Williams: What is Church

The video with this post features former Archbishop of Canterbury discussing “What is the Church.” For those unfamiliar with the way the Anglican Church is organized, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader of Anglicans around the world. Unlike the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury has no formal power outside of his role in the Church of England. However, the Archbishop stands as a figure of unity for Anglicans. In this video, Williams answers the question what is the church. In doing so he gives a couple of comments that are worth further reflection.

Two Comments from Williams

The first comment in the video that this post will reflect on is: “Church is what happens when people are touched by Jesus.” Williams suggests that church is the inevitable by-product of coming into contact with Jesus. We who are part of the church are part of it because of this contact. The second is that our primary duty as part of the church is “to keep yourself alert to the call.” In other words, remember that encounter with Jesus. All other things flow from these two.

A couple of Questions:

Williams talks of people being brought together, often unexpectedly. What does this tell us about being the Church? What does this tell us about the basis of our commitment to each other? How does remembering that the church is an “event before an organization,” help or hinder us in being the Church? These are just a couple of questions that come to mind. Perhaps you have other questions after watching the video. Perhaps you disagree with Williams idea of the church. Feel free to use the contact form on our home page if you have any questions or comments regarding this video or any other post on our site.

I came across these videos thanks to an excellent site known as The Englewood Review of Books. This site and it’s sister site, Thrifty Christian Books are worth bookmarking if for no other reason than they will help you discover videos such as the one in this post. St. Philip’s has made use of this site in the past as they directed us to the Stanley Hauerwas videos which we posted a couple of years ago.

Church Growth Movement

It’s been a couple of weeks since the last post looking at Stanley Hauerwas and the idea of slow church.  This is the third post in the series. The first post was on prayer. The second was on practicing presence. In this video Hauerwas addresses a couple of aspects related to the Church Growth Movement, and how they work not only to keep us from true discipleships, but also how in the end they contribute to the decline of the church.

The main disagreement Hauerwas has with the Church Growth Movement is how it produces congregations that are homogeneous, particularly, in Hauerwas’s view as it relates to age. We could also add socio-economic and often ethnic background as well.

All of this is not to say that growth is a bad thing. After all, parishes are living organisms, and all organisms that don’t grow begin to die. However, the Church Growth Movement tends to view growth as that which is measured best in the number of people in attendance on Sundays and the amount of offering in the basket.

As a result, churches following the strategies of the Church Growth Movement place an emphasis on entertainment in the liturgy. Two things happen as a result of this. One the people no longer are participating in the worship, particularly the prayer life of the church. Two, when it comes to entertainment, television, and one might add movies and the internet, can do it much better than the church.

Questions for Church Growth Movement:

How do you find that the liturgy helps to prepare you for life once you leave the confines of the gathered community?  If your answer is that it doesn’t, what part of the liturgy should be strengthened? Or, conversely, if perhaps you haven’t given much thought to the liturgy, what new insights might come from thinking of it as preparation or training for life outside the confines of the parish family?

If as a parish St. Philip’s or whatever church family you are part of were to pursue growth in an organic fashion, how do you think this might effect the way in which we worship together?

Hauerwas uses the example of digging a ditch to spread the flow of water, as what is meant by liturgy. Are there ditches parishes could dig that would help the water of life given to us in and by Christ flow out to the rest of the world?

Hauerwas and Slow Church

Over the past few months St. Philip’s has been discussing what it means to be the Church.  This has been a repeated theme in our sermons.  During Lent a small group of parishioners also took the time to study Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together.  Life Together came out of Bonhoeffer’s time as leader of an underground seminary in Germany. While the seminary focused on life lived in community on a daily basis, it can also serve as a role model for the life the Church lives together.

Also during the summer, Reverend Donald, read and reviewed a new release entitled Slow Church, by C. Christopher Smith and Jon Pattison. The Slow Church movement is one of many that display signs of new life in a North American Christianity that is largely in a state of decline. Slow Church encourages us to take more time and be more intentional in our life together as the Church. In addition to being involved with Slow Church, Christopher Smith is also the editor of the Englewood Review of Books.  Recently, they featured a post on Theologian and Ethicist Stanley Hauerwas, and how his thinking has influenced Slow Church.  The post featured ten short video clips covering ten different topics.

Over the next several weeks, Rev Donald is going to be posting these videos with a little bit of commentary and some some questions. We hope that you can take the time to watch them. Hauerwas is a thinker who provokes strong reactions. You might find there is a lot of material in the videos that you agree with. You likely find things in the videos you disagree with. If there are things in the videos that you find interesting or questionable, use the contact form at the bottom of the home page of this site, to send your comments to Rev Donald. There has been a slight change in plans.  There will only be seven videos rather than ten. One of the companies that made some of the videos will not let the material be used online (even if purchased).  As a result those three videos won’t be used.

In this video Hauerwas talks about prayer teaching him how to wait. Is waiting one of the things that comes to mind when you think about prayer?

Hauerwas talks about L’Arche operating on God’s time. How might reflecting on God’s time change the way in which we as individuals and as a church live our lives together?

Hauerwas states that prayer has taught him that “God is God and I am not.” Have you learned this same lesson in prayer? What other lessons has prayer taught you?