Doing church differently

By Simon Barrow
March 1, 2008

I have just discovered that the ground-breaking book 'Congregation: Stories and Structures', by James F. Hopewell (something of a classic from 20 years ago), is available online.

You can read it here:

Along with the World Council of Churches' conversations about "the missionary structure of the congregation" back in the 1960s; Bonhoeffer's reflections on church, discipleship and ethics; the work of the Alban Institute; the Christian community movement; and base ecclesial communities (BECs) in Latin America and elsewhere, Hopewell is really one of the pioneers of all the change-agency based explorations of practical ecclesiology which have come so much into vogue in recent years.

People forget too easily that David E. Jenkins and John A. T. Robinson (two turbulent English Anglican bishops) were long ago talking about the end of Christendom - and Lauren B. Meade of its Protestant lingerings in the USA. Or that prospects for a "new monasticism" in the modern era were first raised by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in the 1930s.

At the time of his death in 1984, James F. Hopewell was Professor of Religion and the Church and Director of the Rollins Center for Church Ministries at the Candler School of theology, Emory University. Published by Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1987, his book 'Congregations' was prepared for Religion Online by Ted & Winnie Brock.

It would be interesting to know what Hopewell would have made of all the current talk of deep church, emerging church, liquid church, new ways of being church, fresh expressions of church - and the like, I expect he would have said that linguistic inflation is not a substitute for the hard slog of doing church as a conserving and emancipatory expression of the Gospel in action.

I am also reflecting on 'communities of conviction' on my personal blog, FaithInSociety:

Thanks to Alison Goodlad and Bob Burn for bringing me back to this whole issue.

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