A useful overview of digital development in the religion arena was in The Guardian 21 Dec 2016
One point that was implicit was around the ongoing struggle to align the usual free-wheeling online culture to the more- meticulous theological frameworks.
Bottom line for one commentator – a virtual church can’t deliver a real casserole…………yet
An afterthought from the previous post. If we were to construct a worship and church framework based on modern culture rather than Georgian music hall, what would it look like? Does this advert (image) provide a clue?
The cultural elements would be(?):
pop-up (if only to test a local ‘market’)
A local centre would have its own (franchised and/or democratically-run) format for its members but would be part of a wider local network sponsoring large concert-type worship events. The local centres would actively include traditional (existing) churches who in some (many?) cases might be hosting or supporting new forms of church.
The central events and related publicity would be aimed in part at increased non-member awareness.
A recent blog has reflected at length (as the end of a working ministry approaches) on the future of English Methodism. The writer looks particularly at how music informs that discussion – Methodism was born in song, but not songs that fit with modern (youth) tastes. This is seen as emblematic of the wider problem facing Methdodism – how to maintain a tradition for 200000 members yet offer something that is more appealing to non-members.
Wesley innovated with hymns and outdoor and indoor preaching. In the 1800’s this was extended to include many of the values and attributes needed for managing the urban industrial and democratic society. Christianity provided the backbone for a very relevant social evolution. Many of those values crumbled in the teeth of WW1 enemy machine guns, and the church has declined.
Church has suffered as belief has declined explicitly and many others are in the “believing not belonging” group.
The blog suggests that even today Methodism fails because it harks back to some golden era that has no immediate relevance. Recently I heard again the ‘lump of coal’ analogy (it ceases to glow if not in the fire with others) and the idea ‘if you thirst, go to the well’. Neither works well today in an era when heat and water are network piped services.
Wesley harnessed new ideas and needs, creating a form of teetotal music hall, democratically run and with a strong social action base.
Today is there an equivalent framework? What traditional components have a future, and what modern components are added to create a modern core and a related social action platform?
Something new in town, it seems. Not yet studied in depth but there seems to be a focus on mini-churches. Also apparently it draws on “spiral dynamics” (1974), something which seems to be akin to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943).
One point that did surface on a speed-read was that society is moving from valuing individuals based on their work/earnings and into valuing based on individuals’ contribution to leisure. This would align with a society where older/retired people are more evident. Does this point towards church linking with concepts like U3A or Time Dollars, supporting a market in leisure time?
We seem to be working through a lectionary that lends itself to Olympic analogies; the preacher of course points to the long strenuous path leading to gold and assumes the congregation are part of some sort of struggling marathon herd.
For most people Olympics are strictly a spectator event. They watch the experts in action every four years but do not all start competitive diving or cycling or hockey. A minority may continue in their chosen sport. Some youngsters will be motivated to start or improve. The medal count translates into ongoing public support for the funding required which in turn delivers the pursuit of excellence that marks the successful Olympic team. We may be an olympic nation but few are olympic athletes.
Is church similar? People attend, sit up in the cloud of witnesses and watch the professionals/experts, with a few participating in limited roles. Ideally the performance is olympic gold standard – but not all sports and not all players are actually that good – Sunday League perhaps. The totality of that effort may be sufficient to make a disciple of the nation even if not quite so impactful locally. In such an enviroment the challenge is to spot and motivate the gold “contenders” and connect them into a team that is supported to be successful at olympic level.
This might suggest that a denomination should be running its admin, its leadership, its key players and its talent pool on the olympic excellence-building principles, including widening its player and supporter networks to have national impact.
Economics starts with he premise that people make rational choices to maximise their resulting utility. Religion as a choice has survived for several thousand years, so we might infer it has ongoing personal utility as a concept (without reference to which brand of faith is embraced).
Is it sufficient to view religion as a label for the space between the visible edge of “us” and “death”? Us being the family or tribe or nation (me-belonging-to) and death marking a point within a chaotic and unsafe not-belonging area that may include some ideas of an after-death.
Today many of the aspects of religion that helped control or explain the chaos and inject some hope and positivity are provided by the state – education, health care, justice etc. The state is increasingly keen to be seen as secular, consequently leaving a smaller space for religion. In particular some key traditional value-added areas like education are significantly lost, reducing the utility on offer within the modern “religion” box.
Within that religion box reside several remaining faith options (and the ashes of the Egyptian, Greek and Roman pantheon). Faiths have marketed themselves successfully by adding their message alongside education, health care etc. Without those big hitters, how does a faith market itself effectively (and efficiently!), especially in a GB setting? Is it forced into, or left in, a niche position?
The Church Army has recently put online 55 of a total of
56 issues of Encounters on the Edge, originally published
between 1999 to 2012, recording 12+ years of CoE experimental
Issue 43, Seven Sacred Spaces, has been revised as a
full colour booklet and is available here.
The free online successor to Encounters on the Edge
is Snapshots - Stories From the Edge. It is available here.