This is just an early report — we had a good time last evening with Alan Roxburgh of Allelon. About 60 people turned out, representing a good cross-section of people including a few pastors and others in “full-time ministry” (forgive the phrase, but you know what I mean), as well as folk from various church or denominational backgrounds. We Alan open up with some introductory material, then spent some good time in Q&A/dialogue between Al and those gathered. After a couple hours of that, we used the offering to shift gears and invite people to hang around and dialogue informally with Al, with us, and with one another… many stayed for another hour.
Jamie and I were able to spend a few hours this afternoon (and will be again this morning) in dialogue with Al as well, and this connection-time I believe will prove invaluable.
Overall, Al has giving me a few things to think about, including a few fresh perspectives I’ll have to sift through… such as Jeremiah 27 describing Israel rediscovering her story and finding hope not in Jerusalem, but in Babylon… as well as Jeremiah 29 and Luke 10 as examples of missional imperatives. Recognize of course that this brief mention doesn’t provide the whole story, which does need a bit of telling.
Some good discussion on the definition of “missional,” which was likened to attempting to define the Kingdom of God by reading through all the texts where Jesus says “It’s like….” and then tells a parable. Hardly clear-cut.
There were a few, er, loaded questions, but a lot of very open and honest ones and the room seemed to be generally characterized by open listening and honest dialogue. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to further dialogue with the folk who turned out, I’d welcome that. More processing to do before concluding, but I’m sure some of these thoughts will leak into future posts around here.
Would love to have been there. Look forward to seeing the video.
Thanks to you and Jamie for hosting the conversation last night. I found Alan very knowledgeable as well as vulnerable in his approach. The highlight insight for myself was his empty handed metaphors for the kingdom people. Self constructed ridgid definitions of what mission is were exposed by this more humble approach. The emphasis on invididuals sharing community narratives of God’s work in and for them was excellent.
A question I am left with after listening to the conversation involves Alan’s response to someone who was attempting to distinguish between “organicly directed” mission and “institutionally directed mission. Again the inadequacy of language rears it head – what I took as the question was how I move from “Spirit” determined expansion of the Kingdom rather than “strategic” self constructed marketing geared at conversion.
The answer that Alan suggested through his talk, but not necessarily in response to the questioner, was that as we share as individuals in faithful community we allow the Spirit to be a Go-Between ourselves and others in such a way as to lead to the awareness of Christ’s presence. Incidently this is not a conceptual process but an incarnational and spiritual one.
Alan’s direct answer to the questioner, overemphasized the definition of organic and institutional. Of course both aspects are in every situation and the Kingdom’s wind blows in Emergent and Missional and traditional settings but the deep conversation is definitely impeded by humanly constructed restrictions on how the Spirit operates. Hopefully more on this and other topics as the dialogue moves on.
I very much enjoyed hearing Alan speak last night. I like his emphasis on the kingdom of God and that God works everywhere. I really liked how he pointed to a redefinition of church as life open to God in community and that it has very little to do with what we normally think of as church. I like his emphasis on vulnerability and welcoming God coming to us in the stranger. It’s a risk taking approach that I would like to take more often. I also liked talking with some of the people that attended. Living, working and being a part of a community in the inner city sometimes results in not talking to people in more “traditional” settings. It was interesting to hear how God is working in other settings.
thanks a lot and I look forward to more interactions,
I’m glad I decided to go. I think I nodded so much it’s surprising my head is still attached!
On a personal note, it has recently come to my attention that a particular “friendship” I thought I had was, in fact, one-sided – and I was the project. Let me tell you – that smarts! I don’t ever want to approach anyone in my life with that kind of agenda. Perhaps I needed to experience this in order to drive the point home. So I think I’m gonna empty my hands and head on over to my neighbour’s house and ask them for a favour – in the spirit of friendship, or at least neighbourliness (is that a word?). What’s the worst that could happen? They’ll say no?
I enjoyed it as well – though perhaps my enjoyment was a bit self-serving, ie having an alt.bigshot advocate for practices that are pretty much what we find ourselves doing around here. My one discomfort came with his response to the young woman who asked the question about going with ‘open hands’ vs sharing the good news. He moved into trying to convince rather than addressing the deeper issue of fear – our need to clothe ourselves in the ‘full armour’ rather than ‘taking nothing with us for the journey’ – Spiritual vulnerability/nakedness IS a frightening thought, particularly when we are young in faith/experience. Caused me to wonder how many times I have done the same – responded to intellectual content rather than the underlying soul angst. Still, all in all, a most valuable evening. Thanks BroMay and JayMay for all your work.
I enjoyed the evening, although I had to leave before the end. Like Cindy-lu I agreed with most of what I heard. I actually appreciated the “trying to convince”, which suggested to me that “hands empty of our agenda for the other” does not mean that we give up our own deeply held values. I do wonder how Al’s inability to see our eyes (standing on a stage looking into floodlights) affected the interchanges with those who felt strong disagreement or concern. I wish we could have been sitting in a circle, able to read more than just spoken words. But in all I appreciated the conversation from all involved. I hope for more ….
I was the organic vs. institutional questioner (see Paul Patterson’s comment). My, er, loaded question arose from his, er, very loaded comments about the stupidity of drawing distinctions between organic and institutional. I couldn’t figure out why he had used such derisive language, especially in light of his research/consulting with religious institutions and their (in)capacity for adaptive change. I don’t think I ever discovered where the loading came from, but I enjoyed his response and a follow-up conversation. Terminology aside, I thought Alan and I were pretty much on the same page on this question.
Bill (Kinnon), hope the video comes out well — you’ll have to let me know when it’s been edited for general consumption and I’ll post it here.
Paul, I told Al over breakfast the next morning how much I appreciated his sharing of the encounter with that particular pastor, in which he was most vulnerable. Too many of us can relate. I liked the open-handed image as well. Haven’t we thought our hands were full for too long? Someone said we’re just like one beggar telling another where to find bread… but I keep encountering people who seem to think they’re the baker. Thoughts below on ‘organic.’
Dave, I love that concept of the ‘stranger,’ which is actually a recurring theme in the Bible… I think I need to do an overview study on that, there’s a lot more there. I hope we’ll be able to do some more events like this in the future. While it’s helpful to have someone like Al come and join us from afar from time to time, there’s nothing to stop us from gathering for extended conversations like this just to interact and share our own gleanings together. We’ll definitely have to look further at that.
Cindy-lu, I’m glad you came as well… now we can both put faces to names! Sorry to hear you’ve been a project… many of us have been there, and it truly sucketh (that’s the King James, since this problem’s been around a while). You don’t need to plan to run out of baking powder, but we found out when we did one day that the neighbours weren’t at all stingy about it (we knew they wouldn’t be) and we got to have pancakes after all. I know you haven’t been reading here a long time, so if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to take a peek at something I wrote back in March: Friendshipâ€¦ (with Fingers Crossed Behind your Back). I think you’ve got it right on.
Bill (the elder), would it be mischievous of me to also delight in evangelicals and former evangelicals receptively hearing the message that you liberal social gospel types were onto something all along? You’re right about the fear though. Whether it’s pastors fearful of losing a salary or parishioners fearful of losing their social network, or any of a hundred others… you may be right on that one. I think Jamie’s going to try to touch base with her and make sure that all is copasetic. I’ll shoot you an email about getting together next week.
Daryl, I’m very glad to hear that you’re much on the same page. Good insight about the stage lights — I was up there and as you say, you can’t see faces with the lights in your eyes like that. I mean not at all, from the second row back. Deprived of body language cues in communication, we miss much more than we realize. From about 9:00 to just after 10:00, we all hung around and had dialogue in small groups which I felt was very helpful — I’m glad we did that even if some had to slip away. email me if you’d like to dialogue further or consider some events during the summer or fall, would love to involve you.
Greg, it sounded to me like once the terminology was dispensed with, you and Al were saying about the same thing — glad that was actually your take as well. I didn’t ask Al about the organic term, but it can be loaded in some contexts… perhaps there was some background. Like the term “missional” itself, it doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. If I thought it meant what Leadership magazine portrayed it as, I’d never utter it again. btw, yours was not the “loaded question” I meant — the one about whether Jesus was missional and whether the apostles were missional is the one I was thinking of… it was phrased and intoned more as mischief rather than genuine inquiry. On that basis I thought Al’s response was good — a bit unexpected for him to say “no”?
I appreciate everyone’s thoughts so far — perhaps others will drop by yet and add their thoughts on the evening. For those who don’t know btw, click Dave’s or Paul’s name to go to the Watershed website… they’ve been meeting as a home church / fellowship / community / whatever for some 20 years I think. Hats off to ’em.
Jamie and I would welcome (though I’m just speaking for him without asking!) the involvement of others who want to continue and foster further connections. I’d like to do another evening soon — anyone with a good idea for a venue with an accessible semi-private dining room and some kind of decent draught beer on tap would be most welcome to email with it or comment below. This kind of informal gathering could easily take place on a monthly basis without a lot of fuss.
We didn’t quite break even on the endeavour, but I’m still pleased with the outcome and haven’t heard any dissenting opinion to that one. I’d still like to consider a larger event in the fall, perhaps bring in 3 facilitating speakers and meet from Thursday through Sunday. Back of the napkin suggests 200 people would need to pay about $50 per seat; double that for half the turnout, and it’d take a bit of “seed” money to bring together. But it’d be loads of fun and a valuable exercise I think.
This morning I’m thinking of ideas, and I’m curious what would happen if 20 of us sent an invite to similar persons in Calgary and Saskatoon for 20 people from each of those places to meet us in Regina for a weekend, just to talk. (What other reason could we possibly have for spending a weekend in Regina?) Could lead to some very cool connections and sharing of experiences.
What say all of you in the region? Comment or email, kick in your ideas.
Interesting idea about more conferences, but I’m completely conferenced-out after spending the last 15+ years in a “conference-happy” CLB. One night events here and there are about all I can muster. And about all my family can manage as a deviation from our completely necessary routine. I’m enjoying the online chat and subsequent gleanings, though.
Would be nice for us (the family) to have some people with which to hang out hats, though…
I was one of the attendees at the recent Tuesday session with Al and am also a part of the Watershed community that has been mentioned. I was glad to have come on Tuesday. It was good to hear the content of the evening – I appreciated the metaphor of meeting God in the world with open hands. Hearing some of the stories that night as well as reading about similar evolving ways of being the church has begun to stir the imagination but, like Cindy-lu mentioned, now there is this precarious next step of heading out to the neighbors to borrow some baking powder! I like the idea of continuing this conversation … so, together with our community, I’d be willing to host an informal b-bque. We have a firepit in our back yard, wood to stoke a good blaze, and access to some good on-tap beverages. If size is an issue, we may have to revisit whether this is a good venue, but if people are interested we could give this a try. Thoughts?
Talked with Jamie and Brother Maynard and we’ve come up with a date for a backyard bbq. July 21st at 6:00 p.m. at 607 Garfield. Food will be provided (meat and meatless). Looking forward to continuing the thread.+