Monday, February 28, 2005

Emerging Guinea Pigs

It’s my turn.

I venture into the damp near darkness to feed Scruffy and Fluffy. I wander out towards the hutch not aware of the drama to unfold. Something is not right. No squeaks. No eager welcome. I take a closer look...the hutch is wide open. Empty. A quick glance through the fading light shows that the run on the grass too is empty. A reminiscence of emotion hits me.

Two years ago I forgot to put Benny the Bunny back in the hutch. Two years ago Benny the Bunny disappeared – official line 'he’s gone on an adventure' , truth - Mr Fox paid a visit. Two years ago Bethan discovered a grief inside her that she didn’t know. Two years ago I was the worst Dad. It was my fault. A double, triple check of the hutch, run … empty. My gut lurches....

Hang on I didn’t get them out, it wasn’t me. Relieved of the weight of responsibility I grab a torch and start hunting the nooks and crannies of the garden for our emerged guinea pigs. "Dad what are you doing…!?" Rumbled. But it wasn’t me. "Sweetheart I think we need to look for Scruffy and Fluffy seems they have got out". The memory of Benny sweeps in and Beth disintegrates.

The search intensifies - it wasn’t me. Everywhere double checked, the hutch inside and out. The emerged guinea pigs nowhere to be seen, gone. The search is called off. Tears flow. We ring Kate and break the news. "Oh no… I left them out last night…"

Dinner was quiet. Mouthfuls interspersed with sniffs as we imagine fluffy and scruffy shivering together somewhere in the dark. Kate arrives, rushes past me muttering "I just feel dreadful…my fault…forgot…" and is straight into resuming the search. Bethan and I are 'searched out' so just stand at the back door.

Kate shines the torch in the hutch. She looks. She looks at me with a strange look on her face. She points at the hutch without taking her eye off me. "…and what are they…?" Our brave emerged guinea pigs were remarkably calm re-submerged in the sawdust and hay they knew so well. Safe.

There are many mysteries in life. The adventure of Fluffy and Scruffy will always remain so for Bethan and I. Please believe me when I say those guinea pigs were well and truly emerged. They’d left the institutional hutch. They were free. But in their freedom, their emergence their visibility was only to each other, in reality they were invisible – nowhere to be seen. Honest!

Another mystery how can a church be defined emerged if it can not be seen? Whatever happens with the emerging church if it is not visible it may as well just jump back in the hutch where it can be seen. An emerging church that can't be seen to me seems an oxymoron.

Institutional and visible // un-institutional and invisible ... now there’s a conundrum.

Maybe that is unfair, however the emerging church - I think - has to work hard on visibility outwards to those not bothered about am-bi-ence but who simply want help. What do the desperate, the fragmented the broken do? Where do they go? What do they look up in the phone book? an unintelligible franchise of church? or good old 'St Mark's? a new brand or simply The Salvation Army?

Ask the guy who wrote to 'The Salvation Army - Poplar' - "I'm so lonely can you visit me....?"


Rob said...

Excellent post - and very valid point - a quandry that gets me thiking!
Very glad though that the guinea pigs are ok.

Gordon said...

Not as glad as me. Kate has this thing that I never look properly - nevertheless I was relieved!

Rob when are you up this neck of teh woods again - it would be good to catch up.

Mitch said...

Gordon... that's powerful stuff.

Martin said...

City on a hill, salt of the earth...I guess you'd call that 'seen'...

jacki said...

it is cool how things like that can happen and God can show us things through them.
glad they were found safe.

Paul O'Reilly said...


From my perspective, you have put foward a very insightful question. I'm a youthworker from the Salvation Army myself, and working with what could be defined as an 'emerging church'...

Grown by word of mouth, we are a community (in New Zealand) of some Christians, and the other 80% or more are Goths, Witches, Drug Dealers, Boy Racers etc..

The concept of Emerging Church is new to me, and has a lot of my attention at the moment - the community I work with generally won't darken the door of a chuch, but many have become mature Christians - hard not to, because such a decision often brings those in our community directly into conflict with the occult etc.

But they won't be part of The Salvation Army as it is presently - they love it's history, have caught the passion, but upon looking at what the traditional church has become... It seems easier to keep the mission going and avoid the box altogether.

Any thoughts?

Gordon said...

wow! sounds like quite a community?

I'm not mr traditional or institutional myself I see the flaws and problems. I guess your guys are suspicious of what they know ie the singing song bit that happens on a sunday. If that is all a church has to offer - which i know it is in many cases - I think I would be right up with them.

It seems interesting that your guys identify with the DNA and passion of TSA but have also recognised how the institution stiffles that DNA.

I think that rebranding ourselves or by calling it by some other name however seems be shooting ourselves in the foot. It is about reclaiming that heritage and embodying today.

Now that is something as TSA we have to offer. The emerging church seems dominated by worship issues rather than mission. (some exceptions).

Once people see church more about being a transformational influence on community rather than wanting chalk up conversion victories I think people like your friends are less likely to view us with suspicion.

Some rushed thoughts! Thanks for popping by? YOu wouldn't know anything about a corps in howick NZ would you?

Paul O'Reilly said...

Howick? I can't remember ever being there. By chance, is it known as the Faith Factory? (I have a youthworker mate there, and they're doing some incrediable things also!)

I quite agree that a lot of what I've encountered and read on the Emerging Church is worship focused - it seems a loss that with all the emphasis placed on reclaiming our orignal 'DNA', that the central mission of the church isn't headlining the conversation.

Certianly, the reclaiming of the mission of the Army is an amazing and vitial challenge! I'm impressed at looking at the UK's response in ALOVE! It's unfortunate that here in New Zealand we seem to be a little more conservative - the material from ALOVE has aparently been banned here! (So naturally is highly popular)

With all's that's happening it's sure going to be an interesting journy the corporate church is heading on.

Gordon said...

I kind of think the danger comes when people write each other off. The church seems to have a long history of that.

The ALOVE stuff is a step in the right direction although again the whole branding thing needs careful management. Interesting that the ALOVE material has been banned - I don't quite see what the big deal is with it?

Howick - apparently the officers are Rod and Sue Ellis. I've a cousin who has expressed an interest in finding TSA in Howick.