The next Ikon – titled “Yes. Ikon” – is this Sunday, 10 February, at 7 pm at the MAC in Belfast.
Alas, as with most of the events in Belfast’s 4 Corners Festival, I’ll be unable to attend from my current base at the Southwest Institute on Religion and Civil Society at the University of New Mexico (UNM) in Albuquerque.
I have no idea what “Yes,” will be all about, but in many ways that’s part of the mystery of going along to Ikon.
Ikon featured prominently in the seminar I gave yesterday for UNM’s Sociology and Religious Studies Departments, where I talked about my forthcoming book with Gerardo Marti, The Deconstructed Church.
Groups that can be considered part of the emerging church vary widely in their approaches to their corporate gatherings. In this, Ikon events seem to me to be at one end of a very wide spectrum, in that the “transformance art” of their gatherings is designed to create a “space” where people can suspend their beliefs and identities.
Other emerging groups may have more “traditional” looking or feeling gatherings, where there are more recognized liturgical expressions of Christian community, such as regular Eucharist/communion.
Still others, like neo-monastic communities, may see their main form of gathering as “social justice”-orientated service in local communities, coupled with communal prayer and/or meal times. (This past week I had the privilege of visiting East Central Ministries in Albuquerque, where this model seems to be the norm.)
But for me, Ikon continues to offer a paradigmatic example of offering creative, thought-provoking events where people have the freedom to explore questions in areas such as the nature of truth, the nature of God, and doubt. (For examples of the liturgy from the last Ikon, click here, or read my own account of the event.)
As Ikon’s Lindsey Mitchell told me in an interview for the book project,
“Ikon doesn’t preach. It poses questions and explores them. It provokes thought, which is great because sometimes [we] don’t think enough.”
Another aspect of Ikon gatherings which has always intrigued me is the inclusion of some sort of “ritual” element. The “ritual” usually comes near the end of the event and invites people’s full participation, usually with both mind and body (and spirit, if you are that way inclined …)
But Ikon’s ritual is always different, making the ritual something of an “anti-ritual” ritual.
As Stephen Caswell explained to me in an interview for the book,
“I like the idea of somehow finding a ritual that can be shared by everybody, a ritual that doesn’t rely on belief. … At Ikon, our creed is that we don’t have a creed. … and to try and ritualise that I think is lovely and demands real creativity. … At [a previous] Ikon … we had a really lovely liturgy that Shirley McMillan wrote. We got people standing either side, arbitrarily divided either side of the room. Each line of the liturgy was reflecting on how community can be separated, or how people can be separated. And then with every line which we repeated everyone took a step closer till they were face to face. [A ritual like that] leaves room for whatever your understanding of God, or divine, is. [Everyone won’t agree on that but] everyone’s going to agree that we’re together, that this is what’s important, and this is something special.”
And I can say “Yes” to that.