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Jonny Baker [UK]
"A leap of Faith"

[09.03]

i recently saw the first screening of jump london which was a documentary of three guys bringing the art of parkour to 14 of london's famous buildings/landmarks. it was simply stunning...

parkour is the art of using your surroundings as a playground to leap across and navigate in creative and playful ways. for these guys it included leaping across rooftops, breathtaking handstands on the edge of buildings and jumps onto concrete from great heights. i read a review of someone describing it as skateboarding without skateboards which was pretty accurate. you may have seen the bbc one advert with david belle or nike and toyota have had ads incorporating this art form (to make them look cool).

sebastien foucan was in the team in london and he is one of the founders of parkour (they called it free running on jump london but the french name parkour sounds a lot better!). he says this about it in an article.

parkour, is a children games that become an art, an art of living, of moving. what is shameful is to believe that, once grown up, we shall stop playing.

watching the programme and having a scout round web sites reminded me of surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding and how they lend themselves to beautiful photography. it seems that parkour is still very much an underground urban sport but there are already some great pics out there. i videoed the programme and am so glad i did. it is so perfect for using in alternative worship particularly in london. there so many sped up or slowed down images of london, combined with the graceful negotiation of the city by sebastien and friends.

i was chatting to a friend last night about it who said that his brother's first comment about it was 'what a fantastic video for alternative worship!'. i think i'd want to push it further and say it's a fantastic metaphor for emerging church/alternative worship. here's how my thought process has connected this up (i'd actually thought this ever since seeing the bbc one advert)...

essentially what parkour are doing is renegotiating terrain in imaginative ways. one of my favourite insights from michel de certeau's book 'the practice of everyday life' book is where he distinguishes between tactics and strategies. strategies are the systems set up in a place - say a school timetable or a library, or the road system in a city. these strategies are designed so that you negotiate life according to the way the sytsem is set up. tactics on the other hand are the ways people negotiate life in practice which may have nothing to do with the way the system was set up. so parkour is a creative and playful tactic to renegotiate your way through the city which has nothing to do with the strategy of the city layout. jump london had an architect wondering what other creative possibilities exist in using the 'stuff' that is in place in cities - i thought it was a wonderful quote:

i'm sure there's all sorts of other people waiting in the wings to come and corrupt our spaces in all sorts of different ways we haven't even thought of yet. we spend millions and millions of pounds building all this stuff and what else could that stuff be used for - that's the key question!

isn't that quote directly applicable to alternative worship and emerging church which are finding tactics to renegotiate the space of church, worship and christianity in ways very different from the strategies of the inherited church but at the same time bringing life to the tradition?

alt worship in particular has used the stuff of culture and tradition in creative and playful ways to reimagine worship in inspiring ways. sebastien foucan says this in the article linked to above about parkour

our future is linked to words like soft, feline, fluid. the most understandable metaphor for it is the water one. we need to dream in parkour. because we are forerunners, so it's necessary to continue practicing, searching, travelling to discover, meet and share. our wish would be that people consider parkour as a whole art that it's impossible to dispatch for one or other aspect of shows. it must be understood as a whole. its not a speciality. comparing to other groups, we deeply want to keep in our quest, to be in the right. that's why we don't accept to be shown by the media if they don't give to parkour all its sense, if they don't explain its entire story. when somebody tell us 'if you aren't shown in the media, you won't be known, if you're not known, your art won't be transmitted' we answer 'it's not a problem because the art we got it inside, and we'll transmit it anyway'. it's so huge that i can't just keep it for myself. you must always wonder 'what are you searching for? the right or the wrong?' you must be able to stay real and genuine in what you do.

i have highlighted the word parkour in this quote because i want you to re-read it replacing parkour with alternative worship and/or emerging church...


Jonny is National Youth Coordinator for CMS, coordinator of worship for Greenbelt and director of independent record label Proost

 

More about parkour:
parcore.net
le-parkour.com
urbanfreeflow.com

Jonny's blog:
jonnybaker.blogspot.com

Grace website:
www.freshworship.org

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