Sunday 17 May

Our communion service on Sunday morning was a particularly happy one because we received a new member into our fellowship. During my sermon I talked about the nature of the church and church membership. I referred to Vernard Eller’s The Outward Bound: caravaning as the style of the church, a book that had greatly influenced me in the ’80s while I was living in the United States.

Outward Bound 01

I made use of Eller’s imagery and the contrast he draws between two models of the church: as commissary or caravan. The language, of course, is American but the content seems to me every bit as pertinent for a British audience. The caravan Eller has in mind is that of a journeying group of people rather than the mobile home variety. It seems to me, 25 years after first reading Eller, that our consumer society presses us all the more toward the model of church as commissary. In this model the church dispenses salvation to a passive consumer clientèle. In the caravaning model all the members join together, help each other and journey together from where they are to where they would like to be. Of course, I argued for the caravaning model. I hope it served to make further sense of the covenant we make, when receiving new members, to walk together before God in ways that are known and yet to be made known.

Did Eller’s book have any influence on these shores?

I also made reference during my sermon to the new title from Brian Haymes, Ruth Gouldbourne and Anthony R Cross, On Being the Church. I am still reading it but, so far, it is a treat!

SPSTANDARD.9781842271216

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