Alan writes - Recently I have been reading ‘Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church’ (Paternoster Press 2007) edited by Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton. It is a challenging and encouraging read.
This collection of essays suggest that to move forward and find our way as Christians and churches into a murky future we need to remember the past. It is a call to connect with deep spiritual and theological and historical resources. For Walker and Bretherton this vision for a deep church is not an attempt to simply restate Christian tradition but to place along side the freedoms of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches some of the strengths of history. For example learning and soaking in the historical prayers of the church as well as using extempore prayer. There are many historical treasures (what we would call in NZ ‘Toanga’) that can be picked up again. For example fasting, the prayers that have been prayed and passed down through the church, participation in the Eucharist and re-digging the meaning of important steps in the journey of faith like Baptism (more of this in a future posting).
But the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches are not their only focus. Emergent (emerging) churches too must be careful that their focus on relevance with wider culture does not cut them adrift from their roots as Christ’s church. This claim reminds me of Jürgen Moltmann concern that a focus on relevance does not lead to a loss of Christian identity. A tension he felt could only be resolved through seeing our faith, lives, decisions and direction through the lens of the cross and resurrection of God.
Without such depth of engagement we risk being like ships without anchors. Something the authors suggest many churches in the ‘charismatic flotilla’ have become - some have been blown of course and others have run aground.
The authors suggest there is an anti-institutionalism implicit in charismatic renewal. It is a kind of ‘jesuology’ that suggests we can simply do what Jesus and the early church did while ignoring all that has happened and been learnt through 2,000 years of church history. To mitigate against this the charismatic (individual and church) needs the depth of the institutional – “But deep church is only truly operative when the mediated revelation of God’s Son and the historical givenness of the ecclesia are conjoined with the immediate presence of the Spirit. In short, the institutional and the charismatic are not in opposition to each other, or in dialectical tension, they cohere.”
There is also a call to move beyond individualism – “we need to think of ourselves less in autonomous and individualistic terms, and more as interrelated members of deep church. We are not most like Jesus when we come to the garden and meet him alone.” But when we are interconnected in a collegial nature with the worshipping community.
There is much here to challenge and learn from.