The ex-ile community began its life in some conversation in 2005. It wasn’t till 2006 that we actually gave some outward expression to the conversation and decided that what we had emailed and talked about as “some kind of godspace” might need a name…
As you might guess it’s Walter Brueggemann’s writing about exile that influenced us. And here’s an excerpt from an early email that gives a sense of the kind of conversation we were having:
Here’s the Brueggemann quote I was thinking about… “’The exiled Jews of the Old Testament were of course geographically displaced. More that that, however, the exiles experienced a loss of the structured, reliable world which gave them meaning and coherence, and they found themselves in a context where their most treasured and trusted symbols of faith were mocked, trivialized or dismissed. Exile is not primarily geographical, but it is social, moral and cultural’ (1997:2)
Exile from the status quo in culture, politics, church… Brueggemann again: “Exile did not lead Jews in the Old Testament to abandon faith or to settle for abdicating despair, nor to retreat to privatistic religion. On the contrary, exile evoked the most brilliant literature and the most daring theological articulation in the Old Testament”
So that’s my thinking about exile – but there might be a much better name.
We were a group of people for whom faith was at the heart of our lives: the three of us in the original conversation all “ministry professionals” but struggling with what church looked and felt like, and the gap between what we felt called to be and do and how ministry and mission was described/done in Sunday morning church. We didn’t have denomination in common, or even the specifics of vocation: what each of us did during the week (and still do) looked really different from each other. But at a gut level we understood something about the exilic loss of a reliable, structured world..
Exile from the status quo… Maybe its a gross arrogance to describe our community that way, or my chaplaincy… But we do want to keep faith. We do want to refuse privatistic religion. We do want to try and live something different to the cultural status quo… And three years later we’re still working that out.