When I first started blogging over 13-years ago (or maybe longer), I had a real hope that the types of creative, risk-taking, and imaginative conversations (and consequent experimentation) that the content of Karen’s article (and her experience at the Church of the Apostles) represents would also occur within a NZ Anglican context, as indeed it was in the CofE (Mission-Shaped / Mixed-Economy / Fresh Expressions / Nu-Monastisicism etc.)
At that time, in NZ, Baptists had been, or were, at the forefront of experimentation and risk-taking, not in their entirety, but in pockets. There were experiments in Alt-Worship (for example, Mike Riddell, and Mark Pierson @ Cityside) and church planting (Steve Taylor, Graceway), all of which stimulated my imagination while at the same-time nourished my own commitment to a sacramental Jesus-following journey.
Baptist’s in NZ were also at the forefront of important research into Church Leavers. Alan Jamieson published a book-length distillation of his PhD (in Sociology) thesis that was called A Churchless Faith: Faith Journey’s Beyond the Churches (the NZ edition had a slightly different subtitle. Here is an article which summarises some of Alan’s key findings. His complete PhD thesis can be found here).
Alan followed this up a few years later with Church Leavers: Faith Journey’s Five Years On, which was co-written by fellow Baptist Minister Jenny McIntosh, and one of their then congregation, Adrienne Thompson who was and is a practising Spiritual Director. Wellington Central Baptist (while Alan and Jenny were its Ministers) also sponsored Spirited Exchanges.
While it could have been happening, I was (and largely remain) completely unaware (it never came onto my radar) of any similar outpouring of research, creativity and experimentation within a NZ Anglican context.
In those years, I found stories from NZ (Baptist), Australia, the UK and the USA deeply exciting and hopeful. Feelings that bubbled up as I reflected following a conversation with Len Hjalmarson a couple of weekends ago. Feelings now tinged with sadness, all these years later.
When I started blogging Karen was similarly blogging and sharing something of her journey and the journey of the Church of the Apostles. It was inspiring, and I found pioneering stories and experiments from Karen, and others in Australia, the UK and USA, for example Kevin Rains was experimenting, within a Vineyard context, with a more sacramental approach to being church in downtown Cincinnati (Vineyard Central). The story of that experiment was told in a 2001 issue of Vineyard USA’s excellent but now defunct publication Cutting Edge, pages 2-7. That issue was themed around “Churches Outside of the Box” and also featured another big influence on me, Church of the Saviour which was then pastored by its founding-pastor Gordon Cosby, pages 10-17 & 20.
I have lost touch with where Karen Ward is, or what in fact has happened to the Church of the Apostles, but I re-read the attached and linked to article this morning, and the content still resonated, written as it is out of an Episcopalian context. The article was first published in the Winter 2010 issue of the Anglican Theological Review, and it still gives voice to the hope I once had.
Here’s an excerpt:
“…My name is Karen Ward and I’m the Abbess and Vicar at Church of the Apostles, Seattle, a six-year-old mission of the Diocese of Olympia, Washington. Because around 70 percent of our church membership are people in their twenties, we are often called an “emerging church” or “young adult church.” When we describe ourselves we say we are “an intentional, sacramental community in the way of Jesus Christ.”
There is no mention of young adults, and nowhere on our website or in any of our literature do the words “young adult” appear. The Episcopal Church is at a missional crossroads, which Brian McLaren calls “the Episcopal moment.” If we can embrace missional change and renew our identity, purpose, and participation in God’s mission, many more young adults will join with us, and perhaps in droves…”
You’ll find the link to the online article (PDF) here.