Monday, July 30, 2012


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

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


"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.


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!