As NYNO kicks off with its preparatory research we’re trying to get a handle on a lot of different things. We’re eager to be involved in wider conversations going on in the UK concerning innovative forms of church and so one of the first things we sat down to read was the Church of Scotland’s Report, Reformed, Reforming, Emerging, and Experimenting, submitted to the General Assembly in 2011 and prepared by John Drane and Olive Fleming Drane. It can be found with a quick internet search.
Having said this, we’re not trying to be emerging church gurus but rather solve a particular small(!) set of problems surrounding every-age churches that are accessible to older people. To that end, as we read through material in the coming months and post small articles, we’ll be writing very much for ourselves and the issues we face and certainly aren’t offering a super-critical supposedly objective judgement on everything we encounter.
So, what did we gain from reading the report?
For this post let’s start with the preference that we noted for creative worship over and against what might be described as a rationalistic word focussed theology and the worship it shapes (3.1.4).
We already have ourselves a desire for NYNO churches to be places in which people’s creative impulses can be shared and put to the service of worship. We’ve got some ideas, some borrowed, some new, that we think could work well, although of course they’re all untested in our context as of yet.
Our current thoughts are, though, that reflection and creativity will be most productive and faithful when occurring within a theological framework. We haven’t, to put it one way, given up on words. A couple of things about how we hope to use words:
Starting a church is difficult. There’s a need for the new members to form, to receive, understand and participate in the identity of the church. In one sense, this will be catholic and so no different from any other church. In another sense, this identity will also be very particular, depending on the precise context in which the church meets and the lives of the people involved. Words will be important for forming this identity, for corporately finding and telling and sharing the story of who we are. Of course, the report is not criticising the use of words but an abstract technical division and categorisation of Christian belief at the expense of the imaginative.
We’re planning to do our own research on worship. If we’re going to be innovative in worship, there’s no point reinventing the wheel or making the mistakes of yesteryear. One of the things I have a hunch is missing, and I’ve already alluded to this in a previous post, is an appreciation of the spiritual dynamics of what happens when we meet. There’s lots to be said about this, but put very simply Word and Sacrament point us to reality of God acting, speaking, and the content of God’s speech to us is Jesus Christ. This being so, we’re looking for our meetings to be places where spiritual events occur, which we’re expecting to be God speaking of Jesus Christ and us hearing this and knowing our sins are forgiven.
With that framework in place, the possibilities of creativity open up on a secure basis. I’m guessing this is all the more important where NYNO groups might have lay leadership or are less confident at being able to maintain coherency between the shared faith and any new contribution.
It’s very likely I’ve read into this section of the report more than was necessary, but as I mentioned earlier, the purpose of these notes and reading the report was to help us form our own mind with regard to the particular tasks in front of us.