street wisdom …

5b1b93306e454When you move to a new area you need to meet people.
The only way I know how to do this is to be out and about … cafes. pubs, music venues, the street at key times of the day.
Sometimes, though, I don’t feel up to the vulnerability level that getting out there on my own places me in and so I need to collect ‘tools’ to help me.
People sometimes say I’m brave to minister the way I do … I’m not sure that’s the case but it is true that I often go out scared, wondering what I might come across, how I may be reacted to and what will happen. But … that is part of the role so if you can be brave while terrified then … well … that’s ok I guess.

A precursor to all these is to wander around the streets in a prayer walk. I have already lost count of how many times I have prayer walked around the new parish … that sounds pious … it’s not but just merely be focussing in on the fact that I believe nothing happens without prayer and, in these early weeks, part from meeting people all there is to do IS pray!

At my tutorial at CMS with Cathy Ross on Monday we were talking about this and she suggested I try Street Wisdom as some kind of tool to work with. Essentially the concept is tying some exercises to heighten your observation skills on the street before gong on a ‘quest’ (taking a question out and looking for answers on the street).

My description does it no justice so what I suggest is look at the website, download the free audio guide and give it a go. I wanders and saw my patch is a new way, even after just a few weeks of being here. Slowing down and listening, looking, smelling and just noticing was quite an amazing experience. I was surprised by what hit me, and the message I received.

IMG_1140I was walking down one street asking my question (which was ‘what is this community yearning for?’) when I stumbled across this great big sign saying ‘one way’. I don’t really do ‘one way’ things and kind of found is amusing that I had planned, and went, in the opposite direction. I felt an answer developing that was saying there is more than one way, and part of the issue is that, in the past, one way has prevented the right way.

As I continued to wander I came across some garages attached to flats. These garages had

been gated off (I’m guessing by the council) and had been boarded up. They spoke of desolation. I felt they had been ripped away from those that had cared for them. As I looked, I saw a real beauty and potential in them. I was nervous, at first, wandering their on my own (that vulnerability thing again) but as I disappeared from sight of the community i felt the space to be one of great peace and welcome rather than threat and fearsome. I guess that could be different on any other time than 3pm on a sunny day!

As I continued with my quest i got a growing sense that the answer was something along the lines of ‘being cared for’ or simply ‘being loved’. Maybe that seems an obvious answer and maybe we could argue every community is looking for that But … this came from listening to and watching my streets; so its not just about being loved but about being loved in a way that means something … and that will be the next quest …. ‘what does loving look like here?’

did she teach Jesus?

dennist_thegospelbeyondthegospels-20170517180938319_webYesterday I was pretty inspired by this man!
Trevor brought some of Luke’s gospel to life for me in an incredibly, if not radical, way.

Two things in particular have stayed with me 24 hours later….

One being that he urged us not to ‘preach’ Luke’s gospel but to ‘perform’ it … to not preach about what it does say, but stick to what does say as we learn, and teach, about the God that runs towards us on the road when we never deserve God to.

Secondly he asked a great question … ‘Was the foot washing woman Jesus’ teacher …. did she give him the idea that he used on that last night with his disciples …. it’s a great thought to be unpacked one day ….

politics in the pulpit

echoes of RomeroThis man has been a hero of mine for some time.
I have blogged thoughts and stuff a number of times.
I’m not sure what I think about canonisation; but of it is deserved by anyone then Oscar Romero is up their with them!

There are many quotes, many sayings, that could be held as amazing. I have no favourites, as in a sense  lot of what he wrote or said may be classified as ‘favourites.’ But, at the moment, in this time, I resonate most strongly with this quote of challenge:

A Gospel that doesn’t take into account the rights of human beings, a Christianity that doesn’t make a positive contribution to the history of the world, is not the authentic doctrine of Christ, but rather simply an instrument of power. We . . . don’t want to be a plaything of the worldly powers, rather we want to be the Church that carries the authentic, courageous Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when it might become necessary to die like he did, on a cross.

At a period in this country when we see people victimised or ridiculed for their faith or race, or legislated against in their desperate poverty, where the ‘elite’ give themselves 20% pay rises while those on benefits receive a devastating cut …. and all at a time when we are told ‘austerity is over’, the words of Romero hit home really hard. I have been told more than once in the last few months to not be so political … a fellow Christian who happens to be a Tory telling me to keep politics out of the pulpit.

Well … I can’t!
You see Christian faith is about politics, its about bringing in the Kingdom now, it’s about seeing justice and compassion and love bursting onto our streets, communities and homes. It’s about people feeling safe, secure, accepted and knowing that God stands with them. It is about us being a transforming presence wherever we find ourselves to be.

And yes I’m going to make a judgement.
I know its wrong to jusdge, but hey …
I say to my ‘keep politics out of the pulpit’ friends and colleagues … you are missing the point …. that is exactly where it should be!
If we, the church, don’t shout out the authentic, courageous (political) gospel …. then who on earth will!

 

a great few days

Wow
What a great few days the week ended with.

On Thursday friends from Greenwich came over to look at the organ and consider playing to for us now and again. This may happen but it was great to catch up and have lunch.
fullsizeoutput_b43On Thursday evening it was another amazing privilege to spend some time with Rikard and Zara, this time to see some of Zara’s stunning work that was on display as part of the (In)visible Exhibition at Espacio Gallery in Bethnal Green. With the artists there expressing the struggle and reality of life’s difficulties I found this to be beautifully painful experience.

Friday is my day off but the day started with coffee with Stephen Timms who is my local MP. Again, it was a joy to spend quality time with this great MP who has been committed to East Ham and Newham for an incredibly long time, and one who knows so much and has established good links. I hope in the future as we move on we may work together on some things of value for the community.

Later that day an opportunity came my was that surprised me and I grabbed! I looked onIMG_1117 the BFI website to see that there were 2 or 3 tickets surprisingly left for a live screen talk with Keira Knightley. So I grabbed one, sat next to an Austrian film critic, and listens to just an amazingly wonderful interview with an actor I have admired for some time. Keira was humble in talking about just how much luck she had had with roles, genuinely pleased at the reception she received from people, and outspoken and strong in explaining that she had deliberately taken roles of powerful woman who challenged society. Its as an amazing 60 or so minutes which will be treasured by many that were fortunate enough to be there.

A pretty great couple of days!

surprised with time

fullsizeoutput_b36I’m finding that I’m still loving the change that this new role is brining …. the change of people, the change of location, the change in culture, the change in outlook, the change in who to go to with questions, the change in how to deal with change.

A large part of the answer to that question comes from prayer. So, after saying I would not change things too much for a while, on my first Monday I re-started Morning Prayer from Monday to Friday in the church. It has been a real encouragement and blessing to say that I have never been on my own and that anything between 2 and 4 of us pray each morning at 8am for around 20 minutes. I feel that this commitment to pray together is the first of many stages for us as St Barnabas as we try to understand more of what God is doing in the area that God wishes us to join in with.

One of the biggest changes I think I am enjoying is that people here have time for people not just in our parish but across the whole of Newham. No one seems to rush off to do other things, preferring to ‘catch up’ or ‘share something’ or ‘simply listen’. Im loving that people seem to value people in this crazy new setting I find myself in. (and to be clear, and to avoid offending, I am not saying people were not interested in people in other locations that I have been.. I am just saying that in Newham it is far more noticeable).

Yesterday I attended my first chapter meeting. The food was great, the conversations were helpful and the information shared from the diocese via the Area Dean were meaningful and will help me in my ongoing ministry. It was great to join chapter as one of 5 new people in the area. There is a great mix of people with some being here a short while to those who have been ministering here for well over 20 years. I love that there is such a great and diverse group of people for us to share with, support and learn from. I was even asked for advice which helped me to feel part of things right from the start.

Ministry is always full of surprises and the most exciting time yesterday came from a  ring on the doorbell. I opened the door to find a young woman with her 10 month old daughter wanting to ask about baptism. It was such an amazing chat that we had as I was pretty aware how difficult it must have been for this person to ring the bell on the outside of this quite large, maybe intimidating, building with a monster of a front door! I am so looking forward to working with this family and welcoming them in what I hope will be a powerful and life changing experience of God for them. And the great thing to remember … is that there is no pressure there at all …. I/we just need to turn up …  the rest is up to God and no one else.

 

Direction and Hope

fullsizeoutput_b2b.jpegYesterday was a day when I felt some things had been accomplished.

I have been seeking a new Spiritual Director for far too long and yesterday Brother Sam from the Franciscan House in Plaistow agreed to be that person for me. We had a great conversation and gelled almost immediately. I hope as we meet over whatever the next period of time is that I will be challenged and able to think differently and experience  more of God and of contemplation and how it relates to who I am and the mission I am involved in.

After our chat I joined the other Brothers for Eucharist and then for lunch. The atmosphere was incredibly warm and welcoming and I was excited to see 2 young men who have joined and are novices in their first and second years with the order. We chatted lots about the world, the religious life, Fresh Expressions and New Monasticism. Essentially we told out stories and listened to the stories of other.

It was a really special time to be able to hang out with these guys and just ‘be’ together. I plan not to be a stranger at this wonderful place of life and peace and reality.

Later in the day I was able to meet with some of the groups which use the church space and chat about what doing on into the future might look like. From these 2 meetings I have good hope that we can move in the same direction with some things being done differently but our joint mission(s) being more accessible because of it.

During the evening I met with another gifted person who I hope may be able to support me and St. Barnabas more in the Sunday stuff. We discussed things over a beer or two, so now we will do a bit of ‘wait and see’.

It’s interesting that after my last post of wandering without direction, that the very next day I see some inklings  of a possible direction …. maybe, and receive some little ray of hope. Still … it’s not a very discernible or strong ray of hope at the moment. But … it is there …. piercing the darkness  … in its own fragile, sleek, but determined way. But piercing the darkness nevertheless.

I’m wandering … not lost …

life_s_journey_by_annakoutsidou-d6f3c0zI don’t know what to do.
I’m not sure where to go.
I have no idea where to start.
But I feel comfortable with all of that as I wander around this new place of mine searching for signs … of something … i”m not even sure what I am looking for!

My thinking has been challenged as I have tried to communicate in some of the shops. I was quite shocked to find myself thinking ‘why don’t people understand me?‘ …. after all it is me that has moved in to a new area … the correct question to ask myself is ‘why don’t I understand people here?‘; surely I have some responsibility to work out how to communicate in a meaningful way.

So … I seek to undertand.
The only way I know how to do that is by rubbing shoulders with people in the locations around me. I don’t quite know where these places are yet. To find them I wonder, purposefully but aimlessly, not sure of where my journey will take me, but going nonetheless. So I wonder, in no particular pattern, looking, listening, waiting, watching and responding when it’s right to do so.

I always find this stage of ‘starting anew’ exciting and terrifying. Some days I can be out easily doing that watching and waiting stuff. Today I hid in front of the computer. I was doing necessary work … well not necessary but work for Sunday … but it has not helped the wandering and discovering. Sometimes, it is just too hard to go out again … to put myself in that place of vulnerabilty … waiting to see what happens …. but tomorrow will be another day … with more opportunities … and more chances to wander.

So I may look lost.
I may seem Idea-less.
(maybe I am!)
But I wander intentionally, with purpose, while I search.

A prayer that I hold on to at this stage is that of Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that
I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am
actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please You
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore I will trust You always though I may seem to be lost
and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for You are ever with me,
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.