Blended: A call to reimagine our church family
Church Times Bookshop £8.10
A “BLENDED” church is a microcosm of heaven. So writes Eleanor Bird, a children’s worker based near Stockport. She longs to see a church where people of all ages, backgrounds, and stages of the spiritual journey are together in fellowship and worship rather than segregated into different groups. Our Christian distinctive should not so much be that we reach a particular destination, but that we reach it together.
Bird shares practical suggestions for blending, drawn from her home church and the New Wine conferences where she leads children’s groups. She writes with a chatty enthusiasm, and the reader quickly learns not to take her imagery too literally (at one point she is “separating out a blended heart”). Sometimes she uses metaphors already current elsewhere, but gives them different meanings. Confusingly, some of today’s Fresh Expressions advocates use “blended church” to mean belonging to more than one place of worship — almost the opposite of Bird’s meaning here. Likewise, “blended worship” already has specific meanings, particularly in the United States. The author doesn’t engage in a wider debate around her terminology.
More problematic for some readers will be the author’s lack of a more nuanced, analytical approach to her subject. Key questions and possible objections are never really addressed. How is a blended church different from all-age worship? Why should blended church work when many all-age services appear to be struggling? In a fragmented, post-modern society, doesn’t the mission of the Church have to be diverse, too? Doesn’t blended worship equal a compromise that no age-group really likes?
Blending is an in-vogue term these days. We blend all sorts of things, from fruit smoothies to families. Bird has done the Church a favour by asking what an authentically blended church might look like. But some readers may be frustrated that this particular blender manual contains little by way of technical detail.
The Revd Mike Starkey is a tutor for the Church Army, and a freelance writer.