Jonny Baker, director of Mission Education at Church Mission Society, recently reviewed the first two books of the Mission in Marginal Places series, The Theory & The Praxis for Anvil, a journal of theology and mission.

RS40062_United_Kingdom_Staff_98434-scr-300x300These two books are the first in a series of six books exploring mission in marginal places. It is an ambitious and welcome project and has real bite to it. That comes from a number of things that combine together well.

It is practical theology driven by real questions arising from a struggle to live out a life of faith and mission at the margins in challenging contexts in communities that seek to bring challenge to the powers and hope in the midst of struggle. What does it means to be a community of Christ followers that live out of an alternative imagination in such places? In other words it is not simply a theoretical exercise – it cuts much deeper than that and the stakes for the writers are much higher, they are about how to live life itself. But the theory engaged with is plentiful, at depth and is informed like nearly all the best missiology from a number of disciplines – theology, biblical studies, mission studies and the social sciences. These are set in conversation with one another and with the lived experience and it is this mix that is energizing. The engagement with the social sciences draws on very current ideas and conversations in a very helpful way. As you might expect with a range of views from the edges there is plenty of critique offered of current ways of framing mission, theology, ecclesiology with its tendencies to create binary oppositions and obsession with growth and sustainability.

Language makes the world in particular ways and one of things I found particularly interesting is how at pains the writers are to speak appropriately about and within the places that are marginal. Tone and posture counts for so much. Power and domination and how they are handled are a huge part of mission. This concern for speech leads to some delightful insights and theologizing. For example in the second book the way of speaking about Christ, mission and church in relation to the environment and making church on brownfield land is creative and profound. I also appreciated that this is a British series and the places and practice do not come from the USA or elsewhere. It’s grit Brit mission which is refreshing!

The titles of the two books are actually somewhat misleading as both engage significantly with both theory and praxis.  But the first is in three sections exploring mission and marginality, mission and neighbor, and mission and God (though I thought it was as much about how to live, how Christian faith is practiced) with a range of authors and then the editors discussing that section by way of a reflection on it. The second tackles five realms in which mission praxis is considered – ecomonic, political, social, environmental and creative/artistic. Each section has a more theoretical chapter followed by a couple of case studies and then a reflection from the editors.

It is clear that there is beneath this series a learning community who are researching and reflecting seriously on an area of mission practice together. There is huge energy and insight here for those with ears to ear and I hope it is not simply read by those living in marginal spaces because it is as much a book that is relevant to the wider  changing landscape of post welfare, austerity, post truth, challenges around immigration and so on that affects us all seeking to follow Christ whatever church and place we are part of. I am looking forward to the rest of the series which engages with stories, spiritual landscapes, the powers and living the peaceful way. In a word brilliant!

More info on how you can purchase these two books can be found here.

Launching New Book Series

Missional in Marginal Places - The Theory

Missional in Marginal Places - The TheoryUrban Life is pleased to be launching a series of books in conjunction with Paternoster Press. The books in this series will explore doing mission in marginalised places.

To celebrate the launch of the Mission in Marginal Places series, we will be releasing the first book in the series, Mission in Marginal Places: The Theory in Birmingham on Saturday 15 October at the Urban Expression Community weekend held at the International Mission Centre. For more info about the weekend, go here.

Introducing the Mission in Marginal Places series

Christian mission is facing critical challenges. Diverse, complex and rapidly changing contexts raise fundamental questions about the theology and practice of mission. The vision behind this series is to engage afresh with these questions in a way that will help to equip Christian communities of all kinds to develop mission in their own particular location.

The series incorporates a number of distinctive elements that it sees as critical for contemporary mission. Firstly that Christian mission must give priority to those on the margins of society and that questions of ‘difference’ must therefore be a guiding consideration in all aspects. Secondly, mission must be predicated on a practical or ‘lived’ theology which grapples with the actual experiences of life in a broad range of contexts. And thirdly, to be both rigorous and credible, mission studies must be in dialogue with the social sciences where much can be learned about the context for mission in relation to, for example, globalisation, shifting experiences of ‘place’ and ‘space’, self-other relationships, urban studies and changing patterns of marginalisation.

At heart, our intention is to help readers ground such theology and understandings into their own personal journey; to reflect on the character and spiritualities needed to sustain such an embodied and highly contextual approach to mission; and to help develop rhythms and practices to enable such engagement.

Forthcoming books in series:
  • Paul Cloke & Mike Pears (eds), Mission in Marginal Places: the Theory (2016)
  • Paul Cloke & Mike Pears (eds), Mission in Marginal Places: the Praxis (2016)
  • Paul Cloke & Mike Pears (eds) Mission in Marginal Places: the Stories (2017)
  • Paul Cloke & Mike Pears, Exploring Spiritual Landscapes: Mission in Marginal Places (2017)
  • Mike Pears, The Peaceful Way: Mission in Marginal Places (2018)
  • Mike Pears, Placing the Powers: Mission in Marginal Places (2018)