missional entrepreneurship

I went on the CMS Pioneer Missional Entrepreneurship module last year. It was excellent and I can easily say it is one of the best weeks of training that I have ever been on. The mix of people, the setting and calibre of input all combined to make this an amazing week.

You can see what I wrote last year here and, because the was so good I posted twice, also here.

So … if you are tussling with this stuff about missional enterprise or a project it’s worth getting in touch with CMS and booking a place on this years week which is happening in November.

should have gone to Brighton!

It looks like, along with thousands of others, I made the wrong choice yesterday in watching the football – instead we could have had a lot more fun in taking a trip to Brighton and experiencing Beyond’s  Beach Hut Spirituality.

I love the creativity explored by Beyond and the way they engage with faith.

A flash of light!

Yesterday I took a trip to London to meet upo with Ian Mobsby who is kind enough to take time regularly to chat with me in a pioneering mentoring role. I really value this relationship and I found yesterday very helpful. In fact, I felt myself a lot lighter after our conversation as I was able to see things in perspective again.

I guess one of the things that is difficult with all ministry and, I think, pioneer ministry in particular is the whole isolation thing. I work with in this daily which means familiarity breed itself quite quickly. The daily working alone brings feelings of isolation to the forefront. This produces tiredness, and when we are tired it is difficult to be rational or see things for what they are.

Working in isolation (which is not really a choice but more of a necessity) can mean that all of the above cam result is a loss of perspective. Steps are gradual and unnoticeable on a daily basis; but taking time out to look back over a length of time results in things becoming clearer and change being more obvious. As I looked back over the last 22 months I could see how relationships have developed, how locations have changed and how there was no gathering and now there is – even if it is struggling at the moment.

Following my time with Ian I popped into The White Cube to visit Anthony Gormley’s latest installation, Test Sites. In particular I was struck by Breathing Room III and how it related to, and reinforced, my conversation with Ian.

Breathing Room III  ‘is made from 15 interconnecting photo-luminescent ‘space frames’, the total volume of which is equal to that of the internal gallery space. 
Time and light are the principal materials of the work. Breathing Room III encourages the viewer to enter into and interact with a defined sculptural space, where intense bursts of light interrupt complete darkness, unexpectedly jolting the experience from one of quiet meditation to acute interrogation.’

I took time to wander around and in and out of the sculpture. At first my feelings were of fear and of being uncomfortable. Fear because my worry was of doing something wrong, of breaking something, of walking into something I should not walk into. My confidence quickly increased as I got used to the space and stepping in the gaps along with ducking when I needed to duck. It did not take long for me to start feeling very comfortable in this environment and even enjoy being there. I quickly became acclimatised and my initial thoughts and experiences evaporated as my experience of this new environment grew.

Then came a sudden shock of light and heat. The sudden light from darkness was blinding and quite painful. The heat from the lights was amazing (actually you should pop in for a little while if you can just to experience that intense change alone). The whole experience was quite painful from the initial shock and contrast, but it was an ‘awakening’ experience.

The flash of light exposed Gormley’s work. It showed all that were able to open their eyes where this installation started from and what it was like before the process of time. As the lights dimmed again and the darkness grew it became apparent that a journey had occurred. WE had not remained static even though first impressions may have left us thinking that. 

My time with Ian was essentially for me another flash of light. At times it was painful and sometimes I wanted to close my eyes. The flash, however, served a massively useful role in revealing where everything from started from and by that showing that some things have been achieved over 22 months that I have now been here. I am on a journey, it is not complete and never will be … but I am not static, I am on a journey and moving, even id slowly, in a direction.

hitting the epiphanal wall

The last few weeks have been somewhere between a challenge and a struggle. ‘Challenge’ is too soft a word, life itself is a challenge, and ‘struggle’ seems quite melodramatic; people in war torn countries face a struggle. My experience of the last few weeks, as a pioneer minister, trying to work with others to create something new is somewhere in between.

A combination of things last week got me thinking about this in a different way. Last week I watched Run Fat Boy Run. I always keep an eye on the 9pm film on Film 4 to see if it was worth watching, and I had not seen this film before. I quite like Simon Pegg and so I thought I’d take time out to watch.

In the film, Dennis Doyle (played by Pegg) decides to run a marathon. Dennis ‘runs’ most of the race injured and then ‘hits the wall’. In the film we see an actual wall that only Dennis can see. He is exhausted and everything within him tells him to stop. He cannot see any way around the wall. He could climb it but does not have the energy. He could knock it down but does not have the energy. he starts to believe that the wall will defeat him. He remembers his training, listens to the encouraging voices around him and finds the energy within himself to start to believe again and the wall starts to crumble.

As someone who used to run a lot in the past I remember the wall. It was that time when everything started to hurt, breathing became difficult, you wanted to give up and yet you knew that you just needed to carry on for a while and you would receive your second wind and be able to carry on as if the wall was never there. In fact the worst thing to do would be to stop as starting again would be incredibly difficult. In running, hitting the wall is a time when many drop out.

Each week I send my diary to an amazing group of people who pray for me throughout the week. As I was writing that last night I shared with my friends how I was feeling disheartened by events being slow (for example yesterday there were only 6 people at the gathering) and how I was struggling with being in the same places every day on my own. I have now been going out alone for 22 months. I guess I thought that by now I would have developed a bit of a team or found some allies. But I have not. I also shared I don’t know where to go, or what to do next, because I don’t.

A I wrote the words to my prayerful friends the image of Dennis at the wall hit me full on in an epiphany moment sort of way.  I believe God speaks through film and I wonder whether I was receiving some Divine insight to what has been going on within me over the last few weeks.

If there is a wall in mission terms then I think I might have hit it.
I can tell you it hurts.
I have a strong desire to sit down and just call it a day.
I think I have stopped expecting to see God do things.
That’s not so difficult to do when you do pretty unspectacular things all day. I’m tempted to go away and do something easier.
But I won’t.
It’s not because I am great or good at what I do.
It’s not even because I am stubborn!
It’s because I can’t stop.
I can’t stop because deep down, I know this is what God wants me to be doing.
I know this is what I am here for. 
I hope my waiting will pay off.
I hope the gathering will grow.
But I guess it doesn’t actually matter if it doesn’t.
Because (to repeat myself) I know this is where God wants me as this time.
I don’t know how I know that.
I can’t really explain it in words I can understand myself.
But it is my reality.
This is my calling.

Somehow, and someway, I need to keep going. I guess I need to keep praying, keep waiting, keep looking and see who God brings along my path.  I need to hold on to what I know and keep that prophetic looking and re-imagining of how things could be rather than simply accepting how things are.

If I accept how they are the wall just grows and grows and becomes the object of concern. If I continue to re-imagine and dream then the creativity and vision of opportunity from God, rather than the obstacle of the wall, focuses the attention.

I do hope, though, that there is someone to walk on this journey with on the other side of the wall – it’s getting quite lonely!

identity gathering

This afternoon the gathering looked at Identity. I thought the session went fairly well but we do not seem to have become noticed by many people yet.

I think the creativity of the community came thought this afternoon.  After our welcoming liturgy we thought about Psalm 139. We watched a short film that some friends had made a few years back based on Psalm 139 and then looked at the language and asked ourselves what ‘resonated with us’. A good discussion on identity then followed and I had a proud dad moment as Tom shared some pretty good stuff.

We then moved into Open Space, a time for people to reflect on the theme, bible input and discussion with the help of various stations. Howard wrote the stations which were excellent – one called ‘mirrors’ asking us to look at ourselves in mirrors while looking at a list of truths and lies about ourselves. Another was called ‘exteriors’ where we felt different objects hat were different on the outside and inside and related that to how we wear masks. The third that Howard wrote was called ‘sweets’, which the children particularly liked, and asked us to taste a variety of sweets as we considered what type of sweet we might be. In addition to this there was opportunity to sit quietly in front of an icon and reflect.

After sharing from this time we had a time of prayer with incense and people added incense as they prayed for stuff that concerned them. This was followed by cakes and drinks.

The feel and direction of today seemed ‘right’ in many ways and I am really glad to be part of this … whatever this may be!

a combination of intelligence and feeling

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of leading the Taize service with Colette (a member of the cathedral who will be starting her ‘vicar training’ as Westcott in September) in the cathedral. We hold this service each month and people come from all over the diocese for this reflective service. I particularly enjoy the time as there is a lot of space for prayer or silence in between the repetitive chanting that the Taize community is known for.

The cathedral’s format for Taize follows a simple pattern of chant, bible reading, silence, chant, other reading, silence, chant, prayer, chant, blessing and then a glass of wine. The readings are always challenging in some way but the reading I was handed for this service resonated with me in a way that brought tears to my eyes. The quote is from ‘The Enduring Melody’ by Michael Mayne. I have not come across this but this Observer review causes me to view the reading even more poignantly than I did last night.

I read the following quote from the book:

‘So what must ‘being Church’ mean if it is to meet the needs of the age in which our grandchildren are growing up?  It will mean creating spaces in which people may catch a glimpse of the awesome holiness of God as well as the mystery of his vulnerability and compassion.  It will seek to express the traditional quintessence of the Gospel in ways that satisfy the intellect as well as the heart: using words and employing images and metaphors which speak to both but which also speak where reason runs out of words.  Like art and poetry and drama and falling in love, it will demand a combination of intelligence and feeling.  It will mean stilling the demand that we should sign up to some credal formulary, allowing people who have always found themselves in that borderland between faith and scepticism to go on exploring, but within, not outside, the worshipping community.  It will mean loving God’s world, but learning to stand obliquely to the traffic of values dictated by the media and the consumerist world of self-interest, learning to redress the balance with the Gospel values of forgiveness, reconciliation, empathy, equity and self-denying love.  The eucharistic mystery of bread as opposed to the satanic mystery of money.

I guess I was especially moved by this reading last night as it sums up in many ways our dreams for the gathering – particularly that sentiment of stilling the demand that we should sign up to some credal formulary, allowing people who have always found themselves in that borderland between faith and scepticism to go on exploring, but within, not outside, the worshipping community.

That seems very easy to say, or to write, but to achieve it … well I am finding that to be just a little more difficult … maybe because it does, indeed, need that combination of both intelligence and feeling. The trouble is, I think, too many people seem to think that intelligence and feeling, or head and heart need to be separate. Often we hear … ‘my heart says yes but my head says no’ …. but  – are not both, head and heart, created by God? And if both are created by God are both not equally capable of hearing God’s message and both equally at risk of mis-hearing?

I wonder whether, somehow, we need to understand how to be led more by our heart as well as our heads so that we can readdress the western slant for reason and intelligence with the heavenly slant of compassion and feeling. Maybe then we can achieve some better equilibrium?

where and how?

The week has been a pretty good week as far as new links go and chatting and listening with a variety of wonderful people. It has also been a ‘landmark’ week in that our domain name (http://www.gathering.me.uk) has gone properly live. I’m pleased ans surprised that we were able to register that name … and the ‘me’ part both personalises us and locates us within Medway as ME is the postcode area. There are still things to add to the website when the time is right but the basic essentials are there for people who may be searching for like minded people to be able to find us.

In addition this week we have received our advertising postcards. Although it was a good idea to have these published (I got a great special offer deal!) I now have a problem. Where do I leave these postcards? That is also a general question about how and where we let people know about the gathering.

Our dilemma, as such, is that we do not wish to advertise in the ‘normal places’ that a church would advertise. If we do this, our fear is that we will either attract dissatisfied people who are already in churches or attract those looking for something different to attend to add to what they are already involved in. While there is nothing wrong in that if that need exists, we don’t feel this is what the gathering is primarily for. 

the gathering is for those searching, those who have never been to church or those that have tried church and want to create something new that engages with them and their questions. We don’t wish to build a new service or event, we are looking for people that wish to join us on this journey of birthing a new way of being church where people can journey together, question but accept each others views and discover God for themselves.

Currently our postcards can be found in a pub, the library and a couple of coffee shops in Rochester. I sense this is where spiritually questioning people tend to hang out. I may be wrong but I guess it is a start. I’m not sure where else to place them – any suggestions from practitioners out there – either on the whole awareness thing or the specific postcard thing?

waiting (again!)

The gathering now has some form of web presence if you have missed out on that – there is a link to our facebook page on the right hand side of this blog page, and you can find an ‘in process’ web site here. As far as the gathering goes I am thinking through how we exist. As we only get together once a month at the moment it is easy to think of the gathering as merely an event, and that is definitely what we wish to avoid. We wish to be a growing community, a church, and to do that we need to do more than just ‘worship’ together.

I feel at the moment that I am missing something. I have taken some time out today to think and ponder over stuff in a prayerful way. I’d like to say that I had ‘a moment’ or ‘epiphany’ experience – but I didn’t! In fact, if I’m honest, the day has been ‘bloody hard work’ and I don’t feel that I have anything to show for it. To make it worse I really thought today would be a key day!

I’m stuck!
I’m waiting!
I’m fairly frustrated!

After yesterdays services a thought did strike me and I wondered if this situation is similar in some ways to those disciples who were stuck between Ascension and Pentecost. They were told to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They are living in the excitement of seeing the resurrected Christ and his ascension; and then they have to wait. Looking at the first few chapters of Acts as I did today I think it becomes pretty clear that the disciples here were just blindy obedient.

By that I mean that they followed the instruction to wait, but that they did not really know what this ‘Holy Spirit’ was that they were waiting for. In some ways they just accepted that they had to ‘wait and see’ as they had been instructed. I wonder of they were frustrated too?

I look to those early chapters of Acts with more frustration if I am honest. They seem to be saying I have to wait more. The one action I can see here is that the group ‘met continually for prayer’. So I guess that is what we have to do. As a community of the gathering who living apart in the 21st century with different work and lifestyles, rather than living in 1st century Palestine quite close together, then we need to think how we can pray continually as meeting in the same place is not going to be possible. Maybe we need to agree to pray at set times wherever we are, adopting a kind of monastic approach to prayer through being united in prayers together at a time so that we can be united in our absence from each other. Or is that just fancy words to try and sound like I know what I’m doing?!

MY conclusion? : I’m still stuck – but I hope this waiting thing moves on soon.

we gathered …

Yesterdays gathering was a great experience and one that I think was encouraging for us all.

We thought a little about Pentecost. After our gathering liturgy, James led us in some trust games which flowed well into watching a short video clip of the scene in Acts 2. After chatting about ‘what all this meant’, particularly to us in the 21st century in Kent, we them moved into Open Space.

Open Space is a practice I saw at COTA which has stayed with me. During this time we have ‘space’ to think about or dwell on what we have been talking about and heard from each other. For some, this could involve sitting in front of an icon, watching a video that asked more about the theme, or praying in a creative way – on this ocassion by using anointing oil or sitting in front of a fan to feel the spirit upon your face.

We came back together to pray before Sarah got us making ‘tassles’ made up of 3 different colours to symbolise the Trinity. We had quite a laugh doing this and my tassle has been sat in my pocket all day and each each time I touched it my mind wandered to think about the Trinity. We finished with our sending/eating liturgy and shared cakes together in the crypt.

This was an encouraging time for a number of reasons – we had 2 new people come to the gathering  which is exciting to see. Seeing James lead us at the start showed how seriously we take children within this community. This was a gathering where people were free to explore and create as they try to make sense of their faith journey.

The joining of new people and the chat we had afterwards leads us to think that we are moving in the right direction in the format that we have. Sarah mentioned to me that I have become ‘churchy’ in my language and so that is something that we, or I, need to be aware of in the future. I guess the frustration now is how do we let people know who are searching and on this ‘faith journey’ that we exist?

Although this is all exciting – there is a frustration for me. I feel something is missing – a key person to work alongside me, to bounce ideas off from within the community, to set up with me. At the moment I am ‘taking a strong lead’ with the gathering in ensuring our monthly gathering happens and at the moment because of another key family lots of great things happen…but I think this should be more organic and decentralised rather than resting with one, or even two, people or sets of people. To be decentralised, however, we need more people and so I feel we are in this frustrating chicken and egg scenario! We have great people in the gathering but we need more.

So if you are the praying type – please pray that I bump in to some other people soon that I can bounce things around with regularly or that they find us.

YOu can also find the gathering on facebook.

The gathering Sunday 415pm

This Sunday see’s the second of our gatherings in the crypt of the cathedral.

We are starting to have a web presence and you can find us on facebook and temporarily in an early draft form at this site so that people that may be interested can find out more. If that is you please message us, or of it is someone you know please tell them about us. Feel free to pass the links on to others so that people can discover us for themselves.

This months theme is looking at a mixture of truth and Pentecost and I am looking forward top seeing what the community creates as we continue our journey together.