Lens One: Personal Interests
London has always had a mystique about it for me. To come and learn about the culture and how Christian influence is working here has a great appeal. The architecture alone was magnificent. My impression was that the convergence of British history of religion, government and scientific progress is reflected in its buildings. Sarah Pink describes a visual way to experience culture. This visual ethnography is impressions and learning from my George Fox Doctoral Advance in London.
Tower of London
Lens Two: The People of London
What impressed me about the city was the diversity of peoples.
Of course, it was good to meet with my Cohort at Café Rouge.
There is primarily English accent spoken here, but many other languages and people are present. Women dressed in Indian attires, Muslim women wearing a full dress and face covered. Like so many cosmopolitan cities London is quite diverse. People leisurely walking, people in a hurry. But its language and historical buildings still retained its English feel. This city is a world center for finance as we discovered at Lloyds of London.
Lloyds of London
The question for me is how will Christianity interact with these new cultures? One constant theme in this course of our study is the importance of dialogue. How can we engage with people in our city with open and respectful dialogue while holding out the truth of the Gospel?
Lens Three: Visual religious Images
One reflection I had was on those of the Christian faith who sought to express it in tangible ways. The theme of “To the glory of God” seemed integral to the county’s imagination. To the glory of God buildings were erected, armies were raised and kings and queens were crowned.
David Morgan’s book The Sacred Gaze showed the importance of how visual images function in religious and political realities. This was certainly seen in the churches where symbolic elements of both were represented. Morgan’s assertion that visual culture is how images, acts of seeing, transform the worlds in which people live.
The adornments of church altars were so ornate. These may seems so lavish to this Protestant, but each generation attempts to express faith visually. We too in visual ways express faith in movies, paintings and “artifacts”. The use of the visual was also expressed well in the two churches I visited.
Holy Trinity Brompton
More modern visual images were used Holy Trinity Brompton. I visited here mainly because of my past experience with Alpha and continued interest for a U.S setting. The church is an old Anglican Church. The stonework with stained glass and stone plaques in the interior walls commemorated people of the past. This seemed all ignored by the attendees.
The worship music band began with popular contemporary worship music.
Images on screens covered the old art behind them. It was if they were saying, “We’ve moved on. I do know many young people like the ancient/modern feel in worship. Perhaps the art was staying, “We are here in now, presence of a great past.”
Nikki Gumble Alpha Interview
Nikki Gumble interviewed about five people to promote the upcoming Alpha course. This could be seen on the numerous TV monitors spread around the building.
Then Nikki introduced the guest speaker Charlie Mackesy who showcased his sculpture of the Prodigal Son. His talk has causal and personal.
The sculpture was a moving expression of his talk.
Overall this was a very accessible service for people not aquatinted with Christianity. The atmosphere was welcoming. What was missing from this transition is anything associated with Anglican liturgy. There was very little scripture except for the story of the Prodigal son. They had a good introduction to the faith and follow up meetings for learning to pray and understand the faith in a deeper way. There were no reflective contemplative portions in the service. The upbeat atmosphere was refreshing, but I came away questions about discipleship and maturing in the faith. The tension I sense in my own context became apparent. How can we be a truly faith forming community in a culture of competing images of the good life?
Saint Mary’s Cathedral
Saint Mary’s Cathedral was a quite different experience. St Paul’s evensong is a blend if Vespers and Compline introduced by Thomas Cramer from Catholic Church. What a grand historic building. The architecture alone was magnificent. The archways, stained glass windows and ancient feel all exuded awe. This commended reflection. This too was a vibrant expression of Christian worship in the community. Although, this is a tradition so different from mine, the worship was refreshing. Scripture is central to the liturgy. What was interesting was that the Psalms are part of the prayer of the community that looked forward to the coming of the Lord. Individuals and the community placed their feelings and experiences before God as they sang the Psalms. What impressed me most is the simple respite from contemporary pace of life.
Lens Four: Leadership and Christianity and Culture
Steve Chalke is a great example of a Christian seeking to express Christianity in the culture. He began Oasis church first as hospice, then as a place for girls who were abused. Now Oasis is multi-national organization. He initiated schools for the poor, coffee shops, hospitals, he helps to create jobs. He views his church as a holistic church. Even though Steve is heavily involved with social issues his is a Christ centered ministry.
It’s all about church. He said, “Vision and frustration is the same thing.” It is a longing for what is not yet. Out of his frustration his vision emerged. He is a highly “self-differentiated leader.”
He is one that does not let his empathy for the poor get sidetracked by the organizational structure.
Steve Chalke sees the church as all embracing, not just a Sunday morning meeting. He said it is to be, “The whole church for the whole person”. What he challenged was the concept of what a spiritual life contains. His statement that “Church is the greatest social agency for changing the world” is foundational for his ministry. This moved me. He said Jesus never asked about the spiritual life of people. It was about the whole of life. He never asked people to become a Christian. Jesus told people what he was here for. My perspective is of a Biblical and spiritual development for people. Steve is an action-oriented man. His strength is the implementation of Christianity. Although I do think the spiritual life is the core, Steve opened my thinking that discipleship is involvement with all of life not merely contemplation of scripture and life. This has been a weakness of us Evangelicals. Prayer is not only a private exercise. For Steve, praying in the middle of involvement with the issues is essential.
Personally, I see how important for the leader to embody this vision. More importantly is that I as a leader do not get tripped up in the workings of the systems of the organization and miss being the leader who goes out implements the vision. Systems carry the vision, not the other way around.
My Pentecostal church history has been one in which we withdrew from the community and tried to keep ourselves pure from the world. Miller and Yamamori in Global Pentecostalism The New Face of Christian Social Engagement report how Pentecostal’s are moving beyond charitable and live out a Gospel that cares for the whole person. These churches are engaging in their communities need for basic human needs, emergency responses, education, medical, counseling and even economic development. What this revealed is that we can give people a sense of power over their lives.
Another great leader we encountered is Jeremy Crossley. He is an engaging and warm personality. He serves as rector of a 17th Century church, Saint Margret, Lothbury.
He is a humble and strong leader that engages those in the business sector. He is a leader for Alpha courses with people in the financial district. He holds traditional and contemporary services. He has crafted services for the people in the city, services that he says work. There is a sense of dislocation of people in the business world who start out climbing the ladder, but feel they are missing it. They feel the loss in the present and shaky financial climate. He advocates for change in the church. He states that we need to rethink and change how we do church. We are to spend time with those who need to know The Lord. He encouraged us to be available, be present to people and develop trust with them. He was a leader who embraces change, but at the same time having a stong sense of who he is and what is his mission. As a leader, trust in a changing culture is of high value. A leader must know his or her emotions, learn to manage those emotions and learn to recognize and deal with the emotions of others. Jeremy embodies a leader who is willing to do that. The shaping of ones personal leadership is an emotional intentional process. Jeremy left a high position in the church to one he felt had greater impact.
Just before the Advance, global issues of the world became more real with the violence in Kenya. Patrick Murunga as a pastor there led us on a journey to discover what is going on from a Kenyan perspective. He told us that in the violence that has issues in the past Churches destroyed but no mosques. This may be seen as a religious attack, but it is more political as churches have been involved politically. People are polarized along tribal lines. Churches are tribal also.
Patrick was grateful for past missionary efforts in his country. The missionary church made a huge contribution to Kenyan society, especially in educational and healthy. But they did not engage the government about injustices. The government displaced people in the colonial times. The church only preached “the gospel”, but ignored social injustices.
After independence from colonialism, the indigenous leaders continue policies. He stated that the church was not a prophetic voice as a conscience of society.
While, the magnitude of this issue is overwhelming, it is important for Western leaders to be aware. I cannot claim to know the answer, but I am haunted by Krish’s claim to lead with a global imagination. One that Patrick calls us to. To be people for peace and take stands for its implications in public ways.
Krish Kandiah’s one statement summarizes my thoughts on leadership and culture. He states, “Who will lead the global imagination?” He cited many images expressed in movies that invite the imagination of viewers to see the world a certain way. Krish’s talk calls us to global interaction at the local level. Reflecting on our discussions on social media came to mind. Recently, Charlene Li’s writings challenged leaders to use more open as they engage social media. I am convinced after reading Li’s book that there is a way to increase the openness of our small church through idea sharing outside of our immediate circle through social media. In order to innovate she challenged people to rethink that new ideas come primarily from inside the organization. She states, “look outside for new ideas and discoveries.”
Lens Five: Personal leadership applications
Shawn Holtzclaw from Equifax stated that to be a great leader you cannot be and do all that is expected to be and do.The one thing all leaders need is a larger perspective.
He quoted Proverbs 21:1 “Good leadership is a channel of water controlled by God; he directs it to whatever place he leads.”
One thing that impressed me was his statement, “I listen to people who touch people.”
We are to stay connected to those who are touching people. To bring my unique experiences and then listen and learn from those people who are touching people is a good step forward. He told us to forget the lists of what you should be. Leverage your one DNA trait for success. He quoted Neil Anderson “No one can consistently behave is a manner that is in inconsistent with the way they perceive themselves.”
Many present attempts at discipleship in our Western culture have either been shallow, inaccessible or incomplete. Krish Kandiah spoke to the importance of a thought-through discipleship paradigm. This focus in one I am passionate about and will be writing about in my thesis. To summarize, he states that spiritual formation cannot be reduced to a formula. It also cannot be reduced into a one-way ideology. It is about whole life and a work of the Spirit. While I am working to develop a church discipleship plan these are important perspectives to keep in mind. The life long call to follow Jesus cannot be reduced to a program, but can be part of an intentional plan.
Krish also encouraged our identity as leaders. We need to have firm understanding on who we are. Knowing our identity, who we are is key for leadership. Jesus is the model. He knew who God called him to be in the culture.
MaryKate Morse’s talk was a fresh call to view how our bodies shape our spirituality. The way we carry ourselves speak to our leadership. She pushed back on the idea that power is always a corrupting force. Power in leadership is necessary. It is morally neutral. It comes out of our security within ourselves. She challenged us to carry ourselves in power and be a servant of all. She said, “No matter what a group gives you, you have all the power you need in Christ” and “See yourself as the embodied presence of Christ.” Our single greatest distinguishing factor for moving from a good leader to great leader is self-leadership. Knowing our emotional make up as we engage other is a key factor.
Devries discussed the emotional processes that are a part of every leader and every organization. Devries points out that leaders need to be aware of their CCRT as they navigate change.
This is the Core Conflictual Relationship Theme that is at the heart of repetitive relationship difficulties. It has to do with the emotional intelligence of the leader and the leaders that work with him or her.
Maintaining emotional stability as I lead has been a key take away from this semester and this Advance. Through being a self-aware and self-differentiated leader, I will better lead with clarity. Knowing oneself and embodying the mission allows a person to lead with compassion and accountability.
 David Morgan, The Sacred Gaze: Religious Visual Culture in Theory and Practice. Berkley, CA: University of California Press, 2005, p.33.
 Edwin H. Friedman, A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix Church Publishing Inc.. Kindle Edition, Locations 324-342.
 Manifred Ket Devries, The Leadership Mystique: Leading Behavior in the Human Enterprise. Harlow, London: Prentice Hall, 2006, p.25.
 Charlene Li, Open Leaderhsip: how Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead. San Francisco, CA :Jossey-Bass, 2102, p.68.
 Devries, pp.38-43.