Becky Garrison, Rising From The Ashes (book)

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.”

41Ws4Hx6G9L. Aa240 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.

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Thank you for your kind words of forgiveness (if only everyone else could be as generous as you-as a satirist sometimes my anger gets the better of me but I can only say “I’m sorry for being human” so many times). A trip up to Scotland to see your amazing community is definitely on my agenda. I did include this blog in the resource list and mention you as the “go to guy” for anyone wanting a historical overview of all things emerging. (This recap of the AAR Emergent Church Seminar:
    I loved Diana Butler Bass’ comments on a “global spirit” but from the feedback I’ve heard to date, those in attendance left with the clear impression that this is a white male PhD evangelical US led movement.)
    BTW- I view Dawkins devotees the same way I perceive those who dote on Dobson — I smile and go “have a nice day.” One cannot reason with the unreasonable. I’d rather hang out with the rest of us who can handle living in the gray areas of life and celebrate with a bottle of single malt (or grape juice if you’re not a Wiskeypalian like I am.)

  • appreciate the link, becky. I think i am more like the Forrest Gump of the emerging church – I just happen to turn up at the right places at the right time and end up in all photos.
    glad to see many others chronicling the movement also – like mike morrell, stephen shields on next-wave and others.
    anyway, congrats on a great book!

  • re: “I view Dawkins devotees the same way I perceive those who dote on Dobson — I smile and go “have a nice day.” One cannot reason with the unreasonable…”
    haven’t you just polarised yourself into the same category as those you smile at and oppose? I know Dawkins is incredibly outspoken against Christianity and has been at the heart of deconstructing it for years but isn’t he the very person Jesus would have shared a meal and a glass of wine with, sincerely?
    I’ve corresponded with him on several occasions and despite his unchanging stance regarding his beliefs I have as much admiration and respect for him as I do for the die-hard Christian. I just think it is a great shame you aren’t in dialogue as you would both have a lot to benefit from if only you opened your heart to hear from each other. Sometimes Christians are the best in the world at backing people into corners and I really don’t blame him for coming out kicking. But I do reserve some portion of blame for those who profess to follow Jesus but don’t really like rubbing shoulders with the ‘lost’.
    maybe Dawkins feels you cannot be reasoned with … is that not the real truth?

  • I was responding to Andrew’s commentary re: some atheists who were trashing me to high heavens without reading my book – I didn’t read the comments in depth (I’ve been wisely advised to avoid reading mass attacks like this too closely as there’s nothing constructive contained therein that one can use). For the most part, they apper to be so enamored with worshipping their hero that they don’t see that like all of us, he’s falible and human.(Lord knows I ain’t perfect.)
    I agree, this is a discussion well worth having after Andrew reviews my book – in a nutshell, I use satire to dismantle the new atheists’ more ridiculous claims (using material primarily penned by fellow atheists). There are a few areas where I agree with Dawkins. And I praise him as a scientist, my fault is that he doesn’t apply the same brilliance when discussing theology. And Yes, I note where we as Christians give them ample fodder.

  • Thanks for responding Becky … it helps to understand where you are coming from. As I have not yet read your book I am not in a position to comment on it as yet but I do wish you well with it and I don’t intend to detract from its impact by my comments.
    I agree that there are flaws in Dawkins arguments (if you are a Christian) and I don’t think he would profess to be an articulate theologian (I don’t think he is that interested in it!) but by the same token, there are many Christians whose theological arguments are equally shoddy … especially those whose arguments are supported by misquotation of Scripture and those who jump to emotional and intense defence of their faith. When I read your response I felt disheartened that you appeared to polarise your opinions and contempt for Atheists and Atheism to a similar extent that Dawkins might Christians and Christianity. Just because his beliefs are so contrary to that of Christians shouldn’t constitute a basis to write him off as a person and likewise, the same applies to him in his harsh and perhaps uninformed generalisations about you and your work, which by its very nature invites such deconstruction.
    I often wonder if his fight is more with Christians than with aspects of faith in the same why that Atheists are often the focus of our distain rather than the argument itself, which is where the real conflict lies.
    Apologies if this is an underdeveloped response … my 17mth old is attempting to climb on top of my 4mth old and I must dash …!

  • I’d like to focus this thread on Rising from the Ashes if possible.
    I don’t dismiss Dawkins as a person – that’s not the role of the religious satirist. As I stated in the previous post that I point out numerous examples where Christians have fallen short of the mark and I do acknowledge where these dudes got it right.
    If an author isn’t interested in theology, I suggest perhaps they write on subjects that interest them. None of the four leading New Atheist best-selling authors seriously wrestle with any of the reams of contemporary religious scholarship chosing instead to refute God using say Aquinas or Anselm – C.S. Lewis is dismissed outright for starters.
    Again, Andrew’s comment was about a group of Dawkins’ devotees (not Dawkins) who were slamming me without having read the book. (I have been told to expect a lot of this group think type behavior.) And for what it’s worth, I find this comment posted by a Christian Christian praising a book they haven’t read to be equally assinine –
    Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion …

  • ahhh. . . . while i was sleeping . . .
    yes – look forward to a chat about new atheism when my copy arrives and i get a chance to review it.
    now about those ashes . . .

  • Hi Andrew, so how is the intentional /monastic community working our in Orkney? I would love to hear some more about it.

  • That does it – a trip to Scotland has to be in the works.
    This was a bit of a pleasant surprise – Christianity Today normally doesn’t give good reviews to emerging type books but they seemed to like this one -
    The one blog posting I found that hated the book (there’s always some of that) seemed to be someone who wanted answers for how to do church – at least here for the US mainline churches, this is all very gray and in the exploratory stages. (Anyone who considers the US mainline church dead needs a reality check.) So there are no answers only questions. My guess if if you check out the people I interviewed five years from now (heck even a year), you’ll find a far different snapshot.
    Oh, the book is the book of the month at Emerging Women – a site I find is worth purusing from time to time.

  • forgot to add – I by no means agree with all the voices contained therein. Some of the voices are people who are “marketing” themselves to the mainline churches – the intervierw format allows people to sample their wares before purchasing their product as it were. (If the dollar were stronger, I’d be very tempted to move to the UK where the worship scene is much more in line with my own personal sensibilities.)

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