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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, January 26, 2003
    Click on Small Ritual
     
    Following on yesterdayÕs blog about states of identity and belonging, IÕve spent awhile this afternoon in the excellent webworld of Small Ritual. ItÕs a beautiful and facinating world which is largely the work of Steve Collins, a guy from EalingÕs Grace church, home (they say) of Ôfresh vital worshipÕ.

    Small Ritual considers what Christian spirituality might look like in the 21st century, questions like what church premises might be or become, and contains a wealth of writings, polemic, opinion, theory, much of it SteveÕs own, some notable ÔothersÕ.


    As a taster, hereÕs a pic from the site, of Dreamspace, a public artwork by Maurice Agis which Steve visited in London. He describes it as "an 'environment', for want of a better word, half the size of a footbal pitch, made of coloured fabric held up by air pressure. The extraordinary lighting effects are due only to daylight shining through the material, and there is an abstract ambient soundscape which augments the atmosphere."

    Although it seems Óa bit BarbarellaÓ nevertheless it seemed like the medieval churches must have, to their visitors, a 'sensual otherworld',Óa deliberate attempt to model heaven.Ó

    Steve wonders, ÓWhat if our churches were as ravishing and playful as Dreamspace, were Dreamspaces too? Would people come into the church just for the pleasure of light and sound and space [dream on!]. But would the pleasure itself be the carrier of God, as much as we expect, say, the words of a preacher to be? Can sensual pleasure be spiritual experience - be a vehicle of evangelism?Ó

    On yesterday's themes, Small Ritual suggests that
      "Churches are part of a range of entities to which we can belong in some way, and by belonging mark out our position and identity in society: such things as charities, political parties, magazines, clubs, professional bodies, football teams, even some shops.

      We might call these entities 'network servers'. We plug into them for meaning, identity, community. We like to get small items periodically, badges of commitment, tokens of belonging."
    Today's mechanisms of belonging include magazine subscriptions, donations, wearing the clothes, selling raffle tickets, being in the audience, buying the CD, signing petitions, internet discussion boards, fan clubs, and voting. The question is posed: "What are plug-in church's mechanisms of belonging?"

    For more on this, the excellent What would Jesus wear? exercise and plenty besides, get off here immediately and click Small Ritual.