new notes …

img_1179One of the challenges I set myself a few months was to learn a new skill.

I was finding all I was doing was working or thinking about work and, in my experience, when that is all you do you soon start to become dry and find it difficult to vision or be creative.

I have always wanted to learn to play the sax. I was told by my mum years ago that I was not musical (after singing quite well in a  choir at school) and so for years, simply years, I have believed I could not do anything musical.

At the cathedral I used to panic about having to sing the sarsum corda but had wonderful patient people around me who helped and told me I could sing it ok.

For an ‘unmusical person’ I have always loved music … so a few month ago I borrowed a sax from a  friend and started to have lessons. I found I progressed ok (much better than I expected) so I now have my own sax and I am learning … slowly … but still learning to play some tunes. I have a great and patient teacher that I see every other week or thereabouts and I am having a lot of fun.

The result of learning a new skill, something totally out of my comfort zone, is that it has reminded me, or maybe it has re-taught me, that learning something fresh can be incredibly alien. For someone that doesn’t read music too well coordinating breathing, reading and finger movements to get tunes that sounds like tunes can be awkward. I look at Jason (cool sax teacher) and marvel at how he can play anything he chooses with seemingly little effort. And …. when it all works together for me, on those odd ocassions, and the sax just purrs a tune the feeling of understanding, resonace, achievement and excitement are pretty powerful.

My learning of the when and how to breathe while playing, what notes to play, how loud or soft to play them seems to be an apt illustration for me of how we support people who are seeking to connect with their God. It can be awkward, alien, uncomfortable and hard work …. the encouragements for me while learning to play have been those moments of resonance between myself and Betty (everyone has to make their saxophone …. don’t they?!), those moments when the sound has been great and I have felt ‘connected’.

In a time and culture when people feel ‘connected’ through technology yet in reality are possibly the most disconnected and reclusive we have been for centuries the question to ask, in my mind, is how to we aid this connection?
How do we support people as they walk the journey to that point of resonance?
What can we do, if anything, to either encourage or discourage that resonance of one-ness?

So … some questions … never said I had answers … but questions are always more fun to deal with than answers ….

the journey

journeyHTGP met tonight for the first time in 2017.
It was good to see people and while we could see our small number as a sign of our fragility and vulnerability (which it is!) we are excited by the opportunity for growth in a faithful realisation that vulnerability is a necessary state for growth to occur.

Tonight we ‘did’ The Journey in our evening contemplative eucharistic service.
I like using The Journey is our worship because it reminds us that everything is ok. It shows us in a clearway that we are all in different places and yet all those places are correct. It reminds us that the Christian Life is one of seasons which are all natural and ok.

The podcast, which is essentially brief instructions to our activity, may be found here

This year, I introduced The Journey with challenging provocative words from Nick Vesey from Developing Consciousness:

You are always in exactly the right place to be able to take the next step. It is an amazing realisation, that you are, right now, in exactly the right place to begin this journey.

Your whole life has brought you to this point. Everything you have ever done has brought you to the point of hearing these words now. And everything has conspired for you to be in exactly the right place. You could not be in a better place.

And that is true for every single moment of your life.

You are never in the wrong place. All you can do is to not recognise you are in the right place, and then automatically you miss the point and opportunity of that moment.

To be in the right place at the right time you simply have to acknowledge  the rightness of the moment, and thus the moment become yours.

Whatever our circumstances, wherever you are. Trust this moment as being one that is right. One that has meaning. One that is setting you on a journey outside the box, and it will be so.

And what is the next step? Well … ask yourself that …. what is the next step? What do you do now as the next step in your journey with God?

Maybe consider the journey for yourself this week ….
and if you wish to journey with others …
maybe look us up.

what we are seeking …

seek-copy2017 is here ….
So … what is happening here in the pioneering peninsula of Greenwich … 

I am looking ….
I am praying …
I am waiting ….
for people
for people to join me
for people to join us
for people to get together to
attempt
to birth something new here
something intentionally spiritual
something deliberately communal
something that will make a difference
something that is new ‘cos there is no blueprint
something that will grow and develop as we grow and develop
something that needs to be moulded by whoever joins the journey

church …. yes
religiously set ways of dong things … no
collaborative, creative, meaningful … yes
having to believe ‘right’ things and behave in ‘certain ways’ … no
believing there is only one way to do things … NO!
Jesus gospel trinity based … yes
affirming and encouraging … yes
contemplative Christian community … very possibly yes

Does that sound interesting to you?
Do you live within reach of North Greenwich …. read on a little more …

What we are seeking?

  • People who are established Christians and interested in birthing and participating in a missional fresh expression of church with a contemplative flavour on the Greenwich Peninsula
  • People who have, or have had in the past, a desire to focus more on contemplative and prayerful action within a Christian community and be willing to lead aspects of contextual worship, mission and community life on the Greenwich Peninsula.
  • People who can commit to a Sunday evening Contemplative Eucharist, gatherings afterwards at a local pub or the vicarage and a Wednesday evening community meal with sharing of our weekly stories, prayer for each other with sharing of bread and wine.
  • Where possibly join in the prayer life of Holy Trinity, currently 730am Prayer & Pastry at the Vicarage.
  • People willing to develop a meditation group on the Greenwich Peninsula aimed at supporting those who would call themselves spiritual rather than religious people.

Interested?

I’d love to hear from you …. please get in contact  via comments here or via our current website: http://www.holytrinity.online/

I think this is exciting … how often do we get a chance to develop and create and mould something new …. something that we hope will be of use not to us bit to those around yes as well … a blessing for us so that we can be a blessing for others … so … get in touch if remotely or only vaguely interested …

various ways

centre-of-the-universeI inhabit a variety of spaces on the peninsula.
In the summer there are lots of benches to sit on. Well … they are there in the winter too but it is not as comfortable sitting on them then.
During the colder months I have taken to sitting in Cafe Pura and Craft. Both are spaces with coffee but both are very different spaces. Cafe Pura tends to serve the residents from GMV while Craft tends to serve more the workers of the peninsula plus those passing through.

Even before I moved here and started the role a question was, and still is, who am I to serve here as the team vicar?
Am I to try and connect with the residents and birth church with those that are interested, or should I link with those that are here in the day and work in the buildings around.
And what about the 280 or so students that live on the peninsula … is there a role to play in supporting them while they stay here?
Then there is the building workforce … I can count 17 new buildings between me and The Thames that have been built in just the 16 months that I have lived here. There is a large workforce that makes that happen. oh … and the thousands of visitors we have each day … what about them?

Of course the answer is ‘Yes’.
In an ideal world we should be looking to engage and serve every single one of those communities. But I am not in an ideal world. I am part time team vicar for 4 days and then school chaplain for 2. I also only have a 3 year contract which we are nearly half way through.

Those ‘limitations’ means we have had to focus whilst keeping an open mind and willingness to hear what God might be saying. This has meant I have been ‘inhabiting’ all these spaces and waiting to see where I come across the people of peace that want to work together to serve the various fledgling communities on the peninsula. While being in these spaces and listening and watching I believe it has been important to intentionally have a blank sheet … so that whatever we grow here grows around the people that are involved rather than the other way round. So … in other words I am looking for interested people to develop something with … not looking for people to get involved in something I have already thought up.

There is a possibility that I have now moved from seeing no ways forward to now being in a position where there are a variety of avenues to walk along to support and bless the people of the peninsula. 2017 is looking bright … er!

Over the next few weeks I will be using the blog to reflect on these and push ideas around … and I invite you to join me in that conversation as you have done in the past.

This will probably be the last post this side of Christmas …. apart from the customary photoshopped design Christmas Card that will appear here tomorrow.

See you on the other side …..

another exciting day

bowwebIt’s been a great week so far …after lots of prayer across the diocese we finally got an answer ….

On Tuesday we got to meet the next Bishop of Woolwich. It was great to be introduced to him with lots of other people from the diocese. We had a little chat as he wondered around the people who gathered and my first impressions were of a very personable and caring person who seems to be totally motivated by the gospel. I think that is pretty exciting and I look forward to chatting with him in time about stuff on the peninsula. The staff team have been passing around this article which has some good stuff in it to read, particularly his passion for reaching out to people with God’s love.

Karowei will come to the diocese after serving in a London parish for the last 18 years. I can relate to feelings of bereavement that he will inevitably have for a little while as he moves from that community to be with us and so we need to be praying for him and Mosun as they prepare to leave there and join here.

Anyway …. WELCOME …. #excitingtimes

Discordant

6a00d83451df1169e201b8d23ae77e970c-640wiYou may have noticed that I am trying to get back into my discipline of blogging reflectively about the ‘stuff’ I am involved in.

Blogging used to be a strong challenge and resource to me … I welcomed the interventions and comments of others, and loved the way new resources and opportunities were shared.

As well as writing blogs I have been reading blogs again … and I have missed the mixture of critique, dream and resource that came from my reading as well as writing. So … I’ve started reading again and not been disappointed by peoples writings.

Today (it’s Saturday after all) … not so much reflection as sharing a great looking publication from Proost via my good friend Jonny’s blog.

Discordant sounds really exciting …. I’ll look forward to more …

variety

varietyOne of the beauties of this role is the mixed nature of what I do. I think if i has been born later I may have been diagnosed as hyper active in some way, or maybe even ADHD …. and I need a variety of things to be going to keep me engaged.

I am team vicar of the East Greenwich team with a particular remit to develop something on the peninsula for 4 days a week, and then I am school chaplain to the Koinonia Federation of schools for 2 days per week.

This means I get to hang out and chat with some pretty amazing pupils, students and members of staff. The federation is an excellent federation led by an incredibly committed and talented senior leadership team. The leaders are back up by an amazing team of hard working and talented people. These wonderful people trust me to work with them and try to support where I can.

These next few days will be fun as a school chaplain.
Tonight I have been at a carol service at one of the schools, and earlier today at our secondary school I sat in on one of the rehearsals of a Christmas Carol. Earlier in the week I sat in on other rehearsals of plays and carol singing. Next week I will be using ‘magic’ to illustrate the wonder of the incarnate Christ in the separate school church carol services.

I am always bowled over with the sense of the sheer privilege I feel to be chaplain at these schools. I find it mind blowing that people trust me with ‘stuff’ and see it as a bit of a mini miracle that God seems to break in and support people when they have got to the place where they can share.

Saying that, it’s been a long term and everyone is tired …. but everyone is still going … and I love them for that!

So …. on to the variety of life …. again …

 

 

How do we do this?

img_0211So I have lived here at GMV for around 16 month now. I am nearly half way through my contract … 3 years was always a crazy timescale to get something new happening here, but we are running with it and trusting God.

A large part of the last year has seen me doing a lot of observing and watching. Those of you that have travelled with me on this blog will know that I learned at Rochester that it was important to wait and properly listen, rather than do what churches have often done in the past … and offer something that they think is needed (which in my experience is often some manufactured generic thing that works elsewhere)  which fails because it is far removed from what the people are looking for in reality.

I have seen lots of ‘projects’ done to people or answers being given to questions that the local people are not asking … and I have felt strongly that we did not wish to be like that.

I have listened for a year.
I have had many conversations asking 3 questions …. what do you like about living here?, what frustrates you about living here?, and what is lacking here? Questions that were put together in a meeting with great people at Livability.
The locations for those conversations have been limited and restricted mainly to the coffee shop, residents meetings and the bus stop. One fact that has prevented me from meeting more people is the sheer lack of community space that there is here … there is a great coffee shop … and the is kind of it.

So what have I learned?
A lot of people feel lonely and even more, nearly half interviewed, believe there is no community feel here.
It is easy to dismiss those findings and say there is stuff here as someone bluntly pointed out to me around a year ago when I started this survey … but if people are saying this is lacking then we need to respond.

So … I guess my question has adapted from a year ago in my dream for Holy Trinity here.
I came asking how do we bless the community and get involved here …. I’m now asking how can we partner with others to develop a stronger community feel here so that when the survey is repeated that ‘community feel’ is an overwhelming positive rather than a demoralising lacking.

It seems. however, that new builds like ours, and in which I currently live, are not primarily designed with community in mind. They are, maybe, designed with privacy as a motivation. I am an outgoing person but see very few people in my block of 16 apartments and only know 3 other names of people sharing my front door. I met an elderly  couple who told me they have lived here for 10 years and only know the neighbours that share their landing … but that they only come across them 2 or 3 times a year.

I get the privacy thing.
I understand people getting home from a day in the city and the last thing they want is a knock on the front door.
There are times I come home and really don’t want to see or talk to anyone.
But to do that continually, and if that becomes a pattern, do we then start to fool ourselves that our own company, rather than community, is what we want?
Because … if we do … I am not sure that is a good thing for our basic humanity.

Ian talks about an energy deficit model which I think may shed some light here. It goes something like this:
People feel they have only a limited amount of energy. This energy is then used wisely with people feeling they have to conserve energy for work and essential tasks. This means that when invited somewhere, like a community meal or a drink out for example, they feel they don’t have the energy and so decline. On the occasions they go for the meal or drink they realise by the end of it that they are energised and it was actually what they needed. I believe this is because we are created to be in community, not hiding away in apartments.
Sadly I feel this model is quite evident here … and that when people do attend, they do get that energy burst, but then easily forget about it as the real city life world comes crashing in again.

Maybe we need to vie things differently? From a different perspective? By turning things upside down?

So … people also living in other gated communities in cities …
How do we grow community?
How do we encourage people to interact together?
How do we remind people that its better for their energy levels to be in community
How do we live as fully as possible in places which seem to be designed to hide or protect us from each other ….
and to protect us from what?!

So …. just …. ‘HOW?”

Feel free to answer … or comment … or anything really!

18 years …. wow!

14317613_533551443508902_6302934151694198433_nToday is another one of those days when you truly question ‘where on earth has that time gone?’ For today, this very day,  Joseph, my youngest child, turns that massive milestone of being 18 years old.bad-hair-day

The strange thing is, and this has been identical with all my children, I can remember the birth as if it were yesterday. It sounds a cliche, but it is true. It was a bright sunny Sunday morning … (all our children were helpfully born at the weekend, all before the times of paternity rights and so, at most, I was given 2 days off).fishing-7joe-worship

On this particular Sunday I remember the sun shining through the windows of the bedroom, the smell of coffee, the midwife appearing, and her placing Joe in my arms as she took Sarah off for a bath. I remember I had this little conversation where I simply let Joe know how pleased I was to meet him. I have been pleased to see him every day since that time. He just always brings a smile to my face.

It has been amazing to watch my son grow up in to the dsc_0335amazing, funny, witty, intelligent (and sometimes frustrating) handsome man that he is today. I admire his courage and his desire to live life in such a way that he will not look back and have regrets.

Joe … you have made me incredibly proud over and over again, and I kind of know that will just continue … love you loads … celebrate well! (apologies for the pics … no doubt you’ll get me later today for that!)

Guest lists and Pilgrims

At 18:01 this evening we thought about what hospitality is and how we practice that in a  21st century London setting (podcast here11111). I kind of felt that Jesus was suggesting that the guest list is far more important than any menu. During our discussion we wondered if the reading for tonight (Luke 14:7-14) was wider than hospitality and encompassed more of ensuring that people felt accepted and valued in a way that showed that we saw and acknowledged their value. The discussion was a good one and I think we went away inspired to make a bot of a difference in our immediate spheres of influence.

Tonight was even ore special, though, as we prayed for Barbara who temporarily leaves us for three months as she fulfils a lifelong ambition and does a bit of a world travel, visiting 10 countries and only staying in one place for around three days.

You can keep up to date with Barbara’s experiences by visiting her blog here. I’m really looking forward to reading something of her experiences.

As part of our service tonight we gathered around Barbara and prayed a blessing. we used and adapted ‘For the Traveller’ by John O’Donohue which I found in A Book of Blessings – well worth purchasing!

To send Barbara off we used these word tonight:

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

 

Go well Barbara, we look forward to welcoming you back in December!