The New Boson and Missional Methodism

By Taylor Burton-Edwards

Worship planning new boson missional methodism 400x300
Announcement from the CMS project of CERN, September 2010. At that point, what the project could announce was greater clarity about the sort of evidence that would be needed to verify that they had discovered something like the Higgs boson as predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics . The slide says it, in French: "The presence or absence of an energy peak when 4 leptons pop into existence" (Groups of 4 leptons are an observable decay product of a Higgs-like boson). Photo by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE, used by permission under a Creative Commons License.


I freely admit I'm a science geek.

I set an alarm to wake me a little before 3 A.M. (EDT) on Wednesday, July 4 to watch the live webcast of the seminar and press release from CERN announcing the discovery of a new boson and the extensive work done to verify that discovery, in two parallel projects, to a significance of 5-sigma (i.e., the statistical certainty that what was discovered is a new boson and not something else is now at least at 99.99999%).

It's still not certain that what has been found is the Higgs boson exactly as the current Standard Model of particle physics predicts it. More tests will be done and much more data analyzed over the next several months to determine more of the properties of this newly discovered particle. Some of them may fit what the Standard Model predicts, and others may not. Results of this further collection and analysis of data may result in alterations in understanding what this boson is or in the Standard Model itself.

What is certain, a certainty ratified by every scientist who spoke at the seminar and the press conference, is that getting to this "preliminary result" was the outcome of much tireless work for years, and even more work with little sleep or downtime in the past two months, by thousands of persons, both employees at CERN and, especially, collaborators in the same and complementary fields worldwide. For now, there is reason to pause just a bit to celebrate what is the without question the most significant discovery in experimental particle physics in the past 50 years.

Let me suggest that what we have witnessed in this historic announcement is the outcome of disciples of physics collaborating worldwide to live out their discipleship and deliver on a common mission. They allowed no barriers of culture, language or time zone to get in their way. Each performed her or his part of the effort with efficiency and excellence, never stopping until the work was done.

And their outcome-- the discovery of this new and apparently Higgs-like boson-- is manifest to the world.

So, what about us?

As Christians, we are disciples of Jesus charged with making the kingdom of God manifest to the world. As Wesleyan Christians, we further understand our role to be one of announcing and being living witnesses of God's desire to save us, and save us to the uttermost-- to bring us to nothing less than entire holiness, to perfection in love in this life. As United Methodists, we speak of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Where are there examples of ways we are clearly serious, on a global basis, about making the kingdom of God manifest to the world?

Where in our local areas are we announcing and being living witnesses of God's desire and capacity to bring persons to perfection in love in this life?

Where do we have the clearest focus on what it means to disciple people in the way of Jesus?

What specific indicators have we identified that can tell us-- and help the world to see, with great certainty-- that the world is being transformed through Christ and his people called church?

Where are we engaged in something like the level of committed collaboration we can see in the CERN projects?

Probably, all of us can come up with negative answers for these questions.

I'm asking the questions positively. Where are the bright spots we can build on? And then how might we go about connecting these bright spots into a global network through which the Light of the World may more brightly shine?