Saturday, December 31, 2005

7 marks of a healthy church... 2/7

"Energized by faith seems to be a foundation characteristic. At the heart of these churches and their members is a reality about their awareness of the presence, goodness and love of God. Faith is the fuel on which these churches run."

Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing
Seems a little obvious on first read through but it got me thinking about the danger of an 'unreality of awareness' theology. It got me thinking about a theology formed out of a self comforting preoccupation with self, turning mission into something it was never intended to me, a theology that turns mission into an activity of church and away from being an attribute of a our missionary God.

I've got a feeling that keeping 'the presence, goodness and love of God' real in all that we do communicates to our "Thanks ... but no thanks" post-Christian culture.

Friday, December 30, 2005

7 marks of a healthy church... 1/7

Robert Warren's The Healthy Churches' Handbook was a good read this year. Insightful as it was resourceful. I am wanting to keep hold of some of the key points and emphasis - here seems as good a place.

He identifies 7 marks of health within church that were revealed in research to churches that were 'growing'. So here they are in no particular order.
"Outward-looking focus. These churches were typified not by concentrating on their own life and concerns but by a practical care for the local context, the whole of life and the world in which we live. They are marked by a capacity to enjoy life and feel the pain of the struggles in our world."
Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing

I've got a feeling that this is more than a once a year 'mission' thing but an ongoing day by day struggle. I've got a feeling that this is more than singing some songs on Sunday but relying on the fair trade stall, and the MPH bands at the back as our social engagement. I've got a feeling that this is more than 'bob a job mission' washing cars and gardening at weekends. I've got a feeling that this is more than 'creating a cosy sub-culture of worship that is more about eye-candy and fuzzy warm feeling amoung the candles' and thinking we're engaging with our culture.

I've got a feeling that this is all about being church that in all things shares the pain and joy of community.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Books 2005

Books I've read this year...
Top reads
  • Morisy, A.(2004) Journeying Out: A New Appraoch to Christian Mission
  • Newbigin, L.(1988) Mission in Christ's Way: A Gift, a Command, an Assurance. Library of Christian Stewardship
  • Guder, D.L (ed) (1998) Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America
  • Webber, R.E. (2002) The Younger Evangelicals. Baker Book House
  • Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing
Best Novel
  • Hosseini, K (2003) The Kite Runner.Bloomsbury

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day Summed up.....!

How do you sum up a day like today?

How do you sum up a day when all the characters that shape me were together? Patrick, Judith, Victor etc... together with 80 odd people together as family as opposed being by themselves? How do you sum up some of our African congregation playing all the christmas classics with frail 80 year old Lucy jamming along on her mouth organ? How do you sum up the panic when potatoes simply refused to roast, carrots refused to boil to schedule? How do you sum up being able to drop people home and sense their heart felt gratitude? Bethan got close.

"... you know what Dad?.... you really do smell of old people...!"

I love being part of the 'visible emerged' church at Christmas even if I do smell of old people!!

I'm off for a bath and a bit of a read!!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The indelible mark ...

Ok I close my eyes and I see turkey, I smell turkey, my family say I smell like turkey. Carving for 85 has left an indelible mark!

The church is set for the day - the tables are laid, vegetables peeled. We're ready for whatever tomorrow may hold.

I hope that the gift that our church is giving, will point beyond what we do, to the true gift that Christmas celebrates. I hope that when all is over and we have dropped everyone home, the mark of Christmas that is 'love come down' will be as indelible as my turkeys!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Delivering a food hamper...

As soon as we walked in I knew it was a mistake. Basket in one hand two fed up girls tagging along we fought through the crowds in the supermarket. All I needed was some milk, tea bags and washing powder but the aisles were loaded with mayhem, chaos, retail anarchy, people queuing, trolleys loaded high with Christmas booty. We didn't make it to the teabags. We turned and fled empty handed.

Tonight I thought of the unbridled lavishness that Christmas unleashes as people over spend to over eat for just one day, a day in which they don't even believe. I thought of the excess that Christmas has become as I stood on the doorstep of a family handing over a donated Christmas hamper. I thought of the festive overload that we buy into to have a good Christmas as I looked into the one small room where this family live. I thought of the 'merry' gluttonous overload that we condone as I looked at the three half plastic bags of shopping in the doorway. She catches me looking at the bags on the floor.

"I've just got some things together for Christmas... but this is so helpful"

I had to deal with the lump in my throat as her eyes and smile communicated everything, as I left she pushed a carrier bag into my hand with a bottle of grape juice. "It's our culture ... our way of saying thanks...!"

I get home and look at our bulging cupboards waiting for Christmas to start and to set them free. I feel painfully humbled.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Two Drunks...

Carolling with the band always gives you time to think. Largely I felt quite sad last night as the passers by hurried home. Two drunks tried to converse with me. One a Chinese guy that made very little sense to me for what seemed eternity. The comedy of the moment not lost on the city commuters as he asked me for directions to the millennium dome with a mixture of sign language and extremely loud and broken English. But it was Matty that upset me.

Matty used to come to our Youth Club - and whenever I see him now he is hammered. I tried talking to this swaying 15 year old, his drink filled eyes struggling to make the effort to focus. As he staggered his way through the crowds I couldn't help thinking about Marcus and the conversation I had with him a couple of weeks ago; about when he started to drink heavily as a 15 year old; about how his mother can't have him in the house; about how he now has a car that he bought for £10 to sleep in. I couldn't help thinking about Ralph, Tommy, Michael and a whole host of alcoholics whose livers have packed in or have died because of their lives of alcohol.

As I watched Matty I couldn't help feeling sad. I hope Matty comes back to youth club so I can tell him about the friends I once knew.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Murray on Mission's False Dichotomy...

Stuart Murray observes... if there is
"one particular dimension of the gospel distorted by Christendom: it is good news to the poor. Marginal post-Christendom churches may rediscover a radical gospel that subverts condescending 'need-oriented evangelism' (that leaves unchallenged an unjust status quo) and reconnects evangelism with social justice. If the gospel is truly good news to the poor, we have not been preaching the gospel, for the rich and powerful have not found it disturbing and the poor have not found it liberating."
Murray, S.(2004)Post-Christendom Church and Mission in a Strange New World. Pasternoster pp. 163.

Distorted gospel.... I'm not too comfortable with that?


Sunday, December 18, 2005

Carols and Chaos....

The carol service at Poplar as ever was a highlight - today was our eighth in Poplar.

As we watched the carols from Lincoln Cathedral on BBC, with trumpeted descants, Dickensian singers, orchestrated harmonies - we smiled as we thought back to the variegated chaos that was Poplar's. It is funny what feelings you have when you look out on a congregation - today I felt overwhelming love and joy of being part of the body of Christ that is Poplar Salvation Army.

It's a feeling to keep hold of especially as Turkey's, vegetables, fruit, drinks and all the bits and bobs - to make Christmas day a family treat for 80 - need to be picked up. It's a feeling to keep hold of as we start a gruelling week of carolling to raise money for both our Christmas efforts and to help with our local work in the community. It's a feeling to keep hold of in ministry because it can all too easily be eroded away reducing what we do to just a job.

I'm glad of moments that leading a carol service of chaos affords!

The Story of God...

I've enjoyed the last three weeks following the thoughts of Professor Robert Winston as he presented his BBC documentary The Story of God.

Tonight talking about the ill-perceived 'battle' between science and religion he coined the phrase the 'principle of uncertainty' that he suggests fundamentalists of whatever persuasion whether religious or scientific would do well to cultivate.

Perhaps influenced by Heisenberg ; perhaps this brilliant man's scientific mind finds comfort in the mystery that is God.

It seemed a shame that most of the Christians he spoke with and interviewed were more comfortable with squeezing God into a box than expressing the struggle that is the mystery of God. The smugness of always having the right answer, the clever rhetoric really wasn't that appealing.

A SA songwriter once wrote:-
Many are the things I cannot understand,
All above my mystery I see;
But the gift most wonderful from God's own hand
Surely is his gift of grace to me!

Higher than the stars that reach eternity,
Broader than the boundaries of endless space,
Is the boundless love of God that pardoned me;
O the wonder of his grace!
Howard Davies

Friday, December 16, 2005

I'll Remember Ralph....*

We got worried this week Ralph hasn't been in. Ralph an amiable alcoholic comes in probably once or twice a month to have a cup of tea and chortle nonsense with us but we haven't seen Ralph for a month. Some phones calls and we discover that Ralph has died. His neighbours disturbed by a smell called the police and they found Ralph. I'm going to miss Ralph and I'll remember him.

I'll remember how some weeks he would visit us in his pygamas. I'll remember his unintelligible Geordie accent. I'll remember him telling me stories and laughing, making me laugh so hard because I couldn't understand a thing he said and the more I laughed, the more he laughed thinking I understood. I'll remember his face being tattooless. I'll remember him coming into our Sunday services from time to time (once in a suit and tie). I'll remember the effects alcohol was having on his body, his pain as his body started to give up. Above all I'll remember the glint in his eye.


* Ralph's his real name - I think he deserves that dignity.

Early Christmas Presents...

Today saw the end of the children's Christmas parties that we have organised. Over 130 kids from 6 months to 17 over different nights and parties have partied together and left with a gift. The youth and family workers and volunteers have worked hard! I stole a glimpse of our special needs youth club and saw the looks of joy on their faces. Though not totally involved with that group that un-noticed stolen glimpse through the door became an early Christmas present!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A time to moonwalk.....

Judith came in today (more on Judith here and here) with her friend Gary. More recently she has made me nervous by virtue of the drunken amorous advances she makes on me.

Today she asks for a food parcel and so I go to go, but as I turn she grabs my arm, looks longingly through drunken eyes "do you like my new glasses...?"

I try to be pleasently distant, "umm yeah they seem to suit you..."

She lets go of my arm, I head for the kitchen and get a couple of meals together. As I arrive back she proudly tells Gary "He's the one I really like, you know the one I tell you about, the one I fancy...!" Ok my discomfort is growing, I'm grateful that Roz our youth worker has heard my telepathic cries of 'stay with me, please say with me'. I turn to Judith and try to take the sting out of the situation - "Steady on Judith you know I'm happily married" I say with a nervous giggle not really befitting my newly 40-year-old status!

She jumps up and walks towards me her voice husky "yeah... but you want me...!" Ever done a moonwalk very quickly? I have!

Last Christmas day - Judith needed to see someone - a food parcel her request, her excuse - she left clasping a Christmas present from us but left us feeling shocked. Her daughter was murdered two days before Christmas day - stabbed in Hackney.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Seems that Christmas day on a Sunday is a bit of an issue for some churches. What to do on a day when the marginalised feel that extra bit marginal? What to do on a day when the lonely feel that extra bit lonely? What to do on a day when the depressed feel that extra bit depressed? What to do on a day when the broken feel that extra bit broken? Here's an idea .... close!

Read more here and here.

If ever there is a day on which to demonstrate the fullness of Jesus through community and family it is Christmas day. I wonder if Christmas day is a missional litmus test?

Christmas day is an important day for us as church some memories here and here.

When the song of the angels is silent
When the star in the sky is gone
When the kings and princes are home
When the shepherds are again tending their sheep
When the manger is darkened and still

The work of Christmas begins --

To find the lost
To heal the broken
To feed the hungry
To rebuild the nations
To bring peace among people
To befriend the lonely
To release the prisoner
To make music in the heart.

Howard Thurmond

Mr Marshall (pictured) I guess will be pleased again this year that we will be well and truly open!!

A journey to self respect...

When we first met Steph six years ago she was homeless. Not stereo-typically homeless, but she was someone who had nowhere when she had to move out from her friend's flat, nowhere but the streets. The best we were able to do was to get her into our women's hostel at Hope Town.

Her first own flat went a bit sour and she had to move out of that flat because of local intimidation by kids looking to fund their drug dependence on what little Steph had. Since then eighteen months ago she has been in temporary accommodation. Not anymore.

Today I helped her move to her brand new flat, just built. Today as we drove to her new flat with her belongings in the back of the mini-bus, her gold fish slopping its water with every bump and corner - I realised that she had come along way in the time we have known her. There was something else - in the first time since I have known her she was able to hold her head high, there was a new found confidence, a new found pride.

We finished carrying in the black bags that comprise her life and with a smile she grabbed my hand and said "when are you bringing the family around?"

Monday, December 12, 2005

Kraybill on Mission's false dichotomy...

"Sweet, spiritualized syrup ... denying the incarnation ... prostituting biblical truth" Donald Kraybill says it hard - 'either/or', non-holistic mission centred on a blindspot that is non-existent in Jesus' life and ministry probably isn't the way to go!
"This false split between spiritual and social leads to a warped reading of the Scripture. It tempts us to turn Jesus' hard sayings into sweet, spiritualized syrup. This dilutes his teaching, making it harmless. We marvel at the atoning death of Jesus but forget he also demonstrated a new way of living....

... Any gospel which isn't social isn't gospel. God's love for the world produced social action. God didn't just sit in a great theological rocking chair and muse about loving the world. God acted. God entered social affairs --- in human form. Through Jesus, God lived and interacted in a real social environment. Jesus, in essence, disclosed God's social habits. In the incarnation, the spiritual became social". Pp29

"The genius of the incarnation is that spiritual and social worlds intersect in Jesus Christ. To separate them is to deny the incarnation. Social and spiritual are inextricably woven together in the Gospels' account of Jesus' life". pp30

"In true biblical fashion, the Jubilee integrates spiritual and social dimensions. It weaves religion and economics into one fabric. Pulling the two apart prostitutes the biblical truth. Refusing to participate in the economic turnover constitutes flagrant disobedience". Pp99
Kraybill, D (1990) The Upside-down kingdom. Herald

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Exploding Soup....

I was surprised to see Marcus.

I thought I had got him into the system when I referred him to the 'Street Rescue' people who co-ordinate direct access into all hostels whether SA or not across London. You can't get direct access unless you have their referral - which can be frustrating, but isn't a bad system as it tends to flush out those who are genuine street homeless from those who have had an argument with their partners. The system just could do with some flexibility in emergencies.

"Marcus, mate what have you done to your face..." I have a vivid foreboding reminder of Tommy, it all seems familiar. Not boiling fat this time, but tomato soup.

Marcus explains how he cooks on an open fire in the park. He explains how he opened a tin of soup that was too hot and how it exploded like a shot gun into his face. His face is a cocktail of ill formed scabs, cuts and blisters where he has been scorched with soup.

One eye barely open he says"'s getting cold out there...."

While he waits with a cup of tea I ring 'Street Rescue' and they explain how they'd been in the area but hadn't been able to locate Marcus but they will keep trying. I explain to Marcus. He shrugs his shoulders. "Geezer, to be honest with you nobody really wants me, there is no room and nowhere to go...."

You know there was a bit of Christmas in that comment which stopped me and made me think.


PS- It seems that contact has been made, Marcus came back to say thank you - a first in 8 years!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Out with the Youth Club...

There was something almost humorously macabre about the scene.

We went to the outdoor skating rink nestled at the foot of the towers of Canary Wharf. Quite obviously intended for the suits of Canary Wharf to have a relaxing skate before heading off to their gated communities. But tonight as I watched the grace on ice of the well groomed there was an added element to the corporate night out.

It was how I imagined Francis Drake singeing the beard of Spanish King Philip II at Cadiz. Whipping in between the gentile suits in 'denimed mufty' were our guys, our senior youth club causing chaos and mayhem. I'm not entirely sure young people from the inner city estates of Poplar were the target group for the outdoor skating rink at Canary Wharf sponsored by O2. But tonight that's what they got! For an hour the mayhem, the chaos was beautiful.

The best bit? The 10 minute walk into the lights of Canary Wharf and the 10 minute walk away from the lights afterwards.

A big chunk of what we do at The Salvation Army in Poplar is youth work - and thanks to dedicated workers and volunteers we are able to invest in members of our society that are often frowned on because their choice is to wear baseball caps and hoodies.

Other Youth Club highlights here and here.


Ok my first attempt at a classy blurry type picture is not in the same league as any of Tim's and while blurry it certainly is not classy but it doesn't disclose any identities!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


I left with Kate's words ringing in my ears - "don't be late back for your birthday surprise". I was to make the journey to Chelmsford to pick up a car load of toys to give to disadvantaged families in the run up to Christmas.

I drive listening to the radio and thanking God for the new leader of the opposition. Nothing to do with the fact that the Conservatives have gone with a Tony Blair clone just as Labour have done with that image. Nothing to do with the fact that the impending news of "which David?" which has been frankly a little tedious is now ended. No! it had everything to do with the fact that everyone interviewed made mention of the freshness of youth that he will inject into British politics; his youthful outlook; his boyish charm - David Cameron is 39! Yes I remember being 39 as if it were yesterday. Suddenly turning 40 today is less of an issue!!

Driving back to Poplar with the company of a disorientated yet chirpy Furby - I wonder about the big surprise that I am going to have to be surprised about. Half an hour later I am back in the office. "Gordon... there is someone to see you!".... "oh really" I think as I walk through to the community lounge and into a 'tuneless' rendition of 'Happy Birthday'.

You know what? There was a surprise - I am not sure I could have ever imagined the group who 'surprised' me on my 40th birthday, but I wouldn't have swapped that group for the world. There was something profoundly significant for me sharing my cake with Patrick, Victor, Marcus and others that I have journeyed with over the years while at Poplar.

The surprise was a real gift to me.

Introducing Marcus...

We were all nice and warm, armed with tea, coffee and the promise of cream cakes, enjoying each others company. Usually we meet in different peoples homes but tonight our small groups were combined in our 'community lounge' to share thoughts, ideas and enjoy being together.

Suddenly we were aware of someone outside peering in. I let in a man new to me, in his thirties, a little wobbly wearing only a T-shirt. He politely said hello to everyone as he dragged in a bulging sleeping bag looking like a snake with indigestion!

"Alright guv... I'm Marcus" he shakes my hand. He sniffs and wipes his nose on the back of his hand. "Listen I've got a bit of an issue, a bit of a problem..."

That was an hour or so ago. Several cups of tea, and most of the cream cakes later - I've heard Marcus' story and he is right he has got a bit of an issue, a bit of a problem. Sleeping on the streets carrying possessions in a sleeping bag day in day out would be an issue for anyone.

It's a cold night - the hostels are full, but I get hold of the street rescue team and they promise to get to him as soon as they can. Sitting with Marcus as he finishes the last of the cream cakes, I apologise and feel inadequate in that for tonight it looks like it is the streets for Marcus again.

He looks at me. Smiles as he licks his lips free of cream. "Geezer... I know you've done your best..." He looks at the cream on his fingers. In between slowly devouring every last drop of cream in turn from each finger he says "Listen it is just good to now there are places to come where I know I am safe and can chat..."

I look at his now 'cream free' outstretched hand, I realise he wants me to shake it! We shake. He throws the weighted sleeping bag over his shoulders, wobbles backwards and sideways and then walks off into the night.

I wonder what I was able to give him tonight?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Times on-line...

It seemed a fun idea at the time.

The Times have chosen The Salvation Army as their charity for Christmas. As part of that they have asked me to blog as we work towards what we do over the Christmas period.

So I guess I should welcome anyone who stumbles across this blog from the link that is going to be on The Times site (here) to URBANarmy.

I guess also I should do that disclaimer thing where I am supposed to apologise for my opinions not necessarily representing The Salvation Army's. The point is we are totally passionate in what we do as a church in our community. We are totally passionate about trying to live our lives in such away that our church would be missed from our community should it disappear. We are totally passionate about trying to make a difference with people who probably don't read The Times! So I'm not too sure there is any need for any kind of apology!

URBANarmy isn't just for Christmas! A quick flick through some of my key blogs on the side bar will give you an idea of the area and work we do throughout the year. I change all the characters names (apart from Patrick who deserves to be world renowned!). I hope you'll enjoy getting to know them should you take time to browse their different stories and situations. I hope you get a feel for a way of life that is so fulfilling for us. I hope you get a feel for the fact that we get so much more back - from those who wouldn't warrant a cursory glance - than we could ever give.

This all seemed a fun idea at the time - then I looked at the quality of the blogs featured on The Times site! URBANarmy I'm afraid isn't that polished, refined or cultured but then again nor is Poplar - or for that matter am I .... 'init'!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I am a Craig Twin...

The skip had been delivered and we start a clear out.

Mostly half broken plywood chairs that needed to be laid to rest. I'm in the car park exerting myself as one by one I break the chairs into bite size pieces. I've a good technique of destruction - the pile of plywood mounts. Our community cafe is in full swing and I am drawing some attention as well as a blister or two - I wait. I know it wont be long before people come and help. I know that there are those who won't be able to resist.

First to the rescue Patrick, he joins in the carnage, then Victor - as splinters fly we talk and laugh. Patrick is keen to tell us between blows of destruction that he is one of the 'Craig twins'. Victor for once is fairly lucid. Fifteen minutes have gone and so have the chairs. Patrick almost without drawing breath is still telling me gangster stories of being a 'Craig'. Chair carnage finished I put a thankful arm around Patrick "Pat do you mean a Kray* twin...? He looks at me as if rumbled "oh yeah!"

Ann Morisy in 'Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission' makes mission connections with the concept of Social Capital – ie a level of reciprocal relationships within a locality or society. Specific reciprocal relationships which say ‘I do it for you if you do it for me’. Generalised reciprocal relationships which say ‘I’ll do it for you without expecting anything in return’.

As Victor and Patrick leave I realise that they have taught me a lesson. As church we need to put ourselves in a position to receive from people who want to give but have no-one who wants their help. We need to put ourselves in positions to allow the likes of Patrick and Victor to be able to say ‘I’ll do it for you without expecting anything in return’. So often we concentrate on what we give as church but it is also important to find ways of receiving - even from the most unlikely.


* The Kray Twins were infamous Eastend Gangsters of the 1960's - Patrick most definately was not one of them!

Monday, November 28, 2005

Newbigin on Mission's False Dichotomy...

I promised someone I would post some more 'False Dichotomy' quotes. My equally 'good, learned, and passionate brother', Captain Andrew Clark :o) (Army Renewal) is adding some interesting thoughts (here). But onto Newbigin...
"Here we must face frankly the distortion of the gospel that is perpetrated in a great deal that passes for missionary encounter. A preaching of the gospel that calls men and women to accept Jesus as Saviour but does not make it clear that discipleship means commitment to a vision of society radically different from that which controls our public life today must be condemned as false." pp 132
Newbigin, L (1986) Foolishness to the Greeks : The gospel and western culture. spck


and a bit more Newbigin to chew over...
"So words without deeds are empty, but deeds without words are dumb. It is stupid to set them against each other. It is, for example, stupid to say “The one thing that matters is to go everywhere and preach the gospel; all other activities such as schools and hospitals and programmes for social action are at best auxiliary and at worst irrelevant …. Why should people believe our preaching if there is nothing happening to authenticate them?...Our preaching is mere empty words if it does not have behind it a costly engagement with …all the powers that rob men and women of their humanity…But equally our programmes for teaching, healing, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and action for justice and freedom are futile if they do not point beyond themselves to a reality greater than they – to the great healer, the great liberator, the one who is himself the living bread. Pp 11-12
Newbigin, L.(1988) Mission in Christ's Way: A Gift, a Command, an Assurance. Library of Christian Stewardship

I am still not convinced that we get this balance right. Perhaps because we have been ingrained with the either/or means to an end approach to mission. Perhaps because we have been guilty of words that are empty. Perhaps we have been guilty of actions that don't point beyond themselves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Images of Church...

I seem fast becoming a Prodigal Kiwi(s) groupie!

Alan Jamieson uses two pictures to illustrate what church should and shouldn't be (here). His insights are well worth a read.

"The Church at Auver" painted by Van Gogh and the classic "Blitzed St Paul's" convey distinct and contrasting images of church. Alan Jamieson has them on his wall - I want them on mine now too as a reminder of what church should and shouldn't be. One standing for hope amoungst fragmentation and destruction - the other standing as an irrelevant out of shape obstacle to be walked around.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'd rather listen to Buddha...

The dedication ceremony for the baby had gone well. New families were in church and I was conscious that for some it was a 'different' experience.

"...thanks for a lovely service..." the aunt was shaking my hand. "...thank you" I reply " you go to church often or was that all really odd for you?"

Through a bite on a biscuit she says "Oh no we were brought up in the evangelical church - so I do guilt really well" She laughs some crumbs. "The layers of guilt piled on my young shoulders were too much - the only way for me to find peace was to walk away from the church and its guilt inspiring Jesus"

She smiles through the crumbs "Oh dear I think I've said too much...!" undaunted she smiles again looks me in the eye. "Do you know I felt free - a freedom - once I walked away...once I was old enough to know that I could walk away... I turned to Buddha... I'd rather listen to Buddha...Buddism has everything I need and guess what ... no guilt!"

I drink from my cup of tea and smile back "Funny really... Jesus is really all about freedom - I'm sorry that for you it was made to be about guilt..."

I felt sad. The subject changed - I was lefting thinking ... 'what have we done to the message of Jesus...!?'

Friday, November 18, 2005

In Gratitude...

"so you'’re meeting up with someone you met on the internet…....hmmm .... never met him before…...uh huh.... don'’t know him.. hmmmmm?” Kate probed! That was sometime ago and Rob aka The Shiny Headed Prophet and I have met several times since.

Driving to Bluewater for a coffee with Rob I'’m listening to some teaching CD'’s that someone at church lent me years ago. Gordon MacDonald is talking about resilience in leadership and ministry and points to the importance of having people around you that challenge and inspire you.

Coffee drunk, good conversation completed I drive back to Poplar thinking. I'm glad that I started blogging because I have made friends that challenge, inspire and invigorate me. Some I have met, most I don'’t even know what they look like! I'm glad that I have a good network of friends beyond the internet that challenge, inspire and invigorate me in different ways -– some because they make me think, some because they make me laugh. I'm glad for all those that have crossed my path and for whatever reason no longer do. I'’m glad for all those who through the years have offered me more than I give them. Also I am glad that Rob isn'’t a mad mass murdering axe-man using the internet to groom blogging christians!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bosch on Mission's false dichotomy...

Over the last few months I have collected several quotes that help identify or explain what I perceive as mission's false dichotomy. This blind spot that presents a dualistic approach to mission needs attention if we are truly to understand and engage in holistic mission.

Ok bear with me or rather with Bosch... he might help explain how justice got dropped from the agenda.
The South African missiologist David Bosch has pointed out how much damage has been done by the usual English translation of dikaiosune as "righteousness" and the consequent insulation of an idea of inward and spiritual righteousness from an outward and manifest justice in social relationships....

It is easy to see how the use of the two different English words righteous and just for the single biblical word dikaios, and the consistent translation of dikaiosune in the New Testament as "righteousness" while the Hebrew equivalent tsedeq is translated both as 'Justice" and as "righteousness," has seduced evangelical Christians into a mental separation between righteousness as an inward and spiritual state and justice as an outward and political program. But to accept this dichotomy is to abandon the gospel and surrender to the pressure of our pagan culture. pp132

as quoted in

Newbigin, L (1986) Foolishness to the Greeks : The gospel and western culture. spck
Ahh that explains a thing or two ;o)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'm a lady...?

Kathryn sparked a trail of thought and some memories.

There was a time we were RURALarmy! Having expressed a sense of vocation to the inner city, The Salvation Army decided to send us for trainiing to Chatteris in the Cambridgeshire Fens. When we looked out of our bedroom window we could see Ely Cathedral 12 miles away???

One night there was a call. "Are you The Salvation Army?... well .... there is a homeless man sleeping in the town centre"

Town centre is a very loose definition of Chatteris town centre - a couple shops and a bank is probably closer. I jump in the car armed with a flask some sandwiches and the charity shop keys. Sure enough there was our "man of the road" outside the bank. He gratefully guzzled the tea, ate the sandwiches and was keen to take up my offer of a change of clothes.

So to the Charity Shop. I find him jumper in his size "here you go..." he caught it and smiled through years of grime and a bushy beard. Then he looked bashful. " would you mind if I had a womans jumper... they are cut a bit wider and are more comfortable...!"

"er... OK...!" - I catch the jumper hang it up and start looking through the ladies jumpers and find one he is happy with.."Would you like some trousers....?" The bashful look makes me nervous. "um... would you mind if I have some womens ..? The elasticated waists are more comfortable...?"

"right - hmm ... OK....?" As I walk to the womens rail I make a mental decision to avoid offering underwear...!

When we tried to offer shelter - he didn't want to know. That was his choice and however hard it was for me to understand that choice it was his. I'm glad of our rural experience. The issues we faced may not have been as intense but they certainly were the same as that we face today in inner city Poplar.

People on the margins have had lots taken from them, sometimes all they have left is the power of self decision and however hard it is to understand respect of that choice is important. When it gets difficult is when those choices self harm.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus' use of the 'blindingly!' obvious intrigues me in Mark 10:51

The power of choice?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday Sulk...

Sometimes we're pretty full on Sunday's. Sometimes we're pretty empty. Mostly we're somewhere in between. Well today we were pretty empty. I know it isn't about numbers. I know there is the danger of a pride thing going on. Everything that could go wrong went wrong - yeah I know it isn't important, but tonight I feel vulnerable - I laugh outwardly but in reality I'm suffering a Sunday sulk!

I haven't been responsible for Sunday morning for a couple of weeks so I've had time, space to be a little more creative. U2's "Peace on Earth" with a loop of war, war graves and poppies made for a good space of reflection. Kids and balloons. Video clips from "To End All Wars". Verbally I tried to paint a picture of reconciliation using imagery from the story of Jacob and Esau. You know today I really tried but it felt that no-one turned up to the party! It was really hard work.


As Kate and I talk - I remember the guys from our detox centre leaving early - beaming and waving mouthing to me 'thanks'. Ok that was encouraging, last week they cowered at their first ever experience of church. I tell Kate of a conversation I had with someone damaged from another church that images of Jacob and Esau opened. Ok that was encouraging. At least unlike last week everyone I speak to doesn't burst into tears! that was encouraging!

So I come to a conclusion. What isn't encouraging is that you'd think I'd have grown out of the need for a pat on the back!!

Sulk to self-chatisement in one blog!


Friday, November 11, 2005

What if... [a random thought]

Something said in a recent conversation about Church social engagement and social work got me thinking. I couldn't help but think the person had a 'means to an end' philosophy when it came to mission.

What if the social work that church has been engaged in hasn't pointed to the kingdom? What does it say about the Christians that have facilitated that 'Heresy of Mission'? What if social transformation hasn't pointed to the community of justice, freedom, love, grace that Jesus represents because Christians have used it as a means of disguising the 'hook', leaving the message and ministry of Jesus as nothing more than a wriggling worm?

It reminded me to beware 'wriggling worm mission!!'

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An insight into Depression...

"So when someone you know finally caves in and falls apart, remember that you have no idea how long this person carried his secret burden. And I don’t care who you are. You cannot carry unending sorrow and burning anxiety forever. No one is that strong. And no one can be that heroic."

Real Live Preacher gives an honest insight to ministry with depression (here). I don't suffer myself - even with Chelsea losing once every 40 games - but I have good and close friends that do and RLP shows what it is like in the depths.

This guy can really write. Probably why half the world follows his blog!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Newbigin on Mission's false dichotomy...

I used this today in a lecture...
"When the message of the kingdom of God is separated from the name of Jesus two distortions follow, and these are in fact the source of deep divisions in the life of the church today. On one hand, there is the preaching of the name of Jesus simply as the one who brings a religious experience of personal salvation without involving one in costly actions at the points in public life where the power of Satan is contracting the rule of God and bringing men and women under the power of evil. Such preaching of cheap grace, of a supposed personal salvation that does not go the way of the cross, of an inward comfort without commitment to costly Action for the doing of God’s will in the world – this kind of evangelistic preaching is a distortion of the gospel. A preaching of personal salvation that does not lead the hearers to challenge the monstrous injustices of our society is not mission in Christ’s way. It is peddling cheap grace.

On the other hand, when the message of the kingdom is separated from the name of Jesus, the action of the church in respect of the evils in society becomes a mere ideological crusade"… pp9

Newbigin, L.(1988) Mission in Christ's Way: A Gift, a Command, an Assurance. Library of Christian Stewardship
Church as peddling cheap grace ... church as a mere ideological crusade ... no thanks.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

All for Charity...

It is some time since The Ashes were won, so it was good to hear from Darryl from The Ashes Blog who even hit BBC fame with his blog covering the cricket (here). I loved popping by his blog during the cricket, particularly the pictures were -if you are into English/Aussie cricket - pretty funny.

I'm not sure how many cricket fans pop by URBANarmy - stats show a predominance of North American's but Darryl has asked me to plug a charity push for the World Vision's Pakistan earthquake appeal by putting a poster together for his Ashes blog re-enactment photos.It's up for sale on Ebay at the moment (here).

Here's his sale:-
"Now, exclusively to Ebay, you can purchase this fantastic 8 inch by 12 inch print of original re-enactments from The Greatest Series - England v Australia 2005. Each of the five Tests is covered:
a.. Lord's - "Adam Gilchrist celebrates the wicket of Freddie Flintoff - caught Gilchrist, bowled Warne for 3."
b.. Edgbaston - "Ricky Ponting trudges back to the pavilion after being dismissed for a duck."
c.. Old Trafford - "Michael Vaughan salutes the crowd after scoring a century at Old Trafford."
d.. Trent Bridge - "With a beer and a cigarette in one hand, and a ball in the other, Shane Warne very nearly won the game for Australia."
e.. The Oval - "Under dark and gloomy skies, Andrew Strauss is caught by Simon Katich close to the wicket. This photo is a re-enactment of the bad light."
It's not serious - and it's not meant to be - but you will be proud to hang this print up on your wall. It has been professionally printed on photo paper, and it looks just like the sort of thing you would get at the Channel Nine Sport Shop."

Looking for some Ashes memorabilia with a difference? check out the sale - it's for a good cause.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Gordon Needs...

Saturday Silliness

Guess who hasn't anything to prepare for tomorrow!!?

Rob aka The Shiny Headed Prophet and Kathryn amoung others point to some mindless and daft silliness. Here's the idea type your name followed by needs in quotation marks in google ("Gordon Needs") then copy down the first 10 sentences. Here goes:

* Gordon needs fast start Saturday
* Gordon Needs Near-Perfect Race
* Gordon needs rescue
* Gordon needs to summon Batman
* Gordon needs your help so he can steal $233 million
* Gordon needs to buy the goat
* Gordon needs a push
* Gordon needs to run up front all night long
* Gordon needs to get real
* Gordon needs gman because gman is the right man

Yep silly - but it made me smile! Yes I know Gordon needs to get out more!! Poor old Kate is wrestling with sermon prep for tomorrow and I am playing around with Google!!

The Incarnational v Attractional debate...

Van S over at MissionThink has been doing a good job of fleshing out the Hirsch and Frost material in his local context and he has published an article based on his mullings. (here)

The general jist of H&F line is that an attractional church trys to polish itself up in order for people to come to it but an incarnational church is one that goes to them.
"... by attractional, we mean that the traditional church plants itself within a particular community, neighborhood, or locale and expects that people will come to it to meet God and find fellowship with others.… By anticipating that if they get their internal features right, people will flock to the services, the church betrays its belief in attractionalism. … If we get our seating, our parking, our children's program, our preaching, and our music right, they will come. This assumes that we have a place in our society and that people dodt join our churches because, though they want to be Christians, they're unhappy with the product. The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light." (Hirsch and Frost 2004)
A centre based church like ours could be perceived as being attractional, whereas more emerging expressions meeting in public places etc... would be seen as being missional and therefore incarnational. But we would hate people to think that we offer our ministry to our community as a means to hide the hook as we reel people in...! We offer space in a variety of ways that people share with us as we journey together in the pain and joys that are inner city life...sounds pretty incarnational to me.

I am genuinenly attracted to the emerging church scene. I love the creativity. The freedom. The connections that they make are good for me but I'm discovering that many em. church expressions may like the 'missional incarnational' tag but in all reality some are as attractional as the instituational church from whoms clutches they suggest they have escaped. The irony remains that while some emerging concepts of church model themselves as being incarnational because they meet in public places - their motive remains to 'attract' people to their alternative 'non-embarrasing' means of doing church - which still seems pretty attractional to me? There are some healthy looking exceptions to this - not intentionally critical - analysis.

It could be that a group of disenfrainchaised believers meeting under a new emerging 'missional frainchaise' with video loops, ancient-modern icons washed down with Coldplay and Moby actually in terms of incarnational influence in their community are as removed from community as how they perceive the institutional churches they left for their new adventure. And actually the label they hang on to and like to buzz and bound around in slick HTML leaves them more an oxymoron than the missional incarnational church they crave to be.

So what is the measure of incarnational influence? Perhaps it is more a 'state of mind'. Perhaps more a question of motive than a question of substance. An attitude. Perhaps more a question of the reality of mission than simply rhetoric.
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - who would miss you if you weren't there anymore?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - who is it you find yourselves ministering to.. people like you?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - what point has there been to your existence - for whose benefit?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - How dirty have you got trying to be transforming influence in your community?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - Why do you do what you do - to embody the gospel by standing up for true love, justice and grace?
Maybe there are more questions to be asked. 'Attractional' v 'Incarnational' I am drawn to the sentiment but I not sure it is as easily defined.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tears of a rapist

I'd not seen him before, no one at Poplar will know him. He didn't look up. He just kept staring into the bag of grocery's I'd just given him. He just kept looking down.

"There's something else....I've done something awful... I'm so ashamed..." A story of wrong choices, wrong friends, a drinking spree getting out of control, arrest, DNA swabs, cells and a rape charge has me sighing at the brokeness of what I was hearing.

The story told - he looks up into my face looking for rejection. I say nothing...

"My life didn't used to be like this... where did it go wrong..." I say nothing...

He half composes himself - "I'm in court next week... I'm scared..." I put my hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure you know if you are guilty" His shoulders shake as deep sobs interrupt the moment.

I look into his eye's "What do you want me to pray?"

Through his sobs he barely whispers "that justice will be done..."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Holiday Reading...

Holiday reading was productive.

I finished Ann Morisy’s Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission. I have to say it has been the read of the year so far. Anyone who makes Bosch accessible is worth a read!

She makes so much sense and gives concepts to feelings and opinions that we have held and seen develop, she articulates the reality that we have discovered while involved in urban community ministry at Poplar. For instance…

The power of the Principle of Obliquity (that of mission that is an unspoken tacit expression and demonstration of Kingdom of God)

The concept of Cascades of Grace – the impact of kingdom in action on observers and not necessarily just the recipient.

Social Capital – level of reciprocal relationships within a locality or society. Specific reciprocal relationships which say ‘I do it for you if you do it for me’. Generalised reciprocal relationships which say ‘I’ll do it for you without expecting anything in return’. She makes connections in terms of the importance of this Grace centred mission/social capital in terms of social cohesion. She makes connections in terms that churches need to operate beyond solidarity groups ie family, friends, own socio economic grouping etc…. and be variegated!

I loved what she had to say about chaplaincy to your community. I loved what she had to say about mission through telling stories.

In addition she also introduces an analysis of mission and offers a means by which the false dichotomy of mission can be closed. She points to the Explicit Domain – where explicit teaching provided by church in order to form and nurture recruits. The Foundational Domain – covers mission as the work the church has to do in order to help people gain confidence in their perception of there being an enduring reality and possibility of God. The Vocational Domain – is that area of the churches life which provides opportunity to enable people to respond to that sense within them that they could do more in their lives – developing their moral self. Each working together brings credibility to the gospel, each apart serves only to feed a theologically partisan approach to mission which makes the gospel false, dilute and cheap.

Ann Morisy’s Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission goes next to Graham Tomlins The Provocative Church on my 'highly affirming' bookshelf.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Return and the Ministry of Victor

Its funny you have a break and 5 minutes being back you are ready for another.

Kate and I walked to church having been away and we had heard enough to know that there were issues. Ulimatiums, tantrums, projects had collapsed, people were giving up. All in all a tense atmosphere - I was glad that we weren't leading the service. The congregation was ministered to in many different ways no more so than by Victor.

Victor is worth reading up about ( Victor - GBH and living in a soap opera; Victor and his talking flute). If you haven't enough time, it is enough to know that Victor is 'interesting'. If you haven't enough time it is enough to know that Victor is waiting for his court case for GBH. If you haven't enough time it is enough to know that Victor was hounded out of his flat because he is ... well ... interesting!

The last time I sat next to Victor in worship as we sang our last song together he checked to see if anyone was looking then went into his jacket, pulled out a mock Chinese vase and presented it to me on the quiet. 'Thanks Victor'. No one has ever given me a mock Chinese vase before 'in' or 'out' of worship! Now, our 'guest' leader asked for a time of simple prayer. I heard Victor's intake of breathe.... I waited .... with one eye open! .... "We thank you for Jesus, we thank you for our church ... we pray that you will protect it from those that wish it harm" (there or there abouts).

I looked at Victor and his face was one of peace - Victor's moment of clarity ministered to me. Again there is something in being ministered to by the unlikely.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

139 Today!!

Incidently our church was 139 today which probably to my Anglican friends makes us a 'whipper snapper' - but to The Salvation Army - it makes us the oldest in the world!!

Friday, October 21, 2005

My Ancient/Modern view...

I love where I live but it is good to get away. We try and take a meaningful break every half-term. So I'll be trading this view from our front door for a week.

(I struggled to upload the picture but I leave the code incase it is a temporary blogger glick - If it remains a little box with a cross in it please be assured that that isn't actually the view from my front door - use your imagination and think of the oldest remaining building in the East End - St Matthias Church dwarfed and shadowed by the 50 storey Canary Wharf Tower)

5th sentence of my 25th blog...

"The price is commit apostasy and join the fold of Christianity…"

to make sense of that you will have to read the whole quote from "Graceless Mission – what price to pay?" found here

Carl tagged me. Quite interesting to plough through what was written nearly 2 years ago! I tag anyone who wants to give it a go!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Two pictures...

Officers Councils/ Retreat? I've learned to take responsibility for my time and go with an agenda. I've still got some Meditations on the pictures of Sieger Koder - so I go expectant. I find space and find myself over the two days alone with Sieger Koder's pictures. I come away challenged.

The first the unfamilar 'Insight'. The walls dominate but it is the walls that can't be seen that speak. The Woman at the well adept at self protection but at what cost? Associated prose delves deep questioning...
"Over the years we build the walls of self protection,
blocking out light and truth..."
Self protection - not part of me or is it? My mind wanders in the various sessions at Swanwick. Background noise to my thoughts as I wonder. I think of conversations and there is a niggle within.

The second familar 'Real Me!' almost laughably obvious. The clown image, the mask, the title ... oh please? I give a cursory glance over the image then I see something that I have never seen before in this picture. I see what he is sitting on then I read:
"we gather knowledge, build pedestals with accumulated wisdom hoping to perch up high, safe beyond criticism and self doubt"
That niggle floods back and I realise that I'm guilty. Those protective walls they are there. Now what to do - I'm not sure I am comfortable!! Back to the first picture and I look carefully and find that even within the walls of self-protection Jesus is there. A good friend talks to me about being 'ambushed' by God - I feel ambushed!

Thanks Sieger - you've done it again!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Swanwick 2005

Off here for a couple of days to be inspired and refreshed at what is affectionally known as Officers Councils!

I'll be taking some Sieger Koder.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Love's Praxis

Mother Teresa speaks of love's amazing ways in finding opportunities to serve others. She comments, "Love has a hem to her garment that reaches the very dust. it sweeps the stains from the streets and lanes."

Ringma comments:
"...this is no ordinary love. Love in our contemporary world, while it may serve family and friends, is largely understood as self-serving. And contemporary love is more about comfort than the love of risk-taking and towel-taking so that we may wash the feet of the forgotten ones."
Make sure you don't take things for granted and go slack in working for the common good; share what you have with others. God takes particular pleasure in acts of worship--a different kind of "sacrifice"--that take place in kitchen and workplace and on the streets. (Hebrews 13:16 The Message)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

He's back...

"do you know the Lord...?"

I hear the voice and see my 'friend' the 'blanket bombing' American Evangelist (strangely having lost his accent!). Read about him (here).

Good relationships take time, there are several groups that we are getting to know us and there is something authentic about the relationships that are growing. In walks my friend - not knowing anyone, no relationship, no context - sits down and while a local street cleaner eats his breakfast - let's fly.

"No? so what are you going to do if you are run over tonight? What are you going to say to the Lord when you stand naked before him?"

I watch on helpless.

"You don't know... you're not interested.....well my friend I was like you until ..." etc...

The street cleaner, the one he was taking to got up and walked away. I watched on helpless.

Did I mention that we were gradually getting to know this guy? Did I mention we were gradually getting to be trusted by him? Did I mention that we were gradually getting into meaningful conversations with him? Did I mention that I'm not sure we have seen him since? Did I mention the potential collateral damage as our community lounge emptied as people ran for cover, to avoid being his next victim?

A conversation today made me feel guilty for being annoyed at this guy's blanket bombing approach to evangelism. Am I copping out of evangelism? Sarah Dylan at Sarahlaughed helped me.
"I believe that God's love and blessings are so rich that the whole world can't entirely contain them. The great urgency I feel (and believe me, I feel it!) as an evangelist (by which I mean a person called to enflesh Good News in the world such that people experience Good News in the world -- it's a shame that the word 'evangelist' has come in the popular usage to refer to someone who yells at everyone within earshot about Bad News) is to build communities of mercy, love, and justice broad enough to take in the fullest extent possible of God's passion for Creation."
The rest is here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

pictures of reconciliation...

Nothing much stereotypical about it really. Patronising? Offensive? I'm not sure. I wish Anon had been there. (Check the comment slap here).

I wish he'd/ she'd seen the picture of reconciliation that 'Lift Him Up' International represented. I wish he'd/ she'd seen the picture of deep love and respect - to be honest I am sure that not everyone who was there wanted to be there really - but there was an identity that goes beyong tolerance which speaks of a deep love and respect. I wish he'd/ she'd seen the picture of oneness.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

and for Patrick's next trick...

After the beauty of yesterday... the storm.

It hasn't been a good Patrick day. I had to stop half way through my sermon to have a conversation with Patrick to try and stop him talking at the same time. It culminated after the service with him throwing cake at Kate before storming out - me raging in hot pursuit!


Saturday, October 08, 2005

Blessing through the unexpected...

Another Story of Patrick...

It had to be a quick call. Our evening of cultural unity 'Lift Him Up' International had come to a close. I'd given a benediction to an evening of beautiful chaotic multicultural worship. Then Patrick chirped up with "Can I sing 'now the day is over...?'".

A lot of eyes were on me. I made my call "You know Patrick I think you can..."

He came to the front, took the mike, and sang.
Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Jesus, give the weary
Calm and sweet repose;
With Thy tend’rest blessing
May mine eyelids close.

Grant to little children
Visions bright of Thee;
Guard the sailors tossing
On the deep, blue sea.

Comfort those who suffer,
Watching late in pain;
Those who plan some evil
From their sin restrain.

Through the long night watches
May Thine angels spread
Their white wings above me,
Watching round my bed.

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure, and fresh, and sinless
In Thy holy eyes.
With clarity, style and timing that is Patrick's he gave us a glimpse of the kingdom. I'm not sure he got all the verses in the right order, he may not of sang them all, some of the words were fuddled - but he blessed us and we all knew it.

When he finished - I was moved. Quite choked.

I wish you knew Patrick, he'd drive you insane but when you least expect it God'll bless you through him.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Off Road Faith....

Prodigal Kiwi(s) point to an interesting article by Alan Jamieson - who wrote A Churchless Faith - on faith development stages as described by Fowler - here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

"I'm Adolf Hitler..."

"I'm Adolf Hitler..." I sigh. "No... you're not Adolf Hitler, he was white, Austrian and male... you are firstly a Somalian and secondly a woman." I'd been called into the Charity Shop there was an issue!

Her crack crazed eyes look into mine, she smiles and her alcohol drenched breath breaks across me. "I... AM... ADOLF HITLER!"

I look back and say "Did I mention he killed himself in 1945?"

She rips her head scarf off and throws it across the shop "Can you see it now?"


She ruffles her hair - goose steps around the shop saluting and saying 'Heil Hiter' "can you see it now?"

"urmmmmmmm... no!"

"Well may be you'll recognise this" with this she pulls up her dress and exposes herself!

I have to say at this stage of our inner city ministry there is not much that shocks me anymore. I was stunned. I was shocked. I hadn't been trained for this moment! I also have to say that my eyes remained fully trained upon hers and didn't wander south! But the gasps and shrieks from our charity shop workers left me in no doubt that she wasn't in the shop looking for underwear! ( not even red shield variety... John :o) )

I beat a hasty retreat calling for Kate. With no luck I return to the Charity shop - a little nervous - and managed to coax her out while she sings 'I'm Mr Boombastic' - this time I am careful not to disagree with her.

As she wanders off down the street I think 'you know she probably never remember today but I'll probably never forget it!'

Monday, October 03, 2005

Salvation Army Grid::Blog [reprise!]

I'm not sure it has worked as I thought it might.

I figured typing "Salvation Army Grid::Blog" into google would list everyone together - what would I know!? However using a mixture of 'googling within the blog' and also 'technorati' I guess the grid::blog has thrown up roughly thirty sally bloggers from the UK to Canada and from Austrailia to Latvia which is kind of fun.

Original thought here

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Boring Boring Chelsea...!


More here

Patrick's 10 Seconds...

Patrick has been nonsense all week. But today for a window of 10 seconds he stunned everyone.

Chuntering, muttering, giggling, pointing to some imaginary adversary all service apart from 10 seconds when we our small congregation this afternoon were invited to suggest why we should want to praise God.

"...because he came back after three days - a real person!"

If you are new to Patrick go check him out in my key blogs and be stunned with us. He may have threatened Kate this week, he may have sworn at me more than once this week - but Patrick is the best gift God could've given Poplar Salvation Army.

What's more he for 8 years has given us papers to read always weeks out of date. Tonight he gave a paper dated 2 October 2005 - what a day!!

My new watermark...

I got bored on friday and started playing around with my template.

I've added a watermark of a graphic I built for the Mission Studies course handbook that I teach. An image of Christ superimposed on a fragment of the area we are called to minister in. You probably wont recognise the docks and the bend of the River Thames but that is us.

For the watermark I darkened it and blurred it. What I need now is a bit of HTML that will centre the graphic in the background.

Any HTML geeks out there? Help!

Friday, September 30, 2005

The false gospel of convenience and self-promotion...

'Martin Luther King Jr. said that 11:00 on Sunday morning is "the most segregated hour in America." Not much has changed since King made that statement. But is this a bad thing?...' starts a good article in the Leadership Journal. "An Army of Ones - Does diversity in the church work?" - here - explores the pro's and con's of diversity within church and it reminded me of some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head and URBANarmy recently.

The highlight of the article is from Mark Driscoll - pastor of Mars Hill Church.

Driscoll contrasts a church of Babel - the first human attempt at cultural uniformity - characterised by the concept of 'hanging out with people like me because I find myself so wonderful' - and a church of Pentecost - God's attempt at kingdom unity through diversity - characterised by the concept of 'hanging out with people unlike me because God has been gracious to us all.' (Driscoll)

The Babel church Driscoll suggests asks:-
"How can we glorify ourselves by growing our ministry?" This desire leads to a false gospel that does not call me to love my neighbor and show hospitality toward those who are different from me. This gospel expects that I love only those who are like me and who share my same values and interests"
In contrast the Pentecost church asks:-
"How can we glorify Jesus by expanding his kingdom?" This desire leads to the true gospel that calls me to love my neighbors who are unlike me, and welcome them into Christ's church."
Here's the ouch quote...
"Therefore, the real issue is not will we pursue diversity, but will we follow the gospel of Jesus Christ? If we are following the gospel, diversity will occur as a result of the reconciliation accomplished in Jesus Christ. If we are not experiencing diversity, this may indicate we are lost in the woods following the directions of a false gospel of convenience and self-promotion". (Mark Driscoll 2005)
My thouhts are - how this embrace of diversity is handled obviously is dependent on where you live, being in the second most ethnically diverse borough in London (!!) obviously will look different to the Cambridgeshire Fens. But even there difference is there to be sought out and embraced. I think there is a case for homogeneity being the first step to diversity - ie distinct groups for distinct people but only as being part of something bigger and diverse. However I still worry about 'specific church' for 'specific people' - it seems all too consumer for me.

That said I think I about to start a ministry at our church for "tall football loving men who are most definately balding" anyone up for it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's Annual Appeal Time...don't you just love it!!

I knew before he opened his mouth this was going to be nasty. He cut a line through the milling commuters looking for their platforms - making sure he was under my nose. It was his eyes that gave it away - this was going to be nasty. He had a point to make and he was going to make sure I heard him. Actually several hundred people heard him.

"You lot make me ill collecting - you're not doing any good and I for one will never give to you"

His words spat with venom got heads turning. Bemused commuters shot anxious looks of comfort as I withstood the onslaught, the barrage of vicious diatribe. As he runs for his train along Waterloo station- I wonder what it was The Salvation Army did wrong to him. Maybe bad connections in the past, perhaps pain for family members dealt with years gone by, perhaps he got a bad deal from a SA place in the past, perhaps he saw a perceived misuse of funds, perhaps he'd been given the sack, perhaps he'd had too much to drink. Whatever I didn't get chance to ask - he'd soon disappeared into the crowd. Gone.

I sigh...It's The Salvation Army annual appeal time - where we try to raise funds for our social ministry, I'm all togged up, cap and all - don't you just love it.

I'm still digesting the abuse when a gentle voice said "I always give to you guys...." I look round and a kind looking face is looking through his wallet. He carries on "It's 30 years since I needed you... I was at my lowest and you guys fed me ... made sure I had food ... helped me turn my life around" I feel the clunk of change hit the bottom of teh bucket and he too disappeared into the night.

It's annual appeal time, I'm all togged up, cap and all - don't you just love it!!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Inexplicable Church...

Sometimes you have a Sunday that really surprises you.

Yesterday Kate led 'all-age worship' - we sang all the old harvest songs! the kids made pizza in front of everyone. What was interesting was that quarter of an hour into the service we were full. We're the kind of church that people have a liquid understanding of when the service actually starts - (in more ways than one!). Usually fairly empty at the begining but slowly filling up. We're the kind of church that is never massively full but never massively empty. But yesterday was different.

12 new people. A stack of people who haven't been to church for years decided this sunday to return - most of them didn't know about the BBQ afterwards! Chairs were found but we've only got 80!


I don't really want to know - just that I enjoyed it and felt blessed is enough. Too often perhaps we feel we need to chase answers - maybe there is something to be said for "Church Inexplicable". Maybe there is something to be said for something that is' non- formulaic', something that is not prescribed but is ' inexplicably spontaneous'

Nick Page in Invisible Church talks about Wabi-Sabi worship.
"It is a Japanese concept which I find quite attractive. Wabi-sabi means the beauty of simple things imperfect and humble. Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent and incomplete. It is the beauty of things modest and humble. It is the beauty of things unconventional"' pp 56
Church for me isn't just a sunday occurrence - but yesterday it was an occurrence that made me smile! Seeing community spontaneously come together like it did would make anyone smile - I think because it was wabi-sabi!!!??

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Special One...

This is one for Chelsea Fans everywhere.

Listen here.

If you don't know who Jose Mourinho is ... it is probably a waste of time.

Sorry if it has been doing the rounds but I only just found it!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Transformation of division...

"It is important that we are all together… it is the kingdom, not a ghetto we want to demonstrate.."

I remember when we first arrived at Poplar and started to think about how to be multi-cultural church in a multi-cultural area. I had seen models of church that had specific services for specific national groupings. We started to explore the potential, only to be de-railed in a conversation with some of our African church members.

It's a bit irritating that I can't remember who exactly wrote this. Anyway it is in the Urban Theology Reader...
"The Joppa story witnesses to the new things that the spirit of God is doing in the church and the world after the coming of Christ , and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in those empowered and called by the spirit to challenge exclusion, to transform division into communion and to draw the marginalised into the heart of the community of the people of God."
Northcott, M. (ed) (1998) Urban Theology: A Reader

Not a bad ‘how to’ avoid church becoming a ghetto. Remember we are called to challenge exclusion. Remember we are called to transform division into communion and remember we are called to draw the marginalised into the heart of the community of the people of God.

And I think it is an attitude of mind rather than any working out of programme. Could be that your church is in Jersey (where when on holiday my daughter asked where are all the black people…?) but it doesn’t stop you being a church that challenges exclusion, transforms division into communion and draws in the marginalised.

I am left trying to get my head around ‘specialised churches’ for ‘specialised people’ are they able to challenge exclusion, transform division into communion and draw in the marginalised?

I am left trying to get my head around do ‘specialised churches’ for ‘specialised people’ demonstrate the kingdom or a ghetto.

I am left trying to get my head around whether I have been fed a church growth lie that ‘if you attend a church for the first time and fail to see someone like you in the first minute you are unlikely to return’. Or has Phil Yancey got something when in "Church why bother?" says if he sees anyone remotely like him within the church he never attends again!

More blogs about multi-cultural church; segregation; Urban ministry; sleep walking to segregation.