A new way of being church : a case study approach to Cityside Baptist Church as Christian faith "making do" in a postmodern world
Taylor, Stephen (Steve) John
New forms of liturgy and church have recently emerged in Western Protestantism. This includes "alternative worship"; defined as liturgical innovation characterised by communal participation, employment of popular cultural resources, a rediscovery of ancient liturgy and an appreciation of creativity and the arts. This thesis critically examines the claim that such "alternative worship" groups are an expression of postmodern religious life by exploring the practices of Cityside Baptist Church, in Aotearoa New Zealand. It situates their liturgical innovation as a "making do" - multiple transformative processes which creatively subvert their surrounding context. This "making do" is an application of the work of Michel de Certeau and his interpretive work on culture and context. This thesis employs a practical theology methodology to read communal practices as a body of theological data. This allows the critical excavation of a living theology from "down under." Cityside is located in relation to their surrounding context, firstly of religious decline and charismatic dominance and secondly of a postmodern fragmentation into an individualised search for meaning, an emergence of tribal communities and a re-negotiated relationship with the Other. Given this contextual siting, survey analysis and focus group interviews are employed to read Cityside as a group in rupture from Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic religious dominance who identify themselves as postmodern. They have developed liturgical practices that value community, creativity and an engagement with culture. These three themes then guide an examination of Cityside's every[sun]day liturgical practices through participant observation. Firstly, the fault lines of Cityside are read as a "making do" with a communitarian hermeneutic. In response to experiences of rupture, Cityside offers a unique gathered community of choice in which the individual is invited to find meaning. This "making do" with a communitarian hermeneutic is then applied to re-read tradition as dialogue with other contextual communities one generation removed from Jesus. It is further argued that at Cityside Biblical text is read as a communal experience of shared rupture. Secondly, Cityside's "making do" with a communitarian hermeneutic creates an imaginative space that allows both a communal and individual "making do." Imagination as rupture, fragmentation and play are used to analyse selected liturgical practices - storytelling, art images and labyrinth as pilgrimage - at Cityside. Imagination is referenced as a play of natality that re-reads both Christian anthropology and the ironic deconstruction of much postmodern discourse. Thirdly, the ethics of relationship with the Other are a key dimension of postmodern discourse. The metaphor of DJing is introduced to argue that Cityside employs a "tactic" of sampling as a further dimension of its "making do." This allows Cityside a renegotiated relationship with the Other of gospel and culture. The practice of DJ sampling is then located within a tradition of marginal creative communities who produce marginalia as an authentic and creative re-reading of tradition. Hence, Cityside's life contains multiple transformative practices that are both continuous and discontinuous with reference to both postmodern culture and the Christian tradition. Cityside Baptist Church is read as Christian faith "making do" in a postmodern world.
Advisor: McCormick, Gregory; Riddell, Mike; Drane, John
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Theology and Religious Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis