Blog archive June 2005

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29.06.05 / 02 / report to reception

since this is on a building in shoreditch, i can't be sure whether it's serious or not.

29.06.05 / 01 / accessibility vs gift

was just reading yet another complaint about alt worship services being too 'hip' and aesthetically exclusive and inaccessible. so i'm musing:

if our church event is primarily about communicating god to any and every third party who walks in, then it needs to be accessible to the widest range of people, speak the broadest language, be clear.

if our church event is primarily our gift to god then it needs to be the offering of the firstfruits - the most sophisticated and difficult thing we can cook up.

and we hover in the tension between the two. a public event that is definitely not for everybody. a private event that wants to be for anybody.


excellent point Steve. Its often challenging though to discern whether the sophistication is being motivated by a desire to offer to God or to give ourselves goose bumps - a kind of ecclesiological masturbation


'If you think you comprehend it, it is not God.' Church Father

Here's to difficult worship.

nic hughes

maybe those people who say that are just so much in church culture that normal on the street life that in my head alt worship comes from, seems elusive and strange to them ???


re richard's comment: i've heard that worry used so many times as a justification for not doing anything interesting [if we're not having fun we must be doing it just for god] that i now say, just do it. traditional worship can be just as masturbatory. you can't get away from mixed motives, but if you go for the thrill you might find yourself amazed at god, because in a sense all thrill and wonder has its source in him.


you've really got me thinking steve - I feel instictively uncomfortable with "go for the thrill" but i'm not sure if that's inherited baggage or a valid concern. I do know that when planning worship I often try to impress others in a way that isn't giving to God, but that's different... need to think on this one!


re: "I do know that when planning worship I often try to impress others in a way that isn't giving to God, but that's different."

Would it help to re-express this as "planning an opportunity for worship"? Worship as something that might happen, or might not, and we're cultivating the setting, not controlling the actual experiences of others (or even of ourselves)?

peter schweitzer

27.06.05 / 01 / vaux rocks!

turns out there's another group called vaux...

Our new album is finished. We have titled it "Beyond Virtue, Beyond Vice". Our managers are working with our label on plans for the release so stay tuned. The track listing is

1. Identity Theft
2. Are You With Me
3. Cocaine James
4. Total Action
5. Truth Or Consequences
6. The Rope, The Pistol, The Candlestick
7. Never Better
8. The Last Report From...
9. Burn The Bandwagon
10. To The Nines
11. Unwound

This is by far the best VAUX material to date. We can't wait for you to hear the record. It is a natural progression from both "Plague Music" and "There Must Be Some Way To Stop Them". We feel we have covered some new ground with this record and are extremely proud of it. We are working on tour plans for late summer / early fall time frame. Stay tuned for more information and an all new web site!!!!!
Vote for VAUX in the Westword Music Showcase!!!

VAUX is in the punk category.

i'm assuming it's another group. 'beyond virtue, beyond vice'? 'last report from...'? 'burn the bandwagon'?

25.06.05 / 03 / box models of church

and some more stuff here which arose out of conversations/observations over dinner with steve and miriam in the blue mountains.

25.06.05 / 02 / omelette church

andrew cooked omelettes for brunch every day [we got up too late for proper breakfast]. so i came up with omelette church. i said to andrew, if i see anything for long enough it becomes a model of church.

25.06.05 / 01 / julian of norwich as a blogger

what if julian of norwich had been a blogger? either there would have been twenty years between entries or she'd have thrown it all away in half-formed conclusions.

10.06.05 / 01 / worth twelve bucks

the last ten minutes of the ferry ride from manly is worth twelve bucks of anyone's money. one of the world's greatest views slowly unfolds. the photos don't convey the thrill.

08.06.05 / 02 / oranges

am in sydney staying with fellow 'church dissolvers' cathy and andrew as mentioned in rant below. [this is coincidence btw]. saw oranges growing on a tree for the first time. andrew grabbed a couple that were hanging over the street, i just ate some. also saw lemons but they weren't ripe yet. it's reassuring that these things don't just appear in the supermarket. you might think, he doesn't get out much, but these things don't grow in england and i don't take holidays in hot sunny places. blazing sun in sydney, but it's winter so 20C. first impression is, it looks like texas but they drive on the wrong side of the road!

got searched at customs on the way in. with hindsight they were looking for ecstasy/weed/coke. what does that say about my appearance? [camo puffa, hoodie, skate shoes, baseball cap]. i'm not used to real customs, being european.

08.06.05 / 01 / daniel takes the piss out of emergent response shock

if he catches any flak some of it belongs to me cos i encouraged him. the statement's too conciliatory imho.


oh i would've published it, your yes vote or no. BRING IT!

daniel miller

06.06.05 / 01 / final vaux service

a very vaux quote from kester before the service: "we're just waiting for some darkness" ;)

some photos from the final actual vaux service [there will be a meal in july]. more photos will follow on in due course.

notes from service:

brief tour of old material:
beautiful imperfection [funny how rough and aggressive their end-of-90s aesthetic was]
an ache for justice [snafu]
dirt [the return of piss christ]
the urban as spiritual space [urban masses, sine]

video of railway station platform, people waiting for a train - we sit and wait too for the train to come. no photo as it would break the spell.

communion on the london map altar

we loved to turn you on:
tracked to beatles 'a day in the life' [kester had always wanted to use it] - my pics plus quotes from rowan williams/douglas coupland to nic video stuff over orchestral climax - piano note fade with dot dot dot
then in silence, slides of vauxhall outside - street lights, pavements, walls, the railway bridge etc - a manumission fading to RIPeace Out.

04.06.05 / 01 / a fellow church dissolver

scott's having a beef in a similar vein

he's the only person who made me want to wear a rosary. here's the quote from the interview [which isn't on the internet any more that i can find atm but i have the whole thing so i might put it back]

mb: Can you tell me why or what provoked you to start wearing a rosary?
sg: Just for the record, I saw this question and cheated and wanted to answer it. The rosary for me is a symbol of my spirituality that I can wear for everybody to see and in doing so, I can state some pretty simple beliefs before I ever come in contact with people. When someone sees my rosary, they don't think that I don't go to rated R movies, they don't think that I go to church on Sunday, they don't think that I listen to a pastor preach and then I've learned to apply the word of God to my daily life and have my quiet time.
They think that in some sense, I believe that Jesus came, lived, died, and is important to me. So I wear it because it is as far as I'm willing to go with Christianity. I'm willing to say that I believe that the crucifixion was the most important thing that ever happened and ever will happen in human history, ever. And I think it has everything to do with my life today and that is as far as I'm willing to go with Christianity. So when I wear a rosary, I say yeah, I believe in the apostle's creed, I believe in God the father, I believe Christ was His son, I believe that when we die, were going somewhere and I believe there's a Heaven and a hell, and I believe in a holy spirit and that's it. Period, end of statement. I don't believe in anything else. I don't believe in the way that people apply it, but I do believe in it and I feel comfortable with that level of spirituality. That's kind of like the bottom line statement, that's where I'm willing to start and end, no more, no less and I can wear it on my sleeve for everyone to see and I'm proud of it.


I liked this post as well.. When I was younger I used to wear a small "cross of the resurrection" around my neck.. But I stopped wearing it about ten years ago, because, as a radical teenager I wanted my lifestyle to point to Jesus.. And I guess I am more cynical about that now, I don't think that my way of life will ever be as holy or 'self-explanatory'.. So about a year ago I started thinking about getting a bigger cross, basically to show to the world that I am a Christian (and somehow remind myself of it).. But I didn't find a "cross of the resurrection", so I gave up (quite easily), but now I feel inspired again to try to find one..


i am glad he feels by wearing his rosary, that it "is a symbol of my spirituality that I can wear for everybody to see and in doing so, I can state some pretty simple beliefs before I ever come in contact with people." "They think that in some sense, I believe that Jesus came, lived, died, and is important to me." Won't most people today, in our "post-Christian" society, either not know it is a Rosary, won't recognize what it signifies, or think of it as some new fashion statement? Wearing a cross long ago lost it's true meaning and became a fashion statement. i don't care for Michael W. Smith, but remember his song a few years back about people wearing crosses and not for the original meaning? Maybe i am a bit of a cynic, but people i run into today and talk to don't care or don't have a clue anymore. They have become desensitized. Thanx for posting his thoughts.

existential punk

What about Jesus' life and teachings? The reduction of comments on faith to the crucifixion and heaven and hell is very a medieval perspective (11th - 12th century). It is the kind of reductionism than spawned the crusades and lacks much ethical integrity. It might all sound very post-modern but it is not exactly post-christendom, nor is the apostles creed for that matter....... Out of interest what is the history behind the use of the rosary?


03.06.05 / 01 / predestination

some thoughts from Nemi


brilliant! didn't know that nemi was translated into english, a pleasant surprise, she is too good to be limited to scandinavia(ns)


i didn't know it was scandinavian! it's in the london free morning paper 'metro'. i did suspect it came from somewhere else but the words are english-english not american-english as is usually the case.


It's Norwegian to be more exact. And metro started off in Sweden.. (I have this weird inclination to plug Sweden in blog comments..)


when i spoke to a large group of pastors in bergen, norway last year, i used a video loop with Nemi in it.

andrew jones

01.06.05 / 02 / judaizers

you see [and this will really get me into trouble]

i find myself thinking of the judaizers. they wanted to keep the new thing within the framework of the old, for all sorts of good reasons: faithfulness to god's earlier revealed paths; access to the riches of tradition; safeguards and accountability; fear of syncretism with gentile culture, etc....

and they were wrong.


Or for a contrasting point of view... you can think of countless revolutionaries through history who, for the best of reasons, tried to tear everything down and start again as if history didn't matter... and I don't remember that ever working out very well... :-)

daniel walters

rant on steve!

we heard something interesting at our church weekend away last month - the idea that when any institution is faced with something new it will try to co-opt it, absorb it, and thereby neuralise it. if that fails, it will then go all out to kill the new thing off...

i can't help feeling that much of my church-going life has been about learning to be a church-goer, learning to be a member of the institution, instead of learning to follow christ... [and maybe i've been complicit in that to a large extent...]

si smith

How do you know they (the Judaizers) were wrong? And how do you know they said what Paul, for the sake of the points he wanted to make, represents them as saying? And no doubt "judaizers" lumped together a whole lot of different people with different viewpoints. It was probably a stereotype.

Maybe Paul was wrong. He won the argument and history is written by the winners! Of course we'll never know what the church (or Judaism) might look like today if other viewpoints than Paul's had prevailed.

Suppose there had never been a split with Judaism. Just think, maybe Christians would have not had to rediscover the fact that Jesus was Jewish. Maybe all the pogroms etc might never have happened. Maybe the last 2000 years of inglorious history of the church is because the "judaizers" lost, or because Constantine won, or who knows?


01.06.05 / 01 / uneasy emerging church rant

i'm suffering from a deep unease lately about the way people are talking in large parts of the emerging church. a lot of it seems to be turning into the thing i thought i'd left behind. the thing i thought we'd left behind.

i think a lot of the critiques of alt worship/emerging church as not being fully church come from within the old paradigms of being church. i worry that a lot of aw/ec people are accepting those old-paradigm critiques and are moving back to old-paradigm solutions [especially those people who never travelled right out in the first place. me, i wonder if i ever travelled right in]. i think we're swallowing the institution's arguments about what church is - which by definition leave what we do looking defective. and we set about trying to supply the things that old church says we lack, in order to prove to old church that we are real church [by their standards] too. but whose game are we playing? and what chances are we missing, for the truly new?

one understanding we had was that the form of what you do carries its own paradigm with it. we need tradition to inform the present  - not to determine it. i feel like we're often not working hard enough at rethinking/redefining. we've got to be careful in revisiting the past. for instance, forget about the forms of monasticism. ask what was it for? what was the underlying intention that the forms served? if that intention is worth pursuing now, what forms does it call forth now, without reference to the past? if it looks similar, fine. but to seek similar forms is romantic nostalgia.

at greenbelt a few years back cathy kirkpatrick said to me, imagine this paper plate is the church and it's dissolving in the water. do you see your job as gathering up the pieces and putting the plate back together? or do you see your job as aiding the dissolution of the plate? and i chose the latter. [maybe it was representing a sinking ship...]

i feel like a lot of the show atm is being run by the church-fixers [witting and unwitting] rather than the church-dissolvers. people want to fix the church because they can't imagine a resurrection after its death. the bible [and bruegemann!] say otherwise - that that is the only route to god's new thing, sometimes. we used to say that, in our 'angry outsiders' phase. i wonder if it was a more truthful position.

it's funny putting it this way, because i don't hate the church. but i think that church is what you are - you can't help it. so you have enormous freedom to reinvent. church isn't an organization. maybe it's an ecology of relationships. there's a story to live by, not a checklist. and the canonical story stops before anything gets to be an institution - maybe to save us. it's interesting to imagine, if all forms of church were extinguished [though not belief] and we had to start again from scratch, what would we bring back?


steve, amen. i agree wholeheartedly -- it's like mark scandrette said -- we got the question wrong -- instead of asking what form the church should take, we should be asking what does the way of Jesus look like in this culture, at this time.

We need to hold definitions of 'Church' and 'Christian' really lightly, as these understandings have been strongly defined by peoples and cultures that are foreign to our current context. Or as Maggi Dawn said, you have to change to stay the same...

Personally, my focus has always been on ecclesiology -- but I've experienced a dramatic shift to a focus on the reign of God the last two years -- still wondering where everything will end up...

ryan bolger

Brilliant rant. I'm with you Steve. Destroy church. It's shit anyway. (Although, my motives are slightly more Freudian!)

nic hughes

yeh but wot about the 'seed falls to the ground and dies and then sprouts again' thing - maybe it dies but the new plant will just be a bit different and slightly modified/changed from its parent...and you can't get away from that fact cos it's only (human) nature... not that I'm right - just pondering


Interestingly we were having the same conversation at The Garden last night Steve! As a new group we’re faced with the dilemma of how can we ensure we don’t just settle for ‘fitting the mould’ of other people’s expectations of us (either from traditional church and from aw/ec). We’re convinced there must be other ways/forms/expressions to be an ‘ecology of relationships’ (really like that phrase!) without becoming coerced into something that doesn’t feel right. But even so it is a daunting and isolating place to be with a blank page, 2,000 years of church history behind us and the radical challenges of Christ before us.

'Whose game are we playing?' is indeed a poignant question.

mark barkaway

What if we just tried to be Kingdom people, paying extraordinary attention to Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom - with our lives - and then see what sort of ekklesia comes of it?

Nah. That's too radical.

keith brenton

Good post reminds me of the odd conversation we have had. I have posted on simular issues a couple of times. One was "is the church the rich young ruler" and too afraid to give up and die to itself so will go away disappointed, this is one of my fears about some of the emerging church scene that you kind or mention. Keep telling it as you feel it.

richard passmore

(i kind of wish we could even leave the beliefs behind... and just wait for the Spirit to start it all again.)

i'm spending a surprising amount of time at the moment in conversation with people who have left the church, or (more commonly) never been to church, who are asking me where they can go to be with God (this is not just idle conversation - some of them are ringing me up to ask!). The common link between them is that they can't walk into a church (too scary/intimidating/laden with meaning), they're not looking for worship, and they're not looking for community - they're simply looking for some kind of space (physical and emotional) where whatever it is that they're longing for will have space to emerge. Maybe that will be christian, maybe it won't.

The depth of faithfulness in their conversations is astounding. My inadequate responses and suggestions on behalf of the church are embarrassing.

I think Ryan's right. We've got the questions wrong. Forget what form the church should take... i simply want to ask where the Spirit is already playing in the world, and how we can come play too...


The problem is that this whole debate is often about... what does Emerging church look like, what are it's core beliefs... Though I am fascinated by a lot of the Emergent Conversation, and love what many of them are saying - it seems when you read the Blog comments that they are beginning to be seen by those 'EmergentNO' types as a Synod... a house of Emergent Bishops etc. (BTW This is in no way a criticism of Emergent... I suppose institutions like to see everything else as an institution) Surely the whole point of Emerging Churches is that are all likely to look completely different? Ok many of the questions will be the same, many of the imaginings will be similar, but I think Kester comes closest to me in encapsulating the unkowness of it all in "The complex Christ"... And I agree completely with Ella that the bottom line is the Missio Dei!

mark berry

I love the emerging stuff that is going on in this world. I believe it to God breathed and powerful. but Let's not let ourselves forget that God is still working in the rest of the church

AW/EC is not he be all and end all of the work of God in the world, and in the coming landscape of the world there will be plenty of boring evangelical/traditional/charismatic churches that will still work and bless people.

how can we excpect other's to give us the freedom to do what we think is right for us to be who God intended us to be and grow the churchesGod intended for us and let us judge outselves in the way God intended us to judge ourselves if we don't then allow them the same respect and freedom.


* Everything is going well - you think you can make it.
* A huge storm comes up.
* Get rid of anything that weighs you down. Get rid of anything that prevents you from creating the future.
* They started throwing stuff off the boat that they originally thought they needed.
* We're going to crash, but you'll accomplish your mission.
* What is ahead is not smooth sailing. There is a crash impending. If you are going to advance the Kingdom of God, there is conflict, battle, and pain waiting. Retreat is not an option. Cut the anchors - blaze ahead.


whilst I think the paper plate is disolving fast (which is not something we should mourn), there is an element I find missing in a lot of blog discussions. there are still a lot of forward thinkers who for one reason or another have not left the church. stepping away from those structures are not easy and sometimes blogs make it seem like moving to EC is as easy as trading your old car for a new one. well actually, it is harder that ditching cars all together for public transport!

whilst the ec/aw move needs to press forward, it might also help to remember there are a lot of folks who are deeply ambivalent about the existing church options, but not yet willing to towel it.

fernando gros

my unease expressed here is not so much about specific things or people, as an underlying drift which i'm reacting badly to atm.

at what point does engagement with tradition become determination by the paradigms of tradition? at what point does engagement with the academy become determination by the paradigms of the academy?

maybe it could all be summed up as, watch out children, you're turning into your parents! :)


incidentally, i wonder how the old testament would have sounded if the prophets had said things like,

"of course we understand that many people find the temple system helpful and the sacrifices deeply meaningful, and we affirm all that god is doing in that system while offering a helpful critique of its shortcomings. since the temple will continue for the foreseeable future [in fact there may always be a temple in some form] we hope to work with its leaders to develop new resources that re-engage the margins and reach out to the pagans."


Well, you (like I do) can stop playing "games" to appease the old church-conceptors, and stop modifying your behaviour to bring the new (as you see it) to gain "approval" of the old. Both ways are dead meat. Or rather, the circle will never be broken those ways. The circle is held in place by various spiritual powers of religion which can function in our heavenly places in us and which put followers of Christ in this dilemma which you describe. Get 'em out by seeing how Christ in you leads the Way beyond all this repetitive inadequate "traditional" regurgitated religious-human ways of failing. You don't need to prove anything to anyone. Just hang out with Jesus and organize nothing. Try it! The ferllowship, the organizing, the accomplishing is His there. No need for any organization. This is the new...not repeating the old in any smidgen. Why will it be different? Because it's the time for it, that's why. Ryan (above) wrote "...we should be asking what does the way of Jesus look like in this culture, at this time". Yes, we should, as far as I am concerned. Maybe you might like to see "Basic how to live", a writing at Cheers!


You can't reform or fix the church. Any church history book will tell you that. Either decide you can live with it the way it is, and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it. Or get out, decide whatever else it is you should be doing, and do it! As for me, I'm in the latter camp!

Jon featherstone

is this party being resurrected? i hope so.

in my wrestling with this stuff i have become aware of (some might say crazy) need to reconcile rather than simply confront.

although i like to completely redefine and don't mind the idea of dissolution, i found myself reaching equally towards the existing (in my case the charismatic) on one hand and and the emergent on the other.

something inside me says, the culture from which i come is not bad, it can be highly creative, its gods extemporisations for non-artists so bring it on through to the new world. i used the cross motif - arms outstretched to reconcile - to explain this urge to myself.

one thing churchies don't like about me is the freedom i have by being "away" from their structures for over a decade. sabaticals like this, might we say desert experiences, have great potential for re-envisioning.

i'm happy to count myself as having been really "in" to the thing i now want to be out of. this will be a factor in terms of cross-world cred, if you want that. it just seems appropriate to a g-d of pardon who goes out of the way to find sheep.

nic paton

I've been suffering from an almost lethal bout of missionary burnout and have been sitting on the fringes of local church feeling squeemish about jumping back in. In my head I'm hoping that all I knew about God and church will disolve to nothing so I can discover the truth without preconception.

I liked your analogy about the plate. I feel like my faith/view of church is built on sand. and kind of needs destroying before someting new can be built.

p.s. can you recommend a good place in the UK for me and my husband to settle?

emily garces

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