Terms that I've recently come across: 'wild swimming' and 'wild camping'. I was slightly puzzled by what these referred to, and then, with the 'ping' of a tiny light-bulb, I understood. Although having lived in the UK for over
24 years now, occasionally I miss a wee cultural context - what is 'wild' here, is just everyday ordinary back in Australia.
We go swimming.
In the sea, in rivers, creeks, and lakes.
Oh, and in pools, too.
Up until moving to the UK, I'd never differentiated my swimming unless it was
within the context of what style I was using to move about in the water:
freestyle, breast-stroke, back-stroke, and rather poorly executed butterfly.
Up until moving to the UK, I'd never done what I'm terming 'tame swimming',
as in swimming indoors.
Here, to swim 'wild' is not so much about splashing around erratically, but denotes what I always thought of as just ...swimming.
Weather differences, perhaps, factored in this cultural difference.
Growing up, and even in my young adulthood before swapping hemispheres,
I would often go camping.
Heading off to beach inlets, taking off in the boat and setting up camp on
the islands around the 'neighbourhood', or going bush (by the by, never a great idea to pitch a tent by the banks of the Condamine River without finding out first if it's wild pig shooting season - just in case you were of a mind to do so), the great outdoors was our play area and the smell of sausages blackening on a camp fire was a
But it never came with the prefix 'wild'.
It was just simple, unadorned camping.
I'm guessing 'tame camping' is what is done if staying at a special camp-site? Y'know, the ones that have shower blocks and probably even flushing toilets.
The 'wild' thing has been gently bubbling below for a little while now, but was brought quite happily up to the surface the other week. I was away with RevGals at the BE9. Great galship, great programme by the fabulous Jan Edmiston. We were thinking through the cultures we find in churches and communities. Good to be reminded again that all the programmes, all the great strategic planning you might do, don't amount to a hill of beans unless you actually understand the culture of the community that you're serving.
What are the sacred cows - ha, or in my case here - sheep?
What are those things that have always been? The things that matter?
The people who have always had the say in what those things actually were and are?
Are 'the things' still working?
Are the people hanging on a little too fiercely because they're scared to let go...?
On the other hand, are they the people best-placed to be the ones who have that say,
because of wisdom gained from hard-earned experience?
There was much to chew on, and, over the course of the week, my thoughts turned to the notion of 'wild church'.
This was perhaps prompted too, by one of our ice-breaker exercises:
we were asked to line ourselves up in order of 'our idea of roughing it'.
At one end, 'roughing it' included things along the lines of no wifi in the 5 star hotel, or no bubbles in the champagne. At the other end, well, it was a little more 'wild': with a resident Alaskan *hat tip to JS* and an expat Australian. We were very much more along the lines of a 'having to use a stick to clean a fish for lack of a knife', or 'having to use bare hands, instead of a machete. to break branches to make a sleep-shelter for the night. It was ...interesting... to see how far away the rest of the group were moving from us.
Conjures up beloved Narnia books and the oft-repeated phrase about Aslan:
'he's not a tame lion, you know.'
Have we, as church, tried to tame God?
Tried to make sure that God got with our programme?
And, in trying to domesticate God, have we ourselves become tame?
Having just observed Transfiguration on Sunday, have we missed the point?
The God on the mountaintop who meets with Moses,
the Jesus on the mountaintop whose glory is revealed to James, Peter, and John
in eye-splintering brightness, is fierce and fabulous and far from tame.
While there may be a wideness in God's mercy,
there's a wildness in God's nature that we as followers in faith cannot deny.
We need to have 'wild faith', and become 'wild church', for we have been tame
for far too long: perhaps a little too cosy and domesticated, and perhaps a little fearful of
swimming out of our depths, stepping out into the great unknown.
I wonder if wild church is a place in which there is no fear of diversity?
At the heart of wild church, is perhaps, an understanding that,
within the wildness of the Trinitarian nature of God, there is unity and diversity:
that difference is not necessarily terrible or evil, it can be wonderfully good.
Rather than swimming between the lines, staying within the lane, wild church
jumps in the sea, swims with those who aren't necessarily used to, or allowed to,
swim between the lines.
Dare we have a wild faith that mirrors the One we follow -
the One who stepped out of glory and into human skin and bone?
The One who spent time, not with the tame folk, but the wild folk on the edges...
our wild, incarnational, risk-taking God?
And there is pain, and there is glory when they do.
Sometimes, there is name-calling, shaming, and shunnin by those who don't.
Up until pondering 'wild swimming' and 'wild camping' I'd never differentiated between
'tame' and 'wild' as forms of church.
I just was church - part of the body - and went to church.
Time to move from 'tame church' culture and walk on the wild side a little, I think.