Be ….

beThis week at Agapai we started our Lent study using Paula Gooder’s material based on the gritty TV series Broken. Prior to our meal we had all agreed to watch episode 1, entitled Christine,which like others in the series, is hard hitting and full of moral dilemmas.

We shared how the episode made us feel … there were a variety of emotions expressed, my own personal one being anger. Anger that those who are vulnerable and in need of support are deprived of it. Others, again, felt great sadness as we tried to get our heads around the subject finding it difficult to understand how being desperate someone becomes when they find themselves with the choices that  Christine faced on a  daily basis.

I love discussing stuff but anyone that knows me understands that somewhere along the way, somewhere in any conversation or in any teaching, I will eventually get to a point of asking:
‘So what?’
‘What is our response as people, as Christians?’
‘What are we called to do?’
‘What can we do?’

In desperate situations of poverty it is hard to know how to support or help and we talked around this for quite a while.  There are no easy or quick fix answers and that makes answering the question the much harder.

After the meeting one of the group found and pointed us to this link. In this Kerry Hudson writes of her return to the towns where she grew up. Some of her comments hot hard and may point to some of the answers as to how we can respond. They all involve getting involved. Getting hands dirty. Being vulnerable. making a difference.

Today, the Richard Rohr thought for the day really resonated with me as I was pondering the Agapai discussion again.

Today Rohr quotes Beatrice Bruteau

we bear some responsibility. We have to take our part in the work. We, for instance, are now in a position to do something about all the suffering. . . . We are agents within the system and can have causal effects on other parts of the system. We have intelligence, we have empathy and capacity to feel for others and to care about them, we even have insight into the Ground present in every being and calling for an appropriate form of absolute respect.

What will we do? . . . What does “God want us to” do? Not a good way of putting the question, because it distances God from the world, but the answer I propose is Be! Be creative, be interactive, be agape, give being, unite, be whole, be in every possible way, be new. The self-creating world is unpredictable. It’s like a musician’s improvisation. . . . But the artwork will always resemble the artist. So the cosmos will somehow be like the Trinity, the vast Person-Community that is Agape, inter-being. . . .

The answer of ‘Be’
That is real
That is intentional
That is us.




Tears as Sacrament

aHR0cDovL3d3dy5saXZlc2NpZW5jZS5jb20vaW1hZ2VzL2kvMDAwLzA5NS84NjIvb3JpZ2luYWwvbWFuLWNyeWluZy10ZWFycy5qcGc=It’s been a long day …
As most of you know I subscribe the Richard Rohr’s daily meditation
The day today has meant I have only just got around to reading today’s …
or I would have posted this earlier
with just a big …. YES!

I found todays post so powerful that I have cut and paste it here in it’s entirety. You can see it online here and you can subscribe too … tho quite frankly I really do not understand why any of my regular readers are not already subscribed …

I find today’s post so powerful
so real
so …. umm .. life giving
and yes …. ‘we need to teach all young people how to cry’
anyway … go read …. (and I’ve love your comments too)

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
Thursday, February 1, 2018

Blessed are those who mourn: they shall be comforted. —Matthew 5:4

Tears are therapeutic and healing, both emotionally and physically. Crying helps the body shed stress hormones and stimulates endorphins. Weeping is a natural and essential part of being human. Eknath Easwaran writes:

We can spend the better part of our lives attempting to construct the perfect personal environment, a kind of bubble that will insulate us against everything that is unpleasant. But sorrow is woven into the very texture of life. Pain, disappointment, depression, illness, bereavement, a sense of inadequacy in our work or our relationships . . . the list could go on and on. . . .

Is there meaning in this pattern, in the inescapable mingling of sorrow and joy? The mystics say there is. If tears are a fact of life, they have several lessons to teach us, and the first is to learn to keep on an even keel through life’s inevitable storms. . . . [1]

The Syrian Fathers Ephrem and Simeon weren’t as familiar in Western Christianity as the Greek and Latin Fathers after the early centuries of the Church. The Greek and Latin Fathers tended to filter the Gospel through the head; the Syrian Fathers’ theology was much more localized in the body. They actually proposed that tears be a sacrament in the Church. Saint Ephrem went so far as to say until you have cried you don’t know God.

Most of us think we know God—and ourselves—through ideas. Yet corporeal, embodied theology acknowledges that perhaps weeping will allow us to know God much better than ideas. In this Beatitude, Jesus praises those who can enter into solidarity with the pain of the world and not try to remove or isolate themselves from its suffering. This is why Jesus says the rich person often can’t see the Kingdom, because they spend too much time trying to make tears unnecessary and even impossible.

Jesus describes those who grieve as feeling the pain of the world. Weeping over our sin and the sin of the world is an entirely different response than self-hatred or hatred of others. Grief allows one to carry the dark side, to bear the pain of the world without looking for perpetrators or victims, but instead recognizing the tragic reality that both sides are caught up in. Tears from God are always for everyone, for our universal exile from home. “It is Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted” (Jeremiah 31:15). I am grateful that the new emergence of hospice work, bereavement ministries, and formal “grief work” seems to indicate we are beginning to understand this. In Men’s Rites of Passage, the “day of grief” is often the turning point toward a man’s initiation. Men finally discover that so much of what they thought was anger was actually sadness, loss, and grief. [2]

Tears seem ridiculous in a culture like ours which is so focused on diversions and entertainment, and are especially a stumbling block to men. Crying will make us look vulnerable. So many men hold back tears. Is it no wonder men don’t live as long as women, on average? We must teach all young people how to cry. Now, in my later years, I finally understand why Saints Francis and Clare cried so much, and why the saints spoke of “the gift of tears.”

© 2018 | Center for Action and Contemplation
1823 Five Points Road SW
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

vulnerability again!

logo2A little while ago I was persuaded by my good friend Anna to join Sion College … who have a strap line of ‘supporting the education and fellowship of church of England clergy in London’.

Each month Sion College hosts seminar suppers amongst other things. I really enjoy the chance to meet new people, and old friends, and engage with some great thinkers and practitioners…. and eat good food and drink wine!

At the last Sion Supper, we listened to Hilary Ison speak on ‘Priesthood and Leadership’ and I found myself, once again, resonating with a lot of what was said.

I found myself sitting up and tuning in quite intently (despite the abundance of red wine) when Hilary said ‘priesthood is about the quality of presence’. I love that phrase,

Quality of Presence

and it sums up what I wish to do and be as a priest …. to be present …. really present …. really and fully present to those that I meet with and come across. I believe wholeheartedly that great quality of presence, where you have time for one person, and totally devote that time to being with them, to showing them they are worth your time and, even more, communicating through that presence that you are actually wanting to be with them, not just being there because you have nowhere else to be. Sometimes I have got that so wrong … and I have learnt the hard way that when that happens massive genuine regret doesn’t cut it! Sometimes quality of presence with strangers seems to be a lot easier than quality of presence with people that really matter on a personal level to me. I wish I could do so much better on that.Unknown

Hilary went on to say that we needed to have the confidence to reclaim the priestly role of being present with both God and people which inevitably needs a massive level of vulnerability.

There comes that word again!
It seems I cannot get away from it.
May I refer you again to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability

She went further to say that when working with others, leaders of presence needed to be confident in their wait … in holding ‘negative anxiety’ (which occurs when things are taking a while to happen) … the vulnerable bit coming in the holding of that anxiety (both personal and communal) as they wait for God to act and for vision to emerge.

Sometimes that can be hard when the pressure is on to deliver results, or increased numbers or maybe even to do something very different …. but as painful as it is …. bearing that vulnerability of presence when needing to balance tensions of anxiety and waiting for God to reveal a plan is really the only thing to do. Maybe that can be easier to do when we remember that church is family and community, rather than business with business ways of working.

But …
the vulnerability if that waiting and holding …
anyone else wish God would sometimes just be that teeny weeny bit quicker tho ….. ?



radical & obscene … that’s my God!

Luther-posting-95-theses-560x366-2Every term or so the ‘clergy / reader team’ of the East Greenwich Parish get together for a theological discussion which someone at the previous get together agrees to lead. Last year I ran a discussion on Eucharist while other shave looked at salvation and other great topics to get us talking.


Today Tim led us as we considered Luther and the Reformation with Tim asking us to think around two pretty interesting questions:

(1)  What do you consider to be the most significant or relevant of Luther’s ideas for you personally in your spiritual life/walk?
(2)  What do you consider to be the most significant or relevant of Luther’s ideas for the people of the Parish of East Greenwich in 2017?  (You may have different thoughts for our different Churches)
For me, for both questions, there is one over-arching answer that I believe I have centred my ministry on.
Obviously having the bible in the ‘vernacular’ is key and central and has been important.  I spend a lot of time thinking around language to use in the various settings that have to teach the Bible.
Way at the top of the list, however, for me is the theme that ‘salvation is a free gift of God’. By this I believe that to mean that we can do nothing to earn salvation. We can do nothing to change how God views us. God created us, loves us, and … well kinda loves to hang out with us!
When I have met with people in the hidden places that I spoke of yesterday, so many of them have felt that they are not good enough for God. Others have felt that what they have done simply means they are condemned by God. Still others have tearfully said to me that they are too insignificant for God to even notice.
My believe my role as a missioner, as a servant, as a priest …. is to tell people the truth … that God flipping loves them, that they are totally acceptable … and not that God is only interested in them but that God id actively looking out and searching for them … continually and without fail.
I have seen people literally ‘grow’ when they have heard, really heard, those true words of acceptance.
Sometimes it seems to me that the church and christians have forgotten this radical grace and acceptance that God offers. I remember having a conversation with a colleague a few years ago in pub theo (how I miss pub theo!) as we chatted around his view that there was a need for a person to change their behaviour to follow God and my response that if we have to do something then that is not ‘grace’ or free salvation. WE went around in circles and the truth is somewhere in there.
The fact, and I use that word deliberately, that acceptance, salvation, or whatever term we wish to use, from God is totally free is, quite frankly, a crazy notion.
But it’s true.
It’s crazily radically mad.
It’s pretty offensive to some.
It’s obscene to others.
Maybe that’s why I love it so much …. I follow a God, The Creator, incarnated in Jesus Christ … who is a God that obscenely radically totally unequivocally offensively accepts those God has created.
I think that’s a God worth following!

glad I went …

saviours-g-w400This week I attended my first Sion College Seminar Summer. I was put on to it by my good friend Anna who I trained with at SEITE.

Lincoln, the speaker for the evening, (and one of my lecturers as well as my personal tutor at SEITE) spoke well and provocatively on how we do theology and how we express and develop our views. There was so much to think about and I may well take him up on his offer to visit him at St Mellitus and chat more over coffee.

I was struck, though, by the warmth of individuals at this meeting. Often new things i visit, in my experience, are cliquey and hard to move into. This was not the case at this meeting. Everyone was lovely and welcoming and I look forward to the next stimulating event.

One of the highlights of the evening was meeting and chatting with some of Intermission Youth Theatre. This group of young people were stunning in their ability and skill of acting; and the act they performed for us was profound and thought provoking. They would be excellent to have in school if you are looking for a theatre group to bring a message to school.

This was a great evening and so glad I was persuaded to go!

practical wisdom – ordinary people

seattle pub theoThis new term has seen me experiencing a coupe of ‘firsts’ or, maybe more accurately, new challenges. The first is that, as well as chaplain, I have agreed to teach three GCSE Geography lessons a week at one of the schools I am a chaplain at.

This week I will be lecturing at SEITE (the place I trained at) for this term on mission. I will be teaching the module on a Tuesday evening in Canterbury while my good friend and mentor, Ian Mobsby, will be teaching the same module on a Monday evening at Southwark cathedral. Ensuring we deliver the same content has involved hours of Skype conversations … and we are now ready to deliver the first session which looks at Models of Mission and context for theology and mission.

I’m more daunted than I am excited by this new challenge, although I hope that might change.

While planning, I have been hit by some quotes and viewpoints that we are using in our teaching. I love this quote from Richard Mouw:

“High theology is aloof from the needs of ordinary people dealing with loss, health, depression and so they turn to folk and New Age practicers which offer an account of and techniques for dealing with their concerns.
There is practical wisdom to be found in ordinary people.
Examine popular culture for a legitimate critique of the shortcomings of theology that has so distanced it from people struggling to believe
We must probe the hidden places: looking for the sings of eloquence and grace to be found there; listening for deep calling unto deep; searching, not only for the Deeper Magic, but also for the Deeper Quests, the Deeper Pleasures, the Deeper Hurts and the Deeper Plots.”

I simply love and shout ‘YES!!!’ at the line … There is practical wisdom to be found in ordinary people.

We are all created in the Image of God. It therefore follows obviously that each and every one of our ordinary lives displays some form of wisdom from God. The fact that some wings of the church choose, or actively campaign, to deny this with certain people groups is not only sad, but it results in the church losing the beauty that comes with the wisdom from those ordinary people. The church cannot be complete until it truly listens to all.

If theology is aloof it follows that it becomes irrelevant. Too often we see, particularly in the Roman Catholic church today, this aloofness of theology and practice that excludes or belittles or disregards. When challenged they use the line of ‘tradition and theology’. But … theology is not a static concept … it can’t be if it claims any relevance …. to be relevant in ever changing times then theology and practice need to ‘upgrade’ to continue to be relevant. This upgrade is called contextualisation!

But I love Mouw’s comments for more than that ….. for Mouw seems to suggest that the starting place requires us to watch and to listen. Listening for deep calling to deep …. not a listening to hear things that fit with our prepackaged answers ….. but a listening, that if done with integrity, engages in such a way with our thinking that it can be totally transformed so that theology returns to being relevant and compassionate again.

‘One of those ‘hidden places for me is the pub I visit on a Friday evening. Each week I see incredible signs of grace and eloquence. This last week, as I sat at the bar with the landlord and landlady we experienced lots of acts of grace from the regulars which drew the comment … ‘this is how a pub should be’ … I responded ‘its a community’ which they agreed was probably right.

For real genuine engagement … we need to listen … and listen for signs of eloquence and grace … and I find that usually …. it’s in the unexpected, deep hidden places where we are surprised by, and meet, such things.

we are all cracked …

crackvase_litex3I have now been blogging for 10 years. I’ve checked and I started (again) on May 12 2004 after a few failed attempts … but SHP seems to have kept going … sometimes regularly, sometimes not, but always kept going with something.

I started this as a reflective exercise … and in the main that is what SHP still is for me … a tool for reflection and to invite reflection / comment from others. Engaging with other people and hearing of others experiences around ‘stuff’ that matters to me is and continues to be an energising and often challenging experience.  An unexpected and incredibly positive sideline is that the presence of this blog has enabled me to find new friends, some of whom I have met, and some who are encouraging and thought provoking from a distance … some even on different sides of oceans!

One such friend who I nearly met while in Yorkshire on holiday is Graham, a Methodist minister, who blogs over at Digging a Lot. His posts regularly inspire me … and today his words cause me to simply acknowledge with a slightly tearful nod of agreement. Before saying more, as Graham says, first you need to listen to this song … or at least the opening couple of minutes if Leonard Cohen is not your style ..

I seem to hang out, get on, and prefer to be with those who know they are cracked and broken. I am totally at home in one place I visit simply because the people there know they are broken. They don’t hide it, they don’t pretend but simply acknowledge it as being part of who they are. Interestingly many of these people would say that having me listening helps them personally …. but being with these broken cracked people has caused me to admit increasingly that I, too, am cracked and broken. In this particular setting, and with certain particular people that I hang out with there, this also has not been hidden and has been totally accepted. I believe honesty is kind of necessary for community to grow …

It is as if we journey together with our cracks in a brokenness that we understand, acknowledge, accept … but also hope that as we travel and encounter God in a new way .. that some form of healing or restoration will occur. BUT … and this is a BIG but … I am not sure I want my cracks to disappear completely, nor am I sure I wish to be totally restored … and maybe I don’t even believe total restoration can happen this side of eternity …because if I don’t have cracks and breaks … how do people see God shining through … and how can I ‘let the light in’? If I am restored and fixed how can I possibly relate meaningfully to broken people in a fucked up world?

To make a difference in a broken world …. I wonder …. do you first need to be broken … not broken and restored … but simply broken … aware of that brokenness … embracing it as part of life … and believing it will change … but probably not fully until Christ returns … 

A few years ago I loved this poster from Christian Aid. ‘I believe in Life before Death’ is still a mantra I hold close to in my understanding of Christianity. I don’t think ‘being broken’ means we are not living. Actually … I wonder if admitting to brokenness … and so embracing our vulnerability actually means we are then able to live a fuller life (John 10:10 and all that jazz!)

The thing about brokenness, I guess, is the healthy gritty reality that accompanies it … so thank you Graham for inspiring me today …. and I shamelessly end with your words …

often I have been in tears
by the light
coming from people who say
‘I am not much
nothing special’

in my  limited experience … it is those who really are
the special, valuable, precious ones