Sunday, 24 January 2010

EAST IS EAST

Apologies - you will have recieved a couple of blogs by mistake - trying to work on drafts in blogger.com is a nightmare - if anyone can let me know how to save and edit drafts I would be really grateful. I don;t think the Pope has this problem......

Off to Norwich last week to spend time with the Wedding Project Team. An intiative of the Archbishop's Council - (don't ask what that is and does- even those who are on it don't seem to know!).


Apart from having to suffer travelling with a train company that looks and feels like one that has past its sell by date, and two nights in the wrong Travelodge - the one furthest away from the Cathedral and Session venue, a lousy meal in what must be the worst Cafe R..... on the planet and with the added value of a Bus Station next door - it was a seriously good time.


What made it seriously good? Briefly having a great product to promote. Well put together and presented by a highly motivated and 'professional' Team and some brilliant research by the Henley Centre ( a renowned non- church commercial organisation) about how people out there think about the church and its ministry when it comes to weddings and of course what flows from that.... which is quite a lot. I have a little list.....


What the Weddings project has discovered is that there are plenty of people out there who want to avail themsleves of the services of 'the church' when it comes to key life events. To use the language of Grace Davie there is no longer a sense of 'obligation' to the church (we are now in 'Post Christendom'), as we have now moved into a time shaped by consumerism and personal choice.What was either inherited or for whatever reason imposed now becomes a matter of personal choice as and when needed. This is why the stuff we do 'out there' (while we still can) is probably more important now than ever before. What we have around us I think is a spirituality which responds to acceptance, affirmation, listening, value and relationship. Rather than the Church telling people what they 'need', we are being called to live out in relationships what it means to be Christ Followers in what Pete Ward in his great little book Liquid Church describes as a 'liquid culture'. One that 'relies on networks, communication processes based on hubs (affinity-based gathering beyond a Sunday morning service) and connecting nodes (methods of communication/participation in the network).'


'The 'liquid' believer will see what God is doing in the waters of culture and seek to engage it.' In my book this is what Jesus did. Weddings, Blessings, Funerals, Thanksgivings, Baptisms (Christenings), Christingle, Valentines celebrations, Harvest, Remembrance, All Souls, Chaplaincies etc etc become vital 'life' connections with people where they are.


Does this mean - 'if we do it - they will come?' To be honest I think Pete Ward is right that simply adapting 'solid church' to appear liquid - is a busted flush. (my words not his). We can no longer utilize regular, weekly gatherings as our primary method of communication and community formation.


A LITTLE LIST


The people who were interviewed for the Wedding project showed the need for:


Vicars (as in church leader) who are human and accepting
Vicars who like and understand people (and their life situations)
Vicars who will put 'them' first
Vicars who can administrate and communicate
Vicars who don't impose their often very solid agendas
Vicars who will even take time to keep in touch after the event (card, text, e mail etc etc)

Some maybe saying what about the rest of the church. The 'elephant in the room' I think. Many clergy love working with people 'out there' (for various reasons) but unless we are developing a relational spirituality amongst our congregations that is focussed on a church for the 'non - member' in 'Liquid culture' then we are sunk. The list above needs to be extended to the church community but in reality that is, in my experience, a really tough call. It requires deeper and more radical strategic thinking on a regional and national scale than we seem to have at the moment though with the Wedding Project we can at least thank God for the Archbishop's Council!

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