Friday, May 27, 2005

Insult or Compliment...?

"The trouble with you Gordon is that you represent more the social action side of things... we need more balance...!"

While being non-dualist within my understanding of mission and not being able to seperate his perceptions of what needs to be balanced - I wasn't sure whether this was meant as a compliment or an insult!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Pet Day...

Shoulder to shoulder we stood. Each of us looked out into a sea of eager 5-year olds. It was pet day in Eryn’s class and three dad’s - including me - were proudly holding our charges. I looked down the line and I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the exotic competition.

“whoooa” the gasps were tangible as Emmie’s Dad explained how Emmie’s python ate mice; Brogan’s Dad went next and showed the sucked out locust carcass that their pet tarantula had devoured. Then it was my turn.

“so … Eryn’s Daddy… what does your pet eat?”

I look at a content Fluffy in my hands. Eryn nods with enthusiastic encouragement from the sea of faces. I smile hopefully.

“Well mostly cabbage leaves…”

“…r---ight…!”

I don’t fare any better with the second round of questions – frankly a hutch in the garden didn’t have the same impact as “…specially heated aquarium…” or “a sub terrainian arachnodrome” As I look down the line –I can’t but help feeling a little pathetic, pitiable – a kind of being underdressed feel. I can’t help but feel a little jealous for the exotic. I can’t help but feel I wish Fluffy was more than she was – a guinea pig, a bit more exciting.

“so children who would like to hold one of the pets?... Make a queue in front of the animal you want to hold”.

Funny how popular Fluffy was then – she might only eat cabbage leaves and live in a hutch in the garden but when it comes to feeling safe with she was unanimously the top attraction. When it comes to engaging with something you know is not going to bite you she was up there. When it comes being secure and non-threatening Sally the snake and Trevor the Tarantula were left in Fluffy’s wake.

Funny how as church we so often look down the line at other churches and feel rather insignificant. Hankering after an em. church; alt. church; a dot abbreviation identity. Chasing after trends. Eager to buy into whatever the latest ‘shake and stir model’ of church is on the market. Buying the winning missional method in a DVD discussion pack.

Here’s what I walked home thinking perhaps it is ok to be simply - church. Perhaps it is ok to try and present a non-threatening community, secure environment where people feel safe. Perhaps a challenge for the emerging church is to keep their environment of creativity such that it doesn’t alienate those that fear its bite.

Monday, May 23, 2005

A Lame Christ...

Mother Teresa challenges us not to give “people a broken Christ, a lame Christ, a crooked Christ deformed by you” Ringma suggests that in other words let us not attempt to bring a gospel only by words. Instead, let us being the good news in love, words and deed out of the joy of what God has done in our own lives. To bring the whole Christ to the whole world remains a big challenge for us.
17... And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, Eph 3:17-18
Not too sure how comfortable I am with an ecclesiology that perpetuates a broken Christ? I suspect the challenge for church is to identify areas where we fail to grasp - let alone demonstrate - the fullness of the love of Christ?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Stretched...

This week has been too fast. Next week promises to be faster. I feel stretched.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

ecclesiastical pornography...

"...ecclesiastical pornography at its best. Lusting pastors look longingly at the new sirens of the age. And who can resist wanting to satistfy the desire for such success, relevance, financial, social, and political clout?"
Chris Erdman comments on the glitz gospel as presented in a US Business mag. "Earthly Empires: How evangelical churches are borrowing from the business playbook"

Guder quotes David Lowes Watson commenting on the effect of that
"narcissism ... and individualism ... masquerading as personal salvation and religious experience .... as a privatized soteriology and spiritualized discipleship .... leaving the powers and principalities of the present world unchallenged."
Guder continues to point out the dangers of self-absorbtion...
"The reign of Christ is jeopardized when any organizational structure becomes an end in itself This happens whenever the institution places all its energy in its own maintenance. When the visible church is primarily concerned with its image, its growth, its success, and its security, then it is ripe for conversion to the reign of Christ, who lays bare and sets aside all these idols. Just as flirtation with false gods remained a continual problem for Israel, the Christian community must contend constantly with temptations that would set up idols to replace Christ the King."
Guder, D.L (ed) (1998) Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America

Sometimes it is pretty easy to point the finger at the Mega-Church scene and come to self-righteous conclusions. It is harder to look at our own church set up and to identify those traits that make us equally as guilty.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The phone call...

The phone call came this morning.

We'll miss Mrs Ellis. We'll miss her stories of church through tough times, about when in the blitz the meeting would carry on with the bombs falling. We'll miss her sense of fun; her mischevious giggle. We'll miss her staunch traditional views, but her enacouragement to do something new. She was a 'worker' we'll miss her support.

We never took to calling her Doris - there is a Mrs Ellis shaped hole in our church today. We'll miss her.

pentecost grid::blog

Type - pentecost grid::blog - into google and you find all kind of ideas for creative worship.

Not that it was high in the creative stakes but here is what we did for part of our time together in worship yesterday. We used a flickering flame loop as a projected backdrop and used a wind machine from an inflatable castle thing as we sang 'Our God is an Awesome God...!'

More fun I suspect than creative - seemed safer than the 2 ft meths soaked pumice stone idea!!

Characteristics of the Younger Evangelical...

I read Webbers Younger Evangelicals earlier on in the year - an interesting read. He coins the phrase 'Younger Evangelical' to distinguish those he studied from - not only the more traditional evangelicals - but also those of the Rick Warren, Bill Hybels ilk.

Younger Evangelical... I'm not sure if his use of the term is a euphemism for something else. Probably more an identification that our conventional understanding of 'Evangelical' is too narrow to accomodate people who are more comfortable thinking, stretching and questioning concepts that they want to understand deeper. Nevertheless he gave a list of characteristics that I want to keep to hand.

Characteristics of the Younger Evangelical

1. Grew up in a postmodern world
2. Marked by a post-9/11 era
3. Have recovered the biblical understanding of human nature
4. Are aware of a new context for ministry
5. Differ with the pragmatist approach to ministry
6. Minister in a new paradigm of thought
7. Stand for the absolutes of the Christian faith in a new way
8. Recognize the road to the future runs through the past
9. Committed to the plight of the poor, especially in urban centres
10. Willing to live by the rules
11. Facility with technology
12. Highly visual
13. Communicate through stories
14. Grasp the power of imagination
15. Advocate the resurgence of the arts
16. Appreciate the power of performative symbol
17. long for community
18. Committed to multicultural communities of faith
19. Committed to intergenerational ministry
20. Attracted to absolutes
21. Ready to commit
22, Search for shared wisdom
23. Demand authenticity
24. Realize the unity between thought and action

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

---

I've no idea why points 14 forward disappeared from my earlier post!

Friday, May 13, 2005

Today I feel heavy hearted - sad!

The last couple of days have been interesting. Every time the telephone goes our hearts miss a beat. Everytime we talk to Sue asking for news we fear the worst. Last nights sleep was uneasy - expecting the telephone to confirrm what we least want to hear.

Doris had a nasty stroke on Tuesday and ever since we have been on tenter hooks. I got to the hospital before she did and arrived as Doris was being wheeled into A&E. I was by her side when the doctor when through his tests and I found it hard watching as this vibrant, enthusiastic, remarkable member of our congregation lay motionless on the hospital trolley - unable to move anything on her left side.

Kate took the call last night from a very upset daughter. There had been another episode. Things had taken a turn for the worst. No news so far today. Kate is on her way now to visit.

Today I feel heavy hearted - sad!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Victor - GBH and living in a soap opera...

Victor didn't come in for his lunch one day last week.

The story that is emerging is that he hit out at some kids who live down our street that have been baiting him for sometime. The story that is emerging is that one of the youths fell awkwardly. The story that is emerging is that he was arrested for grievous bodily harm. GBH. So he is out on bail and is waiting for a court hearing.

Society has let Victor and those like him down. Victor clearly has issues (read more here and here). The story of his impending eviction here. Well we'll go with him to his hearing ... ever felt like you are living in a soap opera.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The gift of ourself...

Mother Theresa once said, "Do not look for spectacular works. What is important is the giving of ourselves". Charles Ringma gives further understanding by suggesting that "in serving others the greatest blessing we can bring is often not the giving of things, but the gift of ourselves."

He suggests that of course the poor need food, of course they need shelter etc… but, they are also people who need to be loved and known, they are people who need our interest and friendship, not simply our giving. Journeying with others through highs and lows of their daily realities is the great gift we can give. Journeying with others - rather than thinking a handout is sufficient - has important incarnational implications, it creates a sense of presence.

I’m being a bit tough on someone at the moment. A 50 something woman who has known nothing but brutal hard work throughout her life. As I type I can see her toothless smile, her wistful looks out of the side of her eyes, her lank featureless grey hair constantly pushed out of her eyes with the back of her hands a la Penelope Pitstop! I guess you could say she has a slightly amusing crush on me. Amusing... but I’m wary. She’s staying away from church until I call. She likes it when I call to ask how she is. She’s worked out stay away and - like Pavlov’s dogs - I call. Countless others have checked up on her but she’s waiting for me. But this time I won’t be manipulated.

She is crying out to be loved and known. She is crying out for interest and friendship. I’ll do that but within careful boundaries. Here is the beginning of some thoughts for me. With those careful boundaries do we dilute the concept of grace within our giving of ourselves? Are the incarnational implications affected? That sense of presence - does it remain authentic?

Mother Theresa and Charles Ringma had me nodding in agreement when I read what they had to say – but sometimes it is difficult!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Alf's war...

"...so I lay there in this forest just inside Germany my arm hanging useless, my CO dead, my mate Mickey Green moaning - we'd been ambushed and cut down...then I see him looking into my eyes - his blue eyes... I thought that it was over for me...please ... not a bayonet...!"

I had lunch with Alf today in our luncheon club and I was riveted. This was real band of brothers stuff.

"...there was nothing I could do so I pulled a grenade pulled the pin with my teeth and he knew - he ran... I threw the grenade as far as I could and waited. Must've passed out next thing I know I was on my way to a field hospital in the back of a British truck."

Alf doesn't often talk about the war - each time he does we hear a bit more of the jigsaw of savagery he endured, a bit more of the brokenness and pain within becomes visible. Alf -mostly full of joy his creased face a myriad of smiling lines deep down he is still getting over it. Deep down he still feels the pain of loss and regret. Deep down still broken

"...are you religious" he asks.

"Alf my faith is important to me but I'm not religious about it.." my clever little answer is put in its place.

"You know what Gord? I learnt to pray in those days...."

The tea arrives and the mood switches and we're back to talking sport. The moment is gone. For now.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Don't worry...

...we'll be alright.

Patrick (Patrick....!) voted!

Patrick came back from the Polling Station today proudly letting people know he'd voted for me. Thanks Patrick for your support.

See you outside number ten tomorrow morning!!

Smug Church...

I've been looking through some quotes that I have collected and thought these were worth an airing!
"Many forms of spirituality appear to focus on the inner life as if that were sufficient in itself. Without care, this can promote a smug self love which as no outworking in behaviour. Love is not love at all until it is tested by the Other, and no love is worthy of the name which does not respect and strive for justice" pp 107

Riddell, M (2000) Sacred Journey. Lion
We're being bombarded with smug politicians at the moment. All with the right answers. All with the right questions. Smug isn't that palatable. Here's me thinking about smug Christians. Here's me thinking of the danger of the smugness of church.
"It is never a good idea to set out on a crusade to vanquish evil, either from ourselves or from society at large. By campaigning against it , we simply draw attention to that which has no life in itself. Far better to make love our goal, and to refine our own love so that it becomes a source of hope and healing in a confused world." pp 206

Riddell, M (2000) Sacred Journey. Lion
Something nagging at me says that if we are to make any difference at all we need to look at our motivation. Something nagging at me says that if we are to make any difference at all we've got to identify the danger signs of self love however we wrap it up. Something nagging at me says that if we are to make any difference at all we've got to beware smug!

Unless of course we are content to remain unpalatable.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

We're back...


A successful weekend of camping in West Sussex with the family and two great friends. Renting a motor launch to navigate the river Arun in the shadow of Arundel Castle a big highlight. Running in the bluebell strewn lanes with rabbits underfoot a bit different from running along the Thames. A good break