Monday, July 31, 2006

Get your church

Strategy, Logos, buildings, leaflets, posters, magazines, media liason, websites just some of the pointers that are yours at 'get your church' (here).

The appex of attractional church - build it and they will come. Ironically hardly attractive.

I was thinking this while stuck in traffic outside an old - but done up - Anglican church that had all kinds of things going on for the community. The Forum at Greenwich - drop-in's for the elderly, specialist groups, community building activities, children's groups, education groups, IT provision, support for disability groups, unemployment support, music, art, exercise groups all under the banner of "here for the community and beyond".

The appex of salt and light in the community, a transformtative influence. This is how to get your church noticed by making a difference.

My heart sank when I looked them up. No longer a church just a building that happened to be a church before it disappeared. Still doing good but I felt sad that a worshipping community had to vacate or die off for an expression of community work to take its place.

Worse still - another day, another traffic jam and I notice a little bolt on church to the building not really looking part of what was going on - who knows I could be wrong I hope so.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Kate's one happy note about moving was that there would be no more nocturnal tapping from the work station at the end of our bed. It was the only place where we could set up an office - not ideal. Moving was going to herald the end of my working affecting Kate's sleeping.

We're in temporary accomodation at the moment - no way of linking up to our old Broadband service. But I have discovered a wifi connection - it only works when I sit on the end of our bed.

Kate was pleased!!

Ruth Gledhill's Great Book Give away

Times Religion Correspondent Ruth Gledhill is giving books away again - here. I see that Jim Wallis' Call to Conversion is up for grabs along with some interesting others. Call to Conversion did something to me when I read it 20 odd years ago and it has a lot to answer for!!

Sorry Andrew (Bale) most seem to be post 1904 and there certainly are no GSR classics!!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Going Going Gone…

We shut the door for the last time, drove down our street for the last time, turned right and headed off into the sunset towards the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Training College – leaving Poplar behind us.

So another chapter opens in an environment where everyone has an opinion as to how the college should be run, many dissonant voices contributing to pulling the college out of shape, weighing it down under layers of expectations and opinion.

Sounds like fun!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Monday, July 24, 2006

The sky is falling...

Roxburgh's book on leadership is worth a read if you find yourself trying to make sense of an alien set of attitudes within church and ledaership when faced with what he calls 'discontinous change'.

He identifies that when faced with 'discontinuous change' there are one of two responses as leaders vie to maintain stability and control. There are those that 'attempt to return or recreate the organisations prior traditions, habits and way of life', or 'there are those that abandon the old and create a new future'. These two familiar tribes he terms Liminals and Emergents.

Liminals are guided by a framework shaped by loyalties that lie with church systems that flourished in the past. Liminals reflect liminality an anthropological term which captures the sense of separation from a known world. The Emergents, a collection of younger leaders that have little sense of loyalty to the denominational systems of the past.
"They are deeply suspicious of the value of the educational systems of the past. They are deeply suspicious of the value of the educational systems set up in the 20th century to prepare leaders for the church and have an almost reflexive reaction to anything they identify as the institutional church"
While his dual analysis is probably a tad simplistic and in places repetitive he does make some stricking observations. Here are some of the areas that made me think:
  • On the training of such leaders:
"Many of these people are no longer willing to jump through denominational hoops in order to be recognised as leaders. They believe such hoops no longer make sense in today’s world. For them, seminary (or “cemetery” as some mockingly refer to it) education is suspect. It seems so distant and abstract. It demands that students be uprooted and placed in an unreal, disassociated, ivory tower environment for several years – only to end up serving in settings where, once again, they have no previous relationship."

"The development and training of leaders requires more than traditional seminary programmmes"
  • On the danger of rampant individualism:
"It is not sufficient to simply experiment and then move on to other experiments. This only postpones the inevitable creation of new sets of confusion and pain to somewhere down the road instead of honestly facing them today."
  • On the difference of change and transition
"Even though the current levels of change alone are profoundly disruptive, they can only be understood within a larger framework....Leaders need to grasp the nature of this larger framework of change and transition. Without a basic grasp of their dynamics, leaders will continue feeling out-of-control and driven by tumultuous change into constant disorder."
"Leaders too often make the mistake of assuming that strategic plans or more information is all that is required to move on to the next change phase. This is a serious mistake."
  • On the need of each other
Roxburgh talks about the concept Communitas - a term he borrows from Victor Turner – which he defines as:
"...the potential for people to discover one another on a very different level of identity and role than from the previous period."

"...the best way to counter this moment [new sets of confusion] is for the Emergents to reconnect with the Liminals and start talking these issues through."
The core of the book is to point out the importance and then encourage an environment of creativity through a process of dialogue and understanding. Both Liminals and Emergents have much to offer each other in terms of learning and experience as they face the challenges of social fluidity. Roxburgh upon a strong biblical and theological foundation builds a means of such engagement through which leadership today can flourish through a mutual investment found in communitas.

How to categorise this book could be a challenge. Leadership yes; cultural contextulisation yes; training yes; but above all this books emphasis is missional. There is no mistaking that this book is about helping the church to live out the values of the kingdom.

To any 'dig your heels in'; budge me if you can'; 'partisan' theologians and leaders this could represent an uncomfortable read. To those trying to make sense of a different culture of style of leadership there is hope!

Roxburgh, A.J.(2005)The Sky is Falling - Leaders Lost in Transition

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Well why doesn't he say that then!!!?

"is he still going on...?"

It was hot and Bethan had escaped the evening sermon that the Territorial Commander was preaching. Commissioner Mattear was in full flow as I whispered to a face that was saying "doh! I came back too early".... "yes he is still going on!"

"I feel I ought to go and pray ... I want to take Jesus seriously!?" .

Bethan sighed "What's he saying anyway?"

I think how to summarise the last 30 minutes to a 10 year-old. "Well... I think he is trying to say that it is well worth taking Jesus seriously..."

Bethan looks up and says "Well why doesn't he say that then!!!?"

Later there was a chance for people to kneel at a huge cross in the auditorium. Bethan whispers to me "I feel I ought to go and pray ... I want to take Jesus seriously!?"

We went together hand in hand and I remembered how 22 years ago at a Commissioning I knelt because I felt I ought to take Jesus seriously.


Commissioning is the sending out of a whole new batch of Salvation Army officers, the passing out parade, an 'ordination' and it was good to be there and to celebrate with them. These are people that I have taught mission with for a year and you feel a connection.

I usually have a theory. Usually a third of the cadets that I teach mission with get it all totally, they already understand the holistic nature of mission, they already understand how mission can be shaped by looking nowhere else but Jesus and the values he lived out, mission for them is not a trendy euphemism but is a living out of the Kingdom of God in both word and deed. Usually for a third of the cadets I teach - the penny drops and they leave having a great grasp of what they are called to. Usually there is a third that it doesn't connect for whatever reason. Some have a hardened partisan approach to holistic mission failing to see its importance, seeing it as anything between being an unnecessary distraction to being a negotiable of ministry.

As I told them before they were commissioned they blew my theory out of the water. These guys certainly have got it and know what it is to make the kingdom known in word and deed!


It was good to meet up with friends and to meet up with 'blog colleagues' and to put faces to minds only known through comments and posts!

Friday, July 21, 2006

URBANarmy ....??

I've thought long and hard about URBANarmy.

Our day-to-day life will be changing, we're going to a college environment where the issues are remote from our Poplar experience. I am worried that URBANarmy will not be what it has become! I am committed to blogging as the discipline of reflecting and writing has become an important part of developing thoughts and ideas for me - so maybe a change of blog?

"you can take the officer out of the inner city but you can never take the inner city out of the officer!" .

Nevertheless "you can take the officer out of the inner city but you can never take the inner city out of the officer!" My heart will always be for the marginalised and broken, the fragmented communities of our cities and their issues. Once I have got my bearings I hope to get involved in several projects that will give me focus. Camberwell is pretty inner city - go and sit in Kings College A&E (ER) and see what the night brings - URBANarmy will become my accountability - hold me to it!

No more stories of Patrick, Victor etc... you'll have to visit Bram for them. But I hope to find other people, others stories to teach me more of what the Kingdom of God is about and about how my life is to be a life of mission that models and speaks of that Kingdom.

Maybe a change of blog will happen one day - but for now URBANarmy will roll on for me probably more than for you!


The picture above is - "Camberwell Flats by Night" by David Hepher

The last day...

Yesterday was our last official day in Poplar, however we both went into the church today and finished our 8 years awash with memories.

I guess it was fitting to bump into various iconic people on our last day Phillipa seemed fairly balanced as I greeted her. Patrick seemed a little withdrawn but as I sat with him I thought about all the battles we have had with him and for him. Sonya has been pushing us to the wire and has been aggressive with Kate - we feel bad she doesn't seem to understand and for her we represent another person walking out on her. I think of the stories of her childhood and understand.

I felt emotional today - the reality has hit me, we are leaving.

Thanks Poplar - your individual stories and lives have shaped me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The new war in the Middle East...

Jim Rice is editor of Sojourners magazine and he has written an essay entitled "The new war in the Middle East" in which he asks - What is the proper, appropriate response of a nation to violent attacks by terrorists or other radical extremists?

He makes some interesting observations and calls us to:-

"ask for a sense of how I and all humanity, am implicated in a disorder larger than ourselves and how I, consciously, or unconsciously, participate and contribute to that disorder"

  • Be consistent in denouncing the violence of both sides - especially when it is deliberately aimed at civilians (or targets where great civilian "collateral damage" will be the result).
  • Pray for the emergence of new political leadership on both sides - both of which seem bereft of creative, courageous, moral, or even pragmatic leadership.
  • Challenge any religious voices that seem utterly one-sided, completely neglecting the suffering and legitimate grievances of both sides.
  • Pray for new ways for Christians and our churches to join our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters in finding real and practical solutions for a just peace in the Middle East where two states can live with security and democracy.
  • And pray for better solutions than endless war to solve the real threats of terrorism in our world, because if we fail, all of our children will be at risk.
I wonder if it has to go further than that.

I'm working through Finding God in the Dark Taking the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to the Movies The first exercise looking at disorder encourages us to "ask for a sense of how I and all humanity, am implicated in a disorder larger than ourselves and how I, consciously, or unconsciously, participate and contribute to that disorder"

I wonder how many people I have bombed verbally recently, and I see the obvious and feel discomfort. I have yet to move onto any understanding of unconscious contributions but know that my discomfort deepens.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Emerging Snail...

For some reason snails seem to like the company of our guinea pig.

A clean out of the hutch always seems to reveal submerged beneath the straw, sawdust old apples and poop, the local snail gang just hanging out. One must have got bored last night and decided to leave the party.

Quite a brave thing given that its chosen route was the northern face of our fence. It could have chosen a less demanding and less visible route of emergence. You have to hand it to it, it could have been content with the way of life that was comfortable, but no, it saw the need to emerge and emerge it did.

Look carefully and you'll be able to chart his journey of emergence. The sad thing for me has I followed its precarious route was that for all it semerging it didn't get anywhere! Just an abrupt halt when he either got bored and went back the exact way it came! Or it fell off or a bird ate it! Who knows, but you have to hand it to the snail for a good effort.

At the sake of sounding repetitive - I am drawn to the emerging church debate, its creativity, its drive, its ambiance, its space, its alternative worship (perhaps that why I tagged it with technorati - although I certainly don't deserve to be in the top 50 blogs on the em. church). But - with some notable and encouraging exceptions - I have rarely engaged or seen emerging church expressions that have emerged to any degree where they are maintaining a marked transformational presence in areas where the fragmented community needs the 'real emerging' church to stand up. While it all remains a little designer it reminds me of my emerging snail!

The emerging church may never know where it may end up - that isn't an issue, but I suspect the journey will come to an abrupt halt if it forgets where it has come from. If it forgets what it is called to be and do. If it forgets that mission is far bigger than a useful self descriptive label or a handy technorati tag to keep in with the boys!


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

LOTR - Name Generator...

OK - I really should be doing something more productive than this but....

Ever wanted to know what your Lord of The Rings name would be?

Try the LOTR - Name Generator here

As a Hobbit I am to be known as 'Bebo Digswell of Fair Downs'.

You can call me Bebo!

Another alternative site to the above temperamental one is here


Still feeling mostly forty!

The power of art...

We've a big blank wall that we have a simple 3D cross design much like this one

Sat in Parent and Toddler's I was talking about art with Francoise a Belgian Art studio manager.
He is talking about the power of art.

"Art is so provocative ... take for instance that cross ... it really stands out for me...!"

Monday, July 17, 2006

The joy of sharing laughter...

The 60 something year old man looking like he'd stepped out of a 'East London gang' film set answered in a gravelly East End accent."Armed robbery..."

His face looked like it had known a fight or two. Nose broken and re-broken, scars above his eyebrow

"Listen chaps don't be like me, I wasted too much time in Wandsworth prison". The four lads who we weren't letting into youth club mood changed from agitated anger to rapt attention to a drunken, trilby wearing hoodlum of yesteryear. Eyes wide one of the lads asked "what for...?"

The 60 something year old man looking like he'd stepped out of a 'East London gang' film set answered in a gravelly East End accent.

"Armed robbery..."

There has been a fall out since the shooting incident at a neighbouring youth club (here). The club has closed down and we are left with making sure the self same violence doesn't spill into our youth club as new young people want to come to our club. So we have to make tough decisions in that we only allow a certain number of new members on a night. The four lads weren't coming in but it seemed that they had an advocate.

I'm glad the 'ol geezer' came by because he gave us something most unlikely to share with angry young men who weren't coming into club - laughter!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sign Not Working...

Driving back from Clacton-on-Sea after the Church trip - I saw an interesting sign. It was huge and attached to an overhead motorway sign.

"This sign is not working!"

I wanted to take a picture but given that I was doing 60MPH driving a mini-bus I thought I had better refrain. But if anyone is in that neck of the woods (somewhere near Chelmsford) look out for it - it'll make you smile!

Just for Thomas...

Vitual bubblewrap just for you - here


PS- thanks for the nice words today!

Saying Goodbye...

These are very much the last days for us at Poplar and I have to say that really I am not enjoying them.

Today was our last Sunday at Poplar and I feel grief, a deep sadness, a sense of loss at having to saying goodbye to a way of life that has molded us and shaped us in the last eight years. Saying goodbye to people that have meant so much to us. Saying goodbye to relationships that have developed and grown. Saying goodbye to people that we have worked with who have energised and inspired us.

How do you say goodbye to a journey with people that has meant so much more to you than you can imagine. How do you say goodbye to people that have taught you so much more than you feel you have given - I think I prefer 'laters!'

So 'laters' it will be.


Friday, July 14, 2006

A tough realisation...

I came to understand something about myself this week. A tough realisation. I really am 40! No really 40!

I think I have been in denial since the event in December - but really my body has made it official - I am 40. How did I come to this realisation? My body has told me today with every single solitary grimace induced step. Why the pain?

The Dad's Race!

Eryn's sports day came to it's conclusion. The Dad's lined up. The children looked on expectantly, almost in slow motion I can see Eryn waving, cheering me on. The whistle goes and I get a flyer, I'm 18 again and the finish line fast approaches, no-one in sight. The wind in my hair !! Chariots of fire! B of Bang!! Then I see Ellie's Dad. I need more effort and then .... ping my Hamstring goes. The race is finished. It is all over.

After the race I see Scott - my althletic nemesis he beat me last year. "Missed you this year Scott" I quip! He laughs and then adds salt to my pain "I thought you must be getting older when I beat you last year for the first time in 5 years!"

Kate looks on with mild embarrassment and as I limp all the way home, full of sympathy, helpfully reminds me that I am not 18 anymore. "Gordon you are 40...! 4...0... fo-ur-t-eee!"

Today I fail at hiding the limp and so have to own up to pulling my hamstring in the Dad's race - I most definitely feel 40! Time to learn not to be so competitive - it's the taking part that counts after all!


BTW - did I tell you I won? Not bad for a 40 year old! ;o)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lost Themes of Mission - Compassion...

"As God has compassion on Israel and others, and as Jesus over throws the codes of society in boundless compassion on the marginalized, so we too are called to show compassion. This is a fundamental thrust of the biblical picture of mission."

D. J. Bosch

Bosch in a chapter entitled "Reflections on Biblical Models of Mission" draws attention to missional motifs, attributes of God outworked in his redemptive plan that is woven throughout both Old and New Testaments. One theme being that of compassion, Bosch's exegesis centres on Ezekiel 16:4-7
"on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for. you out of compassion for you; but you were thrown out in the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born. I passed by you, and saw you flailing about in your blood. As you lay in your blood, I said to you, "Live!"
I liked the Message paraphrase (sorry Bram!) "No one cared a fig for you..."

Bosch makes some observations:
This is indeed one of the most powerful "mission statements" in, the whole Bible, since it depicts God as the One who has compassion on the lost and the marginalized... It is, however, in the person and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth that the missionary dimensions of God's boundless compassion are expressed in an unequaled way.

D. J. Bosch, "Reflections on Biblical Models of Mission," in Toward the Twenty-First Century in Christian Mission. Essays in Honor of Gerald H. Anderson., ed. James M. Phillips, and Robert T. Coote
Certainly true when you observe the target of Jesus' compassion - the poor, the blind, the crippled, the leprous, the hungry those who weep, the sick, the little ones, the widows, the captives, those who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and the like (cf. Nolan 1976:21).
"As God has compassion on Israel and others, and as Jesus over throws the codes of society in boundless compassion on the marginalized, so we too are called to show compassion. This is a fundamental thrust of the biblical picture of mission."

D. J. Bosch ibid.
I feel uncomfortable in some conversations - compassion is belittled, compassion is seen as a mis-directed waste of time, to be compassionate without an end is mere humanitarianism, it is naive, something to be left to social services, a canny way in! The co-dependence issue creeps in here dealt with at depth and artically by John Walter's article at theRubicon - Compassion or Co-Dependence? Listening to those conversations - I see people lick their lips at the prospect of an excuse to not get involved, a sage nod of the head punctuating the sentiment of 'how compassionate is dependence?' How about erring on the side of compassion?

However well disguised the sentiment, the reality behind the rhetoric is that we could be guilty of "Not caring a fig ...". I feel uncomfortable because I fear that this 'waste of time', this 'naivety' represents an increasingly lost theme of mission.


Lost Themes of Mission - Holiness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Righteousness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Agape...
Lost Themes of Mission - Jubilee...
Lost Themes of Mission - Salvation...
Lost Themes of Mission - Shalom...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

For Roz and Keeley [Audio]

I feel bad, sorry Roz, sorry Keeley - I should really try to accommodate you rather than further marginalise you. In an effort of inclusivism, my first ever podcast on URBANarmy is for you!

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To anyone - please indulge this in joke that arises out of our Youth Worker and member of our youth club not liking URBANarmy's background!!

Wise words into chaos and crisis...

Matt Clifton highlights Rowan Williams words here . The whole transcript is found here

Matt helpfully pulls out two nuggets.
  • "...actions have consequences – and that actions believed in good faith to be '‘prophetic'’ in their radicalism are likely to have costly consequences."
  • "The nature of prophetic action is that you do not have a cast-iron guarantee that you'’re right."
As a point of discussion these are wise words for a church for which diversity - because of a lack of dialogue and respect - is an issue. Roxburgh ( Roxburgh, A.J.(2005) The Sky is Falling - Leaders Lost in Transition)* refers to the importance of communitas as the "potential for people to discover one another on a very different level of identity and role". I think it is a posh anthropological word for creative tension!

I always thought the blog environment would offer the chance for 'communitas'. Floating around the blog world I'm sure it is there somewhere under the proof-texts and counter arguments!


*Book review to follow

Monday, July 10, 2006

No eye deer...

Do you like talking to people who are always right?

Leonard Sweet somewhere points out that kangaroo is an aboriginal name for "I don't know." When someone asked, "What are those things hopping around the countryside?" Australian aborigines would shrug and say "Kangaroo."

He goes on to say that there is something a little suspect of those that suggest that they have all the answers and actually a bit of Kangaroo theology could go along way!

Richard Feynman Nobelist 1988 a very clever man! once said
"I think it's much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong"
Sweet tells his students
"80% of my theology is correct, 20% is wrong - problem is I'm not sure which is the 80% and which isn't!"
A while back Rick at New Life Emerging quoted Shunryu Suzuki
"“In the beginner'’s mind there are many possibilities but in the experts there are few."
He points out that Jesus was keen to point out the beauty of being childlike, but the religious leaders of the day were just childish - They were more interested in being right than in being compassionate. (more here)
Two thousand years later here we are, and at times, it feels like the church has just simply lost it's ever lovin' ... beginners mind.
For many the fear of saying 'I don't know' debilitating, the need to be right constantly is exhausting - perhaps there is a time and a place for a bit of Kangaroo Theology!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Above the changle of change...

I smile as he drops some coins into the box. Above the changle of change I barely hear him mutter "my mate committed suicide last night"

"I'm glad you were here ... I just needed to talk...!" I watched him walked away and felt a little stunned.

It was my turn to stand collecting at Tesco's feeling much the same sentiments as Nick. A battle was going on in my head. "Go on go home you've done your bit and in anycase there's no-one here" was up against "no stay, it'll change another 10 minutes and it'll be worth it". "No stay" in the blue corner was winning ... just!

That's when he came, put some money in my box. I could tell he was eager to talk. "Can't pass you guys, I'm a firefighter..."

I smile as he drops some coins into the box. Above the changle of change I barely hear him mutter "my mate committed suicide last night"

All of me ached to hear what he was saying.

"Young family, twin girls and a boy and he topped himself .... why? His wife had to find him hanging? We'd all be out for a drink ... why'd he do it?"

We spend time talking about his feelings of guilt, helplessness and anger. Tomorrow he has to tell the rest of his watch what happened.

He goes to walk off and he knows he has met someone who will be praying for him. "You know this has helped ... I'm glad you were here ... I just needed to talk...!"


World of blog - "You know this has helped ... I'm glad you were here ... I just needed to talk...!?"

Friday, July 07, 2006

a downward spiral into geekdom

Lifehacker was a recommended site by Tim So far it has introduced me to gliffy and now an interactive whiteboard. I fast feel a downward spiral into geekdom and it is all Tim Millers fault.

BTW - Tim is right if you don't use bloglines to view your blogs you should!

A year ago...

I wrote this a year ago and thought it still appropriate given that with all the "One Year On..." reviews Eryn went to school today worried this morning that we were at war and the bombs were happening again.

Well Done... (07.07.05)

So ends a day of sirens and helicopters overhead and I can't help reflect and say well done whoever you are.

You've managed to close London's transport for a day. You've managed to injure over 700 people. You've managed to kill 40 people who got up this morning thinking that today was just Thursday. Well done on ripping friendships and families apart, throwing people into unexpected grief and suffering.

Well done you've managed to get the world to look at London and to see how clever you are. You've caused the G8 to hiccup, and to stutter for a day. Well done you've managed to make your point.

Above all well done, you've scared my 9 year old daughter, you've terrorised her. She is scared you are going to blow her up. She is scared that her Mum and Dad are going on a train tomorrow, she's scared that we're going to catch a bus. Well done you have done so well - it must be really hard to scare 9 year olds. Oh and well done on today stealing my daughters innocent belief in the good of humanity. Today she saw a different world, she saw your world of hate just the way you would want her to see it. But you know what she doesn't understand and nor do I. Thanks for putting me in the position of trying to explain it all for her.

So whoever you are well done you must be so proud to be bringers of terror into the lives of the young, lives that don't understand.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Helping...? I'm not sure

Compassion is something that I have been exploring with regards to mission recently, so to read John Walter's article at theRubicon - Compassion or Co-Dependence? brought mixed emotion. He asks some good questions. Some would say that simple acts of compassion are a distraction from the 'church work' proper - I'm don't think that John is exploring that. What he is asking - and it is a real issue - is when does compassion create the problem of co-dependence? It is a question that we keep in tension.

I'm not sure how much we have been helping Pierre. Every fortnight for two maybe even three years Pierre has been coming in for food parcels. His thick French accent makes a change to Eastend cockney. A nice guy. Pleasant to chat with.

As I went off to our store of tinned food I thought really things for Pierre haven't got better and we just keep giving him food like a tamed stray cat. So I told him.
"...I'm not stealing cars ... or dealing drugs ... mugging old ladies ... shop lifting ... of course you are helping me..."

"Pierre how long have you been popping in for food parcels?"

He smiles and with a shrug says "Three years perhaps..."

"Pierre I worry ... we have just been giving you food and I not sure we are helping you!" I explain that the food really is for emergencies and his has been a very long emergency.

He explains how his benefits run out, leaving him short every fortnight and that he needs food. "Not helping me?" he looks at me incredulously. "I'm not stealing cars ... or dealing drugs ... mugging old ladies ... shop lifting ... of course you are helping me!!"

I get his sentiment but I'm not sure. We agree to meet up and talk about budgeting. He leaves and I am left wondering if we are helping or not.
"We need to rediscover a compassionate model of holistic ministry for today, where we become involved in others’ lives, working alongside them rather than just paying to have someone else ‘take care of the problem.’" ( John Walter)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Go on Beth..."

She looked so small. Stood at the end of the pool waiting for the whistle. Her blue swimsuit, blue swim hat, her pink goggles made her distinct - I could almost feel her nerves from 25m. Bethan was in her first competitive swimming race, swimming for her school. The whistle went and in she dived. "Go on Beth..." I whisper trying to remain calm.

There were some obvious swimmers in her heat and they thrashed to front. Mark a friend with me makes encouraging sounds about her having a perfectly measured stroke. It might be perfectly measured but it was just a little slow. The speed of the other swimmers begin to leave her behind in the same way that I leave my decorum behind and just become 100% father shouting Bethan on.

"Come on Bethan..." my encouragement becomes a little more intense!

It seems that her race is to avoid being last. She and another girl are head to head, the winners already finished.

"Come on Beth..." A third of the pool to go my 'football terraced' voice easily heard over the cacophony of school children's screams. People are looking up, I'm drawing stares. I don't care that's what Dad's do

She's in last place but is still trying really hard ...

"Go on Beth..." I'm hanging over the balcony !

The other girl is fading and has slipped behind. The race is finished - she is 5th. I relax - not last. Mark makes some sympathetic noises but I know Bethan will be really disappointed. I'm working up to cheer her up with a thumbs up and a smile. She takes off her goggles and hat and then I see that for the last 5 minutes I've been shouting for some random girl that I don't even know!

I make a mental note to make sure I take my glasses next time I go to watch Bethan swim!

I think back to other occassions I have cheered on, been partisan about what I think and do without looking closer. I'm grateful to all those in my life who have got me to think and look closer!

Incidentally Bethan came third in front crawl and second in the backstroke and I was immensely proud to see her enjoying herself and doing her best!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Lost Themes of Mission - Shalom...

It is sad that we as a Church have allowed the concept of shalom to remain a carved olive wood curio bought back by Holy Land travelers to sit on our desks, hang on our walls!

David Bosch (1993) points out that:
"The mission of the church, then, has all the dimensions and scope of Jesus' own ministry and may never be reduced to church planting and the saving of souls. It consists in proclaiming and teaching, but also in healing and liberating, in compassion for the poor and the downtrodden. The mission of the church, as the mission of Jesus, involves being sent into the world - to love, to serve, to preach, to teach, to heal, to save, to free."
Contentious or a true picture of holistic mission? I'm wondering if the depth of our understanding of shalom holds the key.

Pernell quite some way back pointed out Dan Sheffield and his post describing shalom - here it was a useful and comforting reminder to me how central the concept of shalom was to Jesus and his motive and message of mission.

Jim Punton seems to make sense to me. I've a couple of his papers linked under 'mission' and I've just finished reading his paper "The Community of Shalom: God's Radical Alternative" (here). It is a thorough exegesis of God's purpose in Jesus and his missional heartbeat of shalom.

Punton points out
"Another concept as large as shalom is soteria which means 'liberation into wholeness', 'salvation'. It has a 'from', a 'to' and a 'for'. Rescue, liberation, emancipation deliverance from a non-shalom situation - into shalom, experienced variously as new life, wholeness, freedom, health, well-being..."
He sees shalom as a central driving force, a useful way to consider the Christian community's responsibility for social engagement, a way to reflect and to share in Christ's mission. He asks some difficult questions of the church.
"God is dishonoured by the reasons for the plight of the needy, the oppressed and the outcast. With such as these, the hungry, the naked, the captives, Jesus entered into solidarity. Can we do less? Can we ignore our responsibility to incarnate the heart, mind, love, touch and word of Christ?"
It is sad that we as a Church have allowed the concept of shalom to remain in the flower power '60's lexicon. It is sad that we as a Church have allowed the concept of shalom to remain a cosy, oozey nice feelings about each other concept. It is sad that we as a Church have allowed the concept of shalom to remain a carved olive wood curio bought back by Holy Land travelers to sit on our desks, hang on our walls! What is really sad is when we work so hard at ignoring the concept, worried that the concept might in some insidious way be obscuring our true 'church' work, working up our apologetics to turn a blind eye to its centrality. Sad above all we ignore our responsibility and that in all our efforts we dishonour God.

It seems more and more people are understanding mission through the lens of shalom but equally by and large shalom is missing from the bulk of understanding of mission and remains a lost theme of mission.


Lost Themes of Mission - Holiness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Righteousness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Agape...
Lost Themes of Mission - Jubilee...
Lost Themes of Mission - Salvation...

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why do you blog!!?

Just seen this on the random quote generator over at theRubicon
"A person becomes a writer because they’re deficient. They have problems. They’re crazy. They have unhappy families. They’re eccentric… there’s a strong irrationality about the writing life. Often a writer writes just to maintain their sanity.” (Paul Theroux)"
Why do you blog!!?

Ok I definately have a happy family. I am not aware of any problems apart from too much hair and apparently a optical illussion for a waist-line! I'm as deficient as the next person! So that leaves crazy or eccentric!!

Writing my reflections down has been a help, giving a focus for my thoughts whether it is just to maintain my sanity who knows!!

Sunday's two firsts...

Well today contained two firsts.
  • The collection this afternoon was taken up in someone's hat as I had forgotten to get out the collection plate!
  • But it was good to meet Heather who reads URBANarmy and came to have a look. It was odd to have a complete stranger say I read URBANarmy, but it was good to spend the day with her.
Heather, I didn't get to say goodbye!

Goodbye - nice to have met you!!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

World Cup Tears....

Well that is that - again!

This year I had someone else to share the agony with Bethan and Eryn grief-stricken after England crash out of the world cup on penalties.

Seems the football bug is well any truly embedded in their young lives. This year it wasn't me that had to point out to Kate that saying "oh well it is just a game!" ... "there's always next year!" really aren't the things to say.

Wiping her eyes on her England shirt and between sobs Bethan points out for me...

"Mum, I know you are trying to help .... but you aren't"

Christiano Ronaldo if you read this! - be assured of a welcome home to Premiership Football in August!

Cartoon thanks to Dave at Cartoon Church

90 years on....

Three news items made for an interesting segue!

90 years ago the Battle of the Somme started. The end of the first day saw 24, 000 British troops dead, many more injured, not to mention French and German casualties. The end of the Battle months later in the mud of November saw over a million dead.

That is so unbelievable you'd think that it was made up - but it was and is a reality - over a million dead.

90 years on England shape up to play Portugal in the World Cup and a BBC interview with a German fan seemed significant for me given today's place in history. "No question about it I will be shouting my heart out for England!"

Then to Baghdad for the latest example of human madness - "A huge explosion has ripped though a busy Baghdad market, killing at least 62 people"

Reconciliation is a reality - that costs nothing but putting pride aside and embracing each other as humans. That is easy to do when you like someone but when you feel someone is undeserving it is harder - 'grace' (an undeserved gift) has always been part of God's plan, the true vicious circle breaker!

I guess the challenge is to ask how we as individuals and how we as church model reconciliation!