Pete Ward, author of Liquid Church and senior lecturer at Kings College, London, spoke at Fuller last night on "All Consuming Liquid Culture, Liquid Church". In his talk, he addressed critics who said he was too positive on culture in his book "Liquid Church". Vincent Miller's book, Consuming Religion, served as his conversation partner.
Pete Ward asks if the dislocation of 'stuff' and symbols from the church is necessarily a bad thing? More importantly, we need to look at where these items are re-located in culture. For example, a CD of church music, recorded by a secular musician, and played by someone in their car, re-locates the sacred in new spaces. As another example, we know about Taize because of its products --
we might decry commercialization, but hasn't the re-location of their
music been beneficial? He asks if God can be in that? If the text mediated Christ at church, does it still mediate Christ in the culture? He wanted us to consider that possibility. He describes this movement as the stretching of "ecclesial being".
He talked about 'stuff' - that stuff means things, maybe more than we know. They often reveal or 'represent' the spiritual state of things. These 'representations' circulate, and we share a language talking about them (discourses). Because we buy certain stuff and not others, we become something, i.e. we form identities around the materials of our lives. Both those who oppose culture and those who embrace it form their identities in this way.
Ward discussed God's presence and how it is mediated in our culture. Episodically, God is 'represented' in our communications, in our discourses, provided this mediation gives rise to contemplation. These mediations stretch ecclesial being and relocate our sense of belonging and identity. In the Liquid Church, we might see Christ mediated through networks, brands, and products.
For Ward, the church is faced with two choices -- Pandora's Box or St. Peter's. We can try to keep all the spiritual things hidden and safe (Pandora), or we can re-think what we formerly thought was unclean and open up our faith to those outside our traditional boundaries (St. Peter's option). Pete votes with his namesake...
WARNING: This is my take on what Pete said, and I am not sure I was always tracking with him. Pete, if you read this, please forgive me for where I completely mis-represented what you were saying!!
Pete is one of the best thinkers on church and culture, and I always love hearing from him. He asks the hard questions and refuses the pat answers. He pushes me to think through the most pressing missiological issues regarding the intersections of church and culture. I found myself in another world after his talk, trying to process all that I heard...