Liquid Church - I
Pete Ward introduces his vision for new ways of being church (this is no single blueprint) in response to what some sociologists have called liquid modernity. The use of the word ‘liquid’ is an attempt to highlight the fluid nature of our lives with increased mobility, pace of change and variety of commitments. Liquid churches could take place wherever and whenever there is Christian fellowship between a group of people. At the heart of this vision is the church as experienced through people in a network of relationships rather than as located in the meeting place of those people as a congregation.
This is not a ‘This is how my successful church works’ book but a picture, grounded in sociology and theology with some examples given of liquid ways of being church. This may sound like a cop-out for the half-hearted, but in Ward’s vision liquid church is no easy option but is an engagement of the boundary-breaking Christ with people as they are, not as they were 150 years ago.
Ward’s vision is unsettling for those of us who are happy with our ‘solid’ church. But we are in the minority in our society. This book describes a theologically and sociologically grounded attempt to revise our vision of what church may be. As the author admits there is much that awaits testing with this vision, but he offers a number of illustrations of activities and networks that reflect this model. Not all of these are trendy new ideas, some, such as his comments on Greek Orthodox worship, reflect ancient patterns of church experience.
This book offers a brief but thoughtful introduction to ‘new ways of being church’. Ward doesn’t have all the answers and when I heard him lead a discussion on this vision he was prone to getting trapped into solid forms of church when pushed on how this would work in practice. Nevertheless the vision is worthwhile and it may be for others to express it in practice for the benefit of many for whom our current way of being church seems inflexible and irrelevant.