practical wisdom – ordinary people

seattle pub theoThis new term has seen me experiencing a coupe of ‘firsts’ or, maybe more accurately, new challenges. The first is that, as well as chaplain, I have agreed to teach three GCSE Geography lessons a week at one of the schools I am a chaplain at.

This week I will be lecturing at SEITE (the place I trained at) for this term on mission. I will be teaching the module on a Tuesday evening in Canterbury while my good friend and mentor, Ian Mobsby, will be teaching the same module on a Monday evening at Southwark cathedral. Ensuring we deliver the same content has involved hours of Skype conversations … and we are now ready to deliver the first session which looks at Models of Mission and context for theology and mission.

I’m more daunted than I am excited by this new challenge, although I hope that might change.

While planning, I have been hit by some quotes and viewpoints that we are using in our teaching. I love this quote from Richard Mouw:

“High theology is aloof from the needs of ordinary people dealing with loss, health, depression and so they turn to folk and New Age practicers which offer an account of and techniques for dealing with their concerns.
There is practical wisdom to be found in ordinary people.
Examine popular culture for a legitimate critique of the shortcomings of theology that has so distanced it from people struggling to believe
We must probe the hidden places: looking for the sings of eloquence and grace to be found there; listening for deep calling unto deep; searching, not only for the Deeper Magic, but also for the Deeper Quests, the Deeper Pleasures, the Deeper Hurts and the Deeper Plots.”

I simply love and shout ‘YES!!!’ at the line … There is practical wisdom to be found in ordinary people.

We are all created in the Image of God. It therefore follows obviously that each and every one of our ordinary lives displays some form of wisdom from God. The fact that some wings of the church choose, or actively campaign, to deny this with certain people groups is not only sad, but it results in the church losing the beauty that comes with the wisdom from those ordinary people. The church cannot be complete until it truly listens to all.

If theology is aloof it follows that it becomes irrelevant. Too often we see, particularly in the Roman Catholic church today, this aloofness of theology and practice that excludes or belittles or disregards. When challenged they use the line of ‘tradition and theology’. But … theology is not a static concept … it can’t be if it claims any relevance …. to be relevant in ever changing times then theology and practice need to ‘upgrade’ to continue to be relevant. This upgrade is called contextualisation!

But I love Mouw’s comments for more than that ….. for Mouw seems to suggest that the starting place requires us to watch and to listen. Listening for deep calling to deep …. not a listening to hear things that fit with our prepackaged answers ….. but a listening, that if done with integrity, engages in such a way with our thinking that it can be totally transformed so that theology returns to being relevant and compassionate again.

‘One of those ‘hidden places for me is the pub I visit on a Friday evening. Each week I see incredible signs of grace and eloquence. This last week, as I sat at the bar with the landlord and landlady we experienced lots of acts of grace from the regulars which drew the comment … ‘this is how a pub should be’ … I responded ‘its a community’ which they agreed was probably right.

For real genuine engagement … we need to listen … and listen for signs of eloquence and grace … and I find that usually …. it’s in the unexpected, deep hidden places where we are surprised by, and meet, such things.

MSM .. a great opportunity

msmA slight detraction from my thoughts on silence …. which will continue … but the Mission Shaped Ministry course starts again at the end of the month …. it’s a really good course for considering stuff about …. well mission really!

If you are interested in mission this course is a good one to consider … whether you are thinking that maybe you are into setting up a fresh expression, or whether you are involved in one and want to reflect on what you are doing, or whether you want to develop some skills to help your church be a little more involved in mission …… well have a look at this.

This year we are meeting on a Monday evening in Maidstone with a few Saturdays and a weekend involved …. but all that stuff is on the flyer which you can look at here.

Oh … yeah … also … not that am biased about this course … but I should mention I am one of the tutors on the course …. but don’t let that put you off …. if nothing else you can rely on me to make amazing inappropriate comments … just to make you think of course … and not simply be controversial for the sake of it!

Please … look at the flyer …. the course is £250 … incredible value for the program if you look at it (that’s 2/3’s the cost of my Gills season ticket but usually far more entertaining!)

sales pitch over!

but sign up … really … do it!

amazing intern opportunities in Stepney

stepThis is an excellent opportunity in Stepney. Bishop Adrian is an amazing guy and I’d love to have the opportunity to work with him again. So .. below is a great opportunity to work in a creative and diverse part of London under the leadership of an amazing bishop … I have cut and paste this from an email:

The Stepney Area is looking to appoint up to eight Interns from September 2014. The scheme is a year’s opportunity to serve God in parishes in Islington, Hackney or Tower Hamlets, and has been running as part of the Church of England’s Ministry Experience Scheme (CEMES). If you are aged 18-29 and interested in living out your discipleship in an urban context and exploring a vocation to ministry, lay or ordained, this may be for you.

The scheme will include parish ministry, community living, and time for study and vocational discernment. By serving with others in places of need and opportunity in London, you will be challenged to think about God’s call to work for his kingdom in areas of poverty, unemployment and social inequality.

The Stepney Area The Stepney Area is part of the London Diocese, and is diverse, vibrant and multi-cultural, with rich and poor living side-by-side. It includes some of the most deprived wards in the country, but is also home to some of the most vibrant creative industries in Europe, and to Canary Wharf and the City Fringe. The popular destinations of Hoxton, Brick Lane, Shoreditch, Dalston and Islington are part of the Area, as are the Spitalfields, Columbia Road and Broadway markets. It’s this challenging and changing urban mix which makes Stepney an exciting place to minister, and to explore what it means to be the church for the 21st century.

The Intern Scheme

The Intern Scheme will provide a range of opportunities for you to explore parish ministry. These might include leading worship, preaching and teaching, pastoral work, mission and evangelism, youth work, schools work, social transformation projects, and community engagement with other partners.

The work you will be involved with will depend on the parish you are placed with and your gifts for ministry. You will be encouraged to develop your own particular strengths and interests, and the roles have flexibility to allow them to grow and develop around the individual.

As an Intern you will be allocated a clergy supervisor in your parish. There is also an opportunity for study, and for ongoing vocational discernment, including for those already exploring a vocation to ordained ministry. Accommodation will be provided where Interns will live together in community, though serving in different parishes. There will be a chaplain to serve the pastoral needs of the house community. During the year you will be encouraged to go on retreat, and the costs for this will also be paid for.

As part of the scheme, a subsistence allowance will be provided, and your accommodation, travel, training costs and parish expenses met. As a sign of your commitment to the scheme you will be asked to contribute £500 towards it. We can help you think of ways to raise this money, and a bursary fund is available.

Who we are looking for

We are looking for energetic, enthusiastic individuals who are flexible, able to take initiative and wanting to grow in faith and in the ability to communicate it. We are looking for people wanting to explore a call to urban inner-city ministry, at home with people from diverse backgrounds and other church traditions, seeking to serve God among some of London’s most vulnerable people, and wanting to experience the adventure of community living.

If you are interested, please contact Revd Fiona Green, The Intern Director, for an application form, or to discuss the opportunity further. 07786 541559.

Application deadline: Monday 31st March 2014. Interviews: Saturday 12th April 2014.

6a00d83451df1169e2017d41d81047970c-500wiThe new prospectus is out for the CMS Pioneer Mission Leadership Training course.

I’ve said before that if this coure had been around when I was training I would have opted for it. I did the Missional Entrepreneurship module a while back which was excellent and I wrote something here and here.

This is a great looking course, and a course which equips pioneers to be both innovative and effective where they are. If that’s you … go check it out!

from ancient to (post) modern

IMG_0654I had the privilege of doing some more training on Saturday, this time for the Rochester Cluster of churches which held a quiet day with a fresh expressions flavour in Bishopscourt. This was an amazing place to hold a quiet day and I remember thinking what a privilege it is to be in a  diocese where the bishop opens up his home for parishes to use.

The day started in the ancient crypt of Bishopscourt where I had set up the journey (shown in the pic) to help people consider where they were, at that point of time, with God. As with every other time of doing ‘the journey’ with people we saw that as Christians, and even as Anglican Christians in one small cluster, we were literally all over the map and experiencing different things in our faith. I used this to illustrate that those we meet, and hope to reach, are also in very different places although it is easy to assume we are all in the same place in our Christian place and understanding.

The day was full of discussion and challenge as we looked at the difference between church planting and church birthing. If there was one particular emphasis in each session it was about knowing our community and the value of waiting and watching and learning how the community works.

I really believe that quite a lot of churches and mission initiatives skip this important stage of waiting, or do it for too little a time because the Protestant work ethic demands we work and that we should be busy. It is a lot easier to do things and set things up than it is to seriously ground to a halt and watch and wait. But on Saturday I challenged people to wait, to observe, to learn, to notice gaps, to look for connections and then …. and only then … to think about developing something that is relevant to what’s been observed.

This promoted a good discussion and I want to thank everyone for the way they engaged with what I’d planned and for the challenge they gave to me when we disagreed …. and I would have been disappointed if we didn’t disagree! It’s through discussion and challenging each other that we are able to move forward.

like riding a bike! (phew)

Fresh ExpressionsIt’s been a long two days, and is some ways very tiring and draining, although I sit at my desk quite energised because of tonight. In my two previous roles before ordination I led, planned and delivered a lot of training events. Tonight I co-led the MSM course in my new day a week role of Assistant Missioner in the diocese’s Mission and Community Engagement Team (MACE).

This week I have been fairly nervous as the time has approached simply because it has been over 7 years since I delivered any real training. I wasn’t sure if I could still deliver training. I wondered if it would be like riding a bike, which comes back easily, or whether it would be more like my golf playing, which always get worse, and will be ridiculous now as it’s been years! I enjoyed tonight and the quick glance through the evaluations seem to indicate that Penny and myself delivered the session quite well. I like to think my return to training has been like riding a bike … a little wobble or two to start with before getting into peddling again.

Tonight was fun and the MSM course seems to be a really good engaging course to be part of … so if you are into mission and growing and leading a new church … then maybe you should download the course pdf flyer here and think about enrolling in the future. Now I’m part of MACE you can expect blatant and unashamed advertising!

Tonight I have remembered something more about my values and rediscovered something of  what I am gifted at doing, which has helped to reaffirm, after a tough couple of weeks, what I am called to do.

To the group tonight … thank you … you are pretty amazing to work with!

giving up the cathedral for Lent

I’m giving up the cathedral for Lent!
I find that the cathedral takes up an enormous amount of my time. I have found myself visiting and wandering through it, on average, around 6 times a day. Quite often I loiter and chat with people instead of simply passing through and and can often be seen sitting with someone in one of the side chapels  and listening to what they have to share. I’ve even taken to blessing crosses and babies when asked my concerned parents and people buying crosses from our gift shop.

It’s clear that the cathedral is taking up a massive amount of my time … far more time than facebook or twitter accounts do. On some days I have even worked out that I have spent more time actually in the cathedral listening to others than I have listening to my own family. I think if it was any other activity then people would be saying this was not ‘helpful’.

So …. I am giving up the cathedral for Lent. The last time I set foot in the building was yesterday, and the next time will be April 16th (which schedules in a post Easter break in Cornwll!)

On a more serious note …. today I start a 6 week parish placement at St. Stephen’s Chatham as a formal part of my training. I’m going to be involved in ‘parish stuff’ rather than cathedral ‘stuff’ and balance that with my ‘pioneering stuff’. So although I will be staying away from the cathedral it will business pretty much as normal with Wetherspoons, Deaf Cat and the gathering. I expect to learn some stuff which will help me in the future … whatever that may look like.

If you are the praying kind … please pray that I have the grace to be open to learning and gain and give all that I can … as I will be honest and say I really wanted to spend my last Easter at the cathedral with my cathedral family … and I admit to feeling a great sense of loss being away from that what would have been my last major festival with those I have grown to love over the last few years.  I am required to be at St. Stephens which, in effect, cuts the period of saying bye and I sense some pain in that. But … that sense of loss and pain can be quite a healthy attitude for me to be starting the Lenten journey with.

So … Lent …. and I’m off to St. Stephens for the 10am Ash Wednesday service.

(Oh yeah …. as an aside … if you thought my giving up the cathedral ‘ditty’ was a dig at those giving up facebook for Lent … well spotted!     I mean … come on … if Facebook and Twitter  have really taken over your lives so much that you feel they are getting in the way and you need to give up for Lent … shouldn’t that be a concern for you for the other 46 weeks in the year … just saying!?)


words or bubbles or spirals?

It has been a different couple of days for me.

Yesterday I returned to the head office of YFC in Halesowen. Walking through the door after 2 and a half years was kinda weird but it was great to see old faces and catch up with a few people. I was invited to join the board of YFC a little while back and yesterday at the AGM I was voted on. I am not sure what I can contribute – but I hope I can be helpful from a local centre point of view after being director at Gillingham YFC for around 10 years.

At the board meeting I was excited to hear about the changes in YFC, particularly the greater emphasis on local incarnational ministry along with a vision to work with others to see young people experiencing faith rather than just hearing about it. This is a challenge …. but I am convinced experience is really the only way!

Today I have been at the university all day as part of my ongoing curate training. Today we were looking at legal issues associated with weddings and funerals. This was led by the Archdeacon of Tonbride, Clive Mansell, in a good interactive day which I found quite useful (despite being sceptical before the start of the day!)

This evening we have just met as a small group (called the imagination guild) to plan our next gathering looking at the theme of ‘birthing a church’ and using Acts 2 as our bible text. This was a good creative time after we initially struggled with what we thought the passage and the theme was all about. I was quite excited with the outcome of the guild and we think we will be able to link this into our easter gathering which will happend at sunrise on Easter Morning.

So … and exciting couple of days … tomorrow is back to a normal kind of routine which I am really looking forward to. But … looking back it does make me smile … a lot of the time I feel that I seem to have to try to co-exist in different worlds, or, as someone pointed out today, different bubbles ….I wonder though whether I am slowly starting to see that everything I am involved in is connected in a spiral type way. By that I think i mean that the stuff I do does not immediately seem to fit together, but as I visit the same area over and over again from a slightly different perspective I start to see the connections all over the place.

I’m off to Bruges!

The blog will probably be quite quiet this week as I will be spending most of it at the Monastery of St Andreas in Bruges.

I am on a  residential course with the other curates in my year as we start the third year of our CME (continuing ministry education) course which is concentrating on leadership. We have used a more local place in the lst couple of years but the diocese has found that traveling to Bruges and staying at the monastery there is a lot lot cheaper than going back to the same place – which seems pretty mad!

So … today I am driving to Bruges with 4 other curates in sarah’s car. Please pray for our safety … and I guess that we find the monastery!

I’m looking forward to 4 days in Bruges!

pioneer training

Jonny has blogged about the CMS Pioneer Ministry Training.

This looks really excellent and as I was reading it I found myself wishing this has been around a few years ago when I started training or OPM.

I particularly welcome the return to what it always should have been, as outlined in the Mission Shaped Church report:

the idea (as strongly recommended by the c of e in mission shaped church but seemingly ignored by lots of bishops and training officers up and down the country) is that training should be on the job for pioneers and not residential. and that the training will be alongside what they are pioneering.’

It is also going to be assessed by portfolio – something I have marginally achieved in my IME training for this year (but it is still to be written, in my case as an academic essay).

As I say above, this is excellent and if you are an ordinand about to start you should really be having big discussions with your bishop about this … now where is that tardis so I can go back in time?!