Welcoming the Stranger

February 14, 2008

I’ve been reading Patrick Keifert’s Welcoming the Stranger over the past few days. I have to preach on Worship as Public Ministry on Sunday, and the themes come from a process largely influenced by Keifert, so I thought I might get some ideas. This was largely because because I found the guidelines for the theme difficult, after all this time being influenced by the emerging conversation. The broad theme is becoming a sent congregation, a missional congregation sent to the world, and in this I struggled to see that our church services is part of this, it felt a bit like the seeker movement (not a bad movement, but not quite how I would think about things).

Keifert’s book is about the myth of intimate societies, the idea that church should be intimate. This can happen either through our complex liturgies of which the outsider has no knowledge, and cannot follow, or through a family-like church service which depends on everybody taking part spontaniously. Rather he propose a service which is welcoming, but not “in-the-face” of the stranger, for example that strangers should put up their hands when they attend for the first time.

The book pose a challenge to the emerging conversation (although some might think that Keifert’s work form part of the emerging conversation) by challenging small non-growing intimate congregation, exactly what I understood form Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt’s descriptions of Solomon’s Porch. It reminds me of the seeker sensitive movement, although I believe Keifert won’t like being identified with this, although I might be wrong in my believe, I don’t know the guy at all.

But then again, within the context I currently find myself, his approach might still be a good idea. We still have many people who find their first contact with the church in church services, who come to a service to check out the church, and if we have to take them into account, I like the approach set out by Keifert.

One question I have, however, it Keifert’s use of the term “public theology” in his subtitle, since this term rarely occurs in the book, and I never found a definition of this. I guess the reason why I noticed this is because I have to write a chapter of my upcoming dissertation on what we understand when using this term, Keifert didn’t help with this.