A personal manifesto 2002

I wrote this 'job description' in late 2001 - early 2002. I was seeking funding to enable me to do this work as full-time employment.

What I'd like to do is work on imagining church futures in the emerging culture. Specifically it seems to me that no-one in the church is doing visualisation, research into 'look & feel' - as any secular organisation trying to map out its futures would do. My site is a start on a space where I can work out some of these things. This is not about youth church. It's about the shape and feel of adult Christian spirituality - all the forms it will have to take in the 21st century.
I have developed these projects so far through taking time out from my job and living on my savings. This is not sustainable for very long without outside help. The Small Fire stuff alone is the equivalent of a full time job for at least two days a week [2024 note: I had to visit and write about events, film photography required scanning and processing, the site was in Flash...]. Can CMS, or anyone else, fund or otherwise assist me in all or parts of this work?

In the event I was unable to find any financial support for this kind of thing - pioneer ministry had not yet been invented! I did get funding to develop in 2002 but this was not enough to prevent me having to return to full-time employment as an architect - which as I expected made progress on all these projects difficult and slow.

Some parts of this have been achieved, some ended, some remain to be done...

Project 1: Small Ritual

Investigating new forms of Christian spirituality for the emerging culture

New forms of Christian spirituality for the emerging culture:

How do we reintroduce Christian spirituality into the emerging culture?
If people create spiritualities out of pieces they pick up, what do the Christian pieces look like?
How do they work, if they are not, individually, the whole picture?
How do they fit together?
How do they connect if they are scattered throughout the culture?
How do we model completion of the picture without imposing it?

New visual languages for Christian spirituality:

Developing a language of images that communicate by feel, by non-linear storytelling
Conveying a lifestyle and belief system through snapshots
Images and slogans as provocation - implying new visions of what church/worship/Christianity is
Modelling that which does not yet exist
Selling both ways - showing the Church what it could become as well as showing non-Christians what Christian spirituality could be
Creating desire for Christianity
[Right now nobody's images of Christianity create a desire for emulation]

Using the Bible beyond 'saving' quotations:

[Bible quotations used in publicity tend to be picked for supposed impact on conscience of non-believer]
Use of Bible to appeal to the mystical tastes of contemporary culture?
Find texts that intrigue or comment?

New icons:

Restaging famous icons in contemporary terms using photography
Will they work as icons for prayer? If icons work as a virtual presence
Remembering that ancient icons were once contemporary images

New forms of Christian community and belonging:

Plug-in church
How do we facilitate community in a society of belonging at a distance?
Models of growth - congregational versus diffusion
The practise of availability in a society which needs availability to be 24-7 and diffuse

New ways of using church buildings:

Church as third place
Reintroduced into the public realm as available space
Removing barriers to entry
[Buildings no longer privatised to their congregations]

Project 2: Small Fire

Alternative worship publicity and support
Providing connection and inspiration for people seeking new forms of church expression

General roles:

Dealing with queries about alt worship/giving information about who/what/when
Answering questions from students, pastors, people who want to find or start creative worship
All arising from visibility of websites, discussion board, publications, labyrinth etc

Active participant in the Alt worship discussion forum on the internet:
The global conversation of those involved in alternative worship plus interested parties
A place where the theology and practice of alternative worship is formed and critiqued

American connections through Group Publishing and the Epicenter event in Texas to emerging alt worship groups in the USA
Helping to connect them to one another as most such groups/individuals are isolated and unaware of others like them in their own country

[This was before Emergent. I was often being asked to connect people as someone who seemed to have an overview of the movement]

Small Fire website:

Role: site design and maintenance, photography
An archive of photographs of alternative worship services, mostly by myself with occasional contributions from others
Recording the installations and special environments created for these services
Photographs usually taken during worship to capture the atmosphere of the event and show how people use the spaces and artworks.

The intention is to show people what these new forms of worship look like, since the environments are transitory.
A recording of the scene for future historians of church movements
As an example/encouragement/resource for those who would like to experiment with worship
As a wake up call to the Church regarding what is being achieved by fringe groups of Christians with little acknowledgement or help

Ship of Fools 'Small Fire' column:

Role: writer
Monthly column discussing issues regarding church practice and contemporary culture, often based around and reporting on visits to alternative worship services.

Ship of Fools 'Small Fire' discussion board:

Role: host
Board discussing issues arising from experiments in worship

[My involvement in Ship of Fools ended later in 2002 when I had to return to full-time work in architecture]

Project 3: book projects:

Book 1:

Alternative worship coffee table book
Large format full colour glossy hardback
Photographs and liturgy
With Kester Brewin and Nic Hughes of Vaux

[This was a Kester and Nic project that they never pursued]

Book 2:

Small Ritual as book
A book about visualising church futures
Paperback full colour
Aspirational, provocative, humorous, imaginative
Creating a desire for new forms