Once in a while …

wedding-rings-wallpaper1Once in a while being ordained brings some pretty amazing surprises and privileges. I have one such privilege over the next few days as I travel to Seattle to marry a pretty special couple who I have got to know, mainly from my placement at COTA and their time with me in Rochester.

I feel undeserving of such an experience but am feeling very excited to be able to take part in a ceremony of such significance and beauty for a couple I have come to care deeply about. The service will be beautiful and reflects well the couple I have got to know.

So … as a sideline as well I am off to drink coffee, hopefully a porter or two, check out some sights and meet with some old friends …. but most of all I get to play a small part in a pretty special and amazing day for Meghan and Lucas.

Once in a while …. we find ourselves in special places … amazing!

sometimes Jesus just isn’t enough!

DSC_1308Today was an encouraging day which showed me, in quite a special way, how much ‘progress’, if that is at all the correct word, that has been made in the High Street engaging with people.

Today I met with my good friend Terry and we went for a coffee and a chat. We went to my normal morning cafe where I naturally engaged with a number of people, from the staff to a few of the customers. On our way back down the High Street a couple of other people spoke to me or said hello in a variety of ways.

Normally I would not have been so conscious of these interactions. My friends presence and reaction, however, reminded me that something amazing has happened and is actually continuing to happen in the High Street area. I only need to go back a very few months and I remember numerous times when I was close to tears due to the lack of pattern and engagement that I was encountering with the local community. I felt unrooted, disorientated, disposed of, but most of all isolated, and came incredibly incredibly close to simply stopping and getting a real job!

Things have happened so slowly and relationships have developed in small, often indistinguishable steps: a hello from the waitress has become ‘hello gorgeous’ (well … maybe that’s a big step!!!), a nod has become a handshake, a smile has become a ‘how are you?’, the ‘nice to see you’ has become a conversation about Thor being real and Jesus being fictional.

Interestingly, or maybe surprisingly, or even shockingly (!), in the main I have not noticed these developments at all …. until a friend offered to take me for a coffee on my familiar ground.

I guess this could be a bit similar to watching a child grow up. You see your beautiful son or daughter every day and do not notice the small changes in their height or facial features and all of a sudden you see a photo of them taken a year ago and think ‘whoah …. when did all that change happen?’ Today, being with my friend, has mirrored that exercise of looking at a 6 month old photo, and I’ve gone ‘whoah … when did THAT start to happen!’

The weird thing is that I know this stuff … the stuff that says although I need to work alone a lot of the time I need honest people around me to keep me on track. People who care enough to encourage and take time, people who love me enough to point out when I’m being a pratt and people who are don’t feel awkward or embarrassed about pointing out things that are good!

Although I need to work alone sometimes I can’t actually do this alone …. and yes I know I need Jesus but actually Jesus isn’t enough! I don’t believe that is a lack of faith thing (actually if we were to go down the scripture line I would need to point out the Trinity stuff …. I need the Creator and The Spirit too!) but more a reality of faith thing.

God is my inspiration and gives my ability and energy …. but Jesus is not always enough because I also need the people – the trusted and loved friends spoken of above, that Jesus has put around me. I don’t believe these relationships of trust are incidental. They are clearly, in my mid, divinely inspired.

I think when I was growing up in evangelicalism this type of thing was called ‘accountability’ …. well if that is what this is I’m pleased to be part of it.

Thank you 🙂

 

what a weekend!

IMG_0694What an amazing weekend!

Gills are Champions! After an exciting season, and years of disappointment, Gills are promoted with 3 matches left to play (the first team to secure promotion from any of the leagues), and crowned Champions with one game still to play. We then celebrated as a group of ‘boys’ (while the girls went to see Dirty Dancing) with a curry and beer which is always great to do.

This orning was the APCM of St Marks. APCM’s are not renowned for their newsworthiness but today was lined with a bit of excitement as we were able to read of the load of tuff that St Mark’s is involved in positively in the community. Some established people recently have been talking of returning to ‘the glory years’ when the place was full. My reflection on those years is, however, that we got together to worship and then returned to our homes, without a lot of community engagement. Now, however, people are seriously engaged in their community …. which causes me to think to a large number of people this Christian community is ‘good news’ …. so I believe we are in the glory years and have no need to go back.

Finally my day ended with a trip up to Moot to as we put together more stuff and thoughts on developing an umbrella organisation for new monastic communities. A great meeting, lots to talk about with passionate people who simply want to follow God and see transformation in their communities … simples! It’s always an honour to be part of this group and catch up, even if it was too briefly, with my Moot friends.

That was the weekend … I’m praying the week will be as good!

a humble vulnerability

20130325-005318.jpgI preached yesterday on Palm Sunday. It was interesting mulling over Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem while holding onto all the ‘being present’ stuff that I have been considering over the last few weeks.

A friend commented on my post via facebook, pointing out that being present is an act of vulnerability. If we really do want to build relationships and become friends with people, rather than just viewing them as pew fodder (that very thought makes me shiver!) then there is a vulnerability on both sides. There is risk, there is a real possibility of rejection. If we wish to be present with people then we have to be that …. present, available, willing …. and all that means we need to be willing to be close and vulnerable.

On Palm Sunday we see Jesus riding into town on a donkey. I shared in my sermon that at the other side of town at some stage Pilate would have been processing into Jerusalem too, but that his procession would be one of grandeur and pomp with the aim of instilling fear. Jesus, on the other hand, rides in an act of humble vulnerability. Pilate looks to control and intimidate. Jesus looks to be present with the people that he loves. Pilate is fully protected by a powerful army is sits aloft on his horse for all to see. Jesus has no protection, sits on a donkey and is swamped by the crowd. Pilate wants obedience. Jesus wants relationship.  

Relationship means vulnerability and presence but sometimes I think the church has tried to act from a position of detached authority or believed she had some right to warrant respect without question, rather then be present in the mess of reality and genuine lives. That gives a massive challenge to contemplate for this Holy Week; how can we live out a humble vulnerability like that? Is it even possible?

a good first touch!

jezTonight it was amazing to see my good friend Jeremy licensed as Priest in Charge of St Paul’s Stratford. Amazing as I love Jeremy and Ruth to bits and it was wonderful simplky seeing them welcomed and already starting to look like they were settling in to this new area. For those of you that don’t know, this parish is about to enlarge dramatically as people start to move into the Olympic village.

Jeremy is a missioner and Bishop Stephen Cottrell drew attention to this in his sermon. He started, though, by reminding everyone that Jeremy was not there to do all the ministry. He reminded them that Jeremy was there, not to do it all, but to ensure that all the ministry was done. I know plenty of ordained people that need to remember that sound advice!

I particularly loved the way +Stephen then took his sermon. He used the analogy of great football players (Jeremy and Ruth are Spurs season ticket holders), saying that what marks a good football player from an excellent one is there first touch. That ability, in one smooth movement, to control, use and pass the ball. Merely good football players usually need a touch to control before they are then able to pass it. They receive and give the ball in a perfect balance.

He used this to say that he prayed that St Pauls would become known as a church that has a great first touch …. that it can both receive very well and give appropriately. I think that’s an amazing image for people to aspire to.

Tonight was a special night with a special person whom I have grown to admire massively over the last 8 years or so. I will be praying and watching and waiting to see that first touch develop. God bless you Jeremy, Ruth and the community of St Pauls.

nothing more prized than friendship

url-1In this mornings daily office we remember Thomas Aquinas as well as read Hosea 3, which gives an amazing and shocking account of the amount of of love that God has for us. It’s an amazing read and probably a book we don’t delve into enough.

But back to Aquinas, because today the memory of Aquinas and what he sees as important have directed my prayers this morning. Quotes like:

‘there is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship’
‘friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious’
and, last one, …‘the things that we love tell us who we are’
Wow, that last one is quite hard hitting, as I think it has a good amount of reality and truth to it.

Today in my prayers I have thought about friends and realise how incredibly fortunate I am.  As I reflect I find it mazing that I am still in contact with some from my school days in Weymouth, that others whom I worked with at HT Nailsea, some 20 years ago now, still support me in my work. Friends from YFC who, despite me leaving 6 years ago, still regularly stay in touch and show their friendship in real and practical ways. Closer to home, friends of Rochester and those that have known me for decades in Gillingham show there support through practical support, encouragement and challenge … but it seems it is only very close friends that have the ability to challenge!

Today I have given thanks for and prayed for friends. As I have reflected I have become aware again how amazingly encouraging a phone call, text, email, card, letter …. can be. On some days things have appeared at just the right moment and so the level of encouragement is massively unmeasurable.

As well as valuing friends we have and giving thanks for them, this time of reflection has caused me to consider how good a friend I am. Contemplation is always double edged. So today I am challenged about how I show my value of friendships to others. I guess it’s fairly It’s easy to want to have good friends without being one. I am not sure that works in the long term.

Aquinas’ words are quite amazing. Here is one fo the greatest theologian of his time. Of all the things he could say that were valuable, such as belief, discipleship, care for the poor … and the list could be endless, but I would suggest a great theologian might want to suggest something faith-wise. But, he chooses friendship. I wonder if he got that from observing how Christ spent his time, or rather who he spent his time with, on earth?

So today I am considering, reflecting, contemplating … as well as giving thanks. Maybe there needs to be a belated resolution there as well about time with friends.

 

the weekend ….

The weekend was a good and varied one.
Tom started work at Bluewater.
Beth went shopping with Sarah to buy things that newly 16 year old girls buy. I sit somewhat stunned to think Beth is now 16. We left Nailsea a few months before she was born … and that only seems like a little while ago.
A lot of work was done on the allotment. I managed around 15 hours from Friday night to Sunday afternoon and so a lot was done. One of my new allotment friends, a great guy called Dave, also did a massive amount on my plot while I was at the cathedral on Sunday morning and it is really starting to look like an allotment plot rather than a jungle with a few vegetables growing here and there. dave has achieved in 1 day what it would have taken me weeks to do – the generosity of people is an amazing thing!

The main highlight of the weekend was, however, celebrating a good friends birthday on Saturday night in Maidstone with a good group of friends. We went to MuMu in Maidstone which was simply an amazing experience and a beautifully wonderful place to spend an evening. The experience was amazing, as was the food and the service and the staff were fantastic. If you need a great place for a celebration then go to MuMu!! I hope we can return in the not too distant future.

But for now …. it’s Monday … tell me why ….