this is the twelfth of a series celebrating twenty years at cms
see 1. gold | 2. emerging church | 3. blah | 4. new forms | 5. worship tricks | 6. mission shaped church and fresh expressions | 7. pioneer ministry | 8. church planting | 9. red tape | 10. doing the imaginative work | 11. post colonial mission
last week in the usa the main reason i was there was to attend a consultation at princeton hosted by kenda creasy dean exploring the combination of social innovation and theological seminaries with a view to designing some training options that seminaries might be able to try out. it was actually quite special to be at that gathering because it was being facilitated by shannon hopkins and mark samson. when we got to design the pioneer training at cms back in 2010 i knew i wanted a module on missional entrepreneurship and it was shannon i asked to design and lead it and both she and mark have regularly been part of the team on that module. it is not a direct line but i think it's not unreasonable to say that the experience of those weeks has led shannon, mark and matyroshka haus and now goodmakers society and rooted good to keep innovating in that space developing various tools and workshops. so it felt like the consultation was at least in part the result of some ripples out from those early days. we now call that week make good and have seen people bring fledgling ideas that have become projects, enterprises, charities. if you have read pioneer practice clean for good, home cafe, sacred bean are some of the ideas that were brought to those weeks. if you haven't it's not too late!
missional entrepreneurship is a thread that has woven through my twenty years at cms. the first venture into thinking about mission entrepreneurship was actually via chris neal and bill bolton. together with them and shannon in 2007 we hosted a gathering on a boat in the thames in london and launched NET - the network of entrepreneurial talent which ran for a few years.
we hosted a conversations day on the theme and subsequently mark and i edited an edition of anvil journal exploring the issues.
i like the idea of good. at some basic level we need good in the world. to participate in mission is to join in the healing of all things. it's about good - good news, good communities, good neighbourhoods, good life, good business. good relationships, good for the planet. one of the reasons i like mission as a way of framing is that the 'why' or purpose is for good in the world. sometimes i find that the 'why' in the church can seem like it's church i.e. it's very focused on itself. but the point of church is for the good of the world not just as an end in itself. the other way mission tends to get collapsed or reduced is into evangelism - sharing the story of jesus christ with people. it's a great story and i have no issue at all with that. but in a post christian culture like britain it seems a no brainer that if you want to have anyone to listen to that story you have got to actually be good news and not just talk about it.
i am also interested in enterprise when it comes to pioneering because we need new imagination about how to resource faith, church, mission. it seems to me to be healthy and more resilient if you can have a range of income sources - some donation, some trusts, some income from enterprise and so on.
enterprise can also be really good when it is helping others who have been in a difficult space at the edges - say prison or simply long term unemployed get back on their feet and develop skills and work. there are several pioneers who have started things in that way.
i have really warmed up to the notion of enterprise for good. it's not easy to pull off but when it's done well it's a wonderful thing. there is room for a whole lot more! if you are have an idea you'd like to develop do look up our make good week and book in on that for goodness sake :) - the next one is in november 2023 at the wonderful pickwell manor.
it was lovely to visit st lydia's in brooklyn on my visit to new york. it was founded in 2008 by emily scott meeting in homes and then a zen centre before getting a shop front where it is now. i have not read it but there is a book which includes the story of st lydia's or stories from at least - for all who hunger. they describe it as a dinner church which is fairly apt as the worship is organised around a meal (and the food we had was great). it's prayerful and conversational. there are two dinner tables so probably works for about 20 people.
i stayed with christian scharen who is the pastor there now. he is delightful! he gave me a copy of a book he has written which is a theological reflection on the roots and hip hop culture someone has to care . i loved it! it is part of a series of short reflections on music - there is another in the series on radiohead and one coming on new order for example.
i do like churches where the size is constrained by the space to be small - you get more intimacy and a real sense of community. we meet in our home most tues nights with friends over a meal to share life and pray - the table always seems to me a great space for a community of disciples. i also really like church that is in different kinds of spaces - it just shifts the imagination. the worship was simple chants along with a shruti - i had not seen one before but worked well. you set it to play a chord and squeeze it to create a drone ove which the chanting is done. it was advent so the chant i remember gegan 'honour the darkness'.
if you are in brooklyn call in.
just landed back from the usa trip. it was the usual overnight flight. somewhat foolishly i am going to a gig tonight to see badbadnotgood so we'll see if i stay awake! waiting at an airport is a good moment to edit some photos. i have added an album new york and princeton 2022 to flickr or you can click through above.
i am in the usa for the first time in quite a few years at a consultation in princeton which starts later today - more about that later no doubt. i am topping and tailing it with visits to people in new york. i visited harlem for the first time - this is the famous apollo theater. the way it worked out i had a free day yesterday and also managed to get a ticket to see the new york knicks at maddison square gardens - my first ever nba game which i loved.
i was thinking i must have been ten time or so over the years but i started checking back on my blog when i had been previously and think this is my twentieth visit to north america. one of those was holiday - the rest have all been trips in response to invitations to speak, lead worship, join conversations, design labyrinths and so on. what a joy that has been. it feels like it's been a shared conversation of mission in response to a changing world and culture with so much to share and learn. it's so energising crossing borders, meeting new people and catching up with old friends. at the end of the post i have listed those trips for my own record as it took me a while to work out!
it was an absolute delight to meet claudio carvalhaes this week. we had not met before and he kindly agreed to meet some stranger from england! he teaches at uniion theology seminary (where james cone was of course) which is on the edge of harlem. he is a liberation theologian, liturgist, artist, earth lover. i reviewed his book liturgies from below which is an extraordinary collection of prayers. there are two covers for it. the publisher clearly struggled with the original cover and sends out the 'liturgies from below' version. but there is another one which says 'prayers in defiance of empire'. claudio gave me a copy of that one so at last i have that which i love! i am going to pray the prayers in the book for advent praying with the wretched of the earth, those at the edges, the poor, the dispossessed. i feel hugely challenged by this and his other writing as i have not had to face such pain and hardship. i have a couple of other books by him so will say more about that once i have finished them. but do check out his work. in true liberation theology fashion in his work praxis of prayer and liturgy is the first move in theology, and the second is to reflect on it.
one of the things that was surreal when we met is that he had a book on trickster on the side at his apartment - when i asked about it he shared that he loves trickster and has been researching about that. he gave a public theology lecture in brazil dressed up as the trickster character curupira in the indigenous brazilian mythology whose feet are back to front presumably so he can cover his tracks or confuse people about the direction of travel! he was equally surprised when i relayed our latest photo exhibition on the theme of trickster. an artist, a trickster, a liturgist, a liberation theologian, a lover of the earth, a creative teacher of theology, a prophet... - it may not surprise you that we got on and we are going to stay in touch!
for the record these are my previous trips:
1998 Canada family holiday to Ontario
2000/2001 Group youth ministry tour
2001? Youth specialties Anaheim
2002 May - Toronto
2003 Fredericton Canada
2004 San Fransisco + Nashville
2005 Colorado - youthworkers retreat
2005 Princeton + New York
2007 Lancaster + Ontario
2008 New York and Trinity retreat centre
2008 Oklahoma and Austin
2009 Lancaster + New York
2012 Austin SXSW
2013 Ontario + Saskatchewan
2014 Chicago CTU vocations event
2017 Chicago Luzbatek lecture visit
2017 Loveland Future of church conference + Denver
2022 Princeton and NY
i am just back from a week in chicago where i was giving the annual louis luzbetak lecture at catholic theological union. it was an honour to be invited and i really enjoyed reflecting on mission. i called my lecture 'do it from the inside' and used john taylor's wonderful book the primal vision from the 1960s as a conversation partner to discuss mission in western contexts. it was a sort of john talylor meets pioneer ministry meets insider movements. it will at some stage be published in a journal i think.
it also meant jenny and i got to hang out in chicago for a few days which was great - i have posted some photos here - chicago 2017
i took this photo at the museum of contemporary art where an exhibition was being set up which is nothing to do with fragility but the alignment of words caught my attention...
i am looking forward to heading to chicago in a couple of weeks where i will be giving this year's luzbetak lecture. i have called it 'do it from the inside' which is a saying i picked up from john taylor in the primal vision where he suggests that's how mission needs to be done in relation to culture(s). the emphasis will be on how this plays out in the west drawing on experiences with pioneers.
if you're in the chicago area come along!
i started writing worship songs years ago because of words (ok i wasn't that keen on the music around either!). i found if difficult to find words that articulated what it was we as a community then (st matts in bath at the time) believed and wanted to express. it was a great journey of expression and led me to explore the same in alternative worship through a range of art forms. and actually it also led to setting up proost to collate songs and liturgy and movies that had this same sense of expression from the grassroots in soulful (and theological) ways. i am still surprised how few communities go this route. i get that it is more time consuming but it is so much more rewarding that simply using commodified worship songs or liturgies written in high places. though of course blending your own expression with good stuff written by others is probably even better...
anyway all that to say i was sent a link to this blog/site plural guild which is the first i have seen for a while that really embodies that spirit of articulation. and the words are words i can sing which i have to say is a refreshing change (and i know i am hard to please). so thank you to plural guild (love the notion of guild by the way)! the song below seems especially poignant today on a day when my country have voted to leave europe - love the line there is no other there is only us. there is a also a downloadable album of advent and christmas songs too. i am making these worship trick 64 in series 4
this is a sign we drove by in chicago en route from the airport to ctu - no idea what it is a sgn for! i'm here speaking at a conference on mission, culture and vocation which gets started later today and i'm looking forward to. ctu is the home base for steve bevans, roger schroeder, and robert shreiter among others - they have produced amazing thinking and writing on mission over the last 30 years that has influenced me profoundly. so it's a real privilege to come and do something sharing from our own experience with pioneers at cms. it's always wonderful to meet flesh and blood heroes.
on monday and tuesday we had induction for new students starting on a certificate, diploma or m.a. so it's been quite a week so far... it was fantastic to meet people doing such interesting things and am looking forward to getting to know them. it's our biggest intake so far which is encouraging though very few pioneer ordinands in the mix (as everywhere i think). i suspect that will swing back over time.
reflections is a magazine that is produced by yale divinity school reflecting on a theme in relation to theology and/or spirituality. the current issue (spring 2014) is on the challenge of faith in a changing culture and how that is impacting on a younger generation of adults. each issue has a guest photographer and i am the photographer for the current issue. i have a dozen of so magazines - if you are in the uk and want one let me know. if you are in the us you can sign up and receive it for free. all the articles are also online.
it was good to meet some presbyterians from the usa this week including darrell guder who has written on missional church for many years and been involved in american missiology and gospel and culture networks. i actually met a similar group about a year ago sharing stories of what we are up to and how to cultivate mission at and beyond the edges of the church. there are now around 200 new church communities or mission projects under the bold vision of 1001 new communities in 10 years. roger dermody is one of the drivers behind it and was in the group.
it was lovely to meet erin dunigan and hear about not church, a community exploring faith and spirituality but seemingly started at the request of seekers and athiests. in trying to find it i googled 'not church' and found there are several communities out there who can be found under the identifier of not church!
it was also good to hear yeseterday of a new initiatiove starting in nottingham - the sunday service - a club night at rock city. sounds like the good old days of alt worship...
encouraging rumours from across the pond as a fund is set up to invest in innovation and new ministries. it's one thing to talk of innovation, another to actually give it space and allow it to flourish. but with people like tom brackett in the loop hopefully the money will be entrusted to those who will actually pioneer things that are missional and genuinely new rather than a sneaky way to fund business as usual in the church.
chris yaw contacted me a month or so back and asked if he could interview me for churchnext.tv via skype. we explored imagination, creativity and mission. the interview has just been posted. i've not met chris but he is buidling up quite a collection of interviews around mission, church, culture and so on on churchnext