Wednesday, May 07, 2008

On Saturday I attended a conference entitled 'New Habits for a New Era? Exploring New Monasticism", run jointly by the Anabaptist Network and the Northumbria Community.

The Anabaptist Network is about the nearest we get to Mennonites in the UK (there is only one Mennonite congregation I think) and sees its role to promote anabaptist thinking throughout the church in the UK, enthusing Christians where they are rather than creating new churches.

The Northumbria Community is a dispersed religious community based on Lindesfarne in the far north of England. To cut a long story very short, it is a liturgical community with a lot of celtic influences.

Although I have been interested in the anabaptists for a while and have known about the Northumbria community through their liturgy (which we used daily for over a year), it is fair to say that I would not have attended if the conference had not taken place in Coventry.

Anyway, there were various seminars to attend - and I went to one about anabaptist history and practice and another about new monastic groups, how they differ from 'traditional' monastic groups and what they can offer the rest of the church.

I appreciate it is hard to give a full day conference justice in a few words, but generally I was frustrated. The attendees were all white, mostly middle aged, middle class and well educated. The style was all-talk. Speakers were often asked questions from the floor, but these were often convoluted and concerned very specific points of theology or practice.

Both the anabaptists and the new-monastics seemed to be labouring the same point - that they were offering the wider church a better/richer way to 'do' church (utilising certain groovy music or liturgy, meeting at different times, using multimedia, sporting funny haircuts [WHAT IS IT ABOUT RELIGIOUS PEOPLE AND HAIRCUTS/HATS?], living together or apart, following in the way of Saint Somoneoneorother and so on) yet there seemed to be a monumental lack of discussion about what the point of it all was.

The point that unless these things assist us in our sacrificial service of our neighbour, they are of no more or less worth than any other form of church.

On Sunday I spent had a long searching conversation with someone at the church we attended. In some ways it was helpful, although it was somewhat tempered by the fact that it was H's (indirect) boss at the University. I'm not sure how comfortable I am attending church with two Statistics Professors that are so well acquainted with my wife's career. Anyway, it was very apparent how her perception of her role was influencing her advice and how I should look at my life.

We also attended an evening service at the church - which was later than we can normally manage due to B needing to get to bed on time the night before a school day. This was the first time I can remember being properly engaged in a service in a very long time. It seems that my engagement with church is inversely proportional to the polish, so the more rubbish it is the more chance there is of spiritual engagement.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home