Thursday, April 28, 2005

Boots 2005...

This weekend for many salvationists is an important weekend as they travel to Southport and to the ROOTs CONVENTION. Travel safely and I hope those of you who pop by URBANarmy have a really good time. I look forward to hearing how it went.

Not really my thing - too big - but nevertheless I'm glad it is still meeting a need for lots of people.

As for me and our family (including unofficial God Parents - a strange designation bestowed upon good friends Paul and Heather by our daughters) we're off to our BOOTS CONVENTION we are camping in Sussex. Given the weather today our wellies are well and truly packed!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Not just Breakfast...

George (mentioned before here) has got a problem. You see his son has bought a new dog. A Staffordshire bull terrier. Not a lap dog – unless you are brave. It’s caused an issue. The last dog they had went violent and bit a child’s face. George and his wife decided no more dogs.

But his son thought different. The argument got out of hand and the son pulled a knife on him. But what pierced him was his wife’s reaction. Isolated in the family he feels he needs someone to talk to so he is talking to me in our car park leaning on his yard broom.

George is one of the many street cleaners that come in for their breakfasts each day. Not the most creative of church outreach programmes; not that much imagination; I don’t really expect anyone to write a book or create a video discussion pack about it. No people travelling around the world to see it in action. No people ringing up and asking how it works. No international conferences.

It is just breakfast.

But it is so much more. It represents for us another interface with our locality. An excuse to have the church doors open. An opportunity to try and serve and love your community. A chance to be available. George among many others pop in everyday for the cheapest breakfast in our market. Most mornings just a cheery ‘morning!’ Some mornings a chat about the football. Some mornings "Gordon, I needed to talk to a friend!"

How simple is that?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Another Dead Link...

Recently I've gone through a spate of blogs that I follow - in different ways - drop off and die. Either a little red exclamation mark pops up by their blog entry on my RSS reader, or in-activity spells the end, or simply there is nothing left to say.

Sometimes it is connected to a shift I've noticed in blog culture - a shift in emphasis from a blogging for "me" (personal thoughts and reflection) to a more blogging for "you" (an obligation to say something because people visit this site!). With this shift - unless it is particularly resourceful to my context - the blog dies as its intimacy wanes.

As I watch these blogs die I feel a sense of loss. Reading and being stretched by someone's thoughts and reflections sometimes from a completely different angle on life and theology has done me good. Finding people who are stimulating through their outlook on life, their understanding of God and church has encouraged me. When they are no longer there - it seems sad.

As I read their obituaries of why they no longer blog - I remind myself why I blog. I go back to my first blog and remember it is essentially for me, no one else, I write for me. I try not to write in order to influence or to impress. I write because I want to be able to look over my shoulders and look at the footprints of my journey as I reflect on mission. I write to stretch myself through my reflections. I write because I don't want to lose the lessons I am learning. I write to get things off my chest, to vent my feelings. I write for me.

It's great to have made good ' bloggy' friends - to have been challenged and comforted by those who have stumbled into URBANarmy and have taken time to comment. It's good to walk with people and to chat things over! But I blog for me.

Selfish?

But I am sure blogging for others would wear me out, grind me down and would steal the joy I have in keeping the lessons I learn alive.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Today I am mostly Liberal Democrat...

Who Should You Vote For?

Who should I vote for?

Your expected outcome:

Labour


Your actual outcome:




Labour 22
Conservative -65

Lib Dems 73
UK Independence Party -22

Green 29


You should vote: Liberal Democrat

Now there is a surprise - how'd that happen? You'd probably sense a sense of healthy Christian socialism within URBANarmy. I've voted Labour since university days - so something has shifted somewhere!! However much I try the Libdems come out on top!

Thanks Carl for pointing out the link.

Take the test at Who Should You Vote For

Webber on Great Commission...

"...to reduce ecclesiology to the Great Commission alone is not adequately biblical. The younger evangelical intuitively knows this and is in search of a deeper grasp of what it means to be the church"

Webber, R.E. (2002) The Younger Evangelicals. Baker Book House

Here's what I am thinking through. Has the contemporary church's understanding and working out of the Great Commission transformed the world the way Christ intended? I look around and I'm not entirely sure. Where exactly I wonder have we been missing the point?

I guess if the hole has been dug in the wrong spot it is madness to think digging harder and deeper in the same spot will make the hole in the right spot. It's funny how if you say "listen I'm going over here to dig" you're made to feel you are copping out, diluting, weakening the gospel. Whereas you are actually up for finding out the depth and height of what Great Commission is all about and putting it into action. Copping out I don't think so.

Thanks Mr Webber you've made me feel a whole lot better even if you do look a little like Albert Einstein!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

When words are not enough...

I sat with Sanjay with a cup of tea and listened. I listened as the story unfolded. I listened to the pain of a mother and of a wife whose family had been ripped apart by racial hatred. Sanjay is a Christian married to a Hindu, as she talks to me I hear last nights story.

Last night her 16-year-old was involved in a fight. A standard one on one escalated to a gang of 20 baseball wielding youths intent on revenge. As her 16-year-old was knocked to the ground her 18-year-old son jumped into help. A single punch with the aid of good old-fashioned knuckle-duster took out some of his teeth. Sanjay’s husband joined the fray, which was only dispersed on the arrival of the police.

I sat with a stunned Sanjay – her husband in custody, her 18-year-old nowhere to be seen having run away; her sixteen-year-old complaining of nausea and giddiness; her 9-year-old too scared to go out of the house.

I sat with Sanjay with a cup of tea and listened.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Impacted church...

We never noticed it, tucked away at the of Eryn's mouth an impacted tooth. The dentist noticed it and pointed its existence to us and made sure we were aware it needed attention on the cleaning front. So every day we give this unfortunate tooth some encouragement by giving it a good brush.

"An impacted tooth is when a tooth fails to fully emerge through the gums."

Failure to fully emerge? There is a growing tension within me. I love the emerging church thing, the creativity, fluidity its confluence of thought and ideas but I need more.

I am desperate to read of an emerging church that isn't so much about multiple TV's, video loops, Moby and U2. I am desperate to read of an emerging church that isn't so much about slick html, book contacts and wifi conferencing. I am desperate to read of an emerging church that isn't so much about cosy community where we sit around sharing stories adding our colours to the tapestry that is a gospel narrative.

Listen - I take all of it and love it but I need more. It's not enough for me. I'm tired of the latest.

I am desperate to read of an emerging church that stands up and says the way we live is about local justice in our community, the way we live is about presenting true hope and liberty, the way we live about is about sharing true compassion and mercy. I am desperate to read of an emerging church that is bedded in mission that is beyond that of being attractional eye candy. That is open to the whosoever of its community to drop by and feel safe and wanted.

Until the emerging church fully embraces mission beyond that which is merely worship experience I've a feeling that it will remain more impacted than emerged. The trouble with an impacted tooth - it lacks a biting edge.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Mission and being a mug!

Miguel was waiting for me. His sallow skin, dark eyes, lank hair all scream of his addiction to drugs- a heroin user. Miguel has been coming into church ever since I met him begging. We managed to get him into a rehab programme which he decided to opt out of. But he still comes. We've opened up choices but he has chosen to live in a violent squat and to inject heroin. Today his hunger is dominating - well a week on biscuits and water would. I get him some food and a drink while we do up a food parcel.

He needs some clothing so before the little charity shop opens we go and sort him out. As he changes into the fresh clothes he smiles for the first time "you know... I feel human again!!".

I speak before I think - "You know Miguel - I hope you are not selling these clothes so you can buy drugs...I'd be so disappointed if you were!" I already feel disappointed as his pained innocence is a little too pained and his lies a little too tangible. We talk some more before he leaves promising to prove that he hasn't sold the three coats I have given him!

What do we do just stop any help? The thought of subsidising an addictive habit is never far from our thoughts - it's a tough call and I know we'll help, help and help but I hate being taken for a mug!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Learning to take responsibility for expectations...

I started a response to Lucy’s comment below but it got a little long so I decided to use it as a post. Lucy’s question of expectations was one I asked of myself as I drove to Ashburnham. I’m not big on expectations but I came to the conclusion that for the two days away I was looking for solitude, space and time.

The problem with SA officers/clergy retreats is that they are generally for larger groups of people (there were 50 of us) and they tend to be pretty prescriptive in that they consist of some rousing singing, some reflective singing followed by a lot of one way conversation. I am happy to do that but it doesn’t feel like a retreat I need something a little more individual.

This year I went with a game plan. I avoided talk that drains me – I avoided conversation about putting TSA right, I tried to twist every conversation I had away from talk about our ministry. Also I went with my own agenda to take responsibility for my expectations. That meant this year ‘free time’ didn’t consist of crazy golf in Bexhill, but rather a walk around the lakes armed with a book of meditations based on the paintings by Sieger K√∂der. I sat and walked with the thoughts evoked by the poetry and words that accompanied graphic images.

I found myself challenged to learn to look at myself through the eyes of God; I found myself encouraged to look for God in the unexpected – which brought comfort for my growing disquiet for predictability. As I looked at the water I found myself pondering how Simon had to learn to sink before he became the rock.

Above all as I walked back to the house I learned that it is too easy to criticise what is on offer without taking responsibility for your expectations.

That was my space, time and solitude amoung copious singing and words!

Monday, April 11, 2005

Ashburnham...

I'm not too good at it - but I am here for a couple of days on a retreat. I don't know why I am not good at it. I wish I knew why but there you go!

Sunday, April 10, 2005

My new friends...

I’ve got some new friends.

William Zuma from Swaziland; Mrs Janet Komoah from Ghana; Mrs. Grace Edward from Botswana; Brother Jeff Ikey from Zimbabwe; Mrs. Susan Shabangu and now Deacon Allen from Nigeria. They are just so nice – in fact they have offered me up to 56 million USD. Their friendship knows no bounds. They are really trying so hard, trying to get to know all about me, asking how the family is, trying so hard to align themselves to my life. They truly are becoming buddies. Empathetic listeners wanting to share my life. Interested in its twists and turns.

It all comes from a change of heart that I have had about well-known emails from Africa promising untold riches. Instead of deleting them I have decided to answer.
“I could not accept any further blessings from your lovely continent, God has blessed me in many ways that I can not take your money. You see in the last month I have had a Nigerian, Zimbabwean, someone from Ivory coast, Botswana and now Swaziland all donate millions of pounds to my ministry. I am waiting to receive millions of USD. Surely I should donate money to your cause when the money has become available. When it arrives I will send you some. Please contact me to arrange details of the transaction.”

Gordon
My new friends seem to be worried for me. William for instance has been quite insistent that I be aware of people in Africa who ‘are of the scam’. He is quite worried for me. You see I am now his friend. He really seems to care for me and is looking out for my greater good. My new friend William is really bothered. I am too trusting of those saying they are Christians. Beware - he truly is my friend. He wants to send his family to live with me I am such a good friend.

I make each successive email more ridiculous, my last one to William after he again warns me of those of the scam - even Christians - and how he would love to speak to me by telephone.
“I am still unclear - I am aware of Prince Andrew Mwolo of Nairobi he removed substantial amounts of money on receipt of bank details. But he did not presume to be a follower of our Lord. Please friend, beware of Prince Andrew Mwolo I think he has the scam. I am aware of him. But the following - Mrs Janet Komoah; Mrs. Grace Edward from Botswana; Brother Jeff Ikey and Mrs. Susan Shabangu all testify to faith in our Lord who walked our earth and rode upon the holy ass. Do you suggest that they do not testify to faith in our Lord? Are you suggesting that they are of the scam?

If they are I must make urgent arrangements - as I have many in our sect who rely on the money they promise.

Please - I risk my life by contacting you. The Urban Boobar our great earthly leader forbids contact with the world - I am restricted to contacting you via webmail from an account set up in my former way of sin life. We deny the world through no alcohol, tobacco, frozen orange jubilies and the phone only in exceptional circumstances.

It is safer for me to contact you.

Gordon
Ok a waste of time but I’ve read of suicides locally of people taken in these scams, that have been sucked into giving over bank details and have lost everything, lives ripped apart – so if I waste a bit of their time well please forgive me.

I’ve noticed that these people want to make friends with me but as soon as I don’t fit the bill – and quite obviously think I am mad – they don’t want to know. As soon as my bank details are not forthcoming – I’m dropped. They move onto their next conquest.

Ever heard of friendship evangelism?

Friday, April 08, 2005

"Pass The BOOK STICK"

Passed to me from off shore fisherman it seems fun...

1.You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
Sorry haven't read it

2. Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
There was a character called Holly in a book I read about Kenya when I was 18 - she sounded great!!

3.The last book you bought was...?
The Upside-Down Kingdom by Donald B. Kraybill - I saw it referenced in Catch the wind by Charles Ringma and it caught my imagination. Waiting for it to be delivered via abebooks.com

4. The last book you read was...?
Ringma, C (1994) Catch the Wind. Regent College a bit of a bash on institutional church but from the perspective of full church engagement.

5.What are you currently reading?
Fiennes, R (2003) Captain Scott. H&S I try to balance reading between biographies, novels, worthy books! (that I largely pretend to understand!) and christian stuff.

6.Five books you would take to a desert island?
I presuming that taking a bible would be too obvious so...

The book about Kenya that I read when I was 18 with the character called Holly!!
Bonhoeffer, D. (1953) Letters and Papers From Prison
Oscar Romero The Violence of Love
Long Walk to Freedom : The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
L. Sweets Soul Survivor : How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church

7. What three people are you passing this stick on to and why?
Shiny Headed prophet - someone who reads and reflects
glenda morrison -a comforting similiarity of ministry and mission but in Australia
postmodern salvationist - refreshingly diverse.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Not here... you're not our passion...!

Victor came around last night in a state. The knocking on the door signalled something was wrong. Stood on our doorstep his agitation was obvious. Victor clearly has issues (read more here and here). But it seems that his housing association has had enough. They want him out. In his shaking nicotined stained hand the court injunction listing reason after reason how by May 5th he is out.

It doesn’t seem fair to me.

It seems unfair to me that society is intent on making the vulnerable more vulnerable. Break the broken. Crush the indefensible, the voiceless. How far to the margins can people be pushed. I'm cross; angry; disappointed. I seem to have different emotions coursing through me. You see I had a conversation with a colleague today and I feel numb with a mixture of sadness and anger. Treating Victor that way might be alright for society but it is not alright for those trying to demonstrate the kingdom of god.

I'm bubbling.

I have nowhere to go with this - but here…sorry.

You see I hate seeing churches opting out, I hate seeing churches ducking under issues, I hate to see churches failing to take their responsibility. I hate to see churches playing their part in turning their back on the fragmented with a shrug of their shoulders saying 'well they’re not my passion!'

We look out for those that fit the bill. A new person arrives at church gifted musician, artistic, knowing their way around VJ software and we're ecstatic. A new fully functional family with two teenage daughters who sing down a mike and dance with ribbons - we're overjoyed. But when it comes to the complicated, the demanding, the problematic that don't equal glamour, those lives rarely invested in -'well they’re not our passion!'

The problem is those on the margins are rarely easy, they're rarely straightforward, they're rarely trouble-free. The problem is those on the margins don't fit the bill. The problem is those on the margins are not designer people. The problem is those on the margins - it seems are no longer our passion.

Reel out the excuses, self-comforting platitudes, reasons cast in pious language "there's an over provision of services "; "to be honest there too many other groups involved"; "we weren't getting anywhere"; "it's not our passion"; “we need to be better focused…”

God bless your passion.
“…faith can not be lived on the private plane of an interior spirituality. Faith, instead, creates community and such community must express itself in solidarity with the interests and struggles of the poor…” Gustavo Gutierrez
We don't do what we do because it is our passion - we do it because they are God's passion.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The richness of the 'lack of sameness' ....!

My first mistake was eating it, my second asking what it was, my third mistake was looking what I had eaten up in the dictionary.

I love the multi-cultural diversity that makes up our church. Sometimes when I visit some of our members I feel like Vincent Donovan! The richness of the 'lack of sameness' is so refreshing. I'm learning the importance of accepting hospitality as part of cultural exchange.

I only popped by to drop something off to Ade - I knew I would be offered something to honour my visit but nothing really prepared me for what I was about to receive. "Please have some pepper soup..",

"thank you"
I reply relieved - I'd just eaten at home... soup would be fine.

Ade leaves me in the single room where she lives with her mother and son. She soon returns with more of a stew than soup. A quick look in the fading light and I know I'm facing a task. The meat is unidentifiable. The soup is red hot and my eyes are watering. A prod and a push doesn't help me in the identification. Ade's eager eyes wait for me to eat. I gingerly take my first bite. I chew and chew and chew..... and chew.... and chew. I still have no clue what I am eating. For fear of rudeness I keep eating - I eat half before I can go no further. I make my excuses hoping I haven't appeared rude.

"So... Ade... what kind of meat is that...?"

"Gizzard" she replies.

"Gizzard...gizzard?" I bable, my mind wonders furiously

"Yes gizzard ... turkey gizzard"

"Oh!" I say failing to sound enthusiatic but relieved that it belongs to an animal I know.

I drive home thinking 'turkey gizzard...turkey gizzard, what is a gizzard?'all I know is that I haven't seen gizzard in the supermarket. All I know is Bernard Matthews hasn't a breaded gizzard range. All I know is that I have never seen gizzard advertised on TV, or in a Jamie Oliver book. As soon as I get home I have the dictionary open and it made me feel oh so much better.
'Gizzard: A modified muscular pouch behind the stomach in the alimentary canal of birds, having a thick lining and often containing ingested grit that aids in the breakdown of seeds before digestion.'
How much broader is my life because of where, and to whom we minister however I am thinking vegetarianism has its advantages!