what a weekend

poster latest .jpegIt’s been a pretty amazing weekend!
For the last few months I have been pretty involved in the planning and running of the first ever Residents Association Summer Fayre. I was part of an amazing team that caught a big vision of local traders, local artists, local musicians, local foodies …. you get it …. local local local …. getting together to put on some sort of festival which would be enjoyed by local people. The vision for the event was that local people would have an opportunity to showcase themselves o that local residents could then make contact with them in some capacity throughout the rest of the year.

We received lottery funding, we received sponsorship from some amazing people and organisations and we put on a pretty cool and great event! We had 400 – 500 people throughout the day.

I had some amazing conversations with people and particularly loved the conversation which went something like ‘I’ve got friends who are Christian and vote Tory …. how does that work?!!!’ You know I would have agreed wholeheartedly with this person …. (now don’t go bashing me Christian Tory friends …. because I am not saying you ain’t Christian or rubbish like that …. I’m just saying I don’t get your voting choices! Two different things!)

The atmosphere at the event was amazing. Lots of people talking to each other and some people now, a few days later, making links and sharing conversations of Facebook …. which has got to be good as talking is how community starts …. and we need more community here.

Some people did ask why there was no Holy Trinity logo on the sponsor list considering the amount of time I had given  …. my response was that, for me, the role of church is to bless community and help community to grow and to inspire community … but most of all to serve community. We don’t need recognition for people to know we are serving … that should show in our attitude of being willing to just get involved and bless. I hope we did.

So … my hopes from this is that community will develop, that we will interact more on the peninsula and that we, as church, can understand more about how we can bless this community. Working behind the scenes to help this community grow is something that church does , or should do, and it’s exciting to see. Obviously we also want HTGP to grow (you’d surely expect a vicar to want that!) and maybe when people see us they will become interested … but if they don’t … nothing will change …. we will continue to serve, and to bless, and to get involved … because that is what we are called to do here. That will not stop.

Thanks planning team, thanks musicians, thanks stall holders, thanks funders, thanks concierge and porters and village manager, thanks bouncy castle people, thanks millers ark people, thanks food vans …. and thanks to those of you who came.

new notes …

img_1179One of the challenges I set myself a few months was to learn a new skill.

I was finding all I was doing was working or thinking about work and, in my experience, when that is all you do you soon start to become dry and find it difficult to vision or be creative.

I have always wanted to learn to play the sax. I was told by my mum years ago that I was not musical (after singing quite well in a  choir at school) and so for years, simply years, I have believed I could not do anything musical.

At the cathedral I used to panic about having to sing the sarsum corda but had wonderful patient people around me who helped and told me I could sing it ok.

For an ‘unmusical person’ I have always loved music … so a few month ago I borrowed a sax from a  friend and started to have lessons. I found I progressed ok (much better than I expected) so I now have my own sax and I am learning … slowly … but still learning to play some tunes. I have a great and patient teacher that I see every other week or thereabouts and I am having a lot of fun.

The result of learning a new skill, something totally out of my comfort zone, is that it has reminded me, or maybe it has re-taught me, that learning something fresh can be incredibly alien. For someone that doesn’t read music too well coordinating breathing, reading and finger movements to get tunes that sounds like tunes can be awkward. I look at Jason (cool sax teacher) and marvel at how he can play anything he chooses with seemingly little effort. And …. when it all works together for me, on those odd ocassions, and the sax just purrs a tune the feeling of understanding, resonace, achievement and excitement are pretty powerful.

My learning of the when and how to breathe while playing, what notes to play, how loud or soft to play them seems to be an apt illustration for me of how we support people who are seeking to connect with their God. It can be awkward, alien, uncomfortable and hard work …. the encouragements for me while learning to play have been those moments of resonance between myself and Betty (everyone has to make their saxophone …. don’t they?!), those moments when the sound has been great and I have felt ‘connected’.

In a time and culture when people feel ‘connected’ through technology yet in reality are possibly the most disconnected and reclusive we have been for centuries the question to ask, in my mind, is how to we aid this connection?
How do we support people as they walk the journey to that point of resonance?
What can we do, if anything, to either encourage or discourage that resonance of one-ness?

So … some questions … never said I had answers … but questions are always more fun to deal with than answers ….

Songs for a Mystical Supper

front-cover-cropped-instagrammedWhile I was in Seattle on placement with COTA a couple of years ago I met some of these guys from Church of the Beloved.

They’ve recently released a free album of some of their songs because:

‘We want to release this as a free download again, hoping to get it out to as many people as we can and treating it as a gift to the world and a resource to the Church who is in need of thoughtful, soulful music.’

I love the sound and particularly struck by Giver of All THings Good, Of the Fathers Love and For you.

Why not go here and check it out.

Rachel Chesney

I’ve just discovered Rachel Chesney via Naked Pastors blog and love the sound she creates … a strength which is quite vulnerable, if that makes any sense at all?

I don’t really need to add anything to what the pastor says on his blog …. apart from echoing you could download this for free – but don’t…. please pay for it.

Go listen here!


Coldplay’s latest album comes as a free download here. A great collection of live recordings which are already now on my ipod!

Sweeps Festival

The bank holiday weekend has seen The Sweeps Festival in Rochester. My role throughout this has been to be a ‘presence’ in and around the cathedral. It’s been an interesting role – not particularly pioneering, but there have been some interesting questions and discussions with people visiting. I have prayed with a few people, answered faith type questions, and advised a young man getting married that feeling nervous is quite normal. A lot of the time, though, has been spent smiling and greeting people as they come into the cathedral.

On a couple of occasions I have managed to get outside the cathedral and taste the real flavour of the festival. While the cathedral is a place of calm the streets are overflowing with people enjoying the folk music and the morris dancing while enjoying a pint or two of real ale. The festival has a great atmosphere with people looking to have a good time while enjoying and remembering some traditional English arts. On a few occasions I have been able to enjoy the music and the beer.

As I wondered around on the Saturday I had one negative, but interesting, comment from a woman who walked past me as I was standing outside the cathedral. ‘Ugghhh morris dancers and priests! They don’t go together!’ In a sense she is right, but I wonder (1) why she thought that and (2) is it actually the case.

The tradition of morris dancing is popularly thought to have its root in paganism, and I guess the comment came from the woman because of this. As a Christian, however, who believes this world is God’s creation and that there is nowhere where God is not present, then I have to say I disagree with the comment. Morris dancing and priests do go together (and yes I know I am a deacon, but it was not appropriate to point out the difference to this lady). Actually I have looked into this pre-christian pagan thing and apparently there is no evidence to suggest that is the root of morris dancing. I have also met over the last few days quite a few people involved in church who are also heavily involved in morris dancing.

As I wandered and chatted with some people there seemed to be quite a large open-ness. Large numbers of people seemed to be interested in ‘things spiritual’. I wonder if the interest in Folk and the interest in Morris Dancing feeds a spiritual appetite in people. While the interest many had with things spiritual, it would not be seen as mainstream Christianity. People spoke more of ‘mother earth’ and a ‘deep energy’. I had a sense of people worshiping creation rather than the creator.

I think this may be the case and I am wondering whether a better way to engage with people at this festival is more along the lines of what we offer at the MBS fair I spoke of a little while ago. Certainly many people were interested in spirituality and an opportunity to explore some of these in a relaxed way as we do at MBS may well work here. I wonder whether through things like the Jesus Deck, prayer beads and dream interpretation may the kind of thing that these folk and morris lovers that people here might be able to experience some of the wonder of the creator God.

These are all just early thoughts off the back of the festival but I’m just wondering – does anyone else out there have experience of MBS type stuff being done at musical / folk festivals? If so, I’d be really interested in talking to you.

My Way

On the radio the other day I heard the words of this classic from Sinatra. As I was listening numerous sermons and talks came to mind where the idea of ‘doing things my way’, sometimes with this song as an illustration, were portrayed as being negative because, of course, it should be God’s way not my way.

Over two decades of youth ministry I have lost count of the number of conversations that go something like ‘I’d really love to do this, but how can I be sure it’s God’s will for my life … it seems it’s too good to be true cos I have dreamed of doing this …’

But …
if God created me,
and Jesus lives within me
is it not possible that
God’s way
my way
can be the same?

a new year gift!

Jonny pointed me to this on his blog – a good free collection of ambient tracks which will be very useful next Christmas!

Worth going to download them before the inevitable happens and they disappear!

great chill out site

Not a great weekend for football if you are a Gillingham fan … so I went surfing instead and found this great time-wasting chill out site.