Friday, December 28, 2012

Nouwen: reconciliation in us!

Amazing thoughts on reconciliation by Nouwen.

"When we are free from the need to judge or condemn, we can become safe places for people to meet in vulnerability and take down the walls that separate them. Being deeply rooted in the love of God, we cannot help but invite people to love one another. When people realise that we have no hidden agendas or unspoken intentions, that we are not trying to gain any profit for ourselves, and that our only desire is for peace and reconciliation, they may find the inner freedom and courage to leave their guns at the door and enter into conversation with their enemies."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The phone call...

The phone rang and I picked it up. The distressed voice was familiar, it wasn't long before I wished I hadn't picked up!

"I don't know what to do.... I don't know what to do .... please come I need help"

The distress grew ... on both ends of the phone.

"There is a terrible mess here and I just can't cope ... there's dog poo everywhere...!"

The growing realisation that I needed to go, equalled with a deep regret that I picked up the phone instead of Kate began to consume me. I looked appealingly as Kate heard my side of the conversation. "dog poo... everywhere ... mess on the bed ... can you wait till your support worker ... no ..."

"would it help if I came ...!" My voice almost whispering in hope that it wouldn't be heard.

The relief was palpable. I'm glad he heard!

I left with the full backing of Kate armed with rubber gloves, bacterial spray and a monster kitchen roll!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Please tell those strangers thank you!

There seems to be wrapping papers and gifts all around the hall wherever you look. Some donated by our Sunday worshipping community, but equally loads of gifts have been given from those we share with during the week. An army of wrappers await sthe mamouth wrap tonight. All caught up with the spirit of giving something, of doing something, for the unknown.

It is the narratives behind the wrapping paper that make the simple giving of a gift sacramental. The stories of mattresses on the floor without bed clothes, parents struggling with addictions while the children go without, stories that could be right next door behind the pretense of a tired holly wreath on the door.

Being a small part of giving while anonymous and distant felt immense last Sunday. A simple phrase used to relay thanks through the social services acute family need coordinator. "Please tell those strangers thank you!"

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Peaceable Kingdom...

Strange coincidence - we used John Hick's Peaceable Kingdom together with Isaiah 11 as a backdrop to explore the glory of God yesterday. Today Henri Nouwen's thoughts arrived in my inbox!

The Peaceable Kingdom

 All of creation belongs together in the arms of its Creator. The final vision is that not only will all men and women recognise that they are brothers and sisters called to live in unity but all members of God's creation will come together in complete harmony. Jesus the Christ came to realise that vision.

 Long before he was born, the prophet Isaiah saw it: The wolf will live with the lamb, the panther lie down with the kid, calf, lion and fat-stock beast together, with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear will graze, their young will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like the ox. The infant will play over the den of the adder; the baby will put his hand into the viper's lair. No hurt, no harm will be done on all my holy mountain, for the country will be full of knowledge of Yahweh as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)

We must keep this vision alive.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Letting the Love and Light Flow

Letting the Love and Light Flow Jean Vanier When we begin to discover and to drop the barriers and fears which prevent us from being ourselves and which prevent the life of the Holy Spirit from flowing through us, we become more simple. Simplicity is no more and no less than being ourselves, knowing that we are loved. It is knowing that we are accepted, with our qualities, our flaws and as we are in the depths of our being. Simplicity is letting the love and the light of God flow and shine through us. Source: Community and Growth Thanks Grinner, great quote!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday, November 23, 2012

Erasing the line...

I am currently enjoying the challenges of Miroslav Volf to engage in mission that sees our expression of love as a being 'Against the Tide'. Volf introduces what it is to erase the line that divides those with hope from those without hope as a means of securing justice. Sitting around and talking about it doesn't secure justice, actively erasing those lines is what mission is all about. First step look for the lines - where are they?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

How is my neighbour...

This looks like it will be well worth booking in for

How is my neighbour

@ The Salvation Army, Sutton

Across our communities trust is eroding, stress is increasing and inequality is on the up. How do we love our neighbours when we don’t know who or how they are? This day is to be the start of a conversation about how Christians can act creatively to increase the ‘livability’ of our communities.

 The day will include:

  •  Plenary session on a theology of Livable communities and rediscovering shalom in the 21st Century. 
  • 8 inspiring presentations on models of intervention to increase wellbeing in our communities. 
  • A 60 minute taster of Livability’s new Happiness Course for community groups 
  • An exciting and interactive exhibition of organizations with resources to help your work Creative networking opportunities throughout the day 
  • Tools for you to take away and utilise in your own context 


"How is my neighbour?" is a huge question and the title of a new conference led by Livability. With over 160 years experience working with disabled and disadvantaged people we see more than ever the need to really ask this question holistically in our communities. More than just asking the question though we need an integrated theology and strategic interventions rather than just random projects if we want to help local people bring about lasting community change. We have created this event to be a resource and would be delighted if you could join with us, help our learning and encourage a movement.

Please see below for the event blurb and booking information.

Let me know if you would like any further information. If this isn't for you or you can't make this particular event please FWD to someone else.

Thanks a lot, Adam

Adam Bonner Director of Community Mission
Livability 50 Scrutton Street London EC2A 4XQ
Tel: 020 7452 2017 Mobile: 07917 769003 Fax: 020 7452 2001
Web: www.communitymission.org.uk and www.livability.org.uk
Livability is the new face of John Grooms and the Shaftesbury Society

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jim Lepage

Thanks Mark for introducing me to Jim Lepage and Word Bible Designs.

A really useful resource, clever, insightful and beautiful!


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

#Fit4mission

"Christians particularly in the western world have for a long time been divided between "epistles people" and "gospels people". The epistles people have thought of Christianity primarily on terms of Jesus's death and resurrection saving us from our sins. The gospels people have thought in terms of following Jesus in feeding the Hungry, helping the poor, and so on the epistles people have often found it difficult to give a clear account of what was going on in jesus's kingdom announcement and his call to his followers to be perfect. The gospels people have often found it difficult to explain why the Jesus who was doing this had to die and die so soon. This either keeping does no justice to Jesus himself who through his death and resurrection was able to establish the kingdom he had already begun to inaugurate." Wright, N. T. (2010:96). Virtue reborn . London: Society for Promoting Christian

Monday, November 05, 2012

#fit4mission

"The Church as the body of Christ, as Christ living in the world, has a larger task than to support, nurture, and guide its own members. It is also called to be a witness for the love of God made visible in Jesus. Before his death Jesus prayed for his followers, "As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world" (John 17:18). Part of the essence of being the Church is being a living witness for Christ in the world." Henri Nouwen

Friday, November 02, 2012

‎”And suddenly, I looked at the bull...."


This has been floating around the internet for a while, whether true or not there is power in the picture and the words.

This photo supposedly* shows the collapse of Torrero Alvaro Munera, as he realized in the middle of the his last fight… the injustice to the animal. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights.

”And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer – because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven..."

* the real matador is supposedly Francisco Javier Sánchez Vara, while the words associated with it were supposedly written by Antonio Gala Velasco! (here)


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Focusing on the Poor...

A bit more Nouwen to chew over...

Like every human organization the Church is constantly in danger of corruption.  As soon as power and wealth come to the Church, manipulation, exploitation, misuse of influence, and outright corruption are not far away.   How do we prevent corruption in the Church? The answer is clear:  by focusing on the poor.

The poor make the Church faithful to its vocation.  When the Church is no longer a church for the poor, it loses its spiritual identity.  It gets caught up in disagreements, jealousy, power games, and pettiness.  Paul says,  "God has composed the body so that greater dignity is given to the parts which were without it, and so that there may not be disagreements inside the body but each part may be equally concerned for all the others" (1 Corinthians 12:24-25).  This is the true vision.  The poor are given to the Church so that the Church as the body of Christ can be and remain a place of mutual concern, love, and peace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loving the Church ....

Some obvious and challenging words from Henri Nouwen

"Loving the Church often seems close to impossible. Still, we must keep reminding ourselves that all people in the Church - whether powerful or powerless, conservative or progressive, tolerant or fanatic - belong to that long line of witnesses moving through this valley of tears, singing songs of praise and thanksgiving, listening to the voice of their Lord, and eating together from the bread that keeps multiplying as it is shared. When we remember that, we may be able to say, "I love the Church, and I am glad to belong to it."

Loving the Church is our sacred duty. Without a true love for the Church, we cannot live in it in joy and peace. And without a true love for the Church, we cannot call people to it."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Buechner on Time

"We tend to think of time as progression, as moment flowing moment, day following day, in relentless flow, the kind of time a clock or calendar can measure. But we experience time also as depth, as having quality and well as quantity - a good time, a dangerous time, an auspicious time, a time we mark not by its duration but by its content." Buechner, F (2005:38ff) Faces of Jesus

Life everlasting... fullness of life... salvation...?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

William Booth Speaks

With a growing emphasis coming our way on being fit for mission, I thought the video highlighting the words of William Booth were apposite! Making heaven on earth is our business! Probably a good place to start.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AA0pCYKGbYI&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Nice spot Jonny!

Friday, October 05, 2012

Religious Blunder...

"One of the blunders religious people are particularly fond of making is the attempt to be more spiritual than God..."

Buechner, F. (1973:43) Wishful Thinking. Harper & Row

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Royal Ballet School End of Year Defile 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkvRIuslOMc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Eryn's end of school performance at the opera house - blink and you miss her, actually don't blink and you'll miss her anyway. But for the eagle eyes, she is far left as you look at the stage with about 15 secs to go. Also she is in the first section in pink! Trombones particularly notable throughout!

New Understanding of Mission...!

'WCC statement invokes new understanding of mission...'

Whether it is a new understanding is open for debate, it seems to me that it is more a realignment to what we should see as God's mission as incarnated in the life, message and motive of Christ. It is exciting to see a unified move towards understanding mission and perhaps away from the layers of interpenetration that have built up over the centuries.

Some interesting points and affirmations in quite a extended document, here are some edited highlights!
  • A denial of life is a rejection of the God of life. God invites us into the life-giving mission of the Triune God and empowers us to bear witness to the vision of abundant life for all in the new heaven and earth.
  • The church is a gift of God to the world for its transformation towards the kingdom of God. Its mission is to bring new life and announce the loving presence of God in our world.
  • Life in the Holy Spirit is the essence of mission, the core of why we do what we do, and how we live our lives. Spirituality gives deepest meaning to our lives and motivates our actions.
  • God did not send the Son for the salvation of humanity alone or give us a partial salvation. Rather the gospel is the good news for every part of creation and every aspect of our life and society.
  • Evangelism is a confident but humble sharing of our faith and conviction with other people. Such sharing is a gift to others which announces the love, grace and mercy of God in Christ.

Read more here

Friday, September 28, 2012

Moving on from self... Lessons in prayer.


Each section of Howatch's Glamorous Powers has an interesting thought from a W.R. Inge the one time dean of St. Paul's (1911-1934). He makes the connection that prayer and meditation is 'contact with a spiritual reality which is not a projection of their own thought and will'

This is quite a challenge to a prayer life that is insular and motivated by self.  So stuck at a level crossing while waiting for 5 trains to pass through, the thoughts in my head this morning at 7:15 while rushing to The Royal Ballet School, were less a prayer and more a projection of my selfishness!

Your will be done - seems to be the secret!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Painful journey to our true self...!

'...that's what you want me to think, isn't it? That's what you want everyone to think. But why are you going to such lengths to create an identity which I suspect is a grossly exaggerated distortion of your true self?' 

Susan Howatch gets Jon Darrow to ask Miss Fielding a foundational spiritual formation question in her novel 'Glamorous Powers'. What an observation and insight to personality!

 'But why...?'  a painful question but full of momentum for those desiring growth!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The bible carrier...

His accent was thick, lyrical and Irish. His conversation a helpful distraction in a long day of collecting at Victoria, and memorable because I'd never met a bible carrier before.

"I carry bibles, in fact I train people to carry bibles" I'm impressed, he looks like he takes carrying bibles really seriously. His trousers are specially adapted and now I'm looking there are bibles protruding pretty much from everywhere.

"I've 80 on me now"

"80 - wow, you are well covered then!"

He smiles from under his two rucksacks "I guess I am"

As he walks off I couldn't help think my new bible carrying friend was a little heavy ladened!

I get back to collecting - and soon notice he is making the effort to return. "I forgot to show you my solar powered bible" he shouts Loud enough for most to hear and look.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

From the Guardian: The trouble with atheists: a defence of faith

I thought you might be interested in this link from the Guardian: The trouble with atheists: a defence of faith - http://gu.com/p/3a4am/em

Thanks Paul for the heads up.

His argument could amount to feeling which is not too strong, although it did start me thinking about the dangers of trying to understand God in our image which of course is so easily caricatured!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Thank You Card...

I'm working up some ideas in James 2:1-17 for next week, and find myself looking at the strength of 'love your neighbour as yourself'.

There's a bright pink card on the desk addressed to everyone at The Salvation Army. It simply says thank you on the outside, on the inside more profoundly it says 'I'd been lost without your help and support'. Half an hour ago a friendly face popped his head around the office door. 'Just checking you got the card...'

He explains what it was to be homeless in Sutton and what it was to be loved by SuttonSA. He explains that at his loneliest and most vulnerable the doors were open with a smile, support and interest. He explains how life is on the up and that he now has hope. He leaves saying he'll be back in on Monday to say hello!

In my experience a thank you card in these circumstances is rare. I watch him cross the road and walk towards the town, grateful for the interruption.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The power of choice...!

I came across this quote and used it on Sunday... "The original selves  which we were born with, and which I believe we continue in some measure to be no matter what, are selves which still echo with the holiness of their origin. I believe that what Genesis suggests is that this original self, with the print of God's thumb still upon it, is the most essential part of who we are and is buried deep in all of us as a source of wisdom and strength and healing which we can draw upon or, with our terrible freedom, not draw upon as we choose."       Buechner F. (1991) Telling Secrets. Harper and Row 44-45

Monday, August 13, 2012

Unspectacular true love for others...

I'm finding the words of Nouwen helpful that are coming through the daily email you can sign up to. Really insightful thoughts about ordinariness, hiddenness, intimacy and true love for others.

"Jesus' hidden life is very important in our own spiritual journeys. If we want to follow Jesus words and deeds in the service of His kingdom we must first of all strive to follow Jesus in his simple, unspectacular, and very ordinary hidden life...

...It is in hiddenness that we can find a true intimacy with God and a true love for people.
Even during his active ministry, Jesus continued to return to hidden places to be alone with God. If we don't have a hidden life with God, our public life for God cannot bear fruit...."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Supporting a tree into full treeness...!

Outside the class room that we taught Spiritual Formation for six years a tree was planted and I was struck by the obvious and the irony.

The conditions for growth maintained and nurtured for a young tree that will continue in growth as its roots go deep. The stage of growth requires careful staking out, to support when it would be buffeted by wind and rain, ironically strengthening the roots and its treeness!

Perhaps the least obvious is the most important, the rubber binding that allows for some give in the strongest of winds. The temptation would be be to go with something a little more rigid and seemingly strong, the comfort perhaps of a plastic tie.
 
But that rigidness would just cut, choke and deform the beauty of potential.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

Installed...!

We were installed yesterday as the leaders of Sutton SA Church, so we had our installation, a strange concept but oddly comforting. Like starting a new paragraph, or that great feeling at school of starting a new exercise book! Probably not comparable to the excitement of having the Virginmedia van turn up outside your new house in install fibre optic broadband!! but nevertheless, I hope as significant as a marker, a covenant of intent before the church.

In response to the installation, I pulled out a quote that I re-visit frequently


"Kingdom people seek first the kingdom of God and its justice; 
Church people often put church work above the concerns of justice, mercy and truth.
Church people think about how to get people into the church;
Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world.
Church people worry that the world might change the church; 
Kingdom people work to see the church change the world" (Howard Snyder). 


If we were to be anything less would need a re-installation!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Opening Ceremony Sutton SA style...

'So we can just come in can we ... and eat ... for free?' a young couple ask me as I watch a game of Kubb develop outside Sutton SA. '...what is this place?' says another as someone runs to get a pen, that was all he came in for. Sutton SA's 'opening ceremony festival' was, in the words of WWW creator, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, 'for everyone'. Chatting, while the barbecues prepared food, an ever growing number of people streamed through the open doors. 

As brilliant and spectacular as the Olympic opening ceremony undoubtedly was, as Kate and I start a new chapter in ministry, there was another opening ceremony. As I watched, felt and tasted the fellowship that Sutton SA represents, the significance of the moment was not lost on me! We could do without the fireworks! but let the games begin!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

compassion ... dignity ... love

"Every day, I wonder: how did I survive? I don't know the answer, but I do know that the message that saved my life is the message that can save millions of lives if we put it into practice: everyone deserves compassion and dignity and everyone deserves love"

Elton John

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/elton-john-science-can-stop-aids-but-to-end-the-plague-we-need-love-7966167.html

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

3 Fish....and the political microcosm that is my water feature

After the general election I bought three fish for my water feature in the garden. Today as I emptied my dolly tub I thought of Miliband, Cameron and Clegg.

Ed didn't last long at all, in fact he came to a sticky end at the hands or beak of a magpie, decapitated! The coalition lived on, until a couple of months ago, surviving the worst of winter, I found Cameron dead in the water.

Today, I emptied the dolly tub of it's murky green water ready to move to Sutton. Half the water gone I looked for the sole survivor, no sign. I get to the last of the water, with net at hand, still no sign. With the tub completely emptied, I realised that Clegg was no where to be seen. Gone without a trace. He should've been there but he wasn't. Completely disappeared, for how long no one knows, all we know is that he wasn't missed until the tub was empty.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

#I'llWrite...

"It's a different kind of corps officership now!" I'm not sure I like the masochistic sparkle in fellow officers eyes as they talk, with a strange seense of glee,about how closeted college life must have been for us away from the rigours of the 'real' world and the weight of administration to wade through. (of course we would sit and do very little while waiting for a bit of classroom activity!)

Well in anticipation this came to mind!

While there are accounts to keep as there are now - I'll write
While there are never ending inventories as there are now - I'll write.
While rolls are to be kept up to date, in and out in and out as there are now - I'll write.
While there is health and hygiene, procedural requirements to be kept
While there remains one last incomplete return.
I'll write - I'll write to the very end.

#I'llwrite

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dealing with criticism....

I've been clearing out old emails and came across this rather challenging piece of correspondence from a high profile Christian author. I post this, probably unwisely, only as a means of parking the challenge on my blog for future personal reference and not on-going debate. While not written in a UK context, I look at the insight and as with any criticism I ask is there truth in it? And what do I do with it? Clearly the rather large Christian personality had a bad week of retreat and felt he was shouting in the dark, but for my own reflection I want it to remain a personal challenge.

:: as an officer it is very easy to slip into corporate criticism and misery
:: as an officer it is very easy to see your own spiritual formation as one more thing to fit in
:: as an officer it is very easy to see mission as one more thing to do
:: as an officer it is very easy to forge out an identity through ticking boxes

As a statement of intent - I can't and won't let that happen to me!



»May I write candidly? As much as I admire & love the SA I often feel as if my times on officer retreats are unsatisfying.

Within the past 2 weeks I was with a divisional group. I sense an overwhelming despair from many officers. The older ones can't wait to retire. The younger feel inundated with busyness, systems, & resistance to innovation. Talk about a vital interior life is frustrating because there simply is no time. Talk about deep personal relationships is spurned because no one stays long enough in any one place to make friends with anyone but other officers. This often seems to result in people who can talk SA business but who are awkward in talking to outsiders on a casual basis.

My most recent experience is a case in point. I sat at a dinner table with 3 top officer couples who spent the entire hour talking about the health issues of other officers & never once engaged with me about anything. To their credit there were some excellent questions when I opened sessions to feedback. But almost every question was reflective of the collective frustration: "we're going 7 days a week & can't do 1 more thing.".

So if you & I do something together down the line, please know that I struggle to believe anyone is really listening & ready to change. As innovative as the SA seems to be in its larger world activities, it seems to be unchangable in its inter-organizational structure. This said by one the SA's most enthusiastic supporters«

Monday, July 09, 2012

The life cycle of faith – stages of spiritual development...

College has been a great 9 years of resourcing regarding both mission and spiritual formation, not least regarding the concept of faith development. The development of abstract thinking in all areas of adulthood but religion seems odd if not a little dangerous and so it has been good to explore these concepts with staff and cadets while at college.

Good friend and successor David Alton shared this resource with me. Here's a snippet:

"Faith – like life – is a journey of growth, development, becoming. It involves change, movement, loss and gain. A number of phases or stages of the faith journey can be identified, mirroring the stages of human psychological development from infant to adult, or (staying with the cocoon/chrysalis metaphor) with the stages of a butterfly’s life cycle."

(more here)




Wednesday, July 04, 2012

'Spending Time in Colossians 3:1-17'

I always enjoy the space that St Catherine's Foundation, Limehouse offers. We were there for a retreat day on Sunday with the second year cadets about to be commissioned, and as usual I slipped in a reflective exercise for me! 'Spending Time in Colossians 3:1-17'

Sounds a bit dry but I quite like the practice of paraphrasing. Spending time, making sense of a piece of biblical literature, for you, for now can be really helpful. So each year the retreat day has been the culmination of a years thinking. Anyway it does me good!

"It is possible! Desire the selfless life of Christ, who is God, keep thinking of that as an alternative to the selfishness of the world. Remember that way of life in you is no more, because you are to be found in your desire. The essence of God in you, is in your living and is your salvation.

Selfish desires need to be isolated, for they have become your God. This displacement of how you are intended to be is unsustainable and is not the plan of God, ensure such attributes of selfishness do not eclipse the essence of God in you.

As you continue to grow from your desire, more of God will be recognised in you, no domination, deceit or discrimination, only God as seen in what it is to be fully human through Christ.

The consequence is this, the essence of God will be known in and through you by the evidence of his attributes in you. From your desire for Christlikeness flows compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness, all making sense through the completeness of love. That is what it is to be hidden with Christ in God - wholeness.

May your desire for the completeness of Christ  dominate your relationships with others. Be grateful as you demonstrate and teach one another what it is to embrace the message of Christ."

(Colossians 3:1-17 with apologies to Paul!)

Monday, July 02, 2012

What if....

Living below the line week made me think, I had a 'what if' moment that I have just passed on to International Development of TSA.

Imagine being at the checkout of the supermarket and instead of there being chocolates and old films on DVD for £3, there was the chance to pick up a card that represents a meal for a family in the developing world. Would you pick it up and hand it to the cashier to scan, knowing that to add £2.50 to your weekly shop could keep a family nourished where life is not as straight forward when it comes to food?

What if a supermarket offered to contribute of its profits to match your donation to really capture the spirit of 'every little helps' that really would be 'trying something new'. Perhaps that card could feed two families.

Well that was my idea that is probably already failed somewhere else in the world!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Spirituality and Spiritual Formation

A thought that occurred to me at the end of teaching spirituality and spiritual formation for six years!

Spirituality is about discovering the implications of what it means that we are made in the image of God, spiritual formation is about discovering the implications of when we think God is made in our image!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Of Gods and Men...


This is a film that I know I'll watch again.

A true and moving story of the monks living, working and praying at The Monastery Notre-Dame de l'Atlas of Tibhirine. Rather than run from the threat of Civil War and terroism they stayed loyal to their simple life of service to the poor community they lovingly served.

I don't want to spoil the film for anyone but be certain to follow the narrative - nothing is wasted, every sentence seems to be there for a reason.

Here's an example of a a monk reading at a meal as the other monks ate.


"Accepting our powerlessness and our extreme poverty is an invitation, an urgent appeal to create with others relationships not based on power. Recognizing my weaknesses, I accept those of others. I can bear them, make them mine in imitation of Christ.
Such an attitude transforms us for our mission. Weakness in itself is not a virtue, but the expression of a fundamental reality which must constantly be refashioned by faith, hope and love.


The apostles’ weakness is like Christ’s, rooted in the mystery of Easter and the strength of the spirit. It is neither passivity nor resignation. It requires great courage and incites one to defend justice and truth and to denounce the temptation of force and power.


End of Article....


...New Article – By Carlo Carretto, “The God Who is Coming”


Often throughout my life I’ve wondered how God could act so strangely. Why does he stay silent so long? Why is faith so bitter?"


Study guides also available - here
Great Film.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Harry Hole in The Redeemer...

"My point is that you soon become lonely if you want to use your own brain to find answers" (Jo Nesbo)

pp 343

The pain of individuation....!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Frederick Buechner on Faith Development...

We're looking at faith development today and I came across this interesting quote which I wanted to jot down somewhere.

"Almighty God, are you true...When you are standing up to your neck in darkness, how do you say yes to that question? You say yes, I suppose, the only way faith can ever say it if it is honest with itself. You say yes with your fingers crossed..."

Frederick Buechner, Clown in the Belfry pp 124

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Leveson Inquiry: We're in this together!

Finding this all very intriguing!

A useful what's been said, what you need to know article in the IoS.

The Leveson Inquiry: We're in this together!

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/the-leveson-inquiry-were-in-this-together-7856654.html

------Sent from The Independent


Sent from my iPad

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lost Lyrics - Peace in our time

Familiarity hopefully has not bred contempt with the words of SASB 827 penned by John Oxenham (1852-1941). Singing them while reflecting on the concept of shalom and how it underpins a way of life refered to as kingdom, brings this great hymn to life. Singing them while reflecting upon how we can make others a priority in life is challenging. Seems to me this song, while the language a little old, grasps something of the significance of relationship as to how the world could be a better place through us all.

Peace in our time, O Lord,
To all the peoples - peace!
Peace surely based upon thy will
And built in righteousness.
Thy power alone can break
The fetters that enchain
The sorely stricken soul of life,
And make it live again.

Too long mistrust and fear
Have held our souls in thrall;
Sweep through the earth, keen Breath of Heaven,
And sound a nobler call!
Come, as thou didst of old,
In love so great that men
Shall cast aside all other gods
And turn to thee again.

O shall we never learn
The truth all time has taught,
That without God as architect Our building comes to naught?
Lord, help us, and inspire
Our hearts and lives that we
May build, with all thy wondrous gifts,
A Kingdom meet for thee.

Peace in our time,
O Lord, To all the peoples - peace!
Peace that shall build a glad new world,
And make for life's increase.
O living Christ, who still Dost all our burdens share,
Come now and dwell within the hearts
Of all men everywhere.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Picture to treasure...

Bethan, nephew Dave and I pictured with the Champions League and FA Cup winners 2012 - proud moment for us all!


I don't know if you can spot us by the steward next to the passenger side wing mirror!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sushi Assessment...

It is always a little sad to drop Eryn off back at school, but today there was a distraction .... sushi training. I'm relieved to say I have passed my sushi making assessment and now have a proud part to play in The Royal Ballet School Summer Fayre sushi stall.

I discovered that I was too tall for a kimono, but in the spirit of cross cultural relationships, remained stoic as an elderly lady gingerly did up my flies on another Japanese style of clothing I'm required to wear! I was alright though as I was assured she is a licensed fitter ... her fly handling was quite exceptional!

Oysters in Whitstable...

When in Whitstable one thing that is a must, is an oyster,
here's me trying to be all very Jamie Oliver...

but in reality being more of a '7 year old 'er I don't like it!'

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Shock report: cuts to have a 'catastrophic' effect on child poverty

From The Independent:

Shock report: cuts to have a 'catastrophic' effect on child poverty
Andrew Grice

The Government's spending cuts will have a "catastrophic" effect on British children, a UN agency has warned, endangering their future health, education and employment.

Click HERE to view graphic

Labour's success in cutting the number of children growing up in poverty could be reversed, according to Unicef. Britain did better than many other rich countries in protecting children from deprivation after the financial crisis erupted in 2008, Unicef said in its annual "report card" on 35 developed nations. But it warned that the Coalition's cuts to tax credits and freeze on child benefit will reverse this progress.

"We know that the number of children living in poverty in the UK is set to increase due to spending cuts," said David Bull, the executive director of Unicef UK. "This will be a catastrophic blow to the futures of thousands of children, putting at risk their future health, education and chances of employment.

"One thing is clear: government policies to tackle the deficit must not harm children. There is only one chance at childhood – we cannot see a generation, growing up in austerity, denied the chance to fulfil their potential."



http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/shock-report-cuts-to-have-a-catastrophic-effect-on-child-poverty-7801016.html


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/shock-report-cuts-to-have-a-catastrophic-effect-on-child-poverty-7801016.html



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dominoes with Dave...

You got to love playing dominoes with Dave. A faithful at Faith House's drop in at Chalk Farm Salvation Army. His hands are black with life on the street as he carefully shields his stack of dominoes. His toothless smile and utter joy of winning is infectious. We play for half an hour and pretty much spend all our time laughing together. Nothing profound is shared only laughter and the deepened of shared experience. It is great to share together in laughter!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

What if anything have you or I done to do battle against the great darkness of things? Writes Buechner.

What if anything have you or I done to do battle against the great darkness of things? Writes Buechner.

What have we sacrificed of our own sweet selves to help and heal? Put on light like a garment, like a uniform. That is the place to stop and think - think back, think ahead, think deep. It is the place to start and be. (Clown in the Belfry p. 126)

Fitting words for waiting to go to the Salvation Army 'I'll Fight' conference to do some thinking.


Sent from my iPod

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Mother Teresa's Missional Prayer...

"The purpose of God is not to answer our prayers, but by our prayers we come to discern the mind of God..."  Oswald Chamber

With that in mind Mother Teresa's prayer is missional dynamite!


Dear Jesus, 

Help us to spread Your fragrance everywhere we go. 
Flood our souls with your spirit and life. 
Penetrate and possess our whole being so utterly that our lives may only be a radiance of Yours 
Shine through us, and be so in us that every soul we come in contact with may feel your presence in our souls. 
Let them look up and see no longer us, but only Jesus! 
Stay with us, and then we shall shine as you shine;so to shine as to be a light to others. 
The light, O Jesus will be all from you, none of it will be ours; 
it will be You shining on others through us. 
Let us preach You without preaching, not by words but by our example, by the catching force, the sympathetic influence of what we do, the evident fullness of the love our hearts bear to you.
Amen 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

Living beyond blame or praise...

I'm loving the thoughts, stimulated by Nouwen, of living not influenced by human blame or praise to reflect the compassion of Jesus.

Jesus is called Emmanuel which means "God-with-us" (see Matthew 1: 22-23). The great paradox of Jesus' life is that he, whose words and actions are in no way influenced by human blame or praise but are completely dependent on God's will, is more "with" us than any other human being. Jesus' compassion, his deep feeling-with us, is possible because his life is guided not by human respect but only by the love of his heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus is free to love us because he is not dependent on our love.
Mission and formation shaped by this fullness of life would be an amazing reflection of John 10:10

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lost Lyrics - Dear Lord, I Do Surrender

We sang the first and last verse of this song last week and the relationship between mission and spiritual formation jumped out at me from between the antiquated prose!


Dear Lord, I do surrender

Myself, my all, to thee;
My time, my store, my talents,
So long withheld by me.
I've heard the call for workers.
The world's great need I see,
O send me to the rescue,
I'm here, my Lord, send me!

Chorus

Here am I, my Lord, send me,
Here am I, my Lord, send me,
I surrender all to obey thy call,
Here am I, my Lord, send me.

O hear, thou God of Heaven,
The vows that now I make!
To thee my life is given,
'Tis for the lost world's sake.
To serve thee I am ready,
Though friends and foes despise,
I now present my body
A living sacrifice.

W. Walker

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

William Booth on self giving love....

"The old fashioned dying love which God alone can inspire must be there or all is in vain. Without that love no organisation that man can devise will ever accomplish anything. But with that love anyone of you who will devote himself to this Gods purpose may become in Gods hands a power for the salvation of the world..."

Friday, March 16, 2012

A holiness to be lived out in mission...

From TSA's Handbook of Doctrine

The holy life is expressed through a healing, life-giving and loving ministry. It is the life of Christ which we live out in mission. God sanctifies his people not only in order that they will be marked by his character, but also in order that the world will be marked by that character. God changes the structures of society through a variety of means, but he changes them through the mission of his sanctified people, empowered and gifted by his Holy Spirit. The mission of God’s holy people encompasses evangelism, service and social action. It is the holy love of God, expressed in the heart and life of his people, pointing the world to Christ, inviting the world to saving grace, serving the world with Christ’s compassion and attacking social evils. Holiness leads to mission

(The Salvation Army, 2010: 198).

Monday, March 05, 2012

Frederick Buechner on Kingdom...

"If only we has eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand, we would know that the Kingdom of God in the sense of holiness, goodness, beauty is as close as breathing and is crying out to be born within ourselves and within the world... The kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers. We glimpse it at those moments when we find ourselves being better than we are and wiser than we know ... The kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realise it or not, I think we are all homesick for it."

Buechner, F. (1992). The clown in the belfry: writings on faith and fiction. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.  152 ff

Saturday, March 03, 2012

One Day Conference - Chris Wright

This has the makings of a good day. If you are interested let me know and I'll add you to the list.

Friday, March 02, 2012

The Shape of Things to Come?

“The biblical fact,” Eugene Peterson points out in his book ‘Working the angles: the shape of pastoral integrity’, “is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God.” (1987:2)

The shape of training college programmes in the future may be many things; but a curriculum not fully dedicated to developing spirit filled leadership that maintains attentiveness to God, is a curriculum pulled out of shape. The Form of training was an important area for discussion for the European Training Leaders Network and followed on from the discussions of Essence, and then the Function of training. If the function of training is that of developing mature leaders capable of embracing the tension of innovation while maintaining the integrity of Salvation Army ministry, what do our colleges need to look like? What form should training curriculums take?

Spiritual Leadership

As contemporary leadership training is increasingly applied in the church context, to avoid growing confusion, a significant question is “what is a spiritual leader?” Spiritual leadership is more than being equipped with corporate motivational tools, in that it is a leadership that guides, feeds and nourishes; nurtures, heals and brings reconciliation, it is a leadership that steps out and away from a drive for efficiency and profit and the inner desires that seek relevance, popularity and power.
College training programmes require intentionality to appropriate a maturity of leadership that envisions and guides communities to attentiveness and responsiveness to what God is creating and doing. Urban Holmes in his book ‘Spirituality for Ministry’ identifies ‘the three D's’ that combine to create the right environment for this maturity, ‘Detachment’ from self; ‘Discretion’ of motivation; and ‘Discernment’ of action. The continued establishment of these right conditions for growth within training programmes is important if training programmes are to continue to function towards the training of mature integrated leaders.
The Dignity of Leadership

When considering the shape of things to come, the form of spiritual leadership training needs to embody the dignity of spiritual leadership. For that dignity to remain intact, through a sustained and meaningful ministry, there is a responsibility to build curricula that develops ‘thinking’ and not ‘thoughtless’ officers; that creates the right conditions for personal and spiritual maturity and also encourages engagement with kingdom centred mission.
This dignity reflects the thinking of Catherine Booth’s sentiment for heart, head and hand training or as I heard Moltmann once acknowledge, the need for orthodoxy (right thinking), orthopathy (right being) and orthopraxy (right doing). Cadet lecture notes from 1940 would indicate that this is not particularly new, with the most important part of training seen as the formation of ‘personal religion and character’ in terms of spiritual experience, necessary education and actual work on the field. The need remains the same for Salvation Army spiritual leaders mature in their being, thinking and doing.

Maturity of Thinking (Orthodoxy)

Cadets in 1940 were warned, “you must be at least up to the level of the people to whom you will go: you cannot teach others unless you yourselves are taught”. This sentiment would seem foundational in the work of Grenz and Olsen who, in their book ‘Who needs theology? An invitation to the study of God’, identify a spectrum of theological thinking, as minds organise thoughts and beliefs. Training has a responsibility to nurture a learning environment that encourages a move away from lazy and clichéd theological thought, to coherence that will contribute to a sustained and meaningful ministry. Grenz and Olsen identify, as a necessary part of any maturing thought process, the need to: “…identify and expunge blatant contradictions, and make sure that there are good reasons for interpreting Christian faith in the way we do"(pp25).

Maturity of Being (Orthopathy)

Spiritual leaders need a strong sense of self, not only in terms of personality but also in terms of what is termed Faith Development. Fowler in his landmark book Stages of Faith illustrates the various milestones an individual will encounter as they mature in faith. The recognition that spirituality matures, has long been recognised as an important area of spiritual direction, and represents a stream of consciousness reflective of the process of coming to wholeness which reaches back to the Cappadocian’s and early church fathers.

The maturing of faith represents what Fowler suggests is a dynamic progression and way of living, rather than merely something you have or do not have. The development of faith is discovering union with God and encountering what it is to be fully human living in the design and plan of God. Throughout his book ‘Chrysalis’ Alan Jamieson points out that this maturing of our faith is a process through which we are ‘fashioned, shaped and prepared for use' as the instruments in the purposes of God. Mature leaders are inspired; their perception of self reflects their understanding of what it is, through the Holy Spirit, to not only grow into the fullness of Christ, but also identify that which ‘hinders’.

Maturity of Doing (Orthopraxy)

The dignity of leadership is complete with a maturity of doing as spiritual leaders incarnate or embody God’s purposes in mission. A mature understanding of mission is therefore an inevitable requirement of the spiritual leader whose ministry is to be meaningful and sustained. A maturity of doing moves away from potential dualistic thinking, and will focus on Jesus as the means of understanding a Trinitarian model of mission. Any suggestion that loving God is spiritual, while loving neighbours is material is undermined; the false dichotomy that fractures the Great Command is closed to make sense of the Great Commission. A mature orthopraxy will embrace Jesus’ comprehensive missional message, motive and life through a complete recognition and agreement with Lesslie Newbigin that “we are not authorised to do it any other way.”

Maturity in mission not only needs initial ascent of thought and action that engages with the breadth of missional theology; but it also requires ongoing theological reflection that maintains the primacy of Christ’s mission through the church in God’s world. Reflective leaders are able to use tools of theological reflection to identify where mission is being pulled out of shape, in other words where mission stops being Christ shaped.

Conclusion

This series looking at the ‘essence, function and form’ of training has covered much ground. From the discussion of essence and the challenge to embrace and facilitate a creative tension; through an exploration of expectations and the acknowledgement that function flows from essence not form. It is from here that this discussion of form, or the shape, of training college programmes has emerged.

Training colleges need to be shaped to develop leaders who demonstrate good emotional health through knowing ‘who and whose they are’; training colleges need to be shaped to develop thinking and not thoughtless leaders and finally training colleges need to be shaped to develop a maturity of leadership that culminates in action with missional clarity. This is Chrysostom’s one thing that counts, ‘excellence of character’, and this is what Catherine Booth gets us to think about when she asks:

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

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

“Functioning Beyond Expectations…”

(*This is a summary of an original paper written with Lt-Col Karen Shakespeare)

The loss of identity can be tragic as it can be dramatic; the raw material of rip-roaring novels and films as characters such as Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne rediscover who and what they are. Their lives an edge of the seat odyssey of recovery of self, worthy of a trip to the cinema! The challenge for church, says van Gelder , is to maintain its identity through first understanding its essence, ‘what it is’ (our message), it is then that the church can understand its function, ‘what it does’ (our part in God’s mission), then helping the church fully appreciate its identity or form, ‘how it organises itself’ (as one army).In other words, to avoid an identity crisis, the order is significant, the form of church is directed by what the church does in response to what it is called to be.

The first paper in this series argued that training for a future generation needed to be secure in the essence of The Salvation Army; the function that follows should be that of developing leaders as conversant with contemporary mission and ministry as they are with the prophetic voice of The Salvation Army. The underlying question for this second article is from what direction do we approach this function? Various expectations of function offer insight to whether the development of leaders is shaped by the essence, or form of The Salvation Army?

Historical Expectations

 
In the earliest years of The Salvation Army, leadership roles were defined purely in terms of function and seniority, no formal training was offered at any level, in fact theological training was regarded with fear, ‘the only thing we care to teach as to theological questions is, that they are to be avoided as much as possible’. Training was marked by impatience, with leaders more focused upon doing mission than training for it,

This activist tendency was balanced by the more reflective perspective of Bramwell Booth, who later wrote ‘it is perhaps less in the external activities of the War that the best work of the Training Home is accomplished than in the character-building that is done there’. The essential importance of the spiritual life grew in significance. The training curriculum was set by William and Bramwell Booth who ‘saw that the stability of the movement must largely depend upon the integrity, zeal and capacity of its leaders’. From 1903 until the introduction of the two year course in 1960 the pattern of training in the UK remained constant; spiritual formation and the development of practical skills were supplemented by academic studies which remedied ‘glaring defects in their education’.

Direct Expectations

Orders and Regulations for Officers (1997) state direct priorities for the general requirements for officership. These are based on a divine call, Godly living and devotion without reserve to the purpose for which The Salvation Army exists. Orders and Regulations for Training call for the development of an appropriate education programme and practical experience which includes ‘vision kindled, character strengthened, spiritual growth enlarged and, above all, love for souls deepened’. In these official documents motivation for mission is embedded firmly in the spiritual life; training is designed to be reflective of this priority and focused upon the missional essence of the Army.

While to see the Officer’s Covenant as an expectation would be to reduce what has been of great significance to that of a contractual requirement. There is directness in perhaps what is better seen as its influence. Framed certificates on the walls of offices and quarters around the world do not serve as a tick list reminder, but more of an assurance as to the direction of God’s calling. The Officer’s Covenant remains a covenant, not a contract and in that it represents essence. Therefore within training it is important to make sense of the Officer’s Covenant for ministry sustained through conviction rather than a self will.

Indirect Expectations

Sound bites have often shaped thinking within The Salvation Army. Easily adopted and assimilated, short bursts of rhetoric have an impact on both thinking and practice. These indirect expectations can be mostly helpful. General John Gowans’ ‘save souls, grow saints, and serve suffering humanity’ is a phrase that has helpful influence. While not representing a direct expectation on training, indirect influence can be seen. This ‘Gowansism’ is a good example of how sound bites are easily adopted into current thinking shaping expectations of training in a positive manner.

Interesting snapshots of the expectations of international leadership can be seen in such events such as the International Conference of Leaders. The 2009 Spiritual Statement in particular, that International Leaders signed as an act of personal recommitment and rededication revealed helpful expectations. While remaining indirect these were generally significant in that, they either represent ‘doing’ in terms of mission, ‘being’ in the sense of spiritual and personal development and ‘thinking’ regarding the necessity of understanding. The indirect expectation upon Training College programmes is that officers should be prepared to build for God’s Kingdom here on earth, committed to living out the attributes of God in such a way that all people are brought under the reign of God as a matter of urgency. This will require leaders of maturity and integrity with an ever-deepening commitment to personal transformation in Christ, together with insight and understanding to meet the challenges of the modern world and its societal trends.

Other specific organisational developments reveal the focus and direction of recent international leadership. The establishing of The International Social Justice Commission and the renamed International College for Officers and Centre for Spiritual Life Development are two contemporary examples showing an expectation towards issues of justice, doctrine and ecclesiological distinctiveness, as well as the personal and spiritual development of leaders.

Therefore there is primacy within these indirect expectations for training to ensure that cadets are in tune with what God is doing in the world, and also with what God is doing inwardly within an individual. Colleges are called to function as places that recognize holiness of heart and action as a mandatory pre-requisite for all who would express a calling to spiritual leadership through officership in The Salvation Army.

Practical Expectations

It is of interest to reflect whether some expectations are more indicative of ascetics and structure than they are of the heartbeat of Salvationism. Important as they are, an interesting debate could be had whether the ability and skills to complete every day administrative tasks actually contribute to a framework for ministry. Clearly leaders need to show capacity in all areas, but when louder voices want more 'doing' in training, this often understood more in terms of practical administrative and compliance training than pastoral or missional engagement. It would be a mistake to dismiss these expectations, as clearly they represent an important aspect of officer training, however, equally erroneous would it be to allow such expectations of compliance to dominate how colleges function.

Any exploration of expectations would indicate that there are many voices that could speak into how colleges function. Determining the loudest voice is not, however, always easy. As we approach the function of training, we need to be able to ask “what are we looking for in a Salvation Army Officer?” “What does The Salvation Army need from its leaders?” As long as The Salvation Army needs officers whose formation is shaped by unequivocal vocation; with integrity and maturity for missional leadership there is a need to function beyond what sometimes are the loudest expectations.

Conclusion

A brief overview of the demands and expectations placed upon training reveal more a mandate for creativity than the tight leash or harness that would perhaps be expected. A journey through history reveals how, largely, a response in training was aligned to an acute awareness of opportunity and need. Orders and Regulations as a direct expectation continue to encourage the need for an approach to training that contributes to the commissioning of Officers of integrity and maturity. Indirect expectations seen through sound bites and the emphasis given in significant gatherings and developments equally point to, and give permission for the necessary response in leadership development. It is encouraging to see expectations that come from a celebration of essence. However, whether these expectations have been allowed to be the loudest voice would an interesting point for discussion.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Retaining the Essence: Training for a Future Generation

I have a few articles featured in The Officer Magazine on the Eseence Function and Form of Training and thought I'd stick them up here for those that can be bothered with rather a long winded series for a blog!

-----------

Anyone who has lived in London during the last six to eight years will have experienced transition. This transition is from an older way that had lost its efficiency, to a new way that is recapturing the efficiency of old. This transition has been messy and inconvenient. It has had to be well planned and articulated. It started when the problems were realistically acknowledged but seen as not being insurmountable. While the old corroded and decaying Victorian water pipe works still achieve its aim, its brokenness could not be ignored. It leaked; haemorrhaging gallons of water a minute, it didn't achieve what it was created to do.

A huge engineering task has stopped and slowed traffic all over London as areas particularly affected are addressed. Huge holes have appeared in most parts of London as engineers work to bring back ‘watertight’ efficiency to the distribution of water throughout the city. In excess of 1,000 miles of pipeline by 2012!

Of particular interest is that the old pipe work is not obsolete, it may not function in the same way but its role is essential within the transition. Huge reels of plastic piping announce that the end of inconvenience is near as they are fed - I am told – largely through the older pipes. The older pipes guide and act as a conduit to the new. The pipes look different but the water tastes the same.

It is clear that 130 years after the first attempt at systematic training was made by Captain Ballington Booth, the world is different. How training colleges and programmes engage with an emerging culture and its associated opportunity of burgeoning diversity has been the focus of discussion for three years as the European Training Leaders Network examined training from the perspective of Essence, Function and Form. In looking at what it is to develop curriculum, not only for such a time as this but also for tomorrow several tensions were identified. This the first in a series of three articles reflects discussion and thought that centred upon what a creative response might look like while upholding that for which The Salvation Army was called into being.

The Tension of Context

The world that we live in is changing rapidly. From the way information is absorbed, to the way authority is responded to, the world is different. Bible colleges are not exempt from the impact of such changes as they face their own ‘issues of inertia’ in order to survive this different world, as Webber identifies, “if you graduated from seminary before 1985, you were trained to lead a church that no longer exists. Gibbs making the same point, acknowledges that the training he received over forty years ago, was ‘for a world that now no longer exists…’.

Into this kaleidoscopic culture and thought, training colleges are facing the missional challenge of preparing leaders to embrace the tension of what could be called contextual engagement. For some, these times of transition are to be anticipated and embraced; for others these are times of confusion, incredulity and resistance. How training colleges respond to such challenges and opportunities, will lay down a marker that could remain indelible for years to come.

The Tension of Communitas

Perhaps a question exists ‘how can training programmes encourage engagement with this tension of context and worldview in a creative and sustainable manner?’ The concept of Communitas borrowed from anthropology is an environment of potential and discovery, where people collide and discover one another on different levels of identity and role. It is here that diversity of opinion remains conversant in a culture of healthy overlap and shared mutuality. Undoubtedly the collision of individuality and institution will be an increasing issue for training colleges as they prepare people for ministry .

Allowing ‘individualism’ to dominate could lead to a loss of a common ground in the priorities of theology and practice. The deconstruction that individualism brings could result in unwarranted experimentation leaving the real issues of training within an era of transition unaddressed. Equally for Training Colleges to remain strongholds of 'institution' could dilute the required creativity needed to act decisively and effectively in the development of spiritual leadership. Mutual respect brings creativity where orthodoxy and deconstruction are held together in tension. Embracing the mutuality of both institution and individuality, rather than a grey and safe opt out, offers a source of creativity to train Salvation Army Officers for ministry.

The Tension of Innovation

While innovation brings excitement to the emerging pioneering leader, it can strike trepidation to the heart of others. It is recognised that in some parts of The Salvation Army world the need to pioneer new expressions of Salvation Army ministry is progressively more important. Here the need to embrace the tension of innovation is as appropriate today as it was yesterday, a loss of creativity could have a detrimental effect on the progress of missional innovation. General Erik Wickberg catches something of this pointing beyond the ‘certain things which The Salvation Army can spare’, to that which ‘The Salvation Army cannot spare’ .

Perhaps in the spirit of ‘communitas’ it is expedient to explore and to prepare leadership for that place where both the 'traditional' and 'emerging' share the same calling and essence of Salvation Army. From this place, those who see themselves as emerging could be encouraged not to lose that which they call institutional and, those who see who like to see themselves as institutional could be encouraged not to lose that which they call emerging!

The Tension of Distinctives

“The lasting marks of Salvationism will not be synonymous with methods, programmes or outward trappings. Usually these are merely a means to an end, though some have, rightly, become dear to us.” In stating this General Shaw Clifton infers that the ‘essence’ of Salvationism runs deeper, and in using the language of distinctives, he does not seem to be thinking in terms of what might be seen as the trappings of The Salvation Army. In other words understanding our identity is not a question of ‘function’ in terms of what we do, nor is it a question of ‘form’ in terms of how we organise ourselves, rather it is a question of ‘essence’. If it is not, the ‘lasting marks of Salvationism’ will be ‘synonymous with methods, programmes and outward trappings’. The implications for training colleges and training while obvious on one hand remain subtle on the other.
The essence of The Salvation Army has to be defined by its calling and place in the mission of God in the world through the redemptive work of Christ. As a model of new and full humanity, The Salvation Army holistically makes sense of this plan to ‘the whosoever’. Brengle articulates this prophetically when looking at the unmistakable essence of The Salvation Army, or what he calls ‘the badge of our discipleship’. He clearly warns of the implication of the loss of identity when 'love leaks out'

Once we are certain of our essence, then the function and form of Officer training and curriculum development follows on. Understanding The Salvation Army’s prophetic voice brings focus to the nature of Salvationism as it emanates from a grounded appreciation of God’s direction for The Salvation Army. The consequent implication for Training Colleges is how they develop curriculum that engages with this tension in such a way that encourages future leaders to be cultivators rather than merely curators of Salvationism, leaders who are as conversant with contemporary mission and ministry as they are with the prophetic voice of The Salvation Army.

Conclusion

The well worn mantra ‘The best days of The Salvation Army are ahead of us’ is as comforting as it is challenging. How officer training continues to contribute to such a belief needs to remain a key area of evaluation of any Training College programme ethos. How colleges embrace and facilitate creative tension through curriculum and attitude will remain a challenge if The Salvation Army is to continue to do what it does best, be The Salvation Army!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Buechner on Preaching...

Of course it is the sermons we preach to ourselves around the preachers sermons that are the ones that we hear most powerfully.

Frederick Buechner, F(1992) Telling Secrets. pp 85

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The truth of myth...?

Interesting thoughts by Buechner!

The raw material of a myth, like the raw material of a dream, may be something that actually happened once. But myths, like dreams, do not tell us much about that kind of actuality. The creation of man, Adam and Eve, the Tower of Babel, Oedipus - they do not tell us primarily about events. They tell us about ourselves. In poplar usage, a myth has come to mean a story that is not true. Historically speaking that may well be so. Humanly speaking, a myth is a story that is always true. (Frederick Buechner)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Community, a Quality of the Heart

Found this from Nouwen both challenging and helpful.
"The word community has many connotations, some positive, some negative. Community can make us think of a safe togetherness, shared meals, common goals, and joyful celebrations. It also can call forth images of sectarian exclusivity, in-group language, self-satisfied isolation, and romantic naiveté. However, community is first of all a quality of the heart. It grows from the spiritual knowledge that we are alive not for ourselves but for one another. Community is the fruit of our capacity to make the interests of others more important than our own (see Philippians 2:4). The question, therefore, is not "How can we make community?" but "How can we develop and nurture giving hearts?"

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Books 2011...

Wouldn't want to lose