Emerging Church Descends From The Clouds

Athletes Church Extreme (ACE) from New Zealand are sending shock waves round the world as perhaps the most novel form of emerging church descends literally from the clouds (Rev 21:2). Whilst their spiritual expression is unorthodox to say the least, they take church very seriously. One of the group leaders Tam Reylf explains that in their view a lot of so called emerging churches really are far too loose in their ecclesiology:

People are meeting in homes or with their friends or in the pub and saying that it is church. But is that enough? For us it has to be more than just fellowship. We want to see at least a commitment to the Trinity, the wider church and the sacraments.’

It’s particularly on the sacraments of baptism and communion that ACE have caused quite a stir. ‘Extreme baptism’, as they call it, involves new believers being baptised by bungee jumping off a bridge over a river such that they dip in the water. Before they jump careful calculations are made of the weight of the jumper and the elasticity of the cord so that when the cord is fully stretched the believers are immersed up to their waists in the river before being pulled out to shouts and whistles from other members of ACE.

The unusual sport of extreme ironing has gained quite a bit of publicity in the last few years. Whilst ACE deny a direct link, it certainly seems there has been some inspiration there for their ‘extreme communions’. These always involve the elements of bread and wine being eaten and drunk. But ACE seem to go to whatever lengths they can to share communion in the most extreme places. They are pictured here skydiving, falling to earth at speeds of 600 miles an hour clutching the elements in novel formations known as the “prayer partners” and “ the fellowship of the ring”.

People in extreme sports are often adrenaline junkies and see that taking worship to the extreme is getting in touch with the adventure of following Christ which should give more fulfilment than any other extreme sport. Tam says that the Eucharist is dangerous and this accurately reflects that call to danger. ACE is also missional in that it’s clearly going to appeal to the wider extreme sports community with whom they are building relationships.

Is this too extreme for the emerging church? Go to the discussion boards and let us know what you think…