Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Christmas greetings!

Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland sends warm Christmas greetings to all our friends, allies, enquirers and passers-by.

The birth of Jesus is the sign and substance of God-with-us... and God with us in vulnerability, not power and pomp. At the heart of the Christian message is an invitation to community, to peacemaking and to the kind of just living which makes love real in corporate form.

We look forward to continuing the journey with you in 2013, and to reporting on our last 'cafe conversation' earlier this month...

[Image (c) and courtesy http://alightdancetheater.org]

Friday, 14 December 2012

Edinburgh cafe discussion on church and community

In terms of 'Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland', we have something cooking in central Edinburgh for Sunday 16th December, early afternoon.

It will be a small, friendly, informal cafe-style conversation. By which we mean it'll be in a cafe! We will have Mennonite guests from North America with us, too.

The meeting will take place in a community cafe not far from Waverley rail station at 1pm through to around 2.30pm or 3pm.

Appropriately enough, it will focus on the theme of 'church and community'

If you would like to join us, please email contact details to: simon.barrow@ekklesia.co.uk

Monday, 10 December 2012

Street porridge sale to raise homelessness funds

Our friends at St John's Church in Edinburgh, the team behind the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, and the Streetwork homelessness charity will be holding a 'street porridge sale' from 8am to 1pm on Wednesday 12th December.

The idea is to raise money for Streetwork's direct engagement with single homeless people in Scotland, and also to increase awareness of the challenge and problem of homelessness.

The porridge distribution will be taking place outside St John's, which is on the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road in Scotland's capital. 

For more information about this specific event, contact Annika Wolf, St John’s Church, Edinburgh, EH2 4BJ. Email: info@festivalofspirituality.org.uk Phone: 0131 2284249

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Anabaptist Theology Forum

The Anabaptist Theology Forum will meet again near Leamington Spa, in England, from 5th-6th December. It is open to people from all around these islands (and indeed has enjoyed the contribution of German and Dutch guests in recent years).

There are a few spare spaces at this event for those with a serious interest in both modern and historic Anabaptism.

Dr Richard Bourne, author of Seek the Peace of the City: Christian Political Criticism as Public, Realist, and Transformative will be presenting on John Howard Yoder and restorative justice. Dr Ruth Gouldbourne of Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in London will be introducing the Hubmeier communion liturgy. And a discussion session will focus on where the 'post-Christendom' analysis of our religious situation is heading, including an interview contribution from Dr Stuart Murray Williams, editor of the After Christendom series of books published by Paternoster Press.

More information here - if you are interested in attending please contact us as soon as possible. 

[Image courtesy and (c) of Graber Designs]

Friday, 12 October 2012

What happens beyond 'organised religion'?

You are invited to join a discussion of 'moving beyond organised religion' on Sunday 21 October, from 12.30pm – 5pm, in the Hall at St John’s Church, Edinburgh, starting with a pot luck lunch (please bring a food contribution).

Many people today feel an instant disconnect or disinterest in ‘institutional’ or ‘organised’ religion. There is a sense abroad that faith, not least Christian faith, has been turned into a self-perpetuating bureaucracy which operates out of self-interest, refuses difficult questions, and suppresses alternatives.

This afternoon event, led by Simon Barrow from Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland, who is also co-director of the think-tank Ekklesia, revolves around the new and experimental shapes Christianity might take in a world where ‘top-down religion’ (along with ‘top-down economics’ and ‘top-down politics’) appears to be in crisis. More information here.

This event is sponsored by the new Centre for Living Christianity (CLiC) in Edinburgh.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Canadian connection

As part of an Anabaptist Network visit, we are welcoming tow friends from the Mennonite Church Canada to Scotland (specifically Glasgow and Edinburgh) this week - to talk about collaboration and the future development of the Network, here and in other parts of these isles.

More to follow on this, another recent visit from Winnipeg, and also on the the brief visit to Glasgow next year of Anabaptist Network UK coordinator Stuart Murray Williams, who is also editor of the groundbreaking and well-regarded Paternoster Press 'After Christendom' series of books.

The green dove logo, incidentally, was developed by the Mennonite Church in North America.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Centre launches with 'First Supper'

You've heard of the Last Supper. How about the First one? The new Centre for Living Christianity (CLiC for short) based in Edinburgh is holding a 'First Supper' at Henderson's Cafe at St John's Church (on the corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road) to mark the launch of its new venture.

There will be food and refreshments, plus an opportunity to hear about the vision and plans for the new initiative, which describes itself as “exploring faith at the crossroads.”

The Centre for Living Christianity aims to take traditional faith very seriously, but in an open and engaging way that recognises the fears and doubts many people have about “organised religion” and unthinking dogmatism. “CLiC is for those interested in exploring how to live out Christianity in the modern world, in a way which is thoughtful and faithful,” says the Rev Donald Reid. “It is about how to understand Christianity from the margins of a society which is both diversely spiritual and secular.”

Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland aims to be involved in this new venture, which will establish learning events for those within the churches, those on the margins and those exploring from the outside. Its style aims to be thoughtful but open and informal.

has been founded by a range of organisations, including Edinburgh City Centre Churches Together, the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia, the Cornerstone Bookshop, and the Episcopal Diocese of Edinburgh’s Adventures in Faith programme, alongside St John’s Church where its main base will be.

The full CLiC programme can be viewed and downloaded on the Centre’s new website.

The ‘First Supper’ at 7pm on Sunday 7 October is open to all. There will be a charge of £5 to help cover costs. Those planning to attend are asked to drop a note to: donald.reid@stjohns-edinburgh.org.uk

You can find out more here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

We need more 'disorganised religion'

Michael Marten from the Critical Religion Research Group at the University of Stirling was recently invited to be part of a public conversation at Edinburgh’s Festival of Spirituality and Peace on the theme ‘Disorganised Religion’.

He writes: "I was asked to offer comment on how I see understandings of ‘religion’ changing and to reflect on whether ‘disorganised religion’ is a helpful term to reflect on questions of religion.  The conversation was chaired by Ekklesia’s Simon Barrow, and Ian Milligan from Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland and the Bert community in Glasgow was the other discussant.  The event was sponsored by Ekklesia and the Iona Community." 

"This blog entry is a lightly-edited and slightly expanded version of my opening remarks, reflecting also some of the comments from the 60+ audience who came to the conversation; warm thanks to them for their insights," says Michael.  

Read the full blog here.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The faithful way to peace

That God is a God of just-peace not violence is the revelation of Christ and the real truth of Christianity, two leading church figures have said.

One was a Catholic and the other a Presbyterian. But the tenor of the conversation is one that many Anabaptists and those influenced by the Historic Peace Church tradition will resonate with.

The comments came as part of a conversation entitled ‘The Spirituality and Practice of Peace in a World of War’, held at St John’s Episcopal Church in Edinburgh on 22 August 2012.

The participants in the Festival of Peace and Spirituality conversation were Fr John Dear, a Catholic priest and Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and the Rev Kathy Galloway, head of Christian Aid Scotland and a former leader of the Iona Community. It was chaired by Brian Larkin, coordinator of the Peace and Justice Centre at St John's.

More here.

Monday, 20 August 2012

More from the Festival

Here''s coming up this week at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace, where Exploring Anabaptism Scotland recently shared a conversation platform on the topic of Disorganised Religion. We will be reporting more on that shortly...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Festival of Spirituality and Peace

Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland is involved in the 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh, through the public conversation  Disorganised Religion (Thursday 9th August, 5.45pm at St John's Church, Princes Street). There's much else to look out for, too...

Monday, 6 August 2012

Anabaptism and Disorganised Religion

We live in an era where people are inquisitive about spirituality, but hugely distrustful or even hostile towards ‘organised religion’, especially in its Christian forms.

But there are strong anti-institutional and non-hierarchical traditions in Christianity and beyond.

Can Anabaptists, Quakers, Nonconformists and loyal dissenters from within the major streams of Christianity offer a new vision of faith and an alternative to top-down religion?

Join the ‘vast minority’ at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh to discuss what a radical reformation in the Church has to offer - and how this relates to the wider demography of religious and belief-based change in a globalising world.

The event takes place on Thursday 9 August, from 5.45pm - 7pm, at St John’s (Venue 127), corner of Princes Street and Lothian Road, Edinburgh. £6.50 (£4.50 concessions).

Speakers: Ian Milligan, from Exploring Anabaptism in Scotland and the Bert community in Glasgow; Simon Barrow, co-director of Ekklesia, trstee for the Mennonite Centre Trust and former global mission secretary for Churches Together in Britain and Ireland; and Michael Marten, co-founder of the ‘Critical Religion’ research group at the University of Stirling. In partnership with the Iona Community (http://www.iona.org.uk/) and Ekklesia.

* Book now via the Hub

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Doing 'mongrel' church

Last night (31 June 2012), a group of mainly Mennonite pilgrims from North America arrived in Edinburgh at the end of a long two week journey across these islands. They have been taking in some significant Celtic Christian sites and meeting inspirational people who continue to be shaped in the contemporary by ancient roots, and by a style of faith which is deeply rooted in landscape, community, human longing for wholeness and the sharing of resources and worship.

The group is staying at a hostel at the top of Leith Walk. This morning some of them have been at St Giles Cathedral (or the High Kirk, as many loyal Presbyterians prefer to think of it!) and some other local churches: Church of Scotland, United Reformed and Catholic were mentioned when we met them last night. I will be speaking this afternoon about the changing nature of Christianity in these island.

After a slightly late arrival from the lure of Lindisfarne and Durham, a meal was enjoyed at the wonderful French/Scottish bistro Cafe Marlayne, yards from where the AMBS pilgrims are staying. Then we (the group, and local contacts Simon Barrow and Carla Roth) went back to spend some time reflecting with our presenters for the evening. Ian Milligan [pictured] and Eildon Dyer live in Glasgow and Ian, in particular, has been working to cultivate interest in Anabaptism and its particular expressions (not least the Mennonites) in Scotland. He made a presentation about a fascinating 30-year local independent church community in Pollokshields called - enigmatically - 'Bert'. Eildon offered her own distinct perspective in response to questions.

Bert seeks to explore and incarnate what it means to be followers of Jesus in a particular locality today in a variety of ways. At the heart of what they are about is worship on a Monday evening (often drawing on Iona and related material), the sharing of food and hospitality, an economic discipline (based on graduated tithing), involvement in caring and socially-oriented professional and voluntary work, connections with places as far afield as Bosnia and Nicaragua, and practical connections with other church and community groups. Partying and celebration is another binding characteristic.

The size of Bert has stayed fairly consistent, with a core of around 16 people, throughout its history. In some cases that has involved whole families, and in other cases partners are not directly involved but have sympathy. Some retain relationship with historic denominations, others do not. For some Anabaptist influences (especially personal ones, with people like Alan and Ellie Kreider, formerly Mennonite mission workers in Britain) are important and explicit. In other ways, those resonances, and indeed Celtic ones, are more "in the mix" rather than explicit.

In a cafe conversation about Scotland's future, Ian referred to a speaker at a major rally for the devolved Scottish parliament talking proudly about being "a mongrel nation", rather than one defined by ethnic exclusivity and privilege. In many ways, Bert comes across as a positively "mongrel church". Its strength lies in drawing on a range of influences, including people with different backgrounds and faith journeys; emphasising the evangel (good news) in the evangelical heritage rather than ideological conformity; being mostly 'Protestant' but having had a Catholic nun as a community guide; following Jesus but not trying to 'own' him; practicing communal discernment around decisions (but without the formalism and anxiety that can often betoken);  and being both emergent in form but also open to inheriting the depth and breadth of the Christian tradition and the wisdom that comes from genuine encounter with those of other faiths and good faith.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

In their own words...

This is how the Celtic Spirituality Pilgrims from North America, coordinated by Marlene and Stan Kropf from the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, described their venture in the publicity leading up to their journey across Scotland, Ireland and England.

"During the Middle Ages, the practice of going on a pilgrimage satisfied a deep need for adventure, companionship, and spiritual renewal.  Today the reasons for traveling to holy places remain much the same.  Embarking on a journey with fellow-seekers after God an opening one’s self to new learning and adventures along the way can become a rich context for reflection, relationships and renewal.

"The 2012 Celtic Spirituality Pilgrimage will begin with several days of retreat on the Island of Iona in western Scotland and continue from there to historic Celtic sites in Northern Ireland and Ireland. In Dublin we will see the magnificent Book of Kells at Trinity College.  At Kildare and at Glendalough we will be guided on walking pilgrimages to places associated with St Brigid and  St Kevin.  From Ireland the group will travel to Lindisfarne, northern England’s holy island, and to the historic city of Durham.  The pilgrimage concludes in Edinburgh, Scotland.  

"Although activities will vary from day to day, you can expect the pilgrimage to include daily experiences of morning and/or evening prayer; stimulating presentations on the Celtic Church and its spiritual traditions; quiet space for retreat; time for recreation and long walks; visits to ancient crosses; and many opportunities for conversation and reflection with other pilgrims."

The embryonic Exploring Anabaptism Scotland network is delighted to be helping with the hosting in Edinburgh, as the group arrive at the end of their journey and reflect on how to take what they have seen and heard back to North America.

We would also like to say a large thank you to Willard Roth, who for many years have cultivated this pilgrimage and the many connections it has made across Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England. The journey continues...

Friday, 29 June 2012

Mennonite pilgrims arrive in Scotland

A group of North American (mainly) Mennonites arrives in Scotland tomorrow, concluding a two week 'Celtic pilgrimage' across these islands, and taking in sites such as Iona, Rostrevor, Dublin, Glendalough, Lindisfarne, Dublin and now Edinburgh.

The group is coordinated from the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, led by Marlene and Stan Kropf, and draws participants from the USA and Canada.

These pilgrimages have been regular bi-annual events for a number of years, previously led by Willard Roth and others. They aim to learn about the development of Celtic-influenced Christianity in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England, and to draw lessons for contemporary Christian practice.

In Edinburgh, the group will hear on Saturday evening from Ian Milligan, one of the initiators of the Exploring Anabaptism group in Scotland, and also a long-term leader of the Bert community church in Glasgow. On Sunday evening they will be addressed by Simon Barrow of the think-tank Ekklesia, who also helps coordinate the Anabaptist Theology Forum in Britain.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Join us on 9th August

Along with Ekklesia we are organising a conversation at the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality and Peace between 5.30 - 6.45pm on Thursday 9 August 2012, at St John's Episcopal Church. This is at the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road. The theme is 'Disorganised Religion'.

We live in an era in an age where people are inquisitive about spirituality, but distrustful or hostile towards "organised religion", especially in its Christian forms. But there are strong anti-institutional and non-hierarchical traditions in Christianity and beyond. Can Anabaptists, Quakers and nonconformists offer a new vision of faith and an alternative to top-down religion? Join the 'vast minority' to discuss what a radical reformation in the church has to offer.

Conversants: Ian Milligan (Exploring Anabaptism Scotland, Glasgow); Simon Barrow (Ekklesia, Edinburgh); Michael Marten ('Critical Religion', University of Stirling) and hopefully a woman from the Iona Community.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Our first 'cafe conversation'

The Anabaptist style of 'doing church' is less directed towards institutional expression, and more inclined towards different kinds of gathering and dispersal: the pattern seen in the Gospels.

So we in Exploring Anabaptism Scotland decided that it would be a good idea, following the example of Jesus' earliest followers in emphasising food and friendship around the table as a way of creating community, to hold a series of small "cafe conversations" rather than big speaker meetings - though we will be holding a 'Disorganised Religion' event as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Spirituality and Peace on 9 August 2012 - more on that in the sidebar (right), and to follow.

We will also be saying more about the "cafe conversations" idea as it evolves, and of course would welcome ideas about topics and venues. We are thinking about gatherings of no more than nine or ten people to start with, to keep it really conversational.

 The first cafe event took place at the Fruitmarket Gallery at lunchtime on Pentecost Sunday. There were six of us involved: Ian, Simon, Carla, Jamie, Donnie and Lesley Then there was an afternoon meeting with (another) Simon and Caroline at the less expected venue of the Whisky Society in Leith!

The emerging feeling is that it would be good to bring Anabaptist insights, reading and thinking into wider conversations in order to attract and engage a broader range of people. One of the significant questions we all face is Scotland's constitutional future, and what radical Christianity might have to say about a debate framed in terms which raise questions about identity, nation, church and other communities, social justice and much more.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Witness against nuclear weapons

Supporters of the new Exploring Anabaptism Scotland network joined members of Scottish churches at the 2012 Easter Witness for Peace at the Faslane at 12 noon on Saturday 16 April.

It was our first joint activity since deciding to 'formalise' the network in a frankly rather informal way!

The Catholic bishops in Scotland were represented at the act of witness for the first time.  He was joined by Rt Rev Alan McDonald, on behalf of the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and Bruce Kent, Vice President of CND.

There was a shared act of worship outside the base, surrounded by barbed wire. Very symbolic. .  Music was led by members of the Wild Goose Resource Group.  The witness took place the day before Palm Sunday and involved a short procession with palm branches.

The event was organised by Scottish Clergy Against Nuclear Arms (SCANA). The Rev David McLachlan, Chair of Scottish Clergy Against Nuclear Arms, commented: “This will be an opportunity for Christians from different churches to meet together and to underline our belief that nuclear weapons are immoral and they should not be maintained or renewed.”

Friday, 1 June 2012


We are in the process of setting up this blog as an information source and exchange-point for those interested in Anabaptism, faithfully radical Christianity and 'disorganised religion' in Scotland.

The initial plans are for a series of "cafe conversations", around Edinburgh initially. There's also a discussion coming up on 9th August 2012 as part of the Festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh. Plus there's an Anabaptist Study Group in Glasgow.

A number of us also took part (along with members of the Iona Community and people of faith from a variety of backgrounds) in the Easter Vigil and walk of witness at Faslane. So although things are just getting going, you can see that there's a lot happening already! We also have good friendships and links with the Mennonite Centre Trust and with the Anabaptist Network In Britain and Ireland. Have a look at some of the links on the right hand side of this page.

Meanwhile, watch this space... and leave us a message if you're so inclined.