A therapeutic whinge or poison?

These are the closing words in a frank wise piece from Maggi Dawn
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There is a place for a bit of therapeutic negativity, but there comes a time when you have to choose. Either go back and make it better, or go elsewhere and find something that suits you better, or just go elsewhere. There will always be battles to fight; there will always be whinges to have; there will always be things wrong with the church, whether it’s trad, emerging or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with a therapeutic whinge every now and then, and it’s just a fact of life that things have to be toughed out from time to time. But if you feel like whingeing all the time, something’s wrong. If the core of your life isn’t positively committed to where you are and what you’re doing, you’ll end up poisoning yourself, and the people around you. You can’t build a church on a foundation of what’s wrong with another church. It doesn’t work.

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Here’s the entire post …

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A few months ago I posted this, and I’m posting it again because I found myself writing almost the same thing over again. Something I read or heard in the last few days has set me thinking about the kind of aggression and anger with which some people kick out at the Church. There are all sorts of good reasons for being angry with the Church as we know it. But there’s also the need to accept and forgive the Church as we know it – especially if you want to start something new. Being angry will never form the foundation for a new thing.

[Update: apparently those in the US don’t know what “Whingeing” is – it’s that kind of repeated moaning about a particular subject that someone can’t quite get over. ]

[I’ve been] thinking about some of the ’emerging’ type groups I’ve been involved in. In 1990 I was a founder member of Holy Joe’s – the church-in-a-cellar, turned church-in-a-pub that later came to fame as the community about which Dave Tomlinson wrote The Post-evangelical in 1995. (I was one of 6 authors who wrote a response – The post-evangelical Debate – in 1997.) Holy Joe’s was an ’emerging’ or ‘alternative worship’ community before either of those terms had been coined – we didn’t know there was going to be any big movement, or anyone else like us – we were simply a group of people who found each other pretty much by accident in South London in 1990. At the start, we met as something of an artists’ community – most of us were singers, musicians, painters, writers, or whatever. But we also found a common interest in that we were all people who had pretty strong convictions about faith but, to varying degrees, didn’t feel altogether at home in Church. Some of us were going through a transition out of Evangelicalism into… well, we didn’t know what yet, and some were probably on the way out of faith altogether. So really we started out as a group of slightly rootless Christians who were all pissed off with Church. Many of the regulars at Holy Joe’s were what I termed ‘recovering evangelicals’ – they practised what Alan Jamieson later called A Churchless Faith. For a while, the main topic of conversation at Holy Joe’s was everyone’s anger, hurt, and general critical comments about ‘Church’ as they knew it. And for a while, this was therapeutic. But fairly soon, I began to get bored with the fact that no matter what kind of interesting topic we started off on – hermeneutics, atonement theory, church and culture, christianity and the arts… we ALWAYS ended up in a slanging fest about ‘the Church’ – all the reasons, rehearsed over and over, about why the church was so bad, such rubbish, so stupid, so hurtful. After a while, I began to think that there were 2 options: either get stuck back in to the Church in some recognisable form and get on with doing the job in a way that we felt had integrity, or check out altogether. I was the first from Holy Joe’s to set out on the road to Holy Orders. But interestingly, about 5 more followed, including Dave T himself. There is a place for a bit of therapeutic negativity, but there comes a time when you have to choose. Either go back and make it better, or go elsewhere and find something that suits you better, or just go elsewhere. There will always be battles to fight; there will always be whinges to have; there will always be things wrong with the church, whether it’s trad, emerging or whatever. There’s nothing wrong with a therapeutic whinge every now and then, and it’s just a fact of life that things have to be toughed out from time to time. But if you feel like whingeing all the time, something’s wrong. If the core of your life isn’t positively committed to where you are and what you’re doing, you’ll end up poisoning yourself, and the people around you. You can’t build a church on a foundation of what’s wrong with another church. It doesn’t work.
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