First, we need to dismiss any notion that, even in the early days of Christianity, the church was somehow stable and united. There were divisions even in New Testament times despite the best efforts of the apostles, and these proliferated in the first few centuries.
Even during the period when the Roman Catholic Church dominated Europe, there was change within due to political developments and as new religious orders were founded, a pattern that has continued since the Reformation, each change usually involving a development or a new emphasis in theology - how we understand and respond to God.
There has never been a period when the church was not emerging in some new way.
An almost unanswerable question! It depends on which country and faith group we belong to. Some are doing very nicely, others, apparently, not so well. In particular, there has been a sustained decline in membership of most of the traditional churches in the developed world, where many church leaders are looking for new models of 'church' that might reverse the decline.
The message of Jesus has not changed. We still have a duty to spread the Gospel.
Within the Community there are many different views on how the church might best develop in the future to meet the command of Jesus (Mark16:15): "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (NIV).
The Community is ecumenical and aims to foster a spirituality and way of life, that will be helpful for individual Christians from all denominations and fellowship groups, and for those who do not belong to any.
While it takes its inspiration from the Celtic Churches that survived in Ireland and the western fringes of Britain and France, after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Community is fully open to the wisdom of all the churches, and their religious orders. It is worth mentioning that elements of our way of life have a lot in common with Benedictine, Franciscan and Ignatian traditions.
So, we are not recommending any particular way forward, more perhaps, approaches and practices that we believe would help people grow in faith, and effect transformation from within. The issue is, how do we lift up and portray Jesus to today's world, that will allow Him to draw people in.
John 12:32 "And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself."
Simon Reed, one of our three Guardians, and the minister of a London church, examines the relevance of the Celtic Church to today's mission in his book Creating Community: Ancient Ways for Modern Churches, publish by BRF. He observes that while many contemporary churches try to attract a crowd and then turn it into a community, the early churches in Celtic lands started as small communities and then gathered wider numbers.
He argues that such churches can become living communities if they adopt three practices:
The Community of Aidan and Hilda offers all three of these, in a format that can be tailored to the needs of individual Christians in their own denominations and personal circumstances.
Ray Simpson, our Founding Guardian, has written several books on new models of church, and refers to instances where these are becoming a reality. Ray has provided some of the key features of the Celtic churches that may be helpful for us today that you can download in PDF or a PowerPoint format. In essence he identifies a heart for:
Other descriptors might include:
You can download a fuller version of Ray's views on the relevance of the Celtic Church for today in PDF format by right-clicking here.
Views expressed in the websites below do not necessarily represent those of the Community!
There is an interesting if rather academic take on the emerging church concept in this Wikipedia article:
Two websites that explore ways in which the Anglican Church, in particular, is pioneering, include:
The Catholic Church has been slower to enter the emerging church debate and there is no dedicated website. However, the debate is going on and is given voice in some of the religious orders and lay movements. The general consensus is that any developments will have to be within the existing structure of the church to preserve stability, but might involve encouraging the faithful to engage in new devotional practices that bring people closer to Christ:
You can explore further by entering 'emerging church' into any search engine!