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Worship

Lausanne 2010 – the questions to your answer.

This week saw the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (yes folks, that’s spelled with a zee) take place in Cape Town.

I held an open posture (a “reverse pretzel”) towards the goings on, and met face to face with a few delegates. But by and large I remained fringer than the self-proclaimed “fringe”. Part of this advanced yogic manipulation involved my posting a question per day on conversation.lausanne.org.

For evangelicals, regardless of the plethora of diverse issues – globalism, truth, social action, climate- the answer is always “Jesus”. Even then, we shall have to ask again, “Which Jesus?”

So here, to summarise, are what I see as key questions to address going forward. Conversation around these on conversation.lausanne was not prolific, so let me simply repost them here:

  • Can Evangelical – Postevangelical interfaith dialog bear fruit?
  • How have liberal, postmodern and emergent values infiltrated evangelicalism?
  • Is evangelicalism inherently dualistic?
  • Is “worship” a separate idea from “evangelization”?
  • What comes first – belief, behaviour, or belonging?
  • Does the Gospel of Grace require the threat of Hell?
  • How does our salary affect our theology?
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Abide In Me : A hymn

This is a new rendering (not yet recorded) of the hymn Eventide by William H. Monk (1861). It develops the hymn “Abide with Me” by Henry F. Lyte (1847) from a mood of solace in despair, to a more hopeful panentheistic one as part of an awareness of the essential connectness of all things.

from www.triciamccannonspeaks.comAbide in me, as I abide in you
Home to your Spirit, the Source of what is new
Once I was blind, unconscious and unseeing
Now in you I live and move and have my being

When faceless powers wreck havoc with this life
Forces of destruction loosed by greed and strife
When all around me yields to corruption let me see
You who is unchanging, oh abide in me

Each one has their season before they say farewell
Give me courage Lord at the tolling of that bell
Where death is your sting, or grave your victory?
Sustainer of all living things, abide in me

The Sout Project CD now internationally available!

sout_cover_medIt’s a month yet to the official launch (11th December 2009), but I just wanted to tell everyone that “Story”, world-emergent album from Cape Town’s The Sout Project collective, is now available for international purchase from Portland’s incredible independent music portal CDBaby.

Online distribution to the likes of iTunes and Amazon will follow in coming months.

Please feel free to visit the soutproject.net, download a free mp3, listen to other tracks, and comment. And tell your friends to do so too.

If you are a blogger and would like to write a review, you will receive a free advance copy. Please submit your name, email address and blog URL, via the contact form on the site.

Reviews currently in:

What a gift The Sout Project’s “Story” is to all of us … a beautifully-crafted presentation of original songs that enrich and inspire both in their content and form. Many voices, many cultures, many styles, many rhythms … all woven together in one richly textured musical fabric colored by good news of hope, peace, and joy.

Congrats with SOUT! I love the honesty and freshness … The arrangements are profound. Vine, Circle, Meditation with Mechtild is breathtaking – and the contemplative “In all Things” speaks direct to the heart!

– Theo Geyser, In Via

I think it is absolutely fantastic … it really brings a multicultural presence to Emergence Christianity that is desperately needed.

– Thomas Turner, Arts Editor, Generate Magazine

Pattern-based Worship: Sacred and Profane Time

This is a series of posts in which I hope to unpack thoughts and provoke practices around pattern-based worship. In so doing I want to examine  notions such as patterns: natures way, western music’s journey of civilisation, and postmodern liturgy.  And as an introduction, introduce the idea of sacred time.

At all times people have recognised that while we very often spend our waking hours struggling to survive, there are times when we transcend this and discover a deeper connection with the Divine. This connection may be experienced as God, as a oneness with all things, or simply a oneness with another. Certainly being or falling “in love” takes us away from our struggles or at least makes them bearable.

We all experience such times as inspiring, hopeful, and joyful, very often changing us (at least temporarily) from individuals trapped on a treadmill of obligations, to empowered humans. Many have called these transcendent times Sacred, in contrast to “normal” time which may be called Profane.

In this time of a heightened awareness of the dualisms of our western culture, we may reject the construct of the sacred and the profane as perpetuating unhealthy dichotomies. This suspicion is nowhere more evident than in our religious lives, which for many do not serve us by uniting the parts of our lives but rather create ever more entrenched categories, for example, the church vs. the world, religious vs. secular, or saint vs. sinner. These are by no means limited to the religious “sphere” either; we also experience the everyday divides of work vs. play, or us vs. them for example.

The Celts (who existed at the edges of the Roman Empire) saw this not so much in terms of time but place, calling locations which were steeped in the numinous (the unseen, mysterious presence of the ground of our being) the “thin places”. So we might say there are thin times, when the fabric of mundanity permits us to glimpse our ineffable underlying realities, which many of us call God.

Engaging the duality (as opposed to the dualism) of sacred vs. profane time can be helpful, if we bear in mind our tendency to compartmentalise. In fact, as far as questions of worship are concerned, it is vital that we grasp the distinction. Our confusion as to where the boundary between sacred vs. profane might lie leads to distortions and misunderstandings concerning what worship is or can become.

I write not as one with answers, but rather as one on a quest to explore, and driven by an intuition that there is more to worship than what is currently on offer. It is driven by a call to create new forms which honour the Creator and involve honest deconstructing of what is not working, reconnection with what has always worked, and an imaginative rebuilding of what lies ahead as we engage the unfolding future from a sacred perspective.

The Sout Project on YouTube

I have uploaded a Sout Project introductory video to YouTube:

Muzi Cindi – A postmodern nigger in the woodpile

Talking About God Thinking About GodAs epiphanies go, Muzi Cindi’s stands way out. As a preacher and churchman of some 25 years standing, God appeared to him in 2007 during a Radox moment in the shower. So far, only slightly unusual. Then, God actually spoke to him. That deserves, I suppose, a hearing, even in this day of revelation overload. But the clincher is the message, and it was this: “God does not exist”.

But instead of creating a debilitating crisis of faith for Cindi, this subversive “a-theist” anticreed has become his catharsis, motivation, and passion. The evangelical zeal which was his all along merely adjusted to a new message and is as far as one can tell, as strong as it ever has been, and certainly no less radical. The outcome of his visitation is now available as a book, “Thinking about God, Talking about God”.

Well, maybe I should say that it’s not so much a conventional book, as a documented process, largely unedited, full of spelling errors and dubious assertions, brimming with contradiction, but ultimately held together in a burning vision. Lordy Lordy Hallelujah! this is surely a testimony for the postmodern age.

As a text, and because this is a review, let it be noted that the index of howlers is unusually high, the problems ranging from simple spelling, incorrect word usage, to un-researched shortcuts, and the appropriation of whole chapters from other sources. This I am sure is due to the fact that this is an entirely self funded enterprise, and therefore wholly sidesteps normal publishing channels; but this is part of the “Thinking about God” charm. To stop at such nitpicking would be to miss the point.  

Cindi’s essential point is this: the Christianity he was brought up in, is not only unsustainable and discredited, but already defunct. “The Christian world is disintegrating, because the story on which it is based is losing its power.” He supplies abundant (though somewhat chaotic) data to support his claims. But his offering is essentially a visionary one, involving wide theological, philosophical, and scientific thought. He seeks to address the seeming incompatibility of a deep love for his evangelical tradition – and his faith in Jesus – with his philosophical embrace of the new atheists such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris.

And this embrace extends to just about everything that contributed to the end of the modern era, from Copernicus and Galileo’s pioneering cosmologies, Darwin’s evolutional insights, Einstein’s discovery of relativity, Paul Tillich’s theological atheism and Karen Armstrong’s religious demythologising.

DoNotBelieve“Don’t believe what I believe” is one of Muzi’s rallying cries, and I look forward to the T-Shirt. In case this gets interpreted as mere reactionary anarchy, he explains to us the apophatic (negative theology) traditions from where he draws his succour: Meister Eckhart, the 13th century mystic, Paul Tillich, and Don Cuppit. And he gives credit too to all reformers – Luther, Calvin and Zwingli, the evangelical fathers Wesley, Edwards, Moody, and the South Africans such as John G Lake and Nicholas Bhengu. And references are not just to Christianity: universal, ecumenical appeals to the wisdom of all the worlds’ faith traditions pepper the book.

One of the most curious questions I have about Cindi’s explosive energy its relatively sparse dealings with the question of African roots, and bringing in more post colonial thought to buttressing his extensive postmodernism. Where, for example, are the fathers of the African revolutions, where is his own South African literary tradition amongst the plethora of first world sources? I do not want to prescribe who he should be, but it is a little vexing that the vast majority of his thesis of a post-God God is found in European and American thinking. I’d be delighted to see him take on African traditions with the same zeal he has taken on his own Evangelical roots, and even further to see him unpack an authentic Ubuntu as part of the rebuilding of Christianity.

I find myself identifying with Cindi’s vision, including his passion for knowledge, his hermeneutic of suspicion, his honest confusion, and his pariah status. At the same time I share his love for the evangelical tradition, and the ancient way of Jesus. He affirms, “A redefined Jesus still stands at the centre of my God experience”. Furthermore, I broadly concur with his inclusivity and embrace of all wisdom traditions as a way forward in a post Christian age. “Thinking about God” is flawed and fabulous, a headily chaotic brew, diverse, divisive, and delicious.

Muzi Cindi is a self confessed heretic, and draws strength from making peace with heterodoxy. The book is prefaced with an unattributed quote, “For every orthodoxy was once a heresy, and every heresy is fated to be orthodoxy. All countries were founded by traitors. All our churches were founded by heretics. The patriotism of today glories in the treasons of yesterday.” But to accuse him of lack of accountability would be short-sighted indeed; in addition to his relational ties to his mentors, the book is remarkable for its sheer range of references.

MusiHis vision is no idiosyncratic delusion, but rather an extension of a variety of well acknowledged intellectual and spiritual traditions. And we need his energy and his attempt to reconcile the old and new views of God and the cosmos. Despite his rambling style, I do not believe that this is a “mish-mash” of thought, so much as an emerging, integral vision.

Overcoming the taboo associated with thinking outside of our boxes, especially our religious ones, is a foundational shift which requires great courage; as Seal sings, “We’re never gonna survive, unless we get a little crazy”. Cindi is not shy of being regarded as a holy fool, and having recovered from the fear of asking questions, the potential for “error” appears to have no limit. And yet, all progress, and all evolutionary shifts, require these chaotic conditions. With startling audacity, Cindi has created them.

His life’s work, I intuit, will be to ensure that this chaos does indeed lead to a sustainable spirituality. Perhaps chief amongst the questions will be the one “Where, now, is our authority?” which emergent thinkers like Phyllis Tickle have been addressing.

If the world is to remember Muzi Cindi the author, he will have to employ a good editor. And if it is to celebrate his personal legacy, he will have to help those still ensnared in modernistic thinking, to emerge. He will need to fully develop his empathy, creating sound bridges for others to cross. And he will have to gain the trust of those who not so long ago, would have gloried in his immolation at the heretic’s stake.

Muzi’s Website.

Story : a hymn

This is a hymn in house style called “Story”. It takes the tune of “Be thou my vision”, whose origins are Irish from the 8th Century. It is from the upcoming album of postmodern sacred community songs “Sout by North West” by the Sout Project.

This rewrite is based on Brian McLarens new myths for “church” or “Kingdom” as suggested in his “The Secret Message of Jesus”. These include the dream, revolution, party, dance, and network, of God.

More on this soon…

Story

Yours is my story, O Lord of my heart
Yours is the journey of which I am part
Yours is my dream, by day and by night
Waking or sleeping your presence my light Continue reading “Story : a hymn”

A Crisis of Particularity

Love all creation. The whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, and every ray of light. [Dostoevsky]

Particularity is not an often used word. But it is one which has recently come into my awareness, and with a little reflection, has begun offering green shoots of hope in a world overrun by the global, the universal, and the general. The disconnection we experience as a result has at root, I believe, everything to do with a loss of intimate relationship with the particular.

Continue reading “A Crisis of Particularity”

An Economy of Grace

I have been reflecting on Afrika Burn 2008, with 2 articles, a general synopsis called “AB08 scorecard” and a cheeky cultural crit called “Soop – Sound (Waves) Out Of Place“. But now I want to get to the heart of the experience, from the point of view of the theme camp that our community set up, Sanctuary. Continue reading “An Economy of Grace”

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