Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Predictability of Unpredictability

"White, twentyish, female" - I feel frustrated - "5' 6"ish, mousey hair with a braid" - I feel angry - "blue jeans grey top " – Annoyed at myself that I have to do this.

I stand giving a policewoman a description “…this is just in case she does something stupid...we didn’t feel threatened but if she did happen to carry out her threat we need you to know...”

If there is one thing that is predictable - in having your church doors open to the community from 8am to 10pm Monday - Friday – it is the unpredictability of what may happen.

Our small charity shop was just about to close when Lisa arrived. I’d not met her before. I certainly won’t forget her. The level of insane abuse was incredible. A drug-user desperate for cash for her next fix. Trying all she had to get us to subsidise her habit. Trying all she had to swing something. Trying all she had to unnerve us.

There was little we could do but stand together united as wave after wave of abuse washed over us. Our charity shop volunteers watched on as she told us what she was going to do to us; that she was going to stab us; kill us. “I WILL STAB SOMEONE…THEN WILL YOU BE HAPPY?”. Her desperation increased to the point where her eye rolling and flaying arms was disturbing. For the safety of everyone we ask her to leave. This relationship is not going well. She left cursing with her bag of bounty. A bag of clothing that we helped her with. A final look over her shoulder “I WILL kill you…” ended a lovely pleasant interaction!

Face to face with the by-product of ‘systematic failure’; face to face with fragmented society; fragmented lives is quite a place to be. On this occasion it feels a little hopeless. But like all the characters (check out
Ray...! ; check out Phillipa) that have a sharpness to them, we start again - carefully - as if nothing has happened.


There’s something quite profound about being able to start again with someone...afresh.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Great Omission...

Engel on the Great Commission...

"Christ, ... (within the great commission) put forth a seamless agenda with no dichotomies or variations in priority between evangelism, holy living, and social transformation.This great truth about Christ's kingdom and reign almost completely eluded me until the first of the famous Lausanne conferences held in 1974. One leader after another from the Two-Thirds World prophetically declared that our western evangelistic preoccupation, while foundational and necessary, had not transformed the world as Christ intended.

They issued a clear call to return to a local, church-based, kingdom focused gospel that would penetrate all of life with the lordship of Christ. Then and only then will the church have a compelling message in a pluralistic world. At their insistence, the famous but now almost forgotten and ignored Lausanne Covenant called for church-based holistic ministry that takes the entirety of the Great Commission seriously.For many in attendance, including me, Lausanne was the high-water mark of evangelical Christianity …where the process to break out of modernism and restore Christ's holistic balance in our response to his Great Commission."

James. F Engel in
Yaconelli, M (2003) Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic

Are we part of the Great Commission or have we bought the Great Omission? - Sometimes I wonder.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Dreaming of reconciliation...

Where were you at 17?

17. Homeless. Jobless. Problems seem to follow Mark. His family helpless intimidated by his mood swings - his aggression, bitterness, rancour, resentment - had to make him homeless. For the protection of his family he now lives in a hostel.

We are being briefed as to how the afternoon session of "Urban Escape" is going to pan out when we hear the shouting and a smash. Knowing the young people are outside we investigate. Mark is going off on one. Pent up anger and feelings is being heaved up over his younger brothers. Young waiting onlookers look on shocked. Scared.

Mark looks at Roz (our youth worker) "can I talk?" He comes in and ‘caged like’ prowls around the youth club he knows so well. Any coherency is robbed by his anger. We try to listen by prowling after him. A ‘no one understands’ flurry of hands and expletives seems to be the end. He walks to the door and just before he goes back onto the street. Roz asks him if he wants a cup of tea. I go with him, sit with him, hear his feelings.

As he calms down, sips his tea I hear his pain. His hurt. I hear his regrets, misgivings. I hear his fear, anxiety. His perceived lack of justice, his brokeness. I listen to this young person’s lack of hope and we talk. We’ll talk again.

Youth work isn’t always programmed – but there is something to be said for all the dedicated hard work that the variety of youth workers have put into creating an environment where Mark can feel he can come – and be. Mark gets up to leave, he’s calm now, balanced "Can I come and talk to you guys…?"… "Mark there’s normally someone around – come and talk…"

Yesterday I bump into his mother. "I hear you had Mark up with you?" I hear her pain. Her hurt. I hear her regrets, misgivings. I hear her fear, anxiety. Her perceived lack of justice, her brokeness. I listen to this mothers lack of hope and we talk. We’ll talk again.

I dream of reconciliation ...

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Picture of Emergence...

The danger of pre-occupation...

Great couple of weeks in the rural coastal marshes of Vendee, France – good to get to the noise, hustle of the city!

Here’s a picture I snapped (groan!) a bit dark but hopefully you can make it out...

When emerging it is well worth looking to see who’s or what back you are emerging upon! Sometimes it is too easy to remain content and bask in the sunlight!


Friday, August 06, 2004

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Will the real prophets please stand up...

Robert Beckford observes:-

Urban church action is often limited to witness and welfare.

Witness action focuses on evangelism. Put simply, the measure of a church is how many people it can get through the church doors. Here, the community is changed as believers come to know Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. This strategy responds to the 'more believers, less crime' approach.

The welfare model recognises the importance of acting justly in the community beyond being a good neighbour and paying taxes. It engages in welfare projects designed to assist those in need. The 'clean up the mess' approach. Both these approaches fail to get to grips with the complexity of the theology required to respond to systemic failure.

Beckford articulates ‘prophetic action’ as a legitimate response to systemic failure.

The model of the biblical prophet inspires prophetic action. The prophetic is fundamentally an expression of the will of God revealing how things should be. It is also an ethical quest to restore human dignity and accountability and is always wedded to justice.

Beckford, R. (2004). God and the Gangs: An Urban Toolkit for Those Who Won't Be Sold Out, Brought Out or Scared Out.

The prophetic is fundamentally an expression of the will of God revealing how things should be. It is also an ethical quest to restore human dignity and accountability and is always wedded to justice.

Ahh maybe that is what is missing...perhaps its time for the real prophets to stand up.

Not the 'I've a picture for you...' kind of prophets; not the 'God is saying don't worry it's going to be alright' kind of prophets; not the 'all you need to do is...' kind of prophets; not the 'you need to get back to how you used to do it' kind of prophets; not the 'you've missed the point' kind of prophets; not even the screaming 'I make you feel so judged and guilty because you are not quite as righteous as me - mainly because you don't agree with me' kind of prophets....

Perhaps it's time to rediscover the prophetic voice that screams at the top of its voice "justice...hope...freedom" and demonstrates it through authentic grace, love and mercy.

Perhaps that is the voice that the emerging church needs to hear.

Perhaps that is the voice we all need to hear?

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

My heart is still pounding...

My heart is still pounding. My head is still spinning. My throat is still in my mouth.

Walking back form a pastoral visit I hear the shouting first. Then I see two men fighting on the floor outside the post office. I Jump over the railings, across the road. I take it all in quickly. Looks like a mugging. The muggee? is fighting back.

I run to the local police station in the market. Shut. No-one there. Seems even the police have retreated! I run back. The shouting is worse. The violence is getting out of control. People are just watching as three or four men are pounding the mugger. I see his panic. His eyes shoot at me, pleading. "Just sit on him" I say in an attempt to slow the blows. His jaw looks broken. His jacket rips. His drug debris spills onto the pavement.

I make it obvious that I am calling the police. I cut through the question after question routine "...look this is kicking off - hurry". The blows turn into swearing and abuse.

The muggee decides to let him be and he walks off out of the market - Sirens are now in the distance. The police arrive. The party is over. He's gone.

Ro 8:19-20. All creation is waiting for God to show who his children are is... waiting to be set free from decay to share in glorious freedom of his children…

Yep - I'm pretty certain we live in a fragmented society...

How the mighty has fallen….

For all his big claims, big threats and big fighting talk Mike Tyson looks pretty much punched out to me. Punching the air, not connecting seems to have worn him out, exhausted, shattered - down.

A bit of blog reading has left me wondering if we too as a church are punched out. Sure we are great at the hardcore fighting talk. The big claims, the big threats, the combat rhetoric - but I sometimes wonder if we are flaying, lashing out into thin air - hitting nothing but ourselves. Not connecting is pretty tiring.

Insinuations have been thrown that we - in our context - are not up for it!!? Fingers have pointed saying that we shy away from the battle! Militant noses look haughtily down on us and our misguided efforts.

Well here's the fight:-

“While women weep as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry as they do now, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl on the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I’ll fight – I’ll fight to the very end.”

William Booth May 9th 1912

One place you wont find us is hiding behind pseudo military rhetoric - mission for us is an undiluted fight. It's a reality. A fight for true justice; A fight for true hope; A fight for true liberation; A fight for true salvation.

I don't want to be sat on the canvas. I don't want to be punched out. I want to be connecting. I want to be in there making a difference for the kingdom.

Do I need to defend this? Do you know what? I don't really think I do!

Yours nevertheless defensively... ;o)

Monday, August 02, 2004

Sometimes mission aches…

You need to know Maureen...

(I try to understand.... ; Sometimes all you can do... ; Maureen...Professional pastoral pre-occupation!!)

I’m looking at the phone. Shall I call her?

For goodness sake this 60 year old woman has got me running round after her like no one else. I’m pretty miffed. Out of everyone she gets the most attention form Kate and I. Picking her up for church events taking her home. Taking her to see her husband Sid who suffers from Schizophrenia. Bringing her home. Not all the time but she gets the lions share of our time.

Now she is busy knifing us in the back for not picking her up. Not caring. Being selfish. Not understanding. Not considerate.

Funny how she forgets it was us who in the middle of the night dropped everything to be with Maureen while Sid tore their flat to bits in a haze of mental anguish. It was us who fought with the health authorities to take Maureen’s concern of Sid seriously. It was us who went onto the secure mental health ward and help feed and dress Sid. It was us who stood by her when the hospital lost patience with Maureen’s insistence that she couldn’t cope. It was with us that she spent Christmas when Sid was at his worse.

You know what I am mad. I can cope with many things. I can cope with being told I’m not up to it. I can cope with being told I am rubbish. I can cope with being told that others could do better. I can cope with being abused by drug addicts looking for their next fix. I can cope with alcoholics wanting to knock me into next week because of a lack of my compliance. But I can not cope with being taken for granted; I can not cope when people take liberties with me it gets me mad. And I don’t know why. (perhaps there is truth in the altruism observation)

I look at the phone and I am mad.

I don’t ring. I wait. Later that evening I speak with Maureen. I’m not mad. She tells me how Sid is worsening and she is worried. I listen. But then I tell her how I feel. My injustice. She says sorry.

Sometimes trying to love like Christ is a pain. Sometimes living out kingdom values is a struggle.
Sometimes mission aches.