Keeping a Watch On

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Friday, 28 October 2005



thanks alan.
i wonder though, often people in the 1st group have felt more orphaned by mother, kicked out for being interested in the culture. this is certainly a dominant reaction from evanglelicalism to new forms of church. so it makes it harder to stay connected to the riches of the past when you've been hard done by.

Paul Fromont

Thanks so much Alan, a very thought provoking post. I hope you don't mind me adding a comment?

I guess another issue, following on from Steve’s comment, is the reality that it’s parents who choose to separate, finding they can’t find a way of continuing to grow and deepen the relationship. It is the parents, not the children who are choosing to live without the ‘other.’ This leaves children in a very sad, under-parented situation; forced often, through no choice of their own, to choose between parents, and often left alone (in a number of senses) to pick up the pieces and make some kind of life and future for themselves.

Children miss out as contact with, more often than not with a Father, but also a Mother, is either reduced or stops. “Mothers” and “Fathers” also miss out when they end up with limited access to children, their offspring who carry the genetics and characteristics of both. Limited access and/or reduced opportunity means that parents don’t have the same opportunity to develop and nurture the characteristics and genetics they have given to their children.

Meantime, the children learn, quoting de Certeau, “to make do,” and to do without while they watch their parents fight or ignore each other.

Another interesting suggestion, admittedly anecdotal from my personal perspective, is that children of separated parents often find themselves putting off marriage or are incredibly reluctant to marry or enter into a long-term committed relationship because they’re fearful of ending up like their divorced parents. I wonder what the consequences (on a number of levels) are for emerging churches.

And then there’s the whole question of abusive parents, churches that abuse either deliberately or through neglect to provide the necessities for a Jesus-following life and the needs of a humanity seeking to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

This makes it really hard, though definitely not impossible, for children / new and emergent expressions of church to overcome the disadvantages and hurt they are left with when dual parenting is sadly not an option they have.

I appreciate there’s a lot more complexity around the issue. I very much appreciate your post and the invitation to reflect and think that it provides.



I would switch the definition of mother to father and vice versa. "On the one hand there are those who conclude that church as we know it is a waste of time and energy..." Maybe it is not because of modernism but because the church waters down the Gospel to where people don't "get the point". I have found when people understand "the point" people are more receptive. When we try to make the Gospel fit culture when some (not all) of culture doesn't fit within a church context people don't "get the point" and hense it appears boring. I know many have been hurt and "kicked out" and I have compassion for those people. However, we must help people to " in the world but not of it." I guess for some people they try to be all things to all people and when the church tries not to do that and just "be the church that God calls us to do" many are going to reject it for various reasons that are not because of the churches fault and many are going to accept by seeing the love of Christ. We forget that some people have hard hearts and no amount of love sometimes can help. In those cases we must let the Holy Spirit work.


Ive always valued ( not all but certainly alot ) the traditions, the liturgies, the stories of past and ancient faith communities. They are like cherished family heirlooms that we take from previous generations that we carry, that gve more depth and a greater sense of the journey. Certainly withour own generational families as one generation fades away, we don't keep everything, we keep that which gives the most memory and life. And in this so often is recieved the blessing of the previous generation, and the freedom to journey towards that horizon we all reach for.
And the great thing about having to parents is the in lifes journey there are always those times when we realte better to one than the other.


often i feel like it's more like going through a really ugly divorce.... and ends up with one or the other.
thanks for writing this .


Thank you to each of you who has enhanced this image in this conversation. perhaps this parenting image, in terms of the emergent church, is worth some wider thought.

I like the links to the incarnation and the way Jesus was brought up, supported and cared for prior to adulthood.

I like the room that thinking in terms of parenting a child forces us to give emergent forms of church. we can't expect success today. we must expect them to fall-over but also to learn from falling-over.

I like the responsibility the image puts on the established church and on those conversant with the wider culture to support emergent church forms.

And I like the responsibility it puts on church leaders and cultural gurus to work together, live together and even love each other for, as the old saying goes, 'the sake of the children'.

Maybe this image is worth further thought and comment. of course it is only an image and all analogies reach their limits.

if you have more thoughts I'd appreciate hearing them.

thank you


I like the analogy of the two parent family and think it holds well. They can't be separated in finding the way ahead. I know you can do analogies to death but several things come to mind - the first is that families are systems and as such systems carry both good functioning and dysfunction and therefore both of those clearly feed into the emerging form of church. I guess it is important to critique what aspects of both parents are passed on.

Also mums usually have nurturing, caring qualities and these are hugely important in the rearing of the child. When these are neglected or over rigid they are abusive and often what the child reacts to and wants to distance from. Maybe the parents need to take some responsibility for the distancing and esp. the mum in this case be more supportive and nurturing of its offspring, build the relationship again and feed into it in an enabling way.

The relationship of the parents is also important. They need to be seen talking to and backing one another up. That is the climate for the children to thrive and develop the most healthily.

And thirdly does there come a time where there is rite of passage - where the child individuates and becomes more adult, having drawn the best genes from both parents and continuing to grow and mature?

Matt Stone

"It is the parents, not the children who are choosing to live without the ‘other.’ This leaves children in a very sad, under-parented situation..."

Oh, I loved these last comments of yours Paul. That fleshes out Alan's analogy nicely.

I'll be honest and say I tend towards the Daddy's boy end of the spectrum. That being said, I don't see Mum as cancerous and dying, just reclusive and Amish like. She'll survive (just as the Amish have) but she seems to be entering menopause.

Mind you, at that point the analogy breaks down. There are multiple expressions of mum but one Mum. When you speak of the 'historical church' it tends to imply a singular expression when there has been a multiplicity. I do not begrudge the existence of the mainstream, only its omnipresence and striving for omnipotency. All I ask is that it reciprocate and acknowledge my right to exist.

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