February 2013

Doug Gay, Remixing The Church: Towards an Emerging Ecclesiology, London (SCM Press) 2011, 133 pp., ISBN 9780334043966, £17.99


There can be little doubt that church attendance is in decline and over the past two decades in the UK significant resources have been invested in attempts to reverse this steady loss of people and indeed morale. Strategies, experiments with the development of leadership and management, imaginative programs for young people, a streamlining and cutting away waste have all been part of the church that prefers to talk about Mission rather than Ministry.


This is a creative, well-organized, sometimes dense, but always intellectually robust book from a practical theologian concerned with theological practice from within the church. The reader is reminded how the church rarely ever stands still and is often dynamic in its embrace of change. The metaphor of emergence is explored through five motifs of auditing, retrieval, and unbundling, supplementing and remixing. The framework here is shaped by the disciplines of liturgy, ecclesiology, mission, and congregational studies. Gay manages to write and reflect in an integrated way.


There are two key strengths to this book. The first is the authors embedded experience of what is described as the emerging church. He is able to reflect on this experience skilfully and theologically. He draws upon the Christian tradition and in doing so offers honesty, integrity and some integration of theory and practice. This is a key strength absent in the other writings about the future direction of the Church. The book may have been more comprehensive if it had engaged with those who have critiqued the emerging church. Further discussion about the relationship between the UK and USA dimensions might have put some of the discussion into a wider social and cultural perspective.


Gay has established himself as a practical theologian of some skill and tenacity. We should look forward to further emerging writing and reflection from his head and heart.


 How long does it take to become an Old Master?  Longer than
one might think:

Louise Bourgeois, a great experimental sculptor, once declared
‘I am a long-distance runner. It takes me years and years and years
to produce what I do.” Bourgeois made her greatest work after the
age of 80. When she was 84, and an interviewer asked whether she
could have made one of her recent works earlier in her career,
she replied, ‘Absolutely not.’ When he asked why, she explained,
‘I was not sophisticated enough.’


Old age and experience may be lethal for the creativity of
conceptual young geniuses, but they are the lifeblood of the
innovations of experimental old masters.”



I look at my heart, such as it is,
so much lower than what language can do;
but yet: the heart is itself what is, is all that is,
it is all that is disguised by speech.
How many words will you speak today?
Too many; much too many.
How much will you be burned by love
burning, burning? Not enough.
Make friends with fire: that is enough.
Let love light up inside you
and burn the thoughts away.





I beg you … to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very for­eign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then someday far in the future you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer.      


                            —Rainer Maria Rilke



Years ago, Paul Tournier observed that “no gift can bring joy to the one who has a right to everything.”

While there is a healthy interpretation of entitlement that is tied to a sense of dignity and equality, when it is exag­gerated, it brings continual dissatisfaction and an inability to be thankful for anything.

Parents of teens going through a difficult stage know how hard it can be to live with someone who has an overblown sense of entitlement. When teenagers see themselves as the center of the universe and are convinced that the world, its inhabitants, and their families owe them some kind of debt, sharing life with them can be quite unpleasant. This sense that every­body “owes me” is often accompanied by a decided absence of personal re­sponsibility. This is usually a brief phase, but there is a less intense version that persists among some adults, including Christians.


If we think that we deserve the gifts and blessings we have received, it is easy for us to become greedy for more benefits and to overlook the needs of others. We cultivate a capacity not to notice when “our benefit has come at someone else’s expense.” Dissatisfaction as a way of life is encouraged by a consumerist culture that feeds notions of entitlement. We want more, and we want better — better bodies, newer cars, bigger churches, more beautiful homes, finer coffee. Somehow wanting these things morphs into the sense that, really, we deserve them. A cycle of generalized dissatisfac­tion fuels envy, striving, and buying.