One of the most interesting sessions was a panel discussion with Dave Tomlinson and Jenny McIntosh about churchless faith. Dave’s book, The Post Evangelical, was published 10 years ago this summer, and it was interesting to reflect with him about the impact it has had. It’s only just been released in the US, so those stateside might not be aware of the fuss it created back here in the UK… I remember reading it virtually out of a brown paper bag – you just couldn’t be seen in my church reading stuff like that at the time! It’s not really seen particularly as an ‘Emerging Church’ text as it was released before much of the discussion started, but it was without doubt a book that broke me out of many blinkers.
Jenny is part of Spirited Exchanges, an umbrella organisation from New Zealand, and they were discussing how people’s faith might exist outside of ‘normal church’.
A couple of things struck me during the discourse:
1. It’s important to help people to die well.
The hospice movement is all about caring for people who are suffering terminal illness, and helping them and their families face it with dignity and understanding. For a faith based on the death and resurrection of its founder, we are surprisingly shy about the subject of death. I think we almost need to have hospice ministries within our networks: places where people can come to put to death their old ways of faith in ways that will minimise hurt, guilt and recrimination. Places where new beyonds can be presented.
Brueggemann resonates again:
“The royal consciousness leads people to numbness, especially to numbness about death. It is the task of prophetic ministry and imagination to bring people to engage their experiences of suffering to death”
The Prophetic Imagination [Quite simply one of the most profound books ever written]
A lot of people were asking about Vaux and why it had ended. I think we gave it a good death: a mixture of celebration and sadness. Hope and despair. Light and dark.
2. Perhaps we need a churchless Church.
The body of Christ is a given – we have to belong to the Church [macro]. But perhaps we should give up calling the things we are involved in church [micro]. It is just such an unhelpful and loaded word to use. “Do you want to come to church?” To be honest, no I don’t. And by the numbers and temper of those in the debate, there’s plenty others who don’t either. Church can be something I am a part of. But it’s not something I want to ‘go to’.