a twinkle of hope …?

cloak sunsetThe last few days have been exciting … well exciting on my scale in a world of ‘pioneering’ where things move incredibly slowwwwwwwly as you look for ways to both engage with and support the community.

My style of pioneering has been described as ‘loitering with intent’. I guess that is a fairly accurate description of how I spend a lot of my time and I try to be visible in this community in which I have been called to serve.

I believe the church was birthed to bless communities. To be able to bless community we, the church, need to be able to find a way of discovering what the community are searching for and what the community perceive that they need. To start to understand that need the church needs to be hanging around in the community to be able to listen and watch but also to be recognised. When we are in the community it is then we hear of the communities dreams and hopes.

Sadly, in a  lot of my Christian ministry experience and throughout history I have seen, and read of,  church after church skipping over the listening bit. They have assumed, some arrogantly and some lovingly, that they already know what the community needs and provide it. These churches have then got confused and hurt when the community have not engaged with whatever the church felt it was providing.

I am desperate not to make this mistake … either through good intentions or through arrogance. 

And to be clear … I am not talking here about seeing people convert to Chritianity or to give the church ‘something’ … I am talking here solely of the church blessing the community … the church giving towards community development and not expecting anything in return. I believe in that engagement some people will become interested in the wider mission of the church … and I firmly believe people will ask questions when they need to.

But back to the peninsula …. two occurrences this week that may indicate we are at the start of something new … just maybe though as they may both come to nothing.

I was stopped earlier this week outside the 02 my a local man who had seen me in a variety of places. He asked if I and the church would be interested in supporting him as he tries to develop a community project on the peninsula. Of course I said I am happy to keep talking.

Secondly, on the GMV FaceBook page some people were talking about the fact that there was no youth club here and that provision was off the peninsula in other places. The message post was getting longer and I injected a simple question …. ‘why not start one?’ …. and, to cut a story shorter, I hope some people are going to come round next week to talk about what we might be able to do. Sometimes things need to be responded to pretty quickly … and I wonder whether there is a role here for HT to support the local community desire of having some type of youth club … we shall see!

18 months of loitering, waiting, searching and looking for ways to help  …. maybe …. just maybe … we are starting to see a couple of small ways forward.

Progress … ?

The last few days have been quite exciting on the Greenwich Peninsula.
I don’t think we have cracked it yet, but this week we had some amazingly positive signs.

Following on from the encouragement of the Mindful meditation ….

agapaiLast night we had the largest ever attendance at Agapai with new faces. We had a great conversation around Jesus washing feet and how we use power and authority (based on Archbishops Justin’s book). We also had time to share our stories and pray for each other … it was a very cool time.


I hope this continues.
I pray this continues.
But … regardless … we will carry on!

Holy Ground …

collectionToday I am pretty proud to be a resident of GMV.
The response to our collection was amazing … we have too many bags of clothes to fit in my car, which is a pretty awesome problem to have.
People responded to the social media adverts but at least 3 sets of people walked past us and returned home to get clothes to bring to us to be given to refugees. I will deliver these clothes to GRACE this week so that that can happen.

Today showed that the people who live here want to make a difference. I think it shows that people here are concerned about the plight of their fellow humans and particularly of those that have been forced to leave their homes.

A particularly touching moment was when a man walked past and wanted to make a donation because he had once been a refugee from Bosnia and remarked how welcomed he had been made to feel when he arrived. I guess I wondered if he would till receive that welcome today in what seems to be our broken in a attitude country?!

But … today was good, today inspired people and the few of us from HTGP that were ‘out there’ in the cold have been encouraged too.

Tonight I spoke on Transfiguration and took the tack of not allowing ourselves to box God in. I felt the message tonight was that we were supposed to help spread Holy Ground and get the message of love and care ‘out there’ where the people are. For a coupe of hours today I hope that we did that.

Clothes collection

refugee-collectionOn Sunday, from 4pm until 6pm we, the local church (HTGP) are hosting a pop up drop off point to collect clothes for refugees. For a while we have wanted to do something real that will make a difference and help people who have been forced to leave their home.

We are collecting with and for a local charity called  GRACE … and of you are in the area of the Greenwich Peninsula please do come and see us with your clothes gift in the Millennium Village Oval Square.

The two pictures below show what we are collecting …





we hope to meet you tomorrow …

community building

building-communitiesOne of the things we called to be involved in here as HTGP is that of ‘building community’.
In a listening survey I carried out in my first 9 months here I asked 3 simple questions:

What do you like about living here?
What frustrates you here?
What is lacking in this place?

To that last question the overwhelming majority answer (46% of people) said that the place lacked community feel. The next most frequent answer, at 14%, was facilities for teenagers. Nearly half of the people ho live around me feel there is no community or community spirt of feeling here. Whether that is right or not, it is a massive ‘popular’ opinion.

When I got here I quickly became part of the Residents Association and now, somehow I am secretary! This is actually  group the campaigns well and puts on good events. Tonight I hosted a planning meeting for a large summer even, loosely called ‘The Village Summer Fete’. I’m excited about this because we are responding to the 46% by trying to deliver something that will bring community together . The plan is not to just have a one off event, but to have a forum or some method on the day itself for people of common interest to connect and maybe do something that will further develop community.

How does community grow?
I’m not sure I can answer that yet.
I wonder of we need ‘nodes’ or catalysts to ‘form’ around.
I hope The Village Summer fete might be one of those nodes or catalysts that gets something going.
I’m just think aloud really … because the Peninsula is quite a unique place … we are trying to develop community on land where people have not lived previously … in other areas of new builds this is not always the case and people are displaced or there is a community around that people either link, or not, with.
On the peninsula we do not have that option … we build together from nothing
It’s another exciting thing to be involved in.

So … if you live on the Peninsula …. or even if you don’t cos we are a pretty welcoming bunch …. put the date of Saturday 15th July in your diary and watch this space.

noticing God

img_1413Tonight was Agapai.
Each week we get together at 8pm as the christian community that we are and we eat together.
This evening there were 4 of us.
Eating together and spending time together and listening to each other is the main purpose of Agapai.

We always ask two questions  while we eat …

What has God been doing with you recently?
What can we pray for?

In the past some have seen the God questions as a bit of a threat and not wanted to engage with that with challenges like:
‘What if God is doing nothing?’
‘What if I can’t see God doing anything?’
“What if I don’t want to think about that question?’
or observations of:
‘God never does anything because God is not that interested!’

Of course those views and observations are ok to point.
Before you challenge me the fact I say they are ‘ok’ does not mean I agree with them!
I certainly don’t believe in a disinterested God! Exactly the opposite!
Sometimes, though,  we do feel that God is distant and doing nothing … but I do believe if we never ask the question and consider what God might be doing, then we are never going to notice what God does.

If we take space, even if it is a little short pause as we eat, I believe we end up noticing a lot more of the stuff that is happening around us, and then we can wonder where God was in it … because it is pretty certain if we believe in a present God then God is there. Some would say somewhere … I think more in terms of everywhere!

A few years ago as part of IME training I remember Jean Kerr sent us out into a local high street and look for evidence of God’s love working. It was an amazing experience as all these young curares returned with unique observation after unique observation ranging from couples holding hands to people sitting with homeless and distressed individuals.

Tonights Agapai was a night of noticing God … every body could see an element of God somewhere in their past week or so ….. so tonights Agapai was pretty cool …. pretty inspiring …. and community building ….. why not think about joining us next week!


The Wasteful Extreme Obscene Extravagance of God

water-wineI’ve been thinking a lot about extravagance recently.
One reason being it has been a topic that HTGP has kind of been considering and the ‘elaborate’ title of my writing today is the title I gave my homily last night.
Another reason is that the world today seems to be changing and in major ways, with Brexit and Trump, becoming more scarce rather than extravagant in its attitude and acceptance of people.

Last night’s gospel reading was the story of the Wedding at Cana.
We contemplated why Jesus would do such a bizarre thing as his first ‘sign’ as John calls it.
Those of us in the church community who have been brought up to use resources wisely struggled with this idea of extravagance and the real possibility of waste. In this story alone we are talking of 180 gallons of wine. That’s 900 bottles open to the air in need of drinking. That’s some flipping party! I can’t believe it was all drunk. Some must have been wasted!

Elsewhere we see this same extravagance line in Jesus actions. When feeding the 5000 12 massive basketfuls were left. In a  hot climate fish and bread would not last long. I guess it was wasted and thrown away.

In the story of The Prodigal Son, the father rushes out to greet his ‘lost’ son; the son who minjae-lee-laptop-sleeves-blossom-desirehas been extravagant in a  wasteful way and thrown away his inheritance, rather than being condemned as one might expect, is then welcomed back in more extravagance by the father.

Moving away from Jesus we see Mary being extravagant, and again wasteful, as she pours a years wages worth of perfume over Jesus’ feet. A little bit would have done the job. Again, instead of being condemned, Jesus praises her for her actions.

As a staff team we have read and chatted about Archbishop Welby’s lent book ‘Dethroning Mammon‘. Archbishop Welby writes ‘abundance exists to be given freely and openly’. He alludes to various incidences when God is extravagant and suggests we are called to mirror that.

I’ve been brought up to believe extravagance is wrong.
I grew up with a mother who worked hard in minimum wage jobs who saved and protected her money. I think this then led to her being over-protective but that is a separate issue. It’s hard to change a mindset of a life time.

To have an extravagant outlook I guess we need to sit quite lightly to feelings of ownership. If as Christians we believe all is a gift from God and all is Gods then at best we are only stewards and loan holders of God’s stuff for a limited amount of time. This should mean we do not get too attached to ‘stuff’. But …. we do!

One question Welby asked in his book was ‘what is your most expensive possession and would you give it away’. For me that would be ‘my’ house. Could I give that away? No is probably the honest answer! I wish I could say differently … and one day maybe I could be that extravagant … I decided with other things like my apple, or Max the mini that I could give them away if needed. It would be hard, but I could…. or I like to think I could.

But is this extravagance that seems to be pouring out of the bible only to do with money and possessions? I think sometimes it is really easy to make a donation, or give a gift. To be extravagant with time can be a real challenge. To be extravagant in our attitudes is a bigger challenge.

If we extravagant in our outlook then we have an attitude of welcome, a mindset of acceptance and a practice of love. In a world that seems to have changed to significantly in the last 6 months I believe that is what people need to experience. In this world where fear is bubbling and hate is thriving people need to hear the gospel message of extravagance …. a message that lavishes abundantly on me …. and on you …… and on everyone else too!

Whether we think we deserve it is immaterial …. God lavishes it anyway
Whether we think ‘they’ deserve it is immaterial … God lavished it anyway
Whether we think ‘what a waste’ is immaterial … God lavishes it anyway

Surely this is Christian mission …. to be extravagant in our welcome, in our love, and in our acceptance.