In an interview in the current issue of Christian Century there is an interview with Peter Rollins (pictured). Rollins is a prominent figure in the Emergent church movement in the UK. He works with a group called Ikon, which engages in “anarchic experiments in transformance art” and holds “theodramatic” events in pubs and on the streets of Belfast.
The interview as a whole is quite thought provoking and challenging. But for the purpose of this blog, I thought one question really stood out to me. Ikon meets as a group regularly and has a leadership group to plan the gatherings. I was fascinated with CC asked about community and pastoral care:
Christian Century: Would you call Ikon a community?
Rollins: No, because as soon as you say that word all of the people who need community come out—the group turns incredibly needy, and suddenly the whole thing is on its way to vanishing. The best way to forge community is not to call it a community. We call Ikon a collective, a gathering or a crowd. People naturally make connections, and community happens.
I make an analogy to the way a planet creates a gravitational orbit. Ikon creates an orbit that brings interesting people together. The most important thing is not the planet; it’s the orbit. But you can’t have the orbit without the planet. The most important parts of our gatherings are pre-Ikon and post-Ikon, but you can’t have either of those without Ikon itself. We have about 45 minutes before an Ikon meeting starts where people just have a drink and chat, and the same for a couple of hours afterward.
Paradoxically, I say, "Ikon doesn’t care about you. Ikon doesn’t give a crap if you are going through a divorce. The only person who cares is the person sitting beside you, and if that person doesn’t care, you’re stuffed." People will say, "I left the church because they didn’t phone me when my dad died, and that was really hurtful." But the problem is not that the church didn’t phone but that it promised to phone. I say, "Ikon ain’t ever gonna phone ya." Pete Rollins might. But if he does, it will be as Pete Rollins and not as a representative of Ikon. Ikon will never notice if you don’t come. But if you’ve made a connection with the person sitting next to you, that person might.
Ikon is like the people who run a pub. It’s not their responsibility to help the patrons become friends. But they create a space in which people can actually encounter each other.
Find the complete interview here.