Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Blah Manchester

I head straight from work this evening to the lovely S & K’s. As ever the warmth of family hits you as the front door opens (and my ‘favourite neices’ spill out over the threshold to greet ‘Aunty L1z’ with the sort of hugs that make the day a better place).

There do however seem to be more children than ever this evening, thanks it seems to H’s last day at junior school sleepover party.

S seems just a little relieved to be escaping with me into the world of adults as we head for the second Blah Manchester.

This evening we hear the thoughts of Andrew Jones (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) on Aggregation: The Emerging Church According to Manchester

Unfortunately I don’t think the Manchester connection was really necessary nor did it work well; it comes across as an awkward and unwieldy segue. Andrew admitted he’s never stopped off in the city before and his comments are rather tired old stereotypes that seem to sit a little awkwardly with at least some of the audience. If ever there were a city that knew it’s civic history without need of an outsider reminding it, then Manchester would be it. It may come as a surprise to some but the Worldwide Message Tribe is not seen by a number of us as a crowning triumph…

Despite this slightly awkward start the rest of his talk is far stronger and more engaging as he discusses a number of metaphors that can help us understand and describe the way parts of society and indeed the church is moving. I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with his proposition that emergent church is essentially ‘missional’, it seems a little at odds with one of his other statements, which I feel far more in accord with, that this stuff is ‘descriptive’ not ‘prescriptive’. It seems to me, that as with the Alt Worship style stuff before, there are as ever two camps; those for whom a different way of church comes out of a life, culture and theology that they are already living out and those for whom adding a drum beat, projector and a few flashing lights seems to be the latest bright idea of how to reach out to a culture they neither inhabit nor truly understand.

Before we split up into groups to discuss our thoughts on what we’ve heard, he finishes up with a look at the idea of a form of church that follows the model of aggregations rather than congregations.

As is often the case with these sorts of things I find someone putting language and words to the experience I have been living out for the past goodness knows how many years.

S has in the past described me as someone who does ‘do church’ just not in the traditional way. I guess now we have more fancy words for it.

It made me think about the aggregations that are a part of my ‘church’ life. The blogsphere is one, Greenbelt is certainly another, but the list is long and highly inter-related. To describe it and the networks and inter-relationships would need a 3D blob diagram.

Andrew’s talk challenges me to think hard about the self-selecting nature of aggregations and how to ensure we don’t lose some of the strengths such as inter-generational interaction and that can be more inherent in the congregational model (though certainly not always).

Plenty to think about as S and I drive back to his house, where the wonderful K has tea waiting for us.

As we munch our food the conversations continue and I realise that here is another aggregation in my life; one of the many small forms of church that exist in a back room over garlic bread and salad.

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