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!

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gpcu pt. 7: hanging around … or holy loitering … maybe!

DSC_0415In a place like the Greenwich Peninsula it can take a while to meet people, and it is quite rare for me to see the same person in the same place. In all of my other locations I have intentionally loitered, or hung aro

und, in various places in the hope I would meet someone to chat withor engage with someone who might be looking to explore their faith is some new way. In other locations I have found the same people in the same place at various times … creatures of habit maybe .. but not here on the Peninsula.

I have done a lot of ‘holy loitering’ in a variety of places …
in two particular coffee shops
in two particular pubs
in the park sitting on benches
by the bus stops at particular times
in the ‘village’ square

I have now been doing this for 23 months
a long 23 months
but a 23 months where I have kept putting myself in places
looking for opportunities
seeing little signs of encouragements
consistently and without hesitation
returning to the same places

and in the last few weeks, after 23 months of ‘holy loitering with intent’
I have become noticed
In the pub recently someone said ‘are you the vicar?”
In a coffee shop recently someone asked for a blessing and then asked if I would pray for his daughter
At the bus stop recently I had a good conversation with a man and his family … and they came to HTGP the following Sunday evening
On the park recently someone asked me if it was ok for anyone to come to meditation … and what was the church service like
in the percent recently I was, again, asked to bless and pray for someone …

For 22 months I have been in the same places over and over again
In the last four weeks some people have started to notice
and they have noticed enough to engage with me
Just the last 4 weeks
Ido not have any idea if this will continue or cease as quickly as it started
But I can say …

Seems some places just need time!

gpcu pt 5 … mindful(l)

mindful-jpeg

Each Tuesday for the last 6 months or so we have been holding a meditation class in the NOW gallery. One of the struggles for someone like me on the peninsula is finding space that is suitable to offer stuff from … and the gallery staff have been amazing in supporting what we are trying to achieve by letting us use some space to offer a free meditation class for anyone that wishes to come. We get anywhere between 2 and 12 people coming to this class each week, although recently numbers have dropped off as a lot of things seem to do in the summer months.

Following on from yesterdays happiness/Ravensbourne post I was asked if I could run a mindful meditation class in the college for students and staff to attend as part of Mental Health Awareness Week. I did and we had nearly 40 people turn up. The majority of people were students, some were staff.

Most of the 40 had not tried any form of meditation before. I shared that I have used the John Main style of meditation a lot and they were happy to try that using a word to repeat over and over again for 20 mins. John main suggests ‘Maranatha’, which means ‘Our God comes’ … I also offer ‘Metanoia’, which means ‘change my heart / mind’. I like to offer this alternative (or any other word people may be comfortable with) so people with no faith feel comfortable to join as well as those with a particular faith.

I find that 20 mins is a good length for introducing people to silent meditation … and often I give a reminder at the 5 or 10 min markers to remind people to re focus on their word and let them know how much time has gone.

Although the meditation lasted only 20 minutes I was then questioned by students for a further 30minutes as the majority of them could see that what they had just been involved with connected with them spiritually and had a positive impact on reducing their level of stress. (I should have mentioned that before the meditation started I gave everything a credit card size piece of paper with the words foe and after on. I asked them to rate their stress level out of 10 before we started and then again after the 20 min silent meditation. Everyone had decreased by at least 2 points… e.g. 7 out of 10 to 5 out of 10).

It’s been great to hear that both the college staff and students have requested that I return to run another meditation class, and some are asking whether it could become more regular. So .. that is a case of watch this space to see what further impact we can have here in supporting students and the college.

It’s just amazing sometimes how God opens up little opportunities for us to be able to have a positive impact in our local communities and individual lives.

Meditation continues every Tuesday at the NOW gallery from 6 … we usually start at 6:10pm, finish at 6:30pm and sometimes some of us go for a bite to eat or a drink … or go home a little more de-stressed then when we arrived …. why not come try it out!

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 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!

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!