Ashes to Go

AshestoGo2Tomorrow morning at 730 until 830am, Esther and myself from Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula will be robing and offering ‘ashes to go’ at the bus stop outside ‘the vicarage’. 

I’m not sure how this will go and I do not mind saying I am more than a little nervous as to the kind of reception we may receive. I hope some people will feel able to connect with something of their past. I hope some people will welcome the opportunity to pause and consider their humanity in the face of the Divine. I hope some people will be surprised to find the church at their bus stop. I hope some people find encouragement in knowing that their Creator has not forgotten them.

The palm crosses have been burned. Oil ahas been added and we will ash people at the bus stop while saying this simple prayer:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Go in peace. Amen.

We will also give those ashed and wanting to take something away a copy of this prayer and explanation which will be attached to the back of our postcard giving details of who we are. The explanation and prayer below come from the Ashes to Go website:

Almighty and merciful God, you hate nothing you have made, and forgive the sins of all who are penitent; create in us new and contrite hearts, so that when we turn to you and confess our sins and acknowledge our need, we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Why “Ashes to Go”?
Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence. From the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. The reminder that we are dust turns our attention to the creative power of God, and God’s ability to heal the brokenness in our lives when we offer that brokenness to God. That turning to God is the work of Lent, preparation for the celebration of Easter. We’re offering ashes on the street corner today because that reminder of need, humility, and healing shouldn’t be confined to a church building.

We probably need it more when we are in the middle of our daily business! The ashes we receive here are to remind us throughout the day of our need for God, and of God’s call to us.

So …. in just around 12 hours I will be waking … and getting ready …. and becoming nervous … but then afterwards I hope to be able to say that many people felt blessed and encouraged by our presence. Being good news on The Peninsula is what we are about …. and part of that good news is serving and helping and blessing. If we achieve that as a church that would be cool! 

moving in the right direction … maybe!

Can61c4W8AEjNNmYesterday we held our last contemplative eucharist service before we embark on the journey of Lent.

Our numbers are still relatively small but I am encouraged by three things in particular. Feedback is overwhelmingly positive with people appreciating the opportunity to still themselves and spend time just being themselves. Lots of people here work in the city and space, or the opportunity to pause, are craved for but rarely achieved.

Since moving our worship to the evening we have seen an increase of 20% of people coming. That sounds a lot grander than it is and that amounts to an extra 1.5 people ….
The most encouraging fact since the move is, however, that in 4 weeks of January we have seen 4 new people, some of whom have returned for a second time. In the 2 weeks before the change we saw no new people. I am encouraged as this tells me we are now becoming more accessible to people. I think this illustrates, albeit tentatively, that we are moving in the right direction.

Last night we considered the transfiguration and what that said to us today. The discussion after the homily seemed to engage lots of peoples thinking and I sensed there was a real powerful sense of joy and wonder as we gathered around the table to receive bread and wine.

I am convinced that we are doing here at 18:01 is what people are looking for …. I just ned to be able to find these people ….. so I still am looking for a core team of people …. they must be out there somewhere!

walking for change

12642677_947115258675954_1567955323478933877_nToday I walked around the Peninsula with Alastair, who is on placement with the East Greenwich Team Ministry prior to him training for ordination. We chatted and prayed as we walked around the new buildings.

As we embark on something new here as the church on the Peninsula, prayer walking is, to me, a necessary pre-requisite. This is how I started things in Rochester and then again in Gillingham. I don’t know why … sometimes it makes no sense … because, after all, God knows everything and knows what I will pray about …. but for some reason, i know that without prayer things do not seem to happen. With prayer things do seem to happen! Simples!

For me, today was a big encouragement. I often walk around the Peninsula as the ‘parish priest’ but walking around with a like minded person today seemed more intentional and focussed.

As I walk, I guess I am looking for people who are interested in joining me on this weird journey of trying to birth and grow a new way of being church here on the Peninsula. I am convinced there are people here who have a faith and are interested in being part of developing something new.

Please pray I may find some of those people soon.

a start ….

balcony view .JPGLiving on the Greenwich Peninsula is a fairly unique experience to many. People live in close proximity and yet I can go for days without seeing anyone from my block of apartments. At 1801 last night someone that moved into the village at the end of December described her experience of living here as being anonymous.

One of the strengths of living in a  place like the Peninsula is that people want to work and do build community together. There is a very strong residents committee on the Greenwich Millennium Village which I have been both invited and pleased to be a part of.

At the start of the year we were all profoundly affected by a death of a resident who was run over by a bus. For years the residents committee has been asking for the roads to be safer. The residents have pulled together and launched an amazing campaign for the roads around the village to be safer …. you could support this by signing here.

The residents committee live here and care about the place we live and show that by being willing to make time to work together. At last Thursday’s residents meeting we were able to build on this by starting our survey of residents views. This is going to be something that is going to be a priority for me and the people of HT for the next few weeks. Why? Well … as Holy Trinity part of our reason for being here is to be ‘good news’, to help and be a blessing to the community. Surveys can take a long time and cost a lot in finance and time to carry out and so this is a way we can be of help. The surveys, which are anonymous, and whatever we learn will be shared with the residents committee and other agencies that are seeking to work together here.

Meeting people on Thursday was an incredible encouragement. Everyone has views and wants to share them. They wish to share them because they passionately care about the place that they live in. After a lot of research and talking to various agencies I found Livability to be very helpful in getting us to think about what to ask.

So … on our survey we are asking three simple questions:
What do you like about living on The Peninsula?
What frustrates you about living here?
What do you think is lacking here?

After just 30 surveys it would be premature to say we have any understanding of views and a lot more residents need to be spoken with. It is, however, a good start and I was really encouraged by the helpful and engaging response from people.

Over the next few weeks I and a little team hope to have many more interactions with people with those three questions. When we have got a good sample and heard lots of voices I hope we are then able to engage in way that will be both a blessing and authentic …. watch this space!


Ideas and food = agapai

FullSizeRenderOne of the new things we have started as a church community is meeting to eat together on a Wednesday night. This has started as a way to discuss what kind of church we want to be. I’ve guided us in this exploration by using an ‘ideas tree’ as seen in the photo by asking people to write what we want more of and what we want less of …. e.g. more hospitality or less formality.

After filling the tree with post it note ideas we then looked for patterns in our thoughts and, thankfully, found some. The next couple of weeks have been focussed on taking a ‘more of’ idea such as community engagement or hospitality and then chatting through ideas of what that means and how we can do it in the context and restrictions of our lives.

This week we had a good strong direct conversation about the reality of our situation as a church and the reality  of our ability to develop things in the midst of a busy city life.

The task is not an easy one!

A result of that honest discussion is that the Wednesday evening meal will be ‘tweeked’ a little. Rather than talking about what sort of church we want to be every week we are going to see what alternating a discussion with a check in, eat and pray for each other would look like. I other words we will alternate between talking church and being church …. although I know we are being church when we talk church as well …. but i think you get my drift!

Although the conversation was tough, even awkward at times, it was good and needed. I firmly believe that if a group of people are seeking to birth something new then honesty needs paramount in discussions. The fact we jumped to honesty rather than stay in politeness so soon is a real encouragement to me. It’s an encouragement because it means people care.

So … this Wednesday we will eat, talk, hear each others stories and pray together ….. so if you are on The Peninsula and fancy eating with a group of people that want to birth a church and bless this community ….. then join us. I just ask that you let us know you are coming so we can cater correctly.

We call this event agapai – a word used by the early Christians derived from agape (meaning God’s love) to describe ‘love feasts’ when they got together to eat and pray together as well as share bread and wine as part of the meal. The name seemed to fit a little with what we are trying to do here.




Sharing stories 

  Last night I joined the St Luke’s community in Peckham. Ian was licensed here a few days after I was licensed in Greenwich. Tuesday night has become community meal night for this community and I was invited to join them for prayer before eating and talking together. I simply shared my story and how it relates to new monasticism along with my dreams for the community I am involved in birthing on the peninsula. 

I spoke for some of the evening beefed we had a bit of a Q and A thing ….. You can hear what I said on their website here

Living for Today

Affirmation5Below is a copy of the homily I gave at Holy Trinity on Sunday evening. Hopefully we will sort audio and podcasting of these soon from the Holy Trinity website.
This has also been copied to the discussion area of the HT website for questions and discussion …. why not go there and have your say …

The bible reading for the day was Luke 4 : 14-21:

14 Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. 15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

I have an issue with how I live my life.
A life where, if I am totally honest with you, I find it hard to focus on the task in hand ….. my mind always shoots ahead.
What will happen next week? where will I be in 5 years? 10 years?
Will I still be in Greenwich?

Will I be at a cathedral again …. and what about being famous in the future….. well maybe not being famous … but being known. Known for doing something good … then maybe the Bishop will reward me! Maybe if I do something good that  he will guarantee my post beyond the 3 years it has … the 2 years and 7 months I have left here what should i do….

What will my children be doing?
Where will I live? who will be my friends ….
Sometimes I think so far in the future I confuse myself and forget where I am.
I wake up with a start in meetings ….. and I’d like to say I’ve disguised it well ….. but I think people notice …. it’s in the stare!

As much as I revel in this …. I don’t actually like this side of my character …. but there seems to be nothing I can do about it!
I can limit it, I can ration it ….. but I always always …. always look for what is next!

It does not mean I am unhappy with where I am or what I am doing …. its just that I think I am always looking for what is next, for the next place to be, the next exciting thing to be involved in. It’s just how my brain works!

What frustrates me too is that I know where this behaviour comes from.
Which makes me so much more want to be able to stop being like this.
It comes from living with a mother that never allowed us to enjoy what we had
If we had toys out we were immediately told about tidying away and warned not to make a mess.

I grew up in weymouth, a seaside town …. a seaside town has sand.
I was not allowed to bring sand into the house … in any way, shape or form. So i spent hours on the beach thinking through strategies of how i would de-sand myself on the way home. This involved bizarre stuff like hanging upside down from trees, running against the wind, and other things I won’t mention

But of course I couldn’t get rid of the sand. Sand hides ….. it’s like it sticks in unknown places waiting to get you in trouble! Sand would always follow me home …. into every room, every space, every lightly treaded footprint!

Always thinking about what I was to do next.
Scared to enjoy too much what I happened to be doing through fear of what was around the corner

And as an adult
I can still think that way
Still think what horror or delight is around the corner
Struggle to live naturally in the moment
Struggle to enjoy what is happening right here and now
Unable to enjoy the moment
Incapable of fully enjoying today.

And yet today is where it is at
Today is the first teaching word that Christ utters in the bible

Jesus reads these words from Isaiah which announces both a fulfilment of prophecy and what Jesus is all about. These words come from Is 61, a servant song. If we take this literally the passage says Christ is God’s servant who brings into reality the longing and the hope of the poor, the oppressed and the imprisoned.

You see for people like me who live in the future …. or for others who live in the past …. we live in danger of totally missing the present … the now! We become oppressed and imprisoned to what went before or to what might be in the future. Our life is impoverished, small, and empty. We are absent to God, others, and even our selves. We are unavailable to those we love, to the needs of the world, and to the fullness of life that God offers.

Thats no way to live. Because Jesus offers us freedom …. a freedom to be ourselves, to be fully alive, the freedom to be fully christlike. That can only happen in the here and now … today!

We all come with different stuff that means we are the oppressed or the poor or the imprisoned. In the midst of these circumstances, when life gets really difficult, it is easy and tempting to run away, to get stuck in the past, or fixate on the future. Yet, Jesus comes to us today, here, now.  He is not lost in our past or hidden in an unknown future. The only place we can meet Jesus is today, in this present moment, in whatever the circumstances of our life might be.

So … today, the age of God’s reign is here

Today we are church
today we are where God intended
today we are making a difference with God
today we are anointed
to hear the gospel
to have our brokenness healed
and to be set free to be ourselves.

Today ’s good news is that we are able to receive Jesus