Well, as I'm here looking at the whole Missional Church theme, I thought I'b better do some incarnational-contextual research .... so before things got going this morning I visited, with three other guys ..... the Mall of America! Apparently, this is the largest mall in America, and therefore, you've guessed it - the world. This fact is not too difficult to believe, but seeing is believing. I've been to the States once before, but am still surprised at the mega-sized everything - especially when it comes to food. Basically, the Mall of America is a mega cathedral for materialism. It has four three-storey malls, which form a square - the the centre is an amusement park with 30 rides - and they're not small as you'll see from this picture. Each corner, standing reminiscent of the four turrets of a castle from the middle ages, is a major department store. Here, you can literally shop till you drop and I counted several people who were fast asleep on chairs (shame I didn't bring a card-reader to check out my photos) - the place is surrounded by hotels and some people actually spend days in here - we managed to escape - just! now here's the hypocrisy - I bought stuff at the shrines!
Today, we're getting underway though with the consortium and looking forward to some of papers being delivered by my new friends on such things like:
"How adults come to faith in Germany."
"A profile of a movement" - this will be a Dutch perspective.
"The emerging church network and missional-contextual activity."
As far as I'm aware at present, I'm the only person from the UK here, the only Baptist and only one of two who aren't based in a Theological College. I think that'll change when we get to the 'think-tank', which is part two of my trip here. However, there are 8 nationalities represented by the 14 of us engaged with this consortium and it's already dawned on me what a privilege it is to be here as they decided a few years ago to restrict the numbers to this kind of scale.
Some thoughts so far - Practical Theology seems to be taken far more seriously elsewhere than in the UK. We, I always tend to feel, have a rather snobbish view of anything with the word practical in it - as if it can't have any academic rigour. This, I fear, is in danger of becoming a huge mistake if we allow it to continue and not help us to reflect in any mature way upon what's emerging around and about. It seems that a whole load of theological colleges and seminaries around the world are re-evaluating their stance and certainly the place for studying congregational development and missional leadership is rising up the priority list - could that be said of the UK? Having said that, I'm wondering whether the more specialised those within any church 'system' become, the less responsibility anybody takes for anything beyond their 'gift'? I've seen how that dynamic works (or doesn't) in the local church, but it seems to be at work within denominational systems too. In some places, and the downside of what I'm commenting upon, is there seems to be a huge separation between those in 'authority' and those who are reflective practitioners. This should be fun though - clearly some kindred spirits from a diverse range of places and denominations.