mind body spirit at Olympia

IMG_0009Over the last few days I have been part of the Dekhomai team once again at this years MBS festival held at Kensington Olympia. Here I have been involved in Ruach Cards, the Jesus Deck, praying for the healing of people and generally being a listening ear.

It was great to be part of such a great team of like minded and creative, caring people once again and a real privilege to spend time with the people visiting the mbs fair. I have, once again, as I am every year, overwhelmed by the things that people are carrying and desperately want to share. Over these last few days I have been moved to tears by stuff that people have openly and courageously shared with me. I could share here anonymously, but that in some way feels like I would be betraying their trust.

This years event was again a great mix of spiritualities, mindfulness and lifestyle practices.

Some observations I noticed from this year:
There seemed to be more men around who were genuinely searching. In the past there have been men who were ‘tagging along’ with partners. That seemed less this year.
People seem to be searching more for meaning and have a deep seated need to be listened to. The issues people were sharing were incredibly deep painful stuff … in the past we have had this but this year I noticed a massive increase.

I want to post here a thank you … to the team who welcomed each other in once again … and for the people who invited me into their lives for a little while … for both I will continue to pray.

Thank you.

 

homes .. not halls

the-word-homeI have been struck in the news recently by a lot of discussion around how we support refugees and others that are homeless and need support. There has been a good response from churches who have been talking about making use of empty church buildings or empty church houses or even halls and stuff like that. While that is a positive response I am not sure it is the correct or best response.

I will try to explain my thinking with a hypothetical situation. Take, say a family from a war torn country arriving here in need of shelter. We are aware of an empty house in one of our towns and we house them there. They know no one. They are in a new land. They are trumatised. They are in a new country with new customs, new rules, a new language. I wonder if this approach results in a continuation of a feeling of isolation. It is definitely a step in the right direction … but is there more we can do … is there more that God might require of us?

I believe people seeking shelter need more than just a building …. all of us need connection with the rest of humanity, all need to know they are accepted, loved, cared for … wanted even to add to the community we find themselves in . Living alone, where you know no one, can simply generate isolation and feelings of rejection, no matter how best the intentions.

Maybe, instead of our halls, we need to be offering our homes?
Maybe, instead of placing people into our empty sanitised buildings, we need to invite people into our messy cultural rich loving homes.
Maybe we need to open our family life and invite others into it.
Maybe ‘finding somewhere’ is easier than ‘inviting in.’
Finding empty buildings for people may be an easier option … inviting a family to live with you, and learn about culture and community with you, to eat together and learn together is a much harder thing to do.
Inviting people in, though,  gives a more solid footing to growing in community … it is just that for many of us it is so hard to do.
I include myself in that …. but it does not stop the niggling feeling that we should be doing more.

What does this mean for me? I don’t know!
What about for our church HT on the Peninsula … again I don’t know!
What do you think … any comments on this … am I way off the wall in this thinking?
Homes or halls?

 

agapai

IMG_0008Agapai is the name we have chosen for our Wednesday evening get together. It is a word that is used to describe the meals and get togethers of the early church and so it seemed a fitting name.
I spoke of the changes we had made to how we worship here a few months ago. Last week we reviewed those changes and asked how we felt things were going. We also asked what we thought was good, what was frustrating and what was lacking.

Out of that process came the thought that Agapai had started to lack in its purpose. We started to meet to talk about the kind of church we wanted to be but with just a few people this became quite a draining experience and described as ‘just like work’. We made a decision that instead of talking about various formats that, instead we would be it. This resulted in last night’s Agapai having more of a purpose.

As always we met to eat. As we ate we answered two questions:
‘What has God been doing this week?’ and
‘What do you need prayer for?’
We then prayed together before simply sharing bread and wine.
On occasions we might add some kind of brief ‘thought’ into this mix.

As the evening drew to a close I reflected and had a great sense of us now starting something different on the peninsula. We have started a place to share our stories, to eat, to pray and break bread together …. that in itself is a pretty good start I think.

So …. if you live on or near the Peninsula and you are looking to join a small fledgling Christian community that is seeking to grow and be a positive influence …. then why not pay us a visit …. all are welcome!
(more details on the HT website)

Today I ate a £5 note!

5-pound-note-series-e-2002-frontWell … ok …. I chewed up half a £5 note …. and it was yesterday!

One of the fun things I get to do as a team vicar / chaplain is lead Collective Worship (assembly to those of us from my era!) in each of the three schools in the Koinonia Federation. Yesterday was one of those CW days and the theme for this term is ‘Love’ with John 3:16 as the central verse.

I wondered what to speak about and then decided to adapt something I saw someone else do using a £5. First I asked the children who or what they loved. Then I asked what love was …. a Y2 girl answered ‘being there for someone you care about no matter what’

I thought that was a pretty cool definition of love.

I then took a nice £5 note out of my pocket and asked if anyone would like it.
Obviously all hands went up. I then ripped it in half (to gasps of shock!), screwed it up, danced on it, and finally chewed it up in my mouth (yes!!! my flipping mouth after it had been on the school hall floor!!!) to sounds of ‘eeewwww’
I then asked if anyone still wanted the £5 note. Most still did.One child got the £5 to take home … when I asked why he wanted it he said ‘well, it’s still a £5’

The more I talk to people, the more I seem to be seeing and hearing that this image of a loving God, a God that sent a son because he loved the whole of creation (humanity as well!) to save them, is being lost. The image of a ‘loving you no matter what’ God seems to be being replaced by an autocratic, rules based, angry demanding God.

That is not a god of good news.
That is a god of fear.
That is a god of oppression and hate.
Following a god like that unsurprisingly results in a ‘faith’ like this. I can’t bear to have such a sickening picture on my blog …. a faith of hate is not a faith rooted in a God of love.

So … today … in this first blog for a while … I want to leave a message that I left the school with yesterday …. God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
That means God loves you and is committed to you no matter what ….
if you feel that you have been treated badly,
or you feel worthless
or you feel like you have been ripped in half
or screwed up
or chewed up and spat out;
if you feel any or all of these things,
God loves you.
Because
at the end of the day
(like that £5 note was still a £5 note)
you are still the person that God created
you are still that person that God loves
and nothing can change that.
Nothing at all.
Amen.

mission reflection

Photo Friday: ArchitectureThere are few things that will cause me to cut into a ‘break’ or a ‘holiday’ …. but talking about, reflecting upon and asking why and how we do mission in our setting is one of those ‘few things’.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to take part in the first Woolwich Area Catholic Anglican Missiology Symposium which was pulled together by Ian Mobsby in his role as Mission Enabler in our part of the diocese. I was not just pleased to be asked, but also excited that the diocese is putting time into this. Bishop Michael gave a good introduction on the purpose of the group and being present was inspiring.

We heard two great papers from Steve and Gareth which raises a mound of questions both within the room and, for me personally in my current setting of the Greenwich Peninsula. It raised questions of the theology of practice and , interestingly, we chatted pneumatology in our various settings. There was debate as to whether the catholic tradition had an inadequate theology here. I am not sure i agree with that statement, but it has caused to ponder that a I serve the Peninsula.

Steve and Garth’s papers can be heard here …. definitely worth listening to.

ashes and beer!

From the AshesIt’s been a pretty busy time … a few things to update and for me to reflect on.

So we arrived at the bus stops at 730am on Ash Wednesday. We were both robed. I was a little nervous. We positioned ourselves, with our small containers of ashes and a handful of our postcards which had a lent prayer and explanation attached to them, at each of the bus stops opposite each other and waited.

We did not have to wait long until we were engaged in conversation with a variety of people. Some asked about the ‘fancy dress’ while others told us simply that they knew it was Ash Wednesday and, ‘yes please …. could you ash me and pray for me’.

In all we gave ashes to just over 30 people in the hour we were there. People seemed encouraged and blessed by our presence; even people who did not wish to receive ashes or a postcard commented that they liked to see ‘the church’ out with the people. Lots of people did not wish to engage and avoided any eye contact and it was very right to respect their dignity and give space, but many also wanted to engage and ether connect or reconnect in some simple way with God, their Creator.

Wednesday morning was encouraging.
Then came Wednesday evening.

For a large part of the previous week I had posted a message asking anyone that was interested in birthing a new church on the Greenwich Peninsula to meet me at the local pub on Wednesday evening. I even blogged it here. After much prayer I felt this was right to ‘put out there’ and was convinced that, through this, I would find the first of the new people that would join us to create church here.

I arrived very confidently at 7:55pm.
I waited.
I waited more.
It seemed I waited an age so I looked at my watch and saw it was only 8:15pm.
I laughed at myself.
8:15 became 9, and 9 became 10.
No one came. No one showed up.
The good beer could only be a scuffed and scratched, rather than silver, lining on the evening.

Whenever you plan or hope to meet with people and they do not show it is hard to take. I was convinced I would meet one key person that evening … and yet the reality was I felt pretty invisible and anonymous in the pub. A few weird looks at the start (obvs I was in dog collar!) dissolved into nothingness. Even in Rochester I was sworn at or the butt of jokes ….. but here … nothing!

It felt harsh.
I wondered if I had got everything wrong.
I questioned whether what I am trying to do here is even possible.
I then I heard a memory …. a memory about presence and being present.

I had to acknowledge that I believe I have been called here by God to work with the people that are here to create something. But …. over and above that calling, God asks me to be present here. Properly present, present and available. We were present and available in the morning and people were encouraged …. I was present and available in the evening and seemingly people didn’t notice …. but it is immaterial …. it changes nothing …. present and available is what I am called to be  ….. and present and available is what I will continue to choose to be.

So I go out today …. not too sure where … but wherever …. present and available is what I will be.

 

wanna help birth a church?

I am looking for people who are interested in birthing and developing some new form of church on the Greenwich Peninsula.
Might that be you?
If so I am going to be in The Pilot Inn tonight from 8.00pm.
Although we have a dream what the values are we have a blank canvas as to what that will look like …. sound exciting? …. intrigued …. come talk if this grabs you!