Friday, May 26, 2006

Doing our bit for the drought...

We're going camping for a week in Dorset, so rest easy all you gardeners in the 'drought stricken' South of England - should be plenty of rain about next week!

theRubicon is back!

Barbara Robinson offers thoughts on "Lovers or Fighters? Military Identity in the 21st Century Salvation Army"

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Patrick's question...

Patrick's relationship with his social worker goes from strength to strength. She still meets Patrick at the hall - he wants me to help tidy his flat up so she can visit him at home! I sat in on the last session and it is lovely to see him get the support he requires and needs.

Rachel asked lots of questions probing to ascertain the level of care Patrick needs and finished the session by saying "now Patrick I have asked lots of questions do you want to ask me any?"

He didn't reply straight away, he looked around catching no-ones eyes, he looked at the floor then up at the ceiling as he thought. The with a glint in his eye he said

"I suppose marriage is out of the question...!"

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wettest Drought on Record...!

Running for cover from torrential rain two days running I thought whether there are figures on record for the wettest ever drought.

I also wished we had another word for a lack of water in this country, it seems a bit insensitive to parts of the world that really know that the word drought means more than old cracked pipes and not being able to wash your car!

Mum told me - when visiting Turkana (Northern Kenya) - how awful she felt that the women had been carrying water for three days in order to get enough water for Mum and Dad to wash while they were there. That's not having water!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Lost Themes of Mission - Righteousness

"True charity looks at ...the spread of righteousness in the earth - the reign of the king.. "
(Catherine Booth)

Bosch points to the damage that has been done to the biblical concept of righteousness through the churches maintainance of a seperation of inward and spiritual righteousness from an outward and manifest justice in social relationships.

Leslie Newbigin points out that it is easy
"to see how the use of two different English words 'righteous' and 'just' for the single biblical word has seduced evangelical Christians into a mental separation between righteousness as an inward and spiritual state and justice as an outward and political programme."
NT Wright writing on righteousness reminds us that
"The church is to be not only an example of God’s intended new humanity, but the means by which the eventual plan, including the establishment of world-wide justice, is to be put into effect."
Bruggemann continues to make sense of righteousness within the understanding of the great commandment that obligates us to 'love God' and to 'love neighbour' and therefore sees righteousness as characteristically investing and lending stability in the community, taking responsibility for the community through showing special attentiveness to the poor and the needy.

The damage to missiology that the 'Lost Righteousness' represents is that there are generations of church that see righteousness only in the light of upholding 'right' living yet are happy to see justice and commitment to community as a optional extra - at best a negotiable. I'm wondering whether mission without righteousness makes sense?

Monday, May 22, 2006

The irony wasn't lost on me...

Last week took the Mini-bus out for a picnic to Hainault Forest.

Victor and I sat and talked on a bench when he got lost in his thoughts, I started to read a chapter of Roger Greens book on William Booth - The Life And Ministry Of William Booth: Founder Of The Salvation Army - review here. Chapter 10 caught my eye "Turning Points".

As I sat next to Victor I read how William Booth became more and more bothered about social salvation, how his theology grew to offer an apologetic for a'second' mission that some might now call the social gospel while also maintaining the line that would prevent TSA becoming just another 'good' social service agency. Personal Salvation was never eclipsed - we have GS Railton and Catherine Booth to thank for maintaining an essential balance. 'Societal salvation and redemption' once rejected by Booth became a 'prophetic mantra' that took TSA social work beyond the 'Sham Compassion' that was the hallmark of church philanthropy run wild. (Which - incidently - together with 'respectable nominalism' gives understanding to Catherine's angst and pent up aggression in 'Aggressive Christianity').

As I sat next to Victor I worked through in my mind the legacy of Booth calling social engagement the 'second mission'. I'm uncomfortable with this as it offers social engagement as a lesser 'either/or' option which plainly does not sit with the great commandment where we quite obviously are not called to 'love God' or 'our neighbour' but to 'love God' and 'our neighbour'.

As I sat next to Victor, Booth's journey wasn't lost on me nor was the irony of Victor's enjoyment of the countryside and fellowship where he is part of our family.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Ski-ing indoors...

I was treated for my fortieth birthday (I know unbelieveable!) to a morning's ski on real snow at Milton Keyne's indoor Xscape. My legs the next day told me it was realistic.

My tip? Wear proper gear - or risk farmer Giles.

It was good to spend time with Dean and prolific blogger 'Notthatstratford' Nick and also to see Nick - at long last - master the snow plough

Sales Deception...

Minutes before he was smiling on our doorstep now he was in our kitchen giving me the hard sell.

Minutes before he was smiling on our doorstep now he was in our kitchen giving me the hard sell. I'd been conned. I'm not proud but he became the first person I ever threw out of our house. It happened like this.

We were having a family meal when there was a knock at the door. I opened the door had an ID card thrust under my nose. "Come to read the metre Guv..." We traipse downstairs and I show him the metre. He looks at it disinterestedly then follows me into the kitchen.

"Listen while I'm here I wonder if you would be interested in changing over to British Gas as the provider for your....."

"Hang about...." I interject. "You said you were here to read the metre..."

He hums and hars. "You weren't were you? .... You were here to sell me something, and even if I were interested I wouldn't buy it from you now... you lied and deceived me"

Kate looks on embarrassedly!

He still looks hopeful. "Listen it really would be worth your while..."

"Mate!" I say forcefully politely "you need to go!"

Even if I had wanted change my electricity provider - the sales technique sucked.

How did we allow evangelism to become sales patter - the gospel deserves better treatment than that!?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Alf backed a winner...

Alf ironically lives in the same flat across the road from the hall that Rose lived in - Rose's story here.

Alf can hardly walk, most days you see him shuffling behind his wheelchair for support to the bookies and to the pub on the corner - that's his life. Our relationship with him started when our building was broken into one night and I stood with him waiting for the police to arrive at 3am! Most days he stands outside his flat to wave and say a cheery hello. Try as I might can't entice Alf in for lunch or even Christmas - recently he hasn't been there.

I found out why yesterday.

He picked a winner. He won a lot of money on the horses at the bookies. He was followed home and had the legs that barely support him broken by a couple a blokes who went about him with hammers.

So Alf is in hospital - and of course no one saw anything - they never do!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lost Themes of Mission - Holiness...

"True holiness will not keep us from the world, but drive us into it in faith"

Phoebe Palmer and Social Holiness...

A long gone conversation on Holiness which for me dovetailed with another long gone discussion on Mission sent me looking and reading about different characters largely thanks to Andrew.

Phoebe Palmer is cropping up in my reading a lot recently. Several issues intrigue and excite me particularly how Holiness was worked out through 'actions of love' particularly through the Five Points Mission in a inner city deprived area of New York City.

I read this
"Phoebe Palmer preached that holiness insures usefulness. These nineteenth- Century followers of Wesley believed it was their duty as Christians to be useful. Holiness doctrine, with its emphasis on love, provided the basis for social holiness which is the Wesleyan/Holiness equivalent of the social gospel. The phrase “social holiness” is borrowed from Wesley who wrote: “The Gospel of Christ knows . . . of no holiness but social holiness.”"
I'm also intrigued to Charles White's book title on Phoebe Palmer - Beauty of Holiness: Phoebe Palmer As Theologian, Revivalist, Feminist, and Humanitarian. White, C ( 1986). The price on Amazon at £81 is a little off putting!

I wonder whether Phoebe Palmer would align herself to Mike Riddell's view that:-
"True holiness will not keep us from the world, but drive us into it in faith" Riddell.M (1998)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Wrong place ... wrong time ... wrong man!!

I saw this on the mail on sunday (don't worry I was after the Learn Spanish CD).
"Mr Goma, a graduate from the Congo, described his surprise interview ordeal as "very stressful". He found himself being ushered into a studio and fitted with a microphone after raising his hand when a producer called out the name Guy Kewney."
You can see his reaction as he gamely carried on here.

Purple Theology...

there is no freedom of God without the politics of justice and compassion, and there is no politics of justice and compassion without a religion of the freedom of God. (Brueggeman 1978)

Beyond Partisan Theology...

David Fitch
- got me thinking and pointed to Scott McKnights thoughts (here) based on Brian McLaren's plea for purple politics — neither red nor blue but purple which is the result of a taking the good and shedding the not so good. He then asks what might Purple Theology look like?

He suggests that
"Purple Theology will transcend the “partisan” nature of current theology, which means it will transcend Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Liberal — in all their varieties. It will take the good and shed the not so good. It will be at the same time both broad and orthodox."
Brueggeman in The Prophetic Imagination (1978) tackles a partisan approach when suggesting
"The point that prophetic imagination must ponder is that there is no freedom of God without the politics of justice and compassion, and there is no politics of justice and compassion without a religion of the freedom of God."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Birthday Patrick!!

We sang happy birthday to Patrick today. 73 ... 67 .... 69 - who knows (we think 73) but we put 3 candles on the cake. My hand was on his shoulder as the church sang. I couldn't see his face - but I knew he was happy - I could feel him purring!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Victor and his Flute..

Victor and his flute exploits are legendary but this morning ... still several hours later has left me staggered.

Victor seems to think that a flute would play better if it was configured like a saxophone - he thinks he is on to something and so will buy flutes and systematically butcher them in his attempts. This morning he shows me his latest victim that is his acquisition. A second hand Muramatsu solid silver flute that he has spent a small fortune that he can not afford. He has spent serious money.

I was outraged that someone would take advantage of someone who quite obviously has mental health issues. So I checked the flute out on the internet thinking it was a bog standard school learners flute. Victor is right he has a highly valuable flute - he hasn't paid his rent and is facing eviction again - but no worries he has a professional standard flute that he can't play that eventually he will butcher trying to turn it into a saxophone!

Well that flute is in our safe - rescued for now. Victor wants us to look after it. I'm hoping that we might persuade him to sell it.

At least it hasn't started talking yet! (explanation here)

Church seeks spirituality of youth . . . and doesn't like what it finds

Someone at college sent me a link to this article

Ruth Gledhill writes
THE Church of England has debunked the widely held view that young people are spiritual seekers on a journey to find transcendent truths to fill the “God-shaped hole” within them....If they think about church at all, the images young people come up with are “cardigans”, “sandals and socks”, “corrupt”, “traditionalist” and “stagnant”.
read more here; and here
In an era when more people than ever know so little about the story of the Christian faith it can not be assumed that people have an adequate framework with which to interpret the gospel message.

I'm piecing the infomation together and it seems that the report is written by the same team that wrote Ambiguous Evangelism (Mayo, B., Savage, S. and Collins, S (2004) Ambiguous Evangelism. SPCK) in which they put together a compelling argument that contemporary evangelism has to recognise that the bulk of society are increasingly opinion tolerant and what they term ‘pre non-Christian’.

In an era when more people than ever know so little about the story of the Christian faith it can not be assumed that people have an adequate framework with which to interpret the gospel message. They point to a process of being playful; through story; in an understated manner and through dialogue.
  • Playfully because appealing to someone's imagination can be stronger than appealing to their intellect - initially, people will generally respond more to passion and feeling than to clarity and understanding.
  • Through story because the narrative forms an easy way for people to appropriate ideas and thoughts into their own context.
  • In an understated manner, where appropriate, in order to encourage people to come back and ask questions.
  • Through encouraging a dialogue and exchange of ideas with the other person, because belief is not a subject that can be dealt with in one single conversation or presentation.
Mayo, B., Savage, S. and Collins, S (2004) Ambiguous Evangelism. SPCK

Thursday, May 11, 2006

institutional individuality...

Another Officer Magazine quote...
"Without individuals nothing happens. Without institutions nothing survives" said 18th century diplomat Talleyrand

If we get the balance wrong, and individuality dominates, we will become a congregational denomoination - a collection of corps and centres (churches) united only by bureaucracy, with little common sense of theology, priorities or practice. If the insitution dominate we become powerless to act decisively and effectively and become a reactionary and conservative monolith dominated by managers whose time is consumed by maintenance and not much else. Neither is appealing but embrace the tension that is something else entirely."
Sandercock-Brown, G (2006) Embrace the Tension, Officer. Jan/Feb 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Primitive Salvationism...

There's an interesting dialogue happening at Missiome.

Martin gets it going by asking "Just as a provocative question...if you're a Primitive Salvo, does that necessarily make you a 'fundamentalist' theologically? Or is it something a little more blurry?" more here.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Know this about Chikankata...

Richard Charlie Chikankata Bradbury writes..
"Know this about Chikankata. We have 200 bed hospital, 4 day clinics in the hospital, 2 mobile clinics each day, a Health Centre, a dentist, an x-ray dept, a Nurses Training School, 6 rural health centres to name just a few things.

Know this about Chikankata - this month we have received K2m (less than 400 pounds / 700 dollars) from the government to run the hospital. One hundred pounds a week to run one of the biggest hospital in rural Zambia. (I know it's not really the governments fault, they got little money too)

How do you do it? You tell me cos I'm stuggling to figure it out. It's tough man! "
If anyone has an influence on any overseas projects, or looking for a project to fund raise for - it looks like Richard and Chikankata Hospital could use some help.

Christian Resources Exhibition...

I spoke this morning at the Christian Resources Exhibition , in a little seminar room I talked about 'Belief in Action' in the local community. I just noticed that we've even got a little bio on the site.

So I talked about Poplar and its stories, showed a video backed by Phil Collins 'Somewhere' to the handful of people that graciously came! (5 mins to start there was the sound technician, the woman who was hosting the room and one other!) -

When I finished I spent some time wandering the stalls of 'Christianabilia'. It was nice to pass on my appreciation to Dave of CartoonChurch, it was fun to watch the Welsh Evangelistic conjurer, it was great to bump into some special friends - but by and large I'm not entirely sure what I made of it all.

It seemed to be a case of being a race to give you a 'logo'ed' carrier bag first for you to put the armful of leaflets that showered you should you be unfortunate enough to smile at the wrong person. Scripture Union had the last laugh. They had the biggest bag on site with a slinky over the shoulder option - which swallowed up the light weight all-comers! Their stall did a roaring trade of helping the unfortuate light-weights into their superior SU bags - all with a smile!
We Christians seem to do grace so well!

A tower of molten chocolate was a big draw for one stall, the smell teasingly wafting across the exhibition drawing all kinds into its confectionary spell. "If you let me have you name and address we'll let you have a marshmallow to dip into the chocolate" went the patter.

"What a lovely picture of grace!" I replied smiling "but I think I'll pass on that!"

Grace seemed to be an ongoing theme - I got sucked into buying a couple of books. "All half price Sir..." I was hooked. When he charged me I looked quizzically "Half price?"

"sorry ... only if you sign up to our mailing list and catalogue!"

We Christians seem to do grace so well! I did sign up to get the half price books and let him keep the change! :o)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Conversations in contrast...

"Thanks for making Church so much fun..." a guy from youth club encouraged us today after the meeting. I remember when he first came to church, after two weeks he asked if he could bring a friend, another two weeks and they asked could they bring a friend even if they were not religious! Today they brought another friend - we were encouraged!!

"I couldn't cope in there - everyone is too happy and I'm not..." Kate had an earlier sob filled conversation with a client from the local de-tox unit who had to escape worship. I like it when the clients from Grieg House come while in their 2 week stint there - most have never been to church at all, it gives you a reality check, stops you being complacent. Sometimes it goes really well sometimes not. Today all but one left before the end which was disappointing.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Gospel According to St Matthew...

I got a copy of Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1964's 'The Gospel According to St Matthew' . It's cinematic presence was 1960's through and through but I found was that I was drawn more to the intrigue of what Pasolini as a Marxist would make of the Gospel and particularly Jesus.

It was a very 'aggressive' character I encountered, walked angrily, spoke angrily as his disciples seemed to follow him with his words drifting over his shoulder as they struggled to keep up with his relentless pace.

It was interesting to see Jesus as one of the people, on the margins for those on the margins. There was no Hollywood glamour. The 'woes to you.. hypocrites' discourse was unrelenting and pointed. It left me in no doubt that Pasolini felt the opulent church had let the gospel down.

Unfortunately the head gear that the Pharisee's in particular were wearing became an on-going distraction for me.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Church... a poem to make you both smile and grimace!

I dream of a church – Good news to the poor,
Salt, light and so much more.
Where worship is more than singing a song.

This was quoted by Steve Dutfield last week in a lecture - it made me both smile and grimace!


I go to church and it’s a bore.
Fewer and fewer darken its door.
Twelve-stringed worship leader is in a right muddle,
Wants all to know he’s part of the holy huddle.
Gathered up like a blessed rugby scrum.
Flute, tambourine and hell on drum,
All stand up faces aglow
Adjust the mic, check flies, good let’s go.

I stand in church and it’s a chore.
Described as a mother, described as a whore.
Read scripture and pray for a while.
Wait for that silence and twelve string’s knowing smile.
Sing a song about ineffably sublime.
I’m sure the writer put that in just to rhyme!
Stand up, sit down, I wish he’d make up his mind.
Bag comes round, I rummage but no money I find.

I sit in church and look at the floor.
While those around me begin to snore.
I count brick and organ pipe.
Open prayer – time for a moan and a gripe.
I’m sat next to her with eyes of blue.
She looks at me as only your own kids do.
You say you love me and you brought me here.
Only here far an hour just seems like a year.

I fidget in church I know it’s against the law.
But I think it’s the curry from the night before!
The preacher, he’s gone off on one,
A sermon that’ll run and run.
“And in conclusion I’d like to end
With some holy thought someone dead once penned.”
Hurry up mate, my bladder’s gonna burst.
Have to beat the oldies and get to the bog first!

I leave the church like I’ve done before.
Lord, is she really Your beloved the one You adore
Your lover, Your bride
The one for whom You bled and died?
Lord, give me your eyes to see
Cos something at church don’t feel right to me.
I’m not sure it’s what you intended it to be,
A club for those of respectability.

I dream of a church – Good news to the poor,
Salt, light and so much more.
Where worship is more than singing a song.
Where belief comes after belong.
Of course a church which is theologically sound.
But theology that works down on the ground.
A church which is truly sanctuary.
And Lord it’s OK to start with me.

Published in faithworks news, Issue 6, 2006

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Marcus' new venture...

I went to see Marcus' new venture.

Marcus bought a car for £10 to sleep in, now in a hostel he proudly told me he was now a landlord! "I rent it for a couple of bob - brings in a bit of income!!" he tells me laughing.

Unfortunately his new venture seems to have gone up in smoke! ( I don't think anyone was hurt!)

I wonder if he had it insured!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Save SPCK...

It appears that SPCK bookshops are in trouble, Dave at cartoon church is starting a campaign! I hope that doesn't mean the end of SPCK publishing. You can join the campaign by getting the code here.

save the SPCK

Save the SPCK!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Towards a theology of salvation and shalom...

URBANarmy is my resource where I store articles, stories and thoughts that I don't want want to lose. Here is a very long article that fits that category. Dion Oxford writing in theRubicon, gives a strong and compelling theology of salvation and shalom.
"It is obvious to me that our culture is broken. There are strong links between the way our culture teaches us to think and the fact that there are many broken families, that people are living and dying on our streets, that the environment is rapidly being destroyed, and that the church is shrinking.

We need God. We need to be saved."

Read more here

Monday, May 01, 2006

How much fun is it being a Dad?

We had a great time this weekend. Boots definately required this morning!

Riding around the New Forest on a tandem dodging the free roaming ponies, donkeys, cows and the occassion bull with Bethan for an afternoon was a highlight that we'll always share.

"Brake Dad!" Sometimes it was easy to forget you had a ten year-old on the back!!

Chelsea romp home again...

Last year I remember listening to the football in the car in a campsite as Chelsea became Premiership Champions.

Strange feeling of deja vu - as Chelsea romp home again. My school used to over look the ground in the 1970's - so no champagne allegience here!

Have Chelsea bought the Premiership - probably! Am I bothered - probably not!