Spinning the Sacred Canopy

7 thoughts on “Spinning the Sacred Canopy”

  1. Thanks for this post, Blair, and I’m curious what more you take out of Taylor. I have not tackled the original opus yet, but have worked by way carefully through Jamie Smith’s commentary on it. As an historian of Christianity, I’m particularly taken with his account of the ‘construction’ of secularity and of idea of all of us living in ‘contested space.’ As you know from your time here, that’s particularly true of the west coast. I’d love to hear more about the Gospel that Thoko is preaching. What’s your take on its shape and trajectory? I’ve just finished taking a course from Harry Maier on ‘Decolonizing Jesus’ that opened up for me the whole literature on seeing the early Jesus/Christian movements as alternative communities within the Roman imperial ‘imaginary,’ especially the work of Richard A Horsely.


    1. As usual, you pack a lot into a small space!

      I’m on page 335 of 776. The most salient sections so far are about enchantment/disenchantment because I am working towards writing a piece about theological education in Malawi and North America. I’ve read Smith and have read sections of Taylor before but I’m not working all the way through it. One thing I have noticed is that he is so expansive it is hard to get a grip on particular criticisms of him. That will come later after surveying the whole. If you are interested, my friend Andy Root has made extensive use of Taylor in two books – Faith Formation in a Secular Age and he new one on science and faith in youth ministry. You should really read those to go along with your reading of Smith. One reviewer commented that Andy is the practical theological equivalent of Jamie Smith.

      As for Thoko, he is an example of the best that Malawi has to offer. I’m sure I could get you a copy of some of his sermons. Suffice to say at the moment that he translated, with Rev. Dr. Todd Statham who was a PCC minister teaching at Zomba Theological College at the time, some original writings of the first Malawian ordained in the CCAP. The PCC paid for its publication and you could likely contact Rev. Glynis Williams to get a copy. He also wrote an article about it that got published by a German journal. He is fully aware of the complicated history of colonialism, and it is complicated here on the ground.


    1. Thanks again for this ongoing dialogue. I’m finding it most provocative. I’ve ordered Root’s book on the secular age, so will start on him there. I’ve glanced quickly at the Jacobs article and will read it more carefully over the weekend, but I think you’re both onto something. I’m reading Jamie Smith’s books on worship in preparation for applying for a Vital Worship Grant from Calvin College to look deeper into how Jesus encounters people through jazz in worship, so these conversations about contested social imaginaries is crucial to my understanding of how we form Christian disciples through congregations. A new sense of the flow of worship has emerged from our conversations about the grant, viz. from welcome, to wonder, to wisdom, to witness. One of the questions we want to probe is whether there is an instinctive wisdom in the workings and wisdom of the jazz tradition that might inform this. Or, to put it another way, is there an ‘invisible church’ happening in jazz that might be worth exploring in a deeper dialogue? But we also want to make sure that our take on our intent is heard in that dialogue. So, much gratitude for taking the time and thought to engage in this conversation. It enriches things greatly.

      Also, I think that Brad Childs may have forwarded to you my notes on Presbyterian polity in response to that part of last year’s Church Doctrine report. I had sent them to Stephen Kendal, but don’t know what happened to them. I know this is not an immediately pressing issue for CD, but would love to be part of that ongoing conversation. As you might have noticed from the minutes of the Presbytery of Westminster, David Jennings and I are continuing on with our fundamental disagreement on how our polity should work.

      Blessings and peace to all,



      1. B,

        I did see that there was a lamentable situation from your perspective. Brad sent the report and I have forwarded it to the person on the Committee on Church Doctrine who is looking after this document (Rev. Paul Johnson). I’m sure you will hear more.



      2. Thanks, Blair. I probably didn’t make it clear to Stephen what I hoped would happen to it, but glad it has gotten into the mix. That really doesn’t come anywhere near lamentable for me these days.


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