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 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!

12 days

IMG_0947

The parish of St Barnabas Little Ilford 

This is my 12th day as the priest here at St Barnabas.

Everything is still new … life here is soooo different than anywhere else I have experienced life up to now.

One difference that I like is that the High Street wakes up later and rests later … so much later …. I could even get a haircut here at midnight if I wanted to! (no unkind jokes now!)

The streets are still pretty vibrant at 10pm at night and the variety and quality of food is pretty stunning. There are plenty of other differences too …. all which seems to feed, or breed, a certain personal vibrancy that I can feel is retuning.

So … these 12 days have been mainly full of listening. I have met people in the church and we have chatted about things we think St Barnabas is good at and may be called to be involved in. Poverty is a major ‘in your face’ reality here. In my last post it was obviously present but hidden … there is no hiding here and I am close to tears when I see so many people clearly sleeping in doorways, under trees, in churchyards …. wherever there is shelter. I don’t want to get political … but a government I voted for a while back virtually eliminated homelessness …..  it’s back and looks worse than it did under the Thatcher regime.

So maybe we will discover from God that our mission is to be involved in poverty in some way …. or maybe we will discover something else as we continue this journey of listening and hearing and trying to discern what God is doing.

I am merely focusing us and asking,

‘What is it that God doing here … whatever it is, lets join in!’

That’s a Rob translation of (ex) Archbishop Rowan’s gem of a quote!

In these 12 days I have also met a few people from the community and some of my fellow vicar colleagues. Today it was amazing to visit the Trinity Centre and have a chat with Paul, the Operations Director,  about all the amazing stuff that is going on there and the incredible heritage that it comes from. As I left Paul very kindly gave me a gift of New Londoners, an amazing photo story book written and photographed by young refugees. It is a beautiful book which is an indication of the beauty and love that may be found in this area.

As I look ahead, after 12 days, I am often daunted at the tease, sometimes scared, usually excited … but always aware that I am one small cog in this story that was being travelled and will continue long after  have gone ….. and in reality, for now, for me …. that leaves me with a lot more prayer walking (if anyone fancies joining me …. we can have a great lunch after!) and listening to people.

This could take a while.

Seems I’m on the move …

IMG_0426Seems something new is happening.
An announcement was made today.
I’m on the move to St Barnabas.

I’m really excited and very daunted and sad at leaving Greenwich but hopeful of great things in Newham. A move in any type of ministry or work always produces mixed emotions I think. When I visited I loved the place and could picture myself there … and they seem to like me so I believe this is going to be quite exciting. And daunting! But I think I already said that!

Anyway … I don’t move until the end of July / beginning of August with a view to a September start …. so until then I’m continuing seeking God’s way here.

More of this at a later date I am sure …

fitting in is over rated

CMS open daysI am really enjoying being on the CMS MA course for pioneers. I love the teaching we are engaged in, and I love being part of my year group who are all engaged in creative and amazing ways in God’s mission in their particular communities. I also love being part of this group that recognises we are all just human, good and bad at different stuff … and all united under a feeling, and a reality, that we don’t often feel we ‘fit in’. I feel I ‘fit’ with this group! But …as the title says …

I love the whole course … until it gets to this time of the year when the sun is shining and I need to knuckle down, read books and produce something. Assignments for this course are interesting and fun as well though … recently we had to carry out some ethnographic research and present our findings, and currently I am putting together an essay with a title that asks me to look at symbolism and myth in my choice of a film, novel or piece of art and consider how that might inform my understanding of mission. There were other great titles too like a discussion of whether Jesus needs to be culturally relevant to be understood.

I’ve gone with the film one as I love film and have been considering for quite a few years of the dialogue that occurs between theology/church/mission and film. If it is true that society now propagates myth through film rather than chatting around the fireside as Dr Telford suggests then I want to grapple with that, delve into that, and use what I gain from that in attempting to engage in my community in a relevant and transformative way.

Anyway … I’m not sharing that so you now what I am writing about …. I am sharing my enthusiasm for this course because it is an AMAZING course …. and if you are looking for a course to be really engaging, creative and challenging in a good way then I want to recommend this course to you. Another bonus is, as well, that the course is significantly cheaper than some MA’s out there. There are other pioneer courses with CMS too … check them out. 

You can see the prospectus here … ‘fitting in is overrated’ and there is an Open Day coming up on 21 May …. if you can’t make that this flyer gives more dates. be great to see you joining ….