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Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom: (New…

Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom: (New Monastic Library: Resources…

by Jenny Duckworth

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It is not an easy task: to review Against the Tide is as if to review motherhood. The integrity of the author (both Jenny and Justin are named, but Justin is always referred to in the third person) is beyond doubt. The integrity of Urban Vision, the organization Jenny and Justin founded whose story is the DNA of this book, is to the best of my knowledge beyond doubt. I wish I had a trace of the courage and commitment of the Duckworths, or could tell so wonderful a narrative of the difficulties yet wondrous outcomes of the journey. Perhaps - probably - this reader is not the Duckworths' target audience. Yet I found myself restless with the narrative: there are hints here of the struggle and personal cost of establishing and maintaining Urban Vision, but the tale is a scamper. The main 'character' is the God who provides, the God-in-Christ who leads the journeyers over troubled waters, who calms the storms (but, of course, only to a point, or life would be too easy!). Certainly the author draws well the contrast between Urban Vision's world and what one of the blurbists (for want of a better word) calls 'the counterfeit splendor and empty promises' of what Janet Frame might call 'this world'. But I am left hungry.

Why? Perhaps because I am a cosy middle class academic who has never slept rough (though I have)? Perhaps because I've never had the testosterone or estrogen or whatever it is to be a part of the grind and grot and joy of communal living? Maybe. Or maybe because I feel this book was too much of a scamper, caught in multi-directional tussles between narrating Urban Vision's journey and depicting New Monasticism. Late in the book hints emerge about the need for a communal life to be anchored in deep liturgical sub-structures: I wanted to know more about these structures, more about the pain of discovering them, more about the ways in which they keep faith and justice alive. I wanted to know more about the prayer life that ranges from Pentecostal dancing shoes through Taizé (surely not Taize?) chant to the ancient monastic offices of Anglicanism and Catholicism.

No, I am not the target audience for this book. Occasionally I could not but feel my heart strangely warmed by glimpses of the lives touched by Urban Vision's mission. But the glimpses remained too ephemeral, and in the end I don't know enough about the vectors of the course that is being flagged; where, whence, even to some extent why. Perhaps I have to accept that this was an appetizer, rather than the main course. Perhaps the main course would be to step outside my comfort zone and be Christ to the vulnerable people of highways and by-ways in the ways hinted at in the Duckworth narrative. I am left somewhere between floundering in my failures to grasp or enact the vision, and admiration for the glimpse that I have of Urban Vision's story. But I am left, too. with a deepened sense that there is more than one way to skin a missiological cat. Perhaps the book will continue to gnaw at me, and one day I too might put the rubber of my ecclesiastical tyres on the road of new monasticism. ( )
  zappa | Apr 5, 2013 |
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This is the story of the Urban Vision community in New Zealand. This book recounts the story of a group of young Christian adults who over the last fifteen years have relocated to the colorful ends of their city to share life with those who are struggling, homeless, sick, poor, neglected, or otherwise marginalized. The community has grown over time to seven neighborhoods where on any given day you may find "Urban Visionites" growing vegetables amidst the concrete, teaching English to refugees, offering alternative education programs to out of school teenagers, fostering children, doing church with the homeless, offering friendship to the mentally ill, roasting fair trade coffee, running kids clubs, moms groups, tenant meetings or just sharing yet another cup of tea with their neighbors. In fact sharing is a good summary of the whole shape of this exciting movement. They share homes, food, money, vehicles, jobs, prayers, dreams, conversations, fun, tears, pain, hope, healing, transformation . . . they share the whole of life with each other and with their neighbors. They live the gospel, this good news of Jesus.… (more)

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