Mike Rimmer reports on the "Jesus-loving, jalopy-gospel way-backers" AGENTS OF FUTURE
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So how does the music that is generated in The Bridge, their church community in Portland, bring healing to people? Replies Angie, "I don't wanna say that the rest of the church music isn't honest, but I think sometimes it's devoid of pain, and a lot of times we hear from people that they can really let go because they're allowed. In the early days of The Bridge it was completely dark and we made the sound so loud that if you needed to scream or if you needed to express yourself, but you were too afraid, it was dark so that you could do it. Now we're in a building that doesn't allow us to do that but I think I want to be honest about what I am feeling. I want to find God in it but I also want it to be honest."
Back home at The Bridge you can sense that it is possible to create a community where there is space for people to work out their feelings and hurts in the context of worship. There is a secure space in which to fail and a place for worship and relationship within the honesty of that failure. But how can the band translate that into the open spaces of a festival like Greenbelt where there isn't the security of community within which to operate? "Well, I see our community as being an inspiration creatively but also in sort of a social way," Todd explains. "I feel like if we make room for each other, and we make a way for somebody who has a different point of view, or different expression to enter in, then that is one of the strengths of our community, and I feel like when you have maybe 600 people, which is well over the amount of people we have in our church, they all want to be involved. One of the things that we're trying to figure out is how to make room. But that fight, to figure out what that would look like, is the heart of what I feel like we're supposed to be doing."
Here in the UK there has been a tendency in the last few decades of Church history for creative offshoots of the Church to lose their way theologically and become more liberal. Do the pair believe it's important to be rooted in Scripture? "I think if you would talk to people that don't like us they would say maybe that there's not enough Bible," says Angie. "But I am actually one of the pastors of The Bridge and I think what you're not going to get is me telling you what to believe. But I look at it like Jesus told stories and parables and I'm trying to get my people to be able to live healthily, emotionally and spiritually. I feel that's my job as their pastor. I cannot just give them Scripture. I have to help them, and they help me to understand it better. But definitely, I love Jesus. I believe he's the Son of God. I believe he speaks louder for himself than I can ever speak for him."
Todd adds, "I would also say that I grew up in the Church but my parents did not force me to go. Obviously there was one of those things where you're with them and you do have a good time in Sunday school or whatever but never in my whole life did I ever feel like it wasn't real to me. A lot of people find it difficult to justify faith and art and I just see humanity as the most amazing piece of art that God has ever created, with all the flaws and everything."
What about the part that the Holy Spirit plays in all this? British Church history over the last 15 years has helped model, through people like Delirious?, Matt Redman and Tim Hughes and others, a kind of youth culture worship where there's lots of loud rock guitars and a classic rock sound and what that has done for large numbers of young people is brought them into an experience of God. How deep or how shallow is up for theological debate at the moment but at least it's brought a lot of people into active experience of God. Now where that then takes people is of course the question but presumably Agents Of Future subscribe to the parts of Scripture which are referred to generally as gifts of the Spirit? Is that part of the package?
Todd responds, "For me, growing up in a Baptist family but having had numerous spiritual experiences that my parents would like to explain away, there was no way they could. It's a real hard balance to find with the people that we have as part of our community because they have come from such a degree of hurt at the hands of churches that they had been brought up in. We have to be careful even in the amount of freedom that we have in our music and our expression that people don't feel like it's a bunch of emotionalising or trickery or manipulating of the Spirit or any of that kind of thing. For us it's every bit an important thing that the work of the Holy Spirit is done in us in emotional ways and in ways like compelling members of our community to do certain things and to be a listening ear or a helping hand to each other. We're young in terms of being a church. We're only a decade old and to see how that would look and how God would want to use those particular kinds of expressions is still being worked out."
Angie's experiences have made her equally cautious, "I was raised evangelical and I saw a lot of things. I've been pushed down 'in the power of the Holy Spirit', I've seen all the negatives and I've also seen the positive, really good models about listening to God and singing over people. I don't even think our people know that the prophetic is happening, it just happens so naturally and it is all interwoven in the music. So they wouldn't know maybe that it was prophetic. But they would get something out of it. There isn't a spotlight. You wouldn't have the mantel of the prophet that you would then give a special place in the church. It just happens naturally. And then we're very wary of people that would use that to hurt other people."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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