Rays to beams … or summin like that!

13945754983891-DSC_1860Wondering around my patch of East Ham is still proving to be a delight; although I am wondering when the ‘honeymoon bubble’ will burst and the crap will start to hit. Maybe I’m being a bit pessimistic there, but as someone who is here to bring change I am under no illusion that, as change worries people, I will encounter opposition and concern sooner rather than later. Some of this may be due to misunderstanding, some may be because I need to slow down and some may be justified while others may be totally unjustified ….. I guess the wisdom I’ll be asking for is how I tell the difference.

Currently I am continuing to do a lot of questioning, listening and wondering. I am asking ‘what could church look like here?’ coupled with ‘what does loving service look like here?’ Interactions with people have been both surprising and exciting with ideas coming, sometimes, from the most unlikeliest of places.

I’m excited to see that little fragile rays spoken of earlier are starting to join with other fragile rays and slowly becoming  slightly less fragile beams. As I continue to listen to people singly as well as in community it’s quite exciting to hear similar things being said slightly differently. This all feels quite slow, but after looking at my diary it would seem I have only been here 5 and a half weeks …. so it might be things are moving a lot later than I thought they would.

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?’

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!

 

resilient and primed

IMG_1020I attended my first Chelmsford Diocesan training event yesterday as part of the process of being a new incumbent. The day, run by Cognacity, was particularly useful for me, 4 days into the role. Looking at strategies and ‘tricks’ to avoid stress and look after mental health after a 6 weeks break and, as such, still very much ‘unstressed’ is, I think, a great time to do this course.

As an outcome of this course we have had to choose one or two little things to do for the next 21 days. These would be something that we have not usually done but would be very manageable … like going for a 10 minute walk at lunchtime, rather than eating lunch in from of the laptop. I’ve never been good at keeping to tick sheets, but I am trying to ensure my two targets become a habit and so looking forward to seeing how that goes.

In my experience we all work too hard, all tend to think we are indispensable (and possibly indestructible as that is what auto-correct tried to change that to!) but actually burn out and inefficiency and cynicism become a real risk when we push ourselves too much. So … I’m going to attempt a healthy way forward …. with this space!

After my brief trip to Chelmsford it was great again to meet up with Richard as my MA supervisor … and he gave me some great pointers to start thinking for our next batch of assignments … so I feel kinda primed for a new term … but more than that it was just great to catch up with an amazing good friend.

All in all a pretty good day.

starting again and deep water

It’s been too long since I wrote something here.
It has been an age since I wrote anything here about how I was feeling and what I was up to …. for a number of reasons I was simply not able to.

But today ….
I start again
as I begin to explain a new chapter.

licensedMany of you know that on Thursday evening I was licensed and installed as the Priest in Charge of St. Barnabas Little Ilford. There’s pictorial evidence here to show it really happened as I look semi terrified as to what has just occurred and what I now have to do as I stand next to Bishop Stephen.

Yesterday was our first Sunday service together which had an amazing warm and community feel about it… even though it did start at 9.30am.

As we gathered in a  giant circle of nearly 40 people around the altar and shared bread and wine I felt this was an incredibly special moment for us as church. People have worked hard and prayed over the last 16 months for a new priest … and they got me! I feel amazingly honoured and already love being part of this community … many of you will feel sorry for them!

Bishop Stephen challenged us at the licensing.
He used the story of the fishermen going back out in Luke 4 after Jesus tells them to return to the deep water and cast out their nets again. This instruction came after they had been fishing all night with no catch. I wonder what the dynamics were on that day … a young carpenter telling experienced fishermen how to do their job. It must have been ‘interesting’ at bare minimum! Anyway, we know the story and that they caught so many fish that their nets started to break.

Bishop Stephen used this to challenge and remind us that our task is to put out into deep water, put down our nets, and expect a catch. This means stepping out of our comfort zones and finding new ways of being church and engaging meaningfully with people.

So … its an exciting and scary time … exciting as we know we are called to set out and do some new stuff (I’ll say more of that later) and scary as we are all in this boat together, setting out, with no clue whatsoever where the boat will go or what we will find as we set out ….. but that’s what we are called to do …. so … off we go!

Look again at ‘Look, I’m wearing all the colours’ …

IMG_0531IMG_0532

As I said in an earlier post … I have known Zara and Rikard for nearly 10 years.

In that time they have become two of my my most trusted and loved friends. They are beautiful people, very loving and very welcoming and on top of that they have both been blessed with amazing creative skills. One of the highlights of my ordained ministry was to be able to bless this lovely couple’s marriage.

Anyway … if you’ve read my previous post  you will also be aware of the real pain that they both experience and live with on a daily basis. So please,  go here again to watch the video … or here to Rilkard’s page. They have done a massive amount of work and are so so close to the target to make this photo storybook a reality. They have already raised £7283 and only need another £1677. That’s amazing!

Today … instead of buying shit you don’t need … go here and pledge to make a real difference in enabling Zara and Rikard to publish something that, really, we all need!

Thanks.

turning tables

IMG_0250One of the things I love about living in London, and on The Peninsula in particular, is the beautiful diversity of both cultures and experiences that are embodied in the stories of people I regularly come cross.

As Team Vicar for HTGP I have been blessed  on recent Sunday’s when other people have brought the homily. A few weeks ago Tim, who comes from a justice and trade union background in the States challenged us in standing up and speaking out. Next Sunday, Barbara who is a retired priest who spent a lot of her ministry in the Diocese of Europe will bring the homily from her unique perspective. This last Sunday, Confidence, an incredible ordained man from Ghana shared a homily on the set passage for the day, with Jesus turning over the tables in the temple.

I was particularly struck by the depth of the way that Confidence unpacked the passage. It was simply beautiful to hear him reflect on his childhood playing with his friends in the forest and trapping birds and at some stage being spoken to by the elders as they had moved onto sacred ground. From this story Confidence related and resonated so well with Jesus getting angry with the temple authorities as he turned over those tables.

I remember being totally enthralled by Confidence’s story and smiling as I re-learned that the Jesus story is more than universal, it crosses all boundaries, filters and may be found in all types of stories, challenges, excites and reaffirms all peoples … no matter where they are, who they are, what they think about themselves or how they have been treated.  Maybe as a Christian I become a bit blasé sometimes about how truly amazing our story really is.

Why not listen to Confidence (and others)  here.