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Author(s): Claire Henderson Davis
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Claire Henderson Davis is a theologian, dance artist and writer. In her first book, "After the Church", she weaves her own story of coming to terms with her Christian identity (she is the daughter of Roman Catholic priest and theologian Charles Davis), through a re-telling of the Christian narrative in a contemporary idiom. This striking and original book recognises that though the institutional church may be collapsing, the Christian story has a richness and depth that we would be foolish to ignore in our search for wholeness and integrity. In six chapters - Storytelling, Beginning and Ending, Incarnation, The Trinity, The Body of Christ, and, With My Body I Thee Worship, she reworks traditional spiritual themes in a radically contemporary way, offering a pattern for faith and belief that will resonate with all spiritual seekers today.
'How refreshing! A book that sees the dynamics of sex as a positive analogy for how human beings in all their diversity can love each other in a world where all people are loved equally by God. Christians through the centuries who have seen sex as a threat to spiritual growth will be turning in their graves. Long may that continue!' Sofia, November 2007
Claire Henderson Davis is a theologian, dance artist and writer, and Director of PublicWork Ltd, a company working to renew liturgy as public work through an engagement with contemporary art forms, a political commitment to public space and a shared vision of the common good (www.publicwork.co.uk).
Why I wrote this book. Before the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70ce, it would have been hard to imagine how worship could continue without it, so central was the temple to Jewish life. Yet worship did go on, emerging forms moving into the centre ground – rabbinic Judaism on the one hand, Christianity on the other. In the West, the temple is again collapsing, the church, torn apart from the inside by strife and division, and from the outside, increasingly obsolete. Will worship continue once this centre is gone? What emerging forms will take its place? Leading undergraduate tutorials in Religious Studies, I was struck by how ignorant my students were of the Christian narrative. Their hostility to the church prevented them engaging in any way with this story, so fundamental to the development of the West. It felt important, for the sake of these students, to disentangle the story from the claims to authority of institutions seeking to control it. I wanted to offer a way into the narrative to people who might never go to church, and for whom the church is of no interest. The story I offer is also my own. One of the developments in the West that has distanced us from church worship is the increasing focus on personal life. My own life has involved an unusual relationship to the church which, perhaps, equips me in a unique way to tell this story. My parents left the Roman Catholic Church before I was born, and yet raised me to feel like a participant in the narrative of Christianity, without any sense of being subject to church authority. In this book, the development of the individual as a social form is intertwined with the story of my own emerging individuality, in an exploration of where these new forms might take us. Sex is a powerful symbol in our society, and comes with this growing emphasis on the personal. This book describes a shift from the parent-child like authority of the church, to the adult, sexual authority of contemporary institutions such as democracy. While parent-child authority demands obedience, adult authority requires sex – adults coming together in conversation, which, if fertile, brings forth new life and new possibilities. As the temple falls, what language and forms will take its place? This book offers a story of hope and continuity. Human beings need a language to describe their search for wholeness and integrity. That language has a history that cannot be ignored. While not denying the violence and evil committed in the name of Christianity, it’s equally foolish to disregard the richness and depth this story also brings. The future is open, unknown and undetermined, but understanding how we arrived at the present plays an important part in our ability to imagine what’s ahead, and what our choices for tomorrow look like. Claire Henderson Davis publicwork presents A publicworkshop: What are we waiting for? led by Claire Henderson Davisauthor of After the Church: Divine Encounter in a Sexual Age (Canterbury Press 2007) Sunday 2 December, 3-6pm and Sunday 6 January, 3-6pm (one workshop in two halves)Siobhan Davies Studios, 85 St George’s Road, London SE1 6ER(nearest tube Lambeth North, Bakerloo Line)£60 Adult, £40 Concessions (Students, OAPs, low income)For more information phone publicwork on 07726141166 or send an email to email@example.com Christmas is a festival of light in the dark of winter. The first half of the workshop, on Sunday the 2nd December 3-6pm, will focus on waiting for the light: Waiting, not as doing nothing or wasting time, but as active preparation and anticipation for an encounter that, in some sense, remains mysterious and unknown. This part of the workshop aims to set a process in motion, within each participant, that facilitates a deeper entry into the feast, however and wherever we celebrate it. The second half, on Sunday the 6th January 3-6pm, provides an opportunity to reflect on what we discovered, and on how we might like to move forward. Having waited for the light, we think about that light spreading out into the world. This workshop is appropriate both for Church-goers looking for fresh ideas and a contemporary approach, and those who would never darken a Church door, but who are seeking a language to inform their search for meaning and integrity. The first half of the workshop includes storytelling, movement and music, accessible to people where they are, while aiming for the exhilaration of work well-done. The second half creates a context for sharing and discussion, without abandoning the bodily level. Although in future publicwork hope to include children in their events, at this early stage it is not practicable for us to do so. Interested teenagers are welcome to join this adult group. The cost of the workshop (including both the 2nd December and the 6th January) is £60, or £40 concessions (OAPs, students, low income). A non-refundable deposit of 50% (£30/£20 conc.) is required by the 19th October to secure a place. The balance will then be due in two halves (£15/£10 conc. on each of the workshop dates). For more information, or to book a place please phone publicwork on 07726141166 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.