Saturday, January 29, 2005

My Vice...(and a Favour)

Since I cracked it I'm afraid that I have to own up to a vice in my life.


"Hardly incarnational...!" I hear the smug skeptics chatter!! However, ski-ing remains at the moment the one thing that truly detoxes my mind of 'ministry related thinking!' I relax. I seem to be able for large chunks of time to be overwhelmed by God's creation and pressing issues ease away. It might also to do with the fact that if think about anything else I'm likely to hit a tree!

My family have clubbed together and rolled my Christmas and Birthday presents into a cheap weeks ski-ing staying in a basic youth hostel and a rather long coach journey through France to the Alps. The Aravis mountains in the background are the backdrop to the hostel.

I am going with a friend from Church, I have my books ready for Apres-ski (I'm avoiding Carls blog at the moment incase he gives anything away on the Dan Brown front!), with glorious snow, scenery and air free of monoxide I'm looking forward to a week away.

So for a week URBANarmy is also having a rest!

One little thing - I was wondering if I could ask a favour of those that take the time to visit and take an interest in URBANarmy. Recently I have been working out the main themes that have shaped URBANarmy. If anyone who reads this stuff regularly has time I'd love to hear some objectivity as to what you feel the themes are as they have developed.


Friday, January 28, 2005

The Lost Tribes of Emergent...

"Evangelicalism with a navel piercing...Art collective...Nu monastic...House church..."

Steve at e~mergent kiwi is looking to develop a taxonomy of emergent tribes and I hope the dialogue grows. It interests me. (In particular one comment points to a chart from the Community of St. Hilda and St. Aidan)

One over looked 'tribe' is that which seeks to embrace wider justice issues. This time last year I wasn't sure this 'emerging tribe' even existed beyond individual conscience but with the advent of protest4 (which you can read about here) and other initiatives - it seems that it is being uncovered.

However perhaps a more challenging question would be to ask about the 'lost tribes' - do they exist?

I look around some of the 'non-designer' people that come to us in one form or another - I struggle to see them part of the emerging scene as emerged so far. I struggle to see those meeting in starbucks for 'd-i-a-logue' and 'am-bi-ence' making space in a meaningful way for those that are truely marginal in society. Maybe deep in the 'emergent ecclesiatical jungle' there is an emergent expression of church for them - I hope so.

Richard; Keith and Jonny have re-ignited some thoughts for me about the mono-chrome, mono-cultural appearance of what is labeled emerging church. I agree, I have yet to see a truly multi-cultural expression of emerging church. I hope it is in there somewhere...

I look around and look for the emerging tribes that engage in unsung local community justice, that proffer true hope, liberation in such a way that if they disappeared over night it would be their community that would miss them more than the 'emerged' members. I'm sure they must be in there somewhere...

I wonder about these 'Lost Tribes of the Emergent' and others that may exist within a paradox of co-existence. Where evangelical and liberal co-exist without drawing blood; where the elderly can sing their hymns; where leadership isn't about gender, colour and class; where church exists beyond coffee, candles and slick powerpoint!

I'm optimistic somewhere in there they exist - I wonder if they will ever be uncovered or perhaps they'll just be content to remain and be.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Just a quick update on some people affecting me at the moment...

Miguel has been in several times since I first met him a couple of weeks ago. A heroin smoker who wants to stop. We've been able to refer him to an in situ drug detox service and we think he has accessed it. It has been good to get to know him gradually, to help him with food and some clothing. Yesterday he came in I noticed that his coat was blood stained so I asked him about it. One question too far! He backed out and our conversation came to a close. Sometimes we are so keen on keeping our boundaries that we forget that it is not just for us that boundaries exist. It seems that the squat where he is living in isn't the safest of places.

Joel seems to be doing really well. I thought he would walk from the hostel. But he is engaging well with the workers in the SA hostel and is still there. I'm chuffed to bits as I really think he is making a go of it.

Catherine Booth
"I am always glad to hear of anybody doing anything good and kind and true and helpful to humanity, whether it is feeding little boys and girls of the poor or enlightening the ignorant or building hospitals...but that is not the particular work of Jesus - Christ has set His people to do."
A growing revelation of Catherine is that apparently she bought the 'false dichotomy of mission' hook, line and sinker. The sacred and the social for her were parallel. Holistic mission a non starter - I hope I'm not being disparaging but I have to admit I struggle with that. Parallel, apart each makes no sense, in fact it makes a nonsense of the gospel.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Just a group of people meeting together...

Just a group of people meeting together; spending time sharing their faith; praying together; laughing together, sometimes crying together. Some people call it cell church or cell to those in the know!, others bible study, still others house group whatever - the group I am in - I love. I love Monday evenings - this week in our small group 7 different nationalities, all different yet all one.

I call it "Just a group of people meeting together; spending time sharing their faith; praying together; laughing together sometimes crying together." Somehow the brand I feel wont catch on! Shame I wonder how much could be gained from:-

"Just a group of people meeting together; spending time sharing their faith; praying together; laughing together sometimes crying together." conferences;

"Just a group of people meeting together; spending time sharing their faith; praying together; laughing together sometimes crying together." video packs;

"Just a group of people meeting together; spending time sharing their faith; praying together; laughing together sometimes crying together." books; training manuals. Oh what a line it could go on and on. I can see merchandise a website,


It would be just my luck that someone has registered the domain, actually it would be just my luck that someone has already had this idea and called it something a lot simpler - church!?


[actually I apologise to anyone who really believes that our church actually runs groups called "Just a group of people meeting together; spending time sharing their faith; praying together; laughing together sometimes crying together." We do run small groups but they are called something else!!!?]

Monday, January 24, 2005

Fullness of Life...shalom and salvation

A bit more from 'Walking with the Poor'.

It was Myers who introduced me to the concept of the 'missional blind spot', the maintainance of a false dichotomy that sees Christian witness, and specifically evangelism, as being unrelated to community development.

It was Myers who gave me understanding of the friction and pain that I feel with the schism that accepts those who see evangelism (restoring people's relationship with God) as spiritual work, while social action/transformation (restoring just economic, social, and political relationships among people) is not. Those who see loving God as spiritual, while loving neighbours is material.

The idea of shalom is related to one of the interesting ways Jesus described his mission and seems to me bring cohesion to our theology of mission:

'I have come that they may have life, and have it in the full" (Jn 10: 10).

Life in its fullness is the purpose; this is what we are for and what Christ has come to make possible. To live fully in the present in relationships that are just, harmonious, and enjoyable, that allow everyone to contribute. And to live fully for all time. A life of joy in being that goes beyond having. While shalom and abundant life are ideals that we will not see this side of the second coming, the vision of a shalom that leads to life in its fullness is a powerful image that must inform and shape our understanding of any better human future. pp51
Myers, B.L. (1999 ) Walking with the Poor - Principles and Practices of Transformational Development. Orbis

Thanks Barky for the book recommendation!

Friday, January 21, 2005

From the mouths of babes and an atheist...

"I’m an atheist and even I know that is as far from the message of Jesus as you could probably get...!

Trevor used to come to our parent and toddler group with his two-year old – he popped in this week – his little girl has started school and he is bored so came by to say hello. Because he asked where Kate was (she was teaching mission studies at the SA training college) somehow a rather deep theological conversation developed as to what constituted authentic mission. The conversation built up to a crescendo which left me wondering if I’d offered too much information.

"So you are telling me that there are churches that only do parent and toddlers and other activities in the community in order to evangelise?".

I felt a little uncomfortable at his tirade "I’m afraid yes!".

"And are you telling me that there are churches who only offer services with a view of getting more people in on a Sunday?"

His glare is a little too intense I look away "er…well… yes!". I’ve hardly finished and he’s off again.

"That this so called act of love is really a means to an end...?" I draw breathe to answer but Trevor is on a roll

"Please don't tell me - there are Christians out there who only make friends with people and join clubs with the agenda of eyeing up potential targets to proselytise...",

"Trev... you see .... it’s kind of... well ... more of...." I sigh and mumble resignedly "yes...!"

Trevor looks down at his feet and up again. His voice drops to a whisper and with a glint in his eye says "I’m an atheist and even I know that is as far from the message of Jesus as you could probably get".

"Mission is more than evangelism. By 'evangelism' I mean that aspect of mission, which consciously extends (by presence or proclamation) an invitation to those outside the faith to share in the life of the kingdom of God, and seeks for a response.

Mission is broader and wider than evangelism. Nor has mission much to do with marquees and crooning choirs. Nor with getting people to come to church. It is much more about the Church taking its doors off their hinges so that something of God's saving, serving and liberating love can flow out. Clearly it is a good thing if people do want to come in. It is a good thing if more and more people want to join together in the worship of God. The vision of the kingdom of God's glory is of a community of people of all tribes and families and nations and languages sharing together in the worship of God.

There is an important 'coming in'. But the primary movement of mission is not getting people in, but being part of the love of God reaching out, and connecting the gospel of God's love with all the messy and muddled dimensions of our economic, social, political and personal lives. It is then that 'the Lord adds to the Church daily those who are being saved' (cf. Acts 2.47).

Mission is thus a broad and wide-ranging task. It is not the whole task of the Church, which is primarily to worship God and give ourselves and our work and our lives to him. Mission is offering ourselves and our work and our lives in the service of God's world and God's people. So worship and mission belong inseparably together."
Atkinson, D (1999) God so loved the world – towards a missionary theology. Lynx

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Don't Confuse it with Christianity...

I’m driving back. The sun is glaring off the opulent wealth of Canary Wharf. The radio is on and a beat is going through my head. The beat isn’t the music though. The beat is Catherine Booth. True or not I don’t know - but on finishing each chapter of 'Darkest England and the Way Out' – It is said that William was given it straight by Catherine. "Praise up humanitarianism as much as you like, but don't confuse it with Christianity, nor suppose that it will ultimately lead its followers to Christ."

I’m driving back and that is the beat and I can't shift it. An hour earlier I'd met Joel. Joel whose life is his secret – this 18-year old whose life is in free-fall. No family he can turn to. Lost his flat. Sleeping in the cold and wet. "I got in with the wrong crowd and I f**ked up". I know Joel. We talk and I hear the intense grief of losing his Nan. His guilt. The out of hand parties. The eviction. I hear about the streets and the cold. An hour earlier I’d been able to get Joel into the SA hostel system – (none of the Mr Hopgood pain) for a night at least.

I’m driving back – I left Joel as he was having his entry assessment to the hostel. "If all goes well we’ll move you from emergency to more permanent accommodation, we’ll get you onto a resettlement programme and give it our best shot to get you re-housed". I watch him. He looks cold and scared but at the corner of his mouth I see the beginnings of hope. The recognition of the chance of a fresh start.

I’m driving back and I wonder has the last hour been a waste of time in terms of the Kingdom of God? I'm driving back and I am thinking of what I have just been part of - mere humanitarianism? Christianity? Christian humanitarianism? (surely an oxymoron of some sort)!

I like to think that for the last hour I've tried to be the hands and feet of Jesus! A waste of time - who knows - all I know is that tonight Joel is warm and dry?

Monday, January 17, 2005

"Andy we've missed you..."

We haven't seen Andy for months - the beginning of his story which was showing signs of encouragement (Andy...another grace starved life... ; Andy church and today) seemed to fizzle out.

It happens. People flow into your life and out again - but with Andy I was disappointed, there was something genuine about Andy. He never made it to our trip to Brighton in the summer that he was so excited about - we haven't seen him since. We presumed that he'd been re-housed, moved out or found himself back on the streets.

Just this week I was thinking about this dynamic that sees you involved - then not - with transient people as they pass through. Thinking about the feelings of a half finished job. Relationships half formed. I thought about Andy.

Andy came in today and brought a friend "see I told you they'd try to help" I heard him say as I wandered off to make up a food parcel for his mate. I returned and sat with them and chatted for a while "Andy we've missed you...", I was glad because the look in his face showed he believed me.

His scarred face broke into a smile - "I'll be back don't worry!"

Saturday, January 15, 2005

'People people'... Fullness of Life...Shalom...Salvation #1

Myers has been a helpful book, the concept of transformational development is appealing, the theology has been helpful and healthy. He identifies the biblical image of shalom as an interesting one in terms of mission.

Nicholas Wolterstorff points out that shalom is usually translated by the word "peace," but that it means more than the absence of strife. First, shalom is a relational concept, "dwelling at peace with God, with self, with fellows, with nature." Then, Wolterstorff suggests, we must add the ideas of justice, harmony, and enjoyment to capture the full biblical meaning of the word. Shalom means just relationship (living justly and experiencing justice), harmonious relationships and enjoyable relationships. Shalom means belonging to an authentic and nurturing community in which one can be one's true self and give one's self away without becoming poor. Justice, harmony, and enjoyment of God, self, others, and nature; this is the shalom that Jesus brings, the peace that passes all understanding (Wolterstorff 1983, 69-72).

Myers, B.L. (1999) Walking with the Poor - Principles and Practices of Transformational Development. Orbis

Steve Court with Wesley Campbell (Court, S and Campbell, W. (2004) Be a Hero: The Battle for Mercy and Social Justice) make a good job of making righteousness, compassion and justice central to mission - the connection is almost there. They talk of helping 'invisible people' to become 'people people'. From being marginal to being accepted.

Towards 'People people' ... Fullness of Life ... Shalom ... Salvation?

By placing righteousness, compassion and justice central, wrapped up in grace I can see the beginings of an antidote to the false dichotomy of mission, the answer to the great omission in the great commission!

Thursday, January 13, 2005

I walked straight past him...

I filled up with diesel. I went to pay at the kiosk - until then I hadn't seen him. Huddled in the corner by the door was a young guy begging. I shot a cursory glance. I hadn't seen him before his attention to detail was good from his 100% dishevelled look to a half 'Big Mac' box with the scraps of change.

Sometimes you want a night off; sometimes you feel as though someone else could get involved; sometimes you suffer a charitas fatigue - surely someone else could take up the strain - to be honest all I want to do is pay and get going. I walked straight past him...

I join the grim faced queue waiting to pay. There is a inward tugging going on. I relent. I go and get some milk to add to the bill. I'll just give him the milk but more for my good than his. As I walk out I stoop down and say "listen I don't do money but here's a pint of milk" He is really grateful and I feel ashamed.

I can't walk by again so I sit and chat with him. First I am struck by the smell of his feet! then his obvious intelligence. The grim face queue parade past back to their cars as I hear his story of depression and domestic violence. I hear his fight not to spiral back into the world of drugs he has just about escaped. I hear his sense of hopelessness. His fear. I explain who I am and ask him to come and see me at the SA. "See you tomorrow Miguel"

That was yesterday - today Miguel came by - we helped him with some food and clean clothes. We chatted some more as he left he grabbed my hand - shook it, smiled and in his slight Portuguese accent said "Thanks for not walking by..."

Funny how it didn't actually make me feel that great!

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

A place of significance...

Reading an old copy of an internal salvation army magazine The Officer (Lt- Col Rader, H.C. and Rader, F. (2003) 'Salvation Army: Mission Strategy and ministry to the poor' in THE OFFICER march/april 2003.) I discovered that most days I walk or drive past a significant spot. The spot where The Salvation Army (then the East London Christian Mission) first started meeting the physical needs of a community in mission.

It happened during the 1866 and 1867 cholera epidemic and it sparked a revolution of authentic grace centred mission. The Revival (an early Christian Mission publication) of 31 January 1867, Booth wrote that at the Union Temperance Hall, High Street, Poplar, 'We are now giving away soup and bread, and propose doing so while the distress continues and funds are sent us.'

Funny we're into our eighth year at Poplar and I only just found that out. It's a place of significance.

It is significant that from that grew a love of community and transformation that saw the development of other soup kitchens; 'evening classes; ragged schools; reading rooms; penny banks; soup kitchens; relief for the destitute and sick poor by distribution of bread, meat and money; house to house visitation; Sabbath and day schools; maternal societies; supplying clothes for the needy.' There were literacy classes, a Drunkards' Rescue Society and a savings bank. In addition, there were five 'food for the millions' food shops.

It's significant that despite seemingly turning his back on such social services - that were at first considered a distraction and a financial drain, and despite the influence of Catherine and Railton - his attitude swung back to a holistic model of mission.

When in 1880 - Booth confronted Bramwell about the men sleeping under the bridges. It is significant that he didn't say "great... look at the evangelistic opportunity we have with these vulnerable men let's evangelise them when they are at their lowest" but he said, "do something...!".

It's significant that Booth saw that people were receptive to a gospel that addressed their needs; that was authentic, that was grace centred and saw transformation and wholeness.

It's significant that when once asked 'What about The Salvation Army proper? Has it suffered from the competition of the Social Work?' Booth responded "I know what you mean, but in my estimation it is all the Army proper. We want to abolish these distinctions..." (The War Cry, 1889).

"Abolish these distinctions" '- I wish there was someone yelling that out now to all those who honestly feel that it is totally ok to operate a 'small print', 'strings attached', 'graceless', 'means to an end', 'abusive' approach to mission.

When Booth wrote about Boundless Salvation I think he knew what he meant! And to think the journey of mission started at the end of my street!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Doing Church in the City...

I’m not great on seminars and conferences they have a tendency of leaving me feeling cold and hollow but this looks like it could be good to be at. Wrong side of the Atlantic for me. But nevertheless I hope something good comes out of it.

Some written stuff on contemporary urban theology that points to mission beyond the blind spot would be good to hear about. Key themes for ministry within the urban context. Opportunities for engaging a fragmented world. Similarities, points of diversity will all good to hear about.

Straight away it has got me thinking about that old chestnut doing/being church. I dug out this quote:

"Missionary congregations are congregations that have reworked themselves to be mission focused. The congregation proclaims the gospel as much by being church in the quality of its spirituality as by doing church through active evangelism"
Robert Warren quoted in Moynagh, M. (2001) Changing World Changing Church. Monarch

Thursday, January 06, 2005

We waited...

We waited.

Judith (more on Judith here and here) came in on Sunday – she wanted to tell someone about her daughter’s funeral. Despite the smell of alcohol she was relatively sober. Today really clean. Good clothes. Her daughter was stabbed two days before Christmas. Murdered. She came to tell us that the funeral was on Tuesday. "I don’t think I can do it" she sniffed as she spoke to Kate. "I can’t go…I can’t face it…" her voice trails away. "Could you if we came with you?" The only response a hopeful glance – "Judith come in on Tuesday and we’ll come with you". Judith leaves.

Tuesday came and we waited. We waited 11am came and went. A 20ish crack-head was buried – I wondered who’d be there, what would be said.

Judith couldn’t face it. We waited. She didn’t come.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

feelings of helplessness...

There is that feeling of helplessness, of wanting to do something practical - to be of help.

To be sat back in England with the fridge to sort out after Christmas seems a bit tasteless. Sitting watching a film munching the last of the Christmas treats seems to have lost its appeal.

Jonny points to a new design of church inspired by small ritual - I get the concept - but as I look around for images and facts about how The Salvation Army is involved [lastest news here; other images here] it struck me that it isn't that new a design!

The feelings of helplessness are still there but knowing that salvationist colleagues were in the rubble and brokenness within hours offering assistance helps. Knowing that 1000's are being offered support, food and shelter. Knowing that airport chaplains are involved with those returning has helped. And knowing that we are just one of many denominations working shoulder to shoulder helps me realise we are doing something.

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12)