*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

An Interweaving Ecclesiology: The Church, mission and young people by Mark Scanlan

by
29 April 2022

This book will enlarge readers’ outlook, Ali Campbell suggests

IT CAN be challenging to talk about what the Church is at the best of times, but right now, with an emphasis on pioneer ministry, the possibility of lay-led churches, and the Save the Parish movement all vying for our attention, we need to be asking ourselves the questions posed by Mark Scanlan’s book. What is church? What spaces does church occupy? And — crucially, I think — can ecclesiastical space exist beyond the boundaries of the church?

Having worked in youth and children’s ministry for 35 years, I see all too often the inclination to operate from a silo: youth ministry becomes a vacuum-packed space in which we engage with young people on behalf of the church — not because they are the church.

At the start of Scanlan’s book, we are introduced to a framework that might help us to rethink our practice and our engagement with young people and, indeed, with the life of the Church in the world, which affects and shapes all of us. This approach is called “an interweaving ecclesiology”: “unlike most other attempts to talk about the Church in youth ministry, this approach develops an ecclesiology of youth ministry, rather than for youth ministry.”

The book is open and imaginative as we are invited to consider the potential ecclesial spaces that invite young people to engage in Christian practices and create community. The assertion that Scanlan makes is that young people can experience life in Christ through relationship and practices without being part of institutional and established church structures. Whether they move on from there, or not, has been a bone of contention with youth-ministry practice for years.

In support of an interweaving ecclesiology, Scanlan turns to the work of Urban Saints (formerly Crusaders). An ethnographic case study was undertaken to explore the practice of some Crusader groups and what Scanlan identifies as the inherent ecclesial imagination. The question that I am forced to ask, repeatedly, as I have engaged with the book is this: if something (an activity, movement, happening with young people involved) has Christian practices, and if it builds community centred around Jesus Christ, then isn’t it church?

What I particularly like about the case studies is how normal and average the groups are: these aren’t flash and enormous groups at for forefront of some youth-ministry vanguard. This could be my youth group; it could be yours.

The challenge presented is to invite others to join the conversation to see what is possible and — as the book articulates so well — that the church continues to develop and grow. “Church” isn’t static; nor does it fit neatly within our institutional shapes. To steal a line from Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”

If you want your vision of the Church — not just youth ministry — enriched and enlarged, then I encourage you to get this book. There is a national strategy for the Church of England for the 2020s. One of the priorities is to be a Church that is younger and more diverse — and, while a “mixed ecology” is the language most often used to describe the way we need to be, we need, I think, to consider it more as an interweaving ecclesiology — as we seek to embrace all that God is doing, not just in the Church with and through young people, but in the world.


Ali Campbell runs The Resource, a youth and children’s ministry consultancy.

 

An Interweaving Ecclesiology: The Church, mission and young people
Mark Scanlan
SCM Press £25
(978-0-334-06076-5)
Church Times Bookshop £20

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Closing date: 30 June 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)