a great day

DSC_0415I love days like today ….
a long day ….
full of a variety of things
where I am doing a lot of the  stuff I feel I am ok at and that energise me
rather than those draining things that no one likes to do …

The day started in school as I chatted to parents about baptism while on ‘gate duty’.
After having a cup of tea with a member of staff, I rushed off to our secondary school to take the Harvest service …
Did this little trick as part of my talk from my friends at Mission Magic:

It seemed some of the staff and students were pretty impressed as I had a lot of good feedback … and it was fun with a great Harvest message … bonus!

I then rushed to another school to have chat with a member of staff as well as do some self esteem work with a pupil …. before then popping home to prepare food for tonight’s Agapai.

As I knew we had new people coming tonight to Agapai I played safe and produced a vegetarian dish and sorted some stuff in the bread maker … and then I made it back to the secondary school for the prospective Year 7 Open Evening. Here I had some great conversations with current students, staff and prospective new parents.

Finally I got home after 7 in time to finish the meal for tonight Agapai and take the bread out of the bread maker! Tonight we had a great chat, we shared a little of our stories and passions … we had new people … and we ended by praying for each other before sharing some bread and wine with a few of the words from the Northumbria Community’s Eucharist liturgy.

I feel so flipping energised!
The day has flown by ….
… but I feel I have done some of the stuff I was created to do today
So today is a good day
Not perfect … as some things and some people are missing …
but a good day …. and tonight … I am content with that.

Tonight I will be finishing my day with tonight’s Northumbria Community Compline:

The peace of God
be over me to shelter me,
under me to uphold me,
about me to protect me,
behind me to direct me,
ever with me to save me.
Amen 

 

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vulnerability again!

logo2A little while ago I was persuaded by my good friend Anna to join Sion College … who have a strap line of ‘supporting the education and fellowship of church of England clergy in London’.

Each month Sion College hosts seminar suppers amongst other things. I really enjoy the chance to meet new people, and old friends, and engage with some great thinkers and practitioners…. and eat good food and drink wine!

At the last Sion Supper, we listened to Hilary Ison speak on ‘Priesthood and Leadership’ and I found myself, once again, resonating with a lot of what was said.

I found myself sitting up and tuning in quite intently (despite the abundance of red wine) when Hilary said ‘priesthood is about the quality of presence’. I love that phrase,

Quality of Presence

and it sums up what I wish to do and be as a priest …. to be present …. really present …. really and fully present to those that I meet with and come across. I believe wholeheartedly that great quality of presence, where you have time for one person, and totally devote that time to being with them, to showing them they are worth your time and, even more, communicating through that presence that you are actually wanting to be with them, not just being there because you have nowhere else to be. Sometimes I have got that so wrong … and I have learnt the hard way that when that happens massive genuine regret doesn’t cut it! Sometimes quality of presence with strangers seems to be a lot easier than quality of presence with people that really matter on a personal level to me. I wish I could do so much better on that.Unknown

Hilary went on to say that we needed to have the confidence to reclaim the priestly role of being present with both God and people which inevitably needs a massive level of vulnerability.

There comes that word again!
It seems I cannot get away from it.
May I refer you again to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability

She went further to say that when working with others, leaders of presence needed to be confident in their wait … in holding ‘negative anxiety’ (which occurs when things are taking a while to happen) … the vulnerable bit coming in the holding of that anxiety (both personal and communal) as they wait for God to act and for vision to emerge.

Sometimes that can be hard when the pressure is on to deliver results, or increased numbers or maybe even to do something very different …. but as painful as it is …. bearing that vulnerability of presence when needing to balance tensions of anxiety and waiting for God to reveal a plan is really the only thing to do. Maybe that can be easier to do when we remember that church is family and community, rather than business with business ways of working.

But …
the vulnerability if that waiting and holding …
anyone else wish God would sometimes just be that teeny weeny bit quicker tho ….. ?

 

 

radical & obscene … that’s my God!

Luther-posting-95-theses-560x366-2Every term or so the ‘clergy / reader team’ of the East Greenwich Parish get together for a theological discussion which someone at the previous get together agrees to lead. Last year I ran a discussion on Eucharist while other shave looked at salvation and other great topics to get us talking.

 

Today Tim led us as we considered Luther and the Reformation with Tim asking us to think around two pretty interesting questions:

(1)  What do you consider to be the most significant or relevant of Luther’s ideas for you personally in your spiritual life/walk?
(2)  What do you consider to be the most significant or relevant of Luther’s ideas for the people of the Parish of East Greenwich in 2017?  (You may have different thoughts for our different Churches)
For me, for both questions, there is one over-arching answer that I believe I have centred my ministry on.
Obviously having the bible in the ‘vernacular’ is key and central and has been important.  I spend a lot of time thinking around language to use in the various settings that have to teach the Bible.
Way at the top of the list, however, for me is the theme that ‘salvation is a free gift of God’. By this I believe that to mean that we can do nothing to earn salvation. We can do nothing to change how God views us. God created us, loves us, and … well kinda loves to hang out with us!
When I have met with people in the hidden places that I spoke of yesterday, so many of them have felt that they are not good enough for God. Others have felt that what they have done simply means they are condemned by God. Still others have tearfully said to me that they are too insignificant for God to even notice.
My believe my role as a missioner, as a servant, as a priest …. is to tell people the truth … that God flipping loves them, that they are totally acceptable … and not that God is only interested in them but that God id actively looking out and searching for them … continually and without fail.
I have seen people literally ‘grow’ when they have heard, really heard, those true words of acceptance.
Sometimes it seems to me that the church and christians have forgotten this radical grace and acceptance that God offers. I remember having a conversation with a colleague a few years ago in pub theo (how I miss pub theo!) as we chatted around his view that there was a need for a person to change their behaviour to follow God and my response that if we have to do something then that is not ‘grace’ or free salvation. WE went around in circles and the truth is somewhere in there.
The fact, and I use that word deliberately, that acceptance, salvation, or whatever term we wish to use, from God is totally free is, quite frankly, a crazy notion.
But it’s true.
It’s crazily radically mad.
It’s pretty offensive to some.
It’s obscene to others.
Maybe that’s why I love it so much …. I follow a God, The Creator, incarnated in Jesus Christ … who is a God that obscenely radically totally unequivocally offensively accepts those God has created.
I think that’s a God worth following!

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.
lost.
empty

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!