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.

colonising our identity

A little while ago I blogged about the lack of a Christian identity. I was thinking on how we can develop a Christian identity and wondering what this may look like.

As I was driving back from chatting with Paul from Wycombe YFC Bjork’s voice whispered out of my ipod as she sang Declare Independence. A particular few lines made me think:

Damn colonists
Ignore their patronizing
Tear off their blindfolds
Open their eyes

Is our lack of identity a symptom of a type of reverse colonisation? By that I mean, have we colonised ourselves in that we have followed so much a missional line of thought that goes something like ‘we want people to see that, as Christians, we are pretty normal and enjoy normal stuff like everyone else‘. I question whether this desire to be seen as normal has resulted in allowing ourselves to be colonised by ourselves, to be like everyone else, which has resulted in a lack of an authentic Christian identity?

If this is so, what can we do?
As I listened to the track again as I sped down to the M40 towards the slow meandering M25, I wondered if God was saying ‘stop fighting and open their eyes, remove the blindfolds.’

Some Christians, in my view, have taken the ‘campaign for our rights route quite forcefully’. I have no problem with that, and I feel there is a place for it, but I do have a confusion in trying to understand that way of working, especially when we look to the Bible, or to the person of Jesus.

Jesus never seemed to stand up for God, or for himself. When criticised he took it and got on with what he felt was important (talking about God, feeding the hungry, healing the sick ….) Jesus did speak out, but instead of speaking for self protection, he spoke out for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalised. He never seemed to try and protect his position.

Jesus sought to remove the blindfolds, to open the eyes of those around to God’s liberating truth – the truth that God loves everyone and everything that he created. It’s the work that he continues in the communities over the world today.

I wonder if we reclaim our identity as we join with God in this ongoing work? Missio Dei colliding with imageo Dei fusing to create a Christian identity that inspires us. An identity which sees Christianity transforming society through actions of love, involvement, compassion and justice for others rather than voice seeking justice for ourselves.

What could this look like ?….. I’m not sure, I need to dream some more!