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!

Progress … ?

The last few days have been quite exciting on the Greenwich Peninsula.
I don’t think we have cracked it yet, but this week we had some amazingly positive signs.

Following on from the encouragement of the Mindful meditation ….

agapaiLast night we had the largest ever attendance at Agapai with new faces. We had a great conversation around Jesus washing feet and how we use power and authority (based on Archbishops Justin’s book). We also had time to share our stories and pray for each other … it was a very cool time.

 

I hope this continues.
I pray this continues.
But … regardless … we will carry on!

a collect for peace

sometimes … all we can do is pray …

C7iJxb3WkAAstW1

Contrasts

contrast-zebraLast Tuesday was a difficult frustrating day.
The kind of  day when you ask whether you even know what you are doing as nothing seems to work.

Last Tuesday after months of planning I went somewhere to start a project and myself and my colleague were not expected. So the project never got started. (It will in a  few weeks!)

I then led a meditation class later that day and no one came!
These two events are lynchpins in the hypothesis we are testing here to engage with people, so the very fact they stumbled felt quite major.

This Tuesday was completely different!

Today I attended a great meeting with others at Ravensbourne College where people were gathered together to see how we might work together to make a difference. I guess the roots of this meeting came form a regional RSA meeting where I take about how we build community in places of new builds such as Greenwich Peninsula.

Today we gathered as architects, research staff, innovators, entrepreneurs, developers and a vicar! WE chatted fir two hours united in our desire to name a difference, to help people, and to spark community development. It was a great meeting and one where people shared ideas and displayed a  willingness to come together and try things together.

Following that I led this weeks meditation session in the NOW Gallery. We had 6 people which was a surprise after last week.  At each session I ask people to record how stressed they feel on a scale of 1 – 10before we start. We then have a simple breathing exercise before we silently meditate for 20 minutes. Each person felt their stress level dropped by at least 3 points and one person even wrote a thank you on their record!

At the end of the meditation I received lots of messages about Agapai tomorrow and it looks like we will have 6 people …. which I think is the largest number ever!

My day ended with having dinner with an amazing friend … so a pretty cool day really!

It’s strange how one day in a week can be so polar opposite to the same day in the next!

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 ….

 

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.

Dance Ecstatically!

dancers-graphicI have been enjoying being challenged (again) by the daily meditations of Richard Rohr this past week.

This last week Rohr has been writing about Trinity. I was particularly reminded by Richard of how history has often fed people the patriarchal / supreme monarch / critical spectator and disinterested image of God.

That’s not the image of God I hold. It’s not the character of the God I follow. Richard correctly points out that we become like the God we worship. If our image of God is a God who separates and is prejudiced and discriminates then we become that person too.

I have for some time had a real issue with Augustine’s theology of original sin. In my reading ‘the fall’ comes a little while after God looks at the world and says ‘it is good’ before then looking at humankind and saying ‘They are VERY good’.

How can Augustine describe something created by God, in the image of God, labelled ‘very good’ by God to be embroiled in an original de facto layer of sin?!

If we view ourselves as created ‘in sin’ then our image of God is bound to be warped. It is quite difficult to believe in a God who loves us totally if we are then expected to believe that God sees us as full of crap and sin and stuff! To me … that does not hold with being created in the image of a loving and caring and fully engaged with us God.

Because God created us…. we are all loved and accepted totally by God …. just as we are with no need to change or be anything else other than the people we have been created to be.

This weeks daily readings have reminded me of this stuff which can be quite difficult to hold on to in a society that judges us according to how we look, how hard we workand how much we earn.
Every Saturday Richard Rohr gives a task to help us bed the weeks meditations …. I looked forward to Saturdays and it did not disappoint!:

Practice: Ecstatic Dance

God cannot be known by thinking but by experiencing and loving. As you read about the theological framework and practical implications of Trinity, I hope you will take many opportunities to explore this concept in your lived experience.

Here’s one way you might play—with a childlike spirit—and feel Trinity’s flow in your body. You may even lose track of where you, the dancer, end and the dance itself begins.

Choose a favorite or new piece of music—classical, world, contemporary; anything that calls you to move!—and find a place in which you can listen and move without inhibition, barefooted if possible.

Allow your body to lead, following the invitation of the music. Let your mind take a back seat and tune in to the sensations of each part of your body.

Feel your feet connect with the ground. Let limbs and joints turn and bend as they will. Swing and sway your head, shoulders, hips. Sink deep into your body, remembering what it is to be a human animal.

Dance until you are pleasantly tired and then gradually slow your movements, perhaps to another musical tempo. Continue moving in smaller, gentler ways: breathe deeply, stretch your arms and legs, roll your head.

Come to a seated position and rest in stillness.

So …. remember you are VERY good …. created in the image of a loving concerned and very involved God ….

so
go
dance
Ecstatically!