Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mission, Church and Communion

Our group has nearly finished the Mission Shaped Ministry course - last weeks session on worship and sacraments had provocative questions like

What is God's mission here?
What kind of community will sustain this mission?
What spiritual disciplines will sustain the community
What worship will reflect the mission and the community?

In other words, theology (God) shapes missiology (mission) shapes ecclesiology (church).

In the light of that there are some fascinating debates around Communion, triggered by the decision by Sydney Diocese to affirm that some laypeople can preside at a communion service.

On Bishop Alans blog, there is an excellent discussion on how creative approaches to worship and sacraments can emerge from mission contexts. He has a great phrase about the Anglican church: The genius of Anglicanism, its missional crown jewels within the whole Kingdom of God, has been its ability to run essentially (but not exclusively) primitive Evangelical software on essentially (but not exclusively) primitive Catholic hardware , and some of the discussion is about how to make it all work when the Catholic hardware is too expensive or impractical to maintain.

There are 2 threads currently running on Thinking Anglicans, this one is a mixture of internal Anglican politics (which I tend to avoid) and a really interesting discussion about the nature of communion and what it is the church is doing when it celebrates it. This one I appear to have hijacked (sorry folk!) with an innocent query about whether 'real' communion needs 'real' wine, and it's evolving into a good debate about how flexible we can be, and what it is that makes it all tick in the first place.

If you're more interested in traditional Protestant doctrines of communion, you'll find a few being expounded and explored at StandFirm, so if you're doing a doctrine essay you might find it useful, but if you want a mission perspective on the debate you won't find one! The discussion at the Ugley Vicar focuses on who is a 'priest' in the first place.

There's a good article on mission and church on Fulcrum, which looks at some wider issues on what a church shaped by mission looks like.

Update: really good post by Tim Chesterton at Tale Spin.

For other mission perspectives on the sacraments, Lindsey Urwins chapter in Mission Shaped Questions is worth a read, as a traditional Anglo-Catholic trying to work out which rules apply in a mission setting. Or see this account of Transcendence, a new night church venture in York Minster which blends ancient and modern with communion at the centre of it.

And of course communion is being celebrated in loads of other churches of other denominations without an ordained Anglican priest in sight.......

Meanwhile, great to hear that Graham Cray will be taking over from Steve Croft as the leader of Fresh Expressions.

Update: Huh?

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