Solid | Liquid | Gas – Baumann and Ecclesiastic Phase Change

This morning I was sent an article to look over, which contained reference to Baumann’s work on ‘liquid modernity’, taken up by Pete Ward in his book ‘Liquid Church’.

It set me thinking again, as I had done when discussing Pete’s thesis at a very early Blah…, about how much Baumann knew about the science of his metaphor. (And I really don’t know, because I’ve never been drawn to read him.) If he didn’t, it’s perhaps a better one than he might have thought…

Trip Pt1-1 Matter moving from solidity to liquidity is undergoing a ‘phase change’. The point at which this will occur varies massively according to, among other things, temperature and pressure. So what you always get on a phase boundary are the two phases – solid and liquid – occurring together for quite a long time. And as pressures/environments change, the process can accelerate or slow down accordingly.

I think this is observable in the Church.

We are on a phase boundary. That means that different phases – solid, liquid, gas are co-existing. That’s always going to be the case. The whole thing won’t turn together. Some will change phase quickly to liquid. But there is going to be a solid core for a long time yet, depending on the pressures and ‘heat’ that we experience. Pete’s work on Liquid Church is well documented, so I won’t expand on it now. But I do want to suggest two points.

Firstly, liquid can of course change to another phase – gas. And this can, under certain high pressure conditions, occur directly from solidity, or simply evaporate from the liquid. In terms of church, I’d contend that we really don’t want to go there: entirely disconnected, totally chaotic, expanding to fill any boundary it is given, not locked into a body of liquid… Gases have tipped over the ‘edge of chaos’ that I talk about in the book and into the ‘anarchic church’ in the table in the book. Again, it’s very observable…. And we’d be wise to be wise to it now before too many people totally leave the ‘body of liquid’ and disappear into the aether.

Secondly, what might we learn from pressure and temperature? Pressures are ‘external’. Forces brought to bear from the outside. Temperatures are internal. Rises in per-molecule energy, ending up in molecules breaking free when they are sufficiently energised. With higher pressures, you need higher temperatures to become liquid. (It’s easy to boil water up Everest.) So if we want to liquidize churches, we are going to have to realise that once the low-pressure areas have turned, the high pressure areas – the real heart of the establishment – are going to require a great deal more energy. Question is, is it worth the energy? Or are we better leaving the solid to sink like a stone and die off?


3 responses to “Solid | Liquid | Gas – Baumann and Ecclesiastic Phase Change”

  1. David Lindsell

    I think that comment about gas is an interesting. I’m less worried about ‘gas’ and ‘anarchy’ in the church and if I had it my way most of the church would be liquid with room for a bit of gas.
    People of the spirit blow like the wind, as the good book says, they don’t run like liquid.
    But the connectivity of liquid is greater than gas, and gas, when connected and relatively contained is a heady mix, mustard gas had an effect. It didn’t disappear into the aether before it had done it’s work.
    I’m glad things like this keep up connected, and stop us blowing into the aether.
    As for solids, history shows us that they always exist. They will always be there floating in the soup, but what can you do. If you can’t swim, get ashore.

  2. What I like about liquid/gas/solid is that they can all be fuel or waste, according to environment, treatment or use.

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