The prodigal Paul Fromont stops in to talk wind chimes.
Hi, welcome to our virtual coffee shop. Pull up a chair, take the load of your feet. Let’s chat.
So who are you, where you from, what do you do in life?
I’m a Kiwi, a small flightless bird, active after dark. Seriously, I am a “kiwi,” but not a small flightless bird, living in Cambridge, Aotearoa New Zealand – the bottom of the world, or the top, depending on your perspective. If I were to describe my Christian practice as a piece of art, it would be an eclectic (multi-denominational), fluid (integrating movement and water); earthy coloured sculpture, comprising solid and open components. Comprising ancient and contemporary symbolism. Wind chimes would be cool. It would be set high on a cliff overlooking the ever-changing expanse of the Pacific Ocean, open to the elements. Free. Changing and unchanging. I don’t have a PhD or any formal academic theological training or qualification and am super-cool with that. I explored Anglican pastoral ministry…but that’s as far as that got, an exploration!
Can I get you a drink? Cappucino, earl grey, dandelion and burdock, pale ale?
It’s probably a case of what don’t I drink. Anything from Emerson’s Brewery in Dunedin, Belgian Trappist beers (e.g. Chimay), to Cappuccino, and everything in between.
Would you like a doughnut or pastry to go with that?
A pastry would be just fine, unless it’s wine or beer, then perhaps something a little more savoury might be appropriate.
So, if you had to describe the church/project/experiment/thingy you are currently involved with in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
SPACE, an experiment in spiritual formation and prayer coupled with an exploration of church as the hermeneutic of post-Christendom mission (listen for the echo of Lesslie Newbigin) on the edge of a more traditional church.
Are you an instigator? / new recruit? / have absolutely no recollection of how you got involved?
A bit of an instigator, but one that gets a lot of inspiration from a wide range of other friends living in the borderlands between what is and what will be. I’m not all that original. Too many other voices, lives, and images serve as the orchestral sound that plays quietly in the background. I’m most comfortable among those on the creative, growing edges of church and culture; in the presence of critics, dreamers, and creatives. I’m shaped in ways I don’t even notice, and perhaps I shape and influence in the same way, in ways I’m seldom or never aware of.
What do you value most about being part of it?
The opportunity to experiment, to learn, to discover, to blend ancient and pre-reformation practices of prayer (the so-called “inner disciplines”), liturgy, ritual, poetry, image, sound, spiritual direction (especially in terms of the place of questioning & reflection, of learning to deeply listen) etc. with more contemporary experiments in ‘doing’ church and mission.
What excites you most about it?
Becoming deeper – more deeply in relationship with out triune God and those God calls me into relationship with. I’m excited about the ways in which my un-chosen past is funding and broadening who I am today, my hearing of the gospel, and my sense of growing into church
Has anyone ever turned up out of the blue not knowing what to expect?
What did they say?
Yeah. Early days yet, but comments range from “cool,” “a really wonderful experience – keep going” to “it’s boring like traditional church,” or “it’s a bit ‘new agey’ isn’t it?
Three words that describe your attitude to ‘being church’ in the big wide world: “Jesus-centred”, “holistic”, “subversive”, “missional,” “loving,” “spacious,” “multi-dimensional”, “deepening,” and “becoming.”
Three words that DON’T:
“Audience”, “inward looking” (oops that’s two words), “lifeless,” “boring,” “one-dimensional”, “constrictive,” “shallow,” and “not-becoming”
You have this weird dream – you meet Jesus face to face.
Where does it happen, what does he say to you?
I can’t remember dreams, but the thought of a long road trip…lot’s of conversation, nice sounds on the CD…space to just hangout.
What’s the big secret you’re itching to share with everyone?
I’m not a particularly secretive guy, but…sssssh…. nah. It’s secret, so I’m not telling.
What would your ’emerging church survival kit’ contain?
My ‘emerging church’ survival kit would contain: paradoxes – sounds and silence, image and text, large and small spaces, and virtual and embodied friendships with key people who nourish, fund, and stretch my sense of what church might become in practice, in my context. It would contain the First and Second Testaments. It would contain “A New Zealand Prayer Book” (‘He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa’).
Anything else you’d like to share with us before you have to rush off?
“Keep surfing the edge of the wave!” (An expression Mark Pierson, co-author of The Prodigal Project used when he signed-off an e-mail to me. It’s evocative. I like it a lot). Keep placing under your feet the questions that will serve as stepping-stones for your respective journeys toward God.
Thanks. Good to see you. Have a good day!