Category Archives: Church

Q: Why did Brian McLaren Cross the Road?

A: He was stapled to the chicken.

Ros, Linus and I have just been to a discussion evening, hosted by Greenbelt, in which Brian McLaren talked about a new book of his that deals with positive relationships between Christians and those of other faiths. We’ll all be writing a brief post based on the evening.

The anti-comedic title of the book is:

Why did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?

and my initial response was that they’d seen Sheldon Kopp approaching and were off to look for George Herbert in whatever country parsonage he was holed up in.

Then I started listening.

The most outstanding moment of the evening came when Brian used Gregory of Nyssa’s description of the relationships within the Trinity as a starting point for talking about a possible way for us to relate to one another. But it does raise a question that troubles me:

That difference is to be celebrated without any party lording it over the others, is as it should be. That this celebration can entail a preference for our own way of being and doing is all very well. But is there a point at which our believing we are right and others are wrong (as seems to be the case with anybody believing anything) will get in the way – not of polite discourse but of our respect for ‘the other’?

Or, is that the whole point – that there is no ‘Other’, just people who believe different (to a greater or lesser degree) things to us and that our purpose as Christians is to love them as we love ourselves?

Living in a post-ecumenical culture

A while ago, Robb asked me to write a post based around my idea of post-ecumenism, namely: that without people identifying themselves along traditional denominational lines, the focus and indeed very point of the ecumenical movement is nullified leaving the way open for communication and collaboration between Christians but also a void where before there had been structure and form.

Having procrastinated long enough, I find that Laura Everett at the New Media Project has, more or less, written it for me.

Of course, I was going to focus less on the social media elements but they make a good starting point and a valid point upon which to build the argument.

Given that many (a majority of?) people no-longer self-identify as denominational at all, what can be said for the old ways, what would a modern alternative look like, how can we provide for the people who fall between our current self-imposed gaps?

Worship: Come and Have a Go

On Tuesday night, I led my house-group for the evening. The previous week had been all about worship – what is was, what it looked like in our day to day lives, what we worship and how there’s a distinction to be made between the worship that should make up our daily lives and specific and chosen acts of worship (participating in a church service, for example).

I decided to run this session as a follow up, focusing specifically on the last of these.

In preparation, I filled a box with a variety of service books, lectionaries, prayer books, my i-pod, speakers, icons, candles, incense, some flash paper, a bottle of wine and a bread roll. Having driven to the venue, I put the bread and wine and two candles on the table in the front room and sought out a glass, a plate and a napkin – these having been found, I went and joined the rest of the group for coffee.

Post coffee and fig-rolls, we regathered in the front room and, once we were all sitting comfortably, we began by recapping last week’s session and followed that up with a discussion of what people thought were the important elements of a service of worship and why. In no particular order, we came up with the following:

  • Silence & a chance to focus
  • Singing Praise corporately
  • Prayer (responsive or otherwise)
    • thanksgiving
    • confession
    • intercession
    • supplication
  • Something that states truth about God / reveals or states his character – bible reading or creed
  • Honesty
  • Liturgical basis
  • Competency (especially in musical leadership)
  • Corporateness: unity of the body
  • Bible
  • Prayers that have been ‘thought about’
  • Communion

In pairs, we spent fifteen minutes or so preparing a section of a service: ‘prayers’; ‘reading and reflection’; ‘Creedal Statement and opening and closing songs’ and I worked out a draft order of service.

Then we ran through the service that we’d just prepared (including the flash-paper confessions) and it was good. There was a sense of God’s being with us, of being connected with what was happening and of the value of each part of the service.  We all left enriched by the experience.

So, question time:
What do you think is important in a service of worship?
Do you agree with the list we came up with and what would go on your list?
What’s essential for every service and what’s essential for inclusion sometimes?
How would you make services more engaging?
And how would this work with a larger congregation?