Wednesday, 31 December 2008

More Tidbits + Advance warning of Jan F2F

Been a bit quiet over the festive period. Who says Xmas on the beach is only for Aussies - here are a few things from my festive surfing trips.

1) Naked Pastor on the morning after... reality is not always sexy

2) Mark flagged an event below and I want to try and get to one of these. Lets try and get a proper calender on the site so we can put all this stuff in one place with links etc and poss get chance to go to a few things together.

3) Nice quote that echoed with some of my excitement about rediscovering the trinity in 2008 -Once there was a time when the whole creation formed a single dancing chorus looking upward in the harmony of that motion to the... leader of the dance. Gregory of Nyssa 4c from BMC

4) Wonderful quote from JollyBlogger on his observations from marriage counselling - "I think I think that we could improve many marriages if we could treat one another as enemies. In fact, I think that in many cases the relationship could improve immeasurably if Christians could elevate their spouse to that of an enemy.
Biblically, the Christian is called to love his/her enemy. According to Matthew 5 the Christian doesn't retaliate against his enemy, gives twice what the enemy asks, works twice as hard for the enemy as the enemy wants and blesses the one who treats them badly.
I'm thinking that if I weren't a Christian I would want to be the enemy of a Christian, because that's a pretty sweet deal relationally.
I think I think that many Christian marriages could be a little heaven on earth if the partners would quit worrying about what it means to be a "Christian husband" or "Christian wife" and just learn how to relate to one another as enemies".
Jolly Blogger

5) Brilliant story of a Pastor who abandoned his church

6) COE Bish's get their mitres dirty at Xmas

Next Engage F2F, 12th Jan - thinking of cooking a meal with a good few courses over at mine and inviting all sorts (even you!) to join in a conversation along the lines of 'Christians are (supposed to be?) better people'- discuss. I want to share a few scripture readings and quotes and also get others views on it all (and poss capture some via twitter? etc). I'll post some more potential prep links/reading etc soon but - How's that sound?

Monday, 29 December 2008

The World to Come...?

A Sheffield Conference asking: How can people of faith respond to the challenges posed by some of the root causes of conflict and insecurity in our contemporary society?

Keynote speaker: Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University.

Date: 25th April 2009

Could be a good Engage day out. (?)

For more information, click here.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas

And here's to eking out some meaning today.

I sang this last night and felt bad about it -
What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him —
Give my heart.
Sure you can guess why - I ain't poor and 'just' my heart/personal piety seems like a convenient cop out.
Yet Christina Rossetti who wrote it, although famous in her day, grew up poor, with a refugee father and her own deteriorating mental health. So I need to be careful with my bah humbugs.
So then, lets enjoy a Christmas of exploring the story, chewing on it like a turkey dinner and savouring the many flavours, views and voices. Lets explore it unabashedly with our hearts as God is incarnate now in us*. And lets continue to be dissatisfied by all the chintz and clutter as we explore what our gift to the world may be.
*Free Christmas Tidbit- Luke uses the same phrase 'come upon' about the Spirit and Mary Lk 1:35 and in describing the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost

Monday, 22 December 2008

Sneak a peek at a couple of gifts

My gift to Pete Rollins this year seems to be a boost on technorati but at the risk of over exposure I thought you would enjoy a great little pod from Icon re a political reading of the Xmas story and also referring to the creation story - hence the image (hmmm... you want to listen now don't you). There is also another short one on here from Pete's new book for next year re Parables (Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales) - Mark - think you will like this one on the rapture.

Click here for both

Friday, 19 December 2008

Roll(ins) over for a Tickle

Great little series of short youtube vids with Pete Rollins and Phyllis Tickle discussing 'the great emergence' at the recent GE gathering in the States here.

Check Phyllis' book here.

'Do they know it's Christmas' - Yes... but I guess they are hoping for something different this year

Following our reflections around Xmas on Monday the situation in Zimbabwe seems to be crying out for some Liberation. See what you can do to be part of the frustrating, waiting, but pregnant story of freedom here.

Tendero - if you are out there - what do you think is the most important thing for us to do as we join in the hope of freedom, health and peace for your people?

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Get In! (out)

Get in! - BREAKING NEWS - this looks like a serious break through

Wrong Channel

Took me a little!
Work's in so many ways.
Good on you NP and Happy Christmas to you and family

Dark Jesus

Bit of a follow on from Mark's post and certainly tooooo good to not pass on (as Mike Morell said if you saw it on Zoecarnate)- click for larger version.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Cross & the Lynching Tree

Well, your editor-in-chief has been back to the cutting room floor to edit another video! Unfortunately, I need to give the same caveat to this film I gave to my last - there are some grim scenes/themes in it! I'm going to get a reputation if I'm not careful!

I wanted to get away from the some of the abstract ways in which the cross is understood and wanted to express the idea of the cross as it really was - a violent lynching. How do you do that without making people think about violence? But I have tried hard to limit the number violent images and certainly avoided at all costs the kind of gratuitous violence of the Mel Gibson variety - a morbid fascination with violence does not interest me, but an interest in understanding the cross for what it really is, is important to me.

I would like to have used Billie Holliday's version of 'Strange Fruit' because there is nothing quite like the haunting brilliance of her performance, sung by someone who knew first hand what lynching was all about. Unfortunately her style just wouldn't allow me to dub over it. You can see her performance here.

I have dubbed over an interview with James Cone. The full interview is worth listening to. You can see it here.

I am still very much aware of the limitations of my film making skills, so please forgive this.

James Cone has said, “The crucifixion of Jesus was a 1st century lynching and it was very violent. Jesus was lynched. Well, America has a tradition of lynching. America lynched more than 5,000 black people in this land. lf we understand the cross correctly we will see it as Jesus being a victim of lynching, a victim of violence… At the heart of the Christian faith is God taking upon God’s self the suffering of the victim. So, Christians in this society want to understand what the cross was all about they have to see it through the lynching experience… When you see a lynched black body that’s who God is. God is present in that body just like God was present in Jesus’ cross. So the cross is very violent in which God is taking the violence of sin and the world upon God’s self… We have to become identified with lynched black victims. If we can’t do that we can’t be identified with the crucifixion of Jesus…The cross is God taking the side of the victim…If the powerful in our society… want to become Christians they have to give up that power and become identified with the powerless,"

Monday, 15 December 2008

Engage Advent Liturgy/Meditation

Here is a meditation we did tonight. Mark also did a great session on reading the Christmas story from the perspective of the oppressed. We all took on different characters to be as the story from Luke was read - A Guantanamo inmate, a trafficked woman, an asylum seeker, black slave, etc etc. It was amazing and we really benefited from the voices Robert Spooner and Tendero, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker (from ASSIST) - hey I would never have guessed in a million years the stuff Tendero brought to the story. Love it - different /global perspectives rock!

Anyway the med was partly, and totally gratefully, nicked from Iona and the phenomenal Cheryl Lawrie and a bit of me. Get it here and get the audio to play over the top here (thanks ubiquitous Sigur Ros and less so Ulrich Shnauss). Set off audio then launch slide show straight away to sync it.

So, if you were there tonight - what are you carrying with you from it? I'll kick off and please do join in sharing your reflections via the comments button below.

Look out for the next enagage F2F in Jan if you missed this one - muppet! :-)

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dance God Bear, Dance

Flicking through GodTV type channels (I know I know!) and a passionate guys was, I am sure sincerely, trying to help people live a full life - you know 'prosperity'. Anyway the guy said an amazing thing - "You must know how to activate the release of gods favour"

Wow - what a thing to say. No doubt this would then be followed by the exact process (e.g prayer of Jabez type stuff, donate(read buy) to get my prayer cloth etc etc) to follow to twist God's arm and make him dance

What an outrageous conceit, surely total idolatry, perhaps even divine puppetry - mastering the master to have him do our bidding. Who is God in this equation?
It reminded me of reading How (not) to Speak of God by Pete Rollins. Although he is tackling our intellectual/systemising reduction of God, this prosperity gospel stuff is surely another version of boxing and using God for our own purposes - Yikes - that ain't right! - but its always a danger.
Here are some quotes from Rollins that came to mind:

“God is not the object of our thoughts, but rather, he is the “absolute subject before whom we are the object.”

“To take our ideas of the divine and hold them as if they correspond to the reality of God is thus to construct a conceptual idol built from the materials of our mind”
“Christians testify to having been caught up in and engulfed by that which utterly transcends them.”
H(N)TSOG - get it on the Christmas list (alternatively stick with a little God you can keep on tight reins)

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tip Off

Tip off -

Great reflection on 'house church' and its legacy in lives (might be topical!:-))

Advent Conspiracy podcast from the Homebrew crew

Advent reflections from Mars Hill (Rob Bell)

Checkout great sermon called 'beware the dogs' from RB from excellent series on Philippians (quick - its a 12 week rolling gig)

Naked Pastors, 12c Carols, Gauntanamo - just another advent...

Our friend Naked Pastor posting close to our hearts -

Weird but this is a clip is from a (12 century!) carol has come up again and again for me this advent. It seems to tie into so many themes I have been chewing recently - around the Hebrew hope/(humanities hope?) for a new exodus, about 1 John's dawning of something new, the powerful/powerless grace,goodness & peace of God, the nature of atonement, wrestling with God, our hope for and role in the future. Its not a perfect carol but it seems to ring some seriously significant bells and I presume it would be hard to sing this Christmas in Guantanamo. Check it here- what does it stir in you?

I reckon it was written by a 12c 'emergent'! (Shock news - the idea of the Gospel being about everything/now is not new!)
Oh, come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Oh, bid our sad divisions cease, And be yourself our King of Peace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Wow you look great God

I really like this blog and this post is a short, sweet but important one re the dangers of making God over in our image. I don't think this risk is unique to contextual theology, its a besetting sin of both biblical and systematic versions too. Good prompt though, no matter which side of which fence you sit on, as Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, " You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do ..."

Theology is looking in a mirror dimly not a 20/20 reflection of myself. Hey if God's just like me we are all in trouble!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Sprained finger TV

I find these TV stations a bit like a sprained finger - It hurts but I cant stop wiggling it for the sensation. (ASBO Jesus is like clearasil - spot on again)

Upside down thinking

Click on image for more(less)

Someday us be free

We are accustomed to hearing about the ways in which the Christian religion has been used as a tool to oppress. Of course, it has been used in this way. One black slave in America recorded,

“Those who were Christians [and] held slaves were the hardest masters. A card-player and a drunkard wouldn’t flog you half to death. Well, it is something like this – the Christians will oppress you more.”

Such a comment is certainly sobering. However, there is another side that is not pointed out quite as often about the way the Christian religion has been a force for liberation. I love this quote by a black slave:

“My Uncle, Ben, he could read de Bible and he allus tells us some day us be free. And Massa Henry laugh, “haw, haw, haw.” And he say, “Hell, no, yous never be free. You ain’t got sense ‘nuf to make de living, if yous was free.” Den he takes de Bible ‘way from Uncle Ben and say it put de bad ideas in he head. But Uncle gits ‘nother Bible and hides it, and Massa never finds out.”

If we can use the Bible to liberate or oppress we need to ensure we choose the former rather than the latter.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

No one wants our guilt for Christmas

Reading some great liberation theology stuff this morning and came out with overwhelming message -

'The poor do not want our guilt they want our power to become their power'

Sounds like an important theme for our guilty reflections on our consumer Christmas and our considerations of the incarnation - the power the poor Christ child brought into the world and the way he used it.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Christmas & Poverty

Christmas can be and often is a very difficult time not only for the poor but for those that by the standards of the majority of the world are rich indeed. It is not the meaning of Christmas or the bible story of Christmas that makes it so, but rather piles of dubious expectations that have been placed upon it, especially by western culture. The cultural lore that has made Santa Claus or his equivalent into a representative of materialism makes it hard for those who cannot attain the levels of giving and getting that are promoted by the commercial world. The deep and growing divisions between the haves and have nots are abundantly clear at Christmas in many places of the world. The reality is, however, that the commercialism in the West that undermines the true celebration of the birth of God’s gift of hope to the world also deadens our sense of connection to the majority of God’s children who live each day in poverty. Christmas calls us to reflect upon our relationship to poverty at many levels. Failure to do so distorts our souls and weakens our spirits.

The birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem is remembered because of who Jesus was, what he taught, how he lived, died, and was raised. Jesus himself probably did not grow up in abject poverty, but he certainly heard the cry of the poor throughout his ministry. He saw the results of the Roman occupation and the ways injustice and unabated power create conditions of poverty and its resulting suffering, humiliation, and hopelessness. His mission to the impoverished proclaimed by both word and deed that God stands with the poor and the oppressed against the evils of tyranny, inequity, oppression and greed. Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim scriptures convey the same message. If we neglect the poor and oppressed, if we do not share our wealth, if we turn away from the lost, the least, and the last, we have not truly heard the word of God. It is not just the condition of the poor that is at issue. It is also the condition of our own souls.

The celebration of Christmas at its best is the celebration of hope. There is hope for the poor. There is hope for justice. There is hope for peace. There is hope because Jesus was born as the Word: “The Word was made flesh and dwells among us.” God reached down into human history and declared that nothing, not angels or powers or things past or things to come, nor any creature can separate us from the love of God that was born in Bethlehem as the
embodiment of hope. So let us sort through the piles of crass materialism that contemporary Christmas too often offers, through the piles of meaningless gestures of the holidays, through the piles of denial of the dismal poverty that infects our planet, seeking once again the birth of hope. May our gift giving always include those who live in want. But even more may we give the gift of ourselves to those institutions and structures that seek to address the poverty of Gaza and the West Bank, the poverty of the vast majority of humanity, not with handouts but with political and economic action. Let us hold up the reality of life for our impoverished sisters and brothers to those whose policies create their misery. Let us hold fast to the message of the birth of Jesus which always points to the realm of God in which there are no poor, where justice reigns, and where peace is not a dream but a reality. And on Christmas Eve and whenever
we give and receive gifts, let us give thanks for the ever-present Christmas.

by Robert W. Tobin

Coming - Advent Reflection

Really getting into 'Advent' this year - over and above the cheesy/chocolaty advent calender thing. Even with my CofE background the church I went to was so low we missed out on lots of the wonderful church calender stuff that i am now appreciating much more.

Anyway simple thoughts on 'Advent'

  • Advent is from the Latin word adventus, meaning "coming"
  • Adventus is the translation of the Greek word parousia ("coming, arrival, personal presence")
  • Its a period of expectant waiting and preparation
  • Advent serves a dual reminder of the original waiting that was done by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah as well as the waiting of Christians today as they await the second coming of Christ
  • These days I see the expectant waiting and preparation as less passive and more proactive
  • In fact the bible story invites us to be part of the 'coming'
  • The coming of the kingdom of God, a totally different empire than the one that the Xmas stories set themselves up to subvert (Herod 'king of the Jews', Emperor Caeser)
  • The coming of Peace, 'Goodwill to all men', grace, love, justice, healing, the transforming power of powerlessness
  • God becoming incarnate in humanity in order to save, rescue and redeem humanity
  • Advent then seems now to also be about our part in that becoming incarnate / coming of God and his presence and in the reconciling of all things in him
  • In Christ God came, in helpless babe
  • For those who are now 'In Christ' we are also the helpless babes of his coming who will grow in grace and good deeds as apprentices of Jesus and followers of his way, as instruments of peace, as God's own gift to the world.

Perhaps everyday is an advent calender day when we open the door to the surprise possibilities of Gods coming in and through us.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

JD Crossan on the Xmas Story - Peace, another King/Saviour - what you talk'in 'bout fool?

V thought provoking podcast from the Homebrewed crew (they are on the podcast bar on the right)

This is JD Crossan talking about the Xmas stories - might be good prep for the 'Christmas form the underside' F2F on Monday.
Perhaps most people would have said - 'What do you mean 'peace on earth', a king/saviour - we all ready got it (Caesar)' So what is the story saying?
Muse on through Advent.

Close Guantanamo Video!

At last, I've managed to upload the Guantanamo video we watched at the event last week.

Aldous Huxley said, "The propagandist's purpose is to make one set of people forget that certain other sets of people are human". Hopefully, this goes some way towards correcting that.

Be warned, it is not easy watching:

Also, here are the links for anyone who hasn't managed to take action on Guantanamo yet: (write to your MP about Binyam Mohamed) (e-mail Mr Bush)

Also, why not visit YouTube and give my video a good star rating?

Monday, 1 December 2008

From the mouth of babes!

I told my kids a story over dinner and asked them what it meant. It was a story about a master who had three slaves. He told the slaves he was going away for a while, but would be back. He gave the first slave £5 and told him to invest the money while he was gone.

I says, "What do you mean, invest the money?"

I told him that if someone needs money you can lend them the money, but they don't give you back what you lent them. They give you back more.

Immediately, I could see I's face. He seemed incredulous. "Does that still happen now?"

"Yes", I said, "that's how we get money if we need it".

"That's not fair."

"What do you think they should do instead?"

"They should give them the money if they need it."

"Or, they could just ask them to pay back what they borrowed and not ask for more?", I suggest

"Yes", he replied.

Anyway, I carried on with the story. I said that he went to the 2nd slave and gave him £2 to invest and the third slave £1 to invest.

"He's got favourites", said C.

"Anyway", I said, trying to carry on the story, "when he returned the 1st slave said that he had invested it and made an extra £5. The master said that he was a good and faithful servant. The 2nd slave said that he had earned an extra £2. The master said that he was a good and faithful servant. The 3rd slave said that he knew the master was cruel and harsh, so he he buried the £1 he had been given. The master sent him out to be punished."

"So, what's the story about?"

"I think he's greedy", says C.

"He's just interested in taking poor people's money", says I

"and he has favourites", says C.

"I think the story is about the situation now," says I.

I couldn't help thinking that two kids hearing the story afresh so instinctively get what the story is about, whilst theologians have got their knickers in a twist about strange interpretations because they can't help thinking Jesus is the master. For some interesting debate about its meaning see here.

Stuff Bank

I was reading something on sustainable lifestyles yesterday and I remember a quote something like this
'Do you really need to own the thing or just use it?'
What a great question. I was part of a household church about 12 years ago and when we got together one of the things we did was make a massive list of all our stuff that we would be happy to lend out to others in the group / our wider network. No pressure, purely voluntary and only stuff you were happy to get back in 'used' condition! It was great as Heather and I were skint in a bedsit (affectionately known as the 'damp cave') and it really helped us not to mention the way we could reach out to others with our stuff. It was a great way of subverting our individualized (or 'nuclear familyized') ideas of community, 'property/ownership', consumerism etc and it made massive eco sense - not to mention the way it was, in a strange but beautiful way, good for our individual and communal soul.
Bit like freecycle idea (maybe we should start/join a group) but the stuff doesn't even need to change hands (though that's good too) - its more about living open handed.
So if you need something just ask! Anyone for hedge trimmers?! Stuff Bank - its the way forward...

1st Sunday in Advent Liturgy

The Lectionary Liturgies are in our Links (bottom right) but this is a great kick off Advent liturgy.

Maybe we could do this (or some of it) or similar at our Xmas session 8/12, or maybe someone wants to write one for us?

The old 'morning bell' is doing a great series in advent so make sure you are hooked up here

Guantanamo for kids

I recently attended a good and productive meeting that raised my awareness of Guantanamo Bay and the human rights issues related to such detention camps.

A few days later I spent a short time scribbling down some words…

Abused physically
Abused emotionally
Abused sexually
Abused ritually
Abused habitually

Abused by those who house them
Abused by those who feed them
Abused by those who clothe them
Abused by their “carers”
Abused by their “keepers”

Abused for the satisfaction of others
Abused behind closed doors

No rights
No voice
No-where to go
No escape
No justice
No hope
No-one to help

Utterly innocent

Who will intervene?

These words may conjure up all sorts of images and emotions, and you might be surprised to see the line “Utterly innocent” in there. Even at the meeting it was acknowledged that not all the detainees in Guantanamo were “whiter than white”.

But this poem is not about Guantanamo Bay. It is about child cruelty in this country, and it attempts to show the similarity of experience between the detainee in Guantanamo and the child just down your street. The poem is entitled “Guantanamo for kids”.

Please take the time to re-read this poem in light of such child abuse and you must surely agree that “Utterly innocent” is utterly appropriate.

The NSPCC estimates that 1 child is killed by a parent every 10 days in the UK, and that there are over 35,000 children on Child Protection Plans in the UK at the moment (some of those children are yet to be born).

The British Association of Adoption and Fostering say there are another 64, 000 children currently in local authority care.

There are thousands of seriously abused and broken children who have been separated from their families through the courts, and social workers ensure me these children are just the tip of the iceberg.

I was pleased to go to the meeting about Guantanamo Bay, but I feel there is a limit to what I can do. I can raise awareness. I can attempt to apply political pressure. I can pray. But I cannot go in and release the captives. And even then, would my responsibility stop there? Surely we must consider the whole process of physical and emotional restoration for these captives once they are released? Who will be there for them once they are released?

But what about those children in this country, those on the “tip of the iceberg” who have been released from their chains (although some will fall straight back into new chains in our imperfect “in care” system) or those who are still secret and hidden. What about their release? What about their physical and emotional restoration? What about their renewal? Who will consider that? Who will consider them? Can I do more than raise awareness, apply political pressure and pray?

In Isaiah 58, God is rebuking his people for just “going through the motions” when it comes to their seeking of God and their worship of Him. He doesn’t want their unimpressive and duplicitous fasts / acts of worship. God says…

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Worship of God is not just about letting “the oppressed go free” but about bringing “the homeless poor into your house”.

These children need to be bought into a good and caring house, a new house, and all the Adoption Agencies agree with that. This new house is the context for their healing, for their restoration, for their receiving of unconditional love. I hope and pray that providing this house / home / family is what God would have me do for just one of the thousands of those “tip of the iceberg” kids who have been released but now need restoration.

God wants his people to “bring the homeless poor into your house”, and in doing so, God reveals His character through us. After all, this is what God has done for us, isn’t it? Yes, he has “released” us who were captives to sin and death by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But he has not left us there, broken from our experience. He also re-houses, re-families and re-parents us by adopting us into His family and His house for the purpose of true restoration and renewal.

God has done more than release us captives. He has bought us, the homeless poor, into His house, his place for renewal and restoration. What and how is God calling you to bring the homeless poor into your house and what would that look like?

I am becoming more and more convinced that the people of God should do such things for these children. We may not be able to see it, but they are all wearing orange jump suits.

Advent Conspiracy

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Christmas under occupation!

This was going to be a comment on Schof's blog, but it got a bit long, so I've made it a post:

I really like this picture by Banksy because Jesus is placed in solidarity with the Palestinians. A security guard asking the 'holy family'for their ID cards means that Jesus is an outsider - marginalised along with the Palestinians - whose movement is closely controlled by an occupying force - just like the Palestinians.

It also chimes in with something I read today from a Palestinian Christian group:

"Some of our people ask how can we celebrate Christmas
with all the closures and checkpoints,
with all the injustice and oppression,
with all the violations of human rights,
with the presence of a wall that separates families and friends,
and a multitude of hardships that the occupation imposes to make people’s lives miserable,
how can we speak of love, peace and joy when most of our people and millions of others around the world do not experience liberty and peace?

The Christmas story is a story of a liberating God who comes to join an oppressed people in the work of liberation. God’s message through the angels is a message of defiance. In spite of the presence of empire, human arrogance, and oppression, God is announcing peace and goodwill. This is God’s agenda. Glory belongs to God and not to the emperor nor to the powers. Once that is genuinely acknowledged, peace is not far away.

It is in the midst of the Roman occupation that the Incarnation took place;
it is in spite of the occupation that Mary and Joseph found joy and love in the birth of Jesus;
it is in spite of the occupation and in the midst of economic hardships that the shepherds came to visit a family of modest means and discovered great joy and peace;
it is in spite of the occupation that the Magi came to offer their gifts to the child.

We celebrate in the midst of the occupation and in spite of it.
Through our celebration we defy the occupation;
we defy the injustice;
we defy the oppressors;
we defy the powers.

They do not possess the last word, they can build high walls, but they cannot take away our hope, they can put us in jail, but they cannot take away our joy, they can prevent us from visiting family, but they cannot take away our love, they can stop us at checkpoints and impose all kinds of restrictions, but they cannot take away our pursuit of freedom and liberation, they can prevent us from going to Bethlehem, but they cannot prevent the spirit of Bethlehem from reaching us, they can treat us as nonhumans, but they cannot crush our spirit nor can they take away our God-given human worth and dignity, they can act with hate and disgust but, by the grace of God, we can always refuse to stoop to the level of hate and maintain our love of God and neighbour that includes them.

Therefore Christmas makes us defiant. We defy the evildoers because we believe in the goodness which they are capable of doing, we defy hate because we believe in the power of love and forgiveness, we defy despair because we believe in life and hope, we defy violence and terror - both state and individual - because we believe in the power of peace and nonviolence, we defy war and the occupation of other people’s lands because we believe in the power of peaceful methods based on international law and legitimacy, we defy and challenge those who humiliate and degrade others because we believe in the dignity of every human being. The Incarnation took place when God took on our humanity, when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This happened in Palestine under Roman occupation. Then as now and in spite of all the hardships, we celebrate Christ’s birth, Emmanuel, God with us, giving us hope, joy, peace, and love. We are defiant. We are full of hope. We will continue to work for peace through justice."

Thinking about doing your Xmas Shoppng?

How about a tin of worms? (most of the other stuff I buy will end up getting eaten by them in a landfill within a few years anyway - if its degradable which it prob isn't)

Checkout the excellent present aid site

Friday, 28 November 2008

Buy Buy Buy Jesus - Theres Profit to be had?

Its not just Christmas when it feels like this! God forbid that I end up 'consuming' him when he's supposed to consume me!
Thanks to ASBO Jesus

On Eagles Wings

On Eagles Wings

In those dark moments when I let you down
When I flirt with idols and fool around

When I get intoxicated by self
When I leave everyone else’s well being on the shelf

When I try to be all to all
Then chin in dirt fall

Even when I feel the rub of my chains
And the pain of my own fire set flames

I know I am still your beloved
In crimson grace covered

I know deep that I am made for better more beautiful things
I know even I can be carried on eagles wings

(Ex19:4, Is40:31)

Xmas F2F is coming + Warm your insides

Really looking forward to Xmas Engage F2F taking in the perspective of the marginalised and oppressed (who pretty much dominate the Xmas story - a change from our good looking romantic respectable images). I want to suggest this great Banksy image, from a series he painted in Bethlehem, as a useful motif among others - humble encounters empire.
If you are looking in for the first time - yes there is lots of talk on this whole sight about 'social issues' but hey only a first world christian sitting at laptop (like me) could possibly read the Gospel from a purely spiritual perspective - I imagine it ain't that easy to do it that way dressed in orange, in the Congo, on a sinking Pacific island, under house arrest in Burma, whilst being trafficked for sex, etc etc etc. Bit in your face that last bit but hey, most of the world lives on under $2 a day - and they ain't even white!
Some say that you can only really grasp the depth of meaning and hope of the good news story from the margins, from the place where ''Justice' is truly good news not a threat to comfort status and self interest.
If you want to unwrap Christmas with that in mind then come along on 8/12 and lets explore it together and see if there might be more hope in powerlessness than in power?
Also a few quick links to keep you warm inside -
Great interview with a virtual friend of ours Naked Pastor here
V Funny lampoon of the 'emergent' thing here (few in jokes but if you know the US scene you'll get them)
Hopefully a bit more posting for the run in to Xmas - Peace

Guantanamo Event - Thanks

Big Thanks to everyone who turned out for the Guantanamo event last night.

Also thanks to James, Joe, Mark, Rach, Dee and Amnesty for all their input.

We'll put up some pics and video asap. The slide show is here including this great installation shot above.

If you missed out on some of the actions then here are some links to get on and do something now - (write to your MP about Binyam Mohamed) (e-mail Mr Bush)

Anyone got more actions to share just stick them in comments.

Also - we will be brewing ideas for further events if you fancy suggesting something or getting involved then just let us know.

The next Engage F2F is now on the blog top right - of course there is an Xmas theme but a slightly different take on it.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Something to remember....?

One evening in January 1915 Bert Brocklesby was invited to preach at the church where he was an active member - Connisborough Methodist Chapel. The congregation was made up of war widows, soldiers on leave and many others. He stood up in the pulpit, declared that all Christians should live in imitation of Christ and then asked the telling questions,

"Can you imagine Christ dressed in army uniform?

Can you imagine Christ armed with a machine gun?

Can you imagine Christ bayoneting a German soldier?

That picture", he said, "is impossible and we all know it."

Needless to say, he was not asked to preach again!

I know this is a while after Remembrance Day, but still I couldn't help thinking that we tell each other stories all the time - some from the Bible, but also others that we deem so important they shape our collective memories. We tell ourselves stories of bravery in war, but how often do we tell each other the stories of another kind of bravery - the bravery to refuse to fight? Maybe if this kind of story were more a part of our collective memories Blair and Bush would have been a little more reluctant to commit people to war.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The Gospel of Supply Side Jesus

Check out the wonderful story of 'Supply Side Jesus' who seems eerily familiar to many God TV viewers and religious best seller list readers! (click the image to see the rest)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Ziya Meral's Theology of Guantanamo Bay

Here is a great article called 'A Theology of Guantanamo Bay' by a guy called Ziya Meral. He even uses one of the Banksy images that we did in our conversations. It's a very sharp reflection.

Contextual Theology - HIV/Aids

The whole Guantanamo thing and a lot of other stuff we 'engage' with here are a form of 'Contextual Theology'* - To play with a Dean Flemming quote 'In every particular place and time we must learn to do theology/read and apply the bible/listen to God/follow Jesus in a way that makes sense of/in/to the world we find ourselves in, while challenging it at the deepest level'

We have been doing this with Guantanamo, debt, economic crisis, art, the walk of faith, etc etc etc and I have to say I am loving it and long may it continue.

If you have a spare 30 mins and are interested in HIV/Aids here is a great paper from the UN of all people about a theological reflection on the stigma of HIV/Aids. It's an interesting e.g of wrestling with a particular 'now' issue (or better a 'now' suffering of people in our global community) and what our response may be as a supposed 'kingdom of priests' who mediate God in the world. Enjoy and if it's an issue close to your heart you might like to get involved with the great work tearfund or christian aid do around it.
*Contextual theology is not - abandoning the Bible, or 'Truth', or mission etc etc. It's based on a simple acknowledgement that we all know and act in a context. However hard we try that will always be the case. That doesn't mean it legitimises a 'me-centric' view of the God/the world. In fact it is all about me being honest about my/our 'me-centricness' and trying humbly to 'work out' what God is saying in my/our situation. God made us and put us in, meets us in, is present in and calls us to follow him and bring his good news in our context and that seems like a wonderful thing not something to be scared of. For more on CT see the very accessible Coffeehouse Theology

Awright mate want any flyers?

Please let me know if you want any flyers to give out/drop in at your regular watering holes.

Not long to go so get those e-mail/facebook etc stuff going as well.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Liberating Christmas!

I guess for me Christmas brings to a head many of the issues which face Christians who want to work out their faith in our culture. Christmas is a heightening of the two forces competing for my allegiance - on the one side is the celebration of consumption - gorging on trinkets while the world starves. On the other hand, it is a celebration of the nuclear family and moral middle-class religious values and the words 'Christ' and 'Jesus' banded about for good measure. The world, of course, still starves as we get het up about whether we say 'Xmas' or 'Christmas'.
Bizarrely, these two celebtrations are merged in my experience into an orgy of consumption and religiousity. These two value systems are the bane of my life - a materialistic world, and a religiousity that is not engaged with it.
But I must confess to having had a decidely negative response to these alternatives in the past. I have been keen to say what Christmas is not, but what is it?
To ask this question slightly differently, isn't Christmas really about 'peace on earth'? I mean, no war, a radical non-violence. Isn't that what the non-violent 'armies of heaven' (Luke 2:13) were singing about?
Isn't Christmas about the birth of an alternative - Jesus, Son of God, not Augustus, Son of God? Isn't it the start of a life of the cross, rather than the sword?
Isn't Christmas about a turning upside down of values (and surely these values today are consumerist, militaristic and religious)? Isn't it about the coming of one who will level the mountains and raise up the valleys? (Isa. 40:30-35) Or, to use Mary's words during her pregnancy, isn't it about the one who "has brought down rulers from their thrones... filled the hungry, but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-52)
Nothing could stand in more contrast to modern-day Christmas than filling the hungry, whilst sending the rich away empty. Dare we do that this Christmas?
So, my suggestion is that in our first regular monthly meet-up (1st Monday in December) we think about what we can do to liberate Christmas from religiousity or consumerism and enable it to be truly liberating and becomes a celebration of the values we reallly do cherish. What rituals, actions would most embody our values? My suggestion is that people bring with them resources, ideas, stories (from the Bible or not), suggestions (however emryonic), opinions as a basis for discussion. Or, failing that, just bring themselves.

A Humanist Decalogue

Ronald Fletcher's Humanist 10 Commandments:

1. Never accept authority.
2. Base your conduct on simple, humane principles.
3. Strive to eliminate poverty.
4. Strive to eliminate war.
5. Do not be a snob.
6. In sexual behaviour, use your brains as well as your genitals, and always in that order.
7. Take the care necessary to enjoy family life and marriage.
8. Keep the law.
9. Commit yourself to active citizenship.
10. Have confidence in the modern world and your powers to improve it.

ummm... Any you like? Any you dislike? Any you would add to make your own 10 Commandments for today? What about God? Do we need God?

I like number 6 (of course!). Someone said, "Men were made with two organs: the penis and brain, but only enough blood to control one at a time".

I like numbers 1, 3, 4 and 7.

I don't think number 10 works for me - maybe this is where I really feel the need for God. I have no faith in the modern world, but in a 'mystical' sense of hope that derives from my faith.

There is also nothing here about conflict resolution (i.e. anger) and the injustice that is associated with it. In fact, it is quite individualistic. It is as though other people are not necessary. What about suffering and hardship? Something tells me Fletcher was not from the 3rd world!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Ice Cream and Relational Tithing - Cornetto's and the Coming of the Kingdom

Thanks for the responses to 'How Great (thou) Art'. Ok here's a practical idea to follow up on the ice cream thing* and to take it a bit further.

One of the things I loved about my old church Inner City Life/Grace was the way the vast majority of money given to the church basically went straight out of the door again, through child sponsorship, giving to the needs of those in the community, the wider world and others involved in Church planting etc.

However, its a sad fact that, anecdotaly, I believe that many Christians give some money to the church but also direct a lot out to other causes separately. The sad thing is not the process as I don't think its essential to pool then give but I think people recognise the 'Christendom' model of church and its need to pay for the upkeep of its own institutional existence - and who really wants to/get excited by that! From what I can tell from both old and new testament scriptures the primary goal of giving/tithing etc, bar a small percentage to keep the basics ticking over, was essentially to redistribute resources to people who needed them. A communal, relational mechanism (if that's not a post industrial oxymoron!) to see the Shalom/Kingdom of God coming in practical ways.

SO then, especially as many of us are a bit 'churchless' at the moment (nothing to prop up - no bad thing), we have a great opportunity to do something different.

The Ideas on Rhythms of Loving Resistance post mentions 'relational tithing'. And i think we could do a bit of that kind of thing.

V Basic idea - people chip in what they want to a central pot (at least ice cream money!!).

When we come across needs that move us to do something we have some cash to do the financial bit of helping along side other stuff we could do. (E.g I get knocked over and lose job, house etc and my family needs to get some rent for our first 3 months as we sort out what to do, Rache meets a family of a dying woman who desperately wants to see here estranged, homeless daughter before she passes but can't afford the train ticket, Dee knows a destitute asylum seeker in hiding who needs a deposit to get the water back on in her squat, etc etc etc etc)

We also might have the opportunity to join in with other UK and global networks doing the same.

So we do what we can. It's an idea to pool (cos realistically we might get to do more that way) and splash cash that is nothing to do with funding an institution and everything about doing small things with great love.

I like this simple idea and hey this kind of thing if it takes of amongst Gods people might one of the answers to my podcast questions about re imagining the good life when it comes to all sorts of issues like, insurance, retirement, etc etc.

But for now we could just get it going with the account Mark has, at least our cornetto money, put a minimal bit aside for engage stuff and the other 90% into - well where shall we start?

* The ice cream thing - UN Development Report 1998 - Americans spend more on cosmetics, $8 billion annually, and Europeans on ice cream, $11 billion, than it is estimated it would cost to provide basic education ($6 billion) or water and sanitation ($9 billion) to the more than 2 billion people worldwide who go without schools and toilets.

Rememberence - Keeping faith among the poppies

Everything is quiet as we remember -

In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In the quiet is an unease. Blood is always red, that of the victor and the vanquished, that of the innocent and the guilty. Who is who I am not sure I know, yet I want to remember them all as their blood cries out from the ground. I want to remember what we have done to ourselves in all its vainglorious vanity. The grey sky seems appropriate to the impossibility of black and white and the depressing hopelessness of war.
Exodus is the first book of the Bible. In the Hebrew scriptures the creation account is a story told to make sense of the world that an oppressed people find themselves in. God is the 'God who brought us up out of Egypt' 33 times and the 'Creator God' only 6 times. Our predominant picture of God as creator is correct but perhaps allows God to be just about distant enough to allow us the moral space we need to do what we do. But if God is fundamentally a God of liberation then that is a far more uncomfortable truth. I am forever grateful at the price paid by the men and women who were cut down for this freedom I enjoy. But the Liberator God, the
Jesus who announced his mission as Prince of Peace by saying -
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised
seems to call more from me than just rememberance. He calls us back from the brink of us v them that blinds us to the fact that we are all us. He calls us to dare to imagine a way of peace bringing that does not ever again cost so much. A way that cost God himself his own son. The story of Christ the Liberator calls me to imagine a different way to Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw. The torch; be yours to hold it high.
This very different story of shedding blood for peace -
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
So we remember the blood shed and seeped into ancient soil, our blood and even the very blood of God. And we know that God was here with us, knowing the struggle of peacemaking in a violent world. And we know there is a hope that all that death was not in vain, that in the death of God there is the hope of resurrection Life. A life that does not demand our blood but a life that is possible because God spilt his in this messy grey world. A life that calls us to follow suit to hold on to a different imagination and put our own bodies on the line as we walk the path of a peace that this world can hardly conceive of.
May the God who is our/The liberator give us courage to join him in refusing them v us, in loving our enemies and in our faltering failing efforts to see through this low cloud a bright light of peace for our world. It takes an almost unimaginable courage to be willing to 'go to war' but i think it takes an even greater step of faith to 'go to peace'.
God, grant us the faith to go to peace.

Monday, 10 November 2008

engagepod3 - Credit, Hyper-Me and Hope

Another short one reflecting on how cheap credit fuels our imagined self and how the 'crunch' might hopefully allow us to give up our consumption based identity and allow us to look again for our real self grounded in God, community and the world around us. A self not based on consumption but on compassion, not on self extension but self giving - a self in the image of the christian God.

Click on the pic or on the engagepod link on the right.

Guantanamo Event - 27th NOV@ Cafe Euro

Not long now -

Here is a flyer and I have 1000 orange paper copies to distribute as well.

Lets get this e-mailed round, posted on your facebooks etc etc.

See you there.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Responding to Postmodernity!

This is a paraphrase of Peter Hodgson, Winds of the Spirit, p.60-61:

He says that our society is on the cusp of radical change from a modernist mindset to a postmodern one. This leaves the church with a number of options. One is the response of Evangelical Christianity which is "the deep desire to recover stable ethical and religious foundations in a topsy-turvy age." It has a "tendency to over-belief in the face of the threats and insecurities of our time - a false security based on illusory absolutes... and an explicit refusal to enter into dialogue with modernity. Religion provides a convenient escape for those who lack the strength to cope with the threats of modernity; it does not often enough provide resources for those who wish to respond to its challenges."

The second response of the church is to feel a sense of despair about renewing Christianity in the light of postmodernism. They "retreat into intellectual games and hedonistic play - a mask for despair, cynicism, nihilism."

The third response is "renewal... It warns against cultural accomodation and advances a prophetic critique of the negative features of modernity. It... does not attempt to turn the clock back to any sort precritical authority. But it is suspicious of... religious pluralism and interreligious dialogue... evolving sexual practices, liberation movements, nonhierarchical forms of power. It is more concerned with the inner renewal of communities of faith."

Finally, there is revisionism. This is "convinced that, in order to preserve the heritage and identity of the Christian tradition, it must be allowed to pass over into new and often quite different forms... This approach knows that there is no original, purely biblical expression of Christianity but only a series of contextualised expressions, each in its own way a more or less creative transformation of both the figure of Christ and the forms of culture." He argues that such a response seeks to build a bridge between the Enlightenment and Liberation. "Enlightenment without liberation loses its emancipatory dynamic; liberation without enlightenment loses its critical rationality... the saving resources present in the classical Christian tradition can be reappropriated and reenacted."

Personally, I found this quite an interesting summary of the situation. His description of what evangelicalism is, is the same as my own. I would also admit to flirting with the second option. I found it so much more straightforward as an evangelical. My actions (evangelism) could have an immediate impact on another person's eternal happiness. Now, I struggle to know how to be a vehicle (even in a small way) for making this world a better place. Even if I did work to make things better in some small way, the impact is hardly eternal. It is easy to take the easy option of hedonism or despair in the light of enormous suffering in the world and my own sense of being disempowered. Of all the options, I think the 4th one sums me up best, though I find it scary at times to reshape my faith - and no one like change. I am presently reading "Lost Christianities" - a book about Christianity in the 1st 400 years - its really interesting and very well written. But it has certainly convinced me that there has never been an original, universally accepted Christianity, just a series of contextual expressions.
I am open to critiques of any of this - but not a great fan of being burnt at the stake!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Close Guantanamo!

It appears that Barack has been on our blog and heard about our campaign to close guantanamo!

This one is also worth looking at:

Lets hope and work to ensure he sticks to his promises and no prisoners are sent off to other prisons around the world to be tortured or imprisoned without trial!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Deliver Us from Me-Ville

"In writing Deliver Us from Me-Ville I took great encouragement from Dietrich Bonhoeffer´s description of Christ as pro-me. It´s a nice foundation on which to build a critique of self-absorption: Jesus is for us enough to become us and join with us, then separate our sin from us and die for us, then resurrect (to) us..."

Looks interesting? Heard a few people chatting about good books and potential reads at the moment (e.g - when love bends down) - maybe we could co-ordinate a bit and read one at the same time so we can dialogue about it and what it means for us?

Here's Hoping on a Historic Day

"While we breathe, we hope" Barack Obama (victory speech)

Monday, 3 November 2008

Christmas Offer - Direct Action Anyone?

OK, you remember Clarion events and their purchase of a number or Arms fairs, well they are doing a wonderful show in London called......wait for it......'The Spirit of Christmas'! Hence the image.
If you fancy a bit of Direct Action then why not e-mail these folks with a polite call to remember the real spirit of Christmas.
Here is some background to help you do your e-mail.
Anyone got any thoughts on the real non violent / peace loving / empire subverting / healing saving message of Christmas? A nice slogan would be good as well so we can mail it to these guys a 'few' times!

How great (thou) Art

This sounds very simplistic but as I have said before I am a big fan of 'Art'. I think that Creator God is particularly, prophetically, poetically and profoundly present in the God image reflecting act of creation that we do when we make/encounter art. (you could also say 'make...' - something else that is about creation and beauty joy comfort etc!) Anyway, I am not saying all Art is 'good', it just seems to create what the Celtic Christians called 'thin places' where heaven and earth are mysteriously close, even touching. Take a look at this bit of graffiti and keep in your mind the Lord's prayer

Our Father which art in heaven,Hallowed be thy name,Thy kingdom come,Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread.And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil:For thine is the kingdom,and the power, and the glory,for ever. Amen.

What does it make you think, feel, want to stop doing, start doing, continue doing, pray, cry out for, confess, etc etc etc? What was your own response? Click on the comments link below and let us know.

Guantanamo Event DATE CHANGE

Guantanamo Event - DATE CHANGE

One of our main artists is unable to do the 13th so we are working to get another date in the diary. We hope to update you by the end of the week. Other arrangements are progressing well, we even have a performance poet on standby. So here's hoping we can get it sorted and get it on soon.

Thanks for your patience.


Saturday, 1 November 2008

Jesus, are you going to hurt me?

I found this video amusing, but thought it also resonated with me about the aggressive, judgemental approaches Christians can be guilty of in the way they relate to those who aren't Christians.

Lets not be killjoys this Christmas!

Friday, 24 October 2008

Ideas on Rhythms of Loving Resistance

Here's a great clip from Mark Van Steenwyk over at (click the image for original article) -

So…what does it actually LOOK like to embody an alternative? How do we lovingly resist the Powers as we invite people to move into God’s Kingdom? This is a big question. For all the books Brazos Press puts out, very few deal with practical realities. The recent books about New Monasticism and the works of folks like Shane Claiborne help scratch that itch, but still more work needs to be done in imagining tangible realities. Here’s an introductory list of practices/activities/experiments that help develop a communal life of loving resistance. If two or more people were to engage in the following sorts of things together as a regular practice, it would go much further than a mountain of rhetoric and challenge the status quo more than voting:
proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ
tithe relationally
discerningly engage in civil disobedience
confess your sins to one another, and proclaim forgiveness
live communally
establish regular rhythms of prayer with others (here’s a nifty and free resource)
thoughtfully participate in the Lord’s Supper
be family with people that are in a different socio-economic and/or ethnic situation than you
get in the way of violence
plant a garden (for extra credit, practice guerrilla gardening)
spend less money
spend justly
or just don’t spend money at all
ride a bicycle or take the bus
draw attention to the sins of society
lovingly challenge the sins of the Church
invite strangers to dinner
have a guest room open to those in need
practice mutual submission
read Scripture in community and struggle together to put it into practice
practice communal discernment
embrace a sense of place in ministry
learn the stories of marginalized people…especially your brothers and sisters in the developing world
pray for political authorities
share good things with the poor
give the wealthy (including yourself) an opportunity to divest of their wealth
remember, in all things love
I have added the The Missio Dei Breviary to the sidebar

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Noise fast

In the last few days I have noticed something really disturbing. Well actually I have been using it to comfort, to distract. It's noise. I very very rarely live a waking moment without noise - Work, TV, Music, Internet, Books (even theology books). It's all noise that I am using to prevent the awful prospect of being alone, alone with myself and with God. What am I afraid of? I have distracted myself to such an extent that I am not actually even sure.

Our culture bombards us with enter/info -tainment perhaps like a master magician to distract our attention from the simple sacred scary realities of living and being. This noise quietens to background white the still small voice of God presence and the necessary disquiet that resonates in our mortal souls, the whispers of conscience and the feint echo of call to community and communion with those around us and the divine within.

I am tired of the noise, like a victim of a noisy neighbour I am worn down by it. Yet I have a choice, a privilege. I can turn much of it off, or at least ask God to help me overcome my noise addiction every time I reach for the 'on' button.

God help me to find the discipline to fast from noise enough to hear your sound scape in me and the world around me, the notes and melodies of love and grace that my dissonant self and my discord tending relationships need to hear.

So here's to hearing the voice that says in the quiet 'perfect love casts our fear', even fear of quiet itself.


Wednesday, 15 October 2008


So... at the recent Guantanamo planning sesh this week I shared an idea about how we might get a few more things in the diary. At least we want to get some more monthly 'traditional', if I can use that word, engage meets sorted. But I was meaning a bit wider than that.

I mean things that we want to do/feel moved to do/can do. For me it was a lot to do with having the freedom (both of form and from fear of failure) to do stuff that would start to create a bit of structure or pattern to life. I like the simple image above, the way there is progress, contracting and growing, blossoming and letting go etc etc (maybe just me!)
My life is to often structured and patterned around consumption and the means of consumption - buying stuff, gobbling up experiences, slogging away to give me the chance to do it all. I don't like the way consumption can so easily become the spirograph logic of my everyday (every week, month, year - they all blur to one) existence.
I desire, in the spirit of new monasticism*, a 'rule' of life that patterns my living around: confession and communion, health and hospitality, silence and service, growth and good works.
I want to do this grounded in real life, the spiritually of the everyday as well as the numinous moments. To do it within the full spectrum of global Christian heritage but also to allow the dreaming of new futures. Enabling creative engagement with the world and faithful improvision within it.
I also don't want to do it alone (as if you could fully do all that above alone!) I want to do it in some form of community - an embracing community of common work that invites, welcomes and values the presence and voices of outsiders (both people starting from outside the way of Jesus and those that the Jesus way teaches us to love and be with, the social and economic outsiders).
So here's my question(s), for those interested in this kind of thing, do we find these things in churches and other wider networks already doing these things very well or do we, if we feel moved to, get on with doing some elements of this ourselves and just see what happens?
Do we plan and structure some of this in or be more organic about it?
If I were to quickly sketch out a sample monthly pattern it might look like this -
  • Mosaic/Worship - First 'xxxday' of the month (various styles of worship/liturgy/meditation etc, venues? poss outside?)
  • Action - Second 'xxxday' of the month (taking action (direct action?))
  • Eat - Third 'xxxday' of the month (open meal (open communion?) to share with friends (poor friends?)
  • Story - Forth 'xxxday' of the month (getting together around the scriptures)
  • Chill/Party - Fifth 'xxxday' when it happens (enjoying things that are good (like beer!)
  • I also liked 'Art' (watching, listening, touching, making?, and lots of other things)
Anyway...! That all sounds a bit much from where we are now and its just an idea but what do you think?

The restoration of the Church will surely come from a kind of new monasticism, which has in common with the old kind only the uncompromising nature of life according to the Sermon on the Mount, following Christ. I think that it is about time go gather the people for this….Dietrich Bonhoeffer
* “new monasticism,” Four suggested characteristics: (1) it will be “marked by a recovery of the telos of this world” revealed in Jesus, and aimed at the healing of fragmentation, bringing the whole of life under the lordship of Christ; (2) it will be aimed at the “whole people of God” who live and work in all kinds of contexts, and not create a distinction between those with sacred and secular vocations; (3) it will be disciplined, not by a recovery of old monastic rules, but by the joyful discipline achieved by a small group of disciples practicing mutual exhortation, correction, and reconciliation; and (4) it will be “undergirded by deep theological reflection and commitment,” by which the church may recover its life and witness in the world. Jonathan R. Wilson, Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World