Archive for the ‘postmodernity’ category

Vista 15: On reflection

October 30, 2013

on reflectonThe last edition of Vista highlighted that one person’s viewpoint alone however well informed, can never give a true picture of what is happening; particularly in a continent as diverse as Europe. What is needed are thoughtful and perceptive insights into the realities of mission practice across Europe – from those engaged in mission. In other words, Europe needs “reflective practitioners”.

This term was coined by Donald Schön as recently as 1983. He defined reflective practice as “the capacity to reflect on action so as to engage in a process of continuous learning” (Schön). Other educationalists have observed that, consciously or not, learning often takes place through a series of stages. The Kolb Learning Cycle, for example, isolates these as concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualisation and active experimentation.

kolb_cycleThe key insight was that we don’t automatically learn from our experiences. Reflection on experience is fundamental in order to obtain generalisations which might then be applied to new situations. And this is no less true for Christian mission.

Mission in Europe doesn’t need gurus; it needs reflective practitioners who have been equipped with the tools to think deeply about their own immediate context and mission practice. That has certainly been the ethos of the MA in European Mission at Redcliffe College. And Vista is one forum for highlighting examples of good reflective practice.

The articles in this issue of Vista are all written by practitioners who are combining their work with a period of academic study. James Cochrane, who has lived and worked in Portugal for a number of years, researches the relevance of the missiological conversation for Portuguese church.  Redcliffe MA student, Rosemary Caudwell brings an understanding of the workings of the European Parliament to her refection on the churches’ engagement with the EU.

David Roche, also a Redcliffe student, as well as a policeman in London, writes about how London City Mission is approaching the issue of homelessness amongst migrants, balancing practical care with sharing the Gospel with this growing population.  And Australian pastor James Sutherland compares three very different ministries he encountered on a study tour of Europe this summer with Darrell Jackson & Mike Frost.

The concept of missio Dei reminds us that “the missionary initiative comes from God alone” (Bosch). It is God’s mission, not ours. And yet, not only in active participation in the experience of mission but also in the acts of reflection, conceptualization and experimentation, “the marvel is that God invites us to join in” (Wright)

Vista 15 October 2013

Universal and particular – Christianity in Europe

May 10, 2010

Just been reading this interesting summary from Al Tizon’s Transformation after Lausanne:

‘Christianity is a universalism that affirms the particular. Modernity is a universalism that denies the particular. Postmodernity is a set of particularisms that never attain universality.’

Why is that helpful for thinking about mission in Europe? It points to the enduring value of forms of Christian faith that affirm a variety of local/regional contributions to a deeper and broader understanding of what might be termed ‘European Christianity’. Teaching a programme on mission to the European continent means that I am constantly asked what I mean by the term ‘Europe’. That’s a bit of a challenge to do with care and accuracy, but to describe what is meant by ‘European Christianity‘ is even trickier.

I don’t think that European Christianity is simply the sum of all the parts, it’s probably much more dynamic than that. It becomes a conversation between followers of Jesus from across the European continent, conducted in many voices, multiple languages, and reflecting the diversity of Europe’s churches.

I can imagine that you might feel  that European Christianity is a a meaningless term.  However, if you’ve ever met Christians in other continents you may have sensed that they practised and expressed their faith a bit differently to you. European Christians. African Christians. Asian Christians. Taken together, these can be summed up with ‘Slightly different – all the same.’

Overcoming the automatic impulse to dismiss other particular approaches to Christian faith as inferior to yours is an important step in learning from other European Christians and what is important for them.