We’re formed by rhythms of life. The seasons, the Christian year, holidays and festivals, regular practices. We attend to these rhythms as they’re present in our bodies, families, churches and communities. They guide us in how we live. Over the past several years the overarching rhythm shaping us is that of crises. We’re living in the experience of perpetual emergency (https://unherd.com/thepost/matthew-b-crawford-the-ongoing-state-of-emergency/). Every time we turn around a new crisis is added to the expanding list that the media loves to truck out for us everyday (pandemic, climate, politics, race, war, economics and on it goes). We’re caught in a perpetual rhythm of crisis after crisis in which the normal rhythms of life have been suspended. The new normal is the feeling continual vulnerability in an uncertain world.
In these posts I’ve written about the unraveling upending the normative narratives of our time. But as profound as these disruptions are, they’re not the only story. Most of us can’t sustain life in a continual rhythm of crises and emergency. We might agree with the analysis but we also need spaces of hope. I’ve written about another story. A story of God’s agency amongst us right where we dwell in local. Right in the midst of these crises the Spirit is fermenting and bubbling another story about the ways God is making all things new. This ferment is almost always taking place “off stage” – not in the places or people we turn to – the stars, gurus and experts with their proposals resourced with tons of money from foundations.
A question I’m continually asked is: Where do we see this ferment and what does it look like? Sometimes I respond by saying we see this ferment of the Spirit when we lay down our need to control outcomes. This seeing is about dwelling where we are with God and in our communities. It is about the relationality of covenant not the managed, strategic, innovative processes of contract (where the other is an object of our plans).
The language world that has shaped my writing over these past years involves words like: unraveling, ferment, dwelling/covenant. The other question is always “How”. Church leaders inevitably turn to the question: Where is this happening? I’m cautious in responding because inside this question there lingers a contract imagination looking for a method or program. If the Spirit is fermenting off stage, pointing is not always helpful.
But we need stories. Here you’ll find links to some of these stories from two friends from whom I learn a lot as we gather each week for conversation. Jenny Sinclair is the Director of Together for the Common Good (https://togetherforthecommongood.co.uk/). Her wonderful newsletter is filled with stories of the Spirit’s bubbling. One of these stories comes from another friend, Father William Taylor. William is the Vicar of Saint Thomas’ C of E Church in the London Borough of Hackney and co-founder of Clapton Commons. His story is about how, in the unraveling, one local church dwells and covenants with its community. Read it below. Perhaps after reading it you might be encouraged to share yours from your context because, remember, the Spirit is forming God’s future in the unraveling off stage.