200216486-001Great thoughts from Richard Rohr’s daily thought today …

‘Jesus loves to tell stories like that of the publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14) and the famous one about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), in which one character does his life totally right and is, in fact, wrong; and the other who does it totally wrong ends up God’s beloved! Now deal with that!’    (read more here)

In a world and church mindset where ‘success’ and ‘power driven ….. (fill in the gap) publications’ are pushed at the correct and only way, this biblical reminder from Richard Rohr is refreshing.

In todays set readings I read ‘He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ashes’.

It should be no surprise that we find God working with the real down to earth people where the Kingdom is just leaking through like sunshine through a rugged and badly fitted door. What is more surprising (like in my incident outside the pub) is that I don’t find more of God’s agents in those places … or maybe I do and my mind has not been transformed enough yet to notice.

Thank you Fr Richard for getting my mind working this morning.


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!!!

the allotment of life

In the Christmas holiday we acquired an allotment from the council. I have been on the waiting list for around 4 / 5 years nd had started to think we would never get to the top of the list … but at the end of the year we did!

Our plot has been neglected a bit and needs a lot of work but we have been slowly working on little bits by clearing rubbish, strimming areas and starting to dig beds for stuff we are going to grow. We have even covered others areas with weed suppressing cloth … aren’t you impressed! The allotment also has a pond on it which Joe is going tombe responsible for which I hope will add to our organic vision for our plot.

This half term week I have spent most mornings working for around 3 hours on the allotment and been loving the space, the quiet and the freedom of working in the outdoors.  It gets quite buy at the weekend, but during the week, it seems, the place is pretty quiet. I have found that the allotment can be a great place of retreat. The regular and repetitive tasks on the allotment such as weeding, digging, sweeping or planting help me as I pray and reflect on what has gone and what may be ahead. It reminded me of my weeks retreat a long time ago with the Northumbria Community when Rob, my guide, set me a bible passage to mull over as I planted potatoes. The repetitive activity of planting really enhanced my thinking and listening to God.

The other week I spoke a homily based on the parable of the sower which was written in my head while working on the allotment. This has traditionally been thought of as a parable speaking of who will be in God’s KIngdom and who will be excluded. I am always uncomfortable with any interpretation which talks of a loving God excluding people. As I worked I rethought the parable and thought of it more as a parable of soils rather than sowers.

I did this as I noticed that all the allotments are identical in size but differ in their proportions of different soils which each allotment having some areas which are very fertile and are being fully cultivated and are fruitful, while some areas are hard and compact and have been paths for years, and will remain paths. Other bits are full of rocks and need ‘sifting’, while yet other bits are quite weedy and thorny and need clearing. I also noticed the plots which always seem to have the owner working on them whenever I visit tend to be the plots which have more fertile ground than others.

In my homily I likened this to our lives and ended
 by saying: ‘If you are like me, (and my allotment!) your life is going to be like a field. Some of is the hardened first soil, some of it is the rocky soil, some of it is the thorny soil, and some of it is good soil. The goal is to till the hardened soil, clear away the rocks, and burn out the thorns so that our entire field becomes good, fertile soil. We are all like allotments with our mixture of life stuff where we don’t want to hear from God and avoid him, mixed with the rocks that trip us up and the thorns we don’t realise are snagging us. But we all have good soil too, those areas of our lives where we allow God to change us.

I wonder whether this parable talks to us more about our personal lives and discipleship than it does about who is ‘in’ and ‘out’ of God’s Kingdom. I wonder if it is more about God challenging us to give over more of our lives to God. As we approach Lent, I wonder if this parable is not so much about who believes the right or wrong things, but about giving up ideas of the importance of ourselves and in that giving up, allowing God to remould us and recreate us into the people we are supposed to be. I just wonder ….

the upside down kingdom tour

A little while ago I blogged about Shane Claiborne and his book, The Irresistible Revolution.

I’ve just found out that Shane Claiborne is touring the UK on the Upside Down Kingdom Tour.

The nearest tour date to me is Bromley on Wednesday 31st August at 7.30pm so I will be trying hard to get along.

I loved what Claiborne writes in his book and I am interested in hearing what he will say at these events …. certainly the ‘billing’ sounds like it will be a challenging evening:

The prophets have said,
The last will be first and the first will be last.
The mighty will be cast from their thrones and the lowly will be lifted up.
The hungry will be filled with good things and the rich will be set free of their riches.
The people will beat their weapons of war into farm tools. And war will be no more.
If that’s what’s coming… why not start now?

Join a movement to re-imagine the world. Join a revolution that has been reeking havoc on empires for a couple thousand years.
Upside-Down Kingdom Tour coming to a city near you soon. 

Anyone else fancy coming along with me?

a blessing to others

The gathering got together on Sunday and we considered Heaven. 
We started by looking at our images of heaven, and what we thought heaven was like and what heaven was all about. Nick led us into thinking about if we could describe heaven as a colour, what colour would we choose and why. This was an interesting time as we could see a cross section of colours and reasons … it’s seems we all think very differently about heaven. 
Following this we looked at the video of Brian McLaren and his interpretation of the Lords Prayer and heaven. This is a challenging video … not so much for it’s content, but more for its consequences of taken it seriously. 
Certainly the concept of heaven coming to earth, and our role being involved in that, certainly sits a lot better with us that thoughts of being whisked off to another place. In the gospels we noticed that John the Baptist spoke of the kingdom of God coming; whereas Jesus says the Kingdom of God is here. That’s a pretty distinct difference. Right at the beginning of Mark’s gospel (v15) Jesus asks his listeners to believe the good news. I have always blindly read the ‘good news’ to mean the resurrection story … but we are 15 chapters away from that still in Mark.
I think the good news that Jesus talks of is that the Kingdom of Heaven is here, that we don’t have to wait to be whisked off into another place, and (this is I think really exciting) that we have a role to get involved with God in bringing the KIngdom of God (aka heaven) as a reality in the lives of those we meet. If you watch the video clip that is essentially what a part of the Lords Prayer is saying.
AS the gathering we struggled with what we do in light of this. There is mystery here, the Kingdom of God is here and we can see evidence but it is clearly not ere fully – there is more to come. The kingdom of God is here but there is more to come … and we have a role in working alongside God in bringing in more of the Kingdom.
Clearly we cannot get involved in every single issue or area of need that we see. But … we could get involved in those that we feel God prompt us to. I think how this outplays in our lives as individuals and as the gathering will be a reoccurring question. Yesterday we left with two statements which give us a challenge:
to be involved in the kingdom of God would mean that we will be a blessing to those we meet (Luke 4)
if we bring in the kingdom with God it would be like leaving a sweet taste in the mouths of those we meet (Psalm 34)
In our daily lives, how can we be such a blessing to others so that it is like leaving them with a sweet taste in their mouth – that’s not a bad aim for life!

finding the Kingdom in the everyday

It’s been a good weekend with quality time spent with friends and a mixture of stuff to do at the cathedral. The Gills even picked up 3 points, although the performance was pretty inept and it is crystal clear that the manager has no more ideas up his sleeve and simply needs to leave … but that’s another blog story.

The weekend has been one of those where we have been able to spend lots of time with lots of different people: drinking in the club before the match, being with friends during the match, with friends again after the match at a Chinese restaurant to celebrate Conors birthday. After Evensong this afternoon we popped down to Andrew and sarah’s for coffee … which turned out to be a bottle or 2 of red wine …. that’s a great way to let the rest of Sunday disappear.

In the cathedral itself I have been struck by the quality of our worship. The choir were brilliant as is normal, but today conversations with people seemed to show the depth of love and respect that is around the place as well. It is difficult to put into words, but I think there was something special about today.

I guess I am reflecting on how fortunate I am. It is easy to become complacent. I am part of a fantastic family and group of friends, I work in a magnificent place with an amazing job to do and I guess it is quite easy to take all these things for granted.

In my Lent reading today I read of the lost coin (Luke 15) and Maggi’s commentary on how the Kingdom of God works through the little everyday things that seem insignificant in the wider scheme of things but are personally quite important.

Today I have experienced the brilliance of the Kingdom of God in the normal everyday things of my life.


well I am amazed – the same thing happened in Wetherspoons yesterday morning. I sat with the same group of guys and we just generally chatted about stuff.

I am conscious on how important two guys, or men of peace, have been in all of this. They have had short conversations with me over the months and it is them that have invited me to join the group.

On Sunday, I have to preach on a passage from Mark’s gospel where Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God being like a seed and a mustard seed in particular. I’m still getting my head around what that might mean, but I think there is something about little beginnings, something we do not fully understand happening underground in secret which is followed by a sudden burst of life and the plant grows.

I wonder if that is what is happening here? Stuff has been secretly going on ‘underground’ while I have been in Wetherspoons. I have become part of something that I do not understand. Others have planted seeds, maybe I have as well, and somehow in some amazing way God has been doing what God does. Suddenly I am seeing the reality of some growth. It is a massive surprise.

I wonder if massive surprise is what Jesus was trying to get across when he spoke in mark about the Kingdom of God?

I am intrigued to see what will happen next when I arrive at Wetherspoons. After this surprise will things calm to normality or will stuff continue to happen?

a journey to acceptance?

I had an amazing experience yesterday. This pioneering stuff, being in the community and waiting does strangely take a lot of effort. I certainly have not prayed so much in my whole life. Before you think that’s super spiritual of me …. it’s not; I mean … what else can you do when you are sit alone for most of the time in a pub in the morning! As I gaze out the window, or look around the pub I pray and ask God to show me what he wants me to see.

Yesterday I bought my coffee as normal and was invited to sit with a group of the guys that are regulars in the pub. I sat and as others turned up who normally sit there they joined us and we had a great time just talking about ‘stuff’. I am not sure what I was expecting but I was very conscious of the fact that some of the regulars may be put off by me sitting with them and although surprised to see me there seemed more comfortable than I felt.

We chatted for about an hour and a bit before it seemed right for me to move on.

After 10 months is this a small step towards acceptance? It’s interesting as I have been praying for weeks to be invited in and had almost started to think it might never happen, and so I was pretty surprised yesterday by the simply way the invite came.

Does this mean people are starting to feel more confident, will the invite come again or was this a simple one off to see what would happen? I can’t answer any of those questions and I am not entirely sure what to do later today (when in about an hour to be exact) when I return. I guess I will have to play things by ear and see what seems and feels to be the right thing to do. In fact it strikes me that the questions are unimportant; this happened and God was working through it in some way. If God is in control he sorted this in some way and God will do the same again at the right time.

In my mind this is a significant step towards building relationships but it is interesting to note how long this has taken. I started at the beginning of September visiting this place nearly every day and we are now at the beginning of June. Ten months is a long time; building genuine authentic relationships cannot be rushed, it takes time to just start to be accepted by the community.

I say ‘start to be accepted’ because I am under no illusions that yesterday equates with acceptance. There were uncomfortable silences. Whether I like it or not I am seen as different because I am ordained and for this group of people that is so far removed from their reality (as it is for most people in our society). Most people in our society do not come into contact with clergy people – and this group have to see me nearly every day! It’s entirely possible, in fact probable, that today will be very different and I will go back to normal to sitting alone and waiting for the next invite.

A big question I have here is how do I seek to serve as Christ would serve in this environment. I don’t feel I’m here to build church, or to convert people or anything like that. That is all God’s work as it is only God that can achieve those things. What does loving service look like in this setting? How can I be good news in this environment? How can I help people to encounter the amazing generosity of God. In short, how do we focus on the Kingdom of God here and create the space for that Kingdom to be noticed?

Close Guantánamo

While away, I ‘missed’ the 6th anniversary of the opening of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay. Surprisingly, or not, I did not see it covered in the press.

Just the reading of this timeline of events is enough to make you angry and feel sick at the treatment of fellow human beings. Stuff such as Bush signing memos that allow the ignoring of Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Article 3 requires fair trial standards and prohibits torture, cruelty, and ‘outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.’

775 people have been held in Guantánamo since Jan 11th 2002
In those 6 years not one single person has been put on trial
11 people were put on military trial, which was then ruled unlawful by the US Supreme Court.
These men are sons, husbands, fathers, brothers.
They have daughters, sons, wives, mother, fathers
they have been imprisoned for no crime, with no access to their families, and with no hope of a change in their circumstances.
They have been deprived of the very freedom that the west, and particularly the US, pride themselves on.
Deprived for 6 years!
That’s 2191 days!
I can’t imagine the pain of not seeing my wife or children for 6 years. Not being able to hug them, hold them, laugh with them, cry with them. It’s an unbearable pain even without the torture that we know is happening inside!

This is inhumane
this is unjust
and it must end now
we need to treat our fellow humans with dignity
there is NO EXCUSE for what is happening in this camp.

Please visit the Amnesty space here and join us in attempting to see justice done – it’s a Kingdom thing! Justice is a God thing!

Day 4 and 5

An interesting couple of days at SEITE.
I’ve been discussing Issues in Theology with Simon Barrow of Ekklesia, looked at the armour of God in my bible study, sat in a fantastic coffee shop in Canterbury thinking about mission while reading a couple of chapters of Exiles, and heard some great insights from 2 Muslims, Saira Malik a lecturer from Kings and Dr. Usmani from Maidstone Mosque who told us that Jews Christians and Muslims should get along well together as we are all cousins and have no need to fight each other with the common ground that exists.

Simon was good and I found it interesting to see that some did not accurately listen to what he said and became defensive on issues such as church schools. He was arguing for a different thinking whereas people heard ‘I am against and we should not have these’ rather than ‘if we have these they should not discriminate as that is not a Christian value’

I feel God challenged and spoke to me in the ‘3rd space’ of the coffee shop(you’ll have to read Exiles for a definition) – which makes me smile as I have not been able to find God in most of the structured and tightly controlled worship that we have experienced this week. I know that is an issue with me rather than the people planning and leading worship as I can see that others are being incredibly challenged and the worships sessions themselves are well planned. It’s just for me, at this point in time, I feel I need quiet and time to listen from scripture rather than fill space with words.

Highlights of the last 2 days …
sitting outside Buttermarket with good friends people watching!
a Wetherspoons Curry!
laughing over silly things
Old Specled Hen AND Bishops Finger on tap – a pub from Heaven!
speaking with those that have widely different theological views from me – and yet having friendship of respect and love which will hopefully exist beyond SEITE – that’s got to be a sign of the Kingdom of God!

And now … 7.20am so off to the Crypt! Have I metioned that the lectionary readings are Song of Solomon for the mornings! St John of the cross has interesting interpretations which do not seem to tie in with the immediately obvious interpretations which are a bit much at 7.30 in a cold cathedral crypt!