Friday, April 28, 2006


It seems the Theological Worldview meme is doing the rounds again, it made me wonder how hard do you have to try to make sure you get the outcome you want. (Incidently I was more Emergent/Postmodern; more Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan and more Neo orthodox than when I did it here. I remember doing a political one at the time of the General Election and however hard I tried to be true to my Labour inclination I popped out a Libral Democrat!

It seems that John Buckeridge editor of Christianity Magazine would shy from the label evangelical! You can read his article THE ‘E’ WORD here. It seems to have cause some interest in various places here
"I’m tired of being tarred with the identities of men with megaphones who shout ‘hell’, ‘wrath’ and ‘damnation’ at passers-by and fail to say, ‘love’, ‘grace’ or ‘forgiveness’. I’m tired of being tarred with the identities of the ‘anti-everything’ brigade – who angrily list the things they are against and claim to speak for ‘evangelicals’, but actually have a tiny support base. And I’m tired of being tarred with US right wing foreign policy".


It's time for the ROOTs CONVENTION again. Big conventions with lots of singing still really not our thing, but to any of you that pop by URBANarmy have a really good time, I'm looking forward to hearing how it went.. Travel safely.

As for us, we are going to our second annual BOOTS CONVENTION camping this year in Hampshire (here) and as last year we are expecting to be camping in the rain so the wellies are well and truly packed!

For those of you ribald enough to snigger! it was given its name in Henry VII's time and it has something to do with the sandy outcrops in the area.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The beauty of blogging...

What I have enjoyed about blogging is actually getting to meet people whose blogs I visit and who visit URBANarmy.

Today was great in that I met Rochelle and John McAllister who blog here, John also is co-editor of theRubicon. They were passing through London from Canada on their way to three years working for The Salvation Army in Zimbabwe. I drove them round the sights of London and showed them around Poplar and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with people I'd never met before but felt as though I'd known them for years!

It was great to hear about the similarities and differences of 614 Regent Park in Toronto with what we do in Poplar, and to share passions and frustrations of inner-city ministry. I'd say theirs will be a blog to keep tabs on as they share their new experiences of Africa - particularly if Rochelle gets to ride a giraffe!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A new Woman in Patrick's Life...

I smiled as she tried to make sense of the narrative of his life that makes sense to me now because of the consistency of nonsense.

I'm not sure what I prefer, Patrick's illogical anger or Patrick's unbridled gratitude. The former has often been a result of us suggesting to Patrick that it would be good for him to have a social worker. We've seen the whole collection of anger responses from the simple stomp out, to the throwing of dinner plates. Today Patrick has been like an annoying puppy bubbling over with excitement and gratitude - it has something to do with the fact that he has a new woman in his life.

For eight years we have tried to get Patrick into the social care loop, for eight years we have bullied, cajoled, pleaded and begged with social services to get involved. For eight years we have been fobbed off with inaction and bureaucratic excuses. That was until Rachel. Together we have all worked to get Patrick the care he needs and deserves. She and her team have tried to see Patrick with no success, he wouldn't let them into his flat.

Last week Patrick was after me, he found me at the hall and laid into me because the social workers were after him. He spat the words at me while he pushed his fore-finger into my chest.

"I will not let them in ... I will not see them ... I am taking this to the United Nations!"

"OK Pat where do you want to see them then?"

A change came over him, his attitude quietened "I could see them here couldn't I?"

A quick phone call and it was sorted. Rachel and Henry were coming.

Yesterday Bramwell and I watched how Rachel won Patrick over, how she gained his confidence, gave him respect. I smiled as she tried to make sense of the narrative of his life that makes sense to me now because of the consistency of nonsense. I smiled as Patrick ask if he could see her again next week. (see Bramwell's account here)

I'm sure there will be setbacks but Patrick is in the loop, he knows it and is as relieved as us. Today he showed his gratitude!!

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sunday's Highlights...

I love the London Marathon, not enough to run it though! I love the fact that it passes the end of our street. I love going down after our Sunday morning meeting and watching the runners all running for a good cause. Celebrities rubbing shoulders with everyone else. Crowds and runners all helping each other along.

But today's highlight was a shared moment with Patrick. We were looking at Amos this afternoon and I found a song that I have never used before - the words were perfect.

I will speak out for those who have no voices,
I will stand up for the rights of all the oppressed;
I will speak truth and justice,
IÂ’ll defend the poor and the needy,
I will lift up the weak in Jesus'’ name.

I will speak out for those who have no choices,
I will cry out for those who live without love;
I will show God's compassion
To the crushed and broken in spirit,
I will lift up the weak in Jesus'’ name.

No-one else in the hall I started to get to grips with the tune, no-one else there I cranked up the volume, no-one else there I really started to sing the words out without inhibition. It took a while before I realised that I wasn't alone - I hadn't seen Patrick come in.

I stopped up short. Patrick walked up to me and said "can I help you sing it?"

Patrick more than anyone helps me sing it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

From where I sit...

From where I sit I look across the play park, the football pitch and beyond. Through the 1950ish Quadraphenesque tenements I can see Thornfield house. 9 Storeys high.

Bethan's friend lives in Thornfield house - one thing a ten-year-old should never hear is the scream of someone falling to their death. From where I sit I can make out the corner of the building, I can see the balcony where for some reason a life - before Easter was lost.

Last night at Youth club, a discreet word and a shoulder rub of compassion from our Youth Worker wasn't lost on me. I followed it up to discover that that someone who fell was someone's Grandmother. Someone in our Youth Club has a lot to come to terms with.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The problem with labels...

E~mergent Kiwi is one of the most resourceful sites I pop into I saw this recently. These simple little diagrams help and challenge with regards labels, schism and the dangers of partisan mission and ministry and the end of dialogue. I added my own at the end.

Juxtapose: placing two contrasting things alongside each other. In doing so, we allow a new mix to emerge from the contradiction.

Subvert: using one thing to alter the meaning of another thing.

Amplify: two things that together enhance and compliment.

Loggerhead: no one moves anywhere!

A challenge to myself: Do I spend more time trying to convince someone of my opinion rather than learning from theirs?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Powerful writing...

Some powerful writing at the theRubicon
"Ten hours a day picking bananas, or chopping weeds from a vegetable garden bigger than most villages. Who decided ten hours was the right length of time to work each day? Why not five? Why not eight? Ten is long enough for muscles to tighten into rock. It’s long enough for the callous on her left hand to scratch open on the rough hoe, leak clear liquid, dry, scab and reopen again...."
Read more of Bramwell Ryan's Anatomy of a Death Sentence

Also a good article on culture 'Here is the Love - Featuring The Black Eyed Peas and Dr Jenson' by Russell Rook (here).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Manchester Passion...

We sat and watched the Manchester Passion and by an large were impressed. The concept was to use the music of Manchester to communicate the Passion through cameos of Jesus' last hours. It is explained (here).
"Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they‚’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me
Love, in fear, in hate, in tears..."

The narration by Keith Allan was powerful in its simplicity. The interviews with different people as they processed a huge lit up cross through the streets were interesting to observe in how to communicate the gospel. The Nigerian pastor showed that cliches are not listened to - fortunately there were good examples of authentic communication that spoke out loud and clear.

It was good to see a SA band playing along to James' Sit Down (anyone got the parts!!?). I think it could catch on!

Here's a list of the songs used to communicate the Passion.

  • You'’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side - Morrissey
  • Cast No Shadow - Oasis
  • Love Will Tear Us Apart -Joy Division
  • Search For A Hero - M People
  • Heaven Knows I'’m Miserable Now - The Smiths
  • Sit Down - James
  • Blue Monday - New Order
  • I Am The Resurrection - The Stone Roses
  • Angels - Robbie Williams
  • Wonderwall - Oasis
  • Sunshine After The Rain - Elkie Brooks

Some songs seemed to work better than others - Sit Down definitely worked for me and got me thinking how to use it in the future.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

the forgotten day of Easter...

I've had emails today wishing me happy Easter. I don't want to be ready - yet. I am trying to hold on to loss today - in order not to lose the beauty of sunrise tomorrow.

"Easter Saturday is almost like the forgotten day of Easter. It was the day when Jesus lay dead and buried in his borrowed tomb." rejesus , maggi helped me last year not just to breeze through today thinking it was monday because I was at church yesterday and that Easter is as much about Saturday as it is about Friday and Sunday.

reJesus in the pop up meditation points out that "For the first followers of Jesus, this was the end of the road, the end of hope. They had no expectation that anything extraordinary would happen. As that heavy stone was rolled across the entrance to Jesus' tomb, it really seemed like The End."

"Think of the names of people you know who have lost hope in some area of their lives...?"

That's been helpful for me.

Happy Easter? Not yet!


ps - this helped

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The anguish of Gethsemane#3...

"Am I going to die....?"

I'm sprinting with my six-year old in my arms. We're both covered in blood. "No sweetheart you are not going to die".

"Dad .... I don't want to die..."

"Eryn sweetheart - you are not going to die!"

Eryn has been blown off her bike by a freak gust of wind. A sharp stone has made a small but really deep cut in her forehead. An unbelievable amount of blood is gushing down her face. A cocktail of blood and tears. I know it's going to be ok - but her pain is mine. Her anguish rips me apart.

As she is being cleaned up and glued in A&E - there is an irony to this day.


Eryn is fine, bruised and battered but fine!

The anguish of Gethsemane#2...

Here's what I said...
What do I know about anguish?

"What do I know about anguish?

I look around at people that we provide family for, those rejected that we try to bring in from the margins. I don’t know anguish of having my benefits suddenly stopped. I don’t know anguish of filling forms that make no sense. I don’t know anguish of fearing every knock at the door could be social workers coming to section me. What do I know about anguish?

I look at the Old age pensioners collecting pensions from a post office renowned for drug users waiting outside to follow them like encircling vultures. What do I know of the anguish of school children sucked gang culture or the torment nowhere to live but within a car I bought for £10?
What would I know about the anguish of being a capable married woman officer not valued for who she is as an individual.

What do I know of the anguish of being in a foreign country trying get enough money to live on, pay my fees and send home to my children that I haven't seen for 18 months? What do I know of the anguish of being non-white and never knowing what kind of response I will get from strangers? What would I know about the anguish of being a capable married woman officer not valued for who she is as an individual. I don’t have to live with the fear of being outsourced or to choose between who’s to be made redundant and whose not.

What do I know about anguish?

I look at Christ and how can I get close to understanding? What do I know of being rejected by family, let down by friends? How can I identify with being asked to do something that represents the last thing on earth I would want to do - but know that there is no other way?
Maybe we discover anguish in those lost moments of intimacy because you couldn’t keep your eyes open

Maybe Christ's isn't the only Gethsemane anguish? Maybe it’s possible to see our own anguish. Maybe the story takes on a deeper meaning as we identify our own betrayal of Jesus. Maybe the story takes on a deeper meaning as we identify actions in our life that represent the kiss, that represent us not keeping with Jesus in the simplest of tasks. Maybe we discover anguish in those lost moments of intimacy because you couldn’t keep your eyes open, lost focus of Jesus and became pre-occupied with yourself and your own ideas.
I discovered anguish when asking our children to do something that causes them distress, seeing fear in their eyes while in the dentist's chair.

But - I do know anguish. I discovered anguish when I became a parent; I discovered anguish when they told us to consider terminating our first born because of suspected a chromosome disorder;I discovered anguish when that first baby - born without a chromosone disorder - had to have a 5 hour operation before she was a day old; I discovered anguish when asking our children to do something that causes them distress, seeing fear in their eyes while in the dentist's chair. I know the multiplied anguish of seeing your child in the pain of their own anguish – and having to sit back and let distress run its own journey. Seeing the pain – and having everything inside scream 'let me do it'.

Can you see The Father’s anguish...?

What anguish do you see, feel, identify with? What anguish are you going to take away to make sense of the final anguish?"

The anguish of Gethsemane#1...

So I was invited to lead prayers in Holy week at Territorial headquarters. The anguish of Gethsemane.

I weave together a video using the Gethsemane imagery from The Last Temptation ... (that bit being pretty orthodox!), Sieger Koder's stations of the cross together with the words of an old chorus "Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget thy love for me, lest I forget thy thine agony... lead me to Calvary" all to Coldplay'’s -In my place.

I was early. No one was there. So I sat at the back of the meeting hall and played it full volume and I was pleased it worked really well. The images and words with the music communicated the anguish of Gethsemane.

The people came. I said the words. I played the video.

Nothing... a fault with their cabling decided to kick in :o(

I came away smiling though -– with all the things you can now do on a computer it is so easy to fall into the trap of trying to impress.

I think I learned a lesson!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Human Trafficking...and absurd unworthy distinctions

Human Trafficking is a global issue of great concern - one which The Salvation Army has chosen to target and make a difference. It is good that there seems to be an ever increasing awareness of the problems and injustice connected with Human Trafficking.

Rochelle McAllister writes a great piece in theRubicon - Human Trafficking Exposed. Rootsonline give more information and resources here. I noticed The Salvation Army in Yorkshire puts its foot down on human trafficking . A conversation with my nephew last night about the potential human trafficking scandal connected with the World Cup in Germany - here.

The dichotomy or blindspot that I speak of in terms of mission (more here) would fail to see this involvement as spiritual - I struggle with that and was pleased to discover that Salvation Army 'hero of the faith' George S. Railton writing in 1909 struggles aswell. He talks about the "absurdity of the attempt made by some to draw unworthy distinctions between our Social and Spiritual Work".

Monday, April 10, 2006

100% Beard...

This was knocking around a while back. "Pognophilia: Growing Beards for the Love of Jesus". According to Kester Brewin - all Christian groups have their own beard!

I was disappointed that with our rich heritage and history of beard growth, there was not a Salvation Army representative.

So I came up with the primtive style! Unfortunately the only picture that came to mind was William Booth when he was looking thoughtful - or was he pretty much fed up!

Lovers of SA history are making various connections between our church's early day growth and different aspects and focus of theology. Perhaps it is more simple than that. I am surprised that no one has made the facial hair connection! Is it time for a worldwide movement of extreme, militant and radical beard growth?

Yep a waste of time but ... children off school and it is Founder's day after all?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Patrick's Palm Sunday...

Our last Palm Sunday at Poplar. Without a doubt a day that has always been memorable - here and here (the comments on the latter post make me smile).

Years gone by have seen the 100 or so Palm Sunday marchers take a wrong turn and end up in the London Marathon - playing 'Give me oil in my lamp' on a cornet while comedy rhinoceros run past - definitely unforgettable.

Another year saw me embarrass myself by shouting 'make way' at the top of my voice by myself in reply to an openair leader who I thought was trying to start Graham Kendrick's 'Make Way'. The looks of bewilderment and suppressed giggles were enough for me to realise that I had misheard - apparently he had only said 'ok...!!'

Today was great in no way an anti-climax.

Firstly George the donkey was back, frisky as ever, refusing to turn right and prolonging the march! Secondly the Anglicans misplaced him - but what made today truly great was Patrick. Armed with a Palm cross he proceeded to hit people gently on the head with it - I kind of think he was blessing people. What made sure that Palm Sunday was again unforgettable was that Patrick sneaked behind Poplar's new very traditional and austere, cloak wearing 70 something Roman Catholic Priest and when he wasn't looking made sure he didn't miss out on the blessing. It looked like a comedy advert for Tango. Father Connolly was Patricked and it was brilliant.

I'll miss Palm Sunday at Poplar!

Holiness and Mission...

"What does God want with us? He wants us just to be, and to do. He wants us to be like His Son, and then to do as His Son did; and when we come to that He will shake the world through us."(C Booth)

"True holiness will not keep us from the world, but drive us into it in faith" Riddell.M (1998)

There's been a very helpful and essential excavation of holiness at Matt's. I think mainly boiling down to the semantics of 'process' or 'crisis' and whether the former represents a lowering of the bar. I found myself concluding that there seems to be more 'crisis in process' and more 'process in crisis' than meets the eye . However I'm left to wonder what good is 'process' without results; what good is 'crisis' without a resultant holiness that transforms our communities in word and deed?

Catherine Booth's has a stern warning in her 'Papers on Godliness'.
"We want sanctified humanity, not sanctimoniousness (the curse of a great deal of religion of this day)"
Later she asks...
"What does God want with us? He wants us just to be, and to do. He wants us to be like His Son, and then to do as His Son did; and when we come to that He will shake the world through us."
This isn't really a rant, a making of a point, it is more a me thinking out loud, here is what I am left mulling through - is holiness without Christ-like mission the slippery slope to sanctimoniousness? Andrew in comments has helpfully outlined the holistic nature of holiness so there can't be such a thing as a locked trophy cabinet of dust covered holy lives? Is the sanctimoniousness that Catherine Booth speaks of born of - what is the point unless distinct lives make a distinct incarnational difference to where we are called?

Brian Russell at realmealministries and lecturer at Asbury (evangelical bible college) starts an exploration of Holiness and the Mission of the People of God (read it here)

Some snippets that got me thinking...
"The issue is not forgiveness. Of course, God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus offers forgiveness for all who believe, but God wants more. God wants to transform our lives. God wants to shape us and recreate us so that we reflect not merely our own strengths and weakness; gifts and imperfections; character traits and flaws, but more and more each day we will begin to reflect the character of Jesus Christ."
He points to the importance of Holiness to Mission...
"The key however is to see the relationship between mission and holiness. If these are not bound together, mission becomes ineffective because mission fundamentally is the reflection of God’s character to the world in order to connect that world with the Creational interests and intentions of God. Mission is only God’s mission when God is reflected through its practice. ...All gifts and talents apart from a Christ-formed center are powerless to impact lives. Apart from holiness, we simply feign godliness while actually promoting worldliness. ... Holiness frees us for the sort of mission-focused ministry that Jesus dreamed about on the cross—a life altering, world changing movement of Christ-followers fully unleashed to go."
and then the importance of Mission to Holiness ...

"the essence of true holiness that we His people through our lives and conduct witness to the rest of creation the reality of the invisible Creator God. We are God'’s representatives and agents. We may read this as a missiological mandate: God created people to be reflections of the Creator God. ... Thus, from the beginning of Creation, we see that humans were born for a purpose. One in which mission and holiness cannot be so easily separated."

Once the propellant nature of holiness to drive us - as sanctified humanity - into the world is lost, consecration diluted - do we need to stand up to Booth's accusation - however well intentioned we might be - of sanctimoniousness?

Friday, April 07, 2006

"but I don't want that...."

"Right I'm praying for you ... Jesus give this man a pastors heart ... and quick!"

I was trying to pray with Janette a new character who came in with Hugo. Janette was very very drunk, aggressive one moment in tears the next. I was unhappy with them both because they had lied the last time they came in and worked me over with a minor hustle. I'd caught them out and they thought I wasn't going to help.

Society doesn't give second chances particularly to those that don't deserve a second chance. I'm glad that I was given a second chance when I didn't derserve it! We try to model Grace as much as we speak about it! One of the street cleaners in for his breakfast once commented after I'd told him the story of the Prodigal Son "this place is a place of forgiveness..."

Janette thinking that a second chance wasn't coming her way turned the water works on and sobbed I need you to pray for me. I with one eye opened prayed my heart out for Janette. Petitions flowed from my lips - until she started to listen to my pleas.

"but I don't want that...." alcohol fumes and bad breath fill the air as she leans drunkenly into me

I stutter before stumbling on with my prayer...

"I don't want that.... either"

I take an aside in my heavenly communication "Listen do you want me to pray or not...?"

Hugo looks on embarrassedly as Janette struggles to get out "yeah ... but none of that stuff..."

Despite the futility of arguement I say maybe a little bit to forcefully! "I'll pray what I feel I ought..."

"Well don't bother then...!"

I thought that was that until they started to leave. Janette turned and said "Right I'm praying for you ... Jesus give this man a pastors heart and quick!"

Hmmm a prophetic word???

Inner city ministry has toughened me up - but I hope my heart isn't too hard!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


URBANarmy now has a rural cousin - RURALarmy a corps literarily out standing in its field! Garry Smith is blogging his experiences as an Envoy at Mashbury. I'm just wondering if we can persuade Nick to change his blog to SUBURBANarmy!!

"The terms "prophet" and "prophetic" are loaded terms. They are loaded with meaning often far removed from their original intention and divested of much depth and nuance and occasionally even integrity. They have become blunt instruments in the hands – or mouths – of whoever wants to use them."
Geoff Ryan fleshes it out and challenges everyone who has a prophetic word by asking 'What does prophetic ministry really mean?' . It is in a new e-zine called theRubincon. Read more here

It reminded me of some words of Robert Beckford I used in a post years back - will the real prophets please stand up.
The prophetic is fundamentally an expression of the will of God revealing how things should be. It is also an ethical quest to restore human dignity and accountability and is always wedded to justice.

Limits on mission...

I read this over at Prodigal kiwi(s)

Communities do not act in mission beyond the range of their literary and conversational repertoire. Thus how the community speaks not only indicates but also controls what will be thought and done about mission, for language permits and limits.

Walter A. Brueggemann, "The Bible and Mission." Missiology 10, 1989, 397-412.

I'm off to find the article next time I'm in the college library.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Community transformation v church growth...

"words without deeds are empty, but deeds without words are dumb. It is stupid to set them against each other" (Newbigin)

The Officer Magazine is an in-house Salvation Army publication that sometimes has some pretty thought provoking material in it. It seems a shame that it isn't available on-line but there you go!

This was in the Feb/Mar 2006 issue. I wanted to keep it somewhere here seemed as good a place.
"I preached my heart out and people responded - it all seemed good. But the sick remained sick, the poor remained poor, the lonely remained lonely and the community that they and I moved in remained unchanged..."

"You grow a church with talent and leadership. You impact a community with compassion...Churches which are blessed with talent and great leadership are likely to grow. Most of these churches are considered good churches and in many ways they are . But that doesn't mean the community has been changed - which for me is the mark of a great church."
Crowden, D (2006) Community transformation v church growth. The Officer. Feb/Mar 2006

It has been pointed out to me - lovingly and with respect - that my posts could be seen as 'action' to the point of denigrating 'word'. I am sorry for that impression - word and action for me are woven together seamlessly and naturally and I would always say that there is little point to a life of grace without proclaiming the answers that only be found in the life of Jesus.

I'm not convinced that Daryl is saying that it is 'action' over 'word' but is more a capturing of the intense power of grace filled incarnational living that transforms communities.

Catherine Booth called us to be a "living embodiment of Christianity .... if The Salvation Army is not going to be that, may God put it out!". I'm worried because if that embodiment has been allowed to become humanitarianism, that embodiment is partial and represents the 'sham compassion' that Catherine was so vehement about in her age of philanthropy.

Yours striving for the balance that Newbigin points to "words without deeds are empty, but deeds without words are dumb. It is stupid to set them against each other."

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Christian Awareness Project...

Some time ago I visited a Mosque and they invited me on an 'Islam Awareness Project'. I never made it, more out of a lack of time than inclination, but as I drove home that day I thought what a good idea.

So I have tried to develop a 'Christian Awareness Project'. Usually an art installation, a stimuli to conversation and dialogue. It goes in our community lounge which is packed most mornings with people, conversation and incident (here for instance).

A new Easter project is taking shape using some Luc Freymanc, a bit of Sieger Koder together with a cartoon scripture union tract blown up. I've been mulling over a solitary text that captures the intrigue and power of Easter. So far I am settling with John 10:10 - the juxtaposition of life with images of Good Friday seems to capture the mood of the display. But can you do better? Any suggestions?