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‘ighbrow(s) meets New Brooms and Provokes Propositions

March 10, 2010

The beauty of Archbishop Rowan Williams, apart from his grandfatherly voice and subtle academic mind, is his ability to express deep things with an amazing simplicity.

Recently he was interviewed by the “fresh expressions” people at Nomad in a podcast (Google Nomad 13). I recommend checking it out. It has already proved a useful provocation in my church. Early on in the interview he was asked to summarise what he saw as the basic essentials of church. His answer was, imo, brilliant. “Church is what happens when people have a life-changing encounter with Jesus.” He went on to say that usually happens by means of (i) gathering around around scripture and (ii) Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. If you think about it these two things make good sense in the light of his definition of church.

It occurred to me that the subtlety underlying the simplicity could be brought out by some further comment in the form of propositions

  1. This is a way of saying that church is constituted in worship
  2. Church is an event without being momentary (i.e. it is temporally extended)
  3. Life-changing doesn’t necessarily mean ‘exciting’, ‘dramatic’ or ‘instantaneous’.
  4. The only alternative to ‘exciting’ is not ‘boring’
  5. Life-change may well be incremental although it is never less than ultimately radical since it is grounded in the apocalyptic man Jesus and directed towards a new creation.
  6. The encounter may not be perceived positively as enjoyable or pleasant
  7. It will not be purely psychological or private.
  8. Jesus will be both the subject encountering the people and the object of the people’s attention. If either dimension is lost church will be merely a pseudo scientific study of history or a narcissistic event of the self.
  9. Church is not limited to gathered events of encounter but is a happening which presupposes such events.
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