Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The park bench...

It was over a year ago that I sat on the bench and listened to Maureen (here).

As I walked back from dropping the girls off at school there was Maureen sat on the bench. I wandered over and sat with her. This was time I was not going to rush, this time it was not going to be superficial. This time I was determined to sit and listen for as long as it took.

Things are better for Maureen now. Sid her husband with schizophrenia has settled well into his new surroundings and the pressure that saw Maureen lashing out at us and the church has lessened. Maureen is happy again. We sat on the bench listened to each other, talked to each other, laughed with each other. We sat on the bench shared something together and watched the world go by together. We sat on the bench and had time for each other. I was benefitting from this. It was doing me good.

Maureen stood up to leave.

"Listen Gordon I need to get my shopping..."

I smiled as I walked back to get on with my day. I thought of the gift of time. Sometimes it is far to easy to treat people as pastoral commodities to be sqeezed into our 'oh so important' schedules. Sometimes it is far too easy to patronise through our allocation of time, far to easy to allot time as a favour.

My time with Maureen - sat on a park bench - reminded me that sometimes it is far too easy to forget that time works both ways.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Today in the market...

We tried to raise awareness in our market regarding Make Poverty History... so we rented a stall and together with other churches were there in Crisp Street Market all day.

I was quite good ...only two arguements .

To one old lady who said that her church had been sending stuff to Africa since she was a child and it hasn't made a jot of difference in 50 years I said "perhaps we should just give up and let them die a bit quicker, then it wouldn't be a problem any more...!"

To another who said he wasn't interested as it wasn't his thing I said "well that would be easy for you as you have a full stomach...!"

Even though I said it with a smile on my face and a cheeky glint in my eye - I know it was not big nor clever and certainly not becoming of the kingdom!


If anyone is in Edinburgh for the G8 next week - look out for me and a few guys from our youth club - should be easy to spot I'll be wearing white!


Pictured (thanks to the nice new feature on blogger allowing you to upload pictures simply):-

Kate adding a woman's touch to the Make Poverty History stall! Patrick adding... well ...a Patrick touch to the stall - (thinking we could sell two panda pops he'd found).

Friday, June 24, 2005

Making "somebody" out of the "nobodies"

Prodigal Kiwi(s) recently had this gem of a quote. The rest of the post is here

If [mission] starts on the periphery of society [i.e. among the marginalized, the forgotten, the trampled under foot, and the excluded], if it works from the bottom up, the good news of God’s kingdom visibly demonstrated and credibly announced as a message of liberating love, justice, and… [Shalom].

When the gospel makes “somebody” out of the “nobodies” of society, when it restores the self-worth of the marginalized, when it enables the oppressed to have reason for hope, when it empowers the poor to struggle and suffer for justice and peace, then it is truly good news of a new order of life – the saving power of God (Rom. 1:16).”

Orlando Costas (quote by Mark Gornik in his book, To Live in Peace, p.63-64)
It resonated with some thoughts in Court, S and Campbell, W. (2004) Be a Hero: The Battle for Mercy and Social Justice. Destiny

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Defined by mission or reduce the gospel...

I thought about something I had heard from a fellow salvation army colleague- "if no-one got saved through an community outreach activity at our corps (church) in a year - I'd close it!!"


I had those words streaming through my mind as I watched our latest youth club in action - now into its second week. I had those words streaming through my mind as twelve or so new young people came up into our youth club. Twelve young people with various degrees of special needs and learning difficulties. I had those words streaming through my mind as I watched Jane with Cerebral Palsy; Tom and Richie with Downs syndrome and others with obvious difficulties. I had those words streaming through my mind as I watched the whole group engaging with all our facilities, playing PS2, Game - cube, pool, table-tennis - so happy to be there.

I looked into the eyes of Jane playing PS2 eye-toy's wishy washy as I dodged the flaying, thrashing arms and I saw joy and happiness etched into her face and I thought how could someone get the gospel so wrong!!? Or perhaps its me, somehow led off the straight and narrow, somehow lost focus, perhaps it me that has got it so wrong, perhaps it is me wasting time, perhaps it is me that missed something in the gospel?
"Either we are defined by mission, or we reduce the scope of the gospel and the mandate of the church."

Guder, D.L (ed) (1998) Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America

"our understanding of mission will only be as wide
as our understanding of salvation..."

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Victor's Court Case...

Follow up to Victor - GBH and living in a soap opera


Bram - part of our officer team at Poplar - went with Victor to his court hearing for the GBH charge.

Looks like Victor will lose his flat - but will be re-housed in our area so we'll still see him. Apparently he is a victim of an unbelieveable conspirarcy between internationally renowned flutist James Galway and HRH Prince Philip - who'd believe it?. He has always had an obvious love/hate thing going on with James Galway - read it here but the Prince Philip is new!

Anyway Victor is out on bail pending his court case.

I'm glad Bram was there. Today Victor told me he was glad Bram - or rather Brum - was there too.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Nothing in particular...

Steve Wiseman I hear your tag and I throw in my response:

# of books I own:

We limit ourselves to three book-shelves, if I buy a new one one has to go - only if there is space on the book-shelf can I get a new one :o( - However I have an 'off-shore account' book case which is in our office at college. Kate hasn't sussed that one out yet so a simple book transfer makes the necessary space. Long answer to probably too many!!

Last book I bought:

Jamieson, A.(2002) A Churchless Faith

Last book I read:

Carson, C. (ed) (1999) Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr

Books that mean a lot to me:

Oscar Romero - The Violence of Love

Kenneth Leech - Through our Long Exile

Nick Butterworth - Percy the Park Keeper "The Badger's Bath" (honest)

- and many others....

Tag 5 more:

Nick "I've got a blog but no-one knows where it is" Hanover

Andrew Clark :o)

Kathryn at Good in Parts

chris hinton

martin thompson

Friday, June 17, 2005

Motorcycle Diaries...

I've just watched Motorcycle diaries the story of Che Guevara as his journey around South America with a friend changed his life. The injustice he saw and experienced kindled the revolutionary fire that created history in this mans life.

Two key scenes remained with me - the injustice served up by the church in leper colony where he worked for a while. "Only if they have been to mass do they get a meal...!" said one grim looking nun to Guevara. Interesting and a very familiar but unfortunate take on mission. The second was the scene where Guevara swam a dangerous river to the leper colony from the staff quarters to be with the lepers on his birthday - a powerful picture of incarnation and love.

A good film - worth watching. However, it got me thinking of some words of Martin Luther King I read recently:
"The great tradegy is that Christianity failed to see that it had the revolutionary edge. You don't need to go to Karl Marx to learn how to be a revolutionary. I got it from a man called Jesus who said he was annoited to heal the broken hearted. He was annoited to deal with the poor - that is where we get our inspiration"

If justice and mercy is the new thing, the new trend, the new fad for the church - perhaps if we are to be truely revolutionary which need to check our inspiration. If we are to avoid justice and mercy becoming the next 'wwjd' or a nice little church project for the summer, we need to check where we get our inspiration. If justice and mercy was just a sideline to Jesus lets do it like that...! or if it was ever so much more than that for Jesus lets put justice and mercy in its rightful place - or not bother.

[thanks to a new life emerging for some challenging observations]

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

"Time" - the predator…

Walking through the drizzle along Hackney road, fine droplets forming on my glasses – my mind was working over time. I was on my way to visit Nick.

Nick who first came to us as someone in alcohol detox several years ago. Found faith and for a while journeyed with us as a church. Times changed and Nick slipped away. Telephone calls never returned, only 'twitching curtains' when I called around, cards and letters all unacknowledged. That was until a couple of weeks ago – contact was re-established and now I know why. I understand why he kept away.

Nick – a Falklands veteran – has some stories to tell. A hard ex-military man with pretty nasty 'kill or be killed' stories. I remember him telling me that there were things he’d seen that he couldn’t bear to talk about – I kind of understood his alcoholism better. As I made my way to Mildmay hospital I knew he was facing a new predator, a new battle one that his body would eventually lose.

Wiping my glasses clear I saw Nick in the ward’s conservatory before he saw me. Smoking, reading a paper – ITV’s Trisha droning on in the background. I saw Nick and he looked better than I was imagining. We had tea together and sat – I heard his heart through his words. Nick still has stories to tell but now it is about pro-longing his life. Nick still has stories to tell but now it is about coming to terms with death. Nick still has stories to tell but now it is about his new battle.

We hugged and for a moment I felt the weight on his shoulders. I walked away back into the drizzle of East London with his words echoing through my mind - "Gordon…time is now my predator…"

HIV/AIDS is now Nick’s battle.

Monday, June 13, 2005

This is our patch...

Reading through Mum and Dad's Daily Telegraph magazine - I came across an article on Tower 'heroin captial of the UK' Hamlets.

Usual predictable stuff - drugs, violence, deprivation and brokenness. Apart from making me feel that we only scratch the surface as a church - this picture of broken housing in the shadow of Canary Wharf's wealth caught my eye.

I didn't want to lose it as I see this run down housing every day. This is our patch - where we are called to be church.

What has shocked me is that when we first turned up in Poplar - 8 years ago - this kind of stuff shocked me, affected me - not now. Is it indifference? an immunity? my way of dealing with it? I think that it is alright as long as apathy doesn't set in.

There is no room for apathy in the inner city - or anywhere for that matter!

Friday, June 10, 2005

What does that say about me?

I saw this on Rhys Morgan's Blog. What's your theological worldview? created with QuizFarm.com There you go - disappointed that there were no questions about tambourine* playing!! ;o)

This is apparently my theological worldview!!

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.



Neo orthodox


Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


Classical Liberal


Modern Liberal


Roman Catholic




Reformed Evangelical




* this was a joke!!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Evangelism Gone Entrepreneurial... a disappointing read!

Looking to flex my muscles of cynicism, with a glint in my eye, licking my lips I started to read "Evangelism Gone Entrepreneurial"

"Rick Warren believes evangelism means devotion to both social issues and God..." yeah right!

I rail road through the interview. His outlined justice concerns
- global poverty.... Illiteracy ...spiritual emptiness.... self-centered leadership - however draws a question that catches my eye...
Q: That's beginning to sound like the "social gospel" ...

Protestants have been split into two groups. The mainline churches have tended to take the more liberal social values and say that we're going to care about justice, equality, racial issues, and poverty. And the evangelicals focused on personal salvation, that you need Jesus as your Savior. So each took half the truth. I think we need both. So I believe the new Reformation in the 21st century is to talk about both those values.
My cynicism de-railed I read on desperate to find a clue of using social involvement as a hidden agenda;
desperate to find strings attached to grace; surely a sign of inauthenticism; cheap graceless evangelism; tainted motives...


Maybe I just need to feel encouraged... the 'new reformation', a closing of the false dichotomy of mission - I could go for that!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Charity Shop and Joyce...

So today was the day that everyone decided not to turn up. Our charity shop was workerless. We weren't going to open - I was about to type the sign apologising for being shut when I thought - 'I'll do it' so I spent the morning behind a till! It only happens once in a while so I can't complain and actually it is great to see and spend time with the different characters that pop in.

Joyce came in first and spent nothing but an hour going up and down the ladies rail happy to talk to me and to anyone who came in. We laughed together and shared together, her eyes welled up as she told me of her daughters cancer, her fear and anxiety. Customer after customer came and went - not Joyce she spent time in the shoes carefully considering every pair, then the curtains and the bedding, the books, bric-a-brac.

In the end I said - "Joyce do you want to sit down - I'll get a cup of tea?"

"ooh lovely...!"

Funny how a charity shop can be a 'mission interface' an area of proximity, an excuse to make people feel included, respected and whole.

I was glad I opened.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

A week of time...

A week camping in Dorset has done me good. Above all the week has given me time....

Time to make up ludicrous stories about Trevor the Troll and Cut Throat Pete 'the ridiculous' Pirate.

Time to read Martin Luther King's Bio and ask "now I wonder if he was too much into social action? If only he was more balanced??" ;o).

Time to watch Man Dancin - what a clever film that is!!

Time to sit on a "Kiss Me Quick"* tacky resort beach and realise that, what makes a beach worth visiting isn't the peripheral entertainment - but the sand, sea and seeing your kids having fun. There is something endearing about these tired seaside towns which when they realise it will be their renaissance.... made me think about how in advertently we if we are not careful will create a "Kiss Me Quick" ecclesiology and lose essentially what makes church - church.

(*essentially an english tacky tired seaside resort idiom - click the picture you'll get the drift!!)

Time to read a newspaper - and to think what have we done, how have we made the bible so offensive and an object of suspicion? (read a similar account here?). Even time to try Soduku with Kate !!!

Time to Run - along the Castleman Trailway, rabbits under foot; squirrels overhead in the dappled green cathedral like canopy stretching across the one time railway. Stain glass windows formed by the rhododendron upon rhododendron. Time to move on from some disappointments and a bit of pain from the previous week.

Time to remember past encouragements. Running along the lazy looping River Stour with the occasional teasing glimpse of a Kingfisher reminded me of a poem that helped me - journalled away in a book now much neglected since the advent of blogging.

Prayer is like watching for the kingfisher
All you can do is be where his likely to appear,
and wait.

Often, nothing much happens.

There is space, silence and expectancy - no visible sign.

Only the knowledge that
He's been there
And may come again.

Seeing or not seeing cease to matter
- you have been prepared.
But sometimes

When you've almost stopped expecting it.

A flash of brightness gives you encouragement.

Time is good!