Egalitarian Spiritual Space: Left Bank Leeds

Left Band Leeds is a remarkable space.  It is ethereal in its beauty, haunting in its potential for any creative endeavour, and a complete surprise (contrast) from its ordinary exterior.  Deconsecrated as an Anglican Church in the 1990s it was owned for a time by a Pentecostal Congregation who could make no headway on the huge financial burden of transforming such an ancient relic into a contemporary space of possibility.  It is now managed by a Board of Trustees made up largely from a local missional community of Christians.  Their vision for Left Band Leeds is as a vibrant place of creativity and spirituality.

Left Band Leeds is a missional space – not just because of the intentions of the Trustees, it seems to invite spiritual exploration of its own accord.  Perhaps it is the wonder-full beauty alone that does this, but I have wondered about the psycho-spiritual effect of the building’s lack of inherited church ownership.  There are no plaques commemorating wealthy people of old and no sophisticated religious iconography beyond the simplest temporary cross and the permanent fixtures retained to satisfy The National Trust.  I found myself wondering about the importance of it being deconsecrated – could it be that it works as a missional space because it is not ‘our sacred space’ that Christians are inviting others into but rather is ‘a deeply spiritual space’ where Christians are starting a conversation which for them leads to Christ?

The questions of power and influence were never far from my mind as I contemplated questions of transformative space these past few weeks.  The creative arts do provide opportunities for mission in a spiritually seeking generation, but any conversation that denies the freedom of individuals to respond without coercion is both unethical and ultimately ineffective.  If our rhetoric is an invitation to ‘share’ then we need to have genuine dialogue and forgo any sense of superiority.  It’s this ethos of radical spiritual egalitarians that is slowly giving birth to new possibilities for evangelism.  Perhaps that will be surprising to some, but for me it is simply a profound discovery that God is fully capable of looking after God’s own business – including the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Mike Frost

(Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 2006)

I felt inspired to do a quick post on Exiles because it is a handy book for those interested in missional oriented ministry.  If you haven’t read it yet, it’s worth getting your hands on a copy because it is kind of like a text book for Missional Christianity and can be highly recommended as book to pass on to young leaders, discussion groups or even form the basis of an engaging sermon series.  It’s easy to read, theologically intelligent and covers the important issues of missional church and living in contemporary culture.  Best of all, it’s written by an Aussie!

I’ve used the book this year in my liminality essay, because Mike writes really well about Victor Turner’s concept of communitas (the genuine, spontaneous community possible in transitory moments).  I also put his ‘third places’  discussion into a worksheet format, which I have just put up on the reddress writing page.  A ‘third place’ is not work, not home, but a third place for the community to gather.  Useful concept for thinking through site issues.

Here’s the table of contents:

Part I:  Exiles

1.  Self-Imposed Exile – The Memory: God Will Rescue the Exiled People

2.  Jesus the Exile – The Memory: Jesus was a Radical and a Subversive

3.  Following Jesus into Exile – The Memory: Jesus Is Our Standard and Example

Part II:  Dangerous promises

4.  Exiled from a Hyper-Real World – The Promise: We Will Be Authentic

5.  The Exile’s Espirit de Corps – The Promise:  We Will Serve a Cause Greater Than Ourselves

6.  Fashioning Collectives of Exiles – The Promise:  We Will Create Missional Community

7.  Exiles at the Table – The Promise:  We Will Be Generous and Practice Hospitality

8.  Working for the Host Empire – The Promise:  We Will Work Righteously

Part III:  Dangerous criticism

9.  Restless with Injustice – The Critique:  You Have Been an Unjust Empire

10.  Exiles and the Earth – The Critique:  You Have Not Cared for God’s Creation

11.  Comforting the Oppressed – The Critique:  You Have Not Protected God’s Children

Part IV:  Dangerous songs

12.  Exiles at the Alter – The Song: To God Be the Glory

13.  The Songs of the Revolution – The Song:  Jesus Ain’t My Boyfriend

Epilogue

Resources

 

Christian Spirituality: Changes in the Inner Landscape by Peter Neilson

(in The Expository Times journal, 2006, Vol. 117, No. 7, Pp. 277-281)

Peter Neilson is an elder of the Fresh Expressions movement in the Church of Scotland.  This is an interesting little article obviously motivated to equip Christians for ministry in and beyond the Church.  He explores the question of why “many people find Christendom patterns of spirituality no longer sustain them” from developmental, historical, cultural and pastoral-missional perspectives.

For me, development ‘stages of faith’ don’t really hold enough explanatory power to account for such a widespread shift in spirituality, no matter how good your process model is.  (Neilson draws on John Drane, Hagberg & Guelich and David Lyall.)  However, it is helpful to realise that historical and cultural shifts do draw people into a ‘critical’ and ‘postcritical’ or ‘integrative’ stage of faith development more quickly than they might otherwise have arrived.  Neilson sums this up when he says, “the concern to be engaged with the outer landscape of the culture affects the inner landscape of our spirituality.”   So, “ministers engaging with the missionary challenges of our culture speak of the experience of an inner deconstruction in order to be reassembled for the task in hand.” Absolutely!

Neilson references Alan Roxburgh’s models of leadership in a period of liminality, Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead’s model of subjective meaning systems and the biblical testimony of homesickness from Jeremiah 29, as resources for this kind of ministry and mission.  However, it’s the reference to Henri Nouwen that most resonated with me:

“the Christian leader must be able to be an interpreter of the inner landscape and be the ‘first to enter the promised but dangerous land, the first to tell those who are afraid what he [sic] has seen, heard and touched’.  People seek wisdom not information.”