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!!