1. Mike Morrel gets mentioned today in this article on the Atlantic Journal Constitution, which is only available without registration today. I could tell you that you should read this because its about emerging church, in particular, Australians who are starting their churches in USA (Christian City Church, Atlanta) but the real reason for me posting it here is this: They quote me saying something intelligent and call me a “religious scolar” skolar . . . u know what i mean. (did you hear that Mum?)
2. Alan Creech really likes todays article (he gets quoted) called “Communiality: an emerging church” in The Jassimine Journal. good article! Hat tip to SubmersiveInfluence for the link and commentary.
I am copying and pasting the Atlanta article here without permission, but i feel no guilt because they quoted me without letting me know – which is no problem for me – i only want justification for posting this article in a place where it will be freely available
and so that my mother can read that i am a “religious scholar”
CHRISTIAN CITY CHURCH: A new way to worship
Bill Osinski – Staff
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Live from Lawrenceville, it’s Wednesday night!
And here at Christian City Church, where God’s a mighty bloke, tradition takes a back pew, and the hallelujahs can be heard all the way to heaven, by way of Australia.
Worship service at C3, as it’s called, has all the fundamentals, from Bible-based sermons to people crumpling to the carpet at the preacher’s gentle laying on of hands. It also has stuff that could put cracks in the pillars of orthodoxy.
This is a church where a young man sporting a doo-rag and a dove tattoo is welcome to jump onto the sanctuary stage, when the gospel rock guitars heat up. A young woman who doesn’t want to leave her new puppy out in the cold can just tuck it into her jacket and come on in. Tales from an Outback sheep ranch are used by the preacher to make a point about the Good Shepherd to a congregation in the heart of the Bible Belt.
The church, with some 1,700 members, is one of 130 offshoots of the original Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia. It’s the first in the Atlanta area, but there are plans to expand locally. And though firmly rooted in traditional Christian beliefs, it’s part of a growing movement of nontraditional worship.
With its brushed stainless steel facade, the church looks a bit more like a recording studio than a conventional house of worship. That theme carries through much of the ministerial programs, like a fashion show where church ladies strut down the strobe-lit runway. Christian City also offers things like art exhibits, a music studio, and a coffee shop, and a college where life skills are as much a part of the curriculum as religious studies.
Spiritually speaking, church leaders categorize themselves as conservative. Their doctrines are compatible with most fundamental Christian churches, they said, but they do not invest much time or energy in doctrinal debates.
“Whenever you start going down the doctrine road, it becomes ‘us vs. them,’ ” said Co-Pastor Dean Sweetman. “The Kingdom of God was never about ‘us vs. them.’ ”
Rather, their church network has been built with personal relationships as the primary connective material, he said.
“We’re not built around preaching,” Sweetman said. “We’re built around hanging out. Our church is less a denomination than a group of pastors and their wives connected by relationship.”
Sweetman is as nontraditional as his church. He grew up an avid surfer, and in his office is a mounted 45 rpm record of Bob Dylan’s counterculture hit “Lay Lady, Lay.”
The C3 formula has been exported all over the world. In 1980, a man named Phil Pringle opened the first Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia.
Sweetman and his wife, Jill, started planning in 1991 to bring the C3 concept to metro Atlanta. They educated themselves on the community by ordering a Sunday Atlanta Journal-Constitution right around the time of the Atlanta Braves’ worst-to-first drive to the pennant. Atlanta seemed to be just the kind of place they were looking for: youthful and energetic in outlook, with a hot economy, Sweetman said.
They came to the area in 1996, starting a seed church in a friend’s home in Loganville. They graduated to larger spaces, and two years ago, the current church was built. Sweetman plans to start work soon on a new sanctuary, connected to the existing building, that will seat an additional 1,500.
Plans have also begun to start five more C3 churches in metro Atlanta locations including Peachtree City, Midtown Atlanta, Roswell, Walton County and Hall County.
Christian City seems to have caught a rising tide of interest in nontraditional churches that have been given the group label “emerging church.” Just what does that label mean?
“Emerging churches today are usually a creative re-mixing of historic and current, of past and present,” writes Andrew Jones, a New Zealand religious scholar who has studied this field. “Emerging church may be a model of a quite modern hierarchical leadership but with contemporary artistic expression. Or the contrary, a dynamic, fluid leadership structure with the reliance on ancient rituals for the service.”
Mike Morrell of Douglasville has built a Web site that includes links to hundreds of topics associated with emerging churches. He described Christian City Church as a type of “hybrid” in that it combines some of the aspects of a traditional “megachurch” with some of the culture of the “emerging” church.
It wasn’t that long ago that the megachurches were “the young bucks, the rebels, the revolutionaries” he said. “Now they’re kind of the establishment, and we’re [people in the emerging church movement] radical,” he said.
However Christian City Church is categorized, the people who go there obviously have a good time.
“Every time I walk in the door, I know I’m changed,” said Loganville’s Patti Lorentz. “There’s a tremendous excitement and enthusiasm here.”
Pam Penick of Lawrenceville said she was raised in a traditional church, but she especially enjoys the laid-back atmosphere nurtured by the Australians who comprise the majority of the church leadership.
“It’s not just their culture, it’s their sense of freedom in the church,” she said.
Shannon Prator of Lawrenceville was the young woman who brought her puppy to Wednesday night church. She said she was drawn to this church by its lack of emphasis on hellfire and damnation.
“When we [young people] come here, we don’t feel any condemnation,” she said. “The preaching is about what you can do in God, not what you can’t do.”
Colleen Crumbley, a singer with the church’s gospel music band, said she has responded deeply to the church’s encouraging its young members to embrace the arts in a Christian environment.
“The church is meant to be the head of the arts,” she said. “We should be the ones out there on the cutting edge.”
Shirin Sarabi, a 19-year-old Dacula woman, said her recent organizing of a fashion show at the church was an example of how C3 embraces self-expression.
“Here, you can be who you are. I probably would not be going to a traditional church today.”