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 …


a masterpiece?

969919_568041789884286_1493730485_nYesterday I shared some stuff about the stranger and being open to change. Change through encounters with other people and other ideas which require a certain level of both vulnerability and humility.

Today’s Rohr meditation has caused me to think further:

Turn around and believe the good news!
— Jesus’ first preached words, Mark 1:15

The authentic religious life is a matter of becoming who we already are, and all that we truly are! Can you imagine that? Is the seed already within you—of all that God wants you to be? Do you already know at some level who you authentically are? Are you willing to pay the price, even the mistrust of others? Could that be what we mean by having a unique “soul”? Most saints thus described the path as much more unlearning than learning. There are so many illusions and lies that we must all unlearn. And one of the last illusions to die is that we are all that different or that separate. Finally we are all one and amazingly the same. Differentiation seems to precede union and communion, for some strange reason.

This growing illumination is not just one “decision for Jesus.” It is a whole journey of letting go and developing an ongoing practice of letting go, and turning around one more time, until it becomes a way of life. As the old Shakers used to sing and dance, “. . . To turn, turn / will be our delight, / ’Till by turning, turning / we come round right.” To be authentically human is to change, and to be a whole human is to change many times—away from my smallness and toward an Unspeakable Greatness—which itself is never fully attained.

Rohr, correctly I think, suggests that life (discipleship?) is a lot more about discovering who we already are which can only come through unlearning stuff we have wrongly taken on. One way of unlearning, and rediscovering who we are, can be through interaction with others.  It is in this interaction with other people, with exposure to other methods and ways of thinking, that we can discover our need to change, or to turn …. not once … but over and over again.

We know that we are already created in the image of God. So it makes a lot of sense to say that the Christian life is about discovering, or is that re-discovering, who we are … and unlearning the unhelpful stuff …. so to uncover the original that is already there, but has become hidden.

If we are created in the image of God then we can rightly view ourselves as masterpieces, the creation. As I’ve thought about this today I have thought about an art restorer restoring a masterpiece. As he or she gently cleans off the grime, more and more of the original masterpiece is seen. Parts of the image are ‘rediscovered’ and become noticeable for the first time in many years. In many cases the masterpiece takes on a whole new meaning and certain things that were puzzling become more understandable.

As we interact, listen, learn, become aware is it possible for us, also, to uncover parts of God’s masterpiece we call ourselves that we had forgotten were there, or have simply been blind to for many years? I believe we can.

To be authentically human is to change … and to be whole human is to change many times.

There’s a challenge!

everyone has a story …

victoryI simply love Jamie the Very Worst Missionary‘s blog. I have followed Jamie’s blog for a few years. Sometimes she makes me stand up and shout ‘yes’, other times I come away thinking that I resonate with her feelings of frustration with Christians, and others I laugh at her courage and honesty.  Jamie has a real gritty knack of just saying how it is. The reality of mission that she writes about encourages me.

The other day this post, victory, moved me. It’s produced by Jamie’s church and is well worth watching. In this video Danielle tells hers tory. It’s powerful … especially when she hears from God, via the eyes of a deer, that he is sick of not having her, and that, essentially, he wants her back.

This is Danielle’s story … what’s yours?

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!

serving and being served

I was challenged in my thinking again this morning after the reading in Giving It Up was reflecting on John 12:1-8.

This is the scene where Jesus visits Mary, Martha and Lazarus and Mary sits at his feet and washes Jesus’ feet in mega expensive perfume. In particular Maggi draws attention to the fact that Jesus does not tell Mary to stop. He did not say anything like ‘that’s enough now, I know you love me so you don’t need to do this!’ Jesus seems to sit back and allow Mary to perform this incredibly extravagant act who was very possibly pouring her entire life savings over his feet.

Maddi suggests that Jesus shows that he has reached a time when he simply needs to be cared for and loved. Too often we see stories of what Jesus did for others – here we see what others did for Jesus.

Jesus allowed himself to be cared for.
Jesus allowed himself to be served.

I guess in my ministry (for sake of a better word) this is what I find most difficult. My role, as I see is to serve others, to be a servant, to help others. When things get tough I persevere because that is what we are supposed to do. But here I think Jesus challenges us all in that martyr type outlook. Jesus seems to suggest that there are times when we need to allow others to care for us. As Maggi writes: ‘If even Jesus needed that, how much do we need it? It’s something worth remembering when we’re tempted to be self-sufficient under stress’.


One of the things I enjoy doing when coming back from holiday is scanning a few blogs and catching up through Google Reader to discover what people have been writing.

I thought about going to Moot on Sunday evening, but coming back from holiday and other things prevented me from doing that but it’s clear that the service, particularly was quite profound; particularly the story and homily from Pete which Ian has kindly posted.

I have been struck by this quote from Rolheiser:

It is because of the refusal to be vulnerable that, far too often, instead of enjoying friendship and intimacy with those around us, we find ourselves fencing with each other, using our talents, achievements, and strengths as weapons.

It is this vulnerability that I try to embrace when I am out and about in Rochester, yet so often I catch myself crawling inside my armour to hide.

You can read it all from the Moot site here.

walk with poise

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

This quote from Audrey Hepburn has really resonated with me over the last few days. I’m finding during these early days of lent that as I look more to God I not only see the beauty in others but can walk with that poise that comes from knowing you are walking with God.
The Psalms tell me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made; one could say beautiful in a deep sense of the word. In some quarters the breed of Christianity today says a lot about grace, forgiveness, and how everything is up to God, how we need to allow God to work within us and so on.
I do agree with all that, although I think it can become an extreme that results in a mindset that tells us we do not need to put any real effort is as it is God that will do the work.
maybe its true that God made us beautiful, but our responsibility in maintaining that beauty is to ‘look for the good in others, speak only words of kindness and walk with that knowledge that we are never alone’

waiting to stdy

Today has been a study day which has forced me to reflect on some stuff differently, and maybe even in quite a false way. In a few weeks time I need to hand in an assignment of 4000 words which is not too tall an order. I am struggling, however, to decide what to write about. The task is called the ‘critical incident’ assignment where I choose something that has happened (the critical incident) that has caused me to reflect and has challenged me in my ordained ministry.

There have been many such incidences. The way I have been received by people in the public places I inhabit. The conversations that I believe have happened purely because I am wearing a dog collar. The challenges and threats that people have fired towards me. My experience of perceptions even in the church such as needing to robe and process to read the gospel in the closing Eucharist at the diocesan conference. All of these things have been a challenge and all of them have caused me to consider the transition I am going through, or sometimes feel I am being dragged through, as I develop in and within my ordained ministry.

It’s all very strange, but the wide remit of the assignment is in itself quite a challenge. Essentially I can write about anything as long as I can show that reflection upon the incident has helped to develop a new understanding of my ordained role. The lazy part of me wants to be given an assignment title and book list so I can choose and get into it. The more adventurous side of me is looking forward to the challenge of developing a question and finding information to support and challenge my thinking.

After a rough start, and quite a lot of coffee causing me to buzz around an empty house, I think I now have an idea that I think will be fun and a challenge to explore. I think I will be considering the whole waiting thing and how that links with identity and what I feel I am called to do, and how that calling is perceived by others, even those that are closest to me. It’s annoying that by the end of my study day I actually feel like doing some study!

the real me!

At times I love listening to Eminem. Ok – some people may say some of the swearing in his lyrics leave a lot to be desired. I don’t think I agree. Much of the language is real, contemporary and an authentic expression of the reality of life. Sometimes the swearing may be there to shock, sometimes it is there as pure gritty expression.

Recently Radio 1 were playing a lot of his tracks and one track in particular, the Real Slim Shady, caused me to think and smile. The track has the line ‘will the real Slim Shady please stand up’. Following on from my post, 2 worlds, last week it made me smile to think I am asking a similar question of myself at the moment.

Will the real Rob Ryan please stand up!

Being alone, having time, thinking, dreaming, contemplating, praying, walking with God, running ahead of God … all of this ‘stuff’ is causing me to ask; ‘will the real Rob Ryan please stand up!’ Is the real me the robed deacon on a Sunday, is it the pastor to people in wetherspoons during the week, is is another gym user, is it a chaplain, is is a pioneer looking to develop something new, is it an observer of life, a friend of people, is it a dad, a husband, a friend.

Those are the public faces of the real Rob Ryan. But there are also the hidden, devious, selfish, indulgent, bad habit parts of identity which only those really close to me see, and maybe even only God see’s the real real authentic me.

My brain has space, and so ideas and questions are now starting to flow. Today I met with Brother Colin who is starting to speak wise words into my life. The voyage of discovery I am on is not just about discovering what will happen, but it is also about discovering who I really am in Jesus Christ. By that I mean what difference does my relationship with the creator make to who I am, because this relationship who am I in a real and everyday sense.

In reality, until now, my identity has been drawn from what I do and the role and responsibility I carry. Now that most of that has been stripped away I am released, in a way, to re-discover who I am. I am rediscovering my identity based on who I am rather than what I do.

It is quite an interesting, and sometimes painful, journey.

Marginal Identity

I had the privilege of speaking at Harvest this morning. I spoke of hope, and used Matthew 9:35-38 to illustrate how Jesus brought hope to communities.

As I was thinking on this I was brought back again to my thoughts last week of identity. To a post here, Darrel made an interesting comment which has been sitting with me for a while:

Identity is always stronger when you’re from, or perceive yourself as being from, a minority group. This is particularly the case if there is prejudice against this group either now or in the recent past.

I agree, but I also wonder whether we are not seen as a minority group already. There is certainly prejudice against what is perceived to be Christianity, and if this is so, should we not be seeing a stronger identity should already be developing.
For a group identity to develop does there need to be a minority, or a marginal, mindset. Before an identity develops, do we need to feel that others are against us? This seems rather negative, but many Christians do feel they are in a minority group and yet there is still a lack of identity.

I wonder if when a group moves from marginal to mainstream and returns to marginal again that the development of tat identity can no longer come from the marginalised feeling, but needs to come from a total re-think of what that group exists for?

I wonder whether what we are seeing now is a marginalised group that was once mainstream fighting hard to reclaim ground and ideals that are never going to return. The old ground has been lost (and I’m not so sure that is a bad thing)and there is a need now to claim the new ground before us.

Our identity cannot come from past events but from an agreement of a new paradigm and a commitment to re-assess where we are, who we are, and where we are going.