Poor Clare

When I was in Seattle it was a joy to experience Lacey’s music and style of leading worship …. Lacey writes great songs with meaningful lyrics (personally I don’t think you can say that for a lot of contemporary worship stuff today).

I love this song ‘I stand with you’ because as Lacey says: ‘This song was written in response to the perpetual injustice faced by marginalized peoples of society. We stand with you. God stands with you.”

Check out the song and check out Poor Clare too. While you are there maybe spend some money too …

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.

experiencing the holy

Todays daily meditation from Richard Rohr…On these “thin days,” as the ancient Celts called them, All Saints Day and All Souls Day (Nov. 2), we are invited to be aware of deep time when past, present, and future time all come together as one. On these pivotal days we are reminded that our ancestors are still in us and work with us and through us. Protestants thought it was about “worshiping” saints, but that largely missed the point.

Actually this is a Christian meaning for reincarnation, which Christians also called “the communion of saints” in the Apostle’s Creed. This was the common and corporate notion of the human person. It realized that our ancestors are indeed in us and with us (as modern DNA studies can now prove), and then early Christianity added maybe even for us! We were quite foolish to make fun of many Native and Eastern religions, which we dismissed as “mere ancestor worship” who usually had the more corporate notion of personhood, far removed from the myth of modern individualism. All Saints Day is a celebration of all of us precisely in our togetherness, which is why the New Testament (in twenty places!) called all God lovers “the saints.”

Discuss ….

the grit of a psalm

I attended the Bishop’s Study day today which was an event for Rochester Diocese clergy. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was a pretty cool day.

In the morning we had the privilege of listening to Dr. Susan Gillingham, who is pretty much a world expert on The Psalms. Her passion and interest were great to listen to and I think we all gained masses from just listening to the stuff she had to share. Her knowledge of the context in which the 5 books of psalms were written were particularly enlightening for me. Her lectures have inspired me to delve into these songs a little more than I usually would and consider their meanings and usage today.

In the gathering we have written our own psalms in the past. It has always struck me that many of the Psalms are quite gritty and real communication with God. They contain hymns,  thanksgivings, laments and even Psalms having a right old go at God. It’s true to say they are written in a multitude of emotions.

In the gathering we talk about being more interested in how we believe rather than what we believe. In other words, how we live out our faith, or how we are trying to become Christ like. I think that to live out faith with integrity probably needs us to be real, and by that acknowledging that sometimes life is pretty crap rather than pretending everything is great when it is not.

From todays study day I have rediscovered the gritty honesty of the psalms and wonder whether the writing and reading of psalms may help us to live out our faith in a meaningful way. I can see great opportunity in both personal and communal writing of psalms that might simply allows us to be honest and open in our worship and relationship with each other and with God.

I wonder whether this is something we need to think more about …

‘its about letting go’

I saw Black Swan this week … quite a disturbing film which I think explores how one persons desire to achieve perfection can have a serious impact on their perception of reality with subsequent consequences for how they treat themselves.

I think this movie explores idolatry in that this persons whole life is made up of performing the ‘perfect’ dance. The desire for perfection consumes her whole life so that, in some perverse way, she ends up being interested in nothing else …. a kind of worship of herself in the role.

This worship of herself, or her role, causes her to lose all sense of reality so that she finally starts to disregard her body which was the initial object of her worship.

At some point in the film when Nina is talking about perfection she is told that ‘perfection is not just about control. It’s about letting go. Surprise yourself so you can surprise the audience. Transcendence! Very few have it in them!

In her endeavour to lose control and ‘be perfect’ she transcends reality.

I guess the saddest thing about the film for myself, as a Christian, is that the person was already perfect, not simply perfect as a dancer but also made perfect by Creator God. She was striving for something that she already had … but simply failed to see what others saw.

I think I know a few people like that too.

what do they see?

I had another one of those mixed days today that makes me smile to myself as a pioneer!

My day started with the 8am BCP service of Eucharist. Ok, some people will say some of the language is beautiful … maybe it is! But … this service, for me, sums up a lot of what is wrong with church from the age of Christendom and which is why I presented myself for pioneer ministry.

There is no engagement between people. Today we had 15 people in the fairly large Quire area of the cathedral. Most of the 15 sat far away from each other. During the administration people gave no eye contact. The language is archaic and I struggle to understand some of the words – if I did not read it all beforehand to remind me I worry that I would be quite lost! Afterwards I spoke with 3 out of the 15 people. It seems to me that there is no sense of ‘community’ here. There does not seem to be any sense of travelling together to discover God. There seems a lack of expectation and a lack of excitement over what God is doing in the lives of these people and what God is challenging them to next which I see in quite a few people who worship at the 10.30 service. I am not saying there is no engagement … merely that I am not seeing it; it’s not obvious to me. Maybe, being mainly British, these people keep that to themselves in this service? maybe this is a result of these people growing up in a style of church which encouraged seriousness and frowned upon fun in a sacred space? There could be many reasons!

The 8am service provides for a need of these 15 people but I do wonder what is being achieved. I cannot second guess what God may be doing and I am not going to say this service is not valid, as these people genuinely come on a weekly basis and find ‘something’ of God. But I do question what is happening here, what are we doing, what image of Christianity does this portray to the casual visitor, one of whom popped in and out today! What did she see?

The 10.30 service is a very engaging service. As a pioneer today, as quite a lot of the time, I find that I discover more of God in the music than I ever felt possible. The singing of the sanctus today was amazing and the sound brought to mind a powerful image of Christ on the cross which nearly moved me to tears.

But … I have noticed over the last few weeks that people walk past and are intrigued. We now have glazed doors which means people can always see inside the cathedral from the street. Sometimes people move to walk in, see the service and pause. They are surprised to see the building being used for worship. They stop, look and disappear, deciding, I guess, to come back later. Others come in and take a service booklet, only to quietly leave 10 or so minutes later.

I have been wondering today what people see.
When I see them at the glass doors between 10.30 and 1145 part of me want’s to jump up, go outside and talk to them, asking them what they think, what they were expecting or what, if anything, they are looking for? My missional heart wants me to go and find out how we can help them on their journey. I guess a big question for me is finding out whether these people are interested in faith or whether they are interested in just visiting the building. It’s easy to assume the latter … but I do wonder!

Maybe I should take a Sunday to sit outside and ask these casual visitors … I might be surprised at the answers.

a rolling reformation?

Yesterday I took part in quite a unique event. I deaconed at an All Souls Day eucharist at the Rochester Bridge Trust. Not only was the experience unique but the location of the Bridge Chapel was also quite special being built in 1387 as a place for travellers to pray. During the reformation worship in this chapel was stopped and it, sadly, ended up being a storeroom until 1937 when it was restored as a chapel.

I quote from the service booklet regarding the service:

‘The service on All Souls Day 1990 was the first celebration of Holy Communion in the Bridge Chapel since the Reformation., and the annual All Souls Service has now become a continuing tradition commemorating the founders and benefactors of the bridge. The form of mass used daily in the Bridge Chapel during medieval times would have been the Requiem Mass, and today’s Commemoration has been modeled on that service.’

It was an interesting experience and the irony of the situation, while dressed in black vestments and listening to our lay clerks since in latin, of me as a pioneer in this setting this cause me, and a fellow priest sitting in the front row, to smile.

As I listened, however, I was struck by two thoughts. The first was the beauty of the music as the lay clerks sang which was quickly followed up by my thoughts of inaccessibility. By that I mean I could not just listen to the music and words as I do at evensong. To understand the worship I needed to be able to read the translation which felt quite cumbersome. I guess, then, that the reformation and its putting of the ‘the word’ into the vernacular was a good thing!

As I  reflect today, however, and especially after a KCME morning in which we were reflecting on worship I was struck again by the need for a rolling reformation outlook as we attempt to worship in a way that engages people in the place they are at. Language, symbols and meaning seem to be constantly changing in our society (e.g. the current meaning of the word ‘sick’ to describe something as ‘excellent’) which I think means if we are to remain relevant then we need to be constantly looking at how we use language and symbolism – God may be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow …. but our understanding grows and our language develops and so we should welcome experimentation and change as surely this is the only way people will be able to have access to their God?

if it be your will

I have been catching up on blog reading after a lapse due to portfolio compiling and other things. While catching up with what Graham has been writing I came across this post so thought I’d check out the track …. its from Leonard Cohen and it’s simply beautiful.

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!

curating worship

Along with many others I have been reading, and enjoying, Curating Worship by Jonny. I have particularly enjoyed reading it as it draws from many people who are involved, or rather live in, the world of creative worship and of re imagining church.

Many have blogged about the book already (I am quite slow off the mark) but I particularly like and agree with  Ian’s encompassing comment: ‘what this book emphasises is that this form of worship is a skill, and needs much thinking and engagement with theological thinking, engagement with metaphorical meaning, liturgy and ritual.’

I have been both excited and challenged as I have read this. It has caused me to start to think more deeply about the how and why we do the things we do at the gathering. Some parts of the book have resonated stronger than others; one in particular being that the art of (curating) worship has something to do with leaving space for people to discover the reality of God and how they can engage with whatever is being considered for themselves.

I guess this counters the frustration I have with the style of church worship that I (we?) have grown up with where a person ‘in authority’ decides what a bible passage means and what we need to ‘go away with’ and then sets up activities or preaches a sermon so that we all arrive at the same place with the same conclusion.

I am starting to feel everything needs to be a little more open, a little more permission giving so that we can really hear what it is that God wishes to share with us. I guess it has amazed me for the last few years that we speak of a ‘great big God’ and a God that do anything and is all powerful …. and yet we try to confine God and cause God to act in a way that we want God to act.

If God is so big and so mighty why do we feel a need to control so that we all believe the same? Surely, if God is so big and great, then God can get the message across if we allow the space for God to do so? For this to happen, I wonder whether our worship needs to be more open ended rather than aiming to get people to a particular ‘point’.

I think (hope!) that is what we are trying to do in the gathering. I think we are trying to allow people to discover God in their lives and where they are and so respond in a  way that is meaningful to them. I think there is a desire that we plan to allow God to find us where we are.

Sometimes this is confusing to explain and a lot of time we don’t get it … but I do think it is a healthy kind of confusion.