I wrote last week about how beliefs take shape in our lives, and the role of worship for the training of our imaginations and habits within this.
For myself this year, as I try to resources my own imaginations, reflections, conversations, hopes, aspirations and attentions, there are some resources I am turning to.
More than ever I want my faith, my identity, measured by the story of the Gospel and the mission of the Kingdom, instead of all the other values, rubrics and imaginations for life, that pass in conversations and self reflections.
We don’t live in theoretical terms. Having, knowing and believing correct/better ideas about things rarely changes how we really live. It rarely has the power to form us in our real relationships to ourselves and others.
It’s why the drive to articulate truths from scripture to give intellectual assent to, does not lead to empowered ways of living. We all know that there is plenty about the Christian life that we ‘believe’ and hold to be true that we don’t live. And sometimes we are told that we live what we really believe, as if we can excavate down to the real truths we believe under the things we say we believe.
That just perpetuates the idea that we live by theories, which we don’t.
Instead we might better understand how we live, make a life with others, and form relationships, through ‘story’. Or as Charles Taylor would point us towards, the ‘social imaginary’ is the way we might better understand how we imagine and and live out our social lives in the real world.
In short the idea of the social imaginary is that what we do, our practices, carry unconscious understandings and convictions within them, and our story, legends, understandings shape our practices.
Life is complex, and we live out of a web of interactions with other people, with stories, myths, and practices that are mostly unconscious; things we rarely consciously ‘think’ about. In other words, how we imagine life, and the ways we share those imaginations is what we really live.
Therapists spend most of their time having people narrate their experiences, and feelings, beliefs and practices. To bring their imagined and lived life into conscious reflection, so that they might re-narrate, retell their story, and then live differently, from a new imagination of who they are.
Day to day, we have places we retell and live our imaginations for life. Every time we come into work and our friends ask us about our weekend, we have socially acceptable things we can talk about, the meals we ate, the things we did, what happened to us. We retell our imaginations for life, and how we are living.
Our deepest desire, and dreams, framed by values and myths about what life should be, are what we share with others, and ultimately measure life by and then live. It’s why for Christians even though our weekend might have had worship and gospel practices within it, we can’t share that at work, because that’s not what you are ‘supposed’ to do with your weekend.
When we have meals with others, we fall back on talking about our work, our relationships, and where we live. And most of the time we do that, we do so through socially conditioned values, and stories. Where I live, everyone seems to be working to be able to stop working, living somewhere so they can get away all the time, so that one day they can live somewhere like where they get away to. And everyone nods as we retell our life that way, yes, let’s retire early, and live by the sea/beach, and live to a ripe old age, the myth that we pursue and measure our lives by. And anything less than that is a failure of life itself.
This is one way we might understand worship, and Church. Church is the place we are invited tell our stories, and open up our deepest imaginations, and re-narrate those against the imaginations, values and practices of the people of God in scripture, and the people of God in history.
The Church, sexuality, inclusion and an open conversation
In the wake of the UK Governments move to legalise homosexual marriage, Steve Chalke and Oasis UK have produced this article, and an invitation for a different kind of conversation by Christians about the issues involved.
I hope as many Christians as possible take up an open approach in conversation, no matter what their convictions. Count me in for that Steve.
Looking forward to time with my church tribe and speaking at our National Leaders Conference.
Day and Evening tickets for the Vineyard UKI National Leaders’ Conference are now available. You can book your tickets at: http://2013.vineyardnlc.org/.
Myers set out to create a resource where orthodox religious believer could engage intellectually wide-ranging topics. Mark Knoll produced the now infamous summary work that ‘The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind”.* Myers has produced something that is contra to that experience for many Evangelicals.
For those familiar with UK output, the journal also reminds me of ‘In our Time’, but one for religious believers around similar cultural issues.
So nothing better for me than when I get a quite moment, or a car/train/plan journey to fire up my iPod/iPhone, grab a coffee and listen to Ken Myers lead the most stimulating conversations with writers on a huge range of cultural and faith issues.
When I dream of an extended holiday with no interruptions, I imagine my mornings filled with coffee and the Mars Hill Audio.
* The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Mark Knoll, 1994, Grand Rapids:William B. Eerdmans.
Professor Elaine Graham, of the University of Chester is leading the next Faith and Public Policy event that takes place at Westminster Abbey. My PhD Supervisor Anna Rowlands, directs these events.
Wednesday 16th January 2013
Professor Elaine Graham, University of Chester
Title: “Jews, Pagans, Sceptics and Emperors: Public Theology as Christian Apologetics”
Elaine L Graham is the Grosvenor Research Professor at the University of Chester. She was until October 2009 the Samuel Ferguson Professor of Social and Pastoral Theology at the University of Manchester. Elaine has a continuing interest in urban theology and the contribution of faith-based organizations to civil society. She was a member of the Commission on Urban Life and Faith, whose report was published as Faithful Cities: a Call for Celebration, Vision and Justice (2006). She collaborated with Bishop Stephen Lowe on a book entitled What Makes a Good City? Public Theology and the Urban Church (2009). Her current work is towards a book entitled: Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Public Theology in a Post-Secular Age (SCM, 2013).
The Seminar is 12.30-2pm with lunch, as usual and if attending you will need to confirm a place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The most read, watched and listened to resources of the year from Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland here.
I’ve talked and written about how consumer life has practices and habits that situate and train us into ways of doing life. Consumerism can be understood as religious practices around ways of life, like liturgy. Two chapters in Church in the Present Tense by me outline some of the thinking and practices from our church community in response to that.
Within those chapters I suggest the need for a counter training that worship is meant to produce. Church is a community to train us to live in the world rightly, deeply and to love it more fully.
Consumerism has it’s own question and answer catechism. When people get together and share about life, the measures of life, and what life is about, there is often a familiar ping pong about what money was spent on what and why. Cars, holidays, experiences, houses, relationships etc are measured by a liturgical conversation over drinks and food. Consumerism has us repeat it’s values and beliefs in the stories we tell to each other, before we go and practice them again.
Christians have had Catechism as part of their worship practices, to repeat to each other in community Gospel stories and values. That is something my evangelical stream as largely lost.
Most experiences of Christianity are now instrumentalist by consumerism. All to often worship is reduced to felt need occasional interactions with worship in order to get something else from life; instead of a regular deep experience with others of brining of life in contact with the Gospel.
In trying to extend the idea of worship as training, and liturgical formation I’ve wanted to offer a proper Catechism at our church. My tradition doesn’t have one to draw on, so where to start?
Thankfully, Tim Keller at Redeemer has distilled some of the greatest Catechisms into a 52 week online/phone app version.
A simple idea to engage with the technology in the hands of so many of my church community (with so many phones and tablets having just arrived in Christmas stockings). This Catechism weekly reviews key beliefs of the Christian faith, through Q&A, with the ability to undertake it with family and friends.
So I’m inviting my church community to join in this for a year together, and spend time as families and then time together over meals after sunday services to review what we have been learning.
My hope is for those of us undertaking this, that our next year will have been spent measuring and assessing life over meals around the Gospel and Kingdom, instead of consumer dreams and aspirations.
(The post below was written by me for the Advent series led by Christine Sine, ‘What are we waiting for?’)
After the first temple is built by Solomon and on the day of it’s dedication by him, Solomon declares, ‘Can it be that God will actually move into our neighborhood? Why, the cosmos itself isn’t large enough to give you breathing room, let alone this Temple I’ve built.’ (1 Kings 8:27). The absurdity that God could fit into the universe let alone a temple is immediately revealed.
Yet the Advent hope of Christmas is that God has located himself in relationship and proximity to us, such that (John 1:14) ‘The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood’.
If you are anything like me, I find that my life doesn’t fit into my own life, let alone the creator of the universe moving in. Too often He is crowded out and left to fit in when I remember Him, need something from him, am in trouble or worried about others. But most of the time, it seems He is squeezed out of my life and neighbourhood.
I’ve also noticed something about the Advent stories, that the people in them have lives that are at least as ‘over-full’ as mine. So how does Jesus move into their neighbourhood and how might he move into my overpacked life?
Too often we think of inviting Jesus into our lives, the Christian cliche of thinking that we open our lives and let Jesus in, ask him in, when we can remember to. The problem, like the people in the Advent story is that he just doesn’t fit. Something else seems to take place in Advent, as Jesus moves into the neighbourhood and invites people into his life, rather dramatically.
310 films from 2012 in one amazing mash up. Full list of the films here.
Here are the top two Tweets that generated the most Retweets for the year, plus honorable mentions for a few other Tweets that caught attention around the world.
I so want to go to this event, but am away these dates. A conference on the Holy Spirit and Mission by St Mellitus/HTB.
I hope they record the event and have papers available. Conference details are here.
If like most Christians you care about the environment but wonder why doing something about it features so little in our lives day to day, check out and have a conversation with him.