Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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The New Old Church

I've already posted a little (from what I remember) about my affinity with the so-called 'Celtic Church' movement. I want to say a bit more here.

I have long been a 'Searching Christian' - taking on various labels such as Unitarian, Quaker, Friend, Non-Subscriber, Free Christian - as I've made my way through denominations (and their own internal factions). At least half of this search has been theological, trying to work out my beliefs - since around the time of my awakening to theological issues around 2000/2001, having been a Christian since childhood.

But, from my time way back in 2006 (where I found myself attending a Zen Buddhist group) to now, there has been creeping in of questions around praxis. By praxis, I mean worship - how we gain inspiration from / insight into the divine - and running alongside that service - how we express our faith by doing good out there in the world.

This lead me initially to the Quakers in 2010/2011, though I departed last year (with a heavy heart because it meant leaving people I cared about) for a number of reasons - not least my observation that they were drifting the same way as the Unitarians in terms of their erosion of theology / vision in the name of a vague pluralism, their intellectualism and their intense, unquestioning adherence to middle-class left / Guardianista causes. I have said enough about this on this blog but, having 'done battle' already in the Unitarian denomination, I simply wasn't willing to get involve in another lost cause.

In turn I have found myself attending the church down my road - a two minute walk away. It is a Methodist church and my initial contact with them came about because they supported me with a community action project I've been involved in for the past 18 months. I have found them to be a church community that is unpretentious yet caring, Christ-centred but with latitude. They don't make grand proclamations about their adherence to social justice issues, they just get on with it - be that providing support for our road safety campaign and a previous campaign to save a park from being sold off to developers or collecting for refugees or the running of a weekly group for vulnerable adults with learning difficulties. This is certainly a big part of praxis I was looking for - the same praxis I had witnessed at Oldham Unitarian Chapel (too far to travel to each Sunday).

But there is still that question about worship and I have be honest, the hymn sandwich worship at this local church is more of an ordeal I put up with rather than something I look forward to. I am part of a small group called 'Faith Conversations', bringing together Methodists from across the area, and it is interesting that - apart from the theological debates - the issue of how we worship comes up regularly. Many of the group feel the same - the traditional service doesn't cut it for them but nor does charismatic worship, which is certainly a feature in some of their growing churches.

It has struck me, over the years, that there are many Christians searching for a new way of being and doing within their churches - and whilst the growth in charismatic churches mixing Alpha Course theology and Hillsong-style worship clearly offer a model for growth, it cannot be the only model of church for all personalities.

For me, I am increasingly drawn in private to 'Celtic Church' worship, which mixes contemplative music and chants with prayers. Here are two of my favourites...

In terms of theology, what is also worth noting is 'Celtic Church' expressions tend to have a distinctly panentheistic flavour - a position I have held ever since reading Marcus Borg's 'The God We Never Knew' around 2005ish. From the few books I have on the 'Celtic Church', I was also pleased to read recently about 'pelagianism' - drawn from the teachings of Pelagius - which goes against the traditional Christian ideas around 'Original Sin'. I have long thought 'humankind is not fallen, it is yet to rise' and this seems to have some consistency with this view.

This is where I'm at right now. They still feel like forays but this summer I am planning a camping trip to Scotland, primarily to climb Ben Nevis, and it might just be that I find my way to one of the 'Hearts of the Celtic Church' by re-routing to Lindisfarne or Iona...

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