So there is this guy who found my blog. I went to his blog to say hello and started reading some of his posts. I ran across a post that described his church as “Emergent without really knowing it”. That, combined with the fact that he lives in Ireland, very much intrigued me. So I sent him a message asking if he would be willing to answer some questions. He graciously said yes and this is the conversation so far. More may be to come.

Lauren: What is a typical Sunday morning like for you? (And actually, I’m assuming you meet on Sunday morning. If not, when do you meet?)

Red Wine Gums: We meet on Saturday nights. We could get into arguments about when the Sabbath actually is and New Covenant V Old Covenant but the main rationale is that people need a day of rest. Having the meeting on Saturday nights accomplishes some things intentionally and other things inadvertently. Intentionally it makes sure that the Sunday is completely free. Intentionally it creates the opportunity for members of our little group to fellowship with other believers on a Sunday morning. Unintentionally it gives the children and teenagers something to do and lessens the chance for going crazy on a Saturday night. I prefer Saturday nights. Sleep in on Sunday. After the meeting you can watch a DVD having gone to the chipper or else you play poker and the alcoholics can have their beer or wine. I don’t think the issue is when you meet. It’s more to do with what happens when you do.

L: Does your church have a denomination? For instance, my church gets labeled Emergent but we consider ourselves Missional more than anything. We try to partner with Christ in His mission for the world. Is this similar to your church?

RWG: We nearly became non-subscribing Presbyterians at one point but that’s a story for another day -) One of the elders in our group has been fond of saying in the past that, “We are not the only Christians but we do want to be Christians only”. We are non-denominational and not affiliated with any other grouping. We welcome fellowshipping and interacting with other believers. We have attempted in the past to be part of wider Christian efforts to promote unity and have gotten burnt for doing so. Regrettably we have also effectively been labeled as a cult in the past by well intentioned brothers and sisters who felt that our structure lacked something (what I have no idea). My opinion on this is that it is due to our fringe nature and also our refusal to legislate or exclusively define everything we believe. We believe in the essentials. Jesus is the Risen Son of God sent to die for our sins, etc. I’m with Augustine on this personally: “In essentials unity. In non-essentials liberty. In everything love”

L: How do you go about reaching out to your community? What does community mean for you?

RWG: Let me first be clear on something. Reaching out is the responsibility of every Christian believer. It is not something the church does or something that I do for an hour on a Wednesday night. It is who we are. It means building relationships and connecting with people and revealing who Christ is in our actions. We are a group of about 30 – 40 people but the following is the list of activities we engage in on a weekly basis:

Young Adults Bible Study
Prayer Meetings
Pro-Life (Registered) Charity Work – Some members of the group are employed full time. Pretty much everyone volunteers their time whether on Committee or helping out with collections
Kids & Youth Meetings
Homeless Hostel Outreach
Tanzanian Educational Project – This is a registered charity where we sponsor children and pay for their education
A family from our group has also moved out there and are building relationships with children and youth workers over in Tanzania. It’s not the traditional missionary thing but more an effort to raise up and encourage those who can get overlooked in mainstream Pentecostal, prosperity gospel type efforts

What does community mean to us? That’s a small short question that needs a long, long, long answer and I won’t do it here. To me it means love, trust, accountability, honesty, living in and out of each other’s lives where everything is done for the glory of God. I’m not sure I’ll ever have it figured out if I’m honest. I know that I couldn’t do with a hour and a half on a Sunday (or Saturday night) as community though. Just wouldn’t cut it for me.

L: You mentioned kid’s meetings. What do those look like for your church?

RWG: We build the kids up as much as we can and encourage them to contribute in a real and meaningful way to the Body. Teaching and discipleship etc is done at their own meeting but in the main meeting they can contribute and indeed are encouraged to do so. That can be from the Bible or sharing a word or picture as Paul talks about in Corinthians. We test and hold onto what is good. We give one meeting a month over specifically to facilitate families interacting and to make sure the kids are involved. For me two songs at the start and a turn based Scripture reading don’t cut it. At 10 years old I was made to sit down and listen to one of the elders share on community. I was then interrogated in the car on the way home on the content and what I thought of it. What we do now is give a meeting over to the youth and young adults in the month as well where they can do what they like in terms of structure and content. Every member of the Body can contribute so we like to make the space for that to happen.

L: Is there anything about how you do church that is distinctly Irish?

RWG: Not sure. We start late and chat for a lot afterwards?

L: Do you believe that the Emergent movement is a fad? How do you see it playing out in Ireland?

RWG: I haven’t read enough around the literature to comment. Essentially what happened is a bunch from our group went over to some conference and found out that what we’d been practicing for the best part of 30 years can in some ways be considered Emergent. The Irish case is difficult because it can be hard for people to grasp the utter dominance and hold the Roman Catholic Church had on society over here. My anecdotal understanding is that in the late 70’s there was a mini revial of sorts. A bunch of American missionaries came over and as has happened in the past sought to transplant their experience onto a very different type of culture. So in a lot of ways the wider Irish church has been seeking to identify its roots. It became popular in the 90s to latch onto the Celtic Christianity phenomenon. We are now post that phase and one of the main areas of church growth is through immigration particularly among the Pentecostal denominations. I think you’ve got a lot of the denominations you would find in other places. It’s just on a smaller sale.

L: Have you read any of the big Emergent authors? (Ex. McLaren, Jones, Miller, McKnight, etc.) Have they had the impact on Ireland’s church culture that they have had on the U.S.?

RWG: I haven’t. See I personally wandered into this debate and to my utter confusion found all this rirá agus ruaille buaile (massive argument or chaos) over what I thought was a big fuss of nothing. I think to truly understand the issue I would need to spend some times in Emergent fellowships to see what the fuss is about. You always manage to find something you don’t like about the way a particular group of believers does things. I suppose things I would look for would be participatory worship, strong Bible teaching that is aware of hermeneutics which involves discussion of God’s word in a real sense, the opportunity for members of the Body to contribute and a real sense of community. I have nothing against mega churches apart from how they can engender community. If you have 20 groups of 50 Christians or 1 mega church with 1000 people that’s still the same amount going to heaven in my book.

I think their impact on culture over here depends on your denomination. I attended a Baptist meeting once where, like all good Baptists, there was an opportunity to vote on whether to hire a pair of youth leaders. One of the questions put to the married couple was their opinion on the Emergent Movement/Conversation. The husband handled it well in the non-commital sense. My feeling was that the gentleman asking the question had his reservations.

L: In the U.S., the general public mindset has been shifting from modern to post-modern. This has been difficult for Evangelical churches. Is that the case in Ireland as well? If so, how has your church handled this paradigm shift?

RWG: It’s mainly affected our evangelism efforts. We feel that the current direction of God for our group is a major focus on evangelism. So while we have used the Alpha Course in the past we have moved from a modernistic viewpoint of seeking to provide answers or rationale in the initial phase to attempting to demonstrate God’s love or revelation through supernatural encounters. I can’t really speak for other fellowships but our own I would feel has handled it pretty well. We discuss the New Perspective on Paul. We engage in Prophetic Evangelism. We seek to love people above all. This does not mean we disregard the Gospel but more that we seek to build relationships. Sometimes you’re not meant to save that sinner there and then. You’re just meant to plant a seed. If given an opportunity I will always seek to give the Gospel message. Now if anyone could tell me what that is or perhaps put it on a tract. 🙂

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That’s all for now, folks! If you read this and have any other questions, leave them in a comment.

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