Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Salvation Army Grid::Blog (second wave!)

I was flicking through technorati and did a search on 'Salvation Army Grid::Blog' and discovered that there were some late comers to the party. It made me think perhaps it was time to try it again.

The idea was to try and connect sally bloggers through simply typing "Salvation Army Grid::Blog" into your title to see whether the search engines would lump us together - more here. I discovered more show up if you drop the :: from the search.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Note...

The note had that well-read feel.

I saw the wife. I saw the children. I saw the pain, I saw the brokenness.

As I read it I felt the drama unfold in my mind. I saw the wife. I saw the children. I saw the pain, I saw the brokenness. What I was reading was breaking my heart. It was the note left behind by a father a husband broken by depression. It was a note apologising for his life. His inadequacies. His failings. It was a note saying goodbye before disappearing to endure his depression alone.

I finished the note and folded this precious last remaining contact with a man who had resorted to running away from his faults, who had resorted to thrusting his wife and children into despair. I looked up into the face of a woman who needed answers, direction, and help.

"What do I do...?"

We talked.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

New General...

That's that then! Shaw Clifton - read more here.

When he came to Poplar he was great with Patrick - but I don't suppose that got a mention in all the speeches and Q&A!

Friday, January 27, 2006

High Council 2006... latest

According to reports two Commissioners were walking and praying in the grounds of Sunbury Court yesterday when one of them stood rather vehemently on a snail. This action surprised the other Commissioner and she asked "what did you do that for?" The snail squashing Commissioner, wiping his feet answered "I got fed up of it... it's been following me all day!!"

The words 'old dogs' and 'new tricks' sprang to mind!

As the High Council was welcomed and we patted ourselves on the back given its multi-cultural and even supposed gender balance - while noticing the wealth of experience and maturity - I did notice the obvious generational imbalance. The words 'old dogs' and 'new tricks' sprang to mind! I'd love to be a fly on the wall to see how the worldviews of the High Council members are stretched beyond their peer group and what impact that would have on the process. I don't think I am being ageist or naive but I tend to think true creative tension comes from societal variegation and true multi-culture includes cross generational!

Disclaimer: no snails were actually hurt in this story - it is a made up and a pretty poor gag which nevertheless made me smile!

Virtual tour...

Ever been curious what goes on inside a homeless centre? Check out a virtual tour of Edward Alsop Court here.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

general ticklist...

Ok no call so I guess I'm not required .. !

How about bounding some thoughts around "What does The Salvation Army need in an international leader ...?"

Ok - some are going to be obvious pre-requisites so lets leave a person of prayer; prophet; spirit filled; Holy; 'passion of mission' etc... as said.

My starter -

"a Man or Woman to inspire confidence through being able to identify issues of transistion facing TSA and to recognise that this transisition doesn't stop at post-Christendom or any other 'post' pre-occupations that the we in the west love so much!"

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Disneyland - Paris

Was all I expected!

Our girls loved every moment. Kate loved every moment. I loved them loving every moment! But I have to say I am looking for a successful de-tox of 'wall to wall' marketing, branding, manipulation, merchandising and unescapeable piped Disney music all day telling me to be happy!

Back in London I look through the pile up of Christian junk mail that comes with the job - I make some connections!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

High Council 2006

The delegates of what is known as the High Council were welcomed tonight and now convene to decide on the next international leader of The Salvation Army. The process comprises the National Leaders of TSA throughout the world. It certainly looked multi-cultural to me which was really encouraging. Pictures, webcast and info (here).

If they decide to vote for me could you let them know we're in France for a couple of days :o)?

Friday, January 20, 2006


Thanks to SHP - this is cool. Check out Pandora let them mix the tunes you'll like.

The Story of a life unknown..

I spent time looking through Harry's photo album. His daughter had put it together for the funeral and now I was looking at a life that didn't fit the person I knew. Holiday's to Spain, France - his business - wife - his children, grandchildren. I looked into the face of a healthy, looking fun loving man surrounded by family and I thought where did it go wrong?

We'd only known Harry as one of those characters you see walking, stopping every now and then to pick up a cigarette butt to finish. Someone who when we first came to Poplar was a loveable part of our church who from time to time would breeze in for lunch at luncheon club. He didn't talk about his life.

Reading between the lines I could see the impact of a marriage breakdown, the loss of a business and a life in freefall. I listen to the daughter "It was difficult for us to keep in touch.." I feel largely sad for a broken life.

It reminded me how easy it is to forget that everyone's got a story to their lives. I wish I had spent more time listening.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

URBANarmy's Mission Anthem...

Ben over at guerillachristianity introduced me to the concept of video code - so I thought I'd stick a bit of Coldplay. So 'Fix You' is now an experimental fixture. I'm hoping that the song isn't about song drug crazed sex filled evening but even if it is I'm keeping it for a while!

Seems to me to be a song about brokenness and having the desire to do something about it. I thought URBANarmy could do with a 'mission anthem' for a while. Sorry no mute button that I can see - if it gets on your nerves just stop it or turn your volume down.

Any other suggestions welcome?


I've just noticed that the video code only seems to work on certain browsers or operating systems

Monday, January 16, 2006

Channel 4's "The root of all evil"

Professor Richard Dawkins - did his best to dismantle faith on Channel 4's "The root of all evil". It seemed a shame that within the programme throughout he targeted caricatures of faith, the extremists, fanatical to prove his points. It seem a shame that throughout his points were enforced with comical 'synthed jingley' hymns and obscure OT blood and gore texts. It seemed a shame that when talking to the Liberal Bishop of somewhere, that conversation was curtailed - even when he found himself 'pleasantly surprised'. Later Dawkins dismissed him as not being fundamentalist enough! It seemed a shame that Dawkins had to resort in his dialogue to being as fundamentalist and 'evangelical about his atheism' as those he was ridiculing. It seemed a shame that Dawkins was so certain with no room for uncertainty.

It's a shame that caricatures aside he made some distinct points that we as church have made it easy for him to make. It's a shame that the life of the church hasn't throw up the concept of grace for him to go off and try to dismiss, dismantle and deconstruct. I was disappointed but then if this highly intelligent mind hasn't seen it in action he probably never would have considered it worthy of dissection and the need find the 'grace gene' in a group of monkeys somewhere in Africa!

I loved his closing sentences that championed his scientific atheism by pointing to the life of freedom that was his, free from dogma. I wish I had written it down. He pointed to the fact that he was stood where he was, and was who he was as a result of a gene pool that exceeded the grains of sand in the Sahara. What odds would you get for that complete and utter accident?

Whereas he did a good job of dismantling unthinking fundamentalism I think ironically the whole programme and his approach did a good job of promoting faith!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Beggars Belief...

I don't usually give to beggars but this guy was different.

With a begging Costa coffee cup strategically held, he went through his begging patter to the rest of the carriage as the underground train bounced and lurched along a tunnel somewhere under Tooting. He was genuinely funny - he made me smile. He made us all smile. The guy to my right reached into his pocket and gave him a £10 note! Feeling somewhat inadequate to the precedent I reach into my pocket, I feel through the change for a £1 and drop it discreetly into his Costa Coffee Cup.

The moment of comedy changes. He looks disgusted. I feel tightfisted. He looks into the cup and back at me. I shift uncomfortably under the glare of fellow travellers. He adjusts his sellotaped glasses, scratches his head through an old football beanie, looks at me again and speaks.

"Cheers mate - that's in my bloody coffee"

He jumps off the train at the next stop. Turns round and winks at me and we all laugh before disappearing into the reading of our choice.

I love London!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

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

The last of Warren's Seven marks of health.
Does a few things and does them well. One of the most surprising characteristics of these churches, which results from a sense of responding to God's call on their time and effort, is the quiet purposefulness of their life. They are not rushing around madly but enjoying what they do and seeing the positive results of doing a quality job.
It reminds me on one hand to be careful of the much bounded about 'build it and watch them come concept' get the programmes right stand back and watch people flow into church. On the other hand it challenged me in an area where whatever you do is not enough to not spread yourself too thin and to acknowledge that there are others who do things better than you.

As a reminder Warren's marks of health are as follows...
  • Energized by faith.
  • Outward-looking focus.
  • Seeks to find out what God wants.
  • Faces the cost of change and growth.
  • Operates as a community.
  • Makes room for all.
  • Does a few things and does them well.
Now all we need to do is get them alright and the church is a healthy place to be!! That's all there is to it. What are we waiting for!!

There has to be more to it. I've had conversations with friends and colleagues who would go out of their way to let me know how they can tick all these boxes on health. But equally I've had conversations with people who recognise their church's weakness, vulnerability but have a real attitude of "but we try...!" I kind of know where I would be drawnto, the kind of community I would feel at home with!

Church health is perhaps less about chalking up an academics wish list but more about attitude which is why Warren's book was a helpful read as he sums it up with two further quotes.
Churches with these characteristics are deeply attractive because their focus in not on themselves and their programmes but on God's goodness and reality and on the world around them. They are, indeed, living the two great commandments. Pp25

Then he observes the fact that:-
Growing churches were not majoring on growing , but simply on doing a good job of being church. Pp 83

7 marks of a healthy church... 1/7
7 marks of a healthy church... 2/7
7 marks of a healthy church... 3/7
7 marks of a healthy church... 4/7
7 marks of a healthy church... 5/7
7 marks of a healthy church... 6/7
7 marks of a healthy church... 7/7

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Who do you think you are...?

"Who do you think you are...?" Wednesday 11 January BBC2 9pm

Reveals JeremyPaxman's family background. His Grandmother was a Salvation Army officer in inner city Glasgow.

(more here)

Monday, January 09, 2006

7 marks of a healthy church... 6/7

Makes room for all. Though they greatly value what they have, not least in their support of one another, these churches have found ways of making others not just welcome at services but part of the life of the church. Generosity permeates the life of these churches.
Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing

This reminds me of a recent lesson (I'm a Craig Twin) enforced today when Marcus helped me move stuff around in the Charity shop.

I wonder if church has to go one step further by aligning themselves so that not only do they 'make room for all', but also that they 'allow all to make room for them!' Placing 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’.

A further thought brewing - "We need a church of the poor not for the poor" makes real sense - beyond that of being patronising - of 'making room for all' perhaps it points to the need of honesty about our vulnerability about allowing ourselves to be 'poor'. 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.

Friday, January 06, 2006

5 Minutes late...

Walking back from seeing a good friend over coffee I cross into Poplar using the 'Poplar Bridge'. The opulent lights of Canary Wharf behind me as I cross 'Narniaesque' a different world frozen by brokeness, fear, violence opens before me. I near the spot at the top of the stairs and it is still there. The patch of blood spilled just days before and the memories of being 5 minutes too late are back with me.

Then we were walking back with friends having been ice-skating for Bethan's 10th birthday treat. Then we were laughing not realising that we were about to be transported into a scene from Crash. 5 minutes earlier perhaps we might have been able to stop the violence unfolding. 5 minutes earlier we might have been able to talk sense to a senseless gang of Bengali youths who thought it a good idea to beat up a young woman whose crime was being Greek. But we were 5 minutes late and were there as she stumbled, screaming in shock her hands to her bruised and cut face.

"Dad what's happening...?"

I realise we have with us two 10 year olds, a 7 year old and a 5 year old seeing things that you can turn off on TV. Garry and I take the children home and explain as best we can about how stupid people can be. Kate and Tania wait with the girl and take her home - where revenge is already being planned. "Do you think that will help?" Kate tries to be an advocate of Grace

"No but it is what they deserve...!"

Oh for Grace to thaw out this world's bitterness and suspicion!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

7 marks of a healthy church... 5/7

Another mark of health from Robert Warren.
Operates as a community. It is not just faith in God that sustains these churches but the reality and strength of generous and honest relationships that makes church 'family' for all who participate and draws out each person's gifts and contribution.
There is not much here to add 'making church family for all' who participate would make a great strap line to any church wayside pulpit (for a bit of fun look here - thanks to Carl). But to take this observation beyond 'apple pie and motherhood and all things nice' the challenge is to identify the key words here and for me they are "for all".

Community is easy when you are all the same, same theology, same taste, same values, same aspirations in life. I could picture people I have known in my life, ministered with, even people that I have got to know through blogging, clump them together in my minds eye to create a church of my dreams. The problem is however - if God dreams! I'm not sure it would be the church of His dreams.

You choose your friends but you can't choose your family!


Apologies to any Baptist friends - particularly any that go to the First Baptist Church!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

7 marks of a healthy church... 4/7

Faces the cost of change and growth.Individuals and groups are regularly faced with hard choices and testing circumstances. These churches evidenced the courage to face hard and painful truths and to be prepared to make real changes that were often costly.
Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing

So is this a mandate to be radical? A sign of healthy church is all about hard nose change, standing up to what has been, a new direction however painful? I'm not so sure, I don't think Warren is aligning 'church health' with being radical for being radical's sake. I think it is more a question of attitude when faced with hard and painful truths.

Someone gave me this prayer she found...

Give me courage, Lord,
to take risks;
not the usual ones -
relatively safe -
but those I could avoid
the 'go for broke' ones.
I need courage;
not just because
I may fall on my face
or worse -
but others seeing me
a sorry spectacle
if it should happen will say
he didn't know what he was doing
or he's foolhardy...
When it comes right down to it, Lord
I choose to be your failure
before anyone else's success
Keep me from reneging on my choice!

Facing the cost of change and growth - perhaps needs to be beyond wanting to dazzle and impress, each other by being 'so radical'. Perhaps being truely radical comes from being used in the identification of our own vulnerability.

I choose to be your failure before anyone else's success! If only it was that easy!

Monday, January 02, 2006

My World Map...

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands

So much of the world left to see!! (thanks to Jason Clark)

7 marks of a healthy church... 3/7

Continuing with Warren's marks of a healthy church...
Seeks to find out what God wants. There is a sharpness of focus and seriousness of purpose about such churches, which are carried forward by a sense of divine vocation rather than stuck in a dull repetition of past assumptions and patterns. Prayerfully they are on the move.
Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing

Prayerfully on the move? I think this is beyond "24/7 ... boiler room" stuff. Ok here's my usual opt out disclaimer I'm not 'agin it' (as my dear Scottish Grandad might have said) but there is more to mission than all night bits of clay and pipe cleaners, however profound and meaningful.

Sharpness of focus and seriousness of purpose comes in demostrating the missionary attributes of a loving God. Working towards being missed by the community - that allows you to park in their streets on a Sunday - rather than the Sunday crew should your church disappear overnight would help all of us remain sharp and mission focused.