Rebuild Day 3: Friday 7 August 2015

What a day! The rain held off for most of the day today – so much more comfortable for the team working. Today was mainly about rebuilding the dining room that we demolished on day 2 – and we managed to get the rafters up and new roof on – and it would be one of the strongest builds I have ever seen.

The guys get on really well, which makes it thoroughly enjoyable – and that is important as we are all working incredibly hard.

The other amazing blessing is that Neville has lent me his quad bike which I have used for multiple trips to the hardware suppliers for extra suppliers. The main supplier has really come to the party, and is delivering materials that I can’t carry on the bike within about 3 hours of ordering!

The roof is on the dining room – so tomorrow will be about finishing the walls and hopefully getting it lined – and if the weather allows – maybe start on the main roof. Thanks to so many for your prayers and support – we really appreciate it.

The team built this scaffolding.

The team built this scaffolding to help with the high work.

Beefing up the rafters for the new roof.

The team beef up the rafters ready for the new roof over the dining room.

The rafters going up for the new roof.

The new rafters going up over the dining room.

The roof over the new dining room.

The new roof for the new dining room is now in place.

Working on the second dining room wall.

The second wall for the dining room takes shape.

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Rebuild Day 2: Thursday 6 August 2015

Another eventful day. Awoke to misty rain and wind but got underway early. The room that lost its roof came down very quickly and then it was trying to problem solve as we started the reconstruction of that room. The rain continued pretty much all day, but the team kept at it – even though they were soaked through. I spent much of the day chasing up the missing materials and by the end of the day it was virtually all delivered, which we are very thankful for.

Back Room Demolition 1

The back room in the process of being demolished.

Back Room Demolition 2

The view from inside as the demolition proceeds.

Back Room Build 1

The back room demolition is complete and ready for the new walls to be erected.

Back Room Rebuild 2

The new framing for the back wall.

Rebuild Day 1: Wednesday 5 August 2015

It has been a long day leaving home before 6.00am to pick up the team and get to the airport in time for 9.00am check in. Everything went very smoothly, and we managed to get all the heavy bags through without paying any excess baggage fees.

The flight across was smooth and uneventful, and I think that most of us managed to get a little shut eye on the way.

Port Vila is humid and sticky today with misty showers most of the afternoon. Neville met us at the airport and took us to the PWMU Project House where we received a wonderful Vanuatu welcome from Ennie and Cyrilline, along with a beautiful afternoon tea.

Ennie greets the team in the kitchen of the Project House.

Ennie greets the team in the Project House.

The rebuild team are given a warm welcome by Cyrilline and Ennie

The team are warmly welcomed by Cyrilline and Ennie.

Then it was down to work – checking all the materials and working out the plan of attack for tomorrow. Sadly, some of the materials have not been delivered (even though they had told us that they had been) so I will be visiting the hardware store and the roofing company first thing tomorrow to try to get the materials delivered – same day!

Off to bed now…..more tomorrow.

Blessings

Paul and the team

Kevin Ward’s Losing Our Religion? (2013) V

Creating niche churches or congregations raises the question: Are there some criteria that must be satisfied before we can consider these experimental faith communities to be churches? This question becomes more acute when a niche congregation is created in a way that places it outside the frame of any prior existing church community; it is likely to be less so when the niche congregation is established under the auspices of an existing church. It is likely that, with the growth of Fresh Expressions and the emerging church movement, this question will be asked more often. It is one thing to assume that things have changed with the end of the Christendom era, but it is quite another to assume that all post-Christendom responses will be equally acceptable.

This raises again the relationship between the historic Christian faith, on the one hand, and the emerging cultural and social environment, the context, on the other. It is a matter of deciding, in any particular context, what a faithful contextualisation of the gospel looks like (see second post for 6 June 2015). Both aspects are important. Faithful contextualisation, says Ward, involves “the process of a deep, sympathetic adaptation to, and appropriation of, a local culture in which the Church finds itself, in a way that does not compromise its faith” (166, quoting William Reiser, quoted in Sweet Aquachurch, 81). It always entails a conversation between the text of faith and the context, and an interplay between the pilgrim principle, which states that faith is never fully at home in any culture, and the indigenizing principle, which asserts that the gospel is at home in every culture.

Ward suggests, as a first step, that these experimental faith communities should at least satisfy the description of the church in the Nicene Creed, i.e., that the church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. (1) In saying that the church is one the focus falls on the unity of the church. It is a unity that has its source in the church’s communion with God who is experienced as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and in growing participation in God’s costly love as evidenced in Jesus Christ. The experimental faith community ought in some way to give visible expression to this unity. (2) The holiness of the church is measured against the life of Jesus, a life marked with God’s character and reflecting God’s glory. The focus of the experimental faith community needs to be on incarnating that life in its own social and cultural context. (3) The quality of being catholic refers to the universality and inclusivity of the church, a church that is open to the world. This is expressed in the life of individual congregations through showing a love that reaches out to all and excludes none; in so doing they start to become a concrete expression of God’s new humanity. It runs counter to our tendency to live by choice in particular sub-cultures, and so it means that an experimental niche community must somehow have a larger focus than its own life in community – hence the significance of the quote at the end of the last post. (4) The apostolic quality refers to a continuity in the life and faith of the church with that of the first apostles sent by the risen Christ to give witness to the gospel. This means that there must be a sense of continuity with the faith of the first apostles and the experimental faith community must maintain a conversation with that faith so that it feeds into the life of this community in its particular social and cultural context.

Ward adds to these four indicators a further two drawn from reformed tradition. The first is an emphasis on “word and sacrament,” specifically that the word is preached faithfully and the sacraments are rightly administered (Calvin). The second is an emphasis on church discipline, not in the misunderstood sense of control and regulation, but in the fuller sense of being concerned with the formation of disciples and the life of discipleship. There must be a sense in which the experimental church community is engaged in forming itself and its members in the character of Jesus.

We are still very much coming to terms with the rise and variety of experimental church communities, particularly as many have come into being outside the mainline denominations. Ward suggests that Max Weber’s concept of the routinization of charisma offers a helpful perspective for looking at the rise of the emerging church. Weber “argues that what happens in the evolution of religion is that a new group gathers around a charismatic leader and is a dynamic, free, loose charismatic movement. Over time it rationalizes, routinizes, and systematizes its life and so loses its charisma. Some adherents become frustrated with this and break away around the edges to form a new charismatic group, with new energy and dynamism. It is this that ensures the ongoing renewal of the religion” (182). Ward suggests that this process is at work in the creation of many experimental faith communities. His hope, however, is that, instead of breaking right away from the church, these experimental faith communities would remain in conversation with the church and that, as a result, the church as a whole will grow into “a more faithful and dynamic communion of the triune God in our challenging Western context” (182).

Ward concludes with a plea that both sides of the conversation move beyond issues of definition and continue to talk to each other so that, whatever shortcomings there are on either side, all of us may be helped “to more fully demonstrate the transforming presence of the risen Christ in our life together” (183).

Kevin Ward’s Losing Our Religion? (2013) IV

We live in an increasingly fragmented society owing to the social and cultural changes that have taken place since the 1960s. How should the church respond to being church in a fragmented world? Kevin Ward addresses this question head-on.

It means for a start that denominations, if they are to survive, will have to adjust to living in a new era, and, to do this, they will have to shed the kind of bureaucratic control that they have routinely wielded in the past. They will need to function differently, forgoing much of the urge to control and regulate, and instead focus on building trust across the regional and local layers of the church and on resourcing local congregations. “In an increasingly postmodern world, whose values include widespread diversity, the rejection of hierarchy, suspicion of institutions, and a strong emphasis on personal choice, it is clear on which side [regulating or resourcing] the balance needs to be weighted for denominations to have a strong, but different future” (Ward, 142). This will be imperative in an era when brand loyalty no longer counts to the same extent.

This fragmented world has also impacted on local congregations. Ease of travel has led many to move from their community of origin, resulting often in falling population numbers in smaller communities and a loss of any sense of local community. Local community churches have sometimes disappeared or else have persisted as only a shadow of their former self. In a networked society like ours, people have formed communities around networks of interest rather than according to geographical location so there is a loss of any sense of community in a comprehensive sense. Shared common interests, and the character of the local congregation, govern people’s choice of church rather than geographical location, and so people shop around for a like-minded church. This has rendered largely unworkable the notion of a ‘parish church’ because it is, by definition, formed on the basis of reaching out to a particular geographical area. It may still have a role in some instances, but it is becoming increasingly clear that “in our diverse, fragmented, networked society we need a diverse, fragmented, networked church that lives within the networks in which people live” (Ward, 149). At the local level, we will have to adjust more and more to doing church in fragments and niches.

To Jim Kitchen’s three context markers for the postmodern parish (post-denominationalism, postmodernity and post-Christendom), Ward adds a fourth, post-traditional, in order to draw out additional aspects of what it means to be the church in our fragmented world. It is about the place of tradition in our society – in this new changing world traditions have value to the extent that people choose to seek their guidance, and people reserve the right to reinterpret and even change traditions. It leads people to live reflexively, i.e. It gives a degree of liberty in relation to what has been handed down, but it also means taking the risk that we will devalue some traditions in a way that, later in a fresh light, will turn out to have been to our impoverishment. It means examining cherished practices in the light of the new realities in which we are living, sitting lightly with their form but always seeking to discover the essence or truth to which they point. It is a situation that will make some people uncomfortable.

It is likely that, in this fragmented, networked world, given the prevalence of communities formed along interest lines, there will be in time a much smaller number of traditional, local congregations organised largely on a geographical basis. It is a way of forming community that is going out of fashion in the wake of the social and cultural changes that have occurred. Instead, to some extent they will be replaced, by regional or mega-churches, or better, multi-congregational churches that allow different interest groups to meet separately as worshipping communities under the umbrella of the larger whole. This is already starting to occur in New Zealand in the Presbyterian Church.

The significant new development will, however, be the growth of smaller niche churches or congregations that will enable particular niche groups to incarnate the gospel within their community of interest. This reflects the growing awareness that a ‘one size fits all church paradigm’ is now increasingly outmoded. Ward lists several possible such groups, including ‘older adults,’ probably from the pre-baby boomer generation, for whom church tradition is significant and whose life journey and identity has been formed largely in a fairly traditional church setting; baby boomers still part of the church; baby boomers who have either left as young people or have left in midlife and are no longer connected with the church; and young families (a mix of Generation X and Generation Y). This last group, says Ward, will likely require a highly active, anticipatory style, with the whole family worshipping together, and worship not restricted to a Sunday. Although these groups are defined for practical purposes in age or generational terms, Ward emphasises that the key is not the age or generation, but the style of worship and community that flows from these groups. It is quite likely that members of one age group or generation will feel more at home with the style of worship or community associated with another group or generation. There are no rigid boundaries between the groups.

In the midst of all this fragmentation, Ward emphasises that it will be important to retain a sense of the church as being larger than the individual worshipping congregation. We will need to cultivate a sense of ‘doing it together.’ Ward says, “Cross-fertilisation and contributions from those who are different from us – in age, ethnicity, lifestyle, family situation, and so on – are important. Larger churches need to work on ways in which the different congregations can come together at times, and smaller niche churches need to see themselves as part of a bigger whole (‘the church’) and do things from time to time with other churches” (160).

Kevin Ward’s Losing Our Religion? (2013) IIIB

To deny that the future will be churchless, then, obviously this doesn’t mean that the church can continue as it has in the past – if it is to survive it must do so by adapting to the vastly changed social and cultural conditions that help to shape life now. Ward lists three priorities for the church if it is not to succumb to a “churchless’ future (first introduced by Ward in his earlier book The Church in Post-Sixties New Zealand). These have already been introduced in an earlier post (10 June 2015), so the notes here extend the discussion.

Reforming the church, the first of the priorities, is still worth doing according to Ward, particularly if heed is paid to the lessons from churches such as Spreydon Baptist. It’s probably not something that will appeal to most of the under 50s with an interest in spirituality and religion, though, on account of the mismatch of values and forms of belonging between them and the institutional church. This is the reason that the second priority is about developing revolutionary new forms of church or community for transmitting and maintaining faith.

To create these new forms of community, the church will need to display a high level of social and cultural awareness, quite apart from the matter of the content of faith. The church will need to offer a spiritual map (rather than a blueprint) and give freedom for people to select their route, and the resulting community will need to have space for personal concerns to be taken account of. These communities will need to be at home in a networked society if they are to survive, which means they will need to have a certain flexibility and be open to change. They will need to prioritise equality over hierarchy, emphasise participation over submission, value experience over abstract ideas, be open to multiple rather than single meanings, and have a structure that is open to being moulded and reshaped rather than set in concrete (Harvey Cox). These communities will also need to take on board the insights of the missional church movement; they need to give a license to experiment in faith just because the way ahead is uncertain and uncharted. (See next two posts for more on these new forms of church.)

The third priority for the church is resourcing the wider community, which shifts the church’s concerns away from a narrow focus on belonging. It’s about the church fulfilling its kingdom role as light, leaven and salt, and connecting with the wider society to shape beliefs and values. There are now many opportunities for this since the concerns of faith, and the focus on the religious or spiritual journey, are leaking into ‘ordinary life’ through vehicles such as films. This is a good opportunity for the church to treat its resources as a wider cultural resource, encouraging discussion. Opportunities can arise through public rituals, such as at funerals, or through the celebration of Easter and Christmas, and especially now on Anzac Day. These opportunities let the Church tap into the latent religion beneath the surface of society at times of national crisis or celebration and during significant communal events. There are also opportunities for the Church to participate in important occasions associated with a life journey, and the church needs to be open and ready to participate on these occasions beyond the boundaries of institutional religion. The church needs to have a discerning eye, but it also needs to be able to use the popular culture as an ally in getting across its message and values when the opportunity arises. In some instances it will mean the recovery of the church’s prophetic voice to speak against injustice.

Kevin Ward’s Losing Our Religion? (2013) IIIA

Kevin Ward poses the question, “Is the future churchless?” as secularisation, understood as a metanarrative of religious decline, would have it. Consistent with the position developed in his earlier book, he answers, “No!” Secularisation in this sense, like other metanarratives, has now been largely discredited. The focus is now on the changing nature of religion and religious belief, and the picture is multi-dimensional and often contradictory.

The error of religious decline narratives, such as secularisation, is that they have reduced religion to church attendance, which statistics show is declining, but institutional decline does not necessarily mean that religion is ‘going out of fashion’ – there is data to show that ‘believing’ persists even in the face of a decline in ‘belonging.’ It is, moreover, open to question whether people who tick “No Religion” in census returns, as increasing numbers do in New Zealand, are all secular atheists, as some interpretations of the data assume. This assumption is open to question now, since it is just as likely that it reflects the cultural experience of a coming of age, and alienation from institutionalised religion, rather than religious scepticism in itself. A decline in belonging doesn’t necessarily equate with loss of belief, and it is just as likely that many who are in this category would consider themselves spiritual rather than necessarily religious. Charles Taylor in A Secular Age takes the view that faith or religion has diversified rather than declined. There are good grounds for thinking that the decline of institutionalised religion has created space for people to wander on their own faith journey. We need alternative, better narratives to the secularisation narrative of decline, therefore, to describe the current religious landscape.

One of the ways Ward describes this landscape is by pointing to a shift in the current context from religion, particularly the institutional kind, to spirituality. In the late 20th and early 21st-centuries there has been renewed interest in the concept of a spiritual journey, and in spirituality as being engaged on a search or quest. The concept of mysticism, with its emphasis on individual experience, can help to illuminate what is happening (see earlier post on 10 June 2015). Another useful concept, as noted earlier, is the sociological concept of detraditionalisation (see same earlier post), which helps to account for the shift of authority away from the traditional religious institutions and the increasing importance of personal convictions and beliefs and accepting only what “rings true” to the inner self.

On a more positive note, alongside this, Ward points to the development of secondary institutions (communities of interest) among more recent generations than the baby boomers as a sign that we are entering a “new communitarian age.” This gives some cause for hope because, in these new communities, ‘believing’ (the quest for the sacred) is once again reunited with ‘belonging’ (the quest for community). These new secondary institutions are, of course, not simply the rebirth of the institutional church in another guise, but instead they take on their own forms and patterns more suited to the current social and cultural climate. These secondary institutions give priority to face-to-face interaction, they are usually open and tolerant of others, and they are inclusive and non-judgemental. They have a looser structure and they are democratic rather than hierarchical. They are many of the things that the institutional church mostly is not.

To be continued.