what we have we hold

agapai

Another good Agapai this evening.
Agapai is our weekly church community meal … we eat together, talk, pray and share bread and wine.

For the last few weeks we have been considering the topics raised in ‘Dethroning Mammon‘, Archbishop Justin’s Lent book.
Tonight we talked about what is precious to us … based around the story of Mary pouring £25 000 worth of perfume over Jesus feet (which I spoke on last Sunday) in a chapter entitled ‘What we have we hold’.

We chatted tonight about what possessions are precious to us … homes, cars, sentimental value things; we spoke about how easy it would be to give these things away if people needed them, in the way Mary ‘gave away’ her perfume.

We also spoke about times when we may have questioned the way other people worship and  took time to consider what is what about the actions of others that disturbed or bothered us. We wondered what we could learn from this.

The evening closed with us sharing, as Christian Community, bread and wine before we than prayed about stuff that needed praying about.

Tonight was a great evening. The discussion was sometimes shallow, often deep, and with enough water inbetween to flow or tussle with. There was laughter too. When HT get together there is always laughter!. I hope that stays.

Thanks you for coming … see you next time!

 

Pioneer hardships

c3efdf0cb15ed169b5be8b53271d8cd9Sometimes ministry can be hard work.
Being in a place of lots of new building in a fledgling community where the landscape and the makeup are constantly changing , can present a massive challenge to the church and how she works.

As a pioneer, someone that is fairly passionate about mission, people and, yes loves the good old CofE, I am rooted in the belief that we are called to serve. In plain English that means I believe I am called here to serve the people of this Greenwich Peninsula. I am yo be here and be ‘good news’ to those that I come across.

To be able to serve and be such good news means I need to have the ability and the space to listen. I have done a lot of listening and responding over the last 18 or so months. As I listen I respond and make myself available, but that is not the pioneering bit as such … that is, I believe, good old fashioned parish ministry often depicted in those lovey old black and white movies.

The pioneering bit, which I am here to do , is to listen to what the community is saying the issues are, noticing the gaps or potential places to develop, and then creating something with others to meet that real and obvious need.

But we have a bit of an issue here and my model of creating sustainable Christian community is not flourishing as much as I would like it to be. The make up of this community is massively transient with a lot of people moving on fairly quickly to other communities in London after staying for 6-12 months. This means that what we hear as being relevant today can become irrelevant pretty quickly.

This means we need to act quickly on ‘stuff’ … but as we are a very small group of people all massively involved in our jobs … available time at short notice is pretty sparse. So, sometimes, pioneer ministry can feel like you are going round and round in ever decreasing circles. Ever decreasing because the ideas bank is getting smaller and smaller.

So … what do we do … that is the question … and one we continue to contemplate. As we contemplate we become aware of a massive and true fact …. the fact that this is GOD’S ministry and not OURS!

Why do I write this and why today?
Today I got an email from a research person from the diocese asking about fresh expressions in my part of the diocese. One of the things that I think Fresh Expressions has been good at is raising the good news stories … while that is good as it encourages and inspires others …. I do believe that just the good news stories can often give people the impression that pioneering and fresh expressions can be all great fun and is the ‘sexy’ side of ministry.

I believe we don’t tell the hard stories enough … the stories of people not turning up or people cancelling last minute, the stories of idea after idea after idea that seem good but, for some reason, don’t seem to be meeting the need of those in the area. The stories of being shouted out and told you are not wanted. The stories of prayer walking in wind, rain, ice, snow and occasional sunshine.

Sometimes all ministry is hard …. but being totally convinced and enshrouded in the knowledge that God has called you, is with you and is working through you (maybe even despite you) is all you need to keep going.

This is a raw and unrefined post … its a bit of a think aloud post … so feel free to comment … I miss my blog community friends ….

 

pioneering peninsula

peninsula-place-calatrava-architecture-news_dezeen_2364_col_4So … following from yesterdays blog …. do you want an opportunity to be involved in something really quite exciting?

A question … how often do you have an opportunity to be involved in something new, particularly where faith is concerned? How often do you get a chance to be involved in birthing and creating and moulding a new way of being church in a  community that is ever changing, ever expanding, ever more diverse with incredibly exciting plans for it’s future like this … click here!

That’s the opportunity I have, and it’s one I would like to invite others to join me in.

We are looking to develop a missional contemplative christian community. As we develop we would serve the wider community in various, but relevant and as of yet unthought of, ways that we would come up with after listening and hearing what people around us say. This really would be living out gospel kingdom values in a  dynamic and loving way …. really being good news for all we come into contact with.

so ….

What we are seeking?

  • People who are  Christians and interested in birthing and participating in a missional fresh expression of church with a contemplative flavour on the Greenwich Peninsula
  • People who have, or have had in the past, a desire to focus more on contemplative and prayerful action within a Christian community and be willing to lead aspects of contextual worship, mission and community life on the Greenwich Peninsula.
  • People who can commit to a Sunday evening Contemplative Eucharist, gatherings afterwards at a local pub or the vicarage and a Wednesday evening community meal with sharing of our weekly stories, prayer for each other with sharing of bread and wine.
  • Where possible join in the prayer life of Holy Trinity, currently 730am Prayer & Pastry at the Vicarage.
  • People willing to develop a meditation group on the Greenwich Peninsula aimed at supporting those who would call themselves spiritual rather than religious people.

 

Interested?

I feel quite excited by what we can do here
But I know we need more people …. does that include you or someone you know?
Please take time to consider ….

I’d love to hear from you …. please get in contact  via comments here or via our current website: http://www.holytrinity.online/

 

 

 

 

what we are seeking …

seek-copy2017 is here ….
So … what is happening here in the pioneering peninsula of Greenwich … 

I am looking ….
I am praying …
I am waiting ….
for people
for people to join me
for people to join us
for people to get together to
attempt
to birth something new here
something intentionally spiritual
something deliberately communal
something that will make a difference
something that is new ‘cos there is no blueprint
something that will grow and develop as we grow and develop
something that needs to be moulded by whoever joins the journey

church …. yes
religiously set ways of dong things … no
collaborative, creative, meaningful … yes
having to believe ‘right’ things and behave in ‘certain ways’ … no
believing there is only one way to do things … NO!
Jesus gospel trinity based … yes
affirming and encouraging … yes
contemplative Christian community … very possibly yes

Does that sound interesting to you?
Do you live within reach of North Greenwich …. read on a little more …

What we are seeking?

  • People who are established Christians and interested in birthing and participating in a missional fresh expression of church with a contemplative flavour on the Greenwich Peninsula
  • People who have, or have had in the past, a desire to focus more on contemplative and prayerful action within a Christian community and be willing to lead aspects of contextual worship, mission and community life on the Greenwich Peninsula.
  • People who can commit to a Sunday evening Contemplative Eucharist, gatherings afterwards at a local pub or the vicarage and a Wednesday evening community meal with sharing of our weekly stories, prayer for each other with sharing of bread and wine.
  • Where possibly join in the prayer life of Holy Trinity, currently 730am Prayer & Pastry at the Vicarage.
  • People willing to develop a meditation group on the Greenwich Peninsula aimed at supporting those who would call themselves spiritual rather than religious people.

Interested?

I’d love to hear from you …. please get in contact  via comments here or via our current website: http://www.holytrinity.online/

I think this is exciting … how often do we get a chance to develop and create and mould something new …. something that we hope will be of use not to us bit to those around yes as well … a blessing for us so that we can be a blessing for others … so … get in touch if remotely or only vaguely interested …

what a day …

cs618508-01a-bigYesterday was one of those packed and varied days with little space to reflect upon activity as I rushed from one event to another. It was the type of day I had before I was ordained and working with YFC when I always seemed to have to jump from one meeting or task to another and take on different roles as I journeyed through the day.

Yesterday started with morning prayer as usual and then staff meeting where we reviewed the week via a bacon roll (thanks Margaret!) and looked at the web ahead of us. We reviewed a lot of Christmas services and carol events.

Following this on my way home I bumped into a person who, this year, will not be celebrating or experiencing the joy of Christmas in their home. This person was really quite sad and lonely (as we chatted I told this person I was a blogger and they asked if I would include our encounter … I said I would not normally as it is always hard to not by accident make some identifying comment … but this person specifically asked that I did … so here you go!) We chatted about this person’s life and the person said it was helpful; before going on to say that I was the first person they had spoken to in weeks and that they missed personal conversation … it made me weep to think that this is even possible in an overcrowded city like London! We prayed together in a  coffee shop before I then had to move on. I always find chance encounters to be full of God … it was a real privilege to spend time with this person … thank you.

I next arrived at St Mary Magdalene Peninsula school to be the chaplain / speaker at the Christmas Service. The staff there, as ever, are amazing at getting the best out of children. Some of the Year 2’s sang solos in the choir (is a KS1 choir the youngest choir going?) which were simply stunning. I then spoke about Jesus and the Christmas Story using a candy cane as an illustration all aided by a bit of fun ‘magic’ (there is no such thing as magic children … remember this is just a trick!) that produced the desired wow factor – all thanks going to Mission Magic who sold me an awesome trick!

After chatting with some staff I headed to Craft for a coffee and a meet up with a cool guy called Dave Pilkington. Dave is training at St Mellitus to be a vicar to work in the Olympic Park … overseen by the amazing Bishop of Stepney! We talked about mission and the church and contemplation and a lot of other stuff. You know that feeling you get when meeting someone that just instinctively tells you this guy is a good guy … well it was like that. I will be watching with some envy but also great anticipation as Dave starts to develop things in the Olympic Park.

I then hopped on a couple of buses from this meeting to get to St Mary Magdalene Blackheath to be part of the audience as the Year 7’s put on an amazing production of A Christmas Carol. It was a great couple of hours and allowed me to wander the school and chat to people before hearing some amazing singing and seeing some excellent acting.

Hopping on another bus took me to The Pelton Arms where it was my turn to sing carols and join with others from the East Greenwich Team. Lots of people in the pub joined in and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to sing carols in their community. I think that is quite key for us to note … that going out from the church and giving people opportunity to mark events in the wider community , rather than always inviting them to join us in our smaller one, seems to be becoming more of a perceived need. It is interesting that this follows on from Jean’s observations here.

It is clear to me that people last night wanted to join in the singing of carols, that they wanted maybe to connect with something that is lying dormant deep within them … but I wonder if it is not until they were exposed to some resonating experience (in this case our singing carols in their pub) that people are even aware that there is something lying dormant within. I am thinking aloud … but it is worth proper thought and reflection as I wonder whether the people in the pub would have experienced carols and that sense of memory or wonder if the church had not gone in to that space?

Following the Pelton I finally got home …. listened to some Bowie and went to sleep. A lot of stuff yesterday that I need to take the time to reflect on … and I will do!

Our next Parish carols is at the Vanburgh on Thursday night (8pm) so why not join us!

 

 

How do we do this?

img_0211So I have lived here at GMV for around 16 month now. I am nearly half way through my contract … 3 years was always a crazy timescale to get something new happening here, but we are running with it and trusting God.

A large part of the last year has seen me doing a lot of observing and watching. Those of you that have travelled with me on this blog will know that I learned at Rochester that it was important to wait and properly listen, rather than do what churches have often done in the past … and offer something that they think is needed (which in my experience is often some manufactured generic thing that works elsewhere)  which fails because it is far removed from what the people are looking for in reality.

I have seen lots of ‘projects’ done to people or answers being given to questions that the local people are not asking … and I have felt strongly that we did not wish to be like that.

I have listened for a year.
I have had many conversations asking 3 questions …. what do you like about living here?, what frustrates you about living here?, and what is lacking here? Questions that were put together in a meeting with great people at Livability.
The locations for those conversations have been limited and restricted mainly to the coffee shop, residents meetings and the bus stop. One fact that has prevented me from meeting more people is the sheer lack of community space that there is here … there is a great coffee shop … and the is kind of it.

So what have I learned?
A lot of people feel lonely and even more, nearly half interviewed, believe there is no community feel here.
It is easy to dismiss those findings and say there is stuff here as someone bluntly pointed out to me around a year ago when I started this survey … but if people are saying this is lacking then we need to respond.

So … I guess my question has adapted from a year ago in my dream for Holy Trinity here.
I came asking how do we bless the community and get involved here …. I’m now asking how can we partner with others to develop a stronger community feel here so that when the survey is repeated that ‘community feel’ is an overwhelming positive rather than a demoralising lacking.

It seems. however, that new builds like ours, and in which I currently live, are not primarily designed with community in mind. They are, maybe, designed with privacy as a motivation. I am an outgoing person but see very few people in my block of 16 apartments and only know 3 other names of people sharing my front door. I met an elderly  couple who told me they have lived here for 10 years and only know the neighbours that share their landing … but that they only come across them 2 or 3 times a year.

I get the privacy thing.
I understand people getting home from a day in the city and the last thing they want is a knock on the front door.
There are times I come home and really don’t want to see or talk to anyone.
But to do that continually, and if that becomes a pattern, do we then start to fool ourselves that our own company, rather than community, is what we want?
Because … if we do … I am not sure that is a good thing for our basic humanity.

Ian talks about an energy deficit model which I think may shed some light here. It goes something like this:
People feel they have only a limited amount of energy. This energy is then used wisely with people feeling they have to conserve energy for work and essential tasks. This means that when invited somewhere, like a community meal or a drink out for example, they feel they don’t have the energy and so decline. On the occasions they go for the meal or drink they realise by the end of it that they are energised and it was actually what they needed. I believe this is because we are created to be in community, not hiding away in apartments.
Sadly I feel this model is quite evident here … and that when people do attend, they do get that energy burst, but then easily forget about it as the real city life world comes crashing in again.

Maybe we need to vie things differently? From a different perspective? By turning things upside down?

So … people also living in other gated communities in cities …
How do we grow community?
How do we encourage people to interact together?
How do we remind people that its better for their energy levels to be in community
How do we live as fully as possible in places which seem to be designed to hide or protect us from each other ….
and to protect us from what?!

So …. just …. ‘HOW?”

Feel free to answer … or comment … or anything really!

ashes and beer!

From the AshesIt’s been a pretty busy time … a few things to update and for me to reflect on.

So we arrived at the bus stops at 730am on Ash Wednesday. We were both robed. I was a little nervous. We positioned ourselves, with our small containers of ashes and a handful of our postcards which had a lent prayer and explanation attached to them, at each of the bus stops opposite each other and waited.

We did not have to wait long until we were engaged in conversation with a variety of people. Some asked about the ‘fancy dress’ while others told us simply that they knew it was Ash Wednesday and, ‘yes please …. could you ash me and pray for me’.

In all we gave ashes to just over 30 people in the hour we were there. People seemed encouraged and blessed by our presence; even people who did not wish to receive ashes or a postcard commented that they liked to see ‘the church’ out with the people. Lots of people did not wish to engage and avoided any eye contact and it was very right to respect their dignity and give space, but many also wanted to engage and ether connect or reconnect in some simple way with God, their Creator.

Wednesday morning was encouraging.
Then came Wednesday evening.

For a large part of the previous week I had posted a message asking anyone that was interested in birthing a new church on the Greenwich Peninsula to meet me at the local pub on Wednesday evening. I even blogged it here. After much prayer I felt this was right to ‘put out there’ and was convinced that, through this, I would find the first of the new people that would join us to create church here.

I arrived very confidently at 7:55pm.
I waited.
I waited more.
It seemed I waited an age so I looked at my watch and saw it was only 8:15pm.
I laughed at myself.
8:15 became 9, and 9 became 10.
No one came. No one showed up.
The good beer could only be a scuffed and scratched, rather than silver, lining on the evening.

Whenever you plan or hope to meet with people and they do not show it is hard to take. I was convinced I would meet one key person that evening … and yet the reality was I felt pretty invisible and anonymous in the pub. A few weird looks at the start (obvs I was in dog collar!) dissolved into nothingness. Even in Rochester I was sworn at or the butt of jokes ….. but here … nothing!

It felt harsh.
I wondered if I had got everything wrong.
I questioned whether what I am trying to do here is even possible.
I then I heard a memory …. a memory about presence and being present.

I had to acknowledge that I believe I have been called here by God to work with the people that are here to create something. But …. over and above that calling, God asks me to be present here. Properly present, present and available. We were present and available in the morning and people were encouraged …. I was present and available in the evening and seemingly people didn’t notice …. but it is immaterial …. it changes nothing …. present and available is what I am called to be  ….. and present and available is what I will continue to choose to be.

So I go out today …. not too sure where … but wherever …. present and available is what I will be.