Month: October 2022

Close-to-the-ground Particulars

Published / by Dean Eland

The Concrete Specific and the Ordinary

In their October 2022 newsletter, Armen and Karina from Neighbourhood Matters invites readers to reflect on the following quotes and asks, “when have you gained an understanding of universal meaning through the concrete, specific and ordinary?”

We’re inspired by this quote from Catholic priest Richard Rohr on why place, neighbourhood, presence, the particular and the ordinary matter so much:

The doctrine of haecceity (“thisness”) says that we come to universal meaning deeply and rightly through the concrete, the specific, and the ordinary, and not the other way around. The principle here is “go deep in any one place and we will meet all places”. When we start with big universal ideas, at the level of concepts and -isms, we too often stay there — arguing about theories, forever making more distinctions. At that level, the mind is totally in charge. It’s easier to love humanity then, but not any individual people. We defend principles of justice but can’t muster the courage to live fully just lives ourselves.

And in the words of 20th century German theologian and anti-Nazi dissident Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community”.

In his introduction to “Missional leadership–entering the Trialogue” Nelus Niemandt claims that participation “in God’s mission is seen as best suited to the adaptive leadership challenges that face the missional church, and it allows the church to stop fretting over the church by entering into the trialogue. The trialogue is the discerning interaction between church, culture and biblical narrative – to seek, discover, understand and share in what the Holy Spirit is up to in the close-to-the-ground particulars of the church’s engagement in, with, against and for the world.”