Emerging Downunder: creating new monastic villages of God by Ray Simpson & Brent Lyons Lee

(ATF Press; South Australia, 2008)

It was really wonderful to read Aussie examples of emerging church, having read so much from the UK and US of late!  This is also just a great introductory book on emerging church and I would happily hand it to anyone in Australia wanting to think about our life of response to Jesus.

The depth in the book comes from the partnership between a young practitioner from Australia (Brent) and an experienced mentor from the UK (Ray).  In a trip to the UK in 2004, Brent was inspired by the riches of Celtic Spirituality and saw the potential for it as a resource for the Australian church.  I really value Brent’s reflections on indigenous spirituality and Aussie culture which he offers with disarming clarity. Ray was instrumental in establishing The Community of Aiden and Hilda which draws strongly on Celtic heritage and in 2005 Brent invited Ray to visit Australia.  Chapter 1 records his impressions and insights on Australian spirituality as an outside observer.

Some gems from Emerging Downunder:

First, Ray’s reflections on Australia include:

  • the impact of imported models of church
  • rising tide of spirituality (a la David Tacey)
  • the idea of re-imagining Christianity as a large tree in need of pruning resonated with Australian audiences – there are three main branches on this tree
  • the emerging church will embrace the shadow and seek healing of the past
  • the emerging church will learn from aboriginal spirituality
  • “Each year Australia edges an inch nearer the eastern nations.  The distance is minute, but could it be a divine parable:  is it time for the Anzac nations to integrate the best of Western with the best of Eastern spirituality?  Could its church become like a tree that is both truly indigenous and truly universal, and whose leaves are for the healing of both Western and Eastern nations?” (p.16)

Second, a thoughtful chapter on what is needed within the Emerging Churches of Australia:

  • listening and journeying
  • a daily rhythm of prayer, work and re-creation
  • hospitality
  • human and healing
  • households
  • relationship and soul friends
  • people friendly
  • earth friendly
  • creative arts
  • unity and justice
  • strong leadership

Third, a great reflective chapter on New Monasticism:

  • the possibilities within existing church structures
  • ‘villages of God’ based on a celtic model

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