the Epiphany Fog

fogIt’s Epiphany today … a day that makes me think of journeying. Journeys can also make me think of beginnings and endings.

This Epiphany I am hopeful. I am hopeful that I am on the edge of something new, at the foot of some steep climb, on the brink of something both tough and exciting. Even though today in Gillingham was just another day like any other day before the new year of before the Epiphany as we mark it today, I believe I have never been here before. I know what I am aiming for, and I may even be able to see something on the horizon, but I am not sure just yet how we quite get there.

Today the journeys we think about in Epiphany give me encouragement and inspire me to carry on. The Magi appear on the Christmas scene (they probably came years later but no matter…). While at the scene they are warned about not returning the same way. That speaks masses to me.

Where I am now is a unique place. Experiences, relationships, happenings all combine to mean, that even if I wanted to return, it is not possible to return the same way. Events mean that new routes and new ways have to be investigated and explored in whatever journey we take. New paths have to be trodden that others may follow in the future.

The second journey is of Mary and Joseph fleeing with Jesus. There is a sense of speed, of plans going out of the window, and last minute improvisations being made. This is not a tidy ending to the Christmas story …. and actually, and very frustratingly, we don’t know what happened as the gospels pick up the story again when Jesus is around 30 … apart from that moment when the boy Jesus was asking questions of the rabbis in the synagogue.

This second journey is encouraging because it speaks loads of untied ends. Nothing is neatly packaged (is it ever in the bible?) and so the sense of worry and fear and unknowing that I am experiencing now seems kind of right.

What I see before me in The Epiphany are two Star Trek journeys …. two journeys into the unknown.

So … here is to 2014 … to boldly go …. well maybe not boldly …. but go at least!

going nowhere slowly … but seeing all the sights

DSC_0188I said my reflections from my time away might take a while to filter through.
Today I have been reflecting a little more on my mission here at home and how my time away has refreshed and challenged that.

Today I described my ‘stage’ in the Gillingham thing as one of a standstill …. like I am hitting my head against a brick wall. It’s bizarre … I have met no less than 8 people who share this vision to have something, some form of Christian presence (I like to talk of a 21st century Abbey … a house of prayer, community, support and hospitality) in the High Street. Even councillors and other professional in the area are supportive. If we had this building tomorrow there are 9 of us that could devote some time to doing something. There is even an empty building that is crying out to be occupied. Interestingly there are only 2 empty buildings in the main part of the High Street … and one would be perfect.

But … frustratingly we wait. I don’t know why …. I’ve been waiting since September …. and i must admit to being tired of waiting …. but wait we must.

And then I thought of my time in Seattle while listening to a Frank Turner track (langauge warning … don’t click if offended by the ‘f’ word and ignore the last 2 lines …. of course I don’t subscribe to the last 2 lines!) on my travels this evening.

There is something about living in the moment, not worrying too much about the destination and enjoying the sights of the journey that I think is important and has possibly become something I have missed or forgotten. I mentioned in my last paost how I had noticed a better work life balance. I think what I was struck by mor was the great allowance i think i observed of simply letting the moment be the moment.

Maybe I am talking crap here (it has been a long day) and I am pretty much thinking aloud. But …. despite my frustrations of lack of movement, and in the words of Frank Turner, I am going nowhere slowly …. but I am seeing all the sights.

Sights of God at work, sights of the Kingdom breaking through very slowly into the community of Gillingham. Sights of love, care and compassion amongst certain persons. Gillingham is a place riddled with cracks. Buildings and people are literally falling apart …. and yet it is through those cracks that I observe something fresh, exciting and infectious …. maybe unsettling and challenging yet strangely familiar and warming.

So I am still tired of waiting, I still think we need a building …. but I am happy in the certainty that God is just as much fully in the journey and the sights as God is fully in the final destination.

Does that make sense?
Now …. give us that flipping building!!!

continuing the journey …

BAgAPwiCQAA-dzEthe gathering got together today for what has become a bit of a tradition for our first service in the new year. A tradition that sees us consider the Christian Journey and wonder where we are with God and ourselves at this particular time.

If you have not seen or experienced ‘the journey’ I have blogged about it before here and in other blogs. Essentially the journey is an exercise where we get to think about where we currently are in our Christian life. The Christian life, we believe, is full of different experiences that happen over and over again. In our particular journey we have:

the mountain top : experiences where the air is clear and where you feel close to God with renewed vision, lots of energy and stuff. Mountain top experiences are great, you can see the rest of the journey before you and have a great sense of where everything is heading, but you can’t live here for long, nothing grows and the air is then so soon you have to come down.
the valley: this path often follows a mountain top experience. The sides of the valley are high, the valley is narrow and dark and sometimes you need to trust what you sw from the mountain and keep walking.
rivers cross the path unexpectedly. These can be times of refeshment or simply playing the water. You can choose to take a bridge over them or play or drink from them awhile.
the desert … a place where often you can feek disconnected from God, or disorientated. This is not really an enjoyable place and sometimes we can feel we may even be losing faith. The deset is a harsh place, but from scripture we also know it can be a place of preparation.
lakes are places where we can wallow, rest, and simply chill with God. AS we chill sometimes we find our vision develops.
the sea …. a place where you can walk out, beyond your depth, and simply let the sea of God take you where it will. This can often involve  a step of faith of varying magnitude.

The image shows what our journey looked like today. After a brief introduction people of the gathering took glass beads and placed them where they thought they were on the journey today. Many of us felt that elements of our lives were in different places on the journey and so we placed a number of bead around different locations. Personally I felt I was in the rocky desert and in the shallows of the sea. Others were on mountain tops, in valleys, in lakes, deserts ….. members of the gathering were scattered around the whole journey. The exiting thing I find about the journey each time I do it with a group of people is that we are all at different places at different times, but we are all on a journey. Each of these places is valid and correct, there is no wrong place to be … all is sacred because all is with God! Often we fall into the trap at looking at where others are and wishing we could be with them or be like them, when, actually, we are where we are with God and that is the right place.

I quoted Vesey in Developing Consciousness last year, and his writing is apt following our gathering today:

You are always in exactly the right place to be able to take the next step.
It is an amazing realisation, that you are, right now, in exactly the right place to begin this journey.
Your whole life has brought you to this point. Everything you have ever done has brought you to the point of reading these words now. And everything has conspired for you to be in exactly the right place. You could not be in a better place.
And that is true for every single moment of your life.
You are never in the wrong place. All you can do is to not recognise you are in the right place, and then automatically you miss the point and opportunity of that moment.
To be in the right place at the right time you simply have to acknowledge  the rightness of the moment, and thus the moment become yours.
Do it now, without qualification.
Whatever our circumstances, wherever you are. Trust this moment as being one that is right. One that has meaning. One that is setting you on a journey outside the box, and it will be so. And what is the next step? Well … ask yourself that …. what is the next step? What do you do right now as the next step?

The gathering then concluded our time together by sharing communion and saying the Methodist Covenant Prayer together …. if you don’t know it go and have a read, it’s a pretty amazing thing to pray.

Thank you people of the gathering fro making today a pretty special experience …. her’s to continuing the journey …

4 years on …

On this weekend 4 years ago I was ordained in Rochester Cathedral. That experience holds as one of the most important and amazing days of my life, beaten only by our wedding day and being present at the births of my three children. The moment was captured by Peter, a good friend from Nailsea, in this sketch.

Four years have flown by, and it has been an amazing four years. The blog has been quiet this week as it has been, quite understandably, an emotional time as I started to leave. There were lots of people to say goodbye too and it has taken the best part of a week for me to catch up with everyone I needed to.

It has struck me that I have found the moving from this role to be particularly hard, uniquely so as, being a pioneer, I quite like change … thrive on it even! This toughness has caused me to reflect upon why leaving, in this instance, is proving to be quite a unique experience.

I need to say first, though, that I am in an odd situation that does not make a lot of sense. I am very excited, as well as daunted (as I was 4 years ago) about the new task in front of me. The thought of starting afresh in a new area is exciting and scary all together … but this time it is tinged with a massive sadness of leaving Rochester behind.

In my reflections I have wondered and have realised:
It’s not really about the city of Rochester, although it is very lovely and a wonderful place to work.
It’s not really about Rochester Cathedral, although it is a magnificent building and to start my ordained journey there has been the most amazing experience. I have done things there which I would never of had the chance to do elsewhere and not a day has passed when I have not realised how fortunate I was to be a curate at the cathedral.
It’s not about wetherspoons despite their massive choice of good real ale and cheap prices and the way they have welcomed and embraced pub theology.
Surprisingly it is not even about Deaf Cat which is by far the best coffee shop in Medway, probably the whole of te south east!

My sadness at moving has not been about any of these places  ….. it has been about the people I have spent my time with in these places, the people who have invited me into their lives and the people who I am incredibly lucky to now be able to call friends. It is these people that I will miss chatting with on a daily basis and it is these people who have had such a profound impact upon my life while I, in turn, have had the immense privilege of being able to listen and then share our dreams, our hopes and our struggles. Sometimes we have laughed together, sometimes we’ve cried together and other times we’ve got angry … and each was right in its time. Each of these friendships are very special to me and I will continue to treasure them massively. The only thing I can say is ‘thank you – you are amazing people!’.

But now, for me, the time has come when my focus must shift as my ministry and life look to be useful in a new part of God’s world. I move on taking special memories of special people and I thank God for those friends and experiences, and I look forward with expectation at how God will continue to bless us as I acknowledge again the sometimes gritty reality of Romero’s Long View…

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.
more here

in the right place

The blog has been quiet, not this time due to business necessarily, but rather due to the reading, contemplation and the need for space to mull, think and reflect.

I have completed a lot of reading recently. I recently started Nicholas Vesey’s Developing  Consciousness and am enjoying the reflection this forces me into. Nicholas has set up the Norwich Christian Meditation Centre. I like what they are doing and it grabs me in a way that has caused me to part with money to but this book that contains some of the journey and lessons from that journey that these people have been on.

I’m really enjoying the book and the way it is challenging me to think and slow down and wonder. A flavour of the book can be summed up in this quote from page 4:

You are always in exactly the right place to be able to take the next step.
It is an amazing realisation, that you are, right now, in exactly the right place to begin this journey.
Your whole life has brought you to this point. Everything you have ever done has brought you to the point of reading these words now. And everything has conspired for you to be in exactly the right place. You could not be in a better place.
And that is true for every single moment of your life.
You are never in the wrong place. All you can do is to not recognise you are in the right place, and then automatically you miss the point and opportunity of that moment.
To be in the right place at the right time you simply have to acknowledge  the rightness of the moment, and thus the moment become yours.
Do it now, without qualification.
Whatever our circumstances, wherever you are. Trust this moment as being one that is right. One that has meaning. One that is setting you on a journey outside the box, and it will be so. And what is the next step? Well … ask yourself that …. what is the next step? What do you do right now as the next step?

There is a liberation in being free to recognise that I am in exactly the right place, where I should be, right now … this very minute. Sometimes I have struggled to accept that, and over the last 5 or 6 days I have wrestled with that thought. But, I have come to realisation that I may need to embrace and accept this so that I can claim the moment, rather than miss the opportunity before me.

In that embracing of the moment, I am discovering a freedom to move forward. This seems to echo well with much of the stuff that has challenged me over the last few months, such as being rooted, Chardin’s trust in the slowness of God, Taylor’s total presence.
Accepting the moment … seems to be the way forward!

our journeys so far

Yesterday the gathering got together. We had a very thoughtful, and sometimes challenging, time as we considered our personal journey’s, which for all of us (as with everyone) are a mixture of highs and lows, joy and sadness, fun and scarey. The group that planned yesterday did so skilfully, enabling us to have this time for reflection and questioning.

For the next few months the gathering is following what will be a very heavily adapted version of of Essence, a course looking at spirituality from SJI. Essence aims to give an ‘experiential introduction’ to Christianity. As a course it seems to take a lot for granted which is why we are heavily adapting it for our needs…. to be more ‘gathering like’ in giving people opportunity and space to explore and discover. It’s particularly relevant for the gathering as we value and accept very much the concept of ‘all being on a journey’ and all being in the right place on the journey while all being at different place on the journey.

We listened to Psalm 23, we drew or created images of parts of our life journey using lego or chalk/paint/crayon. At the start of out time together we were asked to illustrate our life story using 5 or 6 beads with a willingness to share what one of the beads represented. Each ‘life’ was then placed around a central table and, for me, showed the strength of how coming together caused our journeys to become connected in some way.

Personally, this simple activity gave me an opportunity to think about what I have in my life, and how rich my life can be if I only take the time to remember. By that I do not mean material stuff; but rather the quality of experiences, the beauty of people I have got to know, the strength of relationship of family and friends.

Next month the gathering will be looking at ‘the journey within’ as we think more about our identity and image. If that sounds interesting to you … feel free to join us … Sunday 8th July, 3.30 for 4.00pm.

calling … mary salome and barnabas

Yesterday I drove Meghan and Luke back to Heathrow and waved bye as they returned to the US and COTA.

The three week placement has gone pretty quickly and as well as now considering 2 people that I did not really know before to be ‘friends’ it has been a great experience to have Meghan shadowing me for large parts of what I do in Rochester.

Over the last month or so we have chatted a lot and it has been really enlightening to hear another pioneers perspective and observations on what I am doing. We have not always agreed about stuff but the time has, I think, been beneficial and challenging in a  positive way for both of us.

For myself it has been really valuable to have someone alongside to share ideas and seek feedback from. In many ways Meghan has fulfilled a ‘St. Mary Salome’ type role for me: a character that is believed to have been the person that was asking Jesus questions and challenging … maybe asking ‘why do you do this and not this?’ (there’s a bit of poetic licence there as we really know very little about Mary Salome). In other words Meghan’s comments and questions have required me to think about what I do, to remind myself what I am about, and to challenge me to remember what it is that I am trying to achieve. It is also good to hear how a fellow person views and experiences the same situation.

As I said, it has been great having Meghan around. It has supported in my mind the belief that I need two other people to join with me on this journey.

For sometime now in my weekly prayer emails I have been asking my friends to join me in praying for two other people to join me on my travels. I believe these two people  may best described as a Mary Salome and a Barnabas character: one remembered for their questioning ability, and the other for their encouragement. So … I’m still on the look out for these 2 people. If you are the praying kind … please join me in asking that I may find them soon.