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!

 

amazing intern opportunities in Stepney

stepThis is an excellent opportunity in Stepney. Bishop Adrian is an amazing guy and I’d love to have the opportunity to work with him again. So .. below is a great opportunity to work in a creative and diverse part of London under the leadership of an amazing bishop … I have cut and paste this from an email:

The Stepney Area is looking to appoint up to eight Interns from September 2014. The scheme is a year’s opportunity to serve God in parishes in Islington, Hackney or Tower Hamlets, and has been running as part of the Church of England’s Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES). If you are aged 18-29 and interested in living out your discipleship in an urban context and exploring a vocation to ministry, lay or ordained, this may be for you.

The scheme will include parish ministry, community living, and time for study and vocational discernment. By serving with others in places of need and opportunity in London, you will be challenged to think about God’s call to work for his kingdom in areas of poverty, unemployment and social inequality.

The Stepney Area The Stepney Area is part of the London Diocese, and is diverse, vibrant and multi-cultural, with rich and poor living side-by-side. It includes some of the most deprived wards in the country, but is also home to some of the most vibrant creative industries in Europe, and to Canary Wharf and the City Fringe. The popular destinations of Hoxton, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Dalston and Islington are part of the Area, as are the Spitalfields, Columbia Road and Broadway markets. It’s this challenging and changing urban mix which makes Stepney an exciting place to minister, and to explore what it means to be the church for the 21st century.

The Intern Scheme

The Intern Scheme will provide a range of opportunities for you to explore parish ministry. These might include leading worship, preaching and teaching, pastoral work, mission and evangelism, youth work, schools work, social transformation projects, and community engagement with other partners.

The work you will be involved with will depend on the parish you are placed with and your gifts for ministry. You will be encouraged to develop your own particular strengths and interests, and the roles have flexibility to allow them to grow and develop around the individual.

As an Intern you will be allocated a clergy supervisor in your parish. There is also an opportunity for study, and for ongoing vocational discernment, including for those already exploring a vocation to ordained ministry. Accommodation will be provided where Interns will live together in community, though serving in different parishes. There will be a chaplain to serve the pastoral needs of the house community. During the year you will be encouraged to go on retreat, and the costs for this will also be paid for.

As part of the scheme, a subsistence allowance will be provided, and your accommodation, travel, training costs and parish expenses met. As a sign of your commitment to the scheme you will be asked to contribute £500 towards it. We can help you think of ways to raise this money, and a bursary fund is available.

Who we are looking for

We are looking for energetic, enthusiastic individuals who are flexible, able to take initiative and wanting to grow in faith and in the ability to communicate it. We are looking for people wanting to explore a call to urban inner-city ministry, at home with people from diverse backgrounds and other church traditions, seeking to serve God among some of London’s most vulnerable people, and wanting to experience the adventure of community living.

If you are interested, please contact Revd Fiona Green, The Intern Director, for an application form, or to discuss the opportunity further. 07786 541559. fiona.green@london.anglican.org.

Application deadline: Monday 31st March 2014. Interviews: Saturday 12th April 2014.