end of term awesomeness

broken-bread-roll-17090065So my Easter chaplaincy duties came to a great conclusion today.

At all of the services I did the classic silk ribbon trick to tell the Easter story. I tied two blue hankies together that represented the disciples feeling ‘blue’ and tying themselves up in knots after the death of Jesus. I then made a red hanky disappear, symbolising Jesus dying, only for the red hanky to appear tied between the two blue ones.

It’s become a bit of a ‘thing’ in my schools to use ‘magic’ tricks … the children love it, Niza-Truco-de-Magia-Props-Magia-Herramientas-Juguetes-Pr-ctica-Cambiar-Color-de-la-Bufanda-desome of the staff do as well …. and at the end of the school day I see that learning has occurred. Children always say they liked the trick as they go home and when I ask what the story is about, what the trick was illustrating, they can immediately tell me.

This morning in our secondary school I combined the trick with our easter Eucharist. Secondary students are a little too cool to appreciate the same way as KS2 but they got the illustration. This morning was, again, awesome.

Previously in this school I have taught about Eucharist. The students have a choice of whether to come forward or not, and when they get to the front we have a code whereby they show whoever (myself or member of staff) is giving bread whether they wish to receive the bread, a simple inclusive blessing (May you have love, joy and peace in your life) or nothing at all. This morning was awesome because the overwhelming majority of our 360 students wished to share in Eucharist.

I find that pretty amazing, pretty awe inspiring, and an incredibly humbling experience to be able to be a part of. Seeing 300 or so teenagers lining up to receive the Body of Christ is incredibly special!

After Eucharist I got to spend some time with a Y3 class talking about Holy Week. I shared one stuff and, was again, bowled over at the knowledge of some of our children. I got asked some pretty tough questions and promised to find out why Easter is called easter … answers on a postcard please!

So a pretty awe inspiring EOT ….. and a great term too ….  thanks Koinonia Federation people for being just who you are!

awesome Eucharist

Baptist communionThe end of term at the Koinonia Federation is always busy for everyone, the chaplain included. Being the end of an academic year, there are people moving on and new people joining. This week there were will be both sadness as we say goodbye to some great people and excitement as we look ahead to working with a new team.

One of the exciting things for me this week as chaplain was presiding at the first ever school Eucharist in our secondary school. During the preceding two weeks I had the pleasure of teaching all 6 classes an RE lesson on The Eucharist. This was an interactive lesson which the students responded amazingly well to with some great conversations as we discussed the meaning and names of Eucharist across the Christian tradition. One student summed it up by saying … ‘So … Rev Rob … you are saying this one meal is the same thing but we all call it a different name and think some slightly different beliefs about what is happening … but they are all the same and all equally valid?’ Job done!

During the lessons we came up with a practice of ensuring all students and staff felt included in this celebration. We decided that people should have the freedom to come forward or stay seated. We discussed that some might want to come forward forward for a blessing rather than receive bread. We then discussed that some may feel left out who did not want to receive bread or a blessing and so decided people should have the freedom to come forward and say no thank you or simply shake their head.

On Monday morning we celebrated Eucharist for the first time. The students were fantastic in their level of respect and there was an amazing atmosphere of inclusion as most students came forward, some of faith and some of none, to receive bread, or a blessing or simply to come forward as part of the school family. There was a tangible sense that this was a special time for all of us who were there.

Sometimes being school chaplain means you get the privilege of being involved in some amazing things.


what a day …

cs618508-01a-bigYesterday was one of those packed and varied days with little space to reflect upon activity as I rushed from one event to another. It was the type of day I had before I was ordained and working with YFC when I always seemed to have to jump from one meeting or task to another and take on different roles as I journeyed through the day.

Yesterday started with morning prayer as usual and then staff meeting where we reviewed the week via a bacon roll (thanks Margaret!) and looked at the web ahead of us. We reviewed a lot of Christmas services and carol events.

Following this on my way home I bumped into a person who, this year, will not be celebrating or experiencing the joy of Christmas in their home. This person was really quite sad and lonely (as we chatted I told this person I was a blogger and they asked if I would include our encounter … I said I would not normally as it is always hard to not by accident make some identifying comment … but this person specifically asked that I did … so here you go!) We chatted about this person’s life and the person said it was helpful; before going on to say that I was the first person they had spoken to in weeks and that they missed personal conversation … it made me weep to think that this is even possible in an overcrowded city like London! We prayed together in a  coffee shop before I then had to move on. I always find chance encounters to be full of God … it was a real privilege to spend time with this person … thank you.

I next arrived at St Mary Magdalene Peninsula school to be the chaplain / speaker at the Christmas Service. The staff there, as ever, are amazing at getting the best out of children. Some of the Year 2’s sang solos in the choir (is a KS1 choir the youngest choir going?) which were simply stunning. I then spoke about Jesus and the Christmas Story using a candy cane as an illustration all aided by a bit of fun ‘magic’ (there is no such thing as magic children … remember this is just a trick!) that produced the desired wow factor – all thanks going to Mission Magic who sold me an awesome trick!

After chatting with some staff I headed to Craft for a coffee and a meet up with a cool guy called Dave Pilkington. Dave is training at St Mellitus to be a vicar to work in the Olympic Park … overseen by the amazing Bishop of Stepney! We talked about mission and the church and contemplation and a lot of other stuff. You know that feeling you get when meeting someone that just instinctively tells you this guy is a good guy … well it was like that. I will be watching with some envy but also great anticipation as Dave starts to develop things in the Olympic Park.

I then hopped on a couple of buses from this meeting to get to St Mary Magdalene Blackheath to be part of the audience as the Year 7’s put on an amazing production of A Christmas Carol. It was a great couple of hours and allowed me to wander the school and chat to people before hearing some amazing singing and seeing some excellent acting.

Hopping on another bus took me to The Pelton Arms where it was my turn to sing carols and join with others from the East Greenwich Team. Lots of people in the pub joined in and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to sing carols in their community. I think that is quite key for us to note … that going out from the church and giving people opportunity to mark events in the wider community , rather than always inviting them to join us in our smaller one, seems to be becoming more of a perceived need. It is interesting that this follows on from Jean’s observations here.

It is clear to me that people last night wanted to join in the singing of carols, that they wanted maybe to connect with something that is lying dormant deep within them … but I wonder if it is not until they were exposed to some resonating experience (in this case our singing carols in their pub) that people are even aware that there is something lying dormant within. I am thinking aloud … but it is worth proper thought and reflection as I wonder whether the people in the pub would have experienced carols and that sense of memory or wonder if the church had not gone in to that space?

Following the Pelton I finally got home …. listened to some Bowie and went to sleep. A lot of stuff yesterday that I need to take the time to reflect on … and I will do!

Our next Parish carols is at the Vanburgh on Thursday night (8pm) so why not join us!



9 months ….

The last time I blogged was 9 months ago.
Christmas Eve.
So today, the 24th of the 9th, seemed to me to be  good day to start here again.

9 months as a time of incubation.
9 months as a time of contemplation.
9 months of space

9 months gone in a flash.
but a habit of ‘no writing’
has seemed to set quite fast

IMG_0020In the last 9 months I have moved, started a new role in a new diocese, and feel excited with a new challenge ahead of me. I also feel quite privileged to be part of a diverse and great team and live in an awesome ‘vicarage’ flat in the Greenwich Millennium Village with the photo being the view from my study desk.

I am team vicar of Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula which is part of the East Greenwich Team Ministry and the Chaplain for the Koinonia Federation of Christ Church and St. Mary Magdalene CE Schools. Try saying that after a few rums!

So … my role is to establish chaplaincy in the schools and to grow ‘church’ with the community of Holy Trinity here on the Greenwich Peninsula …. that bit with the O2 dome at the end of it! The area is constantly changing and the constant challenge will be how we serve a diverse growing and hidden population. (I live in an apartment block and have only seen 3 other residents in the 4 weeks I have been here!) An exciting thing, though, is that the bishop is encouraging us to create … so create we will!

I don’t have a lot more to add at the moment apart from feeling amazingly welcomed and loved by both the church and school communities …. so if any of my ‘new’ friends are reading … thank you! … I can honestly say I think I am going to like living here!

As in the past I will blog my story …. so I guess … if you are interested … watch this space!

the week in a day

8772172-bread-and-chalice-with-wine-shallow-dof-copy-spaceI had a great day today. Sometimes some days are just a privilege to be part of. Today was one of those days. For 4 hours per week I am chaplain at St Mary Island School. I don’t think I do a lot other than be around and support people who need supporting, but the school seem to be happy with how I work.

Today the school held an RE day on the subject of Easter. The idea was to present the whole of Holy Week through various activities in one day. Each class in the school was timetable to mov from activity to activity – the logistics of this being a massive challenge and I think, Fi, the member of staff that organised this deserves a medal.

In the planning stage I agreed to take on the Thursday of Holy Week and explore the last supper through taste and smell. To try to encourage exploration, and after consultation with Sarah,  I set up two rooms.

In one room we considered Mary washing the feet of Jesus. Beforehand I set up oils burners and a scented candle in the room so that when the pupils entered they were hit with a waft of perfume smell. We used this image to look at and wondered what different people in the painting were thinking. There were some amazing interpretations. FRom this we thought about what was precious to us and what precious thing we might share with those we cared about.

The other room was set up to look at the sharing of the bread and wine. A video clip introduced the subject and then the children, guided ably by Richard and Jamie (thank you) visited different stations involving eating bread, drinking (non alcoholic) wine, as well as other activities to help them focus on some parts of the meaning of the meal, such as giving thanks, remembrance, forgiveness and friendship.

I have been amazed at some of the stuff and insights that the children have come up with, and some of the stuff seems to have challenged the adults to think as well. Today has just been a really exciting day … I foolishly started to think I wouldn’t mind returning to teaching …. but I’ve seen Sarah’s paperwork again so I remembered that I don’t really!

As I said … some days are just a privilege to be a part of  … today was one of those days.

olympic reflections

It’s taken a while to get down to writing anything since the Olympics. I guess I was not aware how much energy the Olympics zapped… and then we had a holiday …. but last night’s amazing opening ceremony for the Paralympics has been my personal inspiration to reflect on all that happened for me over that 3 week period.

First and foremost … what a privilege! I don’t think I have ever, or will ever repeat, volunteering in such an amazing, spectacular and special event.  Being a volunteer chaplain at the Olympics was such an amazing experience and quite a unique way to support, encourage and sometimes even challenge people. I must admit I started wondering how being a chaplain to the workforce (ie other volunteers) would work …. but we were clearly needed and welcomed by the other volunteers there.

I had four particular locations to look after as chaplain: Horseguards Parade, Wembley Stadium, Wembley arena and the Wembley Plaza hotel. In all four places I found people who wanted to talk, who wanted to be listened to, and who wanted to be prayed with or had someone they wanted me to pray for.

Being a football fan, having the opportunity to walk around Wembley stadium on a daily basis was kind of a schoolboy dream come true. On one occasion I found myself in one of the Wembley boxes praying with two people while we looked out over the empty Wembley which had a match the night before. We needed somewhere quiet and the box was to hand. It was surreal … looking out over the ‘sacred’ ground of Wembley while asking God to intervene in these peoples lives.  Of course … I took a pic … it had to be done!

I was amazed to find myself praying with people in stairwells, in the rest area, and even at the top of the Bowl in Horseguards while Beach Volleyball was played out below us. That was a unique venue in itself … and the press have made much of the amazing party atmosphere that was there. It was wild, and it was special and it may surprise some that amongst all that party stuff a chaplain was still needed and both of us there were always engaged with people from opening to close.

There are many amazing experiences that I will treasure for years and years to come. Those diamond moments of listening to people share their stories and being able to help them connect with God in some way were very very special. I was surprised by how many wanted to talk seriously about their lives and faith and how it all connected. The whole experience has left me with one new aim  …. to learn Portugese in the next couple of years so that I might have a chance to do it all again at Rio 2016! Yeh … I wish!!

we want them to …

This week is prisons week which I have thought about more this year in light of the ‘stuff’ in the media recently about whether prisoners should have the vote or not. For a few years now I have been following this blog of a prison chaplain working in Scotland. I think what she writes is very powerful, and today she posts a thought provoking poem from Judge Dennis Challeen:

We want them to have self-worth
So we destroy their self-worth

We want them to be responsible
So we take away all responsibility

We want them to be positive and constructive
So we degrade them and make them useless

We want them to be trustworthy
So we put them where there is no trust

We want them to be non-violent
So we put them where violence is all around them

We want them to be kind and loving people
So we subject them to hatred and cruelty

We want them to quit being the tough guy
So we put them where the tough guy is respected

We want them to quit hanging around losers
So we put all the losers under one roof

We want them to quit exploiting us
So we put them where they exploit each other

We want them to take control of their lives, own problems and quit being a parasite…
So we make them totally dependant on us.

It seems to me that more needs to be done to restore hope and responsibility in our fellow human beings, fellow image carriers of God, who are in prisons. Giving back the vote would seem to be one small step in that long massive process.

chaplain day

I spent a day with chaplains and those interested in chaplaincy at a training day put on by Kent Workplace Mission at Aylesford Priory.

As I think I have said before I am not a chaplain but I do carry out a chaplaincy type role in some of the places I hand out in. My role is different to that of a chaplain, however, in that as a pioneer I am also seeking out those people that are interested in developing their faith and creating a new way of being church.

Today was interesting and I learnt stuff by chatting with other people. I was encouraged and resonated a lot with what Elaine Hutchinson shared who has started a chaplaincy in Birmingham from scratch. It seems she has started a s a chaplain in Birmingham in a very similar way to how I have started as a pioneer in Rochester.

I also met a woman over lunch who is exploring Fresh Expressions with older people. I was excited by her story as she told of running holiday clubs in retirement homes, which sounded very similar to childrens holiday clubs such as Sarah is running at the moment. I loved the idea and could sense the joy of these people as stories were shared.

It was not a bad day and it has given me some stuff to think about.