Don’t give up on Burma

Please read this update from Burma Campaign UK …. progress is being made, but there is still so far to go …. this is not yet freedom for the people!….
Dear friend

Like everyone here at Burma Campaign UK, you must have seen in the media the wonderful scenes of celebration at the headquarters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD). As election results started coming in, it became clear the NLD were likely to win a big majority.

Some media reports have gone so far as to say Burma’s struggle for freedom is over, that democracy has arrived. That’s exactly the impression the generals want to give.

A military drafted constitution means that the NLD government will face lots of limits on its powers, and the people of Burma are going to continue to need our support to win their real freedom.

As our Campaigns Manager Zoya Phan said in an article in The Independent newspaper today:

I know the NLD government will be able to make many positive changes in my country, and this is really good news. At the same time however, deep down I know the military hasn’t completely handed over power. An NLD government is going to face many challenges because the army has inserted lots of clauses into the constitution to limit its power. This is designed to restrict the freedom of the NLD government to make big changes to the country. The impression that everything is now OK makes me very worried for the future. This isn’t the end of our long struggle. It’s the start of a new phase of that struggle, and the military are as determined as ever not to give up control. Celebrate an NLD victory today, but tomorrow, we still need your support.

You can read the full article here.

Voters queue in Rangoon
Voters queue at a polling station in Rangoon.
Our Director, Mark Farmaner, has written an article for the Huffington Post which details all the tricks the military have used to try to keep their grubby fingers on the levers of power, and shows why international support will still be desperately needed. You can read it here.

There is no doubt that Burma would not have got this far without the sacrifices so many people in the country have made for freedom, and without the international support they have received. International pressure has played a key role in supporting Burma’s democracy movement. That support is still needed for the next phase of the struggle, so please make a donation today to support our work.

Thank you.
Anna Roberts
Executive Director

PS. In the UK we wouldn’t accept the head of the British Army appointing the Home Secretary and Defence Minister or the military setting their own budget, starving hospitals and schools of funds. Make a donation today to help bring genuine democracy to Burma.Thank you.

we remember

Today we remember.gasworks memorial

On Sunday we remembered at the Gasworks WW1 Memorial here on the Peninsula. It was a special morning for a number of reasons.

As we approached 11am for the 2 minutes silence I became aware that students in the nearby Scape accommodation came onto their balconies to join us in silence. I was unaware that behind me two London buses had stopped and turned off their engines to join us in silence.

remembrance derekIt was special because we were joined by Derek and his daughter. Derek had recently found out that his grandfather was on the memorial and came to lay a wreath, believing that he and his daughter would be the only two there. The look of joy on his face when he saw the HT community gathered around the memorial and the vulnerable dignity he expressed as he lay his wreath brought tears to the eyes of this community.

remembrance coffeeIt was special because 17 people were there and all apart from one person came back to Cafe Pura for a drink and a discussion based on remembrance. The questions we considered were challenging …. but we like to be challenged! The conversation was good …. but the feeling of community, and the attitude of respect and wanting to hear stories was heart warming. People stayed longer than I thought they would … this time together seemed to be something that people were looking for.

I have hope from Sunday … hope that people outside of HT who live on the peninsula  do value contact and community. I hope we see Derek next year. I hope our young people do not forget what today is about.

But then, as well as remembering those who served us in the past, today is also about hope …. the hope that out of death comes new life … symbolised by the perennial poppy … epitomised in the resurrection of Christ.

A new pattern

IMG_0099It’s been a pretty exciting week and I am now in a position to share something of what has been happening here on the Greenwich Peninsula. I am also conscious that I have been quiet too long and that I also need to reform the habit of being here more regularly as writing here helps me to reflect particularly when I receive your comments and opinions.

Since my licensing on September 4th I have been doing a lot of listening, praying, walking, talking, drinking coffee, listening, , listening,  more and … err listening! I think there have been a few beers, rums and whiskies there as well.

I have been asking the 12 members of Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula (from now on HT as that takes just too much writing!) what they love about HT, what they wish to change about HT and how they think we should ‘be’ in the future as christian community on the Peninsula.

There have been overwhelming common threads, although it is fair to say that there is not one model that will ft everyone. In the main there is general agreement that meeting on a Sunday morning at 11am just does not work for most people. Most of this community disappear at the weekend and those who belong to HT can only make that time every 3 or 4 weeks.

In addition I have heard people say they are too busy and that they do not ever have space to simply be with God and hear God speak into their lives. ‘There is no space to grow or feed my spirituality’ is a comment that struck a chord with me.

From December we will trial a new pattern for 3 months:
Sunday – 6pm contemplative service in the school
Wednesday 730pm meal, sharing bread & wine, and chat in ‘the vicarage’
Friday 730am Prayer and breakfast in ‘the vicarage’ (which I hope will move to the coffee shop)
in addition we will do things in both the coffee shop and the local pub such as pub theo and other things that raise our profile so that we can be a blessing and a support to this community.

None of us think we have the exact right pattern yet … but we are all keen to make a start and try something different for this space. This may or may not be the right pattern … but by trialling it I believe we will learn more about how we can be authentic christian community on this peninsula. I have to admit I am concerned with the attractional pattern we have developed … but I feel also that it is an important part of our process.

I feel privileged to be part of this group. I do not think there are many church leaders who have the privilege of being with a congregation who unanimously and actively are seeking to change so that they can engage both meaningfully and relevantly with the people of their community. I feel excited about what this change will bring. I feel daunted as I lead and encourage these people into we know not where.

so … again … watch this space…. pray with us as we dream of a way forward

moving along in harmony

DSC_1165aAnother two weeks has passed since my last blog … it’s gone in a flash, but as I look back I can see that quite a few things have happened and so the mist of uncertainty has lifted for brief moments so I can imagine possible lights of ideas ahead of me.

I have nearly spoken with every person that regularly attend Holy Trinity here on the Peninsula. At my licensing the bishop was incredibly permission giving, and was very open about the fact that I am here to aid change. he said I was here to do things differently. Without exception it seems the people of HT are up for change. No one wants to stay the same, everyone knows we need to do something different. Change will happen!

I love being part of this community of Holy Trinity that are sold out on being something that makes a real positive difference in our community life.

As I have listened to people, people that I am here to serve, some common threads have come out. It would not be right to share them publicly until after we have chatted as HT. One thing, though, that I can share that has been very clear is this …. everyone agrees that 11am on a Sunday morning is not the correct time for us to meet. This will change. It has to change because it is obviously not the right time for the people of the peninsula. It’s refreshing to be part of a group that can see that and ‘get’ that we are here to serve this community.

I have some ideas of what we may look like over the next few months. In some ways I could speed the process up by suggesting certain changes … but I really do not believe that is the way to work. If we are going to move forward together in a way that means something for the wider community here then we need to move slowly, listening intently to each other and those we seek to serve. We need to discover more of what God is doing and then join with God rather than develop our own little ideas. I really do not know of any better way to start something new.

The next step, as I see it, after I have listened to everyone who is currently part of HT is to eat together as we seek a way forward. I’m feeling quite excited by this thought and can’t help but think what a great privilege and how exciting the way forward is. Maybe I should feel more daunted or scared at the scale of the task (and sometimes that is very evident in my heard!) but at the moment I feel quite simply that we are on track and need to keep listening and moving together.

Interestingly I think harmony says something about what we are trying to do at this point in time. I say interestingly because the schools theme for collective worship this term has been ‘harmony’. Harmony talks of cooperation and friendship.  It declares unity and conveys empathy. It breathes peace and understanding. It emits order and integrity. It sings of richness and melody. It serenades of blend and harmony.

As we move forward together in this harmonious way, I believe we will become more aware of the whisper of our community … and when we hear and join with that … well … then we may have more of an idea of the sone we are called to sing.

Invisible … 

  Following from my last post … I am out … The view proves it with the sun shining in through the coffee shop window and the Canary Wharf buildings looking very bright and shiny. 

There is a wide mix of people here; building contractors, people collecting coffee on the way to the tube, some popping in for early lunch, and just a couple loitering with a friend. I think I am the oldest he by a good 10/15 years …. 

I’m blogging ‘live’ in situ because I can and I never really have before. If I was to record my feelings I guess I feel nervous, a little out of place at the moment and maybe generally invisible. Some people have spied the dog collar and after a sneaky look as determined to make no eye contact. The staff, though, have been welcoming. I feel a little out of place but not in the wrong place. People are not used to seeing priests around in the community just drinking coffee …. I hope as I become more established here that I will be able to serve these people in some way. 

As I write I suddenly feel a little ‘better’ as I am watching a coup,e in their 70’s cross the road with their dog. I am clearly not the only one around born before the 80’s! 

This is a place that I clearly need to hang around more in. This is at the centre of the community and seems to be a place where people are happy to be. As time goes on I hope I will start to understand this community and how we can serve it more. 

just go!

goSo … more days have passed.
Nothing much has changed.
A few more meetings.
A few more discussions.

I am frustrated that I still have not been able to get out to be with people in ‘my parish’ yet.
This has been partly a work thing … as in needing to respond to messages and think through chaplaincy stuff and create presentations for services …. but, sadly, I also have a confession!

I haven’t yet been out to rub shoulders and meet with people in the coffee shop or pub because I have been scared!

Rob … the person who loves to wind up, to cause change, to go into new places … Rob the pioneer, the one that has always challenged colleagues to get out from their study’s has been too scared to go and sit in a new place and introduce himself to whoever may be out there and has, himself, hidden behind his desk and stared at the Thames Barrier!

I’ve reflected, Examened, and remembered it was always like this in those early days. Back in Rochester I walked past Wetherspoons quite a few times before I had the courage to walk in. In Gillingham I actually walked past the door of the Dog and Bone 5 weeks ina  row before I was able to step inside. I thought it was scarey …. weird as I now consider it a second home and a place I can go to simply be me.

But while I acknowledge that this is a natural process and a fairly healthy place to be it still concerns me that I am still not with the people that I believe God called me here to be with.  I’m remembering that this early stage of starting something new is quite a hard place to be. In addition, the reality of just a three year contract causes me to put pressure on myself to be needing to formulate something, to develop something that is relevant and real for this community. but … I cant do that until I have a better idea of who this community is and what their values are.

So … I continue … to pray … to look … and to wait.
Tomorrow I will try, again, to go out …. and to meet …
Prayers out there … just keep doing it
and me?
I will try to just go!
I will report back soon …

so … watcha been doin?

rainbow over greenwichSo I am living on the Greenwich Peninsula. I took the rainbow pic a couple of days after moving in … when looking for gold but someone beat me to it!)

Lots has been written about the development here. It looks a great place to live but for some it seems to come at some cost either financially or socially as outlined in the Guardian article.

Holy Trinity Church has been meeting on the Peninsula for a few years. The small community are passionate about engaging with our community and my role will be to get us all to think about how we might do that. I have a three year contract so time is short … although the task is massive!

For the last few weeks I have immersed myself in the three schools and endless amounts of church meetings. I have needed to quite quickly get a handle on how the team works and the best way to do this has been to be at everything and meet as many of the people connected with the East Greenwich team as possible.

The downside of this is that, after 3 weeks, I find myself low on inspiration and high on frustration as I have not had a chance to be in public spaces where I can meet the people of this community or spend proper quality time with the Holy Trinity community.  Next week I hope that will start to change as I carve out time to be present in public spaces and hear the visions and dreams of those I work with in HT. It’s only as I meet people that I can start to hear how we can engage and support meaningfully and relevantly.

The job is big! All jobs are big! As well as meeting people I need to work on the website, meet councillors, engage with the residents association (I’ve already been to 2 meetings!) and generally meet loads of people that know this area far more than me … which, actually, is not that difficult at the moment. Alongside this, if you have been a reader or know me for a while, you will now that I believe God works through us being present in everyday stuff, I will be seeking to be available in parts of the community where people hang out … at the moment I have identified a few places and I’ll have to see what happens.

In one sense I feel I am starting all over again for the third time … and in a way that is true … but I am starting again with the learning from the two other starts which I hope is going to feed me during this early stage. I feel energised and motivated … which is good for the start of a new role!

So … friends … please keep praying … and chatting … and being your wonderful selves!