Archive for November, 2011


Last month I wrote a post about the Openshaw guys and the work they do in Sure Start centres and I asked whether churches might be prepared to step in to help if and when centres like these close.

Having followed the Occupy movement closely and now watching the innovative development of the Bank of Ideas I find myself deeply challenged and asking how many of us would have the courage, determination and creativity to take over empty buildings and reclaim them for community use?

David Cameron has been in search of Big Society – surely the voluntary re-occupation of empty buildings and facilitation of community resources is exactly what he has been looking for – right?  According to this Bank Statement he should be quite pleased!

When our local Sure Start centre, youth club, care home, social club or shops close (as they will continue to) will we sit back and bemoan the sad situation or will we take community action into our own hands and re-open them ourselves?  Remember: schools, hospitals, hospices, children’s homes etc didn’t exist until someone somewhere identified the problem and simply got on with it.


Leave comments below 🙂





I have fallen behind with my blogging but my brain is going to burst if I don’t start writing some down soon, so I thought I would start with the most important one first:

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On Friday 18 November I attended the funeral of Kathryn Copsey at Church of the Ascension in Custom House.  Kathryn died on 11th November having fought a brain tumour for 1 year.  Having had a long term presence in East London with her husband Nigel for many years Kathryn was a natural person to connect with as we began the work of Urban Expression back in 1997.  I am no good at remembering dates, but early on Kathryn became a member of our founding steering group and helped to formulate an initiative which has grown out of East London to other inner cities.  When new steering groups formed in other cities Kathryn chose to remain on the London Steering Group in order to retain a local focus.

Not only was she interested in the mechanics of Urban Expression but at her core she wanted to spend time with children and was interested in helping us establish some meaningful work with some of the most marginalised children in Tower Hamlets

It was beautiful to hear tributes from people who told stories from many aspects of her life.  Throughout her life Kathryn has maintained a passion for people to know God and has focussed that passion especially on children in inner-city neighbourhoods.  This led her to develop numerous resources and the establishment of CURBS.  Kathryn believed that every child was made in the image of God and as such in every child there was a ‘God-spark’ that could be discovered – she wrote about this spirituality in her highly acclaimed book From the Ground Up.  Kathryn contributed to the fledgling work of E1 Community Church (Cable Street Community Church as it was when it started) and tested out some of her materials on the energetic, beautiful, diverse children of Shadwell, Stepney and Wapping, allowing her passion and informal teaching style to rub off on to us.

I remember fondly the evenings spent in our kitchen in Shadwell with Kathryn as we ran ad-hoc ‘clubs’ for local children.  So often these felt like nothing particularly special and certainly incomparible to many well-resourced youth programmes, but looking back I can see without doubt how these affected so many childrens’ lives – children who are  growing up knowing that there is a God-spark within them still.

One of the things that made me cry was when someone said that Kathryn had commented only some time before her diagnosis that she wished she had made more of a difference.  It is tempting to feel that unless our work gets public accolade that it is not significant or does not make much of a difference.  It hit a chord with me because I recognise a similar trait in myself – always wanting what I do to make a difference but convinced there is always more to do. I hope Kathryn came to realise how valuable her ministry was and I pray that in years to come she will rejoice with the angels as she sees the fruit.

And I pray for those who take up the mantle in CURBS that they will continue to provide much need resources for children in urban situations for whom standard materials, often written from a middle-class, suburban, churched perspective, don’t relate.  CURBS are being prophetic, for one day soon there will be hardly any children in the UK who grow up in churches and then these resources will come into their own.

Along with many others I give thanks for Kathryn, a creative, incarnational prophet and value deeply the foundations she has laid in East London that others have the privilege of building upon.  On Saturday at our Urban Expression Community day we reflected on one of our values which says:

We respect others working alongside us in the inner city and are grateful for the foundations laid by the many who have gone before us.

In response we wrote on bricks the names of those who have laid foundations in our neighbourhoods and gave thanks for them, adding our own fingerprints and DNA in the concrete as we seek to play our part in laying foundations too.

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This is a copy of a post originally included on dontbesheep.  The first video clip has even more resonance with me since yesterday as I visited the OccupyLSX camp outside St Paul’s.  Too many reflections to include here – maybe some to follow once I have got round to blogging the rest of my thoughts about the BMS visit!


Two viral videos have caught my eye in recent weeks.

The first is this very funny, controversial video made by a couple of guys questioning some of the laws and controls imposed on us here in the UK – laws which seem to have crept in and become accepted and obeyed without anyone daring to question why.  With an incredible wit and with the passion and communication skills of a seasoned evangelist they enable the scales to drop from our eyes and give us permission to ask why we don’t think twice about complying with so many unwritten and arguably unhealthy laws and expectations. (It is 8 mins long – so grab a coffee before you watch – and make sure you don’t spill it because you will laugh!)

The second video appeared on BBC News yesterday and tells of a 2yr old girl in China who was hit by a van.  Not only did the van drive off but CCTV shows that no less than 16 people walked past the fatally injured girl before someone stopped to help.  The reasons seem complex and  knee-jerk theories appear to centre around people being reluctant to help for fear of  being liable for fees for medical help or being blamed for the incident.  One quote said:

“There’s been so many cases where people have been treated unjustly after doing good things”.

A modern day Parable of the Good Samaritan if ever there was one!

These two stories cause me to ponder the gift of asking questions and I find myself reflecting on why many people, organisations and churches find it so threatening when people pose them.  Is it because when people ask questions it opens the possibility of those in authority losing control?  Is it because most of our self-confidence is so low that questions feed our insecurities?

But yet asking questions can help us to reflect on why things are the way they are and seek better possibilities.  Asking questions also releases us from the disabling fear of not conforming and gives us power to act justly even at the risk of personal cost or false accusation.

I am intrigued by the fact that Jesus seemed to ask many more questions than he appeared to give straight answers.  In fact I could well imagine Jesus standing with a megaphone pointing out the obvious, asking the questions, mocking the system, making people think and reminding people that there are always other options.

The opening verse of Romans 12 challenges us:

‘Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.’

Let’s not be sheep – Let’s ask questions!