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Saturday 22 August 2009

Liturgy Conferences in Sydney

I've just come back from some time in Sydney at two liturgy conferences. The first was the international meeting of Societas Liturgica. I stayed for three days, and that was enough for me. While I enjoyed catching up with friends and colleagues from overseas, I felt that we Australians squandered an opportunity to showcase our theological work on Christian worship. Most of the major papers were still looking at the conference theme - the church year - from the point of view of the northern hemisphere. Apart from an all-into-one presentation on the Wednesday, there was little Australian content.

The other thing that made this first conference deeply unattractive to me was the sheer amount of sitting around listening to academic papers. I found myself falling asleep from the sheer immobility of it all!

Thankfully, the second conference - a much smaller one - was really enjoyable. This one was based at the United Theological College in North Parramatta and the main speaker was Professor Gordon Lathrop. Gordon is one of the most thoughtful and generous liturgical theologians I know, and he did not disappoint across the five lectures he gave in four days. An American Lutheran, Gordon spoke comprehensively about both the place of the Gospels in the worshipping assembly and the place of the assembly in the Gospels. The lectures represented an initial work-out for materials that will eventually become part of Gordon's latest book.

The format of this conference, organised by the Rev Dr Robert McFarlane, allowed for plenty of active consideration of the papers presented by both Gordon and others. My own paper, 'New Wine and Old Wine Skins: the Traditioning of Worship' was well-received. Crucially, the conference also offered plenty of 'unscheduled' time for processing or for recreating.

Sunday 5 July 2009

Alternative worship

There is considerable interest in 'alternative worship' at present. For some, it is a potential saviour for these shrinking and ageing congregations of ours. For others, it offers a place of refuge from all that is dead and institutional about the church. But what is alternative worship? What is it 'alternative' to, exactly? And what makes it 'worship'? In an article I am currently writing for the journal Cross Purposes, I hope to show that the alternative worship movement offers the church a very mixed blessing. It's emphasis on worshipping in body (as well as mind), with the whole range of our senses engaged, is very laudible. That approach not only engages the hearts and minds of many searching souls, but it also returns to worship a genuine sense of the 'word becoming flesh' and 'dwelling among us'. Still, for all their bodily creativity and contemporary sensibility, alternative worship events are very often guilty of failing to tell a genuinely Christian story about the world, about ourselves, and about God. While such events may therefore qualify as wonderfully postmodern rituals, I will argue, their identity as acts of Christian worship are open to question.

My book

Hi everyone

I thought I'd better spruik my book - just so that I get to break even!

The book is called The Bonds of Freedom: vows, sacraments and the formation of the Christian self. It's about a number of things:
  1. The way that making promises always implies a kind of nascent faith in the Jewish and Christian God;
  2. The way in which making a promise changes the nature of both our relationships and ourselves;
  3. The particularly powerful form of promising inscribed in Christian worship, particularly in baptism and the Eucharist.

To find out more, browse to


Hi everyone, and welcome to my new blog, Uncommon Prayers. I'm hoping to use this to get my writing going again. I feel like I'm seriously out of the habit and need to do something to remedy the situation immediately!

I hope you'll subscribe and contribute to the discussion.