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

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

T Shirts and taking red pills for Guantanamo

Big up red pill boy from TTRP who will get us a load of these t-shirts for us to sell at the Close Guantanamo event 13th Nov at Cafe Euro.

They will be just £15 with 20% going direct to the Close Guantanamo Campaign - so bring your wonga on the night*.

We do need to pick them up though so anyone passing Northampton before 13/11 let us know. Crikey, this is exotic work. And don't forget to check out the TTRP site - its above and on the blogroll.

*T-shirts are sourced from the Freedom Clothing Project (FCP), a not-for-profit co-operative using factories where workers are treated with respect and paid properly. They are manufactured by Palestinians in the occupied West Bank using SKAL-certified silky Turkish organic cotton and printed in the UK by the Fingerprints co-operative using an environmentally-sensitive ink. FCP's profits are shared with the suppliers or donated to charity in order to support the workers, their families and the wider community.

Living Ghosts News

Write to the new immigration minister
Phil Woolas has taken over from Liam Byrne in the recent government reshuffle. Please take a couple of minutes to tell him how immoral and ineffective the policy of using destitution as tool of government is. There are many points that you could ask about, but Gordon Brown promised in July that he was going to help out Zimbabweans refused asylum. This was great news, but we haven't heard anything since.
Our special website that gives you a template to post or automatically email him here.

Let Them Work -The Refugee Council's joint campaign with the TUC
Telling it as it is - We have a special "Voice box" section on our website with stories, podcasts and links.
Destitution Action Pack -
what destitution is, practical support, campaigning, awareness raising. You can view online or download the pack here.
Stay in touch - You can subscribe and unsubscribe to these campaign briefings

Engage Podcast 2 - Slow down - we lost someone

Here is engagepod2. Just click on the picture to get it or use the podcasts tab on the right to go to our podcasts page.
Another quick one but the first of a series of pod reflections on the current economic slow down and the thoughts it triggers.
This one is about the disappearing person-hood of 'human capital' - people valued only for their product. Sadly this logic is not just out there but also perhaps in us as the church - Yikes!
Next on the agenda are 'Debt' (prep for the next engage F2F?), 'Shalom', and 'Where does our help come from?'.
It's just a starter for ten and my real interest is how we might help each other re imagine the good life as it might be lived in our own context - oh, and then to try and live it of course!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Jesus said...

To one man Jesus said you must be born again

To one man Jesus said give everything to the poor

Both sayings challenge me more each day

Climate Justice - Act Now

Mind your language Timothy

Just read this on divine nobodies as I had referenced the site in my last post.

I was recently talking with one of my “divine nobody” friends who reads this blog regularly but does not comment. he mentioned that sometimes he feels like it’s too complicated for him. so, just let me ask the question: do you have to have a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard or spend two years at the Institute of Metaphysical Studies in order to grasp and live the simple truth? i hope not!

I know for me, i tend to steer away from using typical Christian language to identify or describe things i’m experiencing because for many years i used this language and it either reinforced error (at least the way i was using it) or it was just nice-sounding words or phrases that sounded good and Christian but did not correspond to anything real i was actually experiencing in life. so, i became more descriptive and at times replaced words like “flesh” with alternatives such as “ego-mind.” but then the way it goes, the new language can also become nothing more that just some new, progressive, more enlightening-sounding language that still may not have any connection with the reality of your life.

It really made me think:

We have posted before about not wanting to alienate people by being.... well....'up ourselves' and its a good reminder. There was a french guy called Foucault who talked a lot about how different vocabularies can be real power games. Take for example the way a dodgy car mechanic looks under the bonnet, draws a sharp intake of breath and pronounces that "the cosset flange has spilt the oogeewotsit bracket". I, not knowing that world, that language, have to take his word for it and shell out £300 for a new fan belt! Surely religious words and phrases can function like that, excluding those who would describe things in there own way and making sure only proper insiders can talk the talk. Sadly this doesn't really protect 'the truth' - it limits our expression of it and many everyday people's access to this wonderful conversation we are engaged in about God

I have recently been totally bemused by some things that Christians have said. Not the content or the beautiful, gracious intent but the way things are said. The words sounded like they came from a specialised vocabulary based on more in the King James version and the 1900's Keswick convention rather than the pithy sayings of a 'chippy' (carpenter) from Palestine never mind people living in 2008.

I think the challenge is to find our own words to describe the realities of God and God in us and the world, like the the first followers of Jesus and Jesus following writers did. Surely that didn't fix language, nor did the various bible translations or all the waves of tradition. Every retelling of our story is an interpretation. That's nothing to be scared of, in fact its a reason to be yes careful and responsible but also brave, embracing and adventurous.

Surely the example of the previous generations of saints is to 'tell out our souls' in all their technicolour, 21st century, digital, glolocal, post modern glory - and also as validly (or more validly as the information economy puts power in the hands of the guardian reading digi pomo guys) people telling out their souls with no stupid privileged white middle class garbage buzz words and 'ain't I clever' overtones (he said in double irony!).

Basically - tell it as it is for you in your way cos that's what I reckon God wants us to do. Not for the sound of our own voices and the glory of our ideas but so we and the rest of the world gets a chance to listen to how God loves and lives and what he is up to in and amongst us.

Engage Podcast 1 - Pop Goes Shuffle Worship

Welcome to the first ever engage podcast - just click the image above to get it or go to our podcast page
Nothing high brow to kick off with just a quick journey through some recent books, ipod contents and a crazy pop new monasticism idea called 'Shuffle Worship'.

It's under 30mins so grab a listen and let me know what you think and what we should do for the next one? Enjoy.


Shane Claiborne (see 'the simple way' link on blog) -

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Liberation Theology comes to Engage

In Engage we don’t just want to take action, we want that action to arise out of our spirituality. See previous post on this.

To do this I suggest we experiment with the method of Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology has its critics (and some of those criticisms are valid), but one of its real pluses is the way it has transformed the way we read the Bible.

Before the innovation of Lib Theol people approached the Bible first and sought to draw insights from it. Then Liberation Theology came along and started with our experience. This experience led to theological reflection, which itself led to action. This action created a new experience upon which to reflect theologically and so the cycle goes on.

Here’s my proposal:
1. We choose a topic of contemporary relevance:
This could be guantanamo, the sex trade, debt, the global financial crisis, the emerging church, being honest with yourself – anything that floats your boat.
2. We ask someone (Schof!) to blog about it - giving us a brief but not superficial overview of the issues.
3. We meet up in late October and bring with us any biblical texts or other aspect of Christian tradition that resonates with the issue we are thinking about.
4. We explore these texts and traditions. Some will be more useful than others.
5. We seek to end with some action points.

The hope is that the action we take arises out of our experience and theological reflection.

So, three questions for you: Is this something you would like to be involved in? Is it a good idea – can it be tweaked? What issue would you like to tackle?

Why I hate the C**** word and don’t use E’s

As practically anyone who knows me will attest, the first maxim of Engage for me is – never use the C*** word. It is not a church, never will be a church, don’t want it to be a church…

…Of course, I hope it will, in time, be a place of action, spiritual reflection, worship, prayer, Biblical engagement – but it is not a church – don’t use that word! Whatever idea enters your head when you hear the word ‘church’ – rest assured, Engage will not be it!

And just in case you are one of those people who never thought for one minute that it was a church until now – banish the thought from your head forever – it never will be!!

This, for those who know me, is pretty standard stuff but I’ve also been wondering about the ‘E’ word too. Should we even use the ‘Engage’ word?

Of course, I understand the practical difficulties I am creating for many people – banning almost any name for what we are and what we do! I also understand that it goes against the branding instincts of our culture. But, please hear me out. Here’s my reason: I really don’t want anyone to serve or be loyal to, or show commitment to Engage. But I do want people to be loyal to, show commitment to God, each other and God’s kingdom. However, no sooner do you set up a group and give it a name – be it Engage, a church or something else – it takes on an identity of its own. It becomes one to whom loyalty is shown and commitment is made. In the process, we become a group of people (almost trapped) in a commitment to keeping the thing going, but are not really serving the gospel – our energy and time goes into propping it up and much of its original life is lost as we settle for routine and structure.

I think it is similar to what Weber called “the routinization of charisma” in which he describes the process whereby the original charisma is lost in the routinization process and as a passivity sets in a subversive gospel becomes status quo.

So, my suggestion is that we do not talk about Engage events, but we talk in terms of actually describing what we are doing – eg. An event to raise awareness and take action on Guantanamo.

Please, please don’t mishear me - I really, really, really don’t want to start setting up rules about what people say and don’t say. Please hear this in the spirit that is meant – a provocation to stop Engage becoming something we maintain, and an encouragement to keep it fresh and dynamic.

My hope is that sometimes someone will suggest going for a drink together or eating together, sometimes someone will suggest reading a part of the Bible together, or worshipping together or doing an event like the Guantanamo one. But we don’t do anything out of routine. We make every effort to ensure that what we do is always and only functional – Engage serves us, we don’t serve it.


I love this cartoon of the Christmas story. It has inspired a competition to retell the Christmas story in 30 seconds for radio. See here. Anyone got any 30 second versions?


"With the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains,

And only the heavenly father can ease the hurt,

Just let it go and keep prayin on your knees in church!!

And let's HOPE!!

Cuz I'm hopeful, yes I am, hopeful for today,

Take this music and use it

Let it take you away,

And be hopeful (hopeful) and He'll make a way

I know it ain't easy but that's okay.

Let's be hopeful!"

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Welcome / Nick off!

Timely words from Naked Pastor here. Engage or anything we are all involved in must surely be non violent in every way towards people. No 'emerging/emergent/whatever naff label' or personality/celebrity cult, 'trendy wendy radicalism' fascism please. It's not about being against, its about being for. Its about accepting, loving and benefiting not reconforming people to a particular model. Jeepers I can do without models right now. If you want to humbly explore what it might mean to try and follow Jesus and lean into the future that the Christian story envisions, or just want to kick around your questions in a safe environment, or just benefit in any way at all from us falteringly working all that out then you are most most most welcome. If you want to start a movement to remake everything in our image, with all respect, nick off! - just being honest, its best that way :-)