not a problem to be solved

this is a bit of a state of the nation post!

i’ve written a number of times before about the hypotheses that are inspiring my thinking at the moment… things like this:
– the fragility and weakness of god
– god as event, not being
– a growing, terrifying realisation that maybe humankind isn’t actually evolving into something better, more generous, more just [we’re not moving towards a kingdom of heaven on earth]
– coupled with that, a long held scepticism about life after death [no kingdom of heaven in a place other than earth] – or more, a long held disinterest in it, and disinclination to focus on that in worship and theology.*

as you can imagine [or perhaps, as you know yourself], letting one’s head go into these spaces strips away some of the fundamental building blocks for worship as we have known it [and, of course, of christian orthodoxy]. it’s not just about the purpose of worship, it’s also tied up inextricably in the language and imagery we use, the way in which we pray. play with any one of directions and there’s a space left in worship as we’ve known it. take them all and there are some gaping holes.

the way this has unfolded over the last few months means that i’m curating worship using a theology that is no longer mine.

over the last few months i’ve dealt with this by exploring the common ground, looking for the shared language and images between where my heart is, and where the heart of the people i curate worship with is. and i think we’ve done that ok – there is a lot of common ground. but it’s begun to feel a bit grubby and old through overuse. i don’t know whether it shows it in the stuff i put up here [i suspect it does], but in my head, things are getting stale – the same ground’s being covered. apparently there are worse things you can do than cover old ground again, but personally i’m hard pressed to think of them!

in order to reclaim my sanity [and to get a bit of life back into all this], i’m letting go of the focus on commonalities. which is, of course, different to letting go of the commonalities. but i’m getting back to exploring what worship or sacred space looks like when it lets the hypotheses listed above be the starting point – and not in a deconstructionist way [that’s easy to plan]. i’m going to explore the unfamiliar edges, and see how they come to life in worship. which will probably mean that for many people what unfolds will be unrecognisable.

i’m feeling a little on my own in this, certainly on a local basis, but as i said before, that doesn’t bother me. community isn’t, for me, the people i connect with who think like me… it’s the people who make it safe for me to follow where my thinking goes, even if that’s far, far away from theirs. i have a lot of those people. and i know i’m less alone than what it seems… people come out of the woodwork every time i talk about this. it would be so lovely if more of you lived in melbourne…

*these would only be a considered a faith crisis by people who think that it is necessarily a crisis to leave those beliefs. i don’t, it’s no crisis. i’m in a good place, this is not a problem to be solved!


  1. Not 100% sure of the questions you are asking but here is me rowing my boat away from the sure in attempt to respond.
    My background in this area is retreats. I spent 15 years in a small Christian community that ran retreats for teenagers, community groups, families & etc. The nature of each retreat was to share, challenge, reflect, question, celebrate, well I guess you know what a retreat is. With teenagers who would predominantly come as part of the schools r.e. program, we did everything we could not to make the experience predictable.
    The sort of questions that you are asking were the sort of questions we would ask whenever we wanted to incorporate some sense of Liturgy into the experience. The (planning) questions that we would ask were essentially, what experience could we develop that would accurately reflect a: the experience of the people who are here b; the experience that we have all shared over the past few days & c; the physical constraints of the setting. I have lots of great memories of these times but two stand out. The first was with a small group of creative arts leaders from a parish in Mornington where we wanted to have a meal & let the celebration of communion evolve out of the natural setting of the meal. We didn’t tell people what we were doing, we simply asked them to come to the meal with an open mind. We talked, we laughed, we told stories, we sang, we drank some great wine, we shared the word from the good book & our own lives & then we broke bread & remembered the call of Christ to do this in memory of him.
    the second was celebrating communion with a girls school; being a Catholic school there was no Priest to preside over the Eucharist, but there was still a strong desire to share some sort of communion. As we were planning the service, the teachers looked to me (the only male present) to break the bread. I nearly relented but realised that the R.E. Co-ordinator was in fact the pastor of these girls not me. In the early 90’s, this was a challenging thing but I will never forget the site of Lee Toll lifting up the bread & speaking the blessing, breaking it & sharing it with the girls.
    I know I waffle on but the subjects that you raise are cracking the earth (perma frost) on some dear memories & attitudes that I have not allowed to breath for a while. Thanks Cheryl

  2. hi Cheryl. i hope you leave more than breadcrumbs as you explore. not so that you can come back, but so that others might also recognise the path you’ve travelled.
    =) B

  3. Jen

    Mike, I’m not so sure it should be shore. I like the image of rowing our boats away from the sure – what we think we’ve firmly grasped. Perhaps looking back on it from a distance will give a different perspective.

  4. Kel

    Cheryl, I love your type of community

    Mick, rowing one’s boat away from the sure is the best typo I’ve read ths year 🙂
    It holds much more power than shore . . .

  5. In that case, in light of all of the favorable comments, (numbering 2) let me say that I did it on porpoise!!

  6. Cheryl

    thanks all… had a bit of a mad weekend away from the computer. lovely to come back to these.

    Mick… thanks for the stories [and the slip!]. i’m not really asking questions – yet, anyway – just clearing the ground to let something to emerge.
    blair… i hope to. thanks
    kel… i love it too.
    jen… i think there are such rich layers in that comment…

    more soon. my head is spinning with possibilities. you have no idea how long it’s been since that was so.

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