Saturday, May 29, 2004

Mr Singh came in today...

giving hope

i went looking for mr singh

He’s back. He’s found some where else. Shelter in All Saints Church’s side porch.

There was a day when I could put him into a car and drive to our local hostel and he would be given shelter. The Government put an end to that. Now there is procedure. A street rescue worker needs to contact the client on the street to be able to refer the client to a hostel. Charlatans, imposters, fakes are weeded out and care given to those who really need it. The procedure would be great if it was more efficient – nearly a month has gone by since our referral.

We give Mr Singh another sleeping bag (it was cleared with the rest of his stuff); some clothing and promise to put more pressure on the external street rescue process.

You help but it feels woefully inadequate.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Two extreme experiences..? probably not...

Please these are words of personal observation of myself and not in any shape or form a criticism but I identified an odd similarity in very dissimilar situations...

I went to Covenant Day at The Salvation Army Training College this week. A day where those training for ministry in TSA have a meaningful day of reflection and soul searching to see if they are really going to go through with it and be sent out into a life of mission as salvation army officers. An important day significant moments….

We strange people called Salvationists dress up in our uniforms as a supposed witness to all those for who their eyes fall upon us. The high walls around the college seem to preclude any such eye falling, however two squirrels in the grounds seemed to be impressed.

Sat there in our finery – a portrait of modernity, institution - I looked around and felt strange, uncomfortable. My world seems to be so different…

I went to BLAH! Last night. I have to say it was a positive experience. Creative. Fluid. Edgy. Emerging. Tallskinnykiwi (a really nice guy) tried to engage our thinking – largely successfully with video loops and imaginative artistic dialogue.

Sat there with half eaten bowls of olives kalamata and big fat Spanish ones, wine, OJ, tortilla, dips and fruit - a portrayal of post-modernity, freedom, choice and emergence - I looked around and felt strange, uncomfortable. My world seems to be so different…

Travelling home– I look around. There’s a city gent dressed in his cricket whites returning home after a session in the nets. There’s an African talking on a mobile in Lingala. Two Bengali girls giggling about the attention they are getting from a group of urban wear clad geezers! An older couple engaged in conversation. A mother with a push-chair and a sleeping child. A Chinese girl quietly texting. All different, unlike each other, dissimilar, variegated – waiting for a train.

That’s the world I’m in. I relax, I feel comfortable.

I think Zygmunt Bauman has something when he talks about ‘mixophobia’ which he says manifests itself in the drive towards islands of similarity and sameness admidst the sea of variety and difference.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

I went looking for Mr Singh....

I went looking for Mr Singh. (remember him?)

I walked to where he has been sleeping rough while we try and get him into the ridiculous system that exists to get the homeless into hostels in London. I went looking for his pallets that he has formed into a bed to lift him off the ground and away from the rats. I went looking for his sleeping bag. I went looking for Mr Singh.

But his home behind some rubbish carts has been moved. His home has been swept clean. Someone has found him and made him move on by locking the gate with a yellow padlock. No shelter for him tonight, no bed – I just hope he managed to grab his sleeping bag before he was evicted from his home behind the bins.

I went looking for Mr Singh and I found a yellow pad lock. Somehow it doesn’t seem too fair to me.

Monday, May 24, 2004

There's evangelism - and then there's evangelism...!

Another interesting insight to evangelism by Sweet et al...

"Best-Case Scenario: Inviting others into a relationship with God, so that the Holy Spirit can make Christ come alive and live in them, so that they can live in God's fullness and providence, so that they can participate in God's missional community, so that God's will can increasingly be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Worst-Case Scenario: Forcing unwilling Christians to force their beliefs on unwilling people for the sake of the church, because it needs more seats filled; teaching people to communicate an authentic message of the Good News in forced and artificial ways".

(A is for Abductive Sweet et al.)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Making Pasta with Joel...

I made pasta with Joel at youth club this week. Not pour the packet stuff into the boiling water thing. This was the real thing.

We mixed Flour (tipo 00), eggs together. We kneaded it together. We rolled it out together. We rolled it through the pasta machine together. We cut it into the fattest tagliatelle I’ve ever seen together. We boiled it together. We mixed in the roughest home-made tomato sauce together. We shared it with the rest of the club together. We took the abuse together!!

Joel is just eighteen. He has spent his life moving from children’s home to children’s home. Tomorrow he moves into Bed and Breakfast accommodation. I think the together thing might have been significant.

"what we cooking next week…?"

Monday, May 17, 2004

Some thinking about evangelism...

I've been doing some thinking about evangelism recently - this popped up in my reading recently.....

"In the emerging culture, the more you have been indoctrinated in modern evangelism training, the more adroit you are at memorising the lead-ins and lines and arguments and closings, the less effective you will be in helping the people God loves and misses to come home to him. Why?

Because they don't want a sales pitch, and they don't want their conversations to be steered, and they don't want to be preached to or "closed" or "handled." Postmoderns don't believe in hype and won't believe the hype. Fed up with commercials, they hunger for real communication".
(A is for Abductive Sweet, McClaren.

I find myself in our context agreeing more than disagreeing.

Friday, May 14, 2004

The beauty of Tommy...

I’ve just read Jen Lemens post weekend report

She paints a picture. With broad strokes of ambience the beauty of the day she shares lifts my spirit and as I walk along to the doctor’s surgery to pick up a prescription I mull over her words. I resolve likewise to look for beauty...

The automatic doors usher me in. As I approach the reception I see Tommy. A focal point for the room like some old Victorian fireplace. People sit around him. Not for his warmth or character. Everyone is aware of this alcoholic, all are wary, cautious, suspicious. Implicit eye’s lead to Tommy.

He is a mess. He sits there like a parody of a mustard gas victim from The Somme. A huge unkempt dressing covers the left of his face. His arms and hands show ill-formed scabs. Angry scars to add to his collection. I wonder about the deeper wounds as children are kept from him; people willing to stand rather than sit within two chairs of him; constant apprehensive stares.

As I wait for the receptionist I break the silence of the waiting room "heh Tommy what’s going on…?", "some f**king b**tard scolded me with boiling fat, now it’s infected..." Recoil from the audience encourages him as he shows me his latest wounds and scars of a life so remote to us all.

There’s beauty there somewhere. Tommy with knife multiple stab wounds about his body. Tommy the alcoholic rogue. Tommy who was capable of setting fire to his long-term partner having soaked her with lighter fluid. Tommy just out of consequent prison. There must be beauty.

As I leave I say good-bye to Tommy. The crowd looks on incredulously. "Tommy, I hope it works out..." There in his eyes I saw beauty.

The beauty of feeling valued and included.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Another Sunday....

I hate starting late.

I can hear that there is a good crowd in for worship. Everything is ready. I’m prepared. A glance at the clock and I know that for once everything is in the right place. For once all is set. I glance and see that the grapes and vine branches are being distributed. For once ready to go...For once on time!

...Someone runs up to me. "There’s someone in the car park that needs to see you". I’m half thinking it is Mr Singh, perhaps someone needing a food parcel, perhaps advice. Another glance at the clock and I wonder why? Why? Why? WHY? I love the chaos of our small inner city church BUT NOT NOW!!

I huff and puff, sigh and wonder why can’t anyone see that I am trying to prepare to lead worship, present the gospel in a meaningful way. Can‘t I be left to do that just for an hour? Can’t someone else deal with it?

I take my guitar off and make my way to the car park. A couple meets me. She looks at me and bursts into tears. I look to the husband as he bites his lip bravely. "I’m so sorry...." she says with embarrassment. "I’m just not coping".

The grapes, dead vine branches, my guitar – everything needs to wait. We spend time together and I realise that what God wanted me to say that morning was to a couple in a car park with no one else around.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Heard the one about a Graceless church?

Tom Sine points out

“One of the most concerning aspects of the Christian dualism model is that it tends to convey the impression that the good news of the gospel only has to do with the narrowly individual, spiritual aspects of personal faith”.

Sine, T (1999) Mustard Seed Versus Mcworld: Reinventing Christian Life And Mission For A New Millennium )

He goes on to recall a panel discussion that he was invited to participate in about the Church's response to the poor at the Call to Renewal Conference. The other panelists included Brian Hehir, a Catholic scholar from Harvard, E. J. Dionne, a well-known Catholic author and conservative commentator Cal Thomas.

… Cal Thomas stated, 'I recently interviewed Ralph Reed [then president of the Christian Coalition] and I particularly liked his response to one question I asked him. I asked, 'What would happen if every member of the Christian Coalition began to live as their leader commanded them ... and I am not talking about Pat Robertson?"

Reed responded, "Loving their enemies, praying for those that persecuted them, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison." Cal stressed, "not as an end ... not as an end ... but as a means ... because it gives you an entry to their hearts!'

Ever heard the one about a graceless church?


Saturday, May 08, 2004

Heard the one about a Graceless Christ?

Jesus and his disciples went to Jericho. Bartimaeus a blind beggar was sitting beside the road. "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" Jesus stopped and saw an opportunity. A divine appointment? "Call him over – this guy is really receptive." They called out to Bartimaeus who ran to Jesus. The disciples and Jesus smiled at the encouragement of his interest. A warm contact someone we could make friends with this guy and who knows what might happen. Jesus asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man answered, "Master, I want to see!"

"You want to see?" Jesus rubbed his hands together with anticipation, looked at Bartimaeus said "before I heal you I want to take opportunity to tell you exactly why I will heal you. You need to know that I am the Son of God. You need to know that belief in me will bring fullness of life. You need to know that only through me will you know salvation. "

"I am really happy to heal you but I really want to tell you how great it would be for you to follow me. I really want to tell you how your life will be so much better. Actually before I heal you I want to introduce you to some of my friends – Peter come and tell this guy how much better your life is since you met me. By the way I am so sure you’ll fit in with the guys."

Jesus told him, "You may go. Your eyes are healed because of your faith – but before you go remember how good God has been to you, remember that you have a choice, remember to use that choice wisely – and when you look at yourself the next time ask yourself how long is eternity."

Heard the one about a graceless Christ?

No nor have I?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Sometimes ministry makes me feel pathetic....

When was the last time you spoke to someone who has completely lost hope? When was the last time you spoke to someone whose light at the end of the tunnel has gone; whose smallest glimmer of hope has just been snubbed out? When was the last time you spoke to someone who can see no way out of his or her problems? Whose life once secure, has been rocked to near destruction?

I just have and I didn’t know what to say.

No handy pastoral proposals. No helpful advice. No practical recommendations. No supportive suggestions. No meaningful spiritual counsel. Nothing.

"Why I’m I suffering like this?" My effort "I don’t know!"

Sometimes ministry makes me feel pathetic.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

What is the heart of misson....?

Chris asks [comment below] What is the heart of misson....?

The heart of Mission can only for me be seen through Jesus and his motives which were undeniably 'grace centred'.

I'm not saying don't evangelise; what I'm saying is be careful that we don't knock grace out of our motives for mission. To do that we need to understand the tension that exists within the relationship of mission from the context of missio dei. “Evangelism is mission but mission is not merely evangelism” (Moltmann 1977).

So if we are addressing 'an issue' within our community as a church - let's address it as an issue that needs addressing! Let's demonstrate kingdom values, Let's see the power of grace provoking questions but let's be careful not to dilute the authenticity of the gospel by using 'the issue' as a chance to evangelise. Let grace shine out.

So people need feeding - feed them; Young people need space to feel safe and respected – provide it; people need shelter - find it. People need clothing – give it. Do it in a way that the world looks and says the Church is different. Do it in a way that God is seen through our actions. Do it in a way that demonstrates the kingdom. Do it in a way that is authentic and not manipultaive.

What I find is that grace centred actions intrigue… be ready to proclaim.

Riddell for me hits the nail on the head…

“In the post-Christian era, the medium is the message, and the medium of evangelism is regarded with extreme distaste by the surrounding culture….evangelism easily becomes the marketing ploy for Christianity akin to selling encyclopaedias. Various techniques are used in a highly manipulative agenda designed to get prospective customers to “sign up”. This is about as far away from the story of Jesus of Nazareth as it is possible to get.”

[Riddell, M. (1998) Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West. SPCK]

So what is the heart of mission?