Trying to think about life and how God makes it full

Stop the Traffik

As the 25 March gets closer, this video reminds us that people are more than commodities to be bought and sold.

I will be leading a group of people from church in attending the Making Your Mark March on 24 March through central London. We’ll meet at Walthamstow Central tube station at 10am, so bring your own food and drink, comfy clothes and shoes, and a spirit that sees the image of God in everyone.


March 15, 2007 Posted by | culture, god, jesus, mission, people trafficking, religion | 2 Comments

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.

Continue reading

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

Liminality and Communitas

Last weekend, I spent a wonderful day with my friends of Fellowship Afloat Charitable Trust (FACT). These are the crew who taught me to sail, and over the seven years I’ve known them, have become an important part of my life. The reason I spent the day with them, was that they were having their annual Away Day and they wanted me to have some input into their development as an organisation.

There are three main groups that make up FACT on a day like that: the Trustees, the Staff, and the Year Volunteer Staff. So I needed to ensure that I was engaging with all three groups throughout my session. But that was really good, as it actually gave the impetus for what I wanted to do, and what I thought was going to be a helpful way for them to engage with what they’re actually doing.

I drew heavily on material from Alan Hirsch’s new book, ‘The Forgotten Ways’; in particular, the chapter on ‘Communitas, not Community’. Here’s a quote from Alan’s book that I think is a good summary of what liminality and communitas is about:

‘…maturity and self-actualisation require movement and risk, and that adventure is actually good for the soul. They all teach that a deep form of togetherness and love is found when we emabark on a common mission of discovery, when we encounter danger together and have to find each other in the process in order to survive. We find all these elements in the way Jesus formed his disciples as together they embarked on a journey that took them away from their homes, family, and securities (be they social or religious) and set out on an adventure that involved liminality, risk, action-reflection learning, communitas, and spiritual discovery. On the way their fears of inadequacy and lack of provision faded, only to be replaced by a courageous faith that went on to change the world forever.’ (pp.240/1)

I wanted the FACT crew to engage with the concepts of Liminality and Communitas as I think that’s what they’re intuitively doing as an integral part of who they are and how they operate. But I didn’t think that they had the concepts or the language to articulate effectively that that was what they were doing. Once you’re tasted Liminality and Communitas in how you live and operate, nothing else comes close to really living. I’ve experienced it myself in the work I’ve done in NZ, Australia, and in London’s East End. But as a curate I’m struggling, as curate life is too safe.

Below, I’ve put the notes that I used for the day, including the resources, in case you wanted to have look.

Continue reading

January 27, 2007 Posted by | communitas, culture, god, jesus, liminality, mission, religion | 4 Comments

“In Him Alone: The Tension between Trust in God and the use of one’s Talents”.

There is a saying that has traditionally been attributed to Ignatius, “Pray as though everything depended on God, and work as though everything depends on you.” But apparently, there is nothing in his writings that supports that idea. However, there is a saying in his writings that could have given rise to it, but its just the opposite. It says, “Pray as if everything depended on you, and work as though everything depends on God.”

When you think about it, the latter saying is the better one. It calls us to prayer precisely because what we do matters, and whatever we do we want it to be what God wants us to do. So, we need to spend time in prayer, giving God the opportunity to form our will to his. And if we work as though everything depends on God, then if he wants to stop something we’re involved in then we don’t have to agonise over it and be distraught (the agony and distress coming as a result of our ego and pride being affected).

Some time ago, I was involved in the development of a potentially exciting form of a ‘fresh expression’ of church in a local high street. We prayed and worked hard for it, and of course, it was dependent upon external funding for it to be able to proceed. But all along, I had the attitude that, “If we don’t get the funding for it then it can’t happen as we had envisaged it, and I’ll take it that God doesn’t want it to go ahead that way. That’s fine, I won’t be heartbroken, embarrassed, or dismayed.”

It connects with the idea of ‘indifference’, or as I would like to call it, ‘holy indifference’. That’s about freely and completely letting something go when its plain that it must be let go. It’s also about sitting light to things in life so that the freedom to love is not constrained by the love of things, be they possessions, work, projects, etc.

Ignatius said that if his religious order were dissolved, it would take him 15 minutes of prayer to be at peace.

The trap that is always before us is that we can invest so much of who we are in what we do that our identity and value as a human being becomes directly tied to what we do.

And while it is right and proper that we should develop our skills and knowledge in the work we are given to do, we must keep alive the tension that comes from responding to God’s call to trust him with all of our life. The sin is found in trusting ourselves to ourselves or our work or anything other than primarily trusting ourselves to God. It’s sinful because we miss the mark by not allowing God to form us into fully human beings in the ways that he wants to.

Lord, please help me to keep aware of that tension and allow you always to have your way in my life. Amen.

January 25, 2007 Posted by | contemplative, culture, emerging church, god, Ignatius, mission, religion, wisdom | 2 Comments

UK Wedding Show at ExCeL

wdg1.JPGOn the 28th January, I’ll be one of the Diocese of Chelmsford’s representatives at the UK Wedding Show, being held at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in the London Docklands area.

The Bishop asked me to be part of the team, and I was pleased to accept. I’ve never been to a wedding show before, so it will be an ‘interesting’ experience. Such a loaded word that, ‘interesting’, don’t you think? But I do like doing weddings, and apparently people really like what I do with their weddings, so I’m looking forward to being there.

One of the big things for me as someone responsible for marrying people is to ensure that we go through a fairly thorough period of marriage preparation. What that means in practice, is that I meet with every couple for about 3 x 1.5hrs sessions of discussion around a whole range of issues that will be encountered in their new life together. It usually raises some things that the couple either haven’t thought of, or simply haven’t confronted together. Mostly, that’s a positive experience for them, but occasionally it does bring up some fairly serious issues that are quite uncomfortable at the time. But better to recognise and confront them early (and with the help of a third party), rather than later. Most couples find the pre-marriage preparation really beneficial and actually enjoyable, even though most of them are quite nervous about it at the beginning. And it means that we get to know each other, so that we all feel a whole more comfortable with each other on the big day. It moves the whole thing beyond me merely providing a ‘service’, to something that has some meaningful relationship behind it.

My own marriage preparation lasted about 10 minutes I think, and I have virtually no memory of it. I certainly didn’t want to perpetuate that bad practice when I was in a position to do something about it.

My slot is in the afternoon of the 28th, and there will be 3 of us on the stand: 2 clergy (male and female) and a communications officer.

Let me know if you’re coming, and then come and say hello on the day.

January 22, 2007 Posted by | culture, ExCeL, god, mission, religion, weddings | Leave a comment

Martin Luther King Jr. Day today

mlk.jpeg Bishop ‘Woodie’ White pens his ‘birthday letter’ to Dr King about the progress of racial equality in the United States. Now retired and serving as bishop-in-residence at United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, White was the first top staff executive of the denomination’s racial equality monitoring agency, the Commission on Religion and Race. And you can hear Dr. King’s definition of ‘greatness’ by clicking here.

The 2007 letter from Bishop White reads as follows:

Dear Martin:

My greatest temptation in writing this year is to not mention the burden of my heart: the war in which our nation is engaged. I am certain if you were here, your voice would be heard, as the prophets of old.

This leads me to consider how profoundly your voice is missed. There have been so many occasions when I have longed for your voice. Yours was unique. You spoke with such passion, clarity and moral authority. You had the ability to change hearts as well as actions.

We seem to be at a curious juncture in America in the area of race. On the one hand, systemic and institutional racism are giving way to a more racially inclusive society. On the other, individual daily acts of prejudice and racism can still be encountered routinely.
Continue reading

January 15, 2007 Posted by | culture, god, mission, MLK | 2 Comments

Loyal Radicals practising Benevolent Subversion

Great tip from Jonny Baker that points to a very interesting article by Bob Hopkins about the subject of this post’s title. It resonates with me, and reminds me of the post I did recently back on the old blog called, ‘Reflections on Institutionalised Religion’. I think that according to Bob Hopkins, I’m what you might call a ‘loyal radical’, as I sit on a variety of Diocesan bodies, including Bishops Council. The reason I sit on these bodies is so that I might be able to bring some kind of change from the inside, defend and encourage ‘iffy’ ventures on the edges of the Diocese, and try to get the Diocese to see its role as resourcing those ventures rather than stifle them. In other words, I want to help the Diocese create a ‘culture of possibility’ rather than see problems with new, adventurous stuff that just might be of the Spirit.

Here are some excerpts from Bob’s article:

“…we have been blessed with a whole generation of leaders at the grass roots who have been passionate about mission and change, but who have been totally committed to the inherited church they belong to and have worked for change from within. The term that came to my mind to describe these folk was “Loyal Radicals”. As I came up with this summary descriptive phrase, it seemed to take on a particular ring of significance.”

” Now mission innovation in historic denominations has two main challenges to address. Not only must it respond to the needs of the dramatically changed and diverse mission context. It must also engage with the inherited structural anatomy that would either limit the release of the mission energy and resources or cramp the ownership and incorporation of the developing church. So perhaps we could combine two other words that are unusual bedfellows and describe this as “benevolent subversion”.

How do you feel about this stuff?

January 12, 2007 Posted by | contemplative, culture, emerging church, god, mission, religion | 1 Comment

Virtual culture, virtual community, virtual humans: ergo, virtual God? (updated)

Yesterday, blogscapes left an encouraging message on my post about: 15 tips for blogging. Very kind. I had a look at their blog, and this post of theirs reminded me of the following article I’d written a couple of years ago, and posted here almost a year ago. As I revisited the article, I noticed that the footnotes and hyperlink relating to Tim North’s thesis that includes the reference to Sandia’s Elaine Raybourn no longer work, so here’s the reference: (Tim North, ‘The Internet and UseNet Global Computer Networks, 1994).

Is it possible to have a virtual society with virtual humans who create a virtual culture? Just over ten years ago, a thesis was produced by Tim North, which looked at these issues in the wider context of an anthropological study of the Internet and its users. Underlying his thesis was the primary research question of whether the users of the Internet and Usenet global computer networks form a society that has a distinct culture of its own. After discussing whether it is possible for a society to have more than one culture, North concludes that, ‘It seems reasonable…to assume that the members of a particular society all share the same culture.’ However, he goes on to argue that the nature of the Internet is such that it spans the globe, and that if it were to conform to the classical anthropological understandings of society and culture then its users would need to be from the one society. This obviously cannot be the case, and so he resolves the issue by creating a new term for the Internet’s societal structure, which he calls the pan-societal superstructure. So, a new way of thinking about society is created with the Internet. This pan-societal superstructure frees the Internet from some of the responsibilities of ordinary society such as providing food and shelter for its inhabitants, because its members are also members of societies that already provide those things.

This new way of thinking about society, virtual community and culture, (which sounds like an oxymoron) has nevertheless been taken seriously by the private sector as it engages with globalisation. Continue reading

January 7, 2007 Posted by | blogging, contemplative, culture, god, jesus, mission, religion | 7 Comments

Emerging Church set to swallow US Protestantism

That’s the claim (among many others) of Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries, in a recent radio interview with Mike Corley on an American Christian radio show just the other day.

I got onto this because it was flagged up by one of the tools of the WordPress interface called Tag Surfer. Tag Surfer shows all the recent posts on WordPress that have been posted that also link with a specific tag – quite a handy little tool. Anyhoo, here’s the link that caught my eye, and so I followed it through.

You download the interview as an mp3 file, and the whole thing goes for about an hour, but you can skip through the first 15 mins, as that’s all just ads and welcomes and stuff. (It takes me about 45 mins to do my exercises, so I listened while doing them).

The interview itself is quite an astonishing attack on the Emerging Church Movement (ECM), with Pastor Silva making the explicit claim of the headline of this post, along with his branding ECM as ‘the new cult (yep, cult) of neo-Liberalism’. He gets into naming names, like Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Len Sweet and gives them all a hard time, while saying that he’s had ‘off-the-record interviews with the likes of Andrew Jones and Doug Pagitt among others. I got the impression that he’s not one of those hateful and vindictive types, rather, he’s full-on committed to what he believes and simply will not give an inch.

So he’s passionately against the rising of the Contemplative movement, which I assume would include the nu-monastic wave, and can’t stand anything that might smack of pre-Reformation style Christianity. And that’s the key really, Pastor Silva is a committed ‘modernist’ (he calls himself an empirical apologist). It seems he hasn’t understood the shift in history that has occurred since the demise of the age of modernity, hasn’t realised that the claim of inevitable progress through the rise of science and rational autonomy that was modernity’s story has failed to deliver a human race able to live at peace with itself (even though technologically we have all manner of marvellous stuff), refuses to acknowledge that the rise in the ECM is due precisely to a modernist church’s inability to deliver a relationship with God that is truly holistic and life-giving, and (I think) most importantly, doesn’t seem to understand the concept of contextual missiology that is a driving force behind ECM.

But strangely, Pastor Silva seems resigned to his prophecy that the ECM will swallow US Protestantism (by which I think he really means the Southern Baptist Convention).

For those not familiar with this kind of argument about the ECM, its worth a listen I reckon. As a counter to it, may I suggest you have look at Andrew Jones’s post here on what the ECM really is about.

And I’ve just noticed that this has been running for some time now, so have a look here for some further background.

January 5, 2007 Posted by | contemplative, culture, emerging church, mission, religion | 1 Comment

The River that Nourishes: Ezekiel 47:1-12

The river that flows from the temple….

It makes me think of the potential that exists in the church for a river of life and healing to flow from it out into the community.

The river nourishes the sea and the trees along the banks of the river. The sea produces fish in abundance, and the trees produced fruit likewise.

Everything will live where the river goes; and the river flows from the temple.

The interesting, exciting, and fascinating thing is that the river nourishes everything around it. But those things it nourishes aren’t part of the temple, from which the river flows.

It speaks to me of the grace of God flowing through the community and nourishing it. The grace of God is the river that flows from the temple. Likewise, the life of the church needs to flow out into the community and nourish it. And because of the nourishment it receives from God, the community will be a healthier and happier place to be.

Would that more churches would flow out from their temples for the sake of blessing their local communities….

January 4, 2007 Posted by | contemplative, culture, god, mission | 2 Comments