Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Last week, I was in Belfast for Pete Rollins’ Idolatry of God retreat, named after his fifth book, The Idolatry of God: Breaking our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction. The four-day event was designed to enable participants to explore Pete’s work in the city where his theology and practice took shape.
I was asked to give a presentation positioning Pete’s project of ‘pyrotheology’ within a broader cultural, political and religious frame. I’ll briefly outline some of the points I made in my presentation in another post, but in my first few reflections on the event I want to write up some of the ways I introduced myself, my work, and my presence at this retreat to the group before beginning my talk.
I’m from a Church of England background, with the church I was part of as a child and teenager being fairly high Anglican. This is quite different from not only most of the other participants in the Belfast retreat but from Pete himself as well as many other public figures within emerging Christianity, who tend to come from broadly evangelical religious backgrounds.
As with many liberal churches, my church community wasn’t particularly comfortable with changes in form. I remember being frustrated as a young person that we had to fight so hard to get things like alternative worship services once a month.
Image credit: Dave Walker.
Theologically, it felt like we were very comfortable with Jesus’ humanity, with the message of the social gospel, with a historical critical approach to the Bible, and with what might ultimately be called a Christian humanism. But not at all comfortable with experiences of God – or at least a certain kind of expression of experiences of God.
I feel like my church background is primarily intellectual rather than experiential. And a background like this comes with its own very particular baggage when approaching Pete’s work.