gpcu pt. 7: hanging around … or holy loitering … maybe!

DSC_0415In a place like the Greenwich Peninsula it can take a while to meet people, and it is quite rare for me to see the same person in the same place. In all of my other locations I have intentionally loitered, or hung aro

und, in various places in the hope I would meet someone to chat withor engage with someone who might be looking to explore their faith is some new way. In other locations I have found the same people in the same place at various times … creatures of habit maybe .. but not here on the Peninsula.

I have done a lot of ‘holy loitering’ in a variety of places …
in two particular coffee shops
in two particular pubs
in the park sitting on benches
by the bus stops at particular times
in the ‘village’ square

I have now been doing this for 23 months
a long 23 months
but a 23 months where I have kept putting myself in places
looking for opportunities
seeing little signs of encouragements
consistently and without hesitation
returning to the same places

and in the last few weeks, after 23 months of ‘holy loitering with intent’
I have become noticed
In the pub recently someone said ‘are you the vicar?”
In a coffee shop recently someone asked for a blessing and then asked if I would pray for his daughter
At the bus stop recently I had a good conversation with a man and his family … and they came to HTGP the following Sunday evening
On the park recently someone asked me if it was ok for anyone to come to meditation … and what was the church service like
in the percent recently I was, again, asked to bless and pray for someone …

For 22 months I have been in the same places over and over again
In the last four weeks some people have started to notice
and they have noticed enough to engage with me
Just the last 4 weeks
Ido not have any idea if this will continue or cease as quickly as it started
But I can say …

Seems some places just need time!

still waiting

Advent drawing her last breaths.
While Christmas, not quite present …
cheekily peeps over the horizon
ready …


the assurance of that gift
The Architect moving in
Pitching with us
awhile …

the day will arrive
when this pause perfectly exhales
renewing nativity

but for now

we wait
we caress
we hope

you don’t do a lot!

lg day4 007For the last few months I have been waiting again.

You’d think I’d be comfortable with waiting by now…I did a lot of waiting in Rochester, I’ve blogged a lot about waiting and I even wrote some IME essays on waiting. And do you know what …. even after all this time I still believe waiting is flipping hard! i want to ‘do’!

Some people tell me that God wishes to teach me lessons on patience; and I think they are trying to be humorous. Waiting bores me. Waiting frustrates me. Waiting forcibly stops me. Waiting causes me to question my identity. Waiting causes others to question what I am doing. Just today a manager of a cafe said ‘you don’t do a lot do you!’

He’s right … all I do is wait. Well I watch as well. I guess I also listen. I have noticed patterns of behaviour in different groups. I know where to find certain people at certain times. But, once again I ask ‘what am I waiting for?’ This time, however, I think I know. I know what to look for. I know what to listen to. I have a better understanding of signs that I am hoping to discover.

Waiting can be naff, boring, monotonous …. but waiting is so important. I have learned the importance of not side stepping this phase of mission. Yes it is true that waiting forcibly stops me … but it forcibly stops me from thinking I have understood this community too early and jumping with both feet into what seems a good thing to do, only to realise a little down the line that it’s the most ridiculous idea ever. Waiting means I can really hear and observe and check out what I think this community is saying.

If mission is joining in with what God is doing, and that’s a definition I certainly adhere to, then this time of observation spiced with a gritty tad of discernment is a time that must not be skimped on.

I have been brought back again and again to the words of John taylor in the classic ‘Primal Vision‘:

‘The Christian has nothing to offer unless he offers to be present, really and totally present, really and totally in the present. The failure of so many professional Christians has been that they are not all there.’

What I am learning from these incredible words of wisdom is that many of us do not have the patience, time or ability to ‘wait’ and in our waiting to be ‘totally present’. The only way to be totally present is to have time, and to have time it is important to make time. Too often we are planning the next step, thinking about the next agenda item, planning our response at the next meeting, or making plans for the place before we have listened, or understood, or heard.

I am learning that the wait, the listen, the contemplate are all as important as the action. The action will and must come, but the desire to jump, to feel good, to transfer ideas from other paces, to get going before we are ready … that must be resisted.

At the end of this month I will have waited for 5 months. 5 months of watching and waiting in Gillingham High Street has given me some interesting thoughts and introduced me to some deeply thoughtful people. I sense the time or season of waiting and watching in my particular case is about to give way to a season in which I will need to act. More on that at another time, and if things come together of course.

I’m excited! I also know, that even though waiting can be monotonous, if things do start to happen I may well be longing for the days of waiting and reflection to return!

So … here’s to still waiting, and listening, and watching and trying to understand … before taking the next step.

Learning to wait

I stumbled across Take Back the Poetry a little while ago, I think via Jonny’s Blog. Waiting is something I have done, and continue to do, a lot of. The practice of waiting, rather than jumping into action, has been something I have had to learn to be able to do. In a world, and essentially a church, that likes to see action, the practice of waiting is not always welcomed or understood. The value of waiting is not overtly recognised, or valued, but it is vital to growth and change that the church so desperately want or yearns after.

It is through waiting that we learn, it is through waiting that we give up our plans and hear God’s voice, it is through waiting that we can become who we are created to be.

I like this waiting prayer which could be used by many as we soon start our advent journeys:

may we learn to wait
and not run away
may we discover in the darkness
the uncontrollable truth at the heart of all things
…. read more here

patient trust

Last week I met up with Sister Diane, my spiritual director in Edenbridge. After we had chatted Sister Diane thought this  reading from Chardin would be helpful; I share this as I think it connects with the ‘waiting’ stuff I shared at CMS and in my last post:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end withour delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of progress
that it is made by passing through
some states of instability —
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually — let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and cirsumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

creating space

It has been an interesting weekend with a mixture of stuff going on to reflect on.

There was the excitement of having the house to myself while the rest of the family are away. The silence of a house which needs a family to make it home. The fun of setting up camp with those staying at Detling. The pleasure of eating Chinese food with friends. The joy of seeing Gills win the opening game of the season. The frustration with people angry over a temporary change in the BCP eucharist service. The helplessness while watching images of riots in London on the TV screen. The disappointment of upsetting people. The emotion of watching Lovely Bones.
It seems I packed a lot of emotion into this weekend!
Being home alone is a pretty unique experience for me and is probably only the second time this has happened. I hope to use the time to reflect, to read and reflect some more, as well as to really take time to think seriously about how things are going, what I should be doing in the future and where things like the gathering seem to be leading. 
I want to hold all of that though in the sentiment and attitude of the Thomas Morton prayer I drew attention to last week. So I am kind of seeking direction while being fairly comfortable with the mystery in which God seems to often chose to leave us. I am conscious, however, that over the last few months time alone and quiet with God has all but disappeared due to changing circumstances … and so a concerted effort to re-develop a good habit is needed. I intend to try and spend some time sitting and thinking, or ‘hanging out’ with God. I think I am going to have to work at creating this space to ‘ponder’.
One reflection after 3 years of doing what I do is the mild frustration I experience with people that still don’t seem to get it. There is always a pressure, some feel, to do, to create, to act, to be proactive, to get ‘out there’ … but the waiting rather than racing ahead, the watching rather than doing, the joining in rather than creating, the listening rather than speaking and the serving are the places where I see sparks of the divine. I fail to be able to express the joy I experience when I notice those Godly moments; but I can say I hunger to see them more and more. 
So over the next few days I expect to miss the family a little bit, I expect to see some friends, and I expect to spend time in that contemplative way, not necessarily looking for answers but creating that space so that I can have a greater chance of being led by God in what I do – all the while realising there are no guarantees here!

rap something or other!

So tomorrow is the day!

According to Pastor Harold Camping, the rapture is tomorrow … the end of the world!

Funnily I overheard a child telling his mum today that he had heard the raptors were coming back to eat us.

Not sure which is preferable!

I was going to write about this and then saw Maggi has written a great post …. and she is far more intelligent than me and a much better writer … so go read wisdom over at Maggi’s blog.

advent waiting

We are now into Advent, which is about waiting and preparation.

I feel that I know a little bit about waiting, although I also feel I need to learn a lot more as I am still pretty impatient. At times I still miss the fast moving YFC world where I had to think on my feet, make quick decisions and run through various task lists. But waiting is what I now do a lot of the time.

Over the last few years I have come to love the season of Advent. This may be partly due to selfish reasons in that, for this month at least, I don’t feel alone in my waiting. In Advent, the whole church waits in expectation and I grab loads of support from that. The other reason being that this season reminds me that waiting is something. It is a valid task. It is not just idling of time. Waiting has a purpose. Waiting is seasonal, and that means I won’t always have to wait! Waiting is not a permanent state!

Waiting is an interesting task.
Waiting can de-skill.
Waiting can cause you to question yourself.
Waiting can cause others to question to you.
In our culture of instant where we can buy anything now and pay later there is always a pressure to jump, to act. to be seen to be positively doing something.

Waiting can be difficult to understand. It is easy to avoid. It’s easy to cram up time with ‘doing’ rather than spend time ‘waiting’.
When I wait I think; I analyse and God seems to bring up stuff that I’d rather leave hidden.
Ideas arrive that I’d rather avoid; ‘stuff’ surfaces that I’d rather leave buried and undealt with.
Waiting eventually insists I act purposefully, often not in a way I would have guessed!

Waiting can bring pain. It can bring memories. Thoughts of inadequacy and past hurts can rush in to the void. It’s not nice, but it does force you to confront and do something. waiting is good preparation for stuff ahead.

Today, throughout this season … I look forward with anticipation to the wait.
Maybe, this advent, something will arrive.


Tonight I attended my first ever Ascension service, and also happened to give the homily at this one. This has caused me to think a lot more about the ascension than I would usually do. The Ascension is not something the churches I have been part of have really ever marked or celebrated; I guess this is something to do with Ascension always being on a Thursday. We celebrated tonight in the cathedral with the Eucharist and a bubble machine …. I would explain, but maybe it will entice more people to come next year!

I was struck that Luke pays little attention to the actual Ascension itself – in 11 verses he devotes 1 and a half to what actually happened. Instead, I think Luke is saying what is far more important is what is said. It’s easy to get into discussion of whether this really happened, what is a cloud, is this symbolic … and if we do that we are in danger of losing the point of all of this.

First, I think it marks a change – Jesus ministry on earth is over and the church’s ministry is to start. First, however, there needs to be a pause while the disciples await the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Tonight I spoke about pausing, I drew parallels between Alan Sugars apprentice and the Jesus apprentices. Sugars Apprentices wait in fear of being fired by the ominous finger point; the Jesus apprentices on the other hand wait in excitement to be fired by the fire tongues of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.

I think Ascension is all about being ready to wait for the Holy Spirit. It’s above living in the present and not gazing into the clouds of the future. It’s about making ourselves ready to be used by the Holy Spirit as we swap between tasks, whether they be major tasks or normal everyday activities.

It’s amazing to me that this just follows a long line of waiting stuff in the Bible … the wait of Advent, the wait of Lent, and now the wait between Ascension and Pentecost.

Did God hold his breath?

Today, if you are a good Anglican, we celebrate the Annunciation today.

‘In 9 months you will have a child, and you are to call him Jesus … he will be called the Son of the Most High.’

I always wonder how Mary felt?
Bewildered? Alone? Worried? Disorientated?
Then I wonder on the risk God takes in a teenage girl.
What if she had said no?
Did God hold his breath while he waited for her response?

As Mary waited as an expectant mum,
full of hope but worried for what may be;
so we can just wait
and give our worries and hopes to God.

Lord God
give me the patience of Mary
so that as I wait
You may find me.