Note: This post will make a lot more sense if you read The Nine ‘O Clock Service: The Vibrant, Troubling Birth of the Emerging Church first.
Today’s reflection is sure to raise some ambivalence – but no one processing religion, faith, and spirituality in a post*(everything) world can afford to ignore Matthew Fox – tempestuous, flamboyant, inventive; priest, artist, liturgist and theologian. The defrocked Catholic-turned-Episcopal priest was (with the unlikely influence-pairing of Vineyard revitalizer John Wimber) responsible for inspiring what was arguably the first ever emerging/postmodern congregation in the mid-1980s – the brilliant, controversial, combustible Nine O’ Clock Service. Inspired by a Wimber prophecy at St. Thom‘s in Sheffield and nurtured by Fox’s Creation Spirituality amongst working-class rave culture, the NOS was a potpourri of influences and expression.
The message is as straightforward as it is apparently elusive to many “spiritual leaders” today: The person and message of Christ and the Christian mystery must be not only applied to, but interpreted by, the Janus-faced Crises/Opportunities we face today: political, economic, cultural, and ecological. When we mine our Scripture, tradition, poetry, and luminaries on the one hand, and nature, art, science, and global cosmologies on the other hand, real magic can happen.
Even after it’s untimely demise, the NOS’s ‘Planetary Mass’ idea – shades of Teilhard de Chardin‘s Mass on the World – re-caught the attention of Fox himself, who brought it back to the US as a ‘Techno-Cosmic Mass.’ To this day, there are many interested in applying the ideas of Original Blessing and Creation Spirituality to communal expressions, as well as many of wide variety of theological persuasions interested in alternative worship expressions.
“Eyes on a page are not really a way to open the heart up,” says Fox. To see footage from his Cosmic Mass in Oakland, see this video here. If you’re part of a worshiping community, join me in considering: How can we bring more beauty and awe into our worship, drawing from the deep wells of our tradition, from ecology, and from postmodern culture?
Portions of this were originally posted on February 7, 2010.