Epiphany: looking back and forward

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So Christmas is over, I'm packing away the decorations today, and have been reading some friends blogs with their reviews of 2008 and hopes for 2009.

Inspired by those reviews, and having made a photo post about my life in 2008, I thought I'd review my online life, and my aspirations for 2009.

So in no particular order:

1. Story: Whilst I have felt that my emerging church journey has helped me to a 'cultural-linguistic' understanding of my world, a sense that I am immersed in the narratives of my culture and context, and have theological understandings around those, I have really felt the lack of a 'canonical-linguistic' narrative to my life.

I wrote some more about this here, with my frustration as to how the church is increasingly being formed around the metaphors and stories of non christian social realities (and my main research interest is the religious narrative of consumerism).

That nagging frustration, has also led me to see, the paucity of my own biblical literacy. Having grown up outside the church, and come to faith aged 17, whilst I now have a good theological training I still have a poor grasp of the story of God's people in scripture, and the locating of my life, and church life into that story is something I feel a deep desire for.

Or at least the tidal wave of cultural realities and stories, that crash into my Christian formation, make me see how I need a submersion into the story of Scripture, and the story of the faithful church in history.

So towards that I am going to read God's Epic Adventure, by Winn Griffin, memorise more scripture, and read the bible more as story during 2009.

2. Church: 2008 was a year of demarcation with regards to my emerging church life.

I've been grateful for the turn to the missional, but am increasingly lamenting some of the post-church, private and fantasy world ecclesiologies of consumer culture that have developed, that I think are a genetic dead end for Christianity (and wrote about those here).

More than ever I'm convinced that a real Jesus, a real resurrection, and communities ordering their lives together, around that reality in mission is the rational for church.

And more than every I am so grateful for the church community that I am in, as it shares in that motivation and exploration. I love it dearly, and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

3. Personal: Whilst last year was the most amazing year in terms of the life of my church community, my work, studies, speaking opportunities, my relationship with my wife and kids etc, it was also one the hardest I have every faced.

I spent nearly 300 hours in meetings with specialists, letters, emails, and phone calls, not to mention, the legal costs, and emotions involved in battling for our youngest daughters special education needs.

There were times, when I wanted to run away, hide from everyone and everything, as I felt dwarfed by the impossibility of this process. Yet my faith, and the love and support of Christian friends, sustained me.

Sustained conflict at that level, was not good for my soul, and I hope 2009 will be a better space, with this behind me.

4. Health: I trained for and ran a 1/2 marathon, and hope (despite an injury), to run a full marathon late May, as I turn 40 years old later this month. Running has become a spiritual discipline, a vital space for my body, mind and spirit to connect, in the rhythm of prayer.

It's also changed my health, and made me feel so much better. This, my 40th year, is when I hope to complete some of the weight loss and fitness goals I have.

5. Research & Study: With everything else taking place in 2008, I managed to clock in 750 hours of reading, and writing for my PhD, and am nearly at the 2 year stage of what I hope will be 6 years years of part time study.

The temptation to stop, quit, from voices in my own head, and from well meaning friends, who wonder why I get up at 5:30 am to study, have been deafening this year. As impossible as this last year has been to my studies, it has helped me realise more than ever, that theological reflection is the fuel that keeps me going in every other area. Without it I wouldn't want to do my job, and have the vitality to my faith that sustained me this past year.

My thinking, and understanding about my faith has been energized and shaped more than any other year that I can remember. The background pressure and noise of ministry and life, whilst something that at times has been frustrating is something I have embraced as God's gift. The enforced rhythms of the real world towards the integration of reflection into action. That is a privilege.

6. Social Media: 2008 was also a great year in terms of the development of other ways of interacting with people through facebook, twitter, etc. and prompted a move to www.jasonclark.ws as my digital presence and portal, and www.deepchurch.org.uk as my main blog space.

I wrote about that move here.

7. Writing & Teaching: Assuming Baker don't reject the two chapters for the book with Pete Rollins, Scott McKnight and Kevin Corcoran, that I am about to submit to them, 2009 will be a year in which I will have written will get published and I hope spur me on to the full book project that Paternoster still want me to undertake.

Then there is the MA/MDiv teaching, and probably launch of the D.Min in Global Missional Leadership, through George Fox (GFU), that I will be leading. I love the people at GFU, the faculty and students, and their vision and aspirations for theological training.

8. Turning 40: I've mentioned it already above, but I turn 40 on the 31st of this month, am having a big party, and some time away with my wife. 2009 will be a big year with this one alone :-)

So a lot for me to look forward to in 2009, and thanks to all of you who stop by here, read and interact. I pray God's blessing and the manifest presence of Jesus for you in 2009.