Guest lists and Pilgrims

At 18:01 this evening we thought about what hospitality is and how we practice that in a  21st century London setting (podcast here11111). I kind of felt that Jesus was suggesting that the guest list is far more important than any menu. During our discussion we wondered if the reading for tonight (Luke 14:7-14) was wider than hospitality and encompassed more of ensuring that people felt accepted and valued in a way that showed that we saw and acknowledged their value. The discussion was a good one and I think we went away inspired to make a bot of a difference in our immediate spheres of influence.

Tonight was even ore special, though, as we prayed for Barbara who temporarily leaves us for three months as she fulfils a lifelong ambition and does a bit of a world travel, visiting 10 countries and only staying in one place for around three days.

You can keep up to date with Barbara’s experiences by visiting her blog here. I’m really looking forward to reading something of her experiences.

As part of our service tonight we gathered around Barbara and prayed a blessing. we used and adapted ‘For the Traveller’ by John O’Donohue which I found in A Book of Blessings – well worth purchasing!

To send Barbara off we used these word tonight:

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

 

Go well Barbara, we look forward to welcoming you back in December!

shared stories

img_0503-1Tonight was the first Agapai for a couple of weeks.
We saw 4 people  and we shared what God was doing, prayed together, ate together and finished by sharing bread and wine together with some simple words.

I enjoy meeting, listening and eating.
There is very little planning (other than the menu!) involved
It seems such a natural thing for friends and community to do together.
I mean … we all have to eat right?  … so why not get together with friends and eat and pray together.

We have a core group of around 4 for Agapai.
I hope this grows over this next few months.
I pray that new people, those seeking community, will join us to share their stories and to pray and eat.

Tonight we shared a variety of stories, and fears, and hopes … and we prayed together before sharing bread and wine.
I felt it was a privilege to be involved tonight.
See you next week maybe?

Released!?

antigua sun_edited-1On Sunday at 18:01 I spoke about the woman was released from being crippled from Luke 13 … twice! Once in the morning at Christ Church East Greenwich and then again in the evening at 18:01 at HTGP. Due to holidays and time off I had written my homily/talk/sermon before going away as I was returning to the parish the day before speaking.

I always challenge myself when speaking to find something new, some new approach to what I have read in the Gospel text. I was approaching the story this time from a viewpoint of staring at feet as symbolic of being self obsessed. A problem with writing so far in advance is that inevitably stuff happens in the world which can’t be ignored. While I stuck to plan with the CC congregation in the morning with the HTGP ‘crowd’, the people I have got to know better, I could not ignore the worlds news.

I had prepared a talk on the crippled woman. How being so bent over she had become in her own world, bemused by what was happening around her. I had planned to speak about how she never even noticed Jesus but was released by him. I had wanted to ask what we are being bent double by, I was wanting to ask what is it that causes us to stare at our feet  and be so self absorbed in our own world that we don’t notice or take it what is going on around us.

I was planning to ask those questions until my various screens were filled with the image of Omran Dagneesh. The image of innocence and bewilderment caused me to cry. The image of a child silent amid screaming mayhem erupting all around him filled me with such sadness, but with a sadness that cried out ‘we must stop this!’

Syria has been in the news a long time and I am shamed to say that I had become desensitised to the news. While people are being bombed each day and the image of Omran is a daily occurrence for people there … we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of switching channels and forgetting.

On Sunday I had to speak about Omran Dagneesh. I had to ask the question of what we, as HTGP, could do. We all agreed that we cannot just stand by and do nothing any longer.

On Sunday evening I guess I went back to a more ‘trad’ interpretation of the gospel story. The woman, like Omran, was totally bemused. The woman, like Omran, was crippled and in pain from a reaction to her environment. The woman, like Omran, was broken, trapped and needing lifting out of that situation.

But … the woman, unlike Omran, was released by Christ.

I don’t know what we as HTGP can do. Loads of charities want money. WE can easily write a cheque but that does not seem enough. I don’t want to write a cheque (though I have) because I want to do something that costs me. It is quite easy to send money and feel our job is done.

We have contacted a few charities working in the area to see how we can support. We are waiting to see how that might pan out. If anyone has suggestions or links please let us know. What we do know, though, is that as Christ’s hands and feet … an interpretation of the gospel story for us is that we need to attempt to be like Jesus and help to release those who need releasing.

it’s been a year!

IMG_2293I have now been here a year …. here being  …. Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula
I am a third of the way through my contract …. I have no idea if funding will be available at the end of the 3 years  …. the area is a total nightmare to link with people …. sometimes I think people don’t even want us here ….particularly those that have a bad image of (maybe poor) models of church … (horrible unchristian stuff like this masquerading as genuine Christianity does not help!)  but ….. BUT …. it seems that God does want us here .. at least for he moment!

Working in a place like this is hard. People hide behind intercoms and security gates …70% of people are on 6 to 12 month rental contracts so turnover is high …. this may mean some don’t wish to start to put roots or add to community as they see their presence as transitory ….  but all need to know that God is with them. We are not there yet in how we show this, maybe not even close, but there will be a way! I believe there is a real need to crack this! And by crack this … I mean to show that ‘church’ is something that can be helpful, that can help people and community grow, that can bless people in their everyday lives …. I’m not talking about trying to convert or coerce people …. but rather develop a church that can and does make a difference and is seen as a real positive, wanted  and wholesome part of local community.  

I have no idea what is going to happen this year …. but I have returned with some new ideas of ways forward. We will try them and see what happens. I will continue to be a presence, but we will continue, also, to seek ways that we can make a difference both in our local community and maybe further afield.

When I moved here a year ago I said I was looking for people to birth and grow a new way of being church with me. Some of those people have appeared .. but I believe there are others I have not met yet … so if you are reading this and think ‘maybe’ or if you know anyone in the Greenwich area … put us in touch!

 

angry …

anger_by_liza23q-d7ejepxI have not blogged for a while … and not really said much publicly about Thursdays elections.

It seems argument after argument is still coming on social media. I, along with many others, was indirectly told to stop posting stuff in a generic ‘stop whinging’ type post and grow up … only to then receive in my news feed from the same ‘stop whinging’ people post after post of silly stuff like ‘if England lose the match on Monday night can we play again if we don’t like the result’.

So remainers are not allowed to whinge, but outers can post ridiculing posts. Why draw attention to this … ?
Someone recently, well on the actual morning of the vote result, reminded me that I am a priest and that I needed to be about reconciliation. I also had scripture quoted at me but no response when I gave counter scripture showing ‘anger’ was ok, particularly righteous anger.

I do believe the country needs reconciliation … and I do believe as a priest I should help that in my community … but at the moment I can not.
At the moment I am still angry …. not at those who voted out because we are in a  democracy and we all have a  right to opinion and are free to vote as we choose.
I am angry over how people are being treated.

On Friday I spoke to three dear friends who were crying over the vote. Crying because  this vote has dramatically changed their lives.
I am angry because I know of teachers who have had to comfort children in their classes who have heard that they are no longer welcome here in the UK.
I am angry over how the vote has been an excuse to gang up on individuals who are trying to cause change for the better.
I am angry over the countless stories of violence towards people in this country since the vote outlined here.
I am angry because decent humans who felt this was their home last week now feel homeless, unwanted and scared.
I am angry … and that is ok for the time being!
Please stop telling me to be involved in reconciliation … that will come … but first …something more needs to happen.

Before reconciliation these things, the divisions we have tried to ignore, our opinions …. everything we value about our lives and how we live together as decent human beings needs to be talked about. Things need to be expressed and heard.

I could ramble but my now retired Suffragen Bishop (when I was in Rochester Diocese) , Bishop Brian, writes so much better here …. a great article from an amazing man and one that we should read and take to heart of we really want to move forward.

Trinity Language

Last night Holy Trinty celebrated their Patronal Festival. I was encouraged as there was a good turn out staying in double figures and we had some visitors. After sharing words, stories and Eucharist we celebrated with cake and champagne. I enjoyed the opportunity, as well, to hear someone else’s take on The Trinity and Alistair did a good job of getting us to think about relationship rather than explanations. I also thought I need to get more people to give the homily (but that’s a mother subject).

I had some difficulty writing and preparing liturgy for last nights service. Essentially I have ensured with stuff I write that I use inclusive language. I understand how either ‘Father’ and ‘Mother’ are not always easy terms for helping people connect with God. For some, like myself, neither label is great as both are quite empty ‘labels’ for me.

For some while I have related to the labels of Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer or Companion. People in gatherings and communities that I have been involved in also seem to relate well to this sort of language.

But in my preparation for last nights service I suddenly started to have a hassle with this.

While contemplating the subject for the service I was hit quite massively by a feeling that however we describe ‘The Trinity’ is, the Trinity screams of relationship. Not just relationship but a mutually giving and receiving relationship. As I followed this thinking I became aware that whereas Father, Son, Spirit talks of relationship, my prefered descriptions of Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer talk of role. I am not sure but I think that takes something away from our understanding. Trinity is about mutually giving, receiving and accepting relationship … But I feel a great lack in being able to express that in a helpful and meaningful way.

As I wrote words for us to say I tried parent, mother/father, begetter, pro creator … But all sounded hollow, false and just too clunky. Finally I followed a traditional route of Father, Son, Spirit and although not entirely happy (particularly as father for myself equates to an overriding double rejection) as I am not sure that is the best we can offer in helping people reconnect with their Creator.

I wonder … Is anyone out there tussling with this at the moment? Any ideas, pointers or suggestions?

5000 answer to prayer!

icon_christ_loaves2We just had a good, no exciting (!) DCC meeting. I never thought I would ever anywhere write that sentence in my life …. but there you go, I have. My DCC are a great bunch of people … they must be because they put up with me!

Tonight I changed the agenda around a bit … we spent the first part of the meeting looking in our bibles and searching for a story that we felt we could identify with as a church now, and why we felt that story was important to us. The idea came from Holy Conversations which I am currently reading.

A number of stories ‘appeared’ which we spoke about. There was Esther, the Exodus, The woman at the well, Daniel, the road to Emmaus, Ezekial, Love your neighbour …. but none of these seemed to resonate with everyone. Until, that is, someone suggested the feeding of the 5000.

When this story was shared I saw the DCC members change … body language changed, there was enthusiasm, people talked of how it seemed to link with us … the disciples had very limited resources but thousands to feed …. just like us trying to reach the thousands of people here when there is only 12 of us. The disciples brought what they had on that day and Jesus took it and multiplied it so they had more than enough …. this is our prayer on the peninsula; that through our little gifts and ability God will do amazing things. Other questions and parallels came…. so it seems we have a story which we can relate to at the moment, at this point in time.

Over the next few weeks we are going to look into this story, study it, think or dwell on it when we can and talk about it lots when we gather. It is my prayer that through this story we will learn more about us as church and our purpose.