Monday, December 01, 2014

Healthy Church #4 Faces the cost of change and growth

Change in any sphere can be difficult, being able to face hard and painful truths within a church particularly can be costly. The bullet points pretty much speak for themselves. 

While embracing the past, a healthy church dares to take on new ways of doing things, it admits when things are not working, reflects and learns. Facing the cost of change and growth rather than resisting change and fearing failure is a mark of health that needs to be nurtured at all levels as the church responds to challenges and opportunities. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

There's a thought...

“By God’s power, presence, and essence, God is the One whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.”

 St. Bonaventure

Monday, November 10, 2014

Healthy Church # 5 Operates as a Community

I think 'sustains' is the key word here, church should never be a monopoly of a few and doesn't make much sense outside of relationships working and supporting one another. Each other's gifts and contributions are what sustains church and it seems that it is from generous and honest relationships that they emerge. 

It is not surprising that Robert Warren turns to Ephesians 4 and the body of Christ to illustrate our responsibility to each other and our responsibility to step up and help the church function properly. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Healthy Church #6 Makes Room for All

Jumping around the marks we land on #6 Makes room for all which is all about being inclusive rather than exclusive. This is about extreme hospitality and embrace and definitely has close links with having an outward focus. What is generous inclusion really about? How should it shape us as a church?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Luminous Darkness...

"I came out of seminary in 1970 thinking that my job was to have an answer for every question. What I've learned since then is that not-knowing and often not even needing to know is a deeper way of knowing and a deeper form of compassion. Maybe that is why Jesus praised faith even more than love; maybe that is why Saint John of the Cross called faith "luminous darkness." Richard Rohr

The highlights from his thoughts this week...

The goal of the dark night of the soul is to draw the self beyond ego into full transfiguration and union in God. (Sunday)

The gift of darkness draws you to know God’s presence beyond what thought, imagination, or sensory feeling can comprehend. (Monday)

“The only action left to the soul, ultimately, is to put down its self-importance and cultivate a simple loving attention toward the Beloved.” –Mirabai Starr (Tuesday)

God needs to catch us by surprise because our very limited preexisting notions keep us and our understanding of God small. (Wednesday)

Without the inner discipline of faith (“positive holding instead of projecting”) most lives end in negativity, blaming others, or deep cynicism. (Thursday)

You called, you shouted, you broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed, and banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance, and I gasped.” —St. Augustine (Friday)

"The only people who pray well are those who keep praying. In the dark night, when all other practices and beliefs about God lose their meaning, keep returning to silent, contemplative prayer. It will keep you empty and ready for God’s ongoing revelation of an ever deeper love."

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Healthy Church #3 seeks to find out what God wants

Ongoing reflections on Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook and its 7 marks of health

The third mark of health that Robert Warren looks at is that of seeking to find out what God wants, what he calls a 'discerning the Spirit's leading'. This is all about having a sharpness of focus as a church, a seriousness of purpose carried forward by a sense of vocation.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The different drum - Scott Peck 3/3

In any kind of Faith Development model such as Peck's there are important points to keep in mind. Tomlinson highlights them. 

Stages are only milestones and there are many variations to be found between and beyond. 
We all regress in certain circumstances. 
The stages are a description and there is no right of wrong.
Moving does not correlate with levels of intelligence.

I found myself in a conversation once with someone who told me I was finding my faith and not losing it, I'm glad I had that conversation! An understanding of my personal growth has helped me understand that as soon as you think you have the answers, new questions and new doors open that's the beauty of faith.

The different drum - Scott Peck 2/3

Tomlinson points out that Peck's model of stages is an oversimplification and the reality is to be found  between and betixt! But Tomlinson's reworking is helpful for those trying to make sense of faith as an independent choice outside of previous conformity.

Stage 1 - Self-obsessed. This is the normal state of most children, but 20% of adult still demonstrate the same characteristics. Any shift from stage 1 to stage 2 often appears sudden and dramatic and is consistent, but not exclusively, with religious conversion. 

Stage 2 - Conformist. This stage is consistent with most believers and churchgoers. There is a sense of tribalism and defensiveness to the form of their religion. This stage is characterised by uncritical acceptance. Concepts of God are like a 'benevolent cop in the sky' that is consistent with the kind of God that they need. A God that ensures good things to happen in accordance with their loyalty. 

Stage 3 - Individualist. Ironically stage 3 people often are non-believers but are generally more spiritually developed than many who are content to remain in stage 2. This stage is characterised by scepticism and is shaped by doubts and questioning. Any acceptance of cliches and platitudes crumbles. 

Stage 4 - Integrated.  Tomlinson's categorisation here connects with a coming together that has understanding of an intuitive sense of wholeness, or that of being part of something bigger, a knowing within unknowing! Peck calls this mystic-communal and identifies with an acceptance of what can not be fully grasped but yet is sought after! 

The different drum - Scott Peck 1/3

I found a screwed up piece of paper in the bottom of my ruck sack with some notes I had made while reading Dave Tomlinson's The Post Evangelical (incidentally a great read for anyone for whom faith has started to less of what it has always been and more of something you are less sure of!)

Anyway - Scott Peck a psychologist noticed something ....

"Religious people who came to him in pain and trouble frequently left the therapeutic process as atheists, agnostics or at least sceptics. On the other hand, atheists, agnostics and sceptics often left therapy as deeply religious people. Same therapy, same therapist and each of the cases successful in their own terms, and yet with utterly different outcomes from a religious perspective."

He identified that both scenarios in one way or another were connected to the different stages of personal development, which Is common to us all and what he observed was a shift reflecting what he saw as a faith  more an expression of conformity than a fully independent choice.  Pp47ff

Healthy Church #2 Outward-looking focus

Ongoing reflections on Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook and its 7 marks of health

The second mark of health that Robert Warren looks at is that of having a preoccupation outside of itself, what he calls a 'whole life focus' rather than a 'church life' concern. This is all about being a church that is centrifugal and missional in its identity - outward in its expression of love to its community.

A church with an outward-looking focus is all about being church that in all things shares the pain and joy of community. Not only being concerned with 'who' is your neighbour but 'how' is your neighbour. (Hat tip to liveability :o)) This means being conversant and in relationship with our locality and in many ways being the kind of church that is known and would be missed if it wasn't there. 

The danger being of course that preoccupation with self is never far away!

Monday, July 07, 2014

Let God Be Who God Is.... Rohr

Richard Rohr articulating the danger of creating God in our image!

"It takes a long time for us to allow God to be who God really is. Our natural egocentricity wants to make God into who we want or need God to be..... The First Commandment says that we’re not supposed to make any images of God or to worship them. At first glance, we may think this deals only with handmade likenesses of God. But it mostly refers to images of God that we hold in our heads. God created human beings in God’s own image, and we’ve returned the compliment, so to speak, creating God in our image." 

Friday, June 20, 2014

mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness

I was struck with Richard Rohr's thoughts yesterday about the place and responsibility of relationship restoration and what it is for human beings move ahead with dignity.

"Only mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity. Otherwise, we are controlled by the past, individually and corporately. We all need to apologize, and we all need to forgive or this human project will surely self-destruct. No wonder that almost two-thirds of Jesus’ teaching is directly or indirectly about forgiveness. Otherwise, history winds down into the taking of sides, deep bitterness, and remembered hurts..."

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Healthy Church #1 Energised by faith

Ongoing reflections on Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook and its 7 marks of health...

The first mark of health to consider is what it is to be energised by faith. While it seems a little obvious on a first read through, the more I thought of it, the more challenging it became. 

Robert Warren sees being energised by faith to be foundational for healthy churches."At the heart of these churches and their members is a reality about their awareness of the presence, goodness and love of God. Faith is the fuel on which these churches run." Warren, R (2004) The Healthy Churches' Handbook. Church House Publishing

The recognition is that a strong sense of church identity stems from 'knowing' the reality of God's love, experiencing it through a worship shaped by Christlike living. This is all about a motivation that embodies the Great Commandment, love for God and neighbour. 

The danger comes from when that motivation is knocked, and a church finds its identity in either what it seeks to portray of itself, or a blind survival maintenance that comes from just keeping things going. A church energised by faith notices both its need to be seen as significant and any insecurities of perceived failure. A church energised by faith knows what it is to reflect theologically and feels the friction when it is not shaped by the values of the kingdom. 

It seems that energised by faith is about maturity and growth, and about relaxing into a church life shaped by love and goodness. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Healthy Church #intro ...

Here at suttonsa the leadership team have been considering important questions that surround what constitutes being a healthy church. Robert Warren's book 'The Healthy Church Handbook' has been a useful companion, while not purporting to having all the answers his research has presented a useful framework for discussion. 

I first came across his material while teaching at William Booth College and found it a refreshing, alternative means of theologically reflecting on the life of the church, without being swamped by success by measurement, strategy by 'key performance indicators' and other 'borrowed' idioms that are as easily applied to selling more baked beans than your competitors at a supermarket!

Asking what would you expect to find in a healthy church was a good starting point, and interesting to find some common ground with Warren's material, most of what we brainstormed could be identified. Consequently working through the '7 Mark's' has helped develop a profile of who we are, and where we are as a church, giving opportunity to explore our strengths while looking at areas that may represent a challenge as we move forward. 

Capturing and processing my thoughts here will help me and I hope offer a means of wider involvement should you wish!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The values of Renovaré ...

It always seems a shame when we fall into the trap of looking for the next discipleship model and programme, striving rather than relaxing with becoming who we are intended to be.  It has been many years since I stumbled upon Renovaré and its balanced vision and practical approach to discipleship, I guess I was looking for the next model and programme when I found it! But in reality it has become a gateway and a journey companion in exploring the purposes of God for me. It has been good to recently be reminded of the value's that I found attractive and helpful.

  • LIFE WITH GOD The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the centre as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant
  • THE AVAILABILITY OF GOD'S KINGDOM We can experience genuine, substantive life in God's Kingdom through Jesus Christ, beginning now and continuing through all eternity
  • THE MEANS OF GRACE Amongst the variety of ways God has given for us to be open to his transforming grace, we recognise the crucial importance of intentional spiritual practices and disciplines (such as prayer, service or fasting)
  • A BALANCED VISION OF LIFE IN CHRIST We seek to embrace the abundant life of Jesus in all its fullness: contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational
  • A PRACTICAL STRATEGY FOR SPIRITUAL FORMATION We encourage the creation of Spiritual Formation Groups and other forms of spiritual friendship as solid foundations for mutual support and nurture  
  • THE CENTRALITY OF SCRIPTURE We immerse ourselves in the Bible: it is the greatest revelation in history, a sure guide for growth in Christlikeness, and an ever rich resource for our spiritual formation
  • THE VALUE OF CHRISTIAN TRADITION We are engaged in the historical "Great Conversation" on spiritual formation developed from Scripture by the Church's classical spiritual writings
More Here

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

More Rohr on Grace

"Grace is not something God gives; grace is who God is. Grace is God’s official job description. Grace is what God does to keep all things that God has created in love alive—forever."

Friday, April 04, 2014

What it is to receive...?

"Receiving is an art.  It means allowing the other to become part of our lives.  It means daring to become dependent on the other.  It asks for the inner freedom to say:  "Without you I wouldn't be who I am."   Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love.  So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received.  Let us be good receivers."

Nouwen got me thinking today. How often do we as church think we are doing our community a favour by being there? In what ways can we receive form our communities, allowing our communities to become part of our lives? I wonder how we should receive and allow that receiving to embody humility and love?

Just a thought!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rohr on grace...

"Life, when lived fully, tends to tool and retool us until we eventually discover a mercy that fills all the gaps necessary for our very survival and sanity. Without grace, everything human declines and devolves into smallness, hurt, and blame."

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lost Themes of Mission ... Community

It has been sometime since I have thought about 'lost themes of mission' but today's daily dose of Nouwen got me thinking about what constitutes developing 'true community'. 

"There are many forms of poverty:  economic poverty, physical poverty, emotional poverty, mental poverty, and spiritual poverty.  As long as we relate primarily to each other's wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength, we cannot develop true community.  Community is not a talent show in which we dazzle the world with our combined gifts.  Community is the place where our poverty is acknowledged and accepted, not as something we have to learn to cope with as best as we can but as a true source of new life.

Living community in whatever form - family, parish, twelve-step program, or intentional community - challenges us to come together at the place of our poverty,  believing that there we can reveal our richness."

Nouwen's words made me think how easy it is for us as church to engage with our communities from a position of smug superiority. Where the attribute of 'true community' is fragmented by a need to dazzle each other with exactly how missional we are, sharing our 'expertise and experience' in a way that we legitimise by calling it sharing good news, or if we were Tesco's managers, knowledge management.  In other words perhaps spin driven by the kind of positioning that Nouwen describes as 'wealth, health, stability, intelligence, and soul strength'.

It would seem to me that learning to truely engage with our communities would need a shift in alignment from 'having all the answers and aren't you lucky to have us in the neighbourhood' to understanding mission from a christological position of vulnerability and poverty. I'm not sure what this means, but I do know that such a position leaves no room for 'dazzling talent shows', I do know that it positions a church in a way that authenticity and openness of intent is clear to see and I do know that that vulnerability leads us to places where glib answers and cliches are better replaced with a simple 'I don't know, but let's learn together'. 

I could be wrong but I reckon Nouwen's thoughts about developing true community stand as a challenge to how we relate not only to each other but equally as churches to our neighbourhoods. So I add community to my list of lost themes. 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Touching the Holy.... 2/5

"Personal awareness of self before a loving God is also important because it helps self confidence to grow and be more resistant to the assaults of failure or rebuff. Thus, it allows our character to develop and it enables the presence of God with in us to be felt in a good way by others. It is not that we forget or deny our faults; rather, we are better able to put them into perspective instead of being crushed by them."25

Wicks's then outlines a helpful checklist that he calls , 'principles of self-respect and clarity': 

1. When I have made a mistake or feel anxious, I need to separate what I have done from who I am. 
2. When I feel badly about myself as a person, I must see if I am embracing an irrational belief about myself. I need to take a distressful  feeling as an opportunity to uncover style of thinking and believing that undermines my self-respect or desire to understand and correct my behaviour. ... 76 


Saturday, March 08, 2014

Celebrating the great variety in being human...

Some amazing conversations sat drinking coffee this weekend @suttonsachurch, one of which that rumbled on for two days! with a break in between mind! One in particular centred on some of the negative impressions of Christianity, not least the appearance of judgementalism that seems to be the experience of many. This particular woman made pertinent point after pertinent point as to her observations, really all could offer was an apology! 

Nouwen's daily email had a lesson for us all today ...

"Only when we fully claim that God loves us in an unconditional way and look at "those other persons" as equally loved can we begin to discover that the great variety in being human is an expression of the immense richness of God's heart.  Then the need to prejudge people can gradually disappear."

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Touching the holy.... 1/5

Every now and then I read one of those books that I worry I might forget bits that made an impression upon me. These books represent more than mere opinion, clever talk they represents something that speaks deep within. Robert Wick's 'Touching the holy : ordinariness, self-esteem, and friendship' is one such book. I want to capture some of its comfort and challenge so will park some quotes and thoughts here over the next couple of weeks...

Here are two quotes to set the scene.

Due to our lack of complete trust in God's revelation that we are made in the divine image and likeness, most of us get caught up in trying to be extra ordinary. We become insecure and are tempted to rest our sense of self on something less than God's love for us. As a result we waste our energy worrying about whether we are liked, respected, effective, or as good as other people. 15

If only we would properly attend to God's gifts to us and in us! Then self awareness and healthy self love could form a positive circle of spiritual self-esteem and ultimately be a source of strength for others as well as ourselves. Will we have the trust to do this? Will we take the time? 25

Wicks, R. (1992) Touching the holy : ordinariness, self-esteem, and friendship

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A closer look at prayer...

We have just started a new series @suttonsachurch looking at prayer. Read this on the Jesuit Prayer app this morning and thought it worth keeping and sharing.

"Life-giving God, help me find you in everything I say and do this day. Help my outreach to others embody your strength, your hope, your love. May I in some small way be your hands, your heart, your voice. May I always walk in your ways and show your face to all I meet. Amen!"

Friday, February 14, 2014

Transformation or simply transmitting information...

Richard Rohr on holistic and heartfelt spirituality...

"That’s the way that religion is supposed to know, and it’s a kind of knowing that really changes people. It rearranges one’s worldview at a level that actually cannot be contradicted by mere words or passing ideas. Instead of undergoing this wonderful transformation, most Western religion has been simply transmitting information, and then we argue about it. What a waste of time. There is nothing that is not spiritual for those who have learned how to see."

I think this connected with me, in that the more I have been able to read and study, the more accessible peoples opinions are through social media, the more I have tired of peddling opinion that positions itself, mine included! As I learned last year at the international college for officers 'solo Dios basta' God is sufficient!

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Levels of Spiritual Development (Part Two)

Richard Rohr concludes his insights to faith development. Here's his edited highlights... 

Stage Four: My deeper intuitions and felt knowledge in my body are who I am. (Sunday)

Stage Five: My shadow self is who I am. (Monday)

Stage Six: I am empty and powerless. (Tuesday)

Stage Seven: I am much more than who I thought I was. (Wednesday) 

Stage Eight: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). (Thursday)

Stage Nine: I am who I am. (Friday)

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Levels of Spiritual Development (Part One)

Rohr is looking at faith development, here are his highlights for this week.

So many of our problems can be resolved if we understand that people are at different levels. (Sunday)

Growth is going somewhere, and the trajectory is toward union: union with God, with the self (of mind, heart, and body), with others, and with the cosmos. (Monday)

Stage One: My body and my self-image are who I am. (Tuesday)

Stage Two: My external behavior is who I am. (Wednesday)

Stage Three: My thoughts and feelings are who I am. (Thursday)

 Without great love (and I mean great love) and great suffering, where there is a major defeat, major humiliation, major shock to the ego self, very few people move to Stage Four. (Friday)


Saturday, January 11, 2014

God's Cadets ...

Can't help but think that this week has been an interesting one of reflection, partly because of BBC 4’s programme 'God's Cadets', partly personally because of Richard Rohr's use of 'sic et non' or 'yes... and' and in particular the challenge that comes with his insight that “and” is willing to wait for insight and integration. It stops you short when thinking about promoting your own opinion over that of others.

Programme aside which IMHO seemed a little hastily put together, or at least edited in such a way that didn't capture the life of the college, the maelstrom of personal criticism on social media from internal voices was astounding. Seemingly one thing hasn't changed, everyone knows how to run the college better than it is currently! 

I stumbled upon this quote this week “Today our prime educational objective must be to form men-and-women-for-others; . . . men and women who cannot even conceive of love of God which does not include love for the least of their neighbors; men and women completely convinced that love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.” Pedro Arrupe, S.J.

I was proud of being part of William Booth College for the 10 or so years we were involved there, and continue to be proud of how WBC continues to shape the thinking, being and doing of those who embrace that particular path (aka, strangely in my opinion, giving things up!) beyond that of being farcical.

Probably the jury will be always out on what God's Cadets did and didn't portray

The new Richard Rohr daily emails ...

The Richard Rohr daily email meditations have just got a whole lot better in my opinion. Not just words but a whole rhythm, it culminates with a Saturday résumé which is really helpful. Here's today's.

RememberYes, And
As Franciscans, we were told that our job was to somehow make the Word of God accessible to the ordinary person, so that it would bring them to life.(Sunday)
If Jesus can listen and ask questions . . . who are we to think we are better than him? (Monday)
The systematic asking of questions opened up wonder and encouragedspiritual curiosity. . . . (Tuesday)
Non-dual people use knowledge for the transformation of persons and structures, but most especially to change themselves and to see reality with a new eye and heart. (Wednesday)
Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. (Thursday)
My methodology is very simple; I will try to interpret Scripture the way Jesus did. (Friday)

RestLectio Divina

Read the following passage slowly and aloud four times. With the first reading, listen with your heart’s ear for a phrase or word that stands out for you. During the second reading, reflect on what touches you, perhaps speaking that response aloud or writing in a journal. Third, respond with a prayer or expression of what you have experienced and what it calls you to. Fourth, rest in silence after the reading.
The Shining Word “And”
“And” teaches us to say yes
“And” allows us to be both-and
“And” teaches us to be patient and long-suffering
“And” is willing to wait for insight and integration
“And” does not divide the field of the moment
“And” helps us to live in the always imperfect now
“And” keeps us inclusive and compassionate toward everything
“And” demands that our contemplation become action
“And” insists that our action is also contemplative
“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things
“And” is the way of mercy
“And” makes daily, practical love possible

Thursday, January 09, 2014

'...the essence of being the body of Christ'

Here are a couple of quotes that have been bouncing around my head, one for 14 years, the other for 14 minutes since I read it in my daily dose of Nouwen.

“In the post-Christian era, the medium is the message, and the medium of evangelism is regarded with extreme distaste by the surrounding culture….evangelism easily becomes the marketing ploy for Christianity akin to selling encyclopaedias. Various techniques are used in a highly manipulative agenda designed to get prospective customers to “sign up”. This is about as far away from the story of Jesus of Nazareth as it is possible to get.”

[Riddell, M. (1998) Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West. SPCK]

"The Church as the people of God can truly embody the living Christ among us only when the poor remain its most treasured part.  Care for the poor, therefore, is much more than Christian charity.  It is the essence of being the body of Christ." 

Henri Nouwen

There's insight and challenge there!