Minnekon – Reflections

How do I even begin to reflect on last week’s Minnekon experience? There was just so much. It was wonderful. I loved every minute – hearing Pete talk at least five different times in four days, learning so much from Sarah, Kellie and Jonny, participating in the workshops, eating meals and having great conversations with new friends, and having the opportunity to think about, reflect on, and even put into practice ideas I find very provocative and hopeful. This is certainly an experience I will be processing for many weeks. Here are a few provisional thoughts to give you an idea of the places my mind has been wandering because of the overall experience:

  • Pete Rollins is for real. Even after reading both of his books, there was still a part of me that wondered if perhaps Pete was just playing around with words and ideas. I didn’t think he was a crypto-evangelist, but you can never quite be sure… But now I’m completely confident that he’s for real. And more than that, he cares about helping others do the kind of thing he is doing. He thinks it is important. So do I.
  • Ikon is not a church. And it’s not necessarily Christian. It’s certainly influenced by, and perhaps even rooted in, the Christian tradition and the tradition of the Church, but ultimately it’s post-Christian, and this makes it different than much of the emerging church. Not in a better or worse way – it’s just different. I think Ikon, and the theology behind Ikon, is about creating open spaces – empty spaces – for God to give God (the transcendent, the wholly other, etc.). These spaces might be in church settings, they might not be. Whether or not it’s church is just irrelevant. I really appreciate this. I want to be a part of creating these kinds of spaces.
  • On a related note, I see the theology behind Ikon impacting various settings within the church. However, to really take the theology seriously, I don’t think it can fully work in the church. But that’s ok. I don’t think it’s an either/or. I think letting this theology loose in church is good. And letting it loose outside the church is good too. But there is still a difference. At Ikon all questions are open. In the church, it is always foundational that what is happening is Christian and church. At Ikon even these questions are open. Again, I see a place for both. It’s not an either/or.
  • Continuing this same idea, I think all of this is further evidence of the increasing diversity of Christian/religious/spiritual experiences that are available for people. Church, Christianity, spirituality, and religion are no longer relegated to a church building, or even to particular faith traditions. Religious and spiritual questions and experiences are everywhere. People are going to pick and choose from a variety of options and create their own church/religious life. There is a lot more that can be said about this. I know many people see this as a problem. I see it as a really good and hopeful shift in our culture. Again, I think the question is how we can create spaces (both inside and outside the church) for God to give God (and I say that in the broadest sense possible).
  • I am still considering how the ideas in Pete’s books translate into everyday life. Or as Tony Jones asked in his dialogue with Pete, “How does this work for a devotional life?” This is a valid question. Personally, I don’t know if Pete has a good answer to this question right now. But I think that is understandable. I think it is somewhat uncharted territory. I think some people are living this kind of life but we may not yet identify it as such (I think of Gordon Atkinson/Real Live Preacher). I am very interested in considering these ideas and perhaps doing some writing along these lines. A provisional title for the topic – “Living Life With/out God.” This is very interesting to me.

Well, thanks for following along with me through the Minnekon experience. I hope these posts have been beneficial. I have definitely had a lot more traffic on my blog over the past week, so this seems to be something people are interested in.

Do any of you have thoughts about all this?

_________________

Minnekon Posts:

Minnekon – Reflections
Minnekon – A.way Introduction
Minnekon – A.way
Minnekon – Session 3
Minnekon – Session 2
Minnekon – Emergent Cohort
Minnekon – Session 1
Minnekon – Peter Rollins & Friends

_________________

I’ve blogged through both of Rollins’ books:

The Fidelity of Betrayal and How (Not) to Speak of God

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17 Responses

  1. Thanks bro. I’m jealous for such an experience and glad you shared it with us.

  2. On the idea of Ikon being post-Christian…..

    Is being post-Christian a goal to achieve or maybe a natural progression? The gist of the question: Should an emerging church (or any church) aspire to be post-Christian?

    Concerning the idea of creating open spaces….

    This idea sounds amazing to me as well. Yet, as a vocational minister on a church staff, this idea also is a little scary. Nonetheless….I’m up for it. I just realize that many won’t be so willing to give up what is comfortable and familiar (along with pensions).

  3. I think that being “post christian” is something that happens to a culture that Christians need to see (hopefully foresee) and be prepared for. I don’t think it’s necessarily something to which we aspire….

    …having said that, I think in some ways, philosophically, as individuals becoming a-theistic/post christian may be something helpful to which one can/should aspire.

    Americans would be wise to keep a very keen eye on the UK and Ikon is a great group to observe and learn from

  4. Blue and Mak – I agree with Mak that “post-Christian” is something that is happening and not necessarily something to achieve. But if someone could become “post-Christian” I don’t think it’s something churches need to work towards. In other words, I don’t think churches need to be like Ikon. I think some churches would benefit from taking some of these ideas and letting them loose, but I think there is room for a range of practices. Having said that, personally, I am very interested in the kind of spaces Ikon is working to create.

    But as you said Blue, this is indeed scary and personally I think it would be very difficult to truly take these issues to heart and try to implement them in existing traditional churches. Do you all agree with that?

  5. I wish I could have been there – one of my reflections having seen Ikon at Greenbelt 2007 UK (which I’ve conveyed to Pete) is that one doesn’t really get at the “essence” of Ikon until one gets to hear, see, feel and taste what they do. I compare that to hearing Pete lecture at AAR 2006 during his first tour – interesting and engaging, yes. I’m hoping that Pete will do more touring with Ikon instead of solo speaking gigs because it is through Ikon that Pete lives and breathes what he talks about.

    BTW-to really get at what’s happening in terms of global EC, one needs to get over to Greenbelt. Next summer I hope to check out at least some of the festivals that Andrew Jones recommends. I am now a major festival fan whereas I tend to get itchy around “talking head” conferences.

  6. How/does Jesus fit into all this?

  7. Jesus…you’re gonna have to jog my memory…

    Oh yeah, I gotcha. Good question.

    I think it fits into the last area I mentioned here. How does this impact everyday life, how about a devotional life, etc. I have some thoughts but I’m not sure I want to post them yet…still thinking. In short, I think Jesus does fit. Just like I think Christianity fits. Pete talks about our beliefs not necessarily changing but instead the way we believe changes. Perhaps our views of Jesus don’t really change – but how we live those beliefs, how we live the life with Jesus, that’s what I’m interested in thinking about. Keep pushing me in that direction. I think Jesus is central…more to come hopefully. Does anyone else have thoughts on how Jesus fits into this way of thinking?

  8. 1. It sounds as though Ikon becomes one more consumer product in the commodification of religion in modern western society – a passing fad or leisure hobby for the spiritually curious which has no impact on the transformation of society

    2. The theology/religious experience of those who prepare the service is present in the content of the theodrama – in Ikons case I wonder if it is the Caputo inspired religion without religion. It is not an ‘open space’ but the a call for conversion to this distinctive non-theistic theology.

    3. It primarily has a deconstructive value for disillusioned ex-evangelicals who are reacting against their evangelical heritage – a very small grouping.

    4. The effectiveness of theodrama requires those listening to it take it seriously – many people are only out for an evening of religious entertainment, to socialise with friends, can be immediately turned off by the pretentious sounding nature of the language or do not wish to be provoked so tune out. There are severe problems with how to engage the audience. Theodrama can come across as exotic and new at first for those bored with church. The audience at a theodrama are reduced to passive listeners who have no opportunity to comment on the content of the message of the presentation

    5. There are so many different overlapping ideas/concepts/assumptions with the word ‘God’ the phrase ‘God can give God’ needs a lot further clarification or it sounds meaningless

    6. The language of theodrama especially if done by ex-graduates can be very academic – it can reinforce the idea that the emergent church is primarily for middle class intellectuals.

    7. Every religious/spiritual community or network has a shared set of convictions or values that brings the community members together. If these are described as ‘post-christian’ or a rejection of all the different strands of the christian tradition the question arises ‘what are they’

    A few observations

    Rodney ( ex member of Ikons cyndicate and long serving attender of last supper)

  9. Rodney – I think your thoughts here are well-worth consideration. Thanks for contributing. A few quick thoughts on your thoughts:

    – I’m obviously much more hopeful about the changes in society. I think these changes well open up the possibility for greater transformation. But I could be wrong.

    – Theodrama/transformance art is other than church and may not replace a church kind of experience. It’s just one space. I think accepting this does away with a lot of criticism. It’s not trying to replace church or Christianity. So it can’t really be critiqued along those lines.

    – Can there ever be a true “open space?” Probably not. Yes, we all bring something to the group. But I think that’s more reason to do it.

    – And also, I can’t speak directly to Ikon. These are just my own personal reflections.

    Thanks again.

  10. Adam – thanks for your thoughts.

    If you lived nearby I would invite you out for a pint of beer and have a good chat/compare notes about some of these issues/ideas – trying to share thoughts on blogs comments is very fustrating, easily leads to misunderstanding and often people end up talking past each other. I would like to respond more to your comments but sadly will not.

    all the best,

    Rodney

  11. What all of this reminds me of most strongly within my own (Christian) tradition is medieval mysticism. Of course, I’m not an expert on Christian mysticism, but this is the picture that emerges every time I read about them:

    Most of the medieval mystics (that I’ve heard of, anyway) were monks or nuns living in a monastery, a Christian community in which mandatory prayers and worship services were combined with mandatory times of study, devotion, private reflection, etc. Within those times, a person who so desired (i.e., a mystic) was free to, if he or she chose, pursue the elements of faith that were not fully described by the tradition of the church. In this way, those mystics wandered down paths that sometimes did not necessarily seem to have much to do with Christianity per se. Their writings include passages that would probably fit just as well in the tradition of almost any religious (Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, shamanism, etc) or none (our postmodern ‘non-theism’ even)–but yet these are the thoughts of deeply devout believers in Jesus and adherents of the Christian faith. They continued to worship and live in Christian communities and to ally themselves with Christian doctrines and creeds as passed down to them from the tradition of the Church. They recognized spiritual authority in their lives and thought, but also felt the freedom to explore spiritual questions in the zaniest of ways. They seem to have done this without feeling that the two were incompatible.

    So when Christians like Adam talk about finding or creating empty spaces for God (God in the most abstract sense, that is; ‘the divine’ is probably the word I’d pick here), and having these spaces not serve as replacements for Christian churches and church life, it sounds to me like a group of people who do not feel the need to reject spiritual authority, but who do need space for spiritual exploration of the deeps of God. This is more difficult for us than for the medieval mystics, since very few Christians now can (or want to) retreat permanently into monasteries. But it seems that it may be possible to create those spaces anyway, and I think that allowing time for those spaces to be shared with other humans is a very positive thing.

    Like Adam says, for Christians this does not at all mean replacing the Church. If the mystics in the past were able to combine organized devotion with free-floating exploration into the deeps (unorganized devotion) without feeling a sense of betrayal to their lord Jesus, I don’t think it should be any different for us now. The means will just look a little different because we’re not wearing robes and spending all day in the company of other robe-wearers.

    I realize I’m taking a lot of space here, but there’s one last thing I just have to talk about. That thing is the worry that opening spaces for this kind of ‘unorganized devotion’ will be harmful to the faith of those who will use it as an excuse to “pick and choose” tenets of belief, creating a slipshod kind of consumer religion. In my opinion, this is NOTa legitimate worry, and here’s why. First and most importantly, no person is ultimately responsible for the soul of another–it is not for us to either convert someone to the truth or condemn him to a lie (thank God for that). Therefore, how can we justify denying a good opportunity to people out of fear that some will abuse it? Furthermore, even if it were morally acceptable, I don’t think it is even possible to safeguard the soul of another in this way. If a person is going to be thoughtless and irresponsible with his or her soul, he or she will be, even if living as a member of the most orthodox (whatever that means) of Christian communities. ‘You can lead a horse to water,’ and all that. Anyway, isn’t it orthodox for Christians to believe that it’s possible to sit in a pew every Sunday but be a stranger to God? Not only orthodox, I do believe that’s straight biblical.

    Of all the truly serious, truly devout and truly passionate believers in and seekers of God that I know or have ever heard of, and I daresay that I ever will hear of, none of them are willing to say that even Christians have God all figured out. This is as much to say that further exploration of the divine may well lead to new–true–insights into the reality of God. In no way does this entail a rejection of the insights that are already part of our tradition–unless those insights are felt to be false. And then, I think that if a person believes something to be false, it is worse for him to continue to believe it simply because he is told to do so by another person, than to seek with all his might to find out what is true and then to put his faith in that. Again, this is biblical (Corinthians: if a person thinks that eating meat sacrificed to idols is wrong, then it is wrong for him; do not lead your brother into sin).

    In the end, this seeking after God is all we can do. In the end, we must not do anything less than this. I applaud those who are trying to do this and are holding nothing back out of fear of heterodoxy, and who are trying to make this opportunity available to everyone. This comes down to publishing abroad the orthodox truths that we don’t have God figured out, and that it’s good for us to keep trying to explore ‘His’ depths. He who has ears to hear…

  12. P.S. I completely agree with Rodney’s comments just above mine (although I do have the opportunity to talk to Adam about this stuff face-to-face, so I’m lucky there). However, I also–and possibly you’d agree, Rodney?–think that even imperfect communication is a good start.

  13. Mary,

    Athough I have been a keen reader of blogs I have ended up excessively fustrated about using comments on blog posts as a forum for the exchange of thoughts/views. I lapsed this once – I agree communication is desirable and good. I would also be keen to respond to your post but will bite the bullet and not do so.

    all the best,

    Rodney

  14. Being post-Christian is like being post-gravity – all of a sudden the world doesn’t make sense. It’s not something I aspired to, or would encourage anyone to work towards. But I found myself there anyway, and now I am very glad for Pete Rollins (and for Adam).

  15. I have only finished about half of Peter’s book, so please excuse anything I may write which he has answered in the book. I will probably have better comments once I get a grasp of the group’s core statements.

    I am still trying to register last week’s events. It was a fire hydrant experience. All of this dense information was being thrown at me and I count myself lucky to have processed 1/10th of it. I spent this week imagining events and creating mental arguments that would either loosen the chains of those who don’t question tradition or perhaps promote new, and mostly outside, structures to express faith in God and the usefulness of the church.

    Unfortunately, I fear, that is the curse of participating in ikon. Where do I find an outlet or a situation for this type of deconstruction? Is it better to present these ideas to an already established church? Is it better create a community that already agrees with everything you say? How useful is it to preach to the converted?

    I am hoping that this comment isn’t coming off as laziness or a symptom of a generation of ‘dreamers with no action’. Where can I honestly express my thoughts and my new need for experimentation?

    My urge is to present these ideas to the people who are already within an “established” church. It isn’t that I want to completely morph a church into “emerging”, but I would like to present an alternative form…even just a glimpse of something other than what is the norm. Wouldn’t it be amazing to allow God to enter into a “house of God”? I fear, however, that this is wishful thinking. I don’t know how many blue haired ladies or ardent conservative, gun toting old men who would embrace heretical ideas within the walls of their church. However, there is a Catch-22…ikon doesn’t work within the walls of a church.

    The problem I found with our venture into ikon territory was that it lost its heart. Within the confines of a bar, there can be discussion, meditation, and a sense of openness or inspiration and improvisation. Instead we were booked at a local funky-decorated church that, no matter how many couches or art pieces there were, forced us into a traditional religious setting. Times for meditation were interpreted as technical malfunctions and the desire to talk was silenced by the Pavlovian response to be silent and respectful within the walls of a church. Shhh, God is watching and judging!

    The church has caused so much damage and misunderstanding that I think it is very important to have something like ikon to provide an arena for expression and open communication. My worry is that all that comes out of this venture will be academic discussions and perhaps a hand-full of attempts at cloning the concepts with a youth group of half-interested adolescents.

    Perhaps I can get a better a grasp of how to express these ideas once I get to see ikon (one random day in the future) on its home turf. I feel as if we were at a slight disadvantage because we never really got to see Peter’s theories executed the way that he imagines them.

    Adam, thank you so much for keeping amazing notes on this conference! I really enjoyed sharing this experience with such an amazing group of people. Ikon is a breath of fresh air in a stagnant, dying church!

  16. Stephanie – you wrote:

    “Where do I find an outlet or a situation for this type of deconstruction? Is it better to present these ideas to an already established church? Is it better create a community that already agrees with everything you say? How useful is it to preach to the converted?”

    I think it is possible to provoke these kinds of ideas in a new setting (not established church) without just being around “the converted.” Particularly in a non-church setting that includes people who are just there to have a drink, or whatever.

    I do agree with you that something was lost by hosting the event at a church. Can’t quite be the same. I think letting these ideas loose in the established church is a difficult thing…honestly, I don’t know how it could really happen…

    Mary – thanks for your thoughtful response. I think you are hitting on something insightful. There is actually much conversation around the idea of a post-modern spirituality/faith having more in common with the pre-modern (medieval). This seems to overlap with what you are saying here. I look forward to talking more…

  17. […] at Poets, Prophets and Preachers part 1 and 2 Best collection of notes from Peter Rollins’ minnekon gathering 2008 Wittenburg door interviews Rollins Rollins Interview with Christian […]

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