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.

Leadership for the Whole Church

Leardership for the Whole Church: Part 4 in the Series reflecting on Slow Church

Part 1:

Stanley Hauerwas and Slow Church

Part 2:

Practicing Presence

Part 3:

Formation in the Church

This is Part 4 of our series looking at the concept of Slow Church and what we can learn from the ideas of Stanley Hauerwas.  The links above will direct you to the first three posts in the series. This video is longer than the previous three. However, it’s worth watching the whole video.

Part 4 breaks away somewhat from the first 3 in that the post is more focused on leadership and leaders rather than on the whole body. Yet this video links well with the other three, precisely where Hauerwas talks about leadership as something that is best raised up through the community. Such leadership is in contrast to the leadership model touted by the book store best sellers.

The video starts off with Hauerwas stating that creative authority is all about persuasion.  While he talks about it in the context of being a leader in a community such as a church or university, one question it raises, is how do churches express creative authority in the communities in which they are situated?

For many years, the church spoke from a position of assumed authority. Within a Christendom model this was considered acceptable and even expected. As that model has disintegrated, can the church learn to speak authoritatively again.

Many people would question whether the church should ever speak authoritatively, but I think if the  church adopts the attitude in the broader community of helping the community to develop their gifts, the church will have something to offer to the whole community.

Hauerwas asks an interesting question: What kind of community do you need to be to choose your leaders by lot? The choosing of Matthias he is referring to can be found in Acts 1:12-26. How does such a question challenge our assumptions of what leadership and decision making in the Church should look like?

Hauerwas also talks about developing a discipline of the ego that will allow any institution that you are part of to continue once you have departed. I think this also fits in with the idea of being able to speak authoritatively in the broader community. Just as individual leaders need to learn the discipline of letting go of their egos, so do churches need to learn the same discipline.

One thing that comes out of this style of leadership, is that it rejects persuasion as a sales pitch. Persuasion under the model talked about in this video, and suggested by the previous videos is an activity that comes with long-term sharing of life and exchanging of ideas.

There is more in the video to consider regarding leadership. In particular the question of how do leaders hold on to power as a fragile thing? If you have any thoughts on any of this, please feel free to share them on the St. Philip’s Facebook page.



To view this video you are going to need to click on the link at the top of the post.

The video starts off with Hauerwas stating that joy is found in the existence of others, and that in the existence of the others we realize and recognize God’s existence. “Joy names the sheer presence of God.” How when we gather do we look for the joy that is an indicator of God’s existence. These gatherings don’t have to be the Sunday morning service, or in a church at all, although we certainly hope that we will be aware of God’s existence at those times. Yet, if we want people to encounter the living God revealed in Jesus Christ, we must be able to make that existence visible in the joy that people encounter when they meet us.

Hauerwas describes worship as the enjoyment of God. Is the enjoyment of God the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of worship? How does the presence of others in your community affect how you worship and the enjoyment of God you find in worship?

Finally Hauerwas states that “joy is the great enemy of narcissism.” When worshipping, do we find that it is easy to get distracted from the enjoyment of God and rather think about ourselves?

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to include them at our Facebook page.


Formation in the Church

On October 2nd, Rev. David Widdicombe will be offering a lecture at St. Margaret’s entitled Wars & Rumours of Wars: The City of God & The Restraint of Evil. This is the second talk Rev. Widdicombe has given on the subject. You can find the first under the sermons category on the St. Margaret’s website. One of the themes that was part of that first talk, was the need for Christians to undergo formation in their beliefs, so that they are able to deal with the consequences of their actions, and more importantly know the limits of their actions.

This same theme is what Hauerwas is taking up in the video. For many of us, this would go far beyond our understanding of what formation is about. We recently started Confirmation classes at St. Philip’s and following the basic standards of  what is required, we won’t discuss these things. Now, are confirmands are younger, so it makes some sense that our topics might not be as deep. What both Rev. Widdicombe and Hauerwas would undoubtedly argue though, is that formation is something that needs to begin before confirmation and continue long after.

Half way through the video, Hauerwas talks about how the Marines are able to transform young lives through the practice of basic training. This often results in the production of young people who are unable to relate to the rest of society. To what extent should formation, our basic training as it were, seek to transform young lives? In what way could that transformation take place so that the young people come through the process in such a way as they have difficulty relating to the rest of society?

Formation for A Different Type of Society:

Now, that last question may seem a little odd. What I mean when I say that the formation process in the church should leave our young people having difficulty relating to the rest of society, is not some sort of withdrawal. Instead I mean that as the result of their formation in the church our young people should be able to offer a critique of our society, and offer an alternative vision of society, much as Augustine does in The City of God. This will mean we will have to think long and hard about issues of war and peace. This will mean, as Hauerwas states towards the end of the video that we will need to take the time to listen. We will need to redouble our efforts to practice presence, no matter how difficult that may be.

To do this we may have to scrap much of the way in which we approach formation. Too often we break it up into little segments that we feed people along the way. We may need to re-examine Sunday School  to see whether or not it actually helps of hinders formation.  Above all we need to take more time to listen to each other. We need more time in each others company. Not participating in programs, but in developing deep, thoughtful, and compassionate relationships.


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?

Practicing Presence

Our second video from Stanley Hauerwas, connecting us to the theme  of Slow Church, is called “Practicing Presence.”  In this video we are challenged to learn what it means to allow ourselves to be friends with time. Hauerwas talks about our constant urge to do something for people who are suffering. This, according to him, allows us to show our caring without being present. Practicing presence means that we have to be able to let go of our desire to solve everyone’s problems. Instead we have to be able to sit with people who are suffering, knowing that we cannot relieve their suffering. As our society’s medical techniques have become more advanced, we have tended to practice presence less.

The video featured here was made to support the Memory Bridge. Memory Bridge is an organization and movement designed to help people with Alzheimer’s connect and remain connected to their various communities. In addition those involved in Memory Bridge learn much from people living with Alzheimer’s.

Questions about Practicing Presence

What does it mean to become a “Friend with Time?” Do the ways in which we organize our life as a church community help or hinder us from practicing presence for each other? How might the church, and specifically St. Philip’s find new ways of practicing presence in the broader community in which we are placed? What areas do you think we need to find ways to practice presence?

As with the first video, you can add your voices to the conversation by visiting the St. Philip’s Facebook page.

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?