20.12.03

I am not of the generation usually associated with the emergent church, to use a term common these days. As I mentioned some weeks ago, I grew up in the Anglican church and still love its liturgy. I moved from there after marriage, to a group where I felt stifled for very many years. It had lots of Bible teaching which I valued, but it also had very many rules and regulations, basically unwritten, stemming from its interpretation of the Bible. The imagination was basically squashed. After all, who knew down what dangerous paths it might lead? We had no musical instruments at all and no enjoyment of other forms of art either. My husband, who was with the group since birth until about ten years ago is heavily marked by them. He regards my growing of any flowers as deeply suspicious. Are they a "useful" plant? He cannot understand my reply that their beauty nourishes my spirit. We moved out of this group just over ten years ago and that was a major undertaking. He became what I can only describe as heavily pentecostal, accepting much of the word/faith teaching gullibly.

The group we now attend is quite different. I enjoy the people there very much, although many other things frustrate me greatly at times. We seem to be an uneasy mix of both a more traditional form of church and yet I see some things which remind me more of a much more updated form of church. I read many of the blogs about the emergent church and find myself in sympathy with much of what they say. We still have a Sunday meeting which most feel is compulsory. I go because I want to meet with others likeminded, not because I feel I must. We do still have a time of "worship" although my comments as a teacher and and the comments of our leading musicians are beginning to break this down. Singing at the start of a meeting is not "worship" although it is part of it. The use of the arts is welcomed and there is a group of people skilled in art, movement, dance, music etc.

It was interesting today to return from a meeting for a Christmas performance. The home group I attend is called the Arts cell. We have several artists, four dancers, including two guys, musicians and writers. We were asked to perform "something Christmassy." We already know that most expect us to do a performance, with perhaps a dance to accompany some music or Bible reading. We have taken an opposite view. We wanted to engage all attending so that they actually took part, rather than just observing. Each will be asked to choose a gift symbolising gold, frankincense or myrrh. There will be a gift symbolising each of these. Three rooms have been set up with appropriate quiet music and there will be a time of contemplation with some verses and words by Charles Wesley on individual sheets. In an attempt to break out of the Christmas mould and to present the amazing truth of the incarnation, we have made a TARDIS from Dr Who. There is a sound clip where the doctor tells the police sergeant that "it is bigger on the inside than the outside." We also have a CS Lewis quote from The Last Battle along the same lines. A bookmark with a TARDIS and the quotes will be given to everyone.

Now some have blundered in on us as we carried out our preparations. "OOOH, is Dr Who a Christian? I never knew that. Now I might watch it!" has been the response. "Why don't you use a proper Bible verse?

I was reminded of all this as I read Justin Baeder's article, Moving beyond the Worship Service. He questions why the worship service remains the same, when "our epistemologies, ecclesiology, spirituality...have changed." He sees the worship service as communicating that being a Christian is about passively attending to someone else's ministry efforts. He queries the place of artists and poets and writers and comments that there is not much space for them after the mandatory sermon and announcements. Too true, too often. He also suggests that we look at what has happened for several hundred years and use that as a filter to read the New Testament accounts of church. I remember reading something by Gordon Fee that suggested that Paul would probably not be able to understand our services at all. I don't have the reference handy, but think it comes from his book, The Spirit and the People of God.

I have no easy answers. In fact, I know that there will be some puzzled people when we have finished tomorrow morning. There will be some who will resent that we will ask everyone to come forward and make a choice of gift. They would rather have their thinking done for them and presented to them with a spoon. But I think there will also be some who will enjoy a different approach and who will also enjoy being stretched a little. There will be some who will commend us on our use of modern idiom to express the surprise of the incarnation and that it is much bigger than the sugar sweet version of Christmas being commonly on offer. It may even be that some move on to wider thinking about church and worship and "passive attendance to someone else's ministry efforts."

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sad day
In contrast to the happy preschool event described below, one northern beaches preschool is adjusting to a catastrophe. A car, driven by an elderly man, came down a steep hill and failed to take a corner. It plunged into a preschool where a group of young children were having their after lunch nap. It burst into flames and landed on top of several children. Rescuers arrived almost immediately and a fire engine as well which had actually been booked to convey Santa Claus to the children's Christmas party. They lifted the burning car off the children, two of whom were critically burnt and extinguished the blaze. Several others were taken to hospital but were released the next day. Firemen praised the rescuers for their speed and bravery.

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preschool graduation
We went out unplanned last night as we had a last minute invitation to our eldest grandchild's preschool end-of-year party. Andrew is almost five and will be starting "big school " next year. The function was noisy, big brothers ad sisters and smaller ones exhausted by the heat of a very hot day. Lots of food and running around. Then, at the end of the evening, those leaving were draped in black cloaks with scarlet satin edging and had mortar boards attached to elastic put on their heads. As each name was announced, the child was presented with a laminated photo calendar for 2004 and also with a "diploma" from the pre-school. I've read about such events in the States, but didn't know they happened here. The children looked totally bewildered by the fuss made of them.

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What a week! The usual hectic run down to Christmas Day and a few extra activities were all thrown in this week. I minded my three year old grandaughter on Thursday and Friday. I used to do this regularly till a few months ago and we usually get on well together. She has become even more independent and was also testing me out to see if I still remembered household rules. When it was apparent that I hadn't forgotten, she became quite cranky. She doesn't realise I have brought up her father and her two uncles and know most of the tricks of a three year old. I'm still a few steps ahead of her. She's very bright, so I'll have to watch out.

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