gpcu pt 6: prayer & pastry

prayer and pastryOne of the first things I started after arriving at HTGP was Prayer and Pastry on a Friday morning. I think it is really important that a community has opportunities to come together to pray.

Prayer & Pastry is an opportunity for anyone that wants to to start their day in prayer and grab a sort of breakfast before launching themselves in to the day ahead.

Sometimes we use standard morning prayer from from Common Worship, while other times we replace some of the service of morning prayer with an examen type meditation.

Being able to check in with each other before getting on with the day is always good … particularly while consuming great (not just good … but GREAT Monmouth or Has Bean coffee and a pastry of some description).

So … Friday mornings … 8am …. maybe see you sometime?

 

gpcu pt 4 …. are you HAPPY!?

One of the most amazing organisations on the Peninsula that have been a real support to me since being in post at HTGP have been Livability. Andy and Corin have been amazing in their regular check ins with me, coffees and just general chats about how we grow ‘church’ on the peninsula.

ravesOne of the great resources Livability has is The Happiness Course.
I Happiness-Course-Logo-750x350have been licensed to run this course and, after a few hiccups,  ran the course with Andy from Livability (who basically wrote it!) for students and staff at Ravensbourne College.

This was an excellent time and a good example of the local church and Livability working together … but also of the local church being a resource, a support … and bringing light into the stress full lives of and serving both the students and staff of the college. Senior staff even sat in on some of the sessions as they were intrigued and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive … so much so that the college have asked me to run another course in the autumn term as they can see the real benefit of having a course like this to be a tool in helping to reduce student, and staff, stress.

If you are looking for something to help you engage with your local community … seriously check out The Happiness Course as a possible resource for your setting.

While serving the college through the happiness Course another departmental staff member got sight of something else we offer and invited me in to the college … but that’s another gpcu for another (maybe tomorrow!) day!

 

 

gpcu pt 3 : building change

This is more of a recent catch up post … no one said there was going to be any chronology here did they!

I spoke before of the ever changing nature of life on the peninsula. Buildings change, buildings appear, people move in, people move out (in my block there are 15 apartments … I am the 3rd longest resident now as lots of people have moved out!)

As an observer of people … I believe you need to be good at observing the community if church is to remain relevant …. my apartment is in a great spot above the main bus stops for residents. As little as 3/4 months ago the majority of people waiting at the bus stop were young professionals. Now, this morning, as I look out the majority of those waiting for a bus are children in school uniform.

It would seem a lot of the people who have moved onto the peninsula in the last 3/4 months into the new builds have been young families … and this has changed the sound and flavour of GMV … and I would say for the better. The weekends feel a little busier and noise … when a few months ago it was very much like a ghost town  with many going way at the weekend. Most still do … but this is slowly changing.

As a response to this, a few weeks back, we launched a service from 3-4.30pm called making@church. We wanted to advertise it as a ‘well known band of building bricks’ church but apparently they do not like that particular name being used. So we have making@church.

We advertised this church service through the local school, thorough concierge and via our website and social media platforms.

The format was advertised as being simple … some singing, listening to a story, building something out of lego inspired by the bible story, show off creations, pray using lego, eat pizza and go home. The story we told was the parable the wise and foolish builders. Seemed an obvious one to launch with really!

The format was simple, it was fun and on the day 34 people attended … and looking at the service record book … baring two visits from bishops to licence people (one being me) … 34 is by far the biggest congregation HTGP has ever had …. so we are encouraged and we will look to build on this.

We are trying not to get too excited … but we are hopeful that we have stumbled upon something that will connect and engage with people here in a meaningful and relevant and helpful way.

Sometimes a lot of pioneering work involved trying things, observing, changing and trying things again. This can result in a lot of hard work with no fruit … and when the happens those with a ‘pioneering spirit’ keep going believing that God has a plan and that something , in God’s timing, will spark into life …. after 19 months I am hoping this is the spark that we have been waiting for …. but if it is not …. we will keep trying, keep following, and keep waiting for the Spirit to do what the Spirt alone can do!

So … like the idea?
Then come along to the next one
The next event is on Sunday July 16th …..
lego july pic

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 …. !?

Greenwich Peninsula catch up (gpcu) pt. 1: Resurrection

The blog has been quiet for farrrrrr too long.
And the result of my quietness is that you, my good friends and colleagues that have walked with me over the last decade or even more have been deprived of the exciting and challenging stuff that makes up life and ministry here with Holy Trinity on the Greenwich Peninsula.

So …. readers new and old … I thought it about time I start to write again to bring you up to speed. As ever I would welcome your prayer as we grapple with the challenge of building and growing church in a new location that changes daily and has not yet found it’s own identity as to what sort of community it is. That may seem a strange thing to say … but from my window I can see 17 new apartment block buildings that were not built when I moved here back in September 2015. Most of those are being inhabited. There are nearly as many new other buildings on other parts of the peninsula that I walk past regularly and can’t see from my apartment. Each week people are moving into these new homes. It is ‘never ending’.

This place changes a lot and our response as church needs  to reflect the community  to remain relevant. One example …. as little as four months ago if I observed the bus stop outside my apartment in the morning I saw lots of, mainly young, adults waiting for a bus to take them to work. Now, a few month later, the bus stops are dominated by children and young people in school uniform. So … in just 4/5 months the demographic here has changed significantly …. and it will continue to change as more and more people move into their new homes. AND … we are still a building site as more new buildings are being started! Community starts to develop, the demographic massively changes, so community building re-starts with new ‘rules’ and then the demographic changes again … it’s like choosing ‘repeat song’ in iTunes!

But … that is background … so what have we been trying to do, how have we connected with the fledgling community here, what do we do next …. and what am I going to share now?

IMG_1645Resurrection …..
The first of these updates is a report from experiencing the resurrection on IMG_1641Easter Sunday on the Peninsula. For our Easter Day service this year we at HTGP decided to share Eucharist on the ‘beach’ next to the river as we watched the sun rise.

At 4.45am on Easter Sunday I got up and crawled to the river, a 200m trek from my apartment, and lit a couple of disposable bbq’s and I waited.

That time of the morning its incredibly quiet and it was not long before I could make out exciting anticipatory noises as the congregation of around 20 came and joined with me around the BBQ fire.

We huddled together to say some prayers, those that could stepped down on to the beach by the Thames, those that couldn’t stayed on the slip way.  For our confession time people held a pebble and asked Jesus for forgiveness … I then invited people to throw their pebble into the water as an acknowledgment that Jesus forgives and ‘as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our sins from us’ (Psalm 103:12)

As the darkness faded we heard the words of the Easter morning stories … Mary finding the empty tomb and the disciples seeing Jesus bbq fish on the beach. We tried to hear the stories as  if it was the first time we had heard them … and we chatted in our groups and asked ‘what on earth is going on’. The discussions and the sense of awe were amazing as the sun continued to rise and the beach, and so us, took on different appearances and views.

As the sun rose we shared bread and wine … and as I looked around I was excited by the diversity of the people sharing together, marking resurrection here in the HT bit of the parish. We sang ‘Thine be the Glory’ as the sun appeared over the river before concluding the service and continuing the worship with Bucks Fizz and bacon rolls (which is obviously what Jesus served on that resurrection bbq!)

This was a great celebration … and a great witness to other residents on the Peninsula.
People hung around and we chatted more on the beach as the sun rose more in the sky. One of the more senior ladies grabbed my hand and thanked me … she told me she had never worshipped that early before, she had never worshipped next to the river before, and she had never experienced the resurrection of Jesus in that deep way before …. the morning was incredible anyway … but that last comment … well that was the icing on the cake of an already amazing experience!

Contrasts

contrast-zebraLast Tuesday was a difficult frustrating day.
The kind of  day when you ask whether you even know what you are doing as nothing seems to work.

Last Tuesday after months of planning I went somewhere to start a project and myself and my colleague were not expected. So the project never got started. (It will in a  few weeks!)

I then led a meditation class later that day and no one came!
These two events are lynchpins in the hypothesis we are testing here to engage with people, so the very fact they stumbled felt quite major.

This Tuesday was completely different!

Today I attended a great meeting with others at Ravensbourne College where people were gathered together to see how we might work together to make a difference. I guess the roots of this meeting came form a regional RSA meeting where I take about how we build community in places of new builds such as Greenwich Peninsula.

Today we gathered as architects, research staff, innovators, entrepreneurs, developers and a vicar! WE chatted fir two hours united in our desire to name a difference, to help people, and to spark community development. It was a great meeting and one where people shared ideas and displayed a  willingness to come together and try things together.

Following that I led this weeks meditation session in the NOW Gallery. We had 6 people which was a surprise after last week.  At each session I ask people to record how stressed they feel on a scale of 1 – 10before we start. We then have a simple breathing exercise before we silently meditate for 20 minutes. Each person felt their stress level dropped by at least 3 points and one person even wrote a thank you on their record!

At the end of the meditation I received lots of messages about Agapai tomorrow and it looks like we will have 6 people …. which I think is the largest number ever!

My day ended with having dinner with an amazing friend … so a pretty cool day really!

It’s strange how one day in a week can be so polar opposite to the same day in the next!

Come and see

Tonight at 18:01 Andrew led us through  guided meditation as a way of engaging with the ‘come and see’ words of Jesus in tonight’s gospel reading.

It worked well for the HTGP group of people and I appreciated the opportunity to be able to be involved in such an experience that I was not responsible for leading.It was a real privilege, and quite exciting, to be part of something profound and holy while the busyness of the peninsula revolved around us. I think opportunities like this help us to keep ourselves grounded.

I was also thankful that a couple of weeks ago that Michael gave me permission to use this really simple but beautiful video called ‘Epiphany’. We used it as a short reflection near the start of the service to get us to think about what Epiphany means to us … I liked the way Michael’s short film presented this to us. Thank’s Michael for your generosity – it worked perfectly.

Epiphany from Michael Martorella on Vimeo.