Sunday, February 29, 2004

Sunday's Bits and Bobs...

It's been a good day today. Worship has been creative, varied and refreshing. Patrick's written prayer with me this morning - Thanking God for Girls, the moon, Tina and women!? I thanked God for Patrick that in all the chaos of his life he can thank God.

We finished the day with Brother Dean the Urban Monk of Poplar helping us journey through the use of simple yet profound music of Taize. Actually Dean is our Youth Worker and is not an Urban Monk (!)

What struck me was the silence. What struck me was what was communicated to me in the silence. What struck me is why is God nagging me about something that is seemingly right! Anyone got any ideas!!?

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Patrick ...Remembrance Day

You need to know Patrick...

Introducing Patrick…
a Sight of Salvation ...
Nobody wants to know Patrick....
There's community then there's community!

Remembrance day was unforgettable. Kate had lead a sensitive and creative time of worship. Now we stood in silence for three minutes, well we would have except for Patrick. He chose this moment of all moments to go off on one. "No I wont be bloody well quiet" was one of the politer responses that polluted the silence.

Eventually I tempted him with a "fancy a cup of tea?" We make our way to the adjacent kitchen. The door gently closes providing the sound proofing for my tirade. "you’ve pushed me too far". "What about my cup of tea guv?" he asks pitifully. "You want a cup of tea" as I nearly throw the cup at him. I don’t know really what has taken control of me. Two weeks of Patrick abusing us all has taken its toll and I’m on the edge. I want to come back but I can’t I am so angry and helpless. There’s a look in Patrick’s eye that I haven’t seen before – fear. He looks at me as if for the first time in his life there is someone madder in the room with him. He is right. In the maelstrom of my diatribe, rant, rage - he winds me, like a punch to the stomach.

He looks at me and is lucid. It stuns me. I’m shocked, staggered Patrick is never lucid!

In between deep uncontrollable sobs he whispers "In the war…I saw a …bus blown up …there were mothers… there were babies …" He walks to me and we embrace I hold his head like a child’s as he sobs onto my shoulder. "I’m sorry Patrick so sorry…so sorry" I sob back.

That is community, family like nothing I have experienced before. Intense two worlds smashed together by something shared.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Passion...evangelical marketing hijack...authentic evangelism?

I have a fear. The American film industry has in recent years built a bit of a reputation for re-writing history. U-571 follows the exploits of a team of World War II U.S. submariners who undertake a secret mission to capture a German Enigma machine to decode German documents. Guess what guys – it was the Brits who historically did that and broke that unbreakable code that saved thousands and thousands.

Let’s hope that the same traits aren’t followed. I’m not sure if I am ready for an indestructible Jesus to lead the counter attack on the Roman Empire to find Caesar in a hole somewhere in the suburbs of Rome with a big beard! ;o)

Actually what I am not ready for is the great evangelical marketing hijack in the name of evangelism. I can see the cards, posters, video-discussion-starter packs. I can hear the sales pitch, the kerching of the tills in our Christian bookshops. I saw this morning on urban onramps that the must have jewelry is a nail necklace I just hope our local community church pushes a DVD through our door in a few months time in an effort to save our neighbourhood – save me a few bob!

Why do we always end up shooting ourselves in the foot? It makes me wonder what constitutes authentic evangelism, authentic proclamation of the kingdom?

I think like one blogger that I read I’m going to buy it – if the local community church fails me. I’ll watch it in the privacy of my own mind. If what I hear is half-true it’ll inspire me to greater things. To lift up His name to greater heights. To know His love to greater depths. To show his grace to everyone.

God forgive me if I use it with the latest hip love song in the charts next Easter. He probably will need to!!

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Authentic Community...by-products...and the "Whosoever"

The concept of community in terms of mission has always been important to us. This caught my eye on theopraxis, which was stimulated by Geoff Holsclaw .

"In other words, to what degree is the "community" of the emerging church based on commonality and homogeneity?"

I wonder if Commonality and homogeneity is the problem. To me 'Authentic Community' is found in diversity. Anyone can find community in like-minded, congeniality, and mutual appreciation but where is cuts and demonstrates the Kingdom is within diversity. Because there you find tolerance, creativity, patience, grace, love and mercy. I think a diverse community is a natural by-product of these kingdom values and for me is so much more attractive than much of the mono-cultural set ups that are called community. That is fine for those that feel happier and safer with that - but it isn't me.

People struggle to find, locate, define authentic community leaving them frustrated with more questions than answers. What they encounter is the inauthenticity of mono-cultural community which to me is not community but a club.

Phil Yancey in "Church why bother" lays down his criteria for searching out new church communities. If he sees anyone remotely like him within the church he never attends again! (Actually I don’t think there is anyone else in the world with a hair cut like him so he is pretty safe!!).

We feel called to the ‘Whosoever’ and it is messy, chaotic but fulfilling and refreshing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Ray...worthy of conversation...

You need to know Ray

Introducing Ray
Ray…The Worst Week…Lessons in Grace

"There’s a man to see you…" I know who it will be… it’ll be Ray. Today is different, I’m going to be positive, I’m going to give him as much time as he wants, instead of ushering him out I’ll chat.

Chat we do. About his boxing, about his drinking, about his scaffolding business, about his daughters, about his wife all of who don’t want him. We chat and chat and chat. I get another cup of tea as he tells me of his exploits in street brawls, his journeys, his arrests - but all the time he is confused. "Why don’t you want me to go? Everyone wants me to go, fix me up and get rid of me…"

Sometimes these people just want the respect that all of us want. I get him a change of clothes and sandwich for the road and he goes.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Lessons to unlearn...

"The question is whether the church as it is will be willing to unlearn what it knows so it can learn to become the church it must become…so as to be God’s witness in this future." (A is for Abductive Sweet, McClaren et.al)

I’m struggling with this debate.Yes of course there are things that need to be unlearned, but to go forward we need to re-capture the essence of church not discover it. It’s always been there. The church is being held down. Take the weight off and it’ll bob to the top as it will always do. To me the major weight today is not traditionalism, or even institutionalism there is a new burden. That of chasing the latest. With each passing ecclesiastical panacea that heaviness pushes the church lower and lower.

If we’re not careful the emerging church with all its positive, progressive, optimistism will be rock bottom alongside all that is wrong with the institutional church.

I wonder what it is that needs to be unlearned.

Monday, February 23, 2004

My Monday in a church for the submerged….[warning: this is long and could be boring]

I’m sat in our office trying to get things sorted. Post holiday catch up. As I sit here I am struck by the diversity of the day so far. I arrived this morning opened up our church at 8 am. Flicking through mail there’s a knock on the door. Robert one of our church members and volunteers in our weekday programmes brings through receipts for the food for the breakfast club and Seniors Luncheon Club “enjoy your holiday?”. I wander through to the kitchen and share a joke with Martha our cook as she prepares the sausages for the breakfast club.

Richard our Community Development worker is on holiday so I prepare our worship hall for the Paediatric Therapy group. The first people are arriving as I carry the equipment down from where it is stored I smile as I hear Lloyd – Lloyd has the loudest voice in the Northern Hemisphere. Struggling through the door Phil the denture shuffling road sweeper with his mate helps “cold today?” he offers in conservation “yep – how’s your son?” he rolls his eyes and shrugs. There is quite a crowd in for breakfast, Mothers, several other road sweepers, a girl and her boyfriend who we helped with accommodation, Patrick!

Alison and Diane arrive to open up the charity shop – it always shocks me that it is the underwear that goes the quickest, I run them a cup of tea through and suffer the brunt of their jokes – ok I know I need a hair cut!

I sit back I try to get some ideas for a wedding preach that I have been asked to do for Saturday. It takes a while but the idea starts to flow and it starts to take shape.

Every now and then I pop out to make sure everything is ok, everything seems to be fine. I talk to the regulars who find their community in coming into the charity shop every day!

I make a start on some of the reports I need to write for a proposal to extend our youth and education projects.

The Paediatric Therapy has finished so I put their gear away and as I’m bored of prep I decide to get the room ready for tomorrows Parent and Toddler Group. As I’m finishing the Luncheon club are arriving – I speak to John and Maggie and bear the brunt of their jokes too “hair hurting you? …huh…? should be you’re standing on it!”

I retreat to the office I’ve 100 invites to stuff into envelopes for a multi-national celebration we have planned. I ignore them and have a flick around some sites looking really if anyone is scratching where I’m itching. I find stacks of stuff on emerging church but it all seems still very insular. I look back to the envelopes and fill a couple.

Dean our youth worker comes in and straight away we reminisce about the ski-ing trip! Everyone else seems bored of it but not us! We’re interrupted by the sound of young people jumping on the office roof. Dean excuses himself – the Schools project for excluded kids is about to start.

I look at the invites – then I think I could blog something. Later on there will be Youth Club for pre-teens and tonight is house-group that I facilitate. It’s going to be a long day.

The phone goes it’s Richard ringing from Bilboa – Spain. “Just wanted to touch base” He’d covered for us while we were away. “For the first time I realise what you do. I finished the week and I felt really fulfilled, I really felt I had accomplished something!”

What have we achieved today? What have I facilitated? I sit and think. I've been part of Community, family for those that are often alone. For those that don't demand respect. For those submerged.

Thanks for the reminder Rich. Mission isn’t always glossy, glamorous or trendy, sometimes it is mundane, run of the mill, routine but it is always fulfilling.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Sometimes this place hurts....

We've just returned from a weeks break on the south coast. Arriving back in Poplar late evening. The towers of Canary Wharf dominating as I lift our eldest daughter out of the car seemingly asleep. I feel the tear first running down my neck. Then a sniff. Then a sob. "Heh whats up?". "Dad I don't like London why can't I feel safe here like I do in Southampton?"

It's not fair that an eight-year-old should have to witness a mugging or to see her parents wade in to stop the attack. It's not fair that an eight-year-old should have to witness the police investigation of a local shooting or to watch ‘her park’ being systemically razed to the ground as local gangs vie to build the most spectacular fire under the kids equipment to trouble the fire brigade. It's not fair that an eight-year-old should have to hear stories of neighbours being abused by local yobs or retaliation on households that have called the police. It's not fair that an eight-year-old should have to witness drugs being dealt in the street outside our front door or to see a stolen joy ridden car mount the opposite pavement out of control.

Sometimes this place hurts....

Friday, February 20, 2004

From imagination to reality...

Can you imagine your community being genuinely thankful for your church?
Can you imagine community leaders valuing your church’s friendship and participation?
Can you imagine neighbourhoods talking about how good it is to have your church in the area?
Can you imagine large numbers of church members engaged in an passionate about your community?
Can you imagine your community actively changing?
Can you imagine many formerly cynical and hostile praising God for your church?
Imagine the spiritual harvest.

Lewis, R “The church of irresistible influence”

If your church closed its doors tomorrow forever who would miss it? Your congregation or your community you find yourself within?

The pre-occupied church rarely gives a stuff!

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Story of encouragement....

It strikes me that most of my stories have been about some of the more challenging people that our church ministers to. But Poplar Salvation Army is made up of a dedicated team that God replenishes and adds to when He sees fit here is one story.....

......It had been a interesting week. Our church building had been broken into 4 or 5 times. 27 different police personnel had visited our church. There had been an arrest in our car park. It was especially vulnerable in that we had scaffolding outside which made it easier for people to break in. That night I’d been blue-lighted at break-neck speed around the district trying to catch the gang that was terrorising us. The last break in had happened two hours earlier. I actually saw the culprit coming out of the building. I had followed him until the police had arrived then left it to them - he got away!

Our Sunday morning service was in full swing. I was outside waiting for the police to arrive again. It was cold. My breathe hung in the air like smoke as I looked up at the damage. Could do with a bit of encouragement I thought. The last month was fast becoming the most difficult stage of our ministry at Poplar.

"Is this The Salvation Army?", hardly looking I answered thinking that I would soon be fixing a food or clothing parcel. "Um.. can I worship here?"... "Yes of course you can" wondering if I was to be buttered up before being asked to sponsor the re-charging of his electricity key. In he goes and I accompany him and sit with him during the remainder of the service. Tim came to bible study and house group during the week and again the following Sunday. A solid dependable Christian felt drawn to engage with us in our expression of mission.

That was two years ago now. Tim is still with us. A gifted teacher who has helped established the 'Essentials' discipleship course we run. The beauty is that everyone leads it no-one an expert. It was no accident that Tim’s path was directed to cross ours - he remains a great source of encouragement. An essential part of our small church's outworking of God’s love in our community.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

From Church Growth to Church Health

Interesting how the church of today is still dominated by numbers, success determined by size, value established by flash growth charts. To be told that we should abandon our ministry to the fragmented, the socially excluded because it doesn't bring in the numbers it used to; to have our mission questioned as to its value because its outcome is immeasurable presents me with a conundrum.

Do I say what I think? (second word "off!")
Do I take it on the chin and think one day they’ll get it?

Sweetism's have helped in the past no doubt they will continue to do so. "Health is the number one trend of the 21st century. The church must transition its ministry beyond a ‘church growth’ mentality to a ‘church health’ mentality. The promise of the gospels is not growth. The promise is health...where spirit, mind and body work together" (Sweet, L. SoulTsunami pp 253).

One disappointment - Sweet's examples of church always seem to be fairly major concerns. I haven't seen him point to the insignificant efforts of church do their insignificant best. Come on Len get yourself inner-city on a Wednesday morning and see what churches are open!

PS - first word "push!!"

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Honey I've shrunk our God!

Building on a mull about how small a God we are content with - I ran into this words by John White:

"The past half a century God has been trivalised, packaged for entertainment, presented as a sort of pyschological panacea, a heavenly glue to keep happy families together, a celestial slot machine to respond to our whims , a formula for success, a fund raiser for pseudo-religious enterprises, a slick phrase for bumper stickers and a sort of holy pie and ice cream. How impoverished this all is, how virtually blasphemous when compared to experiences in scripture."

Ouch - how guilty are we, how dilute can we make missio dei by following our own pre-occupied missional agendas?

Monday, February 16, 2004

God's demands....

A friend once lent me Oscar Romero’s “Violence of Love”. The church should stand for true liberation, true hope. I’m still affected by his last words before he was assassinated.

"We know that every effort to better society, especially when injustice and sin are so ingrained, is an effort that God blesses, that God wants, and God demands of us"

Sunday, February 15, 2004

There's community then there's community!

Building community with those you want to is easy. What about with the non-designer people that society doesn't want? Patrick remains a prophetic challenge to us without him even knowing it...! This happened last week.

Sometimes our church in the week gets a bit intense. Lots going on. Lots of noise. Lots of demands. Sometimes it is good to get out on a mindless mission, be by yourself – away from the maddening crowd. Tuesday was my day. My mission to pick up some display panels from south of the river. A journey that would see me gone for a good two hours.

There's a bit of nagging going on in my mind ..."take Patrick…you know he loves a trip in the wagon…he loves getting out of Poplar…you know it would do him good". The counter argument kicks in "get going before Patrick sees you…you need the time to yourself…hardly a crime to enjoy your own company".

My decision made – I’m in the mini-bus reversing out of our car park. Then I see him "keep going….don’t look…he hasn’t seen you". I finish the manoeuvre. I’m ready to go and all the time I have managed to ignore the looks of Patrick. But now he is at the passenger window looking. He’s looking at me. Big, sad, Labrador puppy eye’s. I wind down the window – in a oh Patrick I didn't see you kind of way "want some company?" he asks. "Noooooooo” my hard-heart pleads. I look again into those eyes. "Oh Come on then" resigned to the fact that our conversation is going to be so off the wall for the next two hours.

We get to the first bend and we are already talking politics. Patrick starts a rant "I'm not voting for Blair again…". "no?" I reply – "do you think that Iraq and WMD was a step too far? Perhaps fees for students?" Patrick looks me in the eye as if I’m mad then deliberately and menacingly he growls "until he does something for the mice – I’ll not vote for him".

Two hours later we return and I’ve agreed not to vote for Blair either – unless of course he does something for the mice!

But d’you know what I’m glad I took Patrick!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Making Sense of Church - Burke, S (2003)

Talks about the transition from Hero to Human. Using the backdrop of the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz as a picture of this. When the mightiness of the wizard was shown up for what it really was when the curtain came down.

His challenge? Where are we on the Hero and Human continuum?

Human
I believe it's okay to be broken
My focus is process
I believe sin is an opportunity for God to draw me into deeper relationship
I believe that Jesus' death paid my debt and I don't need to add to it through hard work
I'm more sinful than I realise, but also more loved

Hero
I believe I should be a model for others
My focus is achieving
I believe God is disappointed in me when I sin
I believe obedience leads to blessing and that God values hard work
I'm not really that bad.

It is not only where we are on this continuum as individuals that is important but also as a church. Could it have a big impact on our understanding and outworking of missio dei.

A few posts I have read recently that I am mulling over make me think we still have a bit of a hero mentality.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Profoundness of God....the beginings of a mull!

German theologian Paul Tillich points us to a 'God above God'. Gordon Lynch commenting on Tillich points to the ultimate reality that lies beyond any concept or label we can create, of which we may be fleetingly, aware at different points in our lives.

Makes me wonder - does this highlight our loss of the mystery of God, does this highlight our dilution of the profoundness of God. Can we be content with the impact this has on mission.

Does any brand come close

hmmm!

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Mr Humpries… ecclesiastical panacea…and the churches raison d’etre!

How odd is that….? driving home from dropping the girls off at school I get thinking about Mr Humpries (Christmas Day Past; Sometimes all you can do). It must be over a year that he has been in hospital since trying to take his life. Then there he is. Walking purposefully. I pull over sharpishly. Lock the car and run after him. We chat and he fills me in about the developments. He is still far from well but the change in him since the last visit is immense.

Too often I find myself taking for granted that God for spoils me with so many divine moments of mission. Too often I find myself taking for granted where I have been trusted to live and love out his gospel. Too often I find myself taking for granted that God should want to choose me - to do this.

Then I listen, read of churches struggling with identity, consumed with chasing the latest ecclesiastical panacea, and obsessed with relevance rather than what is real – and I’m reminded.

Then I meet people like Mr Humpries – and I’m reminded. This isn’t the romantic trendy mission dreamt up in books, articles and conferences, but bare knuckle in your face mission, an outpouring of God’s love that costs, hurts but fulfils. I’m reminded why we as a church are here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Church marketing - cocaMac Churches and authentic faith….

Scott Berkhimer on his blog picks up a line from liquidthinking regarding branding in the church. The link is geared to church marketing branding etc… and in Scott’s words - you might want to sit down first.

"Create a lasting impression for your church. Provide your congregation with an image of something great - something they can be proud to be associated with - something worthy of this great Gospel!"

Scott says "Hey - church branding guys! Let's get one thing straight - nothing we do is worthy of the gospel! That's sort of, you know, the point."

This is where my mulling has gone today…. “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong... We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

Hmmm!...Foolish….weak…stumbling-blocks – hardly the greatest material for a brand that the world might buy. To all the coca and Mac Churches out there. Good luck because I’m not buying it and d’you know what? I don’t think the world will either – insular identity crisis ridden Christians? Yes! Those searching for authentic faith? No!

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Michael Sinclair...

"Gordon….I won’t be in today I’m by the mosque!" cue for the call to prayer. "I’m not in the pub I’m by the mosque" again cue for the call to prayer.

He came to us every afternoon – washing up after our luncheon club. When he wasn’t you knew that there was an issue. He was an alcoholic of great stature. He’d go months and not drink a drop then a moment’s melancholy, loneliness would see him disappear for months under a sea of cider and special brew.

One hot summer, our community worker and I went to find him. He seemed to be spending a lot of time by the mosque – we weren’t convinced and we went to his flat. We found him drunk, ill and very, very messy. We cleaned him and the flat as best we could sat with him listened to his worries and then eventually left.

We never saw him again. He died. Alcohol his friend saw him to his grave. I miss him, his awful jokes; his cheeky giggle; his stories; his help; his little gadgets like his Islamic call to prayer alarm clock!

Monday, February 09, 2004

How to spot a middle class church...

I once attended a ministers fraternal in another part of the country and was asked "what do you do with your poor people?" by another minister. Before I could answer another pastor jumped in "oh we have a sign now that says poor people this way!"

"Have you any poor people that we can come and take some pictures of?" I was asked several months ago from our national headquarters – I politely pointed out that it was a bit of an odd request.

"I want to work with poor people…" an interviewee once told me

Just recently on the collaborative blog on theooze there has been some mention of these poor people. It strikes me that it sometimes is very easy to patronise "the poor".

There is something so painfully middle class that makes us all think that they might even want our help. Do you not think that these people know that they are being used as a commodity to legitimise our perceived church activity?

My point is this - you'll never understand poverty until you experience poverty with them, and you'll never experience poverty until you truly know yourself, and when you do truly know yourself you will realise that these "poor" people have more to teach you than you'll ever know.

Why not simply journey and cut the patronising - isn't that the nature of incarnation?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Jacques Ellul

Charles Ringma in Resist the Powers has introduced me to the French Philosopher Jacques Ellul. This guy has a special angle of mission. Here are some points that they both make:-

Responding to others in the way that God has so graciously responded to us provides the dynamism for new life in a tired world.

Ellul makes the assertion that the Christian "has a part to play in this world which no-one else can possibly fulfil."

Christians are simply called to demonstrate in every aspect of life the reality of God's love, justice, and mercy. They are to show that grace triumphs over evil, that love dispels hate, that forgiveness dis-empowers anger, and that justice and mercy overcome exploitation.

Reflection : "It is simply not true that Christianity does not work for the betterment of this world. It is true that Christianity has not always been a force for love and justice because those who profess that faith have not always lived up to their own ideals."

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Just popping out…!!

I only popped out for some bread, our local supermarket is 5 minutes walk. I cross the main road and walk against the driving rain head bowed but I see Harry. We acknowledge each other and he crosses over to walk with me. Harry used to come to our Youth Club a couple of years ago – "long time no see!", "nah – I’m working over in Canary Wharf - apprentice sparky". He tells me that he’s enjoying it and life is good. It’s good to bump into old members and discover that even though the years have flown by that there is still a relationship.

I wander through the market as the stalls are packing away, I quickly make it to the Fruit and Veg stall and spend 10 minutes talking to Kenny about the football while Lisa serves me "£2.75 darling…" she smiles… Lisa also one time member of our youth club watches me as I sort my change out "…tell you what call it £2.50 how’s everyone at the sally?"

I get to the supermarket and there is Jamie resplendent in his urban wear, baseball cap and hoodie! "Alright…?" he mumbles, I mumble back half jokingly and we both laugh. He wanders around the supermarket with me reminiscing about our ski-ing adventure!

There’s a commotion I look around and I see Patrick bearing down on me – "ello guv" he starts and for the next five minutes I hear about his latest invention and a tunnel that he is building to Derbyshire! As I join the queue to pay for my bread I’m aware of someone smiling – It’s Mr Peterson’s daughter. He comes to our luncheon club and she spends her life trying to avoid Patrick – "I don’t know how you have the patience – she offers". I smile!

Then I get to pay for my bread. Serving me Kamikaze Jonathon – another ski-ing colleague from our youth club. "this time last week eh?" we both sigh and remember that we were in the Alps.

All I popped out for was a loaf! It is great being part of a community!

Friday, February 06, 2004

Out Collecting...

"Oh the Salvation Army...." a crisp £10 note comes out of a designer wallet. A well-dressed, well-spoken city gent walks away, over his shoulder he smiles "you guys helped my mum when she was at her lowest – thanks....".

No time to ask so I wonder when and where? An Army Detox perhaps. My mind settles on the 4-8 men and women that come each week to worship with us when on their two week detox. It was Darren’s last week on Sunday. I re-run the scene in my mind. "I'll need your prayers if I am going to get through my re-hab, will you pray with me" Darren whispers after the meeting. I look at this tall skinhead young man, trophies of many a fight etched on his face. Scars of rejection in the stories behind the eyes never told. I remember his original hostility the week before. "No problem!" I smile. He smiles too.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

I’ll Fight

Spencer Burke in Making Sense of Church – draws attention to the tired military metaphor and perhaps there should be - in terms of evangelism – a transition from warrior to gardener mentality. I passed the gardening test so why URBANarmy?

Why Urban? Obvious - Tower Hamlets is undeniably urban. The poorest borough in the UK displaying all the hallmarks of fragmented urban society.

Why Army? Our denomination is that quaint little church based on pusedo-military lines. Attractive to a bygone military and uniform dominated society – The Salvation Army. But more than that where we are we're involved in a 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

Mission for us is a fight. A fight for true justice; A fight for true hope; A fight for true liberation; A fight for true salvation.

Making Sense of Church - Burke, S (2003)

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Phillipa – thanks!

She is one of the most intimidating people I have met. In fact I am scared of her. There is an unpredictability about her. She could do anything, break a bottle in your face, pull out a dirty needle even a large kitchen knife.

The first time I met her was 2am one morning; half-naked, eyes rolling screaming obscenities at me because she was locked out of her flat. A drug user with severe mental health issues - Philippa represents an intense issue.

Then there was the time she single handedly sent our congregation cowering as she cackled and abused us all. Families left as she threw her crutches at anyone who moved as she completely lost it. Bethan my daughter was scared for months to go to church in case Philippa was there – actually so was I! As she left that day she shook my hand and thanked me for a lovely service!

Then there was the time she breathed venom in my face and told me coldly that she was going to stab me and my family. All because I’d seen through her schemes to rob Patrick blind.

I haven’t seen her for several years. Now as I lock the gate at the hall, I’m aware that Phillippa is stood next to me. Her gold tooth shining brightly contrasting with her black African skin. I’m more aware of her nose piercing as it is too close to my face. My heart beats faster, my legs feel weaker, palms clammy – I’m trapped, no one in sight. Just me and Phillippa. “Hello” I offer weakly. She smiles and says “thanks”. “Thanks for not banning me, for always letting me come back, for giving me another chance - I’m sorry I scared your children, I’m better now…” She smiles again and she is gone.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Our Whosover Heritage...

Several years after William Booth had marched the unwanted 'marginals' of Nottingham into his respectable Methodist church we read this historical account.

"William Booth held the first Poplar meeting of the Christian Mission in the temperance hall, Poplar High St. between the pig sties and stables. Eventually meetings were held in the Oriental Theatre. Booth stated in an advertisement that people afraid to attend church because of their ragged clothes were welcome to his mission meeting, where the first in would have the best seats and there would be NO collection."

That is our heritage – a church for the whosoever!

Monday, February 02, 2004

Threshold of the Future...highlights

Crossing boundaries for the sake of mission.

“None of us find it easy to live without the approval and understanding of people we respect. And yet crossing boundaries means relinquishing much of that affirmation. Like troops on the front line, it becomes important to develop good lines of supply. It is important to have a few friends who share the same vision and are rock solid in their support. Reading the Gospels becomes essential, and learning how to search for and find Christ in the stranger. Regular time out for reflection helps to maintain sanity. But the danger is worth it, for it is beyond the margins that God is most clearly at work.”

“The essence of the church has always been mission. It is created by mission, renewed by mission, and participates in mission. That mission belongs to God, and the church has stakes in it only insofar as it shares the life of God through Christ. To take part in God's mission to the world is to become a conductor of the divine energy, which has been unleashed through the tearing open of the Trinity. Apart from involvement in mission, the church becomes a tawdry relic; a dusty museum of religion, suitable for tourists and historians, but little else.”

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

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Sunday, February 01, 2004

Sunday's Bits 'n' Bobs

Archie was is today. With his daughter, seems he has got through the custody battle. It was good to see them both.

Then we saw Tommy minus Debbie but it was good to be able to be church to him today.

It was also good to see Carol in someways in others not. She has an addiction to alcohol. When we see her it means she has hit the bottle and is under going detox treatment. "This is the last time" she assures me! At least she feels comfortable with us - no pretense.

A good day.