This is church?

Tomorrow, with my other colleagues in the diocese, I will be renewing my commitment to service as a priest in the cathedral at the Chrism Eucharist. This year Bishop Graham Cray is preaching and so I am looking forward to that.

For the last few years this has been a special time as we have all got together, with our bishop, to pray and re-commit to serving God and the church.

This year will be no different …. it will be still be a special time … but this year I find myself frustrated as to what the church has or is becoming.

Tonight I was planning for the MSM session that I will be teaching on next week and this video clip will be used:

It brought tears to my eyes tonight because I really do believe that this is what church should be. I really do believe that this is what I was ordained to be involved in. Sadly …. I also really do believe that the institution means that the meetings, sales, buildings etc etc etc so often take a higher priority than discipleship.

I guess I’m struggling to believe tonight that anything will ever change …. and that’s hard to stomach.

Because … if church is not about making disciples, if it’s not about love and liberation ….. then why church?

But …. tomorrow … I really do want to believe that this can be church …. so I will simply pray …. Lord help my unbelief!

 

interruptions

I saw this You Tube clip over at Cool Runnings …. it is definitely worth a watch. The joy on the faces of these ‘two brave ladies’ is something beautiful to behold. The video made me both laugh as well as bring a tear to my eye.

After watching the video my friend asks:

I wonder how much of our lives are “interrupted” because of fear?

I’ve been holding that question throughout my day. I’ve been wondering if too many times or too often I have simply played safe, or worse … not stepped out, not changed, not tried some different ‘something’ out of a fear of what may or may not happen. So I’ve been wondering today …. how much interruption have I had due to fear and worry?

In Matthew 10 Christ says some pretty cool things about fear and worry …. basically that we don’t need to have them! So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” … Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

As we travel with Christ during this Holy Week, ever onwards to the cross of Friday and into the empty disappointed numbness of failure that must have laced that first Holy Saturday … I’m carrying this thought with me ….

it’s all about grace

graceSo ….. we are here again.
Holy Week.
It seems to have come quickly.

Lots of people have said to me … ‘it’s your busy time isn’t it?’ Strangely … despite being ‘available’ to support a few churches I have not been ‘booked’ at all over the Easter period. I’m not complaining, as that does mean I can be available for people who do not cross the church threshold … but nevertheless it will be a little strange not actually leading anything or preaching in a church building this Easter.

Last year I preached and was thinking about vulnerability. I don”t think my outlook has changed much a year on … and the freedom from church stuff this Easter will mean I can stay in this vulnerability state for longer as I hang out in places where people might want to talk. I’ve come to find that there is nothing quite like a festival to get people asking questions. With that in mind I look forward to the pub on Friday evening.

If I am honest …. I am no more than meandering into this Holy Week …. and I meander with a sense of raw vulnerability and fear for what may happen both now, in the immediate future and the long term. I meander with the full knowledge that I am not in control … and in a sense it is right that I am not in control … and not having control means there is a need to trust both God and others …. and that is where I find myself today.

But I do not sit in vulnerability alone.
There is more.
So much more!

If this Holy Week brings anything to my mind … it brings grace.

“Grace sets the Christian faith apart from every other world religion. What is grace? Simply put, grace is God’s unmerited favor. You cannot earn grace; you cannot do anything to deserve grace. It is simply God doing something for you with no strings attached. God’s grace is solely motivated by love: deep, abiding, unconditional, sacrificial love.” Warren Wiersbe

For me … I am seeing more and more than everything … totally everything … comes back to grace. God’s unconditional love and acceptance really is that …. unconditional and total!

Some will try to tell you this Holy Week that you need to jump through certain hoops, believe particular things or behave in specific ways …. don’t believe them … they are wrong …. that’s rules … not grace …

This Holy Week is a good opportunity to focus on grace … that deep abiding unconditional no strings attached love that God has for you … seasoned through the cross, matured through the trip to hell, and available to us through Christ bursting out of the earth …

Holy Week … vulnerability …. grace …. that is all.

10 000 kids!!!!!!!!!

imagesI wrote a few days ago about the World Vision decision around having an inclusive recruitment and employment policy (in this case accepting people in same sex marriages … I mean … whatever your view … why wouldn’t you?!)

I wrote how lots of evangelical leaders slammed into World Vision, telling them that their very considered view and action was unbiblical, heretical and downright evil. Some even suggested that Christians should cancel their subscriptions … those monies going to children desperate for support, help and aid.

Two days later World Vision reversed their decision … so effectively saying; we love and accept everyone and all are welcome to join us …. oH!!! … hang on … no … no actually we don’t’.

The reversal of the decision was very sad. Frustratingly sad.

Jamie the very worst missionary writes much better about this than me here.

So, why am I bringing this all up again. Well … it seems that somehow Jamie had a telephone conversation with the CEO of World Vision yesterday.

The fallout from the inclusive policy was 10 000 cancelled sponsorships.

Take that in!
10 000 people cancelled their sponsorship of a child in desperate need.
10 000 children who had started to rely on that financial support had it whipped away in a flash.
And why ? …. because 10 000 people, no … axctually … let’s correct that …
10 000 Bible Believing Christians
felt very strongly that upholding their view of scripture to be far more important, far more vital, far more honourable than ensuring the poorest and weakest children in the most deprived parts of the world have vital funding to ensure they eat, are educated and housed.

10 000 children are at serious risk of being plunged back into extreme  poverty because people wanted to have their one sided Christian belief upheld.

That type of Christianity is so fucked up  - how can such action be anything like Christ like?
really??!!
10 000!

I am really feeling ashamed to call myself a Christian.
I think i’ll stop using that term …. because if this is Christian I don’t understand it or want to have anything to do with it.
Nowhere in the gospels do I see justification for such narrow mindedness meanness.
I want to distance myself massively from such behaviour!

Because …. Seriously … 10 000 kids!

(PS .. there is no apology for anything in this post …. if you find yourself angry and shocked by the use of a certain word above … may I humbly suggest that being angry about starving children being used as pawns in this argument to be far more worthy of our anger than some word that I use because I am not clever enough to think of anything else!! (well … that’s what my mum always told me anyway!)

 

a wild burst of imagination

Religious_life_keynoteLast Friday was a pretty amazing day. I simply have not had a chance to write about this yet. I also like things to settle and see what stays with me after such a packed day. The stuff that is lingering will appear below.

Along with a few others, Liz and myself represented the gathering, who were invited to the Archbishops Day Conference on Religious Life and Renewal at Lambeth Palace. It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and connect with some new people from both traditional and new monastic communities.

I was particularly encouraged as Archbishop Justin asked in his opening speech …. ‘what needs doing? What institutional changes are needed? How does the church, how do the churches (we are not all Anglicans here) obstruct you, hinder you when we should celebrate and support? What re-imagination do we need?’

He started by saying religious communities throughout history have been a major influence on renewing and energising the church. He also said we need a wild and spirit led burst of imagination …. hearing those words, from the Archbishop, in an 800 year old building in the seat of ‘the establishment’ were both pretty radical to hear … as well as incredibly life and permission giving. Once again, it seems, we have an Archbishop that wishes to bless ideas and imagination and wants to see creativity ….  I resonated with that ‘imagination’ word particularly as I believe God called my attention to imagination prayer the week before at the Contemplative Prayer day.

In the question and answer time with the Archbishop two things have stuck with me. When asked about permanence of religious communities and church, he said that he preferred to talk of stability. Permanence is affected by the external stuff and so is out of our control; but stability, said Archbishop Justin, is internal and we can live with that in our heart. So, rather than looking at being permanent, we should be searching for that feeling of stability.

The Archbishop also talked about how communities could celebrate the new and spontaneous as it appears. He urged each community to work out how they can do this as they perform their dance of the prophetic and the creative.

We broke into groups after both key note speeches in the morning and afternoon. I felt I heard one loud message very clearly which I will be taking back to the gathering …. that many communities experience shows that we can only grow as we rediscover our radical mission purpose. Part of this will involved the transformation of places of pain into places of hope.

This was backed up int he afternoon when Fr Etienne from the Chemin Neuf Community challenged us to think about the ‘charism’ that the gathering offered and how that might be released for the renewal of the church and the community. That’s a really interesting and deep question that I have come away with …. and something that we, as the gathering, will need to ponder … but hopefully not for too long … so we can get on and make a difference.

This was a great day …. and I give thanks for all those involved in planning. There are some comments from friends below …

 

love a threat to the gospel …. really?????

urlI have been shocked more than I thought I could by the reaction of some, mainly evangelical church leaders, to the news that World Vision has decided to hire people who are in loving same sex relationships. Some leaders are actually saying people should boycot World Vision, as in stop sponsoring amazing child poverty relief and education programs, which make an amazing difference, just because World Vision are going to have an open recruitment policy.

I am not sure if this makes me angry or sad or both.

I could write lots but Rachel has written excellently here … so go read …Rachel says:

And it puts into stark, unsettling relief just how out-of-control the evangelical obsession with homosexuality has become. Organizations don’t get “farewelled” for hiring divorcees. People don’t get kicked out of their churches for struggling with pride or for not wearing head coverings when they pray.  (See “Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony.”But when it comes to homosexuality, Trevin Wax and many others have decided “the gospel is at stake.” 

That paragraph sums up what really concerns me. This seeming obsession with sexuality that people have lost the plot to such an extent that they are actually recommending a course of action that would result in children starving … that is so painfully ridiculous to comprehend.

Anyway … be sad …  be angry …  be whatever … but pray for World Vision!

Oh … and you could always sponsor a World Vision child!

amazing intern opportunities in Stepney

stepThis is an excellent opportunity in Stepney. Bishop Adrian is an amazing guy and I’d love to have the opportunity to work with him again. So .. below is a great opportunity to work in a creative and diverse part of London under the leadership of an amazing bishop … I have cut and paste this from an email:

The Stepney Area is looking to appoint up to eight Interns from September 2014. The scheme is a year’s opportunity to serve God in parishes in Islington, Hackney or Tower Hamlets, and has been running as part of the Church of England’s Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES). If you are aged 18-29 and interested in living out your discipleship in an urban context and exploring a vocation to ministry, lay or ordained, this may be for you.

The scheme will include parish ministry, community living, and time for study and vocational discernment. By serving with others in places of need and opportunity in London, you will be challenged to think about God’s call to work for his kingdom in areas of poverty, unemployment and social inequality.

The Stepney Area The Stepney Area is part of the London Diocese, and is diverse, vibrant and multi-cultural, with rich and poor living side-by-side. It includes some of the most deprived wards in the country, but is also home to some of the most vibrant creative industries in Europe, and to Canary Wharf and the City Fringe. The popular destinations of Hoxton, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Dalston and Islington are part of the Area, as are the Spitalfields, Columbia Road and Broadway markets. It’s this challenging and changing urban mix which makes Stepney an exciting place to minister, and to explore what it means to be the church for the 21st century.

The Intern Scheme

The Intern Scheme will provide a range of opportunities for you to explore parish ministry. These might include leading worship, preaching and teaching, pastoral work, mission and evangelism, youth work, schools work, social transformation projects, and community engagement with other partners.

The work you will be involved with will depend on the parish you are placed with and your gifts for ministry. You will be encouraged to develop your own particular strengths and interests, and the roles have flexibility to allow them to grow and develop around the individual.

As an Intern you will be allocated a clergy supervisor in your parish. There is also an opportunity for study, and for ongoing vocational discernment, including for those already exploring a vocation to ordained ministry. Accommodation will be provided where Interns will live together in community, though serving in different parishes. There will be a chaplain to serve the pastoral needs of the house community. During the year you will be encouraged to go on retreat, and the costs for this will also be paid for.

As part of the scheme, a subsistence allowance will be provided, and your accommodation, travel, training costs and parish expenses met. As a sign of your commitment to the scheme you will be asked to contribute £500 towards it. We can help you think of ways to raise this money, and a bursary fund is available.

Who we are looking for

We are looking for energetic, enthusiastic individuals who are flexible, able to take initiative and wanting to grow in faith and in the ability to communicate it. We are looking for people wanting to explore a call to urban inner-city ministry, at home with people from diverse backgrounds and other church traditions, seeking to serve God among some of London’s most vulnerable people, and wanting to experience the adventure of community living.

If you are interested, please contact Revd Fiona Green, The Intern Director, for an application form, or to discuss the opportunity further. 07786 541559. fiona.green@london.anglican.org.

Application deadline: Monday 31st March 2014. Interviews: Saturday 12th April 2014.