This is a sermon on Proper 23c. It is about the Leper returning and worshiping God. I used the story as a foil to talk about the secular frame and how returning to a transcendent God will help remind us of human value and unconditional love.
Monday, October 14, 2019
|Visit Institute for the Future for uptodate forecasts.|
This essay was published in 2012 as part of the CHURCH collection. Some of the ideas here are still fresh in some places. Still in other places, they are being tried. We have a church that has become a neighborhood hub for a small town market and is now growing. We have over 90 small missional communities with over 1,000 participating in regular life and worship. Some are identity specific others are oriented around ministry. Given the recent discussion about the massive number of church closing in the US and the transfer of those resource dollars being undirected, I thought ideas about new commons building, new space, and new mission might be interesting to come back to.
“When the old way of seeing was displaced, a hollowness came into architecture. Our buildings
show a constant effort to fill that void, to recapture that sense of life which was once to be found
in any house or shed. Yet the sense of place is not to be recovered through any attitude, device,
or style, but through the principles of pattern, spirit, and context.”
show a constant effort to fill that void, to recapture that sense of life which was once to be found
in any house or shed. Yet the sense of place is not to be recovered through any attitude, device,
or style, but through the principles of pattern, spirit, and context.”
― Jonathan Hale, architect, The Old Way of Seeing, 1994
Let us begin by looking at the urban environment. The church for many years has been focused overwhelmingly on the suburban environment for mission. We will address this in a few pages. We have ignored the signs that reveal that there is an urban mass migration coming. No matter what your observation bias may be, we are in a massive global population shift into the world’s cities. Today over half the world’s population lives in urban areas. Some estimates reveal that in many countries the percentage is a lot higher. We are becoming an urban world. We begin here because this is the place where we have the most opportunity to see the future and move into it.
I believe that when we think about cities we think about downtowns, office buildings, skyscrapers, and the like. We think about the infrastructure. This particular hiccup is what gets us into trouble because as we think about the city we think about the church in the city—and by the church we mean the church building. A city is made up of people. A report from the Institute for the Future reads, “For future smart cities to thrive, it must be centered around people, not just infrastructure.”[i]
Dan Hill, CEO of Fabrica (a communications research center, www.fabrica.it) says, “We don’t make cities in order to make buildings and infrastructure or, indeed, technology—that’s a side effect of making cities. We create cities to come together, to create culture or commerce, to live, to work, to play—to create more people.”[ii] The problem with how we imagine our urban mission is the same problem many in the commercial world face—we forget it is about people and not the structures of the church.
The discussion around smart cities might well echo our own. Anthony Townsend, Research Director at IFTF and author of the upcoming book SMART CITIES: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia writes: “Citizens are not employees or customers, they have to be dealt with on a different basis. So the idea that you can install the smart city like an upgrade and expect people to just live with it—especially when it takes power away from them—means they're not going to accept it. So you have to engage with them and grow it from the bottom up.”[iii] He continues: “This is an age in which very big things can come from massively coordinated human activity that doesn't necessarily get planned from the top down. We need to stop thinking about building smart cities like a mainframe—which is this industry vision—and think about it more like we built the web, as loosely intercoupling networks.”[iv]
Dan Hill talks about these ‘Smart Citizens.’[v] “Despite the heavy infrastructure-led visions of the systems integrators and IT corporations, the most interesting and productive use of contemporary technology in the city is here, literally in the hands of citizens, via phones and social media,” he says. “The dynamics of social media have been adopted and adapted in the last few years to enable engaged and active citizens to organize rapidly and effectively; a network with a cause. Smart citizens’ seem to emerge at a far faster rate than we’re seeing more formal technology-led smart cities emerging,” says Hill. “In the face of institutional collapse, active citizens are knitting together their own smart city, albeit not one envisaged by the systems integrators and technology corporations.”[vi]
What does this mean for us? We do not build communities to build church buildings. We do not do our diocesan work in order to maintain the infrastructure of the church. We are in the business of creating communities so that people may come together, creating a culture of sharing grace, to work and serve others, to play and celebrate life. Just like many city planners and governments, we forget our work is about people.
We have created a system by which people are here to support the church rather than the church support the people in making community. When we do this we take power and energy out of the organization—we take the life out of the organism. The only way to build a vital and healthy mission in the future will be to engage with people in real-time, where they are, and to listen and work with them to create the new living church.
The largest aspen grove in the world is the Pando Grove in Utah and it is considered by many to be one of the largest living organisms in the world with a massive single underground root system. Likewise, our cities and our churches, if seen as giant organisms, can and will be part of “massively coordinated human activity.”[vii] The church, if it wishes to be present as a living organism within the life of the city, will have to couple with the vibrant city networks. It will be autopoietic – porous. It will have to build commons (both electronic and human) throughout the city’s mainframe. The church will have to participate in organizing and gathering and ministering through the same media relationships that people use in their daily lives. We are looking at a world of “smart citizens” and that will mean we are living in a world of “smart” community members.
When talking about the future of cities, there are lessons to be learned about what is happening now. Some city planners look at Hongdae in South Korea. It used to be a very traditional suburb. Urbanization occurred and masses of people moved into the area. People built up the city by adding to already existing structures. Office life, shopping, dining, and small businesses were built onto existing homes and buildings. They were not following the building code. Instead of stopping this massive DIY movement, the leaders of the city worked with the people. They changed some of their regulations and began to steer the life of the growing metropolitan area into a productive and healthy future.[viii] What changed? Leaders saw that the city itself was a “platform” interacting in a relationship with the people. Most master plans make people conform. This plan adapted to the people. City planners are asking themselves today: “How can you open up your codes and make a platform that is open and can adapt to bottom-up practices.”[ix]
We still are in the business of planting churches and hoping people will come into them. We have a church development strategy and that strategy seeks to have the people conform to its existing model. The church has an opportunity to look out and see that we should be interacting with our people in the mission field. Our platform of structure and polity needs to adapt to the world and people around us and not the other way round. We are to be a people-led community with the organization/platform supporting the work. We are not to be an organization/platform that leads and is supported by people. This is a very important and integral cultural change. It is a necessary organizational flip.
How will we begin to be an organization willing to play with our people? How will we engage with them and follow them out into the world? We will have to deliver valuable low cost, lightweight, moveable, transferable, multi-use infrastructure to our people. This is what we can do with our organization’s economy of scale. At the same time, we will have to allow our people to lead us. The Church organization has to adapt to the people we intend to reach.
Dan Hill writes: “If we're going to figure out what the smart city is about, we need to involve citizens. But citizens themselves won’t do enough; you need to engage in the Dark Matter of institutions to resolve it, for it to become systemic. Think about what we want the city to be about, how we want our city to work, how we want people to engage. We have to redesign all kinds of organizations from the bottom up for the 21st century. We'll have to redesign most things and pull them together so we have active, engaged government alongside active, engaged citizens focusing their time on what the city can be in the first place—and with that, we may end up with a much smarter city.”[x]
If the church is going to be part of the city of the future, we need to be part of the smart city today. We must be involved with the involved citizens. We must direct our attention to relationships and the interconnectedness of lives lived together. We will need to rethink our infrastructure and make sure that it is supportive of the people and their movements and gatherings instead of the other way around. We must pull together people alongside our missionary structures and engage with them “focusing on their time.”[xi] We must be in their time and in their space, listening and traveling with them as the new urban communities grow and develop.
I recently read an article about the “design tactics” for rethinking the development of communities. It began with this quote: “Historically, America’s economic growth has hinged on its ability to create new development patterns, new economic landscapes that simultaneously expand space and intensify our use of it.”—Richard Florida, from the foreword to Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs[xii]
As more people are moving to the city, so then a new focus upon making the city inhabitable is taking shape. Designers, architects, and community developers are reimagining the cityscape. They are not necessarily building new infrastructure so much as they are recreating the spaces we inhabit. Anyone in a city center that has watched as an old coffee company building from the 1930s or a 1920 paper factory is refitted for lofts, retail, and office space can testify to this reality. In part, it is because as people return to the urban landscapes those thinking about life in these spaces are asking: “How might . . . existing downtowns be creatively retrofitted—re-inhabited, redeveloped and/or re-greened in ways that are economically productive, environmentally sensitive, socially sustainable, and aesthetically appealing?”[xiii]
It is one thing to think about doing this for our old church buildings—true enough. But in the thinking of these urban designers, we see patterns of human occupation that give us a clear picture of the mission context for the city. June Williamson worked with others to gather information about what was transpiring across the United States. She wrote in “Urban Design Tactics for Suburban Retrofitting”: “We wondered what was being done across North America with vacant big box stores, dead malls, dying commercial strips, traffic-choked edge cities, outdated office parks, and aging garden apartment complexes.”[xiv] She eventually wrote a book called Retrofitting Suburbia. It is worth a look if you are a missionary in the urban landscape that is even now evolving.
After looking at eighty sites, what Williamson saw was nothing less than inspirational. It is hard to believe if you are in a megacity in the South. Nevertheless, as all patterns indicate, it is true. I remember sitting in an urban planning meeting and grumbling about new high-rise multifamily units going into already densely populated areas. I then came to understand that concrete sprawl was ultimately detrimental to the environment. You want to build up no out. It points out the reality that in the end, we are going to be (at least in my lifetime) a more urban population. The last 50 years of urban sprawl are over.[xv] June Williamson writes: “We spent fifty years building and living in these suburban landscapes, and we must spend the next fifty retrofitting them for the new needs of this century, to help build a resilient future suburbia that is climate-sensitive, compact, pedestrian-and-bike friendly, and responsive to changing demographics and contemporary lifestyles.”[xvi]
Some might say that the answers to resilience must be sought primarily in building up center cities, ignoring the fact that suburbs now comprise the majority—in land area, population, and economic activity—of our urbanized areas. This line of thinking overlooks the reality that more potential gain could be achieved by focusing on adapting our least sustainable landscapes, in suburbia, to transform them into more resilient, equitable, adaptable, walkable, transit-oriented, and more public-oriented places. In a stagnant economy, it is imperative that the built landscape be as self-sustainable and energy-efficient as possible. Retrofitting and planning for retrofitting are more important than ever.[xvii]
What is true in the urban area is true in the suburban area. Our cities are being remade and we need to be attentive as churches in order to participate whether we are in a suburban church or downtown church. We need to have our eyes open to the reality of values and trends that are shaping life. We also need to see clearly where people are migrating and how they are living. So what is happening and how are people recycling space to build a better community?
People are redeveloping the existing infrastructures from the failed big box stores also called the safety store. At our house we called them safety stores because as soon as you saw them, we believed people were comforted by their presence. We imagined a person might say, “Ahhhhh, we are okay. There is a Bed Bath & Beyond.” Or “I was worried I didn't know where I was. Now I know I will be okay. There is a Starbucks next to a Home Depot. We are safe now.” It is safe because you can see it but it is also safe because you can go inside these stores and restaurants and know exactly where everything is--how and what to order. Defunct big box stores and old manufacturing buildings of downtown are being repurposed. Across the country big box stores are being rethought, gutted, and remade into community centers, gyms, and health clinics.[xviii] In downtown Houston the Episcopal Diocese of Texas Health Foundation now shares space with a spirituality center that used to be a stationary/paper printing building. In the small town where I first served I can think of two places that were once a giant furniture store and one electronics store. Today, they house a community college and a mental health clinic, respectively. These are icons of a culture that is shifting from commercial and commodity centered to people-centered.
Reclaiming big box stores, malls, and shopping centers for churches, church-run clinics and service centers is a way in which we can move back into spaces that have long been diminished but even now are being repopulated. Sharing space with new community centers has the potential for mission.
Another area of renewal is the greening of both urban and suburban spaces. In downtown Houston, there is a huge piece of green space where people gather and play called Discovery Green. There are concerts and movies. One of the largest Easter Sunday services is held there, followed by picnics and other activities. In a neighborhood just outside of downtown Houston, an old train track has been retrofitted for a hike and bike trail. The old concrete bayous are being taken out and new walking and biking trails will connect the outlying suburbs with the heart of downtown. Across The United States there is a movement to restore and reclaim wetlands and creeks long paved over.
Williamson gives a great example from Seattle:
In the Northgate neighborhood in northern Seattle, a little-used overflow parking lot
for a busy regional shopping mall was prone to flooding. The headwaters of Thornton Creek were buried in a large culvert beneath the asphalt and local environmentalists lobbied hard for "day lighting." Developers were also interested in the property while planners also hoped to see more density, since the terminus of a light rail line was planned for the adjacent quadrant of overflow mall parking. The win-win solution? A combination of new "soft" storm water infrastructure in the form of a very sophisticated vegetative bioswale [a natural porous stormwater drain]– the Thornton Creek Water Quality Channel – plus mixed-use development with hundreds of attractive new housing units in Thornton Place.[xix]
How can existing congregations participate in reclaiming spaces? How can we be present in these green spaces? Also, if we are near a reclaimed space how can congregations put up respite and prayer gardens? Or create a vegetable garden in the midst of a food desert. Christians care about the environment and so we are challenged to connect with those who are doing this work. Whether we are sharing a hike and bike trail through our property or helping a neighborhood create green space, this is an opportunity for community connection.
A third way in which developers are rethinking the urban and suburban living environment is by rezoning spaces. Cityscapes and outlying areas are being re-platted and zoned for new mixed-use development.[xx] What happens is that when this is done, new opportunities for community growth occur. People move into housing above retail and restaurants.
The 2013 Kinder Institute Study, the thirty-second study of its type, found that individuals, for the first time, were, by and large, more interested in living in the midst of these complex and diverse communities.[xxi] They report that people are shifting away from a desire to live in the suburbs and single-family type developments. They would instead prefer to be in a place where there is a mix of retail, eateries, and homes.[xxii]
We are challenged as a church to send people out as missionaries into these communities. We need to see them as mission fields. Holding Bible studies in homes or restaurants is only one way to engage. We used to send out chaplains to hospitals. How do we send out the people to build communities within these communities where multi-use is occurring? Can we even put an office or chapel in the building next to the coffee shop? Mini worship centers and sacred spaces for meditation for all to use could pop up in these places.
What we see in general are more beautiful and greener spaces. We see connectivity for pedestrians and bicyclists. We see spaces being re-inhabited and recreated. We see retrofitting and repurposing. We see denser populations focused on play, the outdoors, and coming together for social events.[xxiii] It is the church’s work to both help these shifts happen and to participate with our communities in creating healthier environments. It is also the church’s work to be evangelists within this new changing community.
People trying to do missionary work in these areas are talking to nones--a new category of individuals who claim no particular religious inclination. Journalist Terry Mattingly wrote this about the nones. “Pollsters at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and similar think tanks are now using a more neutral term to describe a key trend in various religious traditions, talking about a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who are ‘religiously unaffiliated.’”[xxiv] That’s certainly an awkward, non-snappy label that’s hard to use in headlines. It’s so much easier to call them the nones.[xxv] I once hosted a conversation on Twitter about mission to the unaffiliated none. I got in a lot of trouble from those who did not affiliate. They reminded me that they were actually quite spiritual people! Human beings are spiritual people. We have for a long time said that we are spiritual beings inhabiting a physical body and not physical beings alone. There are probably some orthodox theological problems with that statement but I think you get my drift. What has become clear is that they are none and done. They are spiritual people who have no church relationship and are done with church as usual.
We are seekers by trade. Human beings have always been and will continue to be a kind of animal that deeply seeks out the meaning of things. The Most Honorable and Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, once remarked that it is, in fact, our charism, given by God, to seek meaning. We are a particular creature that seeks meaning and then tries to give word to it. I remember very well that he was speaking to biologist Richard Dawkins during a debate. It struck me and I think it is important to remember any time we begin to think about people. The people who inhabit our cityscape (and our world, for that matter) are people on a pilgrimage, seekers after meaning.
In a now not-so-recent article, The Barna Group, a research organizations had to add new categories to their description of the human creature because the old ones (churched and unchurched) just didn’t work anymore.[xxvi] Despite the Barna Group’s overarching agenda as an evangelical Christian group and their typical “church is dead” message, they actually have some helpful information worth mentioning here, so that we can understand a bit more about the people who are migrating to the center of our cities.
There are a lot of people who do not go to church. That being said, when asked, those who do not go to church (six out of ten) will tell you that they are Christian. A lot of those consider themselves to be people who have recently discovered Christianity. Also, the Barna Group has discovered that a significant number of people who do not claim any particular nondenominational or denominational affiliation still participate in pretty traditional church activities during any given week. I am always suspicious of this, of course, because I think people, in general, want to be well-regarded and worry that when the Barna Group calls, they are actually a friend of their grandmother or mother checking on their spiritual habits. Still, a goodly number of these unattached people read the Bible and over 60% will say they talk to God once a week.[xxvii] The Institute for Spirituality and Health in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine did a research project within the Texas Medical Center a number of years ago and found that even among doctors, nurses, and patients they generally tracked these numbers.[xxviii]
There are some other interesting facts that the Barna Group offers. A lot of people are more likely to say yes to being invited to attend a small home church. This seems to be an important piece of information if we are to be missionaries in this new context. A lot of folks attend both conventional churches and house churches—not necessarily of the same denomination. Still, there is a fair number of people who attend, but less frequently than did their parents and grandparents.[xxix] Of course, we knew this already.
The Barna Group also has a helpful list of things these “unattached” believe. I think they probably believe that these “unattached” qualities are not good news for the evangelical church. They are probably better news for a church like the Episcopal Church, which is always interested in a good conversation and not afraid of a wide variety of questions. The Barna Group says that recent surveys reveal that the “unattached” are:
· More likely to feel stressed out
· Less likely to be concerned about the moral condition of the nation
· Much less likely to believe that they are making a positive difference in the world
· Less optimistic about the future
· Far less likely to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in its principles
· Substantially more likely to believe that Satan and the Holy Spirit are symbolic figures, but are not real
· More likely to believe that Jesus Christ sinned while He was on earth
· Much more likely to believe that the holy literature of the major faiths all teach the same principles even though they use different stories
· Less likely to believe that a person can be under demonic influence
· More likely to describe their sociopolitical views as “mostly liberal” than “mostly conservative”[xxx]
We have a tremendous opportunity to reach out to people who would find The Episcopal Church a hospitable place. In order to do that, we are going to have to go where they are, actually invite people to attend, and we are going to have to be innovative and think small.
Houston, Texas, where I live, is made up of a global population. We are one of the most diverse cities in the country. Houston has one of the largest rodeos in the world. I always take out-of-town guests so that they can experience the rodeo in all of its beautiful and strange glory. One of my non-Texas friends who went to the rodeo remarked on the ways this was a true cultural experience. If you have never been, like many whom I take, you might be surprised by what you see and whom you see. On a recent trip to the rodeo, at the marketplace (which is an experience unto itself) while a friend was buying a new Stetson Open Road Silverbelly (that is the kind of hat that LBJ wore), the two of us stood outside the store in the midst of a sea of passersby. Literally in a few seconds, an Anglo white male, a Hispanic family, an Indian family (woman in a sari), a Muslim family and an African-American family—all of many different shades of color and speaking different languages—passed us. He turned to me and said, “I never thought this would be a multicultural experience.” In Houston, at the rodeo, everyone can be a cowboy and cowgirl. It is, in fact, a very odd and yet energizing slice of America.
Every year you can go to the Rice University Kinder Institute website and see the studies they have done and are doing regarding the changing demographics of our city and what it means for the country.[xxxi] The Kinder Institute states: “No other metropolitan region in America has been the focus of a long-term research program of this scope. No city more clearly exemplifies the trends that are rapidly refashioning the social and political landscape across all of urban America.”[xxxii] In 1960, which was the last real boom decade for the Episcopal Church (like many denominations), the population of Houston was 1,243,258 people—6% were Hispanics, 19.8% were Black, 73% were Anglos, and the remaining other.[xxxiii] There, of course, were other nationalities even then but they were the smallest of numbers compared to these three major segments of our Houston population. Today 33% are Anglo, 18% are Black, 40.8% are Hispanic, and 7.7 % are of Asian or other descent.[xxxiv] Over 50% of those Hispanics are between the ages of 18 and 29, while Anglos make up only 23% of that age bracket.[xxxv] We can see the same huge demographic shifts across the U.S. In a 2014 Forbes article Dallas, Boston, Riverside, Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle were listed with Houston as having scored a 70% diversity index or higher, and a 20 to 40 age range of 29% or higher. America is literally reshaping itself.[xxxvi]
Today, our Episcopal Church has a demographic that is considerably different. As a domestic church, we tend to be 86.7% Anglo, 3.4% Asian or other, 3.5% Latino, and 6.4% Black.[xxxvii] True, the statistics I mentioned from Kinder are for Houston. But remember that Houston is considered a trending city for the rest of the U.S. So what you see in Houston are the future artifacts of what the rest of the country will experience within its urban environments. The Episcopal Church today is closer to what our world looked like in1960. So you see the problem? Yes?
I believe the future missionary church will reflect the demographics of its culture. To become that missionary church will be to bridge the gap from where we are today to where our culture is tomorrow. This means that the growing majority of our mission field is made up of a diverse population. Our communities will necessarily have to take this into consideration. They will have to be multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. Those who lead will have to be bicultural and able to transfer between cultures. We will have to be “culturally humble.” We need to be a missionary Church filled with people who are willing to have others tell them of their culture and show their culture, rather than pretend we know who they are and where they are from.
In our church we possess all the qualities needed to live and thrive in this new mission context. To begin with, we must understand that there is no such thing as a closed system.[xxxviii] The Episcopal Church as a community, as a mission society, is not closed. It is always in a relationship with the community around it. We are constantly in an interchange of ideas and communication that shapes and forms us. Sometimes it is difficult to see this, but it is nonetheless true. When scientists observe the molecular world of a cell and observe autopoiesis, they have to use very powerful microscopes.[xxxix] Researchers William Hall and Susu Nousala point out in their paper, “Autopoiesis and Knowledge in Self Sustaining Organizational Systems,” it is difficult to see how such systems work because we only see what we can see. We have a hard time focusing on the actual participation with the outside world. Every system, whether of social or organic is porous. We are more often than not left only with a hint or idea of the resulting action rather than actually observing the event of autopoiesis as it is happening. Yet, they argue that it does, in fact, happen and is an essential quality of living organizations. The engagement with what is outside is a necessary part of organic life; especially if that life is to thrive. Autopoietic organizations are bounded, complex, mechanistic, self-differentiated, self-producing, autonomous, and porous.[xl] Let us take a moment to apply these qualities to the church as a missionary society and understand where our learning edges are.
We are a bounded system. We have ways of understanding our parts and places within the system. We have orders of ministry; we have parts to play and roles to carry out. We are limited, though, because we have so narrowly defined these roles that we are not able to use the roles creatively for ministry and mission in our current context. Here is a great example. We will license an individual (nonclergy) to take one piece of communion bread and a sip of wine to one homebound or hospital-bound person. Yet we are unable to wrap our minds around how that same person might be sent out to share the same gift of communion with a small batch community of individuals. We have a way of licensing individuals (non-clergy) to preach and so we do and they preach inside the church. But we do not use them to go outside the church to preach and teach in a small batch community.
Human beings are very complex autopoietic creatures and we build very complicated organizations.[xli] We have gotten complexity confused with only one form of order. We have a simple order that has been replicated throughout our organization. This order is one that is built upon an antiquated rule of governance, committee, and board structure. While some of this is important and even necessary for the health of the organization, we have so organized ourselves that we are no longer pliable. We will need to be a much more organic system with a variety of ways so we can organize at different levels and for different purposes. The old system was built around the idea of permanence. There are to be organizational structures that are created for the skeleton of the organism called the Episcopal Church. As we move to the outer parts of the organization, though, we will need to attach a variety of skins that live and die. We will have to have the ability to create and to let die. We must organize for a short while and dismantle quickly to make the mission new. We know how to form a church like we have done for over 100 years. We, however, are stuck in the old/current model of church size and must figure out how we might create other forms of communities and how they might belong to the organization. Our definition of what is a church is too limited.
We have a very machinelike set of interactions that manage the church.[xlii] We have an exchange of financial resources. We have created forms of communication that are clear. We have policies and procedures that help order life. Again, though, these are imprisoned in mid-century modern forms of banking and commerce. We have not updated our business models to keep up with contemporary practices. We are still, for the most part, only using a fraction of the communication potential available to us as we perpetuate a culture tied to newsletters that are our primary form of distributing information. The social and financial mechanism of the new millennia must be engaged and entered into the organization in order for us to continue to thrive, and for the infrastructure to hold up as the organization interacts with the 21st century. We know about pledging and offering plates. People in our mission context, though, function on less and less cash and do most of their giving electronically. People give less cash to organizations, while they still comprehend what it might mean to give to God. They like to give to particular things and have choices. How do we use modern mechanistic structures to enable them to make their gift?
Williams and Nousala write, “System boundaries are internally determined by rules of association, employment agreements, oaths of allegiance to organizational rules, deeds, etc., that determine who belongs to the organization and what property it owns.” While we have these, we still need to work on this because there are many more qualities of participation and many more forms of belonging. Our limited view of this is part of what is cutting us off from the world around us. In other words, in a world where people used to define themselves primarily as belonging to this and that group our limited understanding of membership worked. In today’s world where belonging has a much broader understanding, our ideas around membership, participation, and belonging actually prevent us from more adeptly engaging people in surroundings. It is as if our understanding of the membership boundary has so shrunk that we are no longer able to engage with many who quite simply think about their participation in organizations in a different way. In order to be a thriving autopoietic community, we will need to broaden the ways in which people can be the church.
We know how to make Episcopalians. We have a variety of classes and we invite people to take them so that they can become members. We prefer indirect recruiting; this means we put an ad in our newsletter or we mention at services that we are having a class—but we rarely invite people personally to attend. We make new members in baptism and confirmation, but we don’t really train them in anything other than an old model of church. We also make Episcopalians the good old fashion way – by having babies. We are going to have to do better at this process. One of the reasons why an autopoietic organization lives and thrives is because it makes new members well. It is constantly creating new cells—new members. At the same time those members are changing the organization. If the organization ceases to make new members, it ceases to have new energy, new ideas, and new creativity poured into the system. Just like any living organism, if it does not have new members (cells), it is in the process of dying.
Autonomy is the idea that the organization can stand alone. The organization will outlive any of the individuals that now make up the organization.[xliii] Let us pause here a moment. The church is a spiritual body and it is the family of God on earth. It encompasses the human being and yet is beyond any one individual. Therefore, the nature of the church is to outlive any of the individuals now involved. In theory, we as a church do this and will do this. What is important to understand is that we have become so church building–oriented that the structures and infrastructure of the organization are in danger of becoming terminal. In other words, the church has become something other than it is meant to be! The individual is the organization in this case. This is why we see that the structures and the polity all need more and more people and their energy to survive. We are an organization that is literally eating our people alive. We are consuming ourselves—autosarcophagy. This is a completely different thing. The people are the ones who are to be the church and autonomously renewing, creating and recreating the living organization of church. If we are to be an autopoietic church, we will need to be one where the local communities are autonomous enough to create and multiply in a variety of ways so that we are a self-reproducing AND a living organism. It will need to do this without the oppressive structure we now are trying to maintain.
We have boundaries but we don’t use them to do mission. We are complex but rigidly so. We are mechanistic but not in a helpful way. We are self-differentiated but exclusively so. We are self-producing but unsustainably so. We are autonomous but codependent. We have the DNA for autopoiesis but are misusing it to our detriment. Why? We are stuck in a model that does not work.
In 1962, children were hiding under their desks in America, practicing for what seemed like a sure thing—a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. By every indication, nuclear proliferation was a likely reality.[xliv] The Cuban missile crisis was hot and the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. were engaged in massive nuclear buildups and ballistic missile systems. Both countries were trying to figure out how they might survive an attack and if they should, in fact, attack first.[xlv] Hawks on both sides of the world were sure they had the answer. I believe we probably are not fully aware of how close we came to an extinction event.
One of the issues for the U.S. was how would the leaders speak to one another, post-event? Because the military works on a “command control network” they needed one that would survive the disaster.[xlvi] Enter RAND Corporation. RAND was working with the military on a number of projects at the time. They had a man in their office named Paul Baran. He was a researcher and was involved in a lot of a fancy work that probably most people in the day would have believed was stolen from a space ship in area 51. Nevertheless, the hardworking Baran slaved away at trying to figure out this problem. His solution, and therefore RAND’s solution, for the U.S., was to build a “more robust communications network using ‘redundancy’ and ‘digital’ technology.”[xlvii] Of course, nobody really believed that Baran’s idea was possible and so they dismissed it, thus prolonging the creation of the World Wide Web by a decade or more,
Basically, Baran’s idea was that a centralized communication system relies on only one switch to communicate, store, and send out messages. A decentralized system would do the same but have several kinds of backup or other relays. Essentially both of these would easily fall victim to an attack as in one particular area might completely cut off a region where communication was needed or worse, in the case of the destruction of the centralized system where the effect would completely shut down communication altogether. Baran imagined a different kind of system.
Basically, Baran created a distributed system of communications. Through the system, information is carried from one node to another on its own. Each node, while still part of the unit, acts autonomously and independently. It receives the piece of information, stores it, and sends it along to the next node. If there were a problem with one of the nodes, then the information could take another route to its destination.[xlviii]
Here is what Baran actually offered in his paper:
Figure 1 Baran’s Example of network nodes. (Paul Baran, August 1964)
Figure 2 Baran applied his design to a real world geometry and landscape. (Baran, August 1964)
Figure 3 Illustration of Centralized, Decentralized, and Distributed Network (Baran, August 1964)
Wired magazine interviewed Baran in 2003, and he talked about the system he had created: “Around December 1966, I presented a paper at the American Marketing Association called ‘Marketing in the Year 2000.’[xlix] I described push-and-pull communications and how we’re going to do our shopping via a television set and a virtual department store. If you want to buy a drill, you click on Hardware and that shows Tools and you click on that and go deeper.”[l] When, in 1969, the RAND group founded ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) for scientists to share information, they could hardly have imagined the vast expanse of social and commerce that is today networked globally by the click of a button.
So what kinds of churches will we see living and moving in the Western world in the future? What kinds of communities will reach the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual people who inhabit our mission context? How will these congregations inhabit the suburban and urban environments of tomorrow?
Let’s apply Paul Baran’s concept to the church for a moment. The church that we inherit is primarily a centralized model. It is hierarchical in nature, true enough, but it is basically organized in this centralized manner. People come to a central point—the church. There they are ministered to and there they receive programs, sacraments and pastoral care. Sometime the priest or ministers will travel out to the parishioner’s home or to their workplace or hospital. It is, by and large, a centralized model of community which itself may have several levels of similarly working parts.
Figure 4 Current Church model - centralized.
We have made large strides towards a more decentralized model. We have done this primarily at the higher levels of the organization. Yet even in the parish there has been some substantial movement through the growth of programming ministries in the 1990s that created decentralized systems. Yet it is not a farfetched thing to walk into a small parish in a small town and see a centralized system at work. In many ways, both the centralized and decentralized ideas of organization might be found in Rothauge’s work around pastoral, program and corporate congregations. (In later years a “transitional” stage was included and “corporate” was changed to “resource”.)
The form the missionary church will take in the future can be found in the artifact of the Internet and distributive system thinking. We are a weak organization today because we still believe that everyone must come to the same center. When that center is disrupted (for whatever reason—and there are many), the system is weakened and can even die. There are models where the decentralized system is working well. I believe, though, in order to engage with the culture, we are going to need a distributive system of mission.
A distributive system of mission creates multiple communities connected together. These communities are of different kinds and they do different things. They share information that they collect from the organization. They then multiply it through their own webs of connections. A distributive mission doesn't store everything in one place. In other words, a distributive system is not a bunch of centralized systems connected. It uses what it needs within the particular context of ministry. It then shares with others what it learns and receives from others what it needs to be successful.
Figure 5 A disbursement model of a networked future Church.
I remember when I graduated from seminary in 1995, we used to say that big churches were getting bigger and small churches were dying. That is not quite true today. Every church, regardless of size, needs to move to a more distributive model of ministry wherein church finds itself part of a web of relationships throughout its interdependent context.. In the future we will still have churches like we have them today. They will be of every size. However, they will be connected to parts of their communities. They will be one network node within the larger church-wide system. They will also be one network node within the worldwide network.
Large churches will have moved into a mix of ministries that are decentralized and distributive all across the city. They will be running multi-site communities in people’s homes, in retirement communities, in other church spaces, in rented spaces and office buildings. If these large congregations are to survive in the coming decades, they will have to figure out ways in which to connect to their massive membership out in the world where they are.
While the Episcopal Church has largely abandoned college campus ministry over the last two decades, it is time to reengage. This is one of the prime mission contexts for the future Church. However, mission on college campuses will not look like blown up youth ministry for college kids. Instead the future of campus missions will look like a disbursement model mission. No longer will undergrad and graduate co-eds find their way to a campus center where the one campus missioner works. Instead the campus mission, like the networked church, will have nodes of connection throughout the campus. A college campus mission at a tier one school might actually start college missions on local community college campuses as well. The future church no longer sees campus mission as a secondary isolated ministry for kids but as a primary mission site where the gospel is shared throughout the campus community.
At the Episcopal campus ministries that remain peer ministry was and still is largely used as the dominant model. An insular model with one clergy leader running program limits the distribution of the ministry because it centers itself on the place and person of a campus missioner. The distributed college campus mission will be aided by a move away from this insular and centralized ministry, to a student leadership team aimed outward. The Rev. Joe Chambers at Rockwell House at Washington University in St. Louis changed over to this new model several years ago. The Rev. Mike Angell from The Episcopal Church Office supports campus and young adult ministries, and he believes the outward facing team-led campus mission is beginning to catch on and spread. Young adults on college campuses are interested in creating real communities, bound together by relationships, and with dispersed mission across the campus.
We will also see the proliferation of small communities in this new distributive model. We will see house churches in urban, suburban and even in rural areas. Some of these will be connected to the larger church community as mentioned above. However, many more will be stand-alone. You may have one missioner priest with a team of lay leaders overseeing 20 or more of these small communities.[li] The Barna Group has been predicting this since the 1990s and I have been teaching and talking about this for over two decades. Yet, the Episcopal Church has had difficulty engaging this model because we have been primarily stuck in a centralized churchy model.
In the future in the Episcopal Church there will be many kinds of churches. We will have cyber churches.[lii] Some people have taken cyber church to mean a Sim-City[liii] type environment where people go to church online. (www.simcity.com) People have created online gaming-type congregations similar to the Sims. The cyber church of tomorrow will be a church community that gathers online, shares information and news, but does not have a permanent place. The cyber church of the future will use the distributive model of ministry to connect nodes of ministry in space and time throughout the community. It will be a church that uses different public spaces for worship, teaching, and Bible study. It will adopt other service ministry sites for its outreach. The primary connection point for members will be the smartphone, and they will be connected through the Internet to their brothers and sisters, sharing prayers, thoughts and experiences. They will find out the community schedule and go to the coffee shop for a Bible study, meet in a park for prayer and meditation, and work at a local clinic serving the poor and those in need.
Another kind of community in the future Church is described by the Barna Group as an event church: “Frustrated with politics and structures in the standard church, many will participate infrequently in worship events in public places.”[liv] I think we are going to have communities pop up for limited times around special events or other gatherings. I think we might see communities pop up during the Daytona 500 or in the parking lots on Sunday mornings during tailgate season at the local NFL game or Saturdays on college game day. We already see this on Easter in parks and on other special days. But I think congregations engaged in a disbursement model will be looking for ways to send missionaries, pastors, and priests out to be present where people are. Flash mob Eucharist[lv] and the presence of the church in the midst of the modern day public square are mission opportunities of the future.
Service communities will be another kind of church that emerges strongly in the next ten years.[lvi] These will be communities that rise up around particular ministries. We see this already occurring where there is an outreach to the poor or those in need following a disaster. Communities spring up. People chose to worship with those they are serving. A great example is the outreach of Trinity parish in Houston, which grew up around ministry to the homeless. They started serving Eucharist following Sunday morning breakfast. What first started as something that was done for the homeless is now something that is done with the homeless and working poor in Houston. People chose to make this early morning service the service they attend. The community does its own Bible study, is creating a pastoral care ministry, and is becoming a mix of people of every ethnicity and every social stratum who choose to work together. I know of similar communities in Atlanta and Los Angeles..
The monastic type community will spring up as a revitalized part of the church’s mission.[lvii] In the Episcopal Church we already have a service corps whose chief hallmark is living in community together. (http://episcopalservicecorps.org) Focused on a ministry of service, they live in community with daily prayer and Bible study. They have a chaplain who mentors and watches over the community life.[lviii] Still, others are simply communities that share a common rule of life. The Missional Wisdom Foundation operates a network of distributed but connected new monastic communities in North Texas. (missionalwisdom.com) Small groups of individuals choose to live together under one roof and one rule of life. They participate in the community. We are even now talking about how these same models might be adapted for people in their senior years who would like to live with others.
Many individuals will find community life by participating in what Barna calls “dialogue forums.”[lix] These will be where people gather in small groups to talk about spirituality or discipleship, or read the Bible. This will take place in people’s homes, in coffee shops, in condominium community spaces, and in pubs. Many Episcopal Churches have dipped their toe into this well over the last two decades beginning with “Theology on Tap.” Diocese of Texas churches joined churches across the country in 2003 in offering conversation over beer and food at a local pub. These were extensions of existing congregations. Every church will need to be doing this kind of disbursed mission in the future. Individuals are going to look for spiritual opportunities closer to home or closer to their workplaces, and such communities will be an important way in which community life is lived out outside of the parish. It literally creates new doors into the community. Many people who are not attached to a community will find it much easier to be invited and to connect to communities like this. This is going to grow and become an essential ingredient of regular community life.
The compassion cluster is a short-term community located around a particular effort.[lx] These will grow up in the midst of tent cities that are doing work around a particular crisis. Along the Gulf Coast we see these pop up after hurricanes. People come from all over and participate in a community of faith that springs up like the temporary towns, which house food, volunteer support, shelter and showers for those being served and those serving. We also saw this happen in the midst of those who went to help clean up and rebuild after devastating wildfires in Bastrop, Texas. During the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, clergy went in and preached and celebrated the Eucharist amongst the protesters. As we become more aware of events such as these, people engaged in them will bring both their desire for community and worship with them. The Episcopal Churches in any given area of the U.S. need to be aware that such compassion clusters are opportunities to reach out, to serve, and get to know others.
Small groups and prayer shelters will continue to multiply.[lxi] Some of these are around reading books together. Others were kaffee klatsches that now have developed a life of praying together. The individuals in these small communities may belong to other organizations or they may not be affiliated with any. They are primarily based upon friendship models. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, Episcopal Cursillo Reunion groups served as a way to organize a growing popularity of this kind of mission. They were essential in the growth that was seen during those years for many communities. They began to fizzle out for the same reason as do many ministries. They became institutionalized. Such groups, like the discussion groups, have an important potential of undergirding a distributive missionary system.
Another community that will be part of the distributed autopoietic mission strategy is the “marketplace ministry.”[lxii] I remember that we actually stopped this from happening in our diocese. We had several clergy who had begun to provide pastoral care for workers at a local chicken-processing center. At the time, I don’t think we could wrap our minds around why this had value. There are still a number of companies who have chaplains on staff to help take care of their workers. I actually believe that these corporate chaplains are not long for the world. The economic situation has caused the funds for such excesses to dry up, and as an ancillary part of the corporation, such services are being dropped. Hospital chaplains are also going by the wayside as the cost of health care and the margin for financial success are growing slim. We must engage in this ministry. These places are still places for ministry. We need to send lay and ordained people out to be with people in the places where they live and work. The church must recognize that we still have a mission into these marketplaces, hospitals, and retirement communities, even if we do not own them or if we are paid to do them. These are the many and varied places where the people are and where God is. Therefore, it is imperative for us to make this an important part of our distributive mission focus.
This is of course, not meant to be a complete list of the future Church’s communities. There will be more kinds of Christian communities created by future missionaries that we cannot even imagine today but will be intimately tied to future cultural contexts.
Just recently, Warren Bird, Director of Research at Leadnet, wrote an interesting article pointing out the impact that multisite communities were having on church participation. The numbers highlight the fact that the models mentioned above are even now taking root in our communities. Bird reports the following in 2014:
• 5 million – the number of people who worshipped at a multisite church in one weekend in the United States alone, according to the National Congregations Study sponsored by Duke University
• 8,000 – the number of multisite churches currently found in the United States, according to the same study. (The wording of that survey allowed churches to call themselves multisite if they had multiple venues–such as services in the sanctuary, chapel and gym, but all on one campus. This is not what I am describing.)
• 9% – the percent of all Protestant churchgoers who attend a multisite church
• 3% – the percent of all Protestant churches that are multisite
• 80% – the percentage of U.S. states that have known multisite churches[lxiii]
These many and diverse kinds of communities will be essential in the large congregation as it steps out into a distributive system of organization. While still other churches may leave their buildings behind and engage in one of these new forms of community, others may transform their community into a monastery or service community in place. Regardless of how these forms are adapted and take shape, they are the face of the new Episcopal Church.
This is a vision of a distributed network of communities across a geographic and mission context. These will include all ages and all ethnicities. They will be monocultural and multicultural. They will be mixed classes and rooted deep within suburban and urban environments. They are visions of a living autopoietic organization that is bounded in multiple forms with belonging being shaped by the type of community. The diversity and multiplication of these forms will build a strong, healthy, and complex system. Each of them will be self-differentiated, not unlike individuals within a wide web of social relationships, but they will all be connected to the church. The churches’ current mechanisms will need to be retooled to provide for these new visions of church life. New forms of leadership and new freedoms will allow these congregations to be self-producing, self-replicating, and autonomous. They will adapt and change as they engage in their mission context and in relationship to real people and real spiritual pilgrims.
There are many prophets heralding the death of the church. They proclaim the death of the church at large and they proclaim the death of the denominational church. Some even get specific, making sure that everyone knows which denominational church is next! It is yours, I am pretty sure. You certainly can believe them if you wish, but I am unconvinced. We are a living and ministering in a “e” moment.
Ilya Prigogine, a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, helps me with this idea. He won recognition for his understanding of a new concept he called “dissipative structures.”[lxiv] In nature there is a contradictory reality, and that is that disorder can be the source for new order. Margaret Wheatley say this, “Prigogine discovered that the dissipative activity of loss was necessary to create new order. Dissipation didn’t lead to the death of a system. It was part of the process by which the system let go of its present form so that it could reorganize a form better suited to the demands of its changed environment.”[lxv] Our problem is that we in the church are formed by a different perspective rooted in Western science. We believe that entropy is the rule.[lxvi] So, if we do not constantly work harder and harder to keep pumping energy and resources into the system, then the system suffers from entropy—loses steam and dies. Yet even now life is flourishing and new life is being born. Of course, you immediately can see that this is a biblical understanding, but as Episcopalians, sometimes it is easier to see it through the eyes of science.
Prigogine offers that in a dissipative organization those things that interrupt and interfere are essential to the health of the system itself. The system receives the communication and decides if it is to respond, change, or ignore it. Change happens either way. If the disruption grows so that the organization can’t ignore it, then transformation and rebirth are possible.[lxvii] Wheatley says, “Disorder can be a source of new order, and that growth appears from disequilibrium, not balance. The things we fear most in organizations—disruptions, confusion, and chaos—need not be interpreted as signs that we are about to be destroyed. Instead, these conditions are necessary to awaken creativity… This is order through fluctuation.”[lxviii]
We are in a “dissipative” moment. We cannot ignore the flotsam and jetsam of the future that is even now washing upon the shores of the Episcopal Church. We can see partly what will only become clearer in time. But we have a vision, nonetheless. As Bob Johansen says, “Leaders make the future.” It is time that we participate in the world around us. We are to be about the business of making and remaking. We have for too long suffered the sin of trying to get it right, and the shame of coming up short. But in a “dissipative” era we must have a greater sense of process and participation and experimentation.[lxix] If we are to move outside of our centralized structures and old exoskeletons, we must shed our skins and put on new ones. Jesus says, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.” (Luke 5:33ff)
A new urban and suburban world is emerging. We will continue to see people move towards the cities of the future. What we are experiencing across The Episcopal Church is globally true. People are entering city life by the millions and will continue to do so for a long time to come. The shape of our cities and the multiple possibilities for Christian community are before us. We have an opportunity. The question for us as we stand in this “dissipative” moment is: will we shrink from the challenge or face it? It reminds me of a story I know about a man named Joseph Needham.
We are largely indebted to Needham, a quirky Englishman, for the information that changed our understanding of China. Much of what has become common knowledge is due to his work. He was a man who author Simon Winchester said, “loved China.”[lxx] Needham recorded the science and discoveries of an ancient people who, in the 1930s, were believed to be living in the dark ages. He discovered that much of what the modern Western culture took for granted had come from China.
Needham told us that the Chinese invented technologies such as papermaking, the compass, gunpowder and printing (both woodblock and movable type) long before anyone else. They also invented: the blast furnace and cupola furnace, finery forge, paper money, fire lance, land mine, naval mine, hand cannon, exploding cannonballs, multistage rocket and rocket bombs with aerodynamic wings and explosive payloads, the sternpost rudder, chain drives, large mechanical puppet theaters driven by waterwheels and carriage wheels and wine-serving automatons driven by paddle wheel boats, semilunar and rectangular stone knives, stone hoes and spades, the cultivation of millet, rice and the soybean, the refinement of sericulture, the building of rammed earth structures with lime-plastered house floors, the creation of the potter’s wheel, the creation of pottery with cord-mat-basket designs, the creation of pottery tripods and pottery steamers, the domestication of the ox and buffalo, irrigation of high-yield crops, the multiple-tube seed drill and heavy moldboard iron plough, to name just a few. In fact, Needham points out in his18 volume magnum opus, Science and Civilization in China, they did all of this before the end of the first century, before Christ, and in many cases a thousand years before the West.[lxxi]
During one of his many trips to China, Needham was invited to meet with Mao Zedong. It was not his first visit with the leader but it would be his last. Needham was unaware of why the Communist leader wanted to meet with him. When he arrived, he sat across from Mao and listened as the leader asked him a question. Mao remembered that Needham loved automobiles and had invited him to help with a very urgent question. It was 1972, four years before Mao’s death, and one can imagine the West was pressing in on him. At this time, modern conveniences were still out of reach for the Chinese population, including cars. Mao said that he had to make a decision as to whether he should maintain his policy of allowing his people to have only bicycles or allow his people to own and drive automobiles. This was a huge moment. Here Mao sat at a visionary crossroads. He asked Needham what he thought. Needham sat at the same crossroads. He paused and in his mind’s eye he could see the mass of men on bicycles making their way to work every day down China’s streets. He then began his argument by saying that he had a bicycle that he liked very much and served him well in Cambridge. He took a breath before proceeding to say that he believed it was time to allow people to have cars. However, in that moment Mao put up his hands, showing that Needham need not continue. Mao had heard his expert and chose to continue his bicycle-only policy. It would be four more years before Mao’s successor allowed people to commute in cars. Hua Guofeng became party chairman following Mao’s death. Hua vowed to bring China into the future and so allowed automobiles, leading in time to a country that is now a leading manufacturer of automobiles and the leading consumer of automobiles.[lxxii]
Leaders see the changes that are all about them and act in a manner that guides their community into the new reality, which is yet still before us. In this case both decisions were essential to how life would be lived out in China. Both created and caused a reality for the people of China. Both had good consequences and bad consequences unforeseen by the leaders. Both men saw the changes around them, and they made different choices about how to react to those changes. It is important for us to see clearly the changes that are already affecting our congregations and communities in order for us to see the future that is before us. We are to see clearly the changes that are needed, and we are to have a strong central vision with allowance for its application in new cultural contexts that emerge in time. It is time we step into the future and begin to plant these new communities. What will they look like and how will they make their way into the new missionary age? The Christian in the new millennium will bring new challenges and opportunities. For us to be successful, we will need leaders who are digital natives and who can act within the new VUCA world. We need different kinds of leaders, and we need to rethink ways of forming and training leaders. This particular task will require that we revisit how we raise different vocations within the community. How will the digital native relate to the institutions of seminary and diocese? It has been given to this generation to undertake the “dissipative” moment and to answer these questions. We are a living church with a vital and necessary mission into the world.
[i] “Smart Cities and Smart Citizens,” Sustain Magazine, Posted May 1, 2013, http://sustainmagazine.com/smart-cities-smart-citizens
[v] Smart citizens live in smart cities. This is a way of networking people into a platform that generates participatory community life. Smart citizens are connected with one another and the population within a city. For example the Amsterdam Smart City project seeks to connect government officials, citizens, and academics to build government e-services.
[xii] June Williamson, “Urban Design Tactics for Suburban Retrofitting,” Build A Better Burb, http://buildabetterburb.org/11-urban-design-tactics-for-suburban-retrofitting/
[xxi] Kinder Institute 32nd Annual Report,” Rice University, 2013, http://has.rice.edu/uploadedFiles/Houston_Area_Survey/FINAL%20-%202013%20KIHAS%20Report.pdf “When asked a slightly different question this year, half of the respondents (by 50% to 48%) said they would prefer to live in "an area with a mix of developments, including homes, shops and restaurants," rather than "a single-family residential area." Figures have been consistent across the years in rejecting basically a 50/50 split since 2007, the first time that question was asked." They go on to say, "Among the survey participants in the nine surrounding counties, 43% said they would choose the opportunity to live in an area with a mix of developments, rather than in a single-family residential area. These are remarkably high numbers for this sprawling, car-dependent city, further underscoring the substantial demand for more urban alternatives that now cuts across the entire metropolitan region."
[xxiv] Terry Mattingly, “Backsliders and the unchurched equal the Nones,” November 4, 2013, Patheos, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tmatt/2013/11/backsliders-and-the-unchurched-equal-the-nones
[xxvi] “45 New Statistics on church Attendance and Avoidance,” The Barna Group, March 3, 2008, https://www.barna.org/barna-update/congregations/45-new-statistics-on-church-attendance-and-avoidance#.Uh8552TXgVk "With Americans pursuing a growing number of "church" options, some of the traditional measures of church health are being redefined. According to a new study released by The Barna Group, which has been studying church participation patterns since 1984, popular measures such as the percentage of people who are "unchurched" - based on attendance at a conventional church service - are out of date. Various new forms of faith community and experience, such as house churches, marketplace ministries and cyberchurches, must be figured into the mix - and make calculating the percentage of Americans who can be counted as "unchurched" more complicated."
[xxvii] Ibid. “Six out of ten adults in the Unattached category (59%) consider themselves to be Christian. Even more surprising was the revelation that 17% of the Unattached are born again Christians... A significant proportion of the Unattached engages in traditional faith activities during a typical week. For instance, one-fifth (19%) read the Bible and three out of every five (62%) pray to God during a typical week.”
[xxviii] See ISH-BCM fMRI research here: http://ish-tmc.org/fmri-study-on-the-effects-of-prayer/
[xxix] Ibid. “Homebodies- people who had not attended a conventional church during the past month, but had attended a meeting of a house church (3%). Blenders- adults who had attended both a conventional church and a house church during the past month. Most of these people attend a conventional church as their primary church, but many are experimenting with new forms of faith community. In total, Blenders represent 3% of the adult population.
Conventionals- adults who had attended a conventional church (i.e., a congregational-style, local church) during the past month but had not attended a house church. Almost three out of every five adults (56%) fit this description. This participation includes attending any of a wide variety of conventional-church events, such as weekend services, mid-week services, special events, or church-based classes.”
[xxxvi] “America’s Coolest Cities,” Forbes, (August 12, 2014) http://www.forbes.com/pictures/emeg45kmll/introduction-12/ “Using [Bert] Sperling's Diversity Index, which measures the likelihood of meeting someone of a different race or ethnicity, favoring cities with greater diversity. And we factored in age, drawing on U.S. Census Bureau data and favoring places with a large population of people aged 20-34.” You can read more about Sperling’s diversity index here: http://www.bertsperling.com/2012/08/21/americas-coolest-cities
[xxxvii] “Domestic Racial and Ethnic Membership report for 2009,” Episcopal Church, http://library.episcopalchurch.org/sites/default/files/episcopal_domestic_racial-ethnic_membership_2009.pdf
[xxxviii] William P. Hall and Susu Nousala, “Autopoiesis and Knowledge in Self Sustaining Organizational Systems, 4th International Mulit-conference on Society, Cybernetics and Informatics, June 2010, Orlando, Fl. This paper challenges the idea that there is ever a closed system sociologically or molecularly. Systems are always porous to their surroundings.
[xlvii] Ibid. See the actual report here: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/research_memoranda/2006/RM3764.pdf
[xlix] Stuart Brand, “Founding Father, “ Wired, September 2003, http://archive.wired.com/wired/archive/9.03/baran_pr.html
[li] Barna, Boiling Point, 250.
[lii] Ibid, 252.
[liii] SimCity was a popular game that allowed people to build communities online.
[liv] Ibid, 251.
[lv] Flash mob Eucharist is a large public gathering where people have a Eucharist – organized by means of social networks.
[lvi] Ibid, 25. The Barna Group calls these Boutique Churches: "these are congregations with one ministry: worship, discipleship, fellowship, community service."
[lvii] Ibid, 252.
[lix] Barna, Boiling Point, 252.
[lxi] Ibid, 253.
[lxii] Ibid, 253.
[lxiii] Warren Bird, “Today there are more than 8,000 multisite churches,” LeadNetLeadNet,
[lxiv] Wheatley, New Science, 20.
[lxviii] Wheatley, New Science, 21. Wheatley is getting her information from the landmark paper by Prigogine and Stengers, published in 1984.
[lxix] Wheatley, New Science, 4.
[lxx] Simon Winchester, The Man Who Loved China (New York: Harper Perennial, 2008).
[lxxi] Needham's book is worth a look at and Simon Winchester's The Man Who Loved China is excellent. A short list of the inventions is found in a well documented wiki article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Chinese_inventions
[lxxii] Winchester, China, 236.
- "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
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- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
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