October 21, 2017

Review: Rising From The Ashes by Becky Garrison

garrison.jpgRising From The Ashes is an unusual look at the emerging church/alternative worship, church planting and church development scene, presented entirely as short articles, emails, interviews and even instant message conversations. Becky Garrison, a writer for the Wittenberg Door magazine, and author of Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church, asks the questions and arranges the material into themed chapters. The book allows the practitioners to have a larger say than the theorists, and there’s a refreshing honesty and “unedited” quality to the material. This is a book that truly drops into the “emerging conversation,” as its happening among those who are swimming in the water and not explaining concepts to the skeptical.

Garrison’s book was especially interesting to me because it is heavily weighted toward alternative church experiments among Anglicans, Episcopalians and other liturgical churches. Many of those interviewed discuss the adaptation of liturgical/eucharistic-centered worship to alternative and emerging formats. This is a kind of discussion that’s quite fascinating and revealing, not just for its risk-taking, creative spirit, but for the honesty about what’s proven of value and what’s failed. And YES, failure is a frequent topic. There’s plenty of honesty in this book, both about numbers, questions, questions and seeming impossibilities.

The format of Rising From the Ashes is original, but it suffers from a feeling of being a bit too raw and “scattered.” I’m sure more than a few people will say that Garrison could have used one or two more passes through an editorial process before sending the book out. It is a book that will be far better understood by “insiders” to this movement than to those with initial curiosity.

The book contains much material from those doing alternative worship in the U.K. The fact that the situation there is somewhat different than in America made some of the material less accessible to me, as I don’t have much of a detailed knowledge of the church situation in the UK.

Peter Rollins has some outstanding material in this book. I’ve struggled with some of Rollins’ writing, but his interview answers were very understandable. N.T. Wright makes a brief appearance, as does Brian Mclaren, Karen Ward, Spencer Burke and dozens of people whose names I’d never heard. This is a sourcebook from across the theological spectrum and it will bring many readers “out of their box” when they read it. A real plus for the book is the outstanding library of print and internet resources listed for the reader.

Those interested in the ongoing development of alternative worship, missional churches, hospitality, evangelism, church renewal and ecclesiology will find plenty here of interest. As a scrapbook/time capsule of the emerging church, it’s quite interesting. As an organized presentation, it’s not what you are looking for.

I received a free copy of the book.