exploring the hidden spaces

I had an empty day yesterday …. a day of space with nothing planned … so I took the opportunity to go for a meander around the Tate Britain, specifically going to see the Rachel Whiteread exhibition.

Stunning was an understatement …. this exhibition is just beautiful and I will return a few times before it closes …. if  anyone would like to join me sometime that would be cool (a perk of the membership!)

Rachel Whietread is probably most famous for the cast of a Victorian house in 1993/4 …. which you can watch in this you tube documentary here:


The ‘blurb’ from the Tate brochure says:

Her sculptures are made using the technique of casting with materials such as rubber, resin, concrete and metals. Unlike traditional cast sculpture, which is intended to replicate objects, Whiteread’s works instead cast the space inside or around everyday forms.

I’ve always loved the concept and I have wanted to see her work for a few years. I was definitely not disappointed and fell in love with a few space sculptures …. particularly  the stairs (my pic above) and one hundred spaces.

For me, there is something profound and inviting in exploring the underside, the hidden side, the space around rather than the object itself. Through investigating the hidden side, Whiteread has revealed a beauty and uniqueness that we would never otherwise notice, that we would never otherwise experience, and so our perception of that image would be forever lacking something quite integral and profound. The scary thought though, I believe, is that it is possible to believe we have a full image while being totally unaware of the hidden.

I think the innovation of looking underneath, behind, below, above and around is vitally key to my pioneering and how I seek to engage with others. Finding and exploring those hidden spaces off the beaten track, or down the dark alleys of cities has often meant I have stumbled on scenes of unexpected beauty. It has always, without doubt, been in the ‘hidden’ spaces which I have searched out that I have had some of the most profound and humbling experiences with amazing, often hidden, people. Amazing awesome people who have been told and treated in ways that make them feel unworthy and useless.

As I continue my journey, which of recent time has been bloody painful on a number of different levels, I will continue to explore the hidden in full expectation of continuing to be surprised by what I find.

On the flip side of that … I guess there is a question in how much do we compact into our personal hidden paces, how much have we been led to believe that our hidden stuff is unacceptable and only fit for hiding. I suspect we all have a fair share of that …. I look forward to the day that maybe mine will be found and transformed!

To return to the start of the post … if you get a chance, go see the Whiteread exhibition … did  I say it was stunning and all about exploring spaces …. yes? …. well go look!





through the darkness …

2017-09-03_header1Beautiful words here to sum up the Richard Rohr weekly meditations of last week; particularly
‘Through darkness and doubt often come the greatest creativity and faith.’

Go read … and subscribe!

courage and vulnerability

life_s_journey_by_annakoutsidou-d6f3c0zI have written about Richard Rohr’s thoughts for the day in the past …. and no doubt I will again in the future. This past week Rohr has been talking about ‘Entering the Dark Wood’ and the need for pain and suffering to help us into the second parts of our lives. It is through pain and suffering, suggest Rohr, that we find ourselves, dismiss false gods and discover more of who God is.

Some quotes from the week that I have particularly resonated with:

It is only by a foundational trust in the midst of suffering, some ability to bear darkness and uncertainty, and learning to be comfortable with paradox and mystery, that you move from the first half of life to the second half.

A need to have everything explained and tightly boxed ties us in knots … being able to accept mystery, being unaware of the outcome, and knowing mystery is … well … mystery helps us to move on in our life journeys.

On Wednesday, a lot resonated, particularly with where I find myself at the moment …

To allow and fully experience the darkness is an immense act of courage (from cor-agere, “an act of the heart”). Our natural instinct is to pull back from others, to move into a self-chosen exile. But when we are cut off or alienated from others, wounds are exacerbated rather than healed.

In the darkness, it’s hard to feel courageous. We resist love. “I will prove that I’m unworthy. I will not let you get to me.” Yet we must turn toward the very people we are pushing away, those who love us and who see meaning in our life when we can’t. It sounds naïve and simplistic, but love is the greatest healer.

In the darkness, we usually look for someone to blame, to absolve ourselves from the problem. I think we’ve been led into a period of exile again, both as a culture and as a Church, as evidenced by increased hostility and blame of the “other.”

These words hit me with full force again tonight as I loo over the last few weeks and months in particular.
I believe that myself, and many others, conditioned by our upbringing and reinforced by a culture of today that tells us that we are the only ones that can help ourselves, tend to  hide away and find it hard to accept that love, particularly love from another, can be the greatest healer. But, instead, we chose exile.

I guess there is something here about making oneself vulnerable. (If you have not heard the Brene Brown vulnerability stuff get yourself over to Ted Talks and listen!) Although many of us understand vulnerability is key … it has been pretty central to most of my ministry … when it comes to our personal lives, sometimes that vulnerability can be incredibly scary to accept and sit with. That vulnerability can cause us to be hurt, puts us at risk of being abandoned, and opens us to being shattered by the acts of another person. No one wants that. Yet everyone needs that … not the shattering … but the vulnerability and the realisation that if it is accompanied with love it can be life changing.

If we could learn to accept that, personally, socially and globally … maybe …. just maybe … our lives, our society and our world would be better places to live in.

I’ll be honest tho …. I’m not there just yet …. so I’m off back to my cave to mull this stuff over …. stuff of a new life … the second part of life … the bit where we really live, really come alive, really rejoice! I’m close …. I’m walking in the right direction ….. slowly … but the right direction none the less …. I hope I arrive soon … or not too late at least!

he left good footprints

DSCF1030People have asked me to write some thoughts, and share some of what I am experiencing … in the hope that maybe this helps either now or in the future
… because in my experience … this is a pretty normal reaction
So I have shared some of what I am feeling in the first part of this overdue post …. and then shared something of my words from the funeral …..

On the 11th August my world changed.
I did not realise how much until a couple of days ago.

On that day I received a call to tell me that my younger brother, Steve, died in accident.
I crumbled,
tears flowed
I became vacant
more tears flowed
with a massive feeling of emptiness.
The shock was virtually instant,
more tears flowed
accompanied with a sense of numbness,
of disbelief,
of feeling this was not really happening.
No matter where I was,
or who I was with,
no matter how important they were to me …
I was not there
I was somewhere else
Rob had left the building
A place that I don’t even know where it is!
I’m not sure I wish to find it again
Just I was not here.

Steve and I had become very close over the last few years
We had laughed a lot, and cried a lot together as well
I miss him so much
I did not realise how much I loved him
And how much this was going to hurt

The feelings of grief have not really hit until the last few days
This is because I had to sort things like banks, credit cards etc
As well as plan the funeral with Tanya and Mum …
I was determined to take the funeral and speak myself
I knew it would be hard
I knew it would tear me in two … and it has …. but I am rebuilding … and it’s why it has taken me 5 days to be able to share anything
But I also knew I needed to do this because I knew what sort of funeral he would have wanted, and I could say things that other vicars would not be able to say ..

In my intro I declared:
‘Steve … Son to my mum Jackie; very incredibly proud dad to Peter, Loving caring ‘the rock’ partner to Tanya, friend to many of you here today … and my little brother…. I think we can all agree …. he was amazing … but ever so slightly Steve was a bit of a wanker!’
People laughed and cried in equal measure …. because he was …. and that was why we loved him so flipping much!

During the service  I read John 14:1-4 … the bit where Jesus says that he prepares a place for us. I added in my talk that I don’t think Jesus gives a toss what we believe … he prepares that place regardless …. I said that because I believe that is the reality of a God of love, and a reality for all of us.

It’s impossible to talk about Steve without remembering his quick witted humour … so I shared a joke of his … ‘A favourite being in the Oak Quiz night. It’s my favourite because basically my sense of humour froze at the 14 year old boy level. So did Steve’s! The quiz question was … ‘Which country does the airline Cathay Pacific now fly for?’ Milliseconds after the answer came of of ‘For China’ … Steve shouted ‘For China?’ over and over again!’ …. if you don’t actually get that … then just say it a few times  aloud to yourself!

Most of all I love words that a new and great friend, Rhos, shared …. ‘Wherever Steve went he left good footprints’

I love that thought, agree with it with all my heart …. and so wish my brother was still making those footprints in this world.

RIP Steve … you silly bugger …. love and miss you loads!

a special love …

20429624_10154784638772543_5760356242749648249_nYesterday was a special day.
I day when I saw these two beautiful people commit their lives to each other.
It was a very special moment and I don’t think I have been to a wedding ever before where there were tears, good tears, from every speech.
I think looking around the tables many others had tears of joy as well.
As ‘Uncle Rob’ I feel an incredible sense of pride to have been able to see how my eldest neice has grown in to the amazing woman that she is.
I have no right, have done nothing to deserve that feeling, but feel it just the same.

I do not really know Esgrid but his devotion to his new wife, and his sense of loyalty and love to his new family was very obvious. It was, again, something quite special to see and experience.

It’s clear these two have something special.
Something very special that is to be cherished and nurtured.
Rachel and Esgrid …. I pray that God continues to bless you both, to reassure you both, and that you will always be conscious of God walking and encouraging and loving and accepting you both.

We were asked to write blessings or comments and place them in that lovely red letterbox. I had something but failed to bring it with me … so I include this blessing here from John O’Donohue’s Book of Blessings

As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
May you bring each other’s hearts to birth.

As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
May you love the gaze of each other’s mind.

As the wind arises free and wild,
May nothing negative control your lives.

As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
So gentle may you be when light grows scarce.

As surprised as the silence that music opens,
May your words for each other be touched with reverence.

As warmly as the air draws in the light,
May you welcome each other’s every gift.

As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
May sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.

As twilight harvests all the day’s colour,
May love bring you home to each other.

Bless you both
Uncle R

Disturb our control (gpcu ongoing)

man lookingA little while ago we had our PCC Awayday and welcomed Laurence Gamlen as our facilitator.

We looked at the challenges of each part of the parish and presented in much a similar way the we did at Deanery Synod last week. At the away day, however, I got people to dance to an ever changing tune, rather than eat different flavoured skittles, to illustrate that our community keeps changing.

Towards the end of the day, Laurence reflected and questioned whether we needed God to ‘disturb our control’.

I have reflected on that for a while … asking that ever necessary question of
‘Am I allowing God to be God here and lead me or am I trying to force things of my own ideas’.
‘Am I giving God enough space to influence my thinking … and am I listening to God or merely playing lip service?’
‘Am I trying to control this or am I letting this develop freely and organically?’
I think they are healthy questions for all in any form of ministry  to be asking and reflecting on regularly.
Very regularly.

If I am trying to control I certainly want God to come and disturb that.
While reflecting I have re-discovered this prayer attributed to Francis Drake …. I’ve blogged about it before, but it seems appropriate to remind myself again ….

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Lord ….
prevent me from sailing too close to the shore ….
to push into your future with strength,
and hope.

new chapter for Charlton

IMG_1828I love new chapters.
I find it a real privilege to be somewhere where there is real joy and sense of anticipation.
It’s amazing to share with others in worship who are excited about their future.
Last night was one of those nights as Liz was instituted and inducted as the new Rector of Charlton.

Charlton is the next door parish to East Greenwich which is the Team Ministry that HTGP is part of. Last night was great to be part of and speaking to people of the parish afterwards they are clearly very pleased and excited as to the potential of what may happen in the future.  I can understand that as I have met Liz a few times in my two years here. She has always been fun to talk with and very clearly a naturally encouraging and caring person with a real concern for people …. so I can understand their delight of having Liz as their Rector..

Archdeacon Alastair spoke well and gave a good reminder to Liz … and all of us … being that the work cannot be done on our own … that the work is God’s work and we must refrain from attempting to do stuff in our own strength but follow God and involve others. So true!

So … welcome Liz … we will continue to pray and look forward in excitement with you to see how the future rolls out!

If you live in the area … maybe you should check out St Luke’s out St Thomas‘ … or both!