About robryan65

fallible human, creative, Christian, vicar type at St Barnabas Manor Park, real ale, rum and malt whisky drinker dancer in another life - expressing personal views.

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.

 

i could write about …

IMG_1079Ok … I know I’ve been quiet
It was forced on me … no broadband for nearly 7 weeks has been a challenge to me …. so tethering to my phone has forced me to use data wisely.
blogging does not fit into that wise use when you need to concentrate on emails and stuff!

Since yesterday, however, I have been connected again.
No more data watching …. but now I have too much to put into a post
I don’t know what to blog about …

I could write about …
– the excitement of meeting with the Serbian Orthodox church who meet in the St Barnabas lady Chapel twice a month (see the pic)
– the amazement of visiting the Trinity Centre that does an outstanding amount of of community work and support
– my thoughts on how I feel about being in the minority as I walk around this beautifully diverse neighbourhood and try to understand
– our first PCC meeting where we had loads of laughter and sharing of great stuff
– the wonderful cakes that are baked my people of the congregation and they way they just love hanging out together (our service finishes at around 10.30 and people were still drinking coffee/eating cake/chatting an hour later …. that is so special to see!
– the fact I am already on first name terms with a local landlord and talking about Christmas
– getting to chat with great people from the Schools Trust and exploring how we can work together
– the pub theology group that meets in the morning in the pub …. coffee only being drunk of course!
– visiting the Tate to see Shape of Light and The Clock alone and with friends
– having the honour of good friend Rikard staying and now having a copy of the beautifully painful book ‘Look, I’m wearing all the colours’ which makes me smile and cry in equal measure

Maybe I will go into more detail of some of those over the next few days
It’s been a pretty active time

so … seems I am back in the world of blog … it feels good!

 

cramped space

IMG_0995It’s easy to do … and I think already, now 14 days in, I fell into a bit of a cramped / space / busy situation trap. As I kinda said in my last post without actually saying it; there is a mass of stuff to learn here. The juxtaposition of a rich array of different cultures, values, interests, concerns, lifestyles is pretty mind-blowing.

In that desire to learn, to gather info, to meet people, to make friends, to start to put roots, to seek to understand, to find people and places of peace, to watch God, to ask more, to think ‘what is God doing here?’, ‘What is church in this setting?’ and also ‘what does ‘mission’ look like here?’ ….. it’s easy to pack a diary and leave little room for thinking or for processing what is being said.

Yesterday was set to be a busy day.
I had a sermon to think on, reading to do and appointments to make.
A BT person came to sort out the faulty phone line in the church.
I was waiting for Virgin Media to give me a phone line and internet connection.
At about 8:45 am, after Morning Prayer in the chapel, I left the vicarage with the church keys.
I closed the vicarage door. As my arm was pulling closed the door my brain was shouting ‘Noooo!’ My arm ignored my brain.
No keys
Well … wrong keys … church keys … not vicarage keys
No phone
No wallet
and really rather dire …. I was outside with NO HAT!

I stayed relatively calm, after a little panic and angry with myself moment,  and felt God say …. ‘I need you … just you!’
As I pondered what that meant I started to chat with people who stand outside the vicarage waiting for the bus. I chatted in the vestry with the BT engineer. I chatted with some of the congregation who were passing. As I sat in the vestry I suddenly realised I had unexpected space to think about what I was hearing.
The space allowed ‘stuff’ to settle, to work it’s way into my thinking.
i chatted with more people and was more ‘available’ …. which is something I may have been fooling myself into thinking I was being.

On the situation … my amazing church warden had an old key to one of the locks on my front door which worked. And I have learned a valuable lesson … In this new space it is vital and important and imperative that I meet people, watch things, see what is going on and learn as much as I can … but all of that is lost if I allow myself to be cramped by meetings and the urgency of the task without having space to think, to reflect, and come up with more questions and maybe some ideas.

I think it’s not so much a new lesson learned … but an old secret remembered … for the next few days at least!