what a day …

cs618508-01a-bigYesterday was one of those packed and varied days with little space to reflect upon activity as I rushed from one event to another. It was the type of day I had before I was ordained and working with YFC when I always seemed to have to jump from one meeting or task to another and take on different roles as I journeyed through the day.

Yesterday started with morning prayer as usual and then staff meeting where we reviewed the week via a bacon roll (thanks Margaret!) and looked at the web ahead of us. We reviewed a lot of Christmas services and carol events.

Following this on my way home I bumped into a person who, this year, will not be celebrating or experiencing the joy of Christmas in their home. This person was really quite sad and lonely (as we chatted I told this person I was a blogger and they asked if I would include our encounter … I said I would not normally as it is always hard to not by accident make some identifying comment … but this person specifically asked that I did … so here you go!) We chatted about this person’s life and the person said it was helpful; before going on to say that I was the first person they had spoken to in weeks and that they missed personal conversation … it made me weep to think that this is even possible in an overcrowded city like London! We prayed together in a  coffee shop before I then had to move on. I always find chance encounters to be full of God … it was a real privilege to spend time with this person … thank you.

I next arrived at St Mary Magdalene Peninsula school to be the chaplain / speaker at the Christmas Service. The staff there, as ever, are amazing at getting the best out of children. Some of the Year 2’s sang solos in the choir (is a KS1 choir the youngest choir going?) which were simply stunning. I then spoke about Jesus and the Christmas Story using a candy cane as an illustration all aided by a bit of fun ‘magic’ (there is no such thing as magic children … remember this is just a trick!) that produced the desired wow factor – all thanks going to Mission Magic who sold me an awesome trick!

After chatting with some staff I headed to Craft for a coffee and a meet up with a cool guy called Dave Pilkington. Dave is training at St Mellitus to be a vicar to work in the Olympic Park … overseen by the amazing Bishop of Stepney! We talked about mission and the church and contemplation and a lot of other stuff. You know that feeling you get when meeting someone that just instinctively tells you this guy is a good guy … well it was like that. I will be watching with some envy but also great anticipation as Dave starts to develop things in the Olympic Park.

I then hopped on a couple of buses from this meeting to get to St Mary Magdalene Blackheath to be part of the audience as the Year 7’s put on an amazing production of A Christmas Carol. It was a great couple of hours and allowed me to wander the school and chat to people before hearing some amazing singing and seeing some excellent acting.

Hopping on another bus took me to The Pelton Arms where it was my turn to sing carols and join with others from the East Greenwich Team. Lots of people in the pub joined in and seemed to enjoy the opportunity to sing carols in their community. I think that is quite key for us to note … that going out from the church and giving people opportunity to mark events in the wider community , rather than always inviting them to join us in our smaller one, seems to be becoming more of a perceived need. It is interesting that this follows on from Jean’s observations here.

It is clear to me that people last night wanted to join in the singing of carols, that they wanted maybe to connect with something that is lying dormant deep within them … but I wonder if it is not until they were exposed to some resonating experience (in this case our singing carols in their pub) that people are even aware that there is something lying dormant within. I am thinking aloud … but it is worth proper thought and reflection as I wonder whether the people in the pub would have experienced carols and that sense of memory or wonder if the church had not gone in to that space?

Following the Pelton I finally got home …. listened to some Bowie and went to sleep. A lot of stuff yesterday that I need to take the time to reflect on … and I will do!

Our next Parish carols is at the Vanburgh on Thursday night (8pm) so why not join us!



The door

The Door – a poem by Miroslav Holub from Ricardo Serrano on Vimeo.

During the last year of toughness and door pushing, alongside words from the gospels and good friends encouragements …. I have returned to this poem a few times which I know I have written about before.

This has become one of my favourite poems and ‘accidentally’ finding this beautifully read version on Vimeo has been a great discovery!

Holub urges us to open the door, because when we open doors we never what we will find on the other side …. and at the very least …. there will be a refreshing breeze.

Go listen …. I love this poem which I first discovered in Staying Alive … worth lots of reading
I love it’s simplicity which, is paradoxically, quite complex!
(I can talk shit too!)

The words ….

Go and open the door.
Perhaps outside there is
a tree or a forest
or a garden
or an enchanted city.
Go and open the door.
If there was only
the ticking darkness
if there was only
the empty wind
or if there was
go and open the door.

Go and open the door.
Perhaps a dog is scraping there.
Perhaps a face is there,
or an eye,
or the image
of an image.
Go and open the door.
If there is mist there
it will clear away.

At least
there’ll be

a draught.


Go on … open the door!
Maybe together …. ?


slithers of hope

dp1783759It’s been a long time
A very long time
So long that I forgot that I used to have
A blog

I guess it is fair to say the year has been
hard work … yes …
with ideas not germinating
and dreams not blooming
and yet


I know I am here
I know I am supposed to be here
I know God has called me here
for now
for such a moment as this
to be a blessing
I hope
to be blessed

the last few days have seen
interesting slithers of light
all radiating suddenly at once
standing to attention
and scooting out hastily from dark crevasses
like Attenborough’s racer snakes
or maybe a shooting star
or even the insuppressible sunrise
always there
FULL of potential
but waiting
and holding breath
until the right time to appear

Is now that time?

I have now been here for 16 months and now, only now, after 16 months of listening and hearing what people are saying and building trust with people are we boldly but carefully moving forward with some ideas.

Our survey shows that loneliness, stress and  community feel are real and live issues for people here … and so we need to ask the question … how can we respond to that …. is there anything we can do to help with community feel, to help dispel loneliness and to help people with stress levels.

Early in the New Year we will be offering free Mindfulness Meditation classes and a great wellbeing course called The Happiness Course.

Sound intriguing or interested …?
If so give us / me a shout!

it’s been a year!

IMG_2293I have now been here a year …. here being  …. Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula
I am a third of the way through my contract …. I have no idea if funding will be available at the end of the 3 years  …. the area is a total nightmare to link with people …. sometimes I think people don’t even want us here ….particularly those that have a bad image of (maybe poor) models of church … (horrible unchristian stuff like this masquerading as genuine Christianity does not help!)  but ….. BUT …. it seems that God does want us here .. at least for he moment!

Working in a place like this is hard. People hide behind intercoms and security gates …70% of people are on 6 to 12 month rental contracts so turnover is high …. this may mean some don’t wish to start to put roots or add to community as they see their presence as transitory ….  but all need to know that God is with them. We are not there yet in how we show this, maybe not even close, but there will be a way! I believe there is a real need to crack this! And by crack this … I mean to show that ‘church’ is something that can be helpful, that can help people and community grow, that can bless people in their everyday lives …. I’m not talking about trying to convert or coerce people …. but rather develop a church that can and does make a difference and is seen as a real positive, wanted  and wholesome part of local community.  

I have no idea what is going to happen this year …. but I have returned with some new ideas of ways forward. We will try them and see what happens. I will continue to be a presence, but we will continue, also, to seek ways that we can make a difference both in our local community and maybe further afield.

When I moved here a year ago I said I was looking for people to birth and grow a new way of being church with me. Some of those people have appeared .. but I believe there are others I have not met yet … so if you are reading this and think ‘maybe’ or if you know anyone in the Greenwich area … put us in touch!


birthing … something!

Wednesday ev5e046d53-f183-4819-88c2-21e3e639efb1 copyening saw the second of our ‘new’ community meals of Holy Trinity.
A few of us gathered, we ate together a pretty tasty meal (#blowmyowntrumpet). We shared our stories of the week, in other words what had been happening and what, if anything, we felt God may have been doing in our weeks.
We asked what we needed prayer for and prayed for each other.
On some nights we might find someone has something to share as a thought or question which we would then chat about around the table.
We then shared bread and wine together using a very simple liturgy referring to how long bread and wine has been shared. I think it is also important that as we try and develop something ‘new’ we remain aware of how deeply rooted in history and tradition this practice is and how central it is for intentional Christian community to grow

The time ‘felt’ good and right.
It felt like a time of encouragement and building up.
It felt like a time of connection with the wider church and faith.
I am fairly committed to thinking that if ‘church’ is going to be birthed and grow in this place then it needs to be through community that wants to spend time together, a group of people that as it meets and grows learns to trust and share and live life together. That then, in my mind, becomes intentional community.

We are still in very early days, we are still pretty much learning as we go along. It is early days but we have birthed something ‘new’ on the Peninsula.

If this sounds interesting to you … and live near enough to join us … then please do!

homes .. not halls

the-word-homeI have been struck in the news recently by a lot of discussion around how we support refugees and others that are homeless and need support. There has been a good response from churches who have been talking about making use of empty church buildings or empty church houses or even halls and stuff like that. While that is a positive response I am not sure it is the correct or best response.

I will try to explain my thinking with a hypothetical situation. Take, say a family from a war torn country arriving here in need of shelter. We are aware of an empty house in one of our towns and we house them there. They know no one. They are in a new land. They are trumatised. They are in a new country with new customs, new rules, a new language. I wonder if this approach results in a continuation of a feeling of isolation. It is definitely a step in the right direction … but is there more we can do … is there more that God might require of us?

I believe people seeking shelter need more than just a building …. all of us need connection with the rest of humanity, all need to know they are accepted, loved, cared for … wanted even to add to the community we find themselves in . Living alone, where you know no one, can simply generate isolation and feelings of rejection, no matter how best the intentions.

Maybe, instead of our halls, we need to be offering our homes?
Maybe, instead of placing people into our empty sanitised buildings, we need to invite people into our messy cultural rich loving homes.
Maybe we need to open our family life and invite others into it.
Maybe ‘finding somewhere’ is easier than ‘inviting in.’
Finding empty buildings for people may be an easier option … inviting a family to live with you, and learn about culture and community with you, to eat together and learn together is a much harder thing to do.
Inviting people in, though,  gives a more solid footing to growing in community … it is just that for many of us it is so hard to do.
I include myself in that …. but it does not stop the niggling feeling that we should be doing more.

What does this mean for me? I don’t know!
What about for our church HT on the Peninsula … again I don’t know!
What do you think … any comments on this … am I way off the wall in this thinking?
Homes or halls?


mission reflection

Photo Friday: ArchitectureThere are few things that will cause me to cut into a ‘break’ or a ‘holiday’ …. but talking about, reflecting upon and asking why and how we do mission in our setting is one of those ‘few things’.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to take part in the first Woolwich Area Catholic Anglican Missiology Symposium which was pulled together by Ian Mobsby in his role as Mission Enabler in our part of the diocese. I was not just pleased to be asked, but also excited that the diocese is putting time into this. Bishop Michael gave a good introduction on the purpose of the group and being present was inspiring.

We heard two great papers from Steve and Gareth which raises a mound of questions both within the room and, for me personally in my current setting of the Greenwich Peninsula. It raised questions of the theology of practice and , interestingly, we chatted pneumatology in our various settings. There was debate as to whether the catholic tradition had an inadequate theology here. I am not sure i agree with that statement, but it has caused to ponder that a I serve the Peninsula.

Steve and Garth’s papers can be heard here …. definitely worth listening to.

Ashes to Go

AshestoGo2Tomorrow morning at 730 until 830am, Esther and myself from Holy Trinity Greenwich Peninsula will be robing and offering ‘ashes to go’ at the bus stop outside ‘the vicarage’. 

I’m not sure how this will go and I do not mind saying I am more than a little nervous as to the kind of reception we may receive. I hope some people will feel able to connect with something of their past. I hope some people will welcome the opportunity to pause and consider their humanity in the face of the Divine. I hope some people will be surprised to find the church at their bus stop. I hope some people find encouragement in knowing that their Creator has not forgotten them.

The palm crosses have been burned. Oil ahas been added and we will ash people at the bus stop while saying this simple prayer:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Go in peace. Amen.

We will also give those ashed and wanting to take something away a copy of this prayer and explanation which will be attached to the back of our postcard giving details of who we are. The explanation and prayer below come from the Ashes to Go website:

Almighty and merciful God, you hate nothing you have made, and forgive the sins of all who are penitent; create in us new and contrite hearts, so that when we turn to you and confess our sins and acknowledge our need, we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

Why “Ashes to Go”?
Ashes are an ancient sign of penitence. From the Middle Ages it became the custom to begin Lent by being marked in ash with the sign of the cross. The reminder that we are dust turns our attention to the creative power of God, and God’s ability to heal the brokenness in our lives when we offer that brokenness to God. That turning to God is the work of Lent, preparation for the celebration of Easter. We’re offering ashes on the street corner today because that reminder of need, humility, and healing shouldn’t be confined to a church building.

We probably need it more when we are in the middle of our daily business! The ashes we receive here are to remind us throughout the day of our need for God, and of God’s call to us.

So …. in just around 12 hours I will be waking … and getting ready …. and becoming nervous … but then afterwards I hope to be able to say that many people felt blessed and encouraged by our presence. Being good news on The Peninsula is what we are about …. and part of that good news is serving and helping and blessing. If we achieve that as a church that would be cool! 

walking for change

12642677_947115258675954_1567955323478933877_nToday I walked around the Peninsula with Alastair, who is on placement with the East Greenwich Team Ministry prior to him training for ordination. We chatted and prayed as we walked around the new buildings.

As we embark on something new here as the church on the Peninsula, prayer walking is, to me, a necessary pre-requisite. This is how I started things in Rochester and then again in Gillingham. I don’t know why … sometimes it makes no sense … because, after all, God knows everything and knows what I will pray about …. but for some reason, i know that without prayer things do not seem to happen. With prayer things do seem to happen! Simples!

For me, today was a big encouragement. I often walk around the Peninsula as the ‘parish priest’ but walking around with a like minded person today seemed more intentional and focussed.

As I walk, I guess I am looking for people who are interested in joining me on this weird journey of trying to birth and grow a new way of being church here on the Peninsula. I am convinced there are people here who have a faith and are interested in being part of developing something new.

Please pray I may find some of those people soon.

so … how’s it going?

a day to contemplateI am in that position where I need to start reflecting again. I have allowed myself to get out of the discipline of writing here as a reflective practice. That needs to start again.
This blog will become, yet again, a place where I will think aloud. It’s a blog in the public domain so please feel free to comment.

So … to answer that title question …
It’s  a challenge!
Leaving a community you have known and loved for 30 odd years and moving into a new community where you know very little and understand even less is a challenge.

So what is my major challenge?
I was asked that recently and had to think.
I think … my toughest challenge … is a feeling of being in this alone.
There is a lot to do, so many opportunities, so many people and organisations to engage with …yet, although I am in a team, … it feels pretty much that I am doing a lot of this stuff alone as everyone here s incredibly busy.

I already know that the life of a pioneer is a lonely one.
In many ways it needs to be.
I have written in the past a lot about the power of vulnerability and I still hold by that. I think ministry of vulnerability is incredibly vital in my context.
Thats has always been the case and I have experience of that.
I accept that is ho this has to be.
In Medway my life as a pioneer was lonely, but that loneliness was in an environment of familiarity. In Greenwich that loneliness is in a place of unfamiliarity and I realised I have underestimated the effect of that.

Being an advocate for change can be quite draining.
Looking for ways to engage with a community hidden behind electronic doors can be frustrating. From limited research and talking with professionals working in this area I am pretty convinced that loneliness is an issue for people … and yet trying to engage with that is hard as people here are protected from people knocking on doors.

Despite the challenge, I am confident. I am convinced that God has called me here for this point in time and that we, Holy Trinity, will find ways to engage with and support this community.

But …. I need help.
So I am looking for a core of people that may or may not already be involved in HT. This core of 2 or 3 people would regularly meet to pray with me about the peninsula. These people would be at virtually everything  we do as well as in time take on some responsibility for running and or planning stuff. Currently I am praying that these people will become pretty obvious very soon.

If you are the praying type … you could pray that too!