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!

 

 

 

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Disturb our control (gpcu ongoing)

man lookingA little while ago we had our PCC Awayday and welcomed Laurence Gamlen as our facilitator.

We looked at the challenges of each part of the parish and presented in much a similar way the we did at Deanery Synod last week. At the away day, however, I got people to dance to an ever changing tune, rather than eat different flavoured skittles, to illustrate that our community keeps changing.

Towards the end of the day, Laurence reflected and questioned whether we needed God to ‘disturb our control’.

I have reflected on that for a while … asking that ever necessary question of
‘Am I allowing God to be God here and lead me or am I trying to force things of my own ideas’.
‘Am I giving God enough space to influence my thinking … and am I listening to God or merely playing lip service?’
‘Am I trying to control this or am I letting this develop freely and organically?’
I think they are healthy questions for all in any form of ministry  to be asking and reflecting on regularly.
Very regularly.

If I am trying to control I certainly want God to come and disturb that.
While reflecting I have re-discovered this prayer attributed to Francis Drake …. I’ve blogged about it before, but it seems appropriate to remind myself again ….

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Lord ….
prevent me from sailing too close to the shore ….
to push into your future with strength,
courage,
love
and hope.
Amen!

paths ….

11022959_1019636374733075_615075454_nSometimes an encouragement comes out of the blue.
From totally unexpected places.
And it makes you feel good.

I send out a weekly prayer email to around 30 amazing people who pray for me on a weekly and daily basis.
Some of those 30 people I have only met once, some not at all, but most I have got to know well over years.

This week, after reading my email, one of those lovely people that I have only met once or twice took the time to write to encourage me.

In my prayer letter this week I was sharing how it is a challenge to develop stuff here on the peninsula … it is not that I am necessarily doing anything wrong … but it seems that little is working. I’m attempting to create new paths, new ways of doing things … but I do not believe we are quite providing yet what is needed.

My friend reflected back on what I had written:

Today, you have written something that I think is really important to hold on to…
‘I guess on a positive note I am being a true pioneer … we have not been here before and no one has walked this path in this area as it is now’.
He went on to add: But, for what it is worth, hold on to those words… ‘we have not been here before and no one has walked this path in this area as it is now’, as I believe they are so important to all those in ministry and should offer encouragement to yourself, and to others around you.
I have reflected on those words that I wrote on Monday morning …
whereas I originally wrote them thinking they are appropriate for pioneers like myself working in areas of new development
I believe they are incredibly relevant and true for all of us …wherever our setting … whatever our role …
because it is true for all of us that no one has ever walked the path that we are currently on in the areas we are in as they are now
Others may have walked them in different times (even if that different time was only yesterday) but no one has walked them in the time of now …
we are all treading a new path, some of those paths have never been trodden before and need to be formed, some are old hidden paths which are being rediscovered and some are well used and well known but are travelled along differently.
no one has walked this way before ….. exciting or scary … your call!?
PS Dear encouraging friend …. thank you!

extraordinary encounters

DSC_0691 copyI often find being a priest in the Church of England requires you to be open to the unexpected. Over the last few years I have had a number of  unusual and extraordinary encounters. Interestingly a number of these have come when I am feeling weak and not at my best.

Today was one such day.
Today was a day that I did not feel ‘together’ for a number of reasons.
I usually always feel a fraud as a priest; but today was a day that I felt it more than usual.
This day was a day when I was not feeling particularly ‘priestly’ or useable by God or of any use to anyone.  Things did not seem to be in the right place.
It’s fair to say that I started my day on auto-pilot and was just sticking to my timetable.

This morning I arrived and left my first school that I am chaplain of as normal. This school is next to a major building site. The size of building site where workers are permanently in place to divert or stop pedestrians and traffic. As I was walking past the entrance to the building site the worker standing the gate asked if I was a pastor.

Now as I always where my dog collar when ‘on duty’ I think it is pretty obvious that I am a ‘pastor’ and often I make some semi sarcastic joke like, ‘No … actually I’m on my way to a fancy dress party …. ‘

Today I did not make a sarcastic quip.
Today I could see in this man’s eye’s a seriousness. A deepness.
He held my hand … for longer than feels acceptable … and he kept holding it as he asked me to pray for him for a variety of stuff.
So … there … on the street …. holding hands with this guy … I prayed … and … then …. he blessed me.

It was such a gracious and powerful moment and I don’t mind admitting I was moved to tears as I wandered on my way to the bus stop to get to my next school.

On the bus I reflected and wondered …. why …. why is it that when I feel at our worst … that it is then that I see God doing something …

I spoke to some people later who said I must have been in the right place at the right time to help this guy.

Actually …. I think this man was in the right place, and at the right time, to help me. That’s pretty cool.
Sometimes it is a real privilege to do what I do.

slithers of hope

dp1783759It’s been a long time
A very long time
So long that I forgot that I used to have
A blog

I guess it is fair to say the year has been
tough
interesting
hard work … yes …
with ideas not germinating
and dreams not blooming
and yet

yet

I know I am here
I know I am supposed to be here
I know God has called me here
for now
for such a moment as this
to be a blessing
and
I hope
to be blessed

the last few days have seen
excitement
interesting slithers of light
all radiating suddenly at once
standing to attention
and scooting out hastily from dark crevasses
like Attenborough’s racer snakes
or maybe a shooting star
or even the insuppressible sunrise
always there
FULL of potential
but waiting
and holding breath
until the right time to appear

Is now that time?

I have now been here for 16 months and now, only now, after 16 months of listening and hearing what people are saying and building trust with people are we boldly but carefully moving forward with some ideas.

Our survey shows that loneliness, stress and  community feel are real and live issues for people here … and so we need to ask the question … how can we respond to that …. is there anything we can do to help with community feel, to help dispel loneliness and to help people with stress levels.

Early in the New Year we will be offering free Mindfulness Meditation classes and a great wellbeing course called The Happiness Course.

Sound intriguing or interested …?
If so give us / me a shout!

9 months ….

The last time I blogged was 9 months ago.
Christmas Eve.
So today, the 24th of the 9th, seemed to me to be  good day to start here again.

9 months as a time of incubation.
9 months as a time of contemplation.
9 months of space

9 months gone in a flash.
but a habit of ‘no writing’
has seemed to set quite fast

IMG_0020In the last 9 months I have moved, started a new role in a new diocese, and feel excited with a new challenge ahead of me. I also feel quite privileged to be part of a diverse and great team and live in an awesome ‘vicarage’ flat in the Greenwich Millennium Village with the photo being the view from my study desk.

I am team vicar of Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula which is part of the East Greenwich Team Ministry and the Chaplain for the Koinonia Federation of Christ Church and St. Mary Magdalene CE Schools. Try saying that after a few rums!

So … my role is to establish chaplaincy in the schools and to grow ‘church’ with the community of Holy Trinity here on the Greenwich Peninsula …. that bit with the O2 dome at the end of it! The area is constantly changing and the constant challenge will be how we serve a diverse growing and hidden population. (I live in an apartment block and have only seen 3 other residents in the 4 weeks I have been here!) An exciting thing, though, is that the bishop is encouraging us to create … so create we will!

I don’t have a lot more to add at the moment apart from feeling amazingly welcomed and loved by both the church and school communities …. so if any of my ‘new’ friends are reading … thank you! … I can honestly say I think I am going to like living here!

As in the past I will blog my story …. so I guess … if you are interested … watch this space!

going where you fit

Last night I was involved in the last teaching session for this years MSM course which we ran in the Bluewater Management Suite.

The group have been great to work with and the last session always has a lot about reflection on what we have learnt and looking forward, and being commissioned, for the future.

msm learnI was encouraged last night with stuff that the students shared. You can read from the image what this years students felt were some of the important things that they learned.

I love reading them all … but I am particularly struck and challenged by the last comment on that flip chart … ‘going where you fit’.

For me … that kind of sums up Christian life and mission. Rather than trying to engineer or manipulate things … mission, and by that I mean ‘serving and loving people Jesus Style’, can only happen out of a context where one feels ‘at home’. By that I mean a place where you feel accepted, where you can see you are growing to love the people that inhabit that space and where you are welcomed by those that already make up that community.

Sometimes that acceptance can take a little while to appear, and I remember it took around 6 – 8 months to start to feel accepted in Wetherspoons at the start of my curacy. Before this acceptance, however, it was clear to me that I resonated with these people in some way. For a time that was enough. The same has been true of the locations and spaces I inhabit now.

So …. I often get asked by others starting or changing their ministry ‘how do I discern my calling?’, or ‘how do I know what God wants me to do in this town?’ …. my answer has now been simplified by these inspired words ….

simply go where you fit

I’m happy with that!