I just finished Becky Garrison’s new book, Rising From the Ashes: Rethinking Church. Its a delightful romp through Becky’s interaction with about 30 worship leaders, most of whom are deeply embedded in the mainline church scene in UK, USA and Australia, and most of whom are my friends. The back cover says “While UK worship leaders have been exploring fresh expressions of church for more than twenty years and the emerging church has made inroads within the United States evangelical community, the alternative worship/emerging church movement is just now beginning to influence mainline liturgical churches.”
The book is really quite dynamic, full of interviews and conversations and skype chats with key leaders and thinkers. Becky is a relentless interviewer and a keen critic who insists on seeing the whole story from a wider perspective. She is not easily swayed by hype or intimidated by dominant voices and she is never, ever . . EVER . . . satisfied with the status quo.You may know her from the satirical Wittenburg Door, or, more importantly, her appearance on my Happy Hour a while ago. Or you may be one of the atheists giving her CRAP over her controversial book, The New Atheist Crusaders and Their Unholy Grail: The Misguided Quest to Destroy Your Faith (2008)
Buy the Book?
Yes, especially if your church tradition includes robes and high ceilings. Its a keeper. But I have to say that Becky’s book is not as practical as Alternative Worship (Baker and Gay, 2003) and not as emotionally striking as The Prodigal Project: Journey into the Emerging Church (Riddel, Pierson, Kirkpatrick, 2000) which accomplished a similar duty in the southern hemisphere and is still, I would argue, a better book (and it included an interactive CD). Nor does it cover as many voices as Emerging Churches: Creating Christian communities in postmodern cultures (Gibbs, Bolger, 2005). And worst of all, she totally ignores our own little intentional/monastic community up here in Orkney, despite its connection to CMS and Anglicanism in general [you’re forgiven, Becky!] However, Rising From the Ashes does a thorough job in focusing the conversation on mainline churches and showing them a way forward. And with so many books on the emerging church (I now have 100 of the bloody things on my shelf!!) I think people are looking for a filter rather than a funnel and Becky’s book signals a trend towards getting the appropriate information to niche segments of the Christian traditions. I expect it to be well-received by liturgical mainliners and candle-lovers everywhere. And I can hear the Brits sighing in relief that at least one American can see beyond her country to embrace a fuller story of what God has been doing these past two decades.
If you like the book, and you probably will, you might also consider the classic Mission Shaped Church, now available as a free PDF. And if you want to read about how things looked back in the 80’s, find a copy of Robert Warren’s In The Crucible (1989). Also, earlier in 2007, Ian Mobsby published his MA thesis as the book Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church: How are they authentically church and Anglican? What Ian does in a micro setting, Becky enlarges to a zoomed out macro view of how emerging churches inside mainline churches are experiencing God and each other.