It seems to me that the emerging church is emerging because people are finding the ability to have a grateful foot in both camps - tradition (the mother church) along with a new consensus, a new support group that parallels, deepens, broadens, grounds and personalizes the traditional message. But you don’t throw out the traditional message. The emerging church becomes an accountability system for the Tradition.

There's got to be a new kind of reformation in which we don’t react, we don’t rebel, we don’t hate anything. You can’t start a spiritual reformation by hating things. You have to be for something.

And so the emerging church questions are: What are you in love with? What do you believe in? What is the heaven that you have discovered?

(Richard Rohr, from the CAC webcast, Nov. 8, 2008: What is The Emerging Church?)

The kind of Reformation Rohr is talking about here seems to me distinctively Franciscan (Rohr is a Franciscan himself of course) as well as Emergent, and very close to the heart of the Franciscan way within the Anglican Communion.

It would be possible to argue that the beginnings of the Third Order in 13th Century Umbria and Tuscany were as much the source of New Monasticism as the Celtic religious who so often provide the conscious inspiration for the movement, and for much else that is Emergent, perhaps.

The Anglican religious orders seem to be facing something approaching a crisis of numbers, as Sisters and Brothers grow older and move on to join that cloud of witnesses, and novices are few and far between. Yet the associates (Tertiaries, Oblates, Companions, et al.) of the religious orders continue to grow in numbers - see Helen Julian CSF, "Finding a Home", New Daylight Sept. 2003.

I spent a number of years with the Vineyard Church, learning a great deal about forms of worship and "doing church" very different to the Anglo-Catholic tradition I had been used to, and as a musician I simply had a blast exploring the different threads in Vineyard music, from the Eagles to Irish Traditional!

It seems to me that there might be something to find along these paths, though a bear of so little brain as myself is having a hard time figuring out what it might be.

I can't help but remember that while Cannara and Poggibonsi where the Franciscan Third Order was founded were rural communities, so much that goes by the name Emergent - with the obvious exception of some New Monastic communities - takes place in urban contexts. I find myself now living and serving in a rural community (rather over 4,000 people) in South Dorset, where God is strongly calling us as a parish church to become a "church without walls", to come down off the physical hill where the church building is, out into the community, in ways that aren't circumscribed by the traditional understanding of what the village church does and looks like.

I'd love to hear how these ideas resonate, or otherwise, with others here, and most particularly from others with experience of trying to "do church" in new ways in rural communities...

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Above all, Francis was a radical follower of Christ, someone whose whole life was the Gospel. He was so far ahead of his time that in many ways we're only just beginning to catch up with him.

The best potted biography of Francis I know is here, on the UK TSSF site. You really should read Sr Helen Julian's Living the Gospel (BRF 2001) which is about the best (short!) book I know on contemporary outworkings of the Franciscan way.

There's no need for continual reviewing of the past you know. It's a once only thing - your rule is reviewed annually, but only to see that it fits your present call and circumstances. No need (unless you want to) to go over your "spiritual autobiography" every time.

We are all damaged goods, Heidi, bits of a broken world. Seeing that, we can, with the help of our Novice Guardian, form a rule that will heal and strengthen us in the particular places that we are wounded or weak. That's all it is - nothing onerous or judgemental - quite the opposite, really!

two other books.



1. Francis a model for human Liberation author Lenardo Boff

2, the sun & moon over Assis. author Gerard Thomas Straub

Sorry, Heidi, not to have replied earlier! I had no idea that St Francis was looked upon as a peacemaker in the same mould as Boone and Crockett. Amazing! I truly had no idea that Francis was thought of as "the saint of [the] North American heroic past." We have statues of St Francis in our English country gardens too, but but he's much more thought of in that context as the saint of being kind to animals, and so on, than of anything else...
I certainly think it's both, Heidi. You have to remember too that though Francis' life was quite short (he was only 44 or 45 when he died) his understanding of his own vocation, and of God's purpose for the Order he founded, went through several significant changes, or better, stages in development, over the 20 or so years of his active work.

Your concern for animals, nature and the environment is very Franciscan! You might be interested in the Hilfield Project, only a few miles from where I'm living.

On a personal note, I'm really sorry to hear about your cats. Cat tragedies I'm all too familiar with. When we were farming we lost many of our own cats far too young to various accidents. Figgy, the little quiet black last survivor of those days, died earlier this year. I miss her. I still miss them all, despite the two lovely new crazy young ones...
Me too, grown man that I'm supposed to be...
Interesting question, Brother! I think our community differs from an urban one in both needs and resources.

To expand the second first, we are a small church (perhaps 100 altogether, but no more than 60 or so at any one of the 3 Sunday services), plus summer visitors, tourists, military, and other birds of passage. This presents us with the usual problems in finding people with gifts, spare time, commitments and so on, and so limits us in what we can do in practice. Having said that, there is a tremendous amount of quiet, unofficial, grassroots pastoral work, and other ministry, within the community, that is hard to quantify or document, but which is vital to the life of the church and of the village.

Being in an area which is predominantly agricultural - with a strong military presence too - as well as being a popular retirement area, we have less of the problems of homelessness, drugs, prostitution, or general rootlessness than many urban areas. On the other hand, we have pockets of people living in extremely isolated locations that once were small communities based around farms with many workers, but which with changes in farming practice, and general rural depopulation, have become cut off. People can then face real hardship, especially if by reason of age, illness or poverty they can't afford to run a car.

Another source of people's being cut off from the ministry of the church is the closure of so many rural churches in this part of the country, leaving many people without a (Church of England) church within walking or cycling distance, and often unaware of which Parish they're actually living in. We try to keep up a regular programme of Parish visiting, but it's hard to get around these isolated relict communities anything vaguely like frequently! If people in these places are not Anglicans the situation is even worse. They may be living many miles from the nearest Baptist, RC, or whatever, church, and be effectively cut off from pastoral support altogether.

We do in fact encounter homeless folk sometimes, but they are normally closer to the traditional wayfarer in their way of life than the homeless people who live in cities, and so have different needs. They often would not wish to be housed, even temporarily; but may have urgent needs in terms of clothing, healthcare, or food, being far more removed from sources of charitable support than their urban cousins.

I could write much more, but this will do for a start!
Good book recommendations, Con. I've put a short (very short!) reading list on our Blackmore Vale Area TSSF site, with a few more titles to explore...




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