Blog archive July 2006

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26.07.06 / 01 / psalm of boredom movie

psalm of boredom is now on as a quicktime movie, as originally used in the march 2004 grace service.

the strange slogans [next stop quebec!] were all taken from ads on the tube that day. i took my camera to work [canary wharf back then] and assembled the movie from the resulting images. so the pasta was my lunch. there's my desk and lava lamp. the people standing on the marble floor were watching a fashion show in the mall.

25.07.06 / 03 / emerging definitions

the flyer below is being used as a bookmark in pete rollins' 'how [not] to speak of god'. i've only just started it, but chapter 1 has some definitions of the emerging church that seem pertinent to current conversations:

Our first attempts to understand this network will often leave us with a certain frustration, as its kinetic and dynamic nature seems to defy easy reduction to a single set of theological doctrines or ritualistic practices... the participants are unified neither by a shared theological tradition, nor by a desire to one day develop one. The word 'emerging' cannot, then, be understood as describing a type of becoming that is set to one day burst onto the religious scene as a single, unified and distinct denominational perspective...
...those involved in the conversation acknowledge that Christianity involves a process of journeying and becoming. [as against the belief that to become a christian is to arrive in a fixed place]
[however] would be a mistake to think that the only thing which unifies this fragile network is the shared commitment to understanding faith as a process...
Unlike those who would seek to offer a different set of answers to theological questions, those within the emerging conversation are offering a different way of understanding the answers that we already possess. In other words, those involved in the conversation are not explicitly attempting to construct or unearth a different set of beliefs that would somehow be more appropriate in today's context, but rather, they are looking at the way in which we hold the beliefs that we already have. This is not then a revolution that seeks to change what we believe, but rather one that sets about transforming the entire manner in which we hold our beliefs. In short, this revolution is not one which merely adds to or subtracts from the world of our understanding, but rather one which provides the necessary tools for us to be able to look at that world in a completely different manner: in a sense, nothing changes and yet the shift is so radical that nothing will be left unchanged.

25.07.06 / 02 / how do i get this removed?


this is the front of a flyer promoting local government services accessible on the web [including graffiti removal]. how long before a graffiti artist paints a giant laptop on a wall, tags it in the centre, and writes underneath it "how do I get this removed?"

25.07.06 / 01 / dreamspace tragedy

i can't help but be horrified by the dreamspace accident, having written about it for ship of fools and photographed it. the video footage is shocking - they don't know why it flew up like that but it has been suggested that a combination of the high temperatures and a gust of wind turned it into a huge hot air balloon. obviously there are a lot of questions being asked about the moorings.

24.07.06 / 01 / what we do is who we are

in the discussions at the emerging church conference thursday/friday, sometimes it felt like the language of the institution was creeping back in, in ways that i can barely articulate. perhaps because we were accepting the terms and language given to us by the institutional church, even as we try to speak our own thoughts with them. i realised this when sue wallace said something that spoke to me a different language, of the small/local/creative/personal, and i thought, "that's what i thought i was joining". that being a particular realm of feeling and action, not a will-to-erect-systems [and i plead as guilty as anyone]. i wonder what the language of non-systems is?

for me the worship we did [led by maybe, visions, cota] felt more real than the institutional/academic stuff of our diagrams. it seemed to reveal the actual truth and ground of our movement. what we do is who we are, is our values made manifest, is the centre of the set that contains us. we do this thing because previous church wasn't who we are, in its doing. i struggle to articulate this. the worship, this enactment of values, is the thing we have in common, or manifests the unspoken things we have in common, even as our declared systems and allegiances seem to draw us in different directions.

i wonder if definition by -ology is modernist, and we are groping for definition by mystery. definition by abstraction is our impulse, but definition by sacrament is the opposite movement. sacrament defines what is abstract by making it flesh. it turns thought into deed, diagram into food.


I was in a group recently where someone asked "what do we do in worship" the answers were what would be expected: we praise God, we sing songs and read scripture, we have communion. Finally someone said: "we raise the dead". At its best, worship is the raising of the dead.

nadia bolz-weber

is worship not about how we live our whole lives in relation to what God has and is doing for each of us... all the others things are part of what we do, but the whole should be about every aspect of our lives

dot gosling

I've been thinking about "definition by sacrament" for the last week. I'm not part of any sacramental communities, but the idea resonates with me -- especially considering sacrament in attempting to fully live the life given us.

craig mitchell

Do we have to fear the past? for years we have been redefining church and saying 'we aren't what was before' - Mass becomes Eucharist, Eucharist becomes Communion, Communion becomes The Lords Supper etc. Essentially we are just fiddling with the English language as a way of trying to say the same thing. Isn't it also a little degrading to the centuries of faithful people who passed on their faith throughout the generations to then say 'shock horror we inadvertantly looked like the church(tm) for a second there - best not let that happen again'?

the muffin man

the emerging church isn't rejecting "the centuries of faithful people", just the ones who got it wrong 30 years ago by rejecting "the centuries of faithful people" ;)


You know what they say, tradition is how it was when you arrived! I don't think we actually reject the 'centuries of faithful people' but by trying too hard with our language that is how it comes accross. With a fluid language it is always important to be using language that is current (heck even Cranmer knew that :-) - the language of the institution is often useful and fearing it or reinventing it places a barrier between the emerging church and the church(tm). Essentially we are all part of the one body.

the muffin man

23.07.06 / 01 / who pays for cheap clothes?

who pays for cheap clothes? five questions the low-cost retailers must answer

Something new is sweeping through the high street. Whereas five years ago, style-conscious teenagers would never be seen, like, dead in a bargain clothes shop, today the Saturday afternoon high street is awash with Primark bags and their proud owners boasting the bargains they have found.
The four companies this report focusses on, Asda, Tesco, Primark and Matalan, are to fashion what McDonalds and Burger King are to food: mass produced, hassle-free, fast, popular, and reliant on exploitation down the supply chain to keep things that way. It asks what impact this trend is having on workers' rights, and challenges these retailers to ensure that workers are not paying for our cheap clothes with their human rights.

depressing but enlightening reading. discovered while searching for ethical sportswear - that's actual technical sports clothing for running and working out, not leisure/casual wear. funny how companies like nike triggered the whole ethical clothing movement with their working practices, and yet years later they still have the actual sports clothing market sewn up.

earlier today i was in the adidas store and niketown in oxford street. such beautiful stores, stylish clothes, images and sounds of empowerment and achievement. and hidden inside each garment, a little label saying 'made in vietnam' 'made in cambodia'. temples of forgetfulness, of consumer denial, trying to drown out the real story of each garment with recorded cheering. it's as good as a work of art.


know nothing of vietnam, but garment factories in cambodia are not *that* bad. there are unions, albeit relatively weak ones. wages are modest, but the unions are working on it. in the context of a country with little or no job ops, a garment factory job is okay. it's not perfect, mind you, but nothing is.


glad to hear it. where do you get your info? i'm always aware of the dilemma of buying people's stuff so they can make a living, versus colluding in their exploitation. especially as the difference can be between one factory and the next, and the 'good' factory can be hoodwinking the inspectors. what i'm reading suggests that the best is when the brand/retailer has a transparent and committed relationship with its manufacturing base.


The Oxfam 2006 sweat shop report doesn't paint such an optimistic picture.

cheryl lawrie

17.07.06 / 02 / temporary and local

delayed response to tyler's question at the bolger/ward blah on saturday:

[loosely, is the emerging church just a temporary phenomenon of a particular social subgroup [middle class, hip] rather than anything more universally applicable?]

i was trying to think why i don't care:

1. humility - we can't be other than the people we are. our new forms of church are inevitably for us. the request that we produce universally valid forms that can be rolled out across other sectors of society may be a wish from modernity.

but what i'd hope is that we can model incarnation into culture, and perhaps a methodology for doing that which can transfer. jesus was incarnate as a 1st century jew. that doesn't mean that we all have to live like 1st century jews. it means we have a model for incarnation into local cultures. when people ask me "how do i do rock'n'roll church among the white homeless of vancouver?" i say, "i don't know, get them together and work it out for yourselves from the stuff that already connects you to god." that's the methodology that transfers, how we did it, not the cultural specifics of alt worship styles.

2. emerging church is happening in the part of society that questions and generates culture in all fields, not just church. many emerging church people are professional culture-changers bringing their external skills to bear on church. hence the perception that emerging church is 'hip' - hip means skill in cultural manipulation. it's to be expected that the drive for cultural change in the church should come from such people, rather than the parts of society who simply accept the culture they're given.

that's why, when you apply the method - when you open up a free space for contributions - you get these people. they're the ones who want to experiment and change things. they're the ones who actually want to use such a space, and understand where it might lead.

3. humility again - we cannot know whether what we're doing will have long-term significance or not. in three hundred years time we'll know if this is a second reformation or just a blip. we'll know if postmodernity is just a phase, and what it's really called. after all, it's three hundred years from the renaissance to the fulness of modernity in the enlightenment. so definitions and system-building had better be provisional. there may be no big answers for decades, centuries to come. just localised good-enough patches.

and that's ok. the one thing i can say is, even if this is temporary and local, it is what god wants me to do, here and now. and what else can one do? what will last, what is important only god can know. ecclesisastes 9:10 - whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might...

incidentally, tyler thought that the pace of change in our culture might give each of us greater responsibilities in its direction/outcome than in, say, the reformation. because in a slow-moving culture the increment of change that can be enacted by each person may be tiny. but if our culture makes that 300-year leap in 50...


Here, here Stevo - couldn’t agree more.

The too ‘Hip’ accusation is probably the most tedious criticism levelled at emerging church – it’s a type of ‘bleating’ best ignored.

Temporality has got to be nothing but a good thing. For me it’s a fantastic critique of spectacular culture - a great tool. The Oedipal bunkers (be it religion, state or multinational) don’t really do contingency. So if we see the EC performing a prophetic ‘nabi’ role (the anti-body of Christ), temporality can serve our purposes very nicely.

I like when you get angry. Didn’t you do this before at another seminar?

nic hughes

LOL! You look beautiful when you're angry...

I agree too. You've come up with some nice pithy epithets that I might use in conversation if the opportunity comes.

mike radcliffe

As someone one the edge of the whole EC thing, I appreciate the faith, risk taking and particularly the open and ongoing dicussion and reflection that's taking place. I found the following post by Steve Taylor really helpful:

I wrote this a few weeks ago: The emerging church seems (IMHO) to be a shared conversation among people, groups and churches, about life and faith in a changing contemporary context. But it is so easy to objectify the stories and to read the conversation as monolithic, as "this is the emerging church." In doing so, the stories have been stripped of context. They are then in danger of commodification, as books, websites, podcasts etc. (A few sentences buried in a jet-lagged post about place and cross-cultural storytellinghere).

In other words; there is a conversation between various people about mission, faith, God, church in a postmodern context. This conversation has become commodified and homogenised into a universalist label "emerging church."

The result:
- the focus has become the conversation rather than the work of missional communities
- like any good conversation, it has no "leader." Thus it has very few mechanism to respond to critics. (This infuriates critics even more.)
- words and labels can so easily be used to exclude and include
- we are in danger of homogenising voices and contexts and in so doing, obscure difference.

From my perspective, if it's church, it's church - whether emerging, cell, traditional, youth, new, or mega. Every people group (or even sub group) longs for an expression of church that enables them to connect their experience of life to the life of God and in an increasingly culturally diverse society the more forms the better. As you've already said, our primary response to other's expressions of church has to be humility - we are all the body of Christ.

tim abbott

it's funny that people are reading this as angry! the backstory is this: i got dragged up onto the panel at the blah to be asked questions. and tyler asked his, and i had half an answer because something was occuring to me that i hadn't quite formulated yet. and later i made some notes, and gave tyler a proper answer ie the above. and he was apologising that his question wasn't meant to be hostile, and i said it's just the question that's always been asked of us so no big deal, but it did make me think of a couple of new things which is the value of questions. and the blog entry is just written up from my notes so i don't lose it.


steve good thoughts - thanks...

jonny baker

Re. Point 2: '... the part of society that questions and generates culture'. This is deeply, deeply patronising. In reality EVERYBODY shapes culture. Though it's true to say that certain privileged and metropolitan people do tend to be the ones who shape (privileged and metropolitan) MEDIA culture. But that barely connects with the everyday experiences of most other people in the world.

(I posted this first on Jonny's blog so thought I ought to put it here too)

john davies

I'm always bothered by what is implied by the "you're just trying to make 'hip' church", which is that what we are doing is culturally specific and limited and that 'trad church' isn't. Traditional mainstream churches are culturally specific to the mainstream, and there isn't anything wrong with that until they claim that a mainstream expression of Christianity is the authentic default expression and that anything different is a move away from the 'norm'.

nadia bolz-weber

i'd agree that everbody shapes culture in some sense - or rather, everybody is a participant in culture. but clearly there are imbalances of power and activity. the available material of culture is created and edited by some and not others.

people can take experimental or conventional approaches to the cultural material they've got. a conventional approach accepts what's available and works within its language. an experimental approach will try to step outside or subvert the previously available material.

an experimental approach to culture is not just a 'metropolitan media' thing [interesting reflex, to equate culture with media!]. when i speak of culture and culture-changers i include the product designers, politicians, educationalists, software writers etc. i'm an architect whose business is change of workplace culture - our designs express and encourage changed power relationships in the office, moving businesses out of conventional inherited structures. that's the kind of cultural change that has real effects on everyday experience - like whether you get home in time to see the kids before bedtime.

but observably, church experiments are full of experimentally-minded people. and some are indeed from the metropolitan media - perhaps trying to engage with something serious ;)

btw i always find the idea of 'the mainstream' elusive. because so much of what counts as mainstream is stuff that was fringe or avant-garde twenty or thirty years before. perhaps the mainstream is the sum of all the things that people have forgotten were once new.


btw what really gave me pause wrt any universal ambitions we might have, was hearing people say we must engage with the poor - and remembering john drane, i think, in 'the mcdonaldisation of the church', saying that the churches which flourish in that context being strongly led and laying down clear rules, to give order to chaotic lives. now that ain't us!


Churches don't have to be flourishing to be church. Churches which avoid interaction with the poor, however - I wonder if they're really church at all?

john davies

If we’re talking about poverty – what about Matthew Fox’s notion of First world ‘spiritual impoverishment’? Isn’t this conversation becoming essentialist around the definition of poverty? Poverty is ‘lack’ on every level, including culture. I particularly like what he says about the ‘imperialism’ of aid: ‘No group can liberate another group. People liberate themselves’. For me, this is reflected in a lot of alt-worship's apparent apoliticality. Also this broad definition of poverty removes one from the reduction and crude functionality of a lot of Christian expression. The obsession with authenticity and the ‘everyday’, the line that grannies, yoof and bus stops are only what count – somehow the ‘real’ grassroots voice.

We can have all of these things, and more.

nic hughes

for me it always comes back to humility - knowing what you can and cannot do. i've been a volunteer in a hostel for the homeless - i couldn't do it, it wasn't me or what god was calling me to. but i can do other things. churches and individual christians rush into these areas as amateurs, when even the professionals struggle. do it properly or don't go there. you middle-class people can deal with the structural and environmental issues for which you have such responsibility.


'I'm so middle-class, my dad's gay'. He's not really- I just wish he was. !-)

nic hughes

Steve, I'm with you on the whole 'know what you're good at' thing and I often frame that in the context of vocation (die hard Lutheran, I know). Some are prophets, some are teachers, some are homeless advocates, some are cranky theologians, some are church ladies, some are EC bloggers...

nadia bolz-weber

17.07.06 / 01 / monkeysphere

inside the monkeysphere by david wong is a humorous popularisation of dunbar's number [the concept that the most people you can relate to is approximately 150]

subsequent thought: god doesn't have a monkeysphere limitation. god calls us to transcend our monkeyspheres. fowler's stage 6 people, the universalisers, the saints are the ones who do so, ie are most like god in the breadth of their relating.

11.07.06 / 01 / light pavement pics

are on flickr. i knew i'd taken some but thought i'd deleted them.

i caught it in a blue phase, it was only changing slowly that evening.

10.07.06 / 01 / flickr

my photo albums are now replaced by a flickr account. atm i'm still loading it with existing material rather than new, but some of it hasn't been published before. obviously i've got vast archives of stuff to upload. not sure of the implications yet for the photo sections of - sometimes that format and the bigger size is good. and i spent a lot of time getting the site colours to work as photographic backgrounds. i'll probably add a flickr link into the main menu.

08.07.06 / 01 / special tree


the trees in the light pavement at broadgate apparently deliver bluetooth reports to your phone from wimbledon, courtesy of IBM.

the light pavement is a grid of LED lights across a public square that change colour in the usual LED way, sometimes very slowly and sometimes flashing in complex patterns. the effect is rather tron-like, especially when reflected in glass balustrades into infinity. it's always a pleasure to walk across on the way from the office to the station.

04.07.06 / 02 / italian joy

outside my flat is chaos and screaming as italy beat germany with two goals in the last two minutes of extra time. there are lots of italians in london.

04.07.06 / 01 / meeting edward

went to cambridge on sunday to meet my nephew edward for the first time. he is now a month old. i've never handled a baby this young, it was a little scary, but my brother has a good picture of us which i hope he mails me. here he is with my mother. my brother asked her what pet form of grandmother she wanted to be referred to by - this being her first grandchild, no precedent has been set. and then they can teach edward to call her that, which of course will be for the rest of her life. strange what decisions have to be made when a child arrives. everyone in the family gets renamed.


edward wasn't quite his usual amiable self due to the 33C heat. my brother did a barbecue, but we ate indoors. and young babies don't drink separately from feeding, so his mother didn't get much rest from a thirsty baby...

03.07.06 / 01 / low energy lighting again

lighting report makes the front page of the independent with a backup article from greenpeace

This report illustrates yet again what we all know but somehow fail to address: it is often not the demand for energy, but waste of energy that is driving us towards radical climate change.

plus these stats:

ENERGY-SAVING BULBS (compact fluorescent lights - CFLs)
* An 11-Watt CFL bulb (equivalent to an ordinary 60W bulb) costs £2.41 to run per year.
* Energy-saving bulbs last on average 12 times longer than ordinary light bulbs, with a life span of around six years.
* They cost about £3.50.
* Each bulb can reduce your electricity bill by up to £10 a year.
* They generate up to 70 per cent less heat.
* An ordinary 60W bulb costs up to £13.14 in electricity bills per year.
* The average life span is between 750 and 1000 hours, which gives round five months of use.
* An ordinary bulb costs around 50p.
* In most houses lighting accounts for approximately 15 per cent of the electricity bill.
* If every American home switched their five most-used light fittings to energy-saving bulbs, they would save $6bn (£3.2bn) and reduce greenhouse gases by nearly half a million tons.
* 90 per cent of the energy goes into generating heat.
Emily Dugan

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