Sacramental Theatre (part IV)

I have recently discovered the back catalogue of the ‘Moot’ community blog!

What is Moot?

I have known about Moot and Ian Mobsby for some time now and have been tentatively reading round this community. Their website ( is packed full of information about them, their philosophy and their approach to ministry. A summary of what they are;

‘Moot is a London-based community of spiritual travellers who seek to live in a way that is honest to God and honest to now.’

I’d encourage you to read through and discover what this ‘alt worship community’ are doing. I’m hopefully meeting up with Ian Mobsby, the minister in charge of Moot, in September so will be able to comment more on the community as whole then.

I have subscribed to their blog, written by Mobsby, and have been reading through some of their back catalogue. I passed on one of the essays on Twitter (A Theology for the Emerging Church) which outlines the type of church I would like to attempt in next years placement. Again, I can’t begin to add to or make significant comment on this essay; all I will say is I agree and would like to discover more! The theology helps me to understand and find peace in the tension I feel between my desire for both the incarnational theology of my former Catholic faith and the redemptive theology of my current evangelical faith. I find that I want there to be both and to hear this being fleshed out in such a way is encouraging.

Moving on…

The discovery which has excited me the most so far is a talk Mobsby made at ‘The Alternative Worship Conference‘ in Southwark Cathedral on 30th September 2006. Mobsby focuses his discussion on the alternative worship style of the club and dance genre which I have no experience or passion for. He does, however, give some general descriptions of what the alternative worship communities are doing. If you don’t read the whole article then I encourage you to go to the end of page 5 where he begins to answer the question “why is alternative worship important for the church to understand?”

‘[a] massive factor of why alt worship is important is to understand the hugely reinvigored interest in spirituality. Many people are spiritually searching, and seeking spiritual experience by trying lots of things out –although generally not traditional parish churches… Alt worship and emerging church communities, through relationship and worship seek to assist such people to shift from being spiritual tourists to being spiritual pilgrims through encountering God through people and worship.’

If I were to see my placement this year as an emerging church community then how would it ‘through… worship seek to assist such people to shift from being spiritual tourists to being spiritual pilgrims through encountering God through people and worship.’? I can see how ‘such people’ could encounter God through relationship with people but how do they do so in worship? What would worship look like?

‘So many alt worship groups put on worship events – where worship and mission blur to assist people in their experiential journey to God. So alternative worship seeks to provide opportunities for people to explore existential questions such as why am I hear, what does life mean, where is God and so on.’

Worship, for Mobsby, is an exploration of existential questions, it is experiential. What does this look like in a community of theatre practitioners? How would they encounter God through experience? Mobsby goes on,

‘stories or narratives are vital for people to engage in narrative forms of truth, and meaning. Story and story telling has a key place in our postmodern culture. So for example, people will use things like Godly Play in an alt worship way, or use bible stories to convey meaning. For example the story of the Prodigal son in its narrative form conveys more meaning to a postmodern culture than telling people the 10 commandments about what you should or should not do. The narrative is far more powerful than the propositional. And this is used in alt worship.’

Worship, therefore, is a chance to experience a story, to reflect on an experience lived out.  To ‘perform’ or to tell the story of the last supper and allow the community to participate in the story opens up a way of being sacramental (see Sacramental Theatre (part I) post) and move this community closer to, potentially, being church. Mobsby opens up some more ideas when he discusses how alt worship communities do sacraments,

‘Sacramentalism is about the gift of grace God gives of being made present through the sacraments – usually communion or eucharist, or baptism etc etc. Alt worship takes this further. It draws inspiration from scripture about when it says where two or three are gathered I am there also, to see that God is made present sacramentally in many different ways and not just through priests but through the activities of Christians interacting with each other, other people, and the world. For example having a profound conversation with a few people in a pub when someone gains some form of eureka spiritual insight…In these holistic sacramental moments God makes God present in very secular places and makes them sacred moments or fragments…For me this is the essence of the power of alt worship. That challenges the church not to think it controls God or how God chooses to interact in and with the world in prescribed ways. God is not controlled through our rules, and alt worship playfully seeks to follow a God that is always slightly ahead of us and out of reach. It is a corrective to putting God in a box or believing that God can only work out of a book of authorised worship expression.’

I still struggle not to see some of the emerging church stuff as being manipulative. ‘Manipulative’ may be a strong word for it but Mobsby himself uses the word ‘subversive’ when talking about the approach to mission. I know of many times when I have been surprised to encounter God where I wasn’t expecting him but does this mean that we can get people into a room and surprise them if they don’t want to encounter God? What is evangelism if not allowing people to encounter God? How blatant must the intention be? As a missional alt worship community we can’t be secretive about our intention nor do we want to scare people away before they have the chance.

I have imagined, up to this point, that the relationship comes first in this placement. I want to work with some creative people and have some interesting chats and do ‘presence’ more than ‘proclamation’ but there is a nagging voice in my head that says this isn’t ‘proper’ until they have experienced God. I guess I need to learn to balance the passion for redemptive theology with my instinctive incarnational theology.

Mobsby’s views allow a theatre church to ‘be church’ and recognised within the Church of England but do I want the community this year to manipulate it’s participants? By no means! How, therefore, do I advertise? How Christian do I want this to be? I definitely don’t want it to be ‘Christian’ but I want all the potential members to know that they are coming as a form of spiritual seeking. Is this what the DST want? Are these people spiritual seekers? Thee only way I’ll find out is by trying it out.

One comment

  1. Really interesting. To bring this right up to date, moot would no longer consider itself to be an alternative worship community – but would hold to the values you have identified. The community now sees itself as a new monastic community – because this approach to sacramentality has opened up contemplative Christianity. We have had a rhythm of life now – that asks the question how should we live in but not of contemporary culture – seeking contemplative action. We are currently seeing to set up an arts cafe church for radical mission to spiritual seekers and set up an intentional community building on our rhythm of life and spirtual practices to deepen out network church dispursed community with a hub home. We have written a few books on this which is on our resources site

    So if you are in London – do look is up
    Ian Mobsby

Comments are closed.