Thanks to Mark for a great post around Gerald Arbuckles “From Chaos to Mission – Refounding Religious Life Formation“.
He includes this diagram, which prodded me to think not only about how renewal occurs within religion, but more generally about how religions are founded.
Mark notes: “Arbuckle talks about three stages; 1) Initial unease, the separation stage. One could talk about a sense of disconnection and a growing awareness of the dissonance between the action and the foundation story of the community/group. 2) The liminal stage or reflection stage “that moment between old patterns of reality and new ways of looking at reality”. In this stage Arbucle says there is a point of choice; do we seek to retreat, to wallow in nostalgia, to cling to past securities, do we try to stand still and maintain the status quo, to be paralysed by the chaos or do we “move forward with risk and hope in an uncertain world”? 3) Re-aggregation, or re-entry. A new application of the vision and story of the community.”
I wish I’d read it before – it resonates well with the Advent/Incarnation/Emergence path that I identified in the book. More generally, If we think about Abraham, and his unease at life in Ur, and Jesus and his unease at the way Judaism had gone, or about Mohammed, and his dissatisfaction at the way the Makkan’s were living, or about Guru Nanak, coming back out of the river after 3 days, claiming ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim’… We could go on.
All of these people had some sort of ‘epiphany’ and saw beyond the local claims of a bounded worship to something unified. All of them radically went through Arbuckle’s stages as outlined above, and all of them suffered for it.
And in each case, those who have come after them claiming to lead and carry on their movement have solidified that boundary, have ‘kept order’ once that place has been found, and made it difficult for renewal to continue.
Why? Why do we always screw it up? Why do we always have to tie things down and bind them? And how long before this happens to the Emerging Church?