Alt. Worship to Emerging Church to ?

Interesting article by Brian Draper on the Alt. Worship movement with Andy Thornton suggesting in 1998 that the movement was at a crossroads. With so many people suggesting the hat no longer fits and we should dump the term, and even the South Africans getting upset in being misrepresented [read Codrington on MacArthur), it makes me wonder if we are there again.

“In 1998, Andy Thornton, a former member of the Late Late Service, expressed the view that alternative worship was at a crossroads. As a conference in London, he offered two ways of perceiving the movement – one cynical, one optimistic. The first concluded that “the great hope was gone…To some degree it began to look like the same old story – a new group with a new set of answers chopping itself off from the history of the Church. It looked something like the house church, but with bass bins, light and smoke.” The optimistic version, however, suggested that “the group of experimenters recognised that they must not be thrown off the project, nor be intimidated from sharing their insights confidentially by finding themselves in the context of other louder, more confident, more mission-orientated representations of the Christian community. “They had to find a new way of communicating a gentle holistic faith where God waits and does not push. They needed new metaphors to understand their journey.”

Metaphors be with us.

Related: (This is related to “Emerging Church: Use it or Dump it” conversation and poll.)

– Internet as metaphor, as suggested by Mission Shaped Church, becomes the Rhizome in Raschke’s new book.


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.


  • becky says:

    btw-Skimmed the African article. Rob Bell does not self-identify with emergent according to his buddy Shane Claiborne (who doesn’t like being called emergent either). “Emergent” has jumped the shark but the church will continue to be an emerging entity.

  • Terms and misrepresentation – well, it’s late, only cuz it’s been a full day, so that term is often based upon the experience of the encounters…….. right? it can be 5 am and it’s late if I’m up all day, or early to those who went to bed at 9pm and are now up! American term, “bit’s and pieces” Brit term “bits and bobs”——–
    Is it really language more than substance that we bicker at?
    For US (Phil and I) we both have a background in sign language….. On this side of the pond it is separated by 2 forms of process, – ASL (American sign language) and ESL- ( English sign language)…. and OH how the debate goes on which is right and which is better.- and i wain on the explanation in written form… but, i’ll try…………
    ASL is considered the language of the deaf and it’s Cultural Interpretation – ESL (and I’m way simplifying here, … grant grace)- is more of a convergence of the spoken word in translation….
    Example may be ASL is conceptual…… if i sign in ASL —- the action of “going to the store”- it is broken down into facial expression, sign and intention……… so it’s like……….
    “go- store- now” —- 3 words….or conceptual intention…. If i signed the same thing in ESL- there are MORE signs that represent words…. ” – ” i am going to the store now”. 7 words… “I, Am, Going, To and The” is more how we hear in structure, where as , in ASL it’s just implied and fully understood – where as anything added to it is sort of considered redundant –
    It’s really not a big deal with those fluent in both, but to those that hold a deaf cultural standpoint, ASL is the predominant language. – and the knowledge of ESL is helpful when you are reading text.
    I’m only providing a contrast here, – in “traditional worship… the text is clearly defined in terms, word of words, that imply intent and lead to action—- that on the broad spectrum of “Church” has an accustomed fluidity; where as “Alt Worship” can seem MORE ASL in that it is Contextually based, semi meta narrative. A bit more intentionally implied, than contextually explained.
    How on a personal level this applies, is that i grew up with one “hard of hearing” cousin, and one “completely deaf” cousin, they were sisters- Even though the “completely deaf” cousin understood ASL and that was primary in her expressions and language, the other that was considered “hard of hearing” used both ASL when talking to her sister and ESL when conversing with her hearing parents; yet, the intentional concepts of both were understood.
    Neither sacrificed “accuracy for brevity”- but the expression of it was quite different.
    For me, the term Alt Worship……. is a way of interpretation, rather than direct word for word translation – of form, but not lacking the full substance of what the Holy Spirit wants to impart.
    Sorry, i just feel like we have gotten lost in words and terms, thereby ,- it’s caught between -Mr. Understanding and Miss. Interpretation .
    Alt Worship- to me is anything beyond what we know is “norm”, yet, on an intuitive realm, holds to the authenticity and authority of grace in it’s expression.
    So language to “define” is awesome, but the intuitive grace space to Know.. Epiginosko- in the greek…. “know beyond knowing”,- loosely translated, is the Alternative—— because that understanding can only come from and in the form of fellowship with Holy Spirit.
    I would ponder and ask, can Holy Spirit be fully defined (why would we actually want it to be… cuz that is part of the divine mystery) and why are we subjected to in this earthly frame, to minimize the living water like flow, of How God wants to move among us….?
    Sometimes, there is the only language of the heart—— and when it combines with the language (often tongues in note, voice or silent agreement) of the Breath of God- we exchange our normative realm of understanding …. to the alternative – which hopefully by His grace, will lead to a deeper, wider, longer, HIGHER and further, understanding of His love, mercy and grace.
    If we have to stick to words, i’d like to exchange “alternative” or “incarnation-al”- that is always the juxtaposition of the Cross- and for me anyways, is always the convergence of ancient, modern and post- modern. Kinda goes along the lines of the fact that God is the same, yesterday, today and forever. I always kinda liked it where it says…. “for those who have ears, let them hear.”
    Ok so that is my rabbit trail, but to the point take on it.
    Let’s NOT lose our words, cuz they have been stolen for sooo long… but when God said, “let there, or their be light” i think, – it meant a lot more………..
    with that i’ll say ………. “say good night grace-eeeeeeeee”-
    for those that got that abstract reference …… thanks for smiling with me… for those that didn’t – go to the “god almighty google”
    shalom, cathryn xo

  • Tom Allen says:

    I and others were involved in what would be described as alt-worship which developed from pioneering chill-out rooms at dance events and working with our contemporaries who were involved in that scene – the simple question was that beyond the press hype it clearly was a spiritual experience/search and how could be make the links. We did not adopt “dance music” – that was our music anyway. There never was a “movement” – the label was a lazy and incoherent description mainly applied by others or adopted by those who tried to get on the bandwagon. I had never heard of NOS until I arrived at Greenbelt to discover that it had “collapsed”. So the link with today and the use of “emerging” is that it is getting confused with “emmergent” (a quasi evangelical movement in the States). Here in the UK it is a grass roots experience which continues to grow and flourish – “living for today” and exercising the “power of the provisional” to use two Taize expressions – emerging in the sense that it crops up in unlikely times and places. What you seem to want to support is “missional” experiences (in the Rowan Williams sense of ” finding out what God is doing in the world and joining in”). Some other thoughts here:—missional—monastic.html
    Lets not get too caught up on what it is called or the labels – lets just do it and encourage it.

  • Paul Roberts says:

    Andrew – the article by Andy Thornton of the Late Late Service is still on the internet lurking on my old server:
    Paul (currently reading your blog in an isolated lodge in Sequoia National Park, CA)

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