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!

 

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skittles and synod

Never thought I’ve ever actually say these words … let alone write them down …. but … wait for this …. we had a really good Deanery SynodIMG_1819 meeting last night! There … it’s out in the open. I enjoyed a Deanery Synod meeting!

A large part of last nights agenda was given over to each church having 3 minutes to tell us about it’s context and mission. I actually loved hearing what others were up to, what their challenges and passions were, and how they were dealing with them. This was a great way for the first meeting of the new synod to start because too often we can be caught up in our own locations to notice what others are doing. It’s great to hear how diverse and yet united a deanery we are.

As a team ministry of three churches we pooled our 3 minute allocations to take 8 mins and 45 secs (get us!) to talk about the mission priorities from our Mission Action Plan. This was quite an inspired idea from Margaret! People spoke specifically across the parish about Growing our Spiritual Life Together, Children and Young People and Loving Service to the Community. The fourth priority of Visibility was presented by each individual church.

In my 90 seconds I gave everyone different flavoured skittles in an envelope and asked them to eat one, then another and then other …. as an illustration that for HTGP our biggest challenge when we think visibility, or anything really, is how quickly this community changes it’s flavour …. with new people coming and others leaving what seems like every day, and how it will continue to do that for the next few years until the building stops.

At HTGP we attempt to better visibility by being around at community events and, for me personally, being present regularly in the community at school gate and coffee shops. In addition we tweet everything we do (well maybe not everything!) and do a lot of advertising and profile racing through our website and Facebook page …. so we may have a challenge with concrete visibility in terms of location, but in terms of social media I hope we have quite a big footprint.

So … I hope future Deanery Synods are as informative and engaging … from what I heard last night  I think there is a real possibility that could be so … (and big plus is that I have all those skittles in the pic left over … 🙂 )

and next there was lego …

The busy weekend continued after Saturday as we hosted our second making@church service at HTGP on Sunday.
lego july pic
I think the postcard is pretty self explanatory as to what this is about. I got this amazing idea from a colleague, Peter O’Connell, and it seems to work amazingly well in this community.

making@church is our response at HTGP to the changing demographic on the Peninsula. Until quite recently the village looked like it was overwhelmingly populated by young professionals … certainly the people waiting at bus stops indicated that.
Recently, in the last four or so months, we are seeing many more young families at the bus stop and doing school runs.
Making@church is our relevant response to what we observe happening around us.

The format is simple and non labour intensive … sing a couple of worship songs, tell the particular bible story in two different ways, e.g. lego video and Godly play style and then give each family unit a box of lego with the simple instruction to ‘build something that you are inspired to build after hearing that story’ … after around 20 minutes we then show our models, pray using lego, eat pizza, receive a blessing and go home.

I love this format of service …. not just because it is simple … but because this is one of the few things I have seen church done worship wise that really DOES bring the family unit together. There is no child / adult divide. We have whole families building a model and helping each other … it’s simply beautiful to see.

A great comment on Sunday afternoon was ‘this is better then other church!’ …. I’ll take that as an indictor that we may have hit on something here on the peninsula.

On Sunday, we looked at the Parable of the Good Samaritan …. below are some lego interpretations of the story …. note the ‘Police Donkey’

what a weekend

poster latest .jpegIt’s been a pretty amazing weekend!
For the last few months I have been pretty involved in the planning and running of the first ever Residents Association Summer Fayre. I was part of an amazing team that caught a big vision of local traders, local artists, local musicians, local foodies …. you get it …. local local local …. getting together to put on some sort of festival which would be enjoyed by local people. The vision for the event was that local people would have an opportunity to showcase themselves o that local residents could then make contact with them in some capacity throughout the rest of the year.

We received lottery funding, we received sponsorship from some amazing people and organisations and we put on a pretty cool and great event! We had 400 – 500 people throughout the day.

I had some amazing conversations with people and particularly loved the conversation which went something like ‘I’ve got friends who are Christian and vote Tory …. how does that work?!!!’ You know I would have agreed wholeheartedly with this person …. (now don’t go bashing me Christian Tory friends …. because I am not saying you ain’t Christian or rubbish like that …. I’m just saying I don’t get your voting choices! Two different things!)

The atmosphere at the event was amazing. Lots of people talking to each other and some people now, a few days later, making links and sharing conversations of Facebook …. which has got to be good as talking is how community starts …. and we need more community here.

Some people did ask why there was no Holy Trinity logo on the sponsor list considering the amount of time I had given  …. my response was that, for me, the role of church is to bless community and help community to grow and to inspire community … but most of all to serve community. We don’t need recognition for people to know we are serving … that should show in our attitude of being willing to just get involved and bless. I hope we did.

So … my hopes from this is that community will develop, that we will interact more on the peninsula and that we, as church, can understand more about how we can bless this community. Working behind the scenes to help this community grow is something that church does , or should do, and it’s exciting to see. Obviously we also want HTGP to grow (you’d surely expect a vicar to want that!) and maybe when people see us they will become interested … but if they don’t … nothing will change …. we will continue to serve, and to bless, and to get involved … because that is what we are called to do here. That will not stop.

Thanks planning team, thanks musicians, thanks stall holders, thanks funders, thanks concierge and porters and village manager, thanks bouncy castle people, thanks millers ark people, thanks food vans …. and thanks to those of you who came.

gpcu pt2: pop up buns,chocs & clothes

Another way we, HTGP, have attempted to engage with the people here is through various pop up activities in the precinct or village square.

During Advent and on Good Friday we set up our gazebo where we offered various things like dekhomai prayer cords and psalm blessings (which you can read more about here). On these two days we also gave away 60 Real Advent calendars and 120 Hot Cross Buns.

On another Sunday afternoon we organised a clothes collection for Syrian Refugees which resulted in over a car load of clothes being donated to be taken to GRACE to then be taken to Syria.

 

Throughout these three events we have spoken to a couple of hundred people. Most of them were not aware that there was a Church of England church meeting on the Peninsula. Interestingly even those that had lived here for 5 or 6 years were not aware that HTGP existed …. which throws up interesting questions as my predecessor used to organise the delivering of Christmas cards to all residents from HTGP and I have continued that ‘tradition’ … but it seems the cards do not ‘register’ with people in a meaningful way.

In some of the conversations people have taken away postcards … a couple came to a Christingle service after the Advent Calendar giveaway. Mostly in the conversations people have shared parts of their lives with us. Some of these conversations have amazed me as more than a few people shared some quite deep and confidential stuff and it has been a massive privilege to listen. Its seems that although people do not come to the church … they still see ‘church’ as a place they could trust with their story.

In some way … sometimes small, maybe other times quite significantly, we have engaged effectively with a good number of people who live on the peninsula. I am convinced we have made quite an impact on the lives of the people who have shared with us … sometimes by answering a question, sometimes by posing a question, and other times just by challenging stereotypes by being ‘out there’ for no other reason than to bless our neighbours with friendship and connection.

Isn’t that pretty exciting …. !?

where to start?

IMG_1615Living on the Peninsula can be fun and vibrant.
Homes are being built so quickly that every day I go on a prayer walk I see something new.
This is not because I have poor observation skills but due to the fact that new things are appearing every day.
In my walk today I counted 20 buildings that are now being built or are inhabited that were not present when I moved here 18 months ago.
In the next 18 months there will be at least another 20 and possibly the starting of a new tube station, designed by the amazing Calatrava.

In this setting I am attempting to work with others to build ‘church community’.
It’s a big challenge … but I came here because I like big challenges and it is what inspires me!
I am, though, looking for people to join me in building community and church here.
This feels like a repetitive post … but people come and go here very regularly …. so it is kind of admissible to ask the same thing every three to six months when anywhere between 20 and 50% of the community could have changed.
if you have just moved to the Peninsula, or know someone who has that may be interested, then please put us in touch with each other.

One thing I notice here that I have not encountered elsewhere is that generally people don’t seem to have ‘habits’ like they have in other communities.
By this I mean in other places if I went somewhere on a set day at a set time I would expect to see some of the same people on a regular basis. Not everyone would be in those laces every week or day, much a significant number of them would be.
In those other places this was how I made contact with people, developed relationships, and eventually made friends.

This community is different … and I have wondered a lot why this might be.
In a lot of other areas new development is built in already existing communities of people so that there is a mix of ‘established’ and ‘new’ people mixing in the community. Here, on the Peninsula, we only seem to have the new … buildings being built on what was once just open factory space … where there was once no community we are trying to establish community.

My question is … as it seems we are needing to start from scratch here …. is

How do people start to build community?
What is the actual spark that gets the fire of community flourishing?

It seems to be that people growing in already established community already have that fire and they work together to keep the flame burning. I wonder whether keeping the fire burning is easier that getting the flame started in the first place. Certainly I remember from camping and ‘survival’ days that we were always told t not let the fire go out once we had it stared.

Could that illustration be relevant here today?
I’d really like to hear from others ‘out there’ who are dealing with similar issues …

what is the spark of church community?

a twinkle of hope …?

cloak sunsetThe last few days have been exciting … well exciting on my scale in a world of ‘pioneering’ where things move incredibly slowwwwwwwly as you look for ways to both engage with and support the community.

My style of pioneering has been described as ‘loitering with intent’. I guess that is a fairly accurate description of how I spend a lot of my time and I try to be visible in this community in which I have been called to serve.

I believe the church was birthed to bless communities. To be able to bless community we, the church, need to be able to find a way of discovering what the community are searching for and what the community perceive that they need. To start to understand that need the church needs to be hanging around in the community to be able to listen and watch but also to be recognised. When we are in the community it is then we hear of the communities dreams and hopes.

Sadly, in a  lot of my Christian ministry experience and throughout history I have seen, and read of,  church after church skipping over the listening bit. They have assumed, some arrogantly and some lovingly, that they already know what the community needs and provide it. These churches have then got confused and hurt when the community have not engaged with whatever the church felt it was providing.

I am desperate not to make this mistake … either through good intentions or through arrogance. 

And to be clear … I am not talking here about seeing people convert to Chritianity or to give the church ‘something’ … I am talking here solely of the church blessing the community … the church giving towards community development and not expecting anything in return. I believe in that engagement some people will become interested in the wider mission of the church … and I firmly believe people will ask questions when they need to.

But back to the peninsula …. two occurrences this week that may indicate we are at the start of something new … just maybe though as they may both come to nothing.

I was stopped earlier this week outside the 02 my a local man who had seen me in a variety of places. He asked if I and the church would be interested in supporting him as he tries to develop a community project on the peninsula. Of course I said I am happy to keep talking.

Secondly, on the GMV FaceBook page some people were talking about the fact that there was no youth club here and that provision was off the peninsula in other places. The message post was getting longer and I injected a simple question …. ‘why not start one?’ …. and, to cut a story shorter, I hope some people are going to come round next week to talk about what we might be able to do. Sometimes things need to be responded to pretty quickly … and I wonder whether there is a role here for HT to support the local community desire of having some type of youth club … we shall see!

18 months of loitering, waiting, searching and looking for ways to help  …. maybe …. just maybe … we are starting to see a couple of small ways forward.