an abundant life…?

lifeThe gathering got together on Sunday and looked at John 10:10 and the whole thing of ‘abundant life’. We were drawn at some stage to the picture … feeling that there is something in the image that speaks of ‘abundant life’ that you cannot verbalise … I guess we came to an agreement that there is a lot when talking ‘abundant life’ about our attitude to life.

We heard these words from Tom Wright before we entered a time of discussion. He spoke about abundance not meaning lots of ‘stuff’ but rather about being the ‘true and unique person we are meant to be which leads to a sense of yes … this is what I was out here to do!’

So abundant life …. maybe that is something about discovering, or re-discovering, who we are and what inspires us. When we discover that which really inspires and excites us and live in the joy of that … then maybe then we are living abundantly. This isn’t about ‘calling’ as such, which can be quite power heavy language, but this is about discovering what brings us alive.

For me … that would be being with people outside the church who love the pub and talk ‘stuff’ with me, or people I engage with at the Boot fair or at Mind Body Spirit fairs …. these are activities that seem to bring me alive. I know this because a six hour ‘duty’ can just flash by unnoticed.

I can’t find the quote … but sometime I have used some persons words which say something like ‘what the world needs is Christians who love their life’ …. because then people start to believe that what Christians have makes a real difference.

So …. an abundant life …. living the life we were created to live …. I can live with that!


to be continued …

doorway overexposedLast night the gathering reached a particular milestone as we crafted the last of our aspirational statements which will say something about who we are, what we are trying to be, and how we are trying to live out our lives.

We are not quite there yet, but last night seemed to be a significant step in the right direction. We now have 4 aspirational statements which will give us something to aim for as we live out our lives of this Christian journey. I don’t really want to write them here in their entirety yet as we still need to re-look at them and craft them a little more together now each one has been written separately. The general themes of our aspirations are sanctuary, belonging, exploration and presence.

The next stage for us will be to re-visit these and craft them together so that they work. As I look over them collectively there is some repetition and we will probably realise there is some stuff missing. The community is quite passionate about hospitality .. so we may decide that needs naming specifically.

But … we have reached this stage and that is pretty exciting.

To be continued …

the gathering storm

gathering fb logoThe gathering got together Sunday afternoon and it was a pretty amazing time together.

We took the Bible Story of Jesus calming the storm and ate a meal and discussed it together. To help us really get into the story we all took on characters that may or may not have been there and started to have the conversation around the meal table, pretending this was the night after.

Before the meal people were sent short character briefs and asked to read the Mark 4:34-41 version of the story. That was the preparation … so after some opening words and prayer, and hearing the story read to us again, we collected our meals, got into character and discussed faith and trust and other stuff with Jesus.

This worked incredibly well with comments in the debrief afterwards like:
‘it was great to hear other viewpoints’
‘we seemed to focus more on the story’
‘I had to think more’
and my favourite comment as I think it’s important and something we miss from multi-million studio reproductions of Jesus stories ….’I was struck by the humanity of Jesus’

Obviously the person playing Jesus was quite key and I think we got that person spot on as they had really great answers and challenges for the other disciples … but every other character got into their part well and the conversation went on for around 40 minutes.

I think this is one of the most thought provoking and personally challenging things we have tried as the gathering … and pleased to say it seemed to work.

I know we are supposed to thank God and all that because it is all about God and not 1975036_10152226474855211_990244496_nabout us …. but today …. right here and right now … I want to thank the amazing people of the gathering for being willing to try this out … yes God was there today … but without you amazing people we would not have got very far.

Thank you …. there are times when I am reminded what a privilege it is to be part of this community …. today is one of those days.

time, vulnerability and grace

what's coming through the door?It’s been a bit of a key weekend with the gathering. We met again in the pub to talk more about our Rhythm of Life. It seems to be slowly taking shape. I think the speed that we are progressing at sometimes frustrates me …. but it is important that we get this right as this will be the trellis of our community as we use this to help us live our individual and collective lives as Christians in the 21st Century.

The aspiration we wrote together last night says:

‘To be a community that invests in friendship where all are valued, supported and cared for. We seek to be adventurous, open to each others creativity and give space to experience awe and wonder. The community will grow as we spend time together, so we will eat, drink and share together regularly.’

That sounds very much like us and what we aim to be as a group of people.

After the get together I got home and was on a bit of a ‘high’. As I reflected on this I realised that it was simply because I get to hang out with a group of people that I like and love loads. It’s a community where I feel I fit … and i think others have that feeling of ‘fitting’ and ‘being understood’ and simply ‘allowed to be who they are’ as well.

To grow as community we realise we need to spend a lot more time together …. both as small groups of friends and as the wider community together. This will be a massive time commitment that many probably do not have … but still we commit to this as our aspiration. As I look at the gospels, and see every significant time or event of Jesus is often set in the context of a meal …. then it seems to be the right and good thing to be aiming to do. I’m not sure why, but spending quality time together over a meal seems to have something sacred about it.

I think we also note that friendship, support, care,creativity …  are all words that describe things that require individuals to make themselves vulnerable and for the community to show grace. That excites me.

So … time, vulnerability and grace …. looking good!

chasing clouds

cloudsIt’s been quiet here for nearly a week. This is due to a lot of my brain space being taken up with gathering rhythm of life stuff. I know people are following our journey so I thought a brief update might serve to … errrr update you, but also help me to pinpoint where my feelings are at the moment, for me to reference and return to in a few weeks time.

For the past few months we have been talking a lot about what it means to ‘belong’. Does ‘belonging’ involve, or even make a demand, of commitment to a relationship? Or … is belonging more about a commitment to travel together with no commitment to a relationship? Or … is it a bit of both? Or … is it something wildly different.

This particular aspiration is taking us a while to write. We are struggling to find something we can all agree on. We have had three major discussions and we are still talking. On one hand, I would like to register that I am finding this process so slow and frustrating. BUT … On the other hand, I am excited that we, as a community of people, are willingly spending so much time to try and get this right for our present point in time. I’m excited because this effort is being expended because we all believe each other in the community matters.

I’m excited because we are seeing that progress here makes quite big demands of us. To develop something authentic we are seeing that we need to be seriously honest with each other, exposed and vulnerable. Understandably we are finding this hard … but strangely there is something of a positive vibe in the air … like a bright summer day when the clouds seem to be bouncing off and chasing each other in a playful way.

So … if you are following our journey, and are the praying type …. please join us in praying that we can sort out what we believe it means to belong.

first gathering of 2014

bagapwicqaa-dzeThe gathering got together yesterday afternoon and we did the closest I guess we have to a tradition. For the last few years our first time together in the year has involved us looking at the journey (outlined here), taking an Examen of the year and sharing bread and wine together.

Yesterday was a pretty amazing time. After people had decided where they were on the journey people started to share with each other. After a little while I looked around and was really moved to see people in pairs or threes, very relaxed with each other, sharing where they thought they were on their faith journey and why they were there.

I was excited because I believe this is an image that shoes how much we trust and love each other as a group. It seems we have come a really long way in how we care for each other as a community. We still have a long journey ahead of us with the Rhythm of life and things … but it is starting to look like we are quite a strong community that. most importantly, actually likes being together!

Thank you again people ….. I think this is a good journey to be on.

the gathering and belonging

the gathering got together at the weekend and we explored ‘belonging’ which is kind of the theme of our second aspiration.

We spoke a bit about what it means to belong and how we know we belong. This part of our time together was led brilliantly by Sharon using this very moving and challenging video as a kind of scene setter or discussion starter.

In the discussion after I remember feeling quite sad and challenged as I thought about the things we do to ourselves, and demand of others, so that we feel we ‘belong’ or ‘fit’ or are part of what is happening. I don’t think we are perfect, but as the gathering we genuinely, maybe even desperately,  wish to achieve a community where people just simply can belong. I hate the thought of people having to paint themselves green so that they will be accepted …. the gospels shout aloud about acceptance and equality … the 12 disciples being quite a poignant image of this in their diversity and disagreement.

This Sunday was a key time for the gathering. We welcomed in a new family. Liz wrote a song, which Hannah sang, based on Psalm 139 which was stunningly moving. People made themselves amazingly vulnerable to engage with the gathering this weekend … which kind of follows well from Terry’s thoughts last week. If you can’t be a friend without being vulnerable, then it follows we cannot grow community without being vulnerable with each other and we certainly can’t be accepting so that people belong unless we choose vulnerability rather than security. Of course the downside of being vulnerable is that you get hurt, and over the last 4 years some of my largest ‘anguished moments’ have been over the gathering. That. however, is a small price worth paying.

Back in the day we talked about how people ‘belong’ to the gathering. Lots of churches go for membership in some form, or a commitment to a set of beliefs. We chose neither keeping, instead, a very open view. People belong to the gathering when they decide they belong, not because they have met a certain set of pre-selected criteria. People belong when they choose to travel with us. The Rhythm of Life we are developing is not a condition of membership, but it will help us in our journey with God.

I was excited by the end of Sunday. Not because it was a great session, not because great things happened, but because there was a strong acceptance and care and interest in each other. I felt valued and cared for by this community …. and I think (and hope) that feeling sat with others in the gathering too.

don’t stop … you might find yourself!

DSC_0042On Sunday evening some of the gathering got together in a local pub to have a go at writing our first aspirational statement with practices or ‘the how’ we will attempt to live our lives.

It would be wrong to put ‘out there’ the statement and points we came up with at this time as they are draft and for the whole gathering community, rather than just a part of us, to agree, but I think it is ok to say that our first statement, or value, is one of ‘sanctuary’ as outlined here

Interestingly we chatted round the language we used and I think we were able to come up with something that is quite inclusive and welcoming of others. An issue we had was of producing something that demanded some form of commitment from us while avoiding some bar set so high that it became a chore and probably unachievable. This is a very exciting, if challenging, time for us as the gathering as we continue with this process of developing our rhythm of life. 

The more I have thought about this topic of sanctuary, the more I am coming to see that sanctuary could be quite a key element to both a personal and communal faith and lifestyle. Every rhythm needs space, and rest, and reflection, and contemplation …. As many know I have an allotment. The seasonal work of an allotment means that there are varied workloads and, quite importantly, a period of rest while stuff dies or hibernates or retreats to within until it gets warmer. Without the rest in the seasons the crops would not be able to grow while without the rest and variety of activity, the allotment keeper would die!!!

I find the more I look at the 21st century world the less I see of sanctuary. People, generally, seem to want to pack more and more stuff into their lives. I read the words of someone recently (I can’t remember who) that said thy cannot cope with space and silence and need to fill it. Rather than be silent this person would rather count the stars I think they said. 

The question I ask of such a person is, ‘what are you running from?’ To shy away from space and silence seems to indicate to me a reluctance to rest with oneself. I think the person who avoids sanctuary or rest or silence or space is running from themself out of a fear of what they might find if they stop. 

As a rule in a post modern consumerist society … do we run from ourselves out of a fear of what we may find? As created beings, made in the image of God,I wonder if maybe if we spend time with ourselves we might be amazingly surprised … as we take space and listen we may well hear something of great value …

…. maybe …


we aspire sanctuary

sanctuary pilsdon copyThe gathering got together today as we started to unpack the first of our four aspirations which we came up with on our day at West Malling before the summer.

The aspiration we were looking at today was ‘creating a space and a sanctuary to engage with others and ourselves’. The group that planned the afternoon took us on a journey through questions:

What makes a space a sanctuary?
How can we find rest and peace?
Why are we wanting to connect with others?
What are we building upon?
What next?

Great questions, and questions that got lots of us talking and thinking. The second question came after some of us (mainly adults) chose to do a Lectio Divina reading of Matthew 11:28-30 while the rest of us (mainly children) chose to do a meditation. (Yep – you heard that bit right … our children chose to meditate!)

We were struck this afternoon by Matthew’s words: Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I’m not entirely sure I have grasped a good meaning of that phrase yet … but I’m mulling it over and glad that I am on retreat the next few days and hope that maybe I will have space to dwell on that more.

Some one else in the group used a term that I loved as son as I heard it: ‘matching or tuning in to the heartbeat of God’. Again it’s a deep statement, but words that I wonder whether they describe what it is that we are about. I wonder whether our whole rhythm of life is something that helps us to match or echo the heartbeat of God in our everyday normal hum drum lives.

The gathering today was exciting. As I looked around the 21 people who had gathered I realised 11 (52%) were children. 11 children that were actively involved in the discussion, in the contemplation, and in the sharing of their experiences. One child shared how they heard the voice of God when they were scared one night. Hearing God speak through our children today was an incredibly amazing privilege. Hearing from everyone today was a privilege.

... space ...As far as our ROL goes our next step with this aspiration is to attempt to write a paragraph in 2 weeks time that will help us live our lives. The task is a big one and the journey is long … but we are slowly moving forward in quite an amazing way.

a journey of discipleship

DSC_0092Its been a busy few days and I’ve not really had the headspace to reflect on things I have been involved in.

I am feeling pretty caged up at the moment as I’m conscious I am holding so much ‘stuff’ in my head … and that’s not a good place for a reflective practitioner to find themselves in. I need to pause and reflect which is pretty much what I use this blog for, and of course I love the comments from others who have great insights that both challenge and bless.

So; to start emptying the head …. Last week I was at Breakout. This was a highlight as it was space with other pioneers, some I know and trust who have become good friends, and others that I got to know over the three days and hope will become good friends. The conference was good for many reasons.

Having others from the gathering there was a first for me, and its hard to put into the words the mix of joy and excitement I felt being there with others from our community. It sounds soppy, but it made the time way even more valuable than I could have envisaged. Seeing members of the gathering naturally linking with others was such a cool experience. It feels as though something has changed for the better, but more on that will come from another post.

Some of the stuff delivered in the sessions at Breakout was really good as well. The topic was ‘discipleship’ which I believe is very key to pioneers  … although I do find myself personally questioning whether the set sessions were AS valuable as the natural conversations that were had outside set session times. (Is it just me that thinks we should have a conference of like minded people with a ‘topic’ who then just chat and join various conversations happening in different rooms, or preferably bars!?)

I was particularly challenged by an observation from Stuart Murray Williams. I can’t remember his exact words but he said something like; ‘Jesus said go and make disciples and I will build my church …. but I wonder whether we have reversed that, so that we try to build church and kind of hope disciples grow through some form of osmosis.’ I was challenged by that and the statement has been buzzing around my mind for a good few days now.

As an OPM I am tasked with creating new ways of being church with others. That task can sometimes become clouded with a focus shifting away from disciples to models and styles of church. I think it is going to be an ongoing query and question that I chat with others in the gathering about. If we make disciples, whatever that means, does church, whatever that may be,  just simply follow?

I was also challenged to think about the ‘how’ of discipleship. I have always sat uncomfortably with published materials in this area, but I guess I am not sure why. I think it is the language of power that has put me off. It’s the language that kind of says a variety of things like: ‘I know what I’m doing so you listen to me.’, ‘We are the experts and so we will impart knowledge of how to be a good disciple to you.’ ‘You just do as we say and you will be fine.’ That has never seemed quite right to me. I wonder from what Stuart was saying if this needs to be more of a joint journey type thing, where the language is more of learning and travelling together, where there is a vulnerability as we also share the stuff we struggle with. I am thinking aloud, but this seem to make more sense to me.

Another great thing about Breakout for me is that it reminds me I am not alone in my situation. When you work in a diocese where most people you work with are on a stipend you can easily start to think you are alone in the reality of your calling. AtBreakout there were plenty of pioneers who have opted out of paid ministry to developing their fresh expressions or communities. I found that to be both exciting and eveningencouraging, and also useful as we shared the make up of out various income streams!

But … most of all the overwhelming best thing of Breakout was catchin

g up with friends …. thanks all of you …. till we meet again (which for those in the gathering will be pretty soon!)