Wednesday 5 October 2016

Holiness 2, 3 (2016) on Holiness and Contemporary Culture

The latest issue of Holiness, the journal of Wesley House Cambridge is now available online, this one devoted to ‘Holiness and Contemporary Culture’.

The editor, Andrew Stobart, imagines explaining to John Wesley that ‘by “contemporary culture” we are simply referring – albeit with greater sophistication than we normally muster – to “the world in which we live”, the world within which we attempt to speak to and of and for God’. At once, he notes, ‘Wesley is no longer standing on the sidelines of our topic, but fully immersed in it, offering us an example of how “holiness” and “contemporary culture” are to be related in thought and practice’.

He goes on: ‘Holiness is always a lived entity, generated within the community of Christ, but also informed by and worked out within the cultural structures that provide definition to our daily lives.’

The entire journal, containing the below collection of peer-reviewed essays, lecture, and short articles, is available as a pdf here.

Hilary Brand
Whatever happened to sin? An examination of the word and concept in contemporary popular culture
The concept of ‘sin’ is rarely expressed in today’s popular culture. When the word does appear it is frequently in ironic quotation marks and often used in terms of ‘naughty but nice’, minor misdemeanours, something disapproved of, an outmoded Catholic shame culture, Islamic oppression or fundamentalist extremism. Rarely is it used in the way the Church understands it. By analysing the use of the word in recent news reports and examining its use and absence across the range of twenty-first-century media, this study draws some conclusions about how UK secular society understands the word. It then goes on to explore how some twentieth-century cultural changes have impacted on its understanding, and concludes with some observations on how twenty-first-century Western culture still senses the underlying problem and yearns for a way to express it.

Rebekah Callow
‘Lifting the shell’: expressions of emotion and cross-cultural struggle in international students
Research has shown that while humans around the world hold various emotions in common with one another – sadness, happiness, fear and anger – the expression of these emotions can look different depending on the culture. This article explores the different expressions of ‘struggle’ that arise when a person experiences ‘culture shock’ or ‘culture stress’ due to life in a cross- cultural context. The article argues that in the increasingly international context of higher education, urgent attention needs to be given to these different cultural expressions of struggle, in order to better understand students’ experiences and provide effective coping strategies. Richard Lewis’s cultural model is developed for use in this context. 

Pete Phillips
Wesley’s parish and the digital age?
The following article was delivered as the annual lecture of the Methodist Sacramental Fellowship at the 2016 Methodist Conference in London. Beginning with the original context of John Wesley’s well-known phrase, ‘the world as my parish’, this article explores the digital aspects of our global parish today. Putting the digital age on the agenda of the Church’s mission is seen as a similar response to Wesley’s decision to become ‘more vile’ and enter the world of field preaching. The lecture concludes by offering a fresh approach to Methodist identity magnified by aspects of digital culture, calling for the creation of digital Arminianism, digital field preaching, digital creativity and, ultimately, a digital parish. The article proposes that Methodism embrace a digital social holiness to spread scriptural holiness throughout the geographic and digital landscape.

Anna Robbins
‘It’s always right now’: framing the struggle for meaning in contemporary culture
Late contemporary culture has seen a previously dominant existentialism give way to naturalistic determinism, and yielded a nihilism that is not conducive to human flourishing, as individuals or society. I will seek to frame a discussion whereby the fact of meaning may be posited and discussed in contemporary culture, concluding that Christianity offers a context for exploring meaning in a way that is preferable to other views because it provides a coherent approach to understanding the nature of the human being, and the problems that give rise to a crisis of meaning. The article will also offer several suggestions for further study whereby the work of meaning may be pursued.

Gordon Leah
A reluctant Samaritan: reflections from Carlo Levi’s Christ Stopped at Eboli
Carlo Levi, doctor, organist, painter and political activist, was exiled in 1935 by Mussolini to Lucania, a remote corner of southern Italy. I consider the enormous impact his skills made on the primitive life of the area, and how, when the peasants believed that ‘Christ stopped at Eboli’, the town north of their region, and no Christians or outsiders were interested in them, Levi gradually, through his immersion in their life with practical, undemonstrative service, gave them new hope. Finally I consider the vital importance of practical service as a true reflection of Christ’s active love for a world and for suffering people without other hope.

Richard Clutterbuck
A holiness movement, shaped by mission: encountering God in Oceania
Reflecting on the author’s experience of Christianity in Oceania, this article draws attention to a classic nineteenth-century Methodist text written in the founding years of the Christian mission in Oceania. Letters on Entire Sanctification was written by John Hunt, a remarkable young missionary, published after his early death in Fiji, and can claim to be the first substantial work of Christian theology written in Oceania. Understanding Hunt’s writings in their context helps to define the relationship between holiness and mission, and refocus the Methodist movement as a ‘holiness movement, shaped by mission’.

Rosemary Power
Pilgrims in a barren land: pioneer ministry in rural Ireland
This article considers a pioneer ministry in rural and small-town west of Ireland, at a time of social change and financial crash. It considers what was expected, what actually happened, how the parent de nomination responded, and what on reflection may feed into the wider discussion of new ways of spreading the Christian gospel. This article is a companion to the author’s article ‘Modern pilgrimage in the west of Ireland’, published in this journal (Volume 2, Issue 1, pp. 115–126).

Tom Osborne
‘Pretty amazing grace’: using contemporary popular music in church worship
This article reflects upon the use within corporate worship of music created outside of the church environment. Using the practical experience of producing a Passiontide liturgy that incorporated secular popular music, and the shape of the resulting worship, the article explores the appropriateness of such use and, assuming such use is deemed appropriate, best practice in doing so. Engaging with a range of academic and popular sources, the article sees music as a key component of both church and contemporary cultures and attempts to offer a way of bridging the gap that seems to exist between them.

Tim Macquiban
What have the sermons of John Wesley ever done for us? The Wesleyan legacy in issues of wealth and poverty: reflections on Wesley’s sermon, ‘The Use of Money’
Wesley’s sermon, ‘The Use of Money’, still resonates with our contemporary economic context. After a synopsis of the sermon, this article seeks to set it in its original context, understanding the key marks of Wesley’s approach to poverty: the importance of personal contact with the poor, the importance of thrift, and the importance of indiscrimination, grounded in spiritual egalitarianism. The legacy of Wesley’s advice, both within the early Methodist movement, and as a starting point for critical reflection today, is then considered.

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