Several things struck me as several speakers looked at the concept of discipleship and faith development. I’d not noticed before but there seems to be a proliferation of a Christian ‘neat side partings with neatly trimmed beards’ thing going on. The more emerging seem to go with the goatee, or even an under lip bit of beard and discard the side parting. Anyway this conference seemed to be a bit more ‘neat side parting with neatly trimmed beard’ affair than goatee and grunge.
I was late. So missed part of Martyn Atkins thesis on Catechesis. I sat at the back listening to words that slowly began to fill my head with thoughts regarding the concept of faith development. It seems that within pre-Christendom the chosen way of conversion and discipling was through a inquiry group of ‘inquirers and seekers’. This process from initial interest to ‘public profession’ on average lasted 3 – 3 ½ years.
Atkins argued and suggested that now in a context of neo-pagan post-christendom the only place that gives an answer to the place of faith development in christianity is to be found in the Catechesis process found with the early fathers.
“The principles and transferable qualities in the profoundly long process to make Christian disciples are not to be found in Alpha or Esssence depending what kind of person you are…the emerging church will remain a blip ... unless the process of faith development is right”He made the point looking at the favoured and well bounded paradigm “Belong…Believe…Behave” that if understood as a one dimensional rite of passage the paradigm is a nonsense. The Catechesis process seems to strengthen the paradigm by erasing its linear weakness.
He ran out of time – it was frustrating as he was beginning to unpack the concept of Catechesis as a process in which ‘mission’ was inherent. No divide, no omission, no dichotomy of mission.
Brian Draper took the next session and concentrated on the concept of journey and investment – “we need to reclaim the art of following …beyond the ticking of neat boxes” seemed to be the foundation of his thoughts. I wonder if anyone has coined the phrase “Catechesistic Journey” where the principles and transferable qualities are embodied within authentic open relationship. Seems to me that if commitment was central to Catechesis of the ancient world, today’s context I think perhaps the sense of belonging and shared journey is what keeps people engaging with a Catechesis process of sorts.
Later in the afternoon Jason Clark fleshed this concept out for me as he put flesh on the bones of the mornings theory with some stories of Church – ‘do life together’. This “Catechesistic Journey” can be both fulfilling and painful; rewarding and excruciating - it was good to hear his honesty and candour.
Really... I’m not a big Christian Conference goer – I’ve yet to grow a beard and a neat side parting but I was glad I went. It was good to meet some clever inspiring people and make a friend or two.