we talked we prayed we ate

IMG_0437Agapai has been on elf the highlights of the week for quite a while now. I find there is something very special, something very ‘rooting’ and ‘connecting’ in a small group of us getting together each week to talk, pray and eat. Well actually we eat, talk a lot about anything, then talk a little about our weeks, pray for each other a little and then share bread and wine before going home.

Tonight we chatted a lot while sharing a little of our lives, our concerns, and what we wanted or needed prayer for. It is always exciting to see what is happening in each of our stories and how there is an evolving pattern of the cycles of our lives.

I believe that when we eat together something special happens. When we eat together with Jesus at the table, present in bread and wine, then I believe something special and spiritual happens …. but I probably think that about the former as well.

It seems to me that many if not every important conversation or ‘event’ that happens in the gospels in in the context of a meal. I’m sure there is something in the eating, but I am sure there is something more in the giving the time; because as we eat and chat and listen we are giving the gift of time and presence to each other.

I am wondering if that ‘giving of presence’ is a key element go growing any kind of community. This small Agapai group is community; I think we would all agree with that as we have all supported each other through ‘stuff’ this year. But, I don’t think we are community because of our size … we are quite fragile … but we are community because of our willingness to be present to each other, to listen to each other, and to pray for each other.

I think what is happening here is quite exciting …. although I am not sure I fully understand it …

 

Look, I’m wearing all the colours

b684aae33877fbc4971c1c3a35627612_originalI have two friends that I love very much; Zara and Rikard are both beautiful people, creative loving people, who have an amazing insight and outlook upon life, despite life being an agonising struggle that brings friends around them, myself included, to tears.

Look, I’m wearing all the colours is a beautiful and painful photo story of love where both Rikard and Zara life with chronic illness and pain and depression. Please watch the video, and PLEASE contribute so that this book can become a reality. I saw the proof copy at the SICK exhibition last year. It really is stunning… and to quote Rikard:

This project has been 13 years in the making and your support will help realise my dream of publishing this book. I believe that storytelling can help drive social change and by showing the often unseen aspects of life with invisible illness, I hope to raise awareness and eliminate stigma.

I’m not asking you, mt readers and friends, to support this because I love Zara and Rikard … but because this story really needs to be told … it really really does! The story may bring tears … but that’s because it is real … and needs telling!

So get yourself over to the kickstart page and support this … PLEASE!

Seems I’m on the move …

IMG_0426Seems something new is happening.
An announcement was made today.
I’m on the move to St Barnabas.

I’m really excited and very daunted and sad at leaving Greenwich but hopeful of great things in Newham. A move in any type of ministry or work always produces mixed emotions I think. When I visited I loved the place and could picture myself there … and they seem to like me so I believe this is going to be quite exciting. And daunting! But I think I already said that!

Anyway … I don’t move until the end of July / beginning of August with a view to a September start …. so until then I’m continuing seeking God’s way here.

More of this at a later date I am sure …

life with tears

mark2-20180412155052320_webI was moved to tears when I read this article from the Church Times on Saturday morning. Mark Edwards is interviewed on his book ‘Life After care: From Lost Cause to MBA’. The title makes it obvious this is a story about the struggle that continues into adult life when you experience rejection from parents, or in Mark’s case, being taken into care away from his parents.

Mark shows courage in his sharing his story and there are some lines that particularly resonate …
“I have experienced the dark night of the soul. And sometimes I haven’t felt worthy of being a priest‘, and experiencing “bouts of depression that left him curled up like a baby’ as well as outlining childhood ‘fear when locked in a cupboard by foster carers’.

It’s hard to imagine, I think, if you’ve not been there what the effect of such experiences can be in a persons ongoing life. Mark sums this up, I believe, in a really truthful statement … when he admits that even today being asked to trust someone causes him to ‘bristle’.

I get this because when people who should naturally love you (in my case both parents) let you down and, worse, hurt you then trust for anyone and anything can be a real challenge. In fact I find sometimes that it can be near to impossible …. despite the overwhelming evidence that is there of love or approval and support from that  person, trusting in them or it seems a chasmous step. So much so that often when in a  ‘trust situation’, I have heard in my head  the words ‘well if my own mum couldn’t …. then why would I expect you too?!’

I think we can easily overlook this in church, believing that a faith in Jesus heals this and therefore should allow the person to move on …. it does, but not instantly, not completely, and not always. The image I have found most helpful and light giving in my darkest times are of the scarred Christ … the Christ in heaven with the open wounds in his hands, feet and side.

I believe I am healed, I am risen, but I also know that I still carry the scars … and if the scabs on those injuries are knocked or picked they can start to bleed again.

For Mark, as with others, he talks of people that believed in him, of people that gave time to him, of people thats saw the potential and saw what he could be if given some space, trust and support. I relate strongly to that and have many people that have been those time and permission givers to me.

As tears rolled down my cheeks reading through the article one of Mark’s statements jumped out and hit me …

Today, as Team Vicar of Christ the King, comprising Brunswick, Brunton Park, Dinnington, and North Gosforth, in the diocese of Newcastle, he considers himself to be in recovery, and determined to live in the present.

This is central to his prescription, as is taking responsibility for one’s actions. “I played the victim so long, I didn’t know how to be anything else,” he reflects. “There came a point when I had to stop blaming my past for bad decisions I was making in the present.”

It is a daily choice to make.
It is a difficult one.
It’s the right and necessary one.

Reading the article, wondering on my own situation has brought a few bubbling questions …

As church, as people, how do we allow people to make that step from victim?
How do we support those inside and outside our churches who don’t have that firm solid bedrock of loving parents that were supposed to look after them and give them that sure start?
Are there things that we do that actually make it worse, that keep people as victims?
Do we expect people to ‘move on’ when they have ‘found’ Jesus?
Do we support our leaders who struggle?
Are there people we should be giving time to?
Do we look for potential or for perfection?Do … are … how …can …what …

Lots of questions … and I’m sure lots more …. discuss …

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 …

wonderment?

IMG_0414Sometimes I find myself in some incredibly diverse places which causes me to ponder life, where I am, what I am doing and how I got there. Sometimes those spaces stretch my mind to some limits …

So earlier in the week, as you know, I was at a seminar day considering mission and poverty. I found the day hard hitting and challenging and came away with a refreshed vision to serve in new ways.  I got angry over statistics of the mistreatment of people. I remember scenes growing up on my council estate in the early Thatcher years … but that poverty I was part of was nothing to what I was hearing on that day.

Then came last night …. as I attended the 386th Annual Feast of Sion College, held in the amazing surroundings of Clothworkers’ Hall. We had amazing company and speakers, glorious food and wonderful wine. It was a black tie event and I dressed accordingly. I did think about the comments I would have from my childhood friends! How on earth did a council estate boy from Weymouth end up here sitting next to a wonderful guy with ‘Sir’ at the start of his name?!

It was a painful contrast to the subject matter of Tuesday. I thoroughly enjoyed the night and seem to be able to hold the two extremes in some tension … but I am not sure I should be able to? Is it that I am missing something here? It’s true to say that in what has been quite a tough year, Sion College itself, and new friends I have found within it have been immensely supportive and encouraging. And as I said, I thoroughly enjoy being part of this college and having my mind stretched by the quality of our speakers.

How can I get so angry at the injustice of the need for food banks and homeless shelters while sipping wine and eating amazing food in the plush surroundings of the hall we were in last night? I want to say that the conversations we have, the links we make, the things we learn encourage and enable us to step out from those places to make a difference in our individual parts of the world …. but am I kidding myself?

mission and poverty

d80c85d9a52f31d50e95720fe8551db1Today I have spent the day with others in the diocese at seminar day on ‘Mission and Poverty’. We had four great speakers; Capt Nick Russel, Fr Paul Butler, Fr Andrew Moughton Mumby and Bishop Karowei. Each of them brought something distinctive, challenging and rich, based entirely on their experience and ministry in the areas they are set in. I recognised in particular that each of them had been in their parishes for more than 10 years (Bishop Karowei was in his parish for around 12 before he became bishop last year).

So …. this isn’t a short term thing!
Nick suggested that to the question of what does mission look like here, then it is best summed up in the words ‘practical love’ … and I think he is totally correct. He spoke a little of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which made laods of sense t be some 30 something years ago when I studied that as a hopeful teacher. Before people can think of transient issues their material needs have to be met. I agree, but on reflection need to ask are the poor and destitute in the majority world then not able to worship … I’m not sure that is true … so although I agree, I am wrestling with what is happening here?

Paul’s words challenged me further as he passionately spoke of gospel values, and asking that of we follow them should there be need in our churches if it is all about sharing and the common life? It’s a hard hitting question that you can’t really shy away from. ‘Go sell your posessions’ says Jesus to the rich guy …. that’s pretty hard hitting teaching! It’s kinda there in black and white ….

Andrew challenged us to think about how we encourage indigenous leadership in our locations and suggested that maybe long courses of study are not quite the direction we should be going in. He also wondered aloud whether when we ask ‘how much will this cost?’ or ‘what is the cheapest way to do this bit of mission?’ we are making money into an idol.

Bishop Karowei rounded off the day by reminding us that all are created in the image of God and that God is for all, loves all, and is interested in all. I think we would have a discussion on God’s preferential for the poor which is where I think I am coming from.

The day was an excellent day … I met new people, we had great discussions, I’ve come away inspired to read stuff again and questioning how I can look at my area with different eyes …. I’ve also been tearful at hearing stories of real life people suffering in this city and know we have to do something … thanks Fr Ian for sorting this out!

I think podcasts of the talks will be put online soon … i’ll link to them when they are up.