Trying to think about life and how God makes it full

Retreat on the East Coast

101_59691.JPGFor the past 3 days I’ve been staying at Tollesbury, doing the spiritual input for the combined Retreat of 3 Christian Outdoor Centres: Fellowship Afloat Charitable Trust (FACT), Christian Youth Enterprises (CYE), and St. George’s House (SGH). The 3 Centres try to get together twice per year for mutual learning, encouragement, and relationship building. There are real synergies that develop where groups doing similar things in different contexts get together in intentional ways. They’re all such good people too, friendly, open to new learning, passionate about the outdoors and the Creator of the natural playgrounds that are also their places of work.

Naturally, there was also sailing to be done (my foot handled that very well, I’m pleased to say), along with 5-a-side football competition (won by FACT), quiz, and the usual FACT abundance of good food. The weather


was fabulous, and the photos are taken on Thursday morning as I sat on the deck of one of the accommodation boats enjoying coffee and sunshine while the tide came in – bliss!

Below, I’ve put the note I did for the 3 sessions I ran:

  1. Contemplative worship, centred around Ps 40:1-3, and helped with Johnny Cash and U2.
  2. Group Discussion questions prior to the input session.
  3. Input session on Liminality and Communitas, based on Luke 8:22-25.

Contemplative worship, centred around Ps 40:1-3, and helped with Johnny Cash and U2.

Brief explanation of how the evening will work

Call to Prayer
Track 1: Bells Franciscan Album (1:15)

But perhaps you don’t feel ‘still’, or ready for prayer. Perhaps you feel restless, like a ‘Wanderer’.

Track 2: The Wanderer – Johnny Cash on Zooropa Album (4:42)

‘Tune in Chill Out”, p..42ff

Within each one of us is a secret place – like a sanctuary, where God dwells in the HS. God is always there, but we’re often distracted.
Please turn off mobile phones, and anything else that’s likely to distract you, or someone else.
God wants us to join him in the sanctuary of our hearts, where he can hold us in his love, and where we can be at peace – like a child in its mother’s arms.
(follow the book)

(follow the book)

(follow the book)

Reading Psalm 40:1-3

Track 3: “40”- U2 on War Album (2:37)
How patient are you with God?

When were you last aware of God being attentive to your heart’s cry?

DVD: Hurt – Johnny Cash, on The work of Director, Mark Romanek

Perhaps you’re full of hurt, and wondering where God is in your life.
Maybe you’re someone who feels they’re always hurting others, themselves, and God…

  • If you could start again with God, how would you do that?

Track 5: Help Me- Johnny Cash on American V Album (2:51)

Bring to mind an instance when God helped you and drew you out of a sticky situation and gave you a new start.

Track 6: Further on up the Road- Johnny Cash on American V Album (3:25)

Thinking of that instance that God helped you, how did you describe to others his intervention in your life?
∑ Did you sing God’s praises?
∑ Were you embarrassed to say that it was God?
∑ Or did you just put it down to ‘coincidence’?
Tell God about how you feel now with respect to how you responded to his help…and what you might say when you meet him further on up the road.

Track 7: Bass Trap – U2 on Best of 1980-1990 Album (3:33)

Has the instance of God’s help that you recalled deepened your trust in God?
∑ If so, how would you describe your ‘new song’ to, and about, God?

Track 8: I came to believe – Johnny Cash on American V Album (3:44)

Belief in Jesus is more than just assenting to doctrinal statements. Its about being in relationship with Jesus, and that relationship being worked out in real life with other sisters and brothers.
∑ How are your relationships with others just now?

Track 9: One – Johnny Cash version of U2 song (got it from someone else but can’t source the original – you could just use U2’s version)

All of us know life is not easy, but Psalm 40 encourages us to be patient in our troubles, to have the courage to call to God, to continue singing his praises, and to Walk On as determined disciples of Love.

Track 10: Walk On – U2 (5:28)

Group Discussion questions prior to the input session.

What’s the Big Idea behind your Centre?
Ie, what is your Centre for?

What are the areas of your Centre’s ministry that:
a. Frighten you most?
b. Excite you most?

Share experiences of when you were amazed by what Jesus did when your Centre had only Him to rely on.

How do you measure ‘growth’ at your Centre?

What does your Centre do to:
a. Create opportunities that lead toward growing a sense of community?
b. Intentionally try to sustain that sense of community?

What are the activities that your Centre engages in that produce most growth in:
a. Your Staff, including volunteers
b. The users of your Centre

How can you intentionally develop those activities to:
a. Produce stronger disciples of Jesus
b. Introduce non-Christians to the Way of Jesus

Input session on Liminality and Communitas, based on Luke 8:22-25.

What, if anything, does this miracle have to do with Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of God?

Liminality and Communitas (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways)
1. How did Xnty grow from 25k in 100AD, to 20m in 310AD?
2. How did Chinese church grow from 2m to 60m during Mao’s reign?

Rites of Passage:
African example of boys living with women, then kidnapped by men and taken into bush.
∑ Blindfolded, roughed up, circumcised, and left to themselves for up to 6 months.
∑ Can only live on what they hunt and gather.
∑ Men visit once/month for mentoring and debriefing.
The boys are in a state of Liminality
Liminality is about a transition process accompanying a fundamental change of state or social position.
∑ Boys begin to find each other in mutual reliance, before moving onto next phase.

This finding each other is called communitas.
∑ Communitas happens in situations where individuals are driven to find each other through a common experience of ordeal, humbling, transition, and marginalisation.

A Comradeship is born
The boys are becoming a communitas of men.

If the boys emerge from the experience, they are reintroduced to the tribe as men – no longer boys.

The unsafe, risky, transitional process of liminality produces a deep sense of communitas that is transformational in the lives of the group members. (draw diagram from Hirsch p.221)
DVD clip of Band of Brothers Boot Camp – Disc 6: The Making of BofB, first 8.5 mins

Communitas and community
∑ Tends toward safety and security and equilibrium.
∑ Is very prone to ‘the community for me’ taking over.
o What’s in it for me?
∑ Institutional church probs
o Huddle and cuddle
o Youth groups keep kids safe
o ‘niceness’
∑ Tends toward risk and danger and uncertainty
∑ Is more about ‘me for the community and the community for the world’
o Being engaged in something bigger than yourself (Diagram from Hirsch p.236)
o Is about doing something
o Being reliant upon God and others – completely.
Story of me and Woody

The Bible and Communitas
God seems to reveal himself most especially in times of extremity, when life is difficult.

Luke 8:22-25
Jesus only says 2 things in the passage (3, if you count rebuking the wind and waves)
1. ‘Let’s go over to the other side’
What does it mean?
Going somewhere that is not your own place?
Where is the other side for you?

2. ‘Where is your faith?’ What is the meaning of Jesus’ question
Jesus is with you in the storm
He expects you to have faith in the midst of the difficulty
He doesn’t mind being woken up
He will help
But he expects you to have faith in him, even when he seems to be asleep

The disciples only say 2 things in the passage
1. ‘Master, Master, we’re going to drown’
things go wrong
life gets very scary
you may get hurt
you might even die – unlikely, but possible
Squalls are violent, unpredictable, cause damage and fear
Experienced seamen afraid
Must be a bad squall
Stories of me in squalls

2. ‘Who is this?’
this is the BIG question
it comes from being amazed at what Jesus has just done
When was the last time you were amazed at what Jesus did when you thought life was at an end?

Do we have little faith because we see no miracles? (see Jn 4:43-54, esp 48)
Do we see no miracles because we live such safe lives?

Read this story, and others like it as you think about the concepts of liminality and communitas.
∑ Dangerous stories of faith
∑ Peoples’ lives were on the line
∑ Their lives were changed

The great stories don’t happen from a place of safety and security; they happen in the midst of adventure, risk, and danger.
∑ Narnia – safe!?

“The ship is safest when its in port. But that’s not what ships were made for.” Paul Coelho.

Christians are safest when they’re in church. But that’s not what Christians are made for.

Lots of action, lots of exciting, dramatic stuff.
Disciples constantly on edge, out of comfort-zone, wondering what was coming next, fearing for their lives, being amazed….

What, if anything, does this miracle have to do with Jesus’ preaching of the Kingdom of God?
What, if anything, does this miracle have to do with what you do as Christian adventure centres?
1. Jesus will lead us to ‘the other side’ – places not our own
2. we’re not in control of Kingdom of God
3. in the midst of the danger, Jesus is with us
4. enduring the danger together transforms us like nothing else can
5. transformed, adventurous people go on to change the world.


March 9, 2007 - Posted by | communitas, contemplative, culture, Environment, god, jesus, liminality, mission, religion, wisdom

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