term) could be a gift for the inherited.
the overwhelming theme is welcome - so for a moment all those people who have pioneered communities like this where hospitality is so central allow yourself to feel affirmed for a change! how delightful that two bishops visiting find this the central theme they have encountered.
The title of this book The Hospitality of God reflects what has seemed to us to be a major emphasis of the emergent churches, laying stress on God's desire to be welcoming, hospitable, inclusive, inviting. For ourselves wherever we went we encountered something of that unconditional hospitality, reflected in the communities and especially in their leaders, giving of themselves generously to us. We found them to be deeply impressive Christian ministers of high intellectual calliubre, of mature faith and spirituality and pioneering adventurers, whom the church should honour.
if you're not anglican i think there are wonderful insights here for you but you'll have to accpet that it is a refelction on one denomination, but hopefully that will open up similar reflections elsewhere. it's being released in the uk, and in the usa