Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God.

Sleepless nights, creeping out of bedrooms, sitting outside Eryn's door saying "shh shh shh" in a fog of deprived sleep seems a long time ago. As I sat at the top of the steps outside Eryn's room I ploughed through Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy; for months I read and re-read the same page with the whole thing of "I'm reading this but thinking about something completely different..." going on. That was 7 years ago and I remember every page was a slog.

I finished the book after what seemed an age - thinking that was good but having no way of knowing because my brain was mush. I promised myself that I would re-visit the book when I reacquainted myself with undisturbed sleep!

For a couple of years now it has been catching my eye on my book shelf crying out "read me, try me again". I rarely re-read books but I picked it up as my over Christmas reading. I've discovered that my brain is still mush!

However, it is one of those books that even if you only connect with 10% of the densely written material it is worth it. The strap line of the book is what caught my eye this time around - Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. He challenges the presuppositions of evangelicalism by being truly evangelical! He gets you to think through what is heaven, gives great insight to misunderstanding and through the use of the beatitudes explores what it is to be truly blessed.

I'm halfway through and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the kind of book I will want to re-visit time and time again as I explore fullness of life beyond that of being a 'bar-code' Christian and discover the hope of eternal life as lived out here and now. (Willard 1998)

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. New York: Harperone.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

a couple of quotes...

"Our love for an institution is in proportion to our desire to reform it" John Stuart Mill

McBrien, R. (1998) Ministry: A Theological Pastoral Hnadbook, Harper. p. 66

Here's another

"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is today!!" African Proverb

I read them both in Resourcing Renewal by Martyn Atkins

Friday, December 26, 2008

wee to wii...

It was a case of wee to wii this Christmas and it was good...

A good day yesterday with a varied collection of people with nowhere to go apart to get themselves to 'Crisis at Christmas' for another Christmas dinner!

I was in the kitchen most of the day helping to cook the turkey dinner for the 40 or so people who came along to Southwark SA for Christmas, but when I did get out of the kitchen the vintage of eau de pee pee was not disappointing! I remembered a recent comment by Kapten Clark regarding thanking God for our own type of "incense"!

It was a case of wee to wii this Christmas and it was good to finish the day with the family and to watch my 83 year old Dad playing ten-pin bowling!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

eau de pee pee...

There was real discomfort in the congregations eyes. I was preaching at Nunhead and was in full flow when I heard Richard, I could see the drama unfold as a local alcoholic made his entrance and staggered up the aisle with his tell-tale blue plastic bag hiding his super-strength cider. Much of the discomfort came from whatever was causing the trail that followed his staggered track!

A couple of the congregation help him as he decides to leave. I contend with the loud ongoing conversation and then the full on aggression as Richard loses his cool outside in the foyer. It reminded me of Poplar days.

As we left after the meeting, the foyer had a certain aroma. Bethan turned to us smiled and nasally said "that's what Poplar used to smell like at Christmas!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"I don't believe in what you believe but I believe in what you do..."

"I don't believe in what you believe but I believe in what you do..."

He'd put his rolled up tenners in the bucket and had gone almost
before I could smile. I was collecting for Deptford SA as they raised
money at Borough Market and for the rest of the time I spent
collecting while the carols were played I wished I could've explained
to the guy that he might have been surprised how close our beliefs may
be. So much of what I believe is shaped by doing, and living out the
life and values of what I see on the life of Jesus!

It always seems a shame that the church has done so well making that
which people saw as being amazing in Christ so predictable!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Five Marks of Mission....

I've had a clearing the desk day, reading articles, books, magazines that over this term have built a formidable wall. It has been good to get rid of the clutter! I've had 'Mission in the 21st Century' on my desk to read through for quite sometime and a brief skim through has confirmed that this is a book that needs to be bought or not returned just yet!

The five marks of mission it explores give a great framework for understanding mission.
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain an renew the life of the earth.
Ken Gnanakan goes into bat first and explores what it is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom - he concludes...

The Gospel of the Kingdom must be considered anew so that our proclamation and our methods take on fresh significance. While there is a need to renew our allegiance to proclaim the word faithfully, there is a greater need to flesh the message out in acts that express this kingdom. Proclamation is urgent, but demonstration is the priority. The world must hear the message of the Kingdom, but it will also want to see some concrete demonstration of this message. It is in this spelling out the Kingdom identity, in presenting the person of Jesus and not just the message of Jesus; in looking at Jesus and the way that his message was demonstrated with power and authority, that the church will be concretising the Kingdom of God through tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. Pp 10

Gnanakan, K (2008) To Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom in Ross, C., & Walls, A. (2008). Mission in the 21st Century. London: Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carols in the Park...

“I was bought up to not believe in God; to distrust the church and have nothing to do with religion. The more I come to these events though I have to say I’m not to sure anymore. It's like you lot are a magnet and I'm getting drawn in to something bigger!”

Paul lives local to William Booth College and has come along to every event that the college has put on in its local park. ‘Carols in the Park 2008’ was the latest in a series of events designed as the college seeks to make itself known in its community.

As the college band set up on the bandstand, a small crowd gathered in anticipation, people were ready to share in community. With successive carols the crowd grew as more people arrived to join in singing of the Christmas message. Many nonplussed at no sign of a collecting box, but rather gifts of tea, coffee and a mince pie, there were smiles and carols all-round.

For over a week posters dotted around Ruskin Park adjacent to William Booth College announced "carols in the park"; invitations had been posted through the doors of the surrounding neighbourhood. The effort and time was all worth it as over 200 people joined together to sing Hark the Herald Angels in celebration of the love that sent Jesus into the world.

As we walked back to the college it was good to catch up with Paul!

William Chapman b.1791

A massive chunk of family tree has come to light with some interesting connections. For eight years I felt really at home in Poplar our last appointment. Now I know why - my Great Great Great Grandfather William Chapman was born there in 1791!!

(And get this Chris from Falmouth - the next generation has Baldwin's in it!!! I've always said with your height we must have been separated somewhere!!!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Salvation is not about who is in and who is out...!

There was an interesting article in the Times this week, a friend photocopied it for me to have a look. I wanted to keep a copy as a useful discussion starter!

You can read it here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


n: a contagious middle class virus causing depression, anxiety, addiction and ennui...

I sat on the bus with Oliver James' new book poised. (James, O. (2007). Affluenza.Vermilion) I notice a guy with an iPhone and I become transfixed with what he was doing. Quite obviously he was meeting someone but wasn't sure where he was going; fascinated I watch him pull up some A-Z app and work out his route with a route planner. Then I watched with increasing jealousy as he zoomed in and out to get the finer details of the journey; place names, roads, bus routes. Increasingly I felt I want one of those. By the time matey boy was talking to his friend and giving him the time of his arrival I was fast trying to convince myself - I need one of those!

Worried that matey would see me agog I start the book. Flick through acknowledgements and contents and get to the "Are you infected with Affluenza?" Keeping a careful eye open on the iPhone seeing him listening to music while playing some cool looking game I read the first couple of sentences.
"The Affluenza Virus is a set of values which increase our vulnerability to emotional distress. It entails placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of others and wanting to be famous. Just as having the HIV virus places you at risk of developing the physical disease of AIDS, infection with the Affluenza Virus increases your susceptibility to the commonest emotional distresses: depression, anxiety, substance abuse and personality disorder (like 'me, me, me' narcissism, febrile moods or confused identity)."
Oh dear..!

Despite this book having the word ennui on the front cover it is well worth a read the vaccines he suggests alone are helpful to digest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All in an image...?

I'm not into big band bashing; 13 years in The Regent Hall band played a big part of my development as a young Christian.

I have great respect for the commitment of those that still engage in this ministry; some of which goes largely unnoticed. Some of these ISB guys I know willing to help small inner city corps with their carolling effort in order to raise funds for ministry into their communities.

So I'm not really that bothered about the ISB recording deal - and I really hope that the venture raises the money that is hoped for and that it will then be put into those areas that need it.

But something bothers me.

I asked Bethan what she thought the poster said about The Salvation Army. She looked and said "...we're more bothered about the countryside..."

"Do you think that is right..?"

"No... something is missing!"



I smiled but then again maybe I am still a rabid inner city officer with a chip on his shoulder!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nouwen on Leadership...

I'm reading through some material I am presenting tomorrow on Nouwen and I was struck with his words on leadership and the temptation of power.
"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self."

Nouwen, H. (1993). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

"What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life."

Nouwen, H. (1993). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
Interesting thoughts that remain acutely relevant for us.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [1]

I first read A Churchless Faith about four years ago and found it immensely helpful for myself to understand faith more as a verb than a static noun. I'm evermore convinced of it's importance in Spiritual Formation and Jamieson's summary of Fowler's work on FD is helpful. I want to periodically highlight some of Fowler's stages of faith thanks to Jamieson's summary.

He uses some of Fowler's qualifying statements to set the scene.
  • Fowler's work on development of faith is like a map that describes the terrain and shows key landmarks; but it is like a map at the back of a tourist map - helpful but not detailed or authoritative.
  • Faith is a dynamic, changing and evolving process. Rather than merely something you have or do not have or just an acceptance of certain statements of belief, Fowler suggests that faith is a dynamic process a way of living.
  • Faith development is more about how we believe (operation of faith) rather than what we believe (contents of faith). What changes is understanding, experience and out workings of particular beliefs.
  • No stage is better than another but each stage offers a deeper and broader understanding and experience of faith than the preceding stage.
  • Transitional changes can be very painful and difficult feeling almost like a shipwreck (Parks, S. (1999). The Critical Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.). These faith transitions can be so painful that it is easier to remain rooted in a previous stage than face the uncertainty, ambiguity, and self alienation which can feel unbearable.
I'm looking forward to exploring these stages that seem more invoved than Von Hügel that I have looked at before here. They include:
  • Intuitive-Projective (The Innocent)
  • Mythical-Literal (The Literalist)
  • Synthetic-Conventional (The Loyalist)
  • Individuative-Reflective (The Critic)
  • Conjunctive (The Seer)
  • Universalizing (The Saint)

Monday, December 01, 2008

God says no...!

One of the interesting things about Faith House is the conversation and observations you get about other agencies that offer help to the homeless.

One of my favourites has always been the story of a Roman Catholic outreach to the homeless somewhere in the West End. The friendliness has never been a complaint, nor has been the food, which from all accounts is well up there! The issue isn't even the worship and imposed 'God slot' - the problem is the two nuns who stand by the exit playing guitars to stop anyone leaving. It is almost worth popping along to see it in action - a nice twist on the popular Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper.

I have a new favourite story that has had me chortling for several days. It involves a church group that uses a bus to create a nice space for homeless people to get a hot drink and a conversation for a couple of hours. Jim is a highly articulate member of the FH community, his exasperation in telling the story made it all the better. Not realising that there was some kind of limit on the amounts of drinks they could have Jim asked for another cup of tea. He wasn't too pleased with the response "sorry God says no...!!" Jim is sharp and quickly suggested that God might like to say yes to a cup of coffee in that case!

I made Jim a cup of hot chocolate and pointed out that God likes to say yes, more than people realise.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


OK of very little worth and a complete waste of time. But if you did happen to play for Brazil what would your name be?

A bit of fun here

Yours sincerely Cottereiro da Costa!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mr Hopgood [reprise...]

Mostly I use puesdonyms when I write, sometimes I don't - I'm glad Mr Hopgood was always really Mr Hopgood.

Mr Hopgood was a regular feature of URBANarmy several years back. At the time I could not get my head around how I could not help this elderly, very eccentric homeless guy who had been made street homeless when a hostel closed for a refurb. Everyday Mr Hopgood would come into the community lounge at Poplar for breakfast, lunch, warmth and a sleep. Everyday we would help Mr Hopgood in with his over sized suitcase. Everyday Mr Hopgood would sit and create his own atmosphere as the aroma of street aftermath would percolate!

Mr Hopgood had a story. They say a brilliant mind that for some unknown catalyst went over the edge. He spent most of his adult life in hostels refusing to bath or on the streets. He came to us in the winter frozen. He came to sleep and to eat. There he would find warmth and tolerance among the mothers and their children. Then at 1:30pm after a lunch off he would shuffle. It broke our hearts. We couldn’t get him into any hostels; social services didn’t want to know mainly because he smelt, that he wouldn’t engage with resettlement programmes. Always a failure on their bureaucratic tick-lists.

Well we fought. We fought social services; we fought our local street rescue team; we fought a local hostel; we fought our own organisation’s social services. It got bloody! After 8 weeks of this old man sleeping on the streets we got him in a local hostel. I’ll not forget the look on his face when he was accepted and felt safe again. Not long after he died, three of us said goodbye to Mr Hopgood at his funeral. We said goodbye not knowing anything about his life. Not knowing if he had family parents; wife; children. Not knowing what caused him to lose his job, to become street homeless. Not knowing what was in his preposterously large suitcase that he dragged everywhere around the streets.

That is until a couple of days ago. A niece researching her family googled 'Mr Hopgood'. Then 'facebooked' Gordon Cotterill and a bit more of the story unfolded.
"...Roy was born during the war in East London. When he was only a toddler, when the air raid shelter that he and his mother were hiding in took a direct hit from a omb. His mother was killed; Roy was found clutching to her crying. ....It seems evident from what you wrote on the internet Gordon that you cared for Roy, and for that I’m eternally grateful..."

Of course it wasn’t just me that cared, the team at Poplar would do what any poor, neighbourhood inner-city corps would do. There will always be Mr Hopgood’s and there will always be reasons why; it is just that mostly we need to ‘be’ and ‘do’ without knowing.

Mostly I use puesdonyms when I write, sometimes I don't - I'm glad Mr Hopgood was always really Mr Hopgood.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lost Themes of Mission - Eschatology...

As we learn to 'live within the contours of God's future', eschatology rather than an excuse for disengagement becomes the 'empowerment for radical engagement'.

Charles Ringma talks of a church's preoccupation that loses sight of the fact that the Christian faith is fundamentally eschatological in orientation. Something is missing when people's preoccupation for tomorrow leaves no significance or time for today. Yet a strong emphasis exists that would indicate the real danger of living for the future in such a way that the present is seen as unnecessary; a real danger of living waiting for the 'life to come' at the expense of the world now; a real danger of 'soul-saving' that has heavenly significance at the expense of the work of justice and social transformation.

I sometimes wonder if eschatology could represent a lost theme of mission?

"Why offer a sticking plaster when major surgery is required .... why offer a sleeping bag when an eternity in Hell looms ... for years we offered food now we offer Jesus and heaven..." all sentiments that mildly disturb me but invariably pop up. Sentiments that might illustrate a danger of the lack of eschatological vision. Sentiments that seem to miss the point.

"...escatological vision means something quite different. While it does have God's final future in view, the eschatological perspective has to do with the in-breaking of God's reign, and living now in the light of God's healing of all things." (2003:185)
As we learn to 'live within the contours of God's future', eschatology rather than an excuse for disengagement becomes the 'empowerment for radical engagement'. The 'fuel of hope' that 'brings a vision of a fuller future awaiting us in the healing working of God', 'encouraging us to live out now what God's future will bring into being'.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


It was great to be able to visit Poplar to lead worship today, great to see old and new faces and to catch up with old friends. There is something odd about being a visitor where you feel totally familiar and at home. It was great to see some of the old characters and to catch up with those we shared a significant journey with. The only disappointment really was that there was no Patrick Pantlin. He slept in!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chris never stays long - just long enough...

I saw him leaving on the Close Circuit TV monitor as I was putting my bag in the office. I had arrived late - as usual! - to the drop in at Faith House. As I slipped the rucksack off my back I saw him look vaguely in the direction of the security camera and then disappear in the the evening streets of Kings Cross. Chris never stays long - just long enough for us all to see and acknowledge his life.

It was good to see him. Chris had not been seen at FH for most of the summer and we were getting worried. Phone calls had been made to hospitals, fearing the worst, the next stage was to make contact with the morgues. Chris is clearly very ill, it doesn't take much imagination to think that he is HIV+, for weeks we had seen him deteriorate. So his complete disappearance was a concern for us all.

I came up into the kitchen "heh ... was that Chris I just saw leaving...?"

The joy and celebration in the eyes of the other workers and volunteers was tangible. "It certainly was .... Chris is back!"

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

question of evil (8)

While Pentecostal 'Bishop' Michael Reid has drawn some negative attention in recent years, and his book in many ways represents one of those give away Ph.D's from an unknown American seminary.

There are some interesting points that are worth noting when considering evil and spiritual warfare. After giving a historical context through looking how an understanding of evil developed as an apologetic for the catastrophic fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the subsequent period of exile (586- 539 BC) and how the exile also exposed the Jewish people to new influences in particular Zoroastrianism he makes several interesting points worth keeping in mind in wrestling with any theology of evil and spiritual warfare that goes beyond glib!
  • We fail to understand where Christianity ends and paganism begins. We do not know where the boundaries are.
  • There is no explicit biblical teaching relating to the demonisation of Christians, by implication the Scripture makes it quite clear that this is an impossibility.
  • There is the ever present danger of exaggeration to the point that biblical teaching on divine sovereignty is compromised.
  • Man has become the fulcrum of redemption, holding the balance of power between God and the devil in the battle for the souls of men.
  • The gospel is rendered impotent without the preliminary work of pulling down demonic strongholds.
  • Many authors pay lip service to the concept if God's sovereignty but in real terms view His ability to intervene as being limited to the extent of man's willingness to cooperate in the process of salvation.
Reid, M. (2002). Strategic Level Warfare: A Modern Mythology. Pasadena, California: Salem Communications

Friday, November 14, 2008

Grow your Own...

I got to see Channel 4's Grow Your Own last week. I bought the DVD for Pernell and took a sneak preview before I posted it over to him. Great little film, full of character and charm. A modern parable for what church should be.

The dynamic at a set of allotments is upset when the white working class gardeners are introduced to various immigrant families who are given allotments by social services in order to develop a sense of purpose and self-sufficiency. It was great to sit back and watch this 'nice' film develop if not rather predictably.

Themes of inclusion, grace, love, compassion, restoration, justice, integration are woven together as the various ethnic groups become accepted and move in from the margins to a place of value as a new community is built and developed.

I loved this film and went and bought my own copy!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tea ... two sugars!

It is the little things that count at Faith House, things that we would all take for granted but speak volumes in helping the largely valueless in society to feel some kind of worth.

One of the things that I have learned at Faith House is that the average drink is tea two sugars. There is something really profound in being able to remember how someone drinks their tea. For some of these guys, for someone to not only know their name but also know how many sugars they take in their tea is symbolic of belonging. It speaks of family. Acceptance.

When I first arrived at FH I marvelled at the memory of some of the volunteers who knew just how people took their tea, and saw how included the men were left feeling. Now I know that you can't go far wrong in guessing - tea ... two sugars!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Facebook under attack...!

If you receive a Facebook message (or a Facebook message alert in your email) with a questionable subject line, DO NOT CLICK THE LINK IN THE BODY!

All of the information in this post was garnered from an awesome article from by Narelle Towie.

Questionable subject titles vary from “Maan,yyou’re great!” to “your ass looks not bad in this video”, “Some0ne thinks your special and has a *Hot_Crush* on you. Find out who it could be*” or a youtube link that says ‘”i can see yooooooooo”. These links disguise a trojan worm and should not be clicked.

Having had six messages today from various random people suggesting how good various parts of my body look on videos they have found on youtube - I'd say this is very much a true threat.
For the techies apparently a trojan virus.

Fabulous Firefox out foxed them when I explored what it was about by pasting the link rather than clicking on it. Someone is after your bank details....?

More here

Monday, November 10, 2008

Soup and Salvation....!

The 'Soup Kitchen Challenge' is a novel fundraising idea that the New Covent Garden Food Company is doing in conjunction with The Salvation Army. With the proceeds raised to support resettlement work and social programmes that focus on food and nutrition. Find out more here

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Ministry of Healing and Reconciliation....

My daily Henri Nouwen email meditation said this today...
How does the Church witness to Christ in the world? First and foremost by giving visibility to Jesus' love for the poor and the weak. In a world so hungry for healing, forgiveness, reconciliation, and most of all unconditional love, the Church must alleviate that hunger through its ministry. Wherever we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely, listen to those who are rejected, and bring unity and peace to those who are divided, we proclaim the living Christ, whether we speak about him or not.

Subscribe to the email service here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Holiday Reading...

It was great to relax last week in Portugal - Algarve has to be one of most stunning coastlines I've been to and to be able to sit back and enjoy it in the sun was a boon! I thought I'd catch up on some novels while away.

Young, W. (2007). The Shack. Grand Rapids: Windblown Media

The Shack I read with the warning that I would hate it! Certainly the disclaimer that if I didn't enjoy the book it was not meant for me was a handy loophole. I think it would only be fair to say I would imagine that there would be others that would benefit from this book more than me!! Trying not to be bruisingly cynical and without wanting to spoil the plot, I struggled with the over personification of the Trinity, particular moments of intimacy, knowing looks and winks in the community of God made me gag. The overplay of the obvious left me groaning with too many 'oh really moments...!'

Put that aside and the ridiculous depiction of God the Father as a pastry baking 'mamma two shoes' reminiscent of Tom and Jerry - there was some thought provoking material. It is worth putting aside that which was puerile in order to engage with a level of thought that probably needs a revisit, the nature of what is evil; the distinction of relationship based on expectancy rather that expectation; living within the full capacity of humanity - I just wish it hadn't taken a friendly Jay to fly in through the window as God finished off her baking to make the point!!

A modern day Pilgrim's Progress was a generous endorsement by Eugene Peterson. My tip skirt over the silliness and slow down on some of the more thoughtful stuff . Try and forget the brilliance of the marketing that has placed this book in the hands of so many people!! Don't forget that this book has helped many many people engage with God at a level kept from them because of circumstances only known to them!

Rice, A. (2008). Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. New York: Knopf

I thoroughly enjoyed Anne Rice's reading between the lines with the second of her 'Christ the Lord' trilogy. It takes some getting used to reading the narrative as Jesus in the first person but the insights make it worth it. The temptations narrative - in particular - will be worth revisiting.

Grisham, J. (1998). The Street Lawyer. New York: Dell Publishing

I'm beginning to enjoy a Grisham novel now and then and 'The Street Lawyer' was well worth borrowing from my mum! It reminded me of Faith House. A really good page turner!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Portugal in the Sun...!

A week in the sun made a difference for a Cotterill family holiday - well done Portugal!!

It was good to read, enjoy various beaches, coves and inlets on the Algarve. To explore the delights of Moorish castles and ports.

To play in the sea, to eat Sardines, to make up stories and enjoy being together!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Portugal 2008...

I must admit that a week in Portugal is looking really appealing.

A quick look at the 10 day forecast has cruelly raised our hopes that we might get some decent weather!

Back in a week!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Global Leadership Summit

It definitely took some getting used to which left me with a niggling frustration. WBC hosted the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and while the material was good, exceptionally well produced and polished, it was achingly 2D! Not that I didn't benefit from the event, there was some great material to digest - the highlight being Gary Haugen of International Justice Mission.

Within the context of his work with IJM his session was about leadership based on things that matter to God rather than leading things that don't matter to God. Are Jesus and I interested in the same things? What is God passionate about..? were good questions to act as a kind of litmus test to motives for mission. Unsurprisingly his thing was to talk about justice at a international scale - you can check out the website for the exciting interactions. "If you say justice is not my thing - God says well I'm not your thing...!" as a conclusion left me with loads of questions and areas that I wanted to follow up.

I only made the first of the two days. Maybe you got used to the oddness of watching it all on the big screen. Maybe it became more natural to corporately pretend that all the speakers were there; to welcome the various speakers as they came to speak to us; to say amen to a prayer that Bill Hybels prayed 6 months ago; to engage with rhetorical questions; to humour with polite laughter someone who would never be patronised by our attempts to humour him!

There might have been times when I wished I had had the remote control to pause and go back, only once or twice would I wanted to Ffwd - in short a good learning experience but I couldn't but help wonder why they didn't put it all on youtube for everyone to get to see for free!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Believing in the Church...

I get a daily Henri Nouwen meditation arrive in my email inbox -usually always helpful. This was yesterday's and while it wasn't totally for me yesterday it was for some friends today.

Our faith in God who sent his Son to become God-with-us and who, with his Son, sent his Spirit to become God-within-us cannot be real without our faith in the Church. The Church is that unlikely body of people through whom God chooses to reveal God's love for us. Just as it seems unlikely to us that God chose to become human in a young girl living in a small, not very respected town in the Middle East nearly two thousand years ago, it seems unlikely that God chose to continue his work of salvation in a community of people constantly torn apart by arguments, prejudices, authority conflicts, and power games.

Still, believing in Jesus and believing in the Church are two sides of one faith. It is unlikely but divine!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bumping into the General...

The look was incredulous and unbelieving.

I had just introduced Eryn to General Shaw Clifton who we happened upon while walking home from school through the grounds of WBC. "...and who is this young lady?" the General asked me offering his hand to Eryn.

As Eryn shook his hand I introduced our youngest daughter. "Well I am very pleased to meet you Eryn" the General offered as his small entourage looked on. Thinking that Eryn didn't have a clue who this man was I thought I'd explain.

"Eryn - this is the General of The Salvation Army...!" Fortunately I think I was the only one to hear her incredulity.

"yeah right...!"

"yeah really....!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The essence of the church (5)

A bit more van Gelder as he explores the nature of the church and the centrality of the cross. This is an ineresting exploration of a narrow understanding of salvation which then supports a narrow understanding of mission.

"Those who make the cross the starting point for their discussion of redemption often find it difficult to see the bigger picture inherent both in creation design and God's redemptive reign as announced by Jesus. Starting with an understanding of the mission of God in the world provides a broader framework for considering the meaning of the cross. The cross is still central within this framework, but its purpose is understood in light of the broader scope of God's mission. Understanding the cross in relation to creation is critical to being able to grasp the full character of the church's ministry in the world." (2000: 130 ff)

Monday, October 13, 2008

question of evil (7)

NT in his commentary on Romans deals, I think, helpfully with the question of evil when he looks at Romans 6.12-14. This is what he says.

"There are two spheres, two places to live, the Adam-humanity and the Messiah humanity.

Paul doesn't mention the devil at this point, but when he talks about 'sin' there is a sense of a suprahuman power, a force or energy which is more than the sum total of unhelpful instincts and wrong actions.

This force can and does act like a tyrannical landlord, making demands and backing them up with threats. You must live like this: you must go out and get drunk; you must indulge your sexual appetites as fully as you can; you must help yourself to other people's property; you must develop new types of weapons to kill more and more people; you must extend your business empire as far as you possibly can....if you don't live like this, you're missing out on real life; you'll never be satisfied until you give in; you'll get sick or stale; people will laugh at you; your economy will crumble; your enemies will take advantage of you". pp108

Wright, T. (2004). Paul for Everyone: Romans: Chapters 1-8 (for Everyone). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


"Whispers of paedophilia, and of his computer being seized was enough for him to run for London leaving all he owned behind for a new existence on the streets ..."

He came in late to the drop in and made a bee-line for me. He was looking for somewhere to sleep, he needed some food and a sleeping bag. I noticed the deep cut under his left eye as we drank tea together; he began to tell me something of his story. As Jon blinked awkwardly he was keen to tell me that he had a home up in Yorkshire but was homeless in London because of fear.

Fear had driven him out of his home; his neighbours had turned on him. Whispers of paedophilia, and of his computer being seized was enough for him to run for London leaving all he owned behind for a new existence on the streets but not before someone tried to gouge out his eye.

Encounters like that leave more questions than answers. Whatever the circumstances it is good that FH can be a place where fear isn't, even if it is for the length of drinking a cup of tea with someone.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Estelle's Rant...

Estelle goes on a rant here

Apparently conservative delegates at their recent conference found in their welcome pack vouchers to go to a lap/pole dancing club. Harmless fun or have we a case of supporting a way of life that makes a market for trafficked women?


'He who sees the Church looks directly at Christ...'

My Mission class at college are currently looking at this assignment -

"Mission is not a programme of the church but rather an attribute of God" (Bosch 1991:390). Critically analyse this statement in the light and experience of mission in your placement.

I've just uncovered a quote from Graham Tomlin that sets the scene nicely:
The God of the biblical story displays very different characteristics from the Greek gods, or even gods of eastern faiths. He is not capricious but faithful,keeping his promises and covenants from generation to generation. He is not a sea of placid detachment from the world, but instead interacts with it.... Instead he is humble, lavishly creating a world in which he remains hidden, a world that is not full of signs demanding we pay Him attention and give Him His due. The qualities that mark him out are those of patience, faithfulness, perseverance, kindness, goodness, self-control, humility, joy, creativity and above all, love (2006:83).

Tomlin, G. (2006). Spiritual Fitness: Christian Character in a Consumer Society. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

'He who sees the Church looks directly at Christ...' (attrib. to Gregory of Nyssa) - is an interesting point of reference to what we as church generally do! Makes you wonder what people see when they look at the church?

Monday, October 06, 2008

An Agenda for Change: Living Out the Social Gospel

Joel Edwards puts a compelling process of thought together in what he calls 'An Agenda for Change: Living Out the Social Gospel'. Rather than jettison the Evangelical label he argues for rehabilitation!

Rehabilitating Evangelical: The Challenges:

  • We need to humbly reassess some of our tribal theological rigidities- "If evangelicalism is to reposition itself as a transforming movement in the twenty-first century, then it is the vast majority of people in the evangelical centre who are going to take us there."
  • We must present Christ credibly in cultures which have increasing vendettas against the idea of God in the public square - "a credible response needs to undomesticate the Christ evangelicals have held captive in fearful subcultures. We have become too comfortable with a risk-averse Christ who is not the Christ of the Bible. I’m not convinced that Jesus would be publicly identifiable with our moral agenda."
  • We must integrate long-term thinking. - "Christian citizenship must therefore be integral to our discipleship. Strategic Christian involvement in the marketplace, business, the arts, education, media, sports, local government, and community involvement is not an optional extra. If evangelicals become prophetically and strategically involved in the pain of our communities we may need less spiritual warfare concerning people we have nothing to do with."
Edwards concludes:
"It’s a united community of people who unveil Christ, presenting him credibly to government and culture; it’s a movement of people who are good news to the poor and marginalised; and it’s a Church mobilised for spiritual and cultural change, consumed by a long-term vision of a better society."
A couple of observations - it is interesting that Joel Edwards feels more comfortable having a go at articulating some of this material now away from the restrictions of being
general director of the Evangelical Alliance UK. Secondly, you can't help but feel some of the discomfort of the paradigm shift that his thinking represents.

More here

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

question of evil (6)

Hiebert makes some interesting points regarding Spiritual Warfare and evil.

He points to three worldviews but 'Cosmic Dualism' would it seem to influence much of what I have read regarding SW; it underlies a sense of
redemptive violence where order can be established only when one side defeats the other in spiritual warfare.

One side seeks
to establish a kingdom of righteousness and order, and the other an evil empire. Sounds familiar - Hiebert interestingly draws parallels with other religious similarities found in Zoroastrianism, Manicheism and Hinduism where mighty gods battle for control of the universe.

Hiebert points out that:

Many current Christian interpretations of spiritual warfare are based on an Indo Euro worldview which sees it as a cosmic battle between God and his angels and Satan and his demons for the control of people and lands. The battle is fought in the heavenlies, but it ranges over sky and earth. The central question is one of power - can God defeat Satan? Because the outcome is in doubt, intense prayer is necessary to enable God and his angels to gain victory over the demonic powers. Humans are victims of this struggle.
It seems a shame that we are left with a caricature where engagement within SW is akin to to Popeye cartoon. Hiebert paints the scene...

Every week Bluto grabs Olive Oil. Every week Popeye tries to rescue her. Every week Bluto beats up Popeye. Every week Popeye gets his spinach and defeats Bluto. Bluto never learns to leave Olive Oil alone. Popeye never learns to take his spinach before he attacks Bluto...!

Hiebert P.G. (2000) Spiritual Warfare and Worldview in ERT 24:3 pp 240-241

The Essence of the Church (4)

A bit more van Gelder as he explores the nature of the church.

  • The nature of the church is defined by the mission of God in the world
  • The nature of the church is the result of the redemptive work of Christ
  • The nature of the church is holistic in relating this redemption to all of life
  • The church exists as a social community that is both spiritual and human
  • The church exists as a full demonstration of a new humanity.
  • The attributes of the church's nature determine the church's ministry. pp128

Monday, September 29, 2008

Cameron's fashion break...

Cameron continues to come along to Faith House and it seems he values the sense of family that exists within the staff, volunteers and guys that come to the drop in. He was quite shocked this week because he had been spotted on Tottenham Court road as a potential model for a catalogue shoot. Apparently he has the looks and physique that met a certain brief (so to speak!!).

As he showed me the contact card - he shrugged his shoulders "they'd have to do a lot of 'airbrushing' to be able to use me..."

As I thought how to encourage him, before I could speak he added.

"I've too many stab wound scars...!"

More about Cameron here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tom Sine...

It was an interesting start to the evening; stood outside a very well locked up inner city church wondering if we were in the right place to hear Tom Sine. Five of us sensibly getting there early just in case we didn't get in. We didn't have much to worry about! Eventually some life and Tom and his hosts arrive and we are let in together with a young dread locked boy seemingly looking for community and warmth. Gradually a small crowd joins us and we introduced to parts of his new book The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time.

His thing is definitely that of being a friendly voice to the emerging church, championing a new generation of innovators, risk takers and entrepreneurs, those he perceives God is doing something new through. He used Strictly Ballroom to make the point that this new generation are "fed up of dancing other people's steps" and with this motivation these new conspirators engage with the emerging crisis facing church through innovative missional expressions of church in what he calls four streams.
  • emerging
  • missional
  • mosaic {multi-cultural}
  • monastic
Tom Sine is what he would call a futurist - someone who looks into what future trends will mean for the church and he painted a disturbing picture of current and future economic and the consequent demands and opportunities for the church.

I think I would have liked to have heard more about life after the emerging church has emerged! With each generation deconstructing the generation before what will a deconstructed em. ch look like? I wanted to get a insight to how church will look like with deeper definitions of gospel and evangelism. I wanted to know what had happened to the young dread locked boy who seemingly had slipped out while I was fascinated with the fact that the slides were being remotely controlled by someone's mobile phone via blue tooth!!

Sine, T. (2008). The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Emergant begging...

As the commuters busy themselves to make the next leg of their journey into work I wonder if The Salvation Army is more emerging than we think

They were not there when I came back.

I saw them from the top of the 185 bus as I made my way to Victoria to do a stint of collecting for the SA Annual Appeal - ironically sleeping under the bridges - as I went to 'do something'. As the bus slowly passed overhead I looked at the time 6:30am, the group seemed to be slowly waking up, some of the group folding away sleeping bags, others folding up their cardboard, their only insulation.

Five minutes later I am signing in at Victoria, collecting box poised - I'm hopeful that I might have a better place to stand than last week when at another station I stood in front of a poster boldly promoting its message "DO NOT ENCOURAGE BEGGARS BY GIVING THEM MONEY". For the next three hours with the image of Vauxhall Bridge in my mind I 'encourage' people to contribute and I am happy to 'beg' in their places.

At a recent Tom Sine seminar on the emerging church, he pointed out that the real losers in this recession will not be the banks or stock markets but will be those individuals on the margins. With less people in a place to give Sine suggested that the emerging church needs to identify with those to 'have not' in a way that will help them through. As the army of commuters busy themselves to make the next leg of their journey into work I wonder if The Salvation Army is more emerging than we think :o)!!

My stint over, I settle down on the bus to read. At Vauxhall Bridge I look up and out for the small community... they've gone!

Monday, September 22, 2008

question of evil (5)

'Mastering Evil' - Henri Nouwen...

"Choosing life instead of death demands an act of will that often contradicts our impulses. Our impulses want to take revenge, while our wills want to offer forgiveness. Our impulses push us to an immediate response: When someone hits us in the face, we impulsively want to hit back.

How then can we let our wills dominate our impulses? The key word is wait. Whatever happens, we must put some space between the hostile act directed toward us and our response. We must distance ourselves, take time to think, talk it over with friends, and wait until we are ready to respond in a life-giving way. Impulsive responses allow evil to master us, something we always will regret. But a well thought-through response will help us to "master evil with good" (Romans 12.21)."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Proud Dad....!

Eryn starts an accelerated ballet course at The Royal Ballet today; with Kate away we are just about to head up to Covent Garden and the Royal Opera House.

I can't help being proud and a little bit nervous - the tying up of the hair into a bun is a little intimidating!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Essence of the Church (3)

While exploring the essence of church unsuprisingly the theme of the Reign of God comes into play. Van Gelder pulls out some key themes in what he calls God's redemptive reign.

  • This reign reflects creation design
  • This reign anticipates the new heavens and new earth
  • This reign defeated the principalities and powers
  • This reign was demonstrated in Jesus' life and ministry
  • This reign brings redeemed life to all the created powers
  • This reign anticipated the church as creation of the Spirit pp102

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Kees de Kort...

I like the biblical imagery that Dutch artist Kees de Kort captures and have added him to my art that speaks label. More here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Out on bail...

After a couple of minutes of nonsensical conversation he starts digging deep into his jacket. He pulls out a police evidence bag with a wad of paperwork and says "can you make sense of this...?"

More about 'I don't know Adrian' here and here.

The first wave of guys leaving after their plate of pasta was in full swing, the small room at Faith House opened up and when a chair became available next to Adrian I was able to sit next to him. He had been more agitated this evening than usual, he has a kind of musical chair routine throughout most evenings - tonight there was more to it, there was something up.

He seemed pleased even relieved that someone had sat next to him. After a couple of minutes of nonsensical conversation he starts digging deep into his jacket. He pulls out a police evidence bag with a wad of paperwork and says "can you make sense of this...?"

I have a quick look and see that Adrian is out on bail. Adrian has been involved in a violent assault in Yorkshire where this 'homeless guy' has a home. The bail conditions ban him from even going anywhere near where he lives, not that he would want to because people don't understand him and give him grief. So here he is homeless in London with a house in Yorkshire so he is stuffed!

Is it his fault that he plays his music excessively loud to try and drown out the torment in his head? Is it his fault that he has no awareness of what other people are feeling and that he has no idea that his behaviour is disturbing? Is it his fault that any rational conversation is impossible? Is it his fault that people get frustrated with him and shout at him? Is it his fault that all that is left open to him is to shout and flail his arms back? Is it his fault that he really 'doesn't know'?

I'm trying to work out who does know - because I know I certainly don't. Adrian certainly doesn't. The frustrated and angry neighbour pushed to extremes because of Adrian's eccentric and bewildering behaviour doesn't. The police sergeant who arrested him and processed his bail conditions certainly doesn't. The duty solicitor who sat with him and allowed him to be sent back onto the streets doesn't.

So here we are all not knowing - so we have a level playing field, none of us know! The problem that I have is that some people should know better!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Nouwen, H. (1993). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership...

A book that challenges you before you have finished with the contents page has got to be special! Drawing from his own experience; the desert tempations of Jesus; the restoration of Peter and the necessary disciplines for future Christian leadership - Henri Nouwen does it again in three short sections and a beautiful epilogue.

From Relevance to Prayer
The Temptation: To Be Relevant
The Question: 'Do you Love Me?'
The Discipline: Contemplative Prayer

From Popularity to Ministry
The Temptation: To be Spectacular
The Question: 'Feed My Sheep'
The Discipline: Confession and Forgiveness

From Leading to Being Led
The Temptation:To be Powerful
The Challenge : Somebody Else Will Take You
The Discipline: Theological Reflection

Friday, September 05, 2008

question of evil (4)

"Horsley takes an interesting angle that needs processing should we wish to avoid a glib response to the question of evil and spiritual warfare."

Richard Horsley writes primarily on the dangers of depoliticising the person and message of Jesus - he contributes to an understanding of the political context within which Jesus' message and ministry is set. It is very hard to do this without addressing the question of evil. Interestingly he looks in particular at the exorcisms and their significance in illustrating that 'God is accomplishing a political as well as a religious or spiritual victory'. (2002:102)

In other words:
The series of episodes in which Jesus exorcises demons and the discussions of the significance of Jesus' exorcisms in the Gospels indicate that precisely in his practice of exorcism God's kingdom is defeating Roman rule. (2002:99)
He illustrates that 'warfare with Satan - was one of the principal ways that Galilean peasants as well as Qumran scribes had of explaining how they could be suffering such subjection and even violent oppression, when supposedly God was the ruler of history. Opposing forces of overwhelming superhuman strength must be responsible.' (2002:101)

This explanation of their situation offered a means, a get out clause which 'enabled Galileans and Judeans to avoid blaming themselves' (2002:107).

Is Horsley trying to down play the more common acceptance of evil in contemporary evangelical Christian thought? I don't think so. It is more a case of there being more to the gospel accounts of exorcism than initially meets the eye. Horsley takes an interesting angle that needs processing should we wish to avoid a glib response to the question of evil and spiritual warfare.

Horsley, R. (2002). Jesus and Empire: The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God on Trial...

God on Trial is well worth checking out on BBC iplayer if you missed it last night on BBC2.

The setting is based on the story that prisoners in Auschwitz put God on trial. Their suffering at the hands of the Nazis pushing their faith to breaking point brought forward the charge that God was in breech of contract. God had broken his covenant.

As those selected for the chambers leave the question is heard.

"Now we have found God guilty, what do we do?"


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Mosab Hassan Yousef...

I've got a great Dad! He likes his newspaper and He's keen to make sure I am up to date with those little stories that I could miss. So whenever I visit I come home with a stack of clippings to equip me! That is a long way round to legitimise why I am about to point to a story in the Daily Telegraph!!

There is an interesting story about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the top guys in Hamas - the Palestinian Islamist group. You can read it here. In short Mosab Hassan Yousef started to question and deconstruct his faith but reconstructed it through what he read in the Bible. The one time successor of leadership of Hamas is now a Christian, having found himself excited at what he read in the Gospels. The answers to the end of violence he found in forgiveness and what he saw as the foundation of Christianity 'love your enemies'.

He is well worth googling.

Monday, September 01, 2008

11 across...

The advantage of Salvation Army uniform is that it draws questions. Kate and I rushed out at lunch time to Sainsbury's to get some food for the house. I went for the bread and was aware of the Sainsbury member of staff bearing down on me.

As our trolleys pass in the bread aisle he fires a broadside! "Salvation Army?"


"Do you mind if I ask you a question?"

I pump myself up. He's an older guy - perhaps wanting to find out more about how faith can impact his life; perhaps searching for something that has been missing in his life; perhaps some deep regret eating away at his sense of peace. I - resplendent in my uniform - am in the right place and the right time for him.

"Sure" I look expectantly.

"Who is the General of The Salvation Army?"

Not the question I was expecting - nevertheless I am able to give him the answer to 11 across in the crossword puzzle he was doing.

He goes away happy! Whistling.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Holiday reflections...

Had a good break in Devon - one major question that would not leave me - "is this August?"

Thoroughly enjoyed Dawlish Warren, Teignmouth and Shalden, the stainglass at Buckfast Abbey, playing on the dunes at Exmouth, cream teas in Dartmoor - meeting up with someone who really helped shape my mind at University - Professor Paul Cloke.

It was good to read and spend time with the family even though it rained 80-85% of the time!!

Whatever happened to the Augusts with sun?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Devon 2008

This year it is South Devon's turn to bear the brunt of the weather that follows us around when our tent comes out.

Our apologies to any with the misfortune to have booked the same two weeks as us!

Monday, August 04, 2008

The Essence of the Church (2)

The Church is...

Van Gelder suggests that to understand the essence of the church, there is a need to start with what 'the church is'; he connects this with an understanding of the kingdom.

"The understanding of the church must start with an understanding of the kingdom of God. More specifically, it must start with the announcement of the inauguration of God's redemptive reign in the person and presence of Jesus. The redemptive reign of God must serve as the foundation for defining the nature, ministry and organisation of the church. The church must find its core identity in relation to God's redemptive reign as introduced by Jesus in his announcement that the "kingdom of God has come near". (2000:74)
Van Gelder argues that any consequent understanding of church has 'profound implications for our understanding of the nature of the church'. Not only does such a core identity lend itself to a 'proper understanding of a missiological ecclesiology', but it can also help bring insight to some of the many problems unraveling within church life today.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Cameron's big dream...

I had not see Cameron before. Sitting with him it was soon obvious that Cameron was a highly intelligent guy. "My thing is Japanese, it all started when I couldn't sleep and I got watching an Open University programme on spoken Japanese"

As we are chatting one of the new volunteers at Faith House - a student studying theology at Durham - is having a conversation with one of the homeless guys about New Testament Greek which quickly draws Cameron's interest. Rolling a cigarette, hardly looking up Cameron complete's the Greek alphabet. With incredulity in his voice our new volunteer says "that's right!!".

Cameron just 30 had big dreams for his life, a talented sportsman, particularly football and Judo; who knows some of the dreams may have been realised had his mid teens not been a cocktail of wrong decisions. A life of drugs and violent crime landed Cameron in trouble and until six months ago his twenty's have known only prison.

As Cameron offered his story there is a sense of someone desperately wanting to make up for lost time - with the agenda to make something of his life. Inside - his agenda became of of education. Now free his first priority to keep active and away from past 'friends'. His second priority to complete a degree in Japanese at SOAS.

Faith House offers many things beyond fish finger sandwiches! That of being able to help people to articulate hope from hopelessness is one of the greatest consistent gifts it offers. I hope Cameron comes again.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (1)

I've read a lot of Nouwen's material - although I admit that the bulk being that of Nouwen quotes in other book. This year I have tried to read more Nouwen direct and I have to say that I have not been disappointed.

'Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life' in particular is a beautiful and challenging little book. Page after page of comforting yet disquieting insights as Nouwen leads us to become aware of 'different poles between which our lives vacillate and are held in tension'. Nouwen suggests that these poles can offer a context through which the spiritual life can be communicated and seen by anyone 'striving to live a life in the spirit of Jesus Christ'.
"The first polarity deals with our relationship to ourselves. It is the polarity between loneliness and solitude. The second polarity forms the basis of our relationship to others. This is the polarity between hostility and hospitality. The third , final and most important polarity structures our relationship with God. This is the polarity between illusion and prayer." (Nouwen 1998)
I don't want to forget the insights so I hope to summarise Nouwen's thoughts over the next few weeks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The question of evil... (3)

I think that this observation is significant and easily forgotten:
"The personified force of evil, “the satan” is important but not that important. It is wrong to think of the satan as “personal” in the same way that God or Jesus is “personal,” which is not to say that it is a vague or nebulous force. I use the term “subpersonal” as a way of refusing to accord the satan the full dignity of personhood while recognizing that the concentration of activity can and does strike us very much like that which we associate with personhood".
NT Wright (2006) Evil and the Justice of God

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Essence of the Church (1)

Reminiscent of the Hirsch and Frost's mantra 'Christology - Missiology - Ecclesiology', Van Gelder points out how important it is to maintain an understanding of the relationship of the 'nature - ministry and organisation' of church. The order has to be right when considering the development of a missiological ecclesiology...
"The church is.

The church does what it is.

The church organises what it does"

"In developing a more fully-orbed missiological ecclesiology, three aspects of church life must be defined and related to one another: what the church is - its nature; what the church does - its ministry; and how the church is to structure its work - its organisation. The interrelationship of the three aspects is clear. The church is. The church does what it is. The church organises what it does" (Van Gelder 2000:37)
Getting the order wrong can reduce the perspective of church from that of a unique community of God's people to that of merely a series of ministry functions administered designed to accomplish certain goals (2000:23).

Van Gelder's issue? Church has got to be more than that!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The gift of John...

"Worship has taken on a hybrid character made up of elements of pantomime, 'last night at the proms' and Jerry Springer!"

I watched the tear slowly roll down John's face and disappear into his unkempt beard. I listened to his story as alcoholic fumes engulf me; his yellowed eyes misty as he talks about his family that he is too embarrassed to visit. "I'm not well..."

John and his mate Danny have been coming to Nunhead SA for a couple of weeks and they are bringing colour to Sunday morning worship. Worship has taken on a hybrid character made up of elements of pantomime, 'last night at the proms' and Jerry Springer! There is a feeling of not what is going to be said next - John is very funny and his enthusiastic, inappropriate wit is what every church needs.

Stood talking to John, as he spilled his tea through his shakes, gave me a snap shot of his life. "I've done good things Gordon... but I'll always be remembered for the wrong things I have done.." I hope John keeps coming, he brings something to us all at Nunhead. I hope he comes long enough to discover that we see worth in him; I hope he comes long enough to see the worth within himself.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seeds of Exclusion

"The effects of social exclusion are often all too easy to see: family breakdown, poverty, poor health, addictive behaviour and homelessness.

The purpose of The Seeds of Exclusion, the fourth in a series of reports published by The Salvation Army, is to identify how patterns of early-life experience contain the seeds of later problems, and how The Salvation Army and others might tackle them."

TSA has published its latest report looking into issues of social fragmentation - it's called Seeds of Exclusion - you can read and download it here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The question of evil... (2)

C. S. Lewis famously suggested two errors when people thought and spoke about the devil.
  • That of imagining him or it as a being equal and opposite to God or to Jesus. The danger outlined is that of an excessive interest and expectation that a satanic influence and activity is behind every problem.
  • That of sneering and mocking the idea of the demonic. The comic caricature conjured from medieval art is probably the foundation of much of the embarrassed dumbing down of any talk of the demonic. NT Wright points to the irony that it was left-wing political theologians who reclaimed a theology of satan in the understanding of systematic failure as being evil.
Finding a position between the two extremes causes a tension that is worth exploring. I blame Constantine - he seems to get the blame for everything else!!!?

Wright, N.T (2003) The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Frank ... a miracle in progress...!

It comes to something when you need to go to the Dr. to get your toenails cut, because to cut your toenails constitutes a risk to life.

Frank is only 3 years older than me but looks like he is nearer 60. Drink in his life has taken its toll and he knows it. Frank is one of the miracles of Faith House, when he first arrived apparently he was all you would expect from an alcoholic whose life was drink and sleeping on the street.

I ask about his training ... "they stopped me in case I cut myself...!"

It comes to something when you need to go to the Dr. to get your toenails cut, because to cut your toenails constitutes a risk to life. I must have looked non-plussed as Frank tells me how his platelets have been decimated in his blood so that the simplest of cuts could have significant consequences.

"It's the drink Gordon, but I am so much better now, I've cut down from 12 to 2 everyday now..."

"12 to 2 cans Frank?"

"No ... litres!"

Frank is a miracle, a miracle in progress..!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Faith House Team...

These guys together with Christine and Estelle have become an important part of my community. Monday's at Faith House are important to me as is the time we share together.

Monday, July 14, 2008

the language of ordination...

It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet "I commission and ordain you..."

It seems interesting to me that within TSA we are keen to maintain a certain line that causes frequent periodic debate when it comes to our non-sacramental stand with regards to baptism and communion. Battle lines drawn between those that both argue that 'to' or 'not to' is essential to our essence of church.

I'm not sure if I have come across the same rigour of debate with similar issues. While the more contemporary sacramental debate seems more black and white - it is interesting that the whole emphasis of ordination of officers doesn't receive the same intensity of attention.

Recently as I watched the Commissioning of the latest session I was struck by how far our language has moved. It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet "I commission and ordain you..." (or words to that effect). It seems interesting to me that a choice of language to protect the kudos of officership with our ecclesiastical cousins has become so mainstream as to now even infer a supposed 'higher calling' of officership.

But no debate, no walk outs, no resignations, no battle lines, no edicts from International Headquarters, no articles, no letters looking at such an impact on SA views on the 'priesthood of all believers' . Nothing to question the language of ordination as it, like a cuckoo, surreptitiously kicks out the centrality of dedication. I might be missing something, but essentially any discussion here would share something of the same root as that within the well worn conversation around that of our sacramental position.

So why the lack of debate in one area and intensity in another?