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 6: prayer & pastry

prayer and pastryOne of the first things I started after arriving at HTGP was Prayer and Pastry on a Friday morning. I think it is really important that a community has opportunities to come together to pray.

Prayer & Pastry is an opportunity for anyone that wants to to start their day in prayer and grab a sort of breakfast before launching themselves in to the day ahead.

Sometimes we use standard morning prayer from from Common Worship, while other times we replace some of the service of morning prayer with an examen type meditation.

Being able to check in with each other before getting on with the day is always good … particularly while consuming great (not just good … but GREAT Monmouth or Has Bean coffee and a pastry of some description).

So … Friday mornings … 8am …. maybe see you sometime?

 

gpcu pt 5 … mindful(l)

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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 pt 3 : building change

This is more of a recent catch up post … no one said there was going to be any chronology here did they!

I spoke before of the ever changing nature of life on the peninsula. Buildings change, buildings appear, people move in, people move out (in my block there are 15 apartments … I am the 3rd longest resident now as lots of people have moved out!)

As an observer of people … I believe you need to be good at observing the community if church is to remain relevant …. my apartment is in a great spot above the main bus stops for residents. As little as 3/4 months ago the majority of people waiting at the bus stop were young professionals. Now, this morning, as I look out the majority of those waiting for a bus are children in school uniform.

It would seem a lot of the people who have moved onto the peninsula in the last 3/4 months into the new builds have been young families … and this has changed the sound and flavour of GMV … and I would say for the better. The weekends feel a little busier and noise … when a few months ago it was very much like a ghost town  with many going way at the weekend. Most still do … but this is slowly changing.

As a response to this, a few weeks back, we launched a service from 3-4.30pm called making@church. We wanted to advertise it as a ‘well known band of building bricks’ church but apparently they do not like that particular name being used. So we have making@church.

We advertised this church service through the local school, thorough concierge and via our website and social media platforms.

The format was advertised as being simple … some singing, listening to a story, building something out of lego inspired by the bible story, show off creations, pray using lego, eat pizza and go home. The story we told was the parable the wise and foolish builders. Seemed an obvious one to launch with really!

The format was simple, it was fun and on the day 34 people attended … and looking at the service record book … baring two visits from bishops to licence people (one being me) … 34 is by far the biggest congregation HTGP has ever had …. so we are encouraged and we will look to build on this.

We are trying not to get too excited … but we are hopeful that we have stumbled upon something that will connect and engage with people here in a meaningful and relevant and helpful way.

Sometimes a lot of pioneering work involved trying things, observing, changing and trying things again. This can result in a lot of hard work with no fruit … and when the happens those with a ‘pioneering spirit’ keep going believing that God has a plan and that something , in God’s timing, will spark into life …. after 19 months I am hoping this is the spark that we have been waiting for …. but if it is not …. we will keep trying, keep following, and keep waiting for the Spirit to do what the Spirt alone can do!

So … like the idea?
Then come along to the next one
The next event is on Sunday July 16th …..
lego july pic

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 …. !?

21 today!

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This amazing beautiful young woman is 21 today!
The time has flown.
I remember that very first day … how could I forget …
We decided to have a  day out at Howletts Zoo.
Beth decided that she wanted to appear that day … a week or so early.
We rushed back down the M2… the midwife came to the house … and Beth was born 3 minutes later.
It was all pretty sudden ….
A short while later and the midwife had placed this amazingly beautiful little girl into my arms
And I fell in love…. and would do anything for her from that moment on …. and that has never changed or waned .. no matter what … that love remains as strong as ever

I have loved watching this girl seek her independence and path
I have been amazed at her growth in confidence
I have cried secretly with joy as she has trusted me with stuff of life
I have watched this amazing person develop from a timid and pretty little girl that was worried about school and others
in to
a beautiful young woman who is scared of nothing and is well on the way to becoming an amazing teacher!
I look forward to seeing what your future holds …

Beth … I always have been, am, and always will be incredibly proud of you
Continue to be you …. I have no doubt that will be the case
Grab your dreams …. and don’t let go
You need no ones permission … you are Beth!
Love you loads and hope you enjoy this special day …. oh yeah … and

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!