Category: Spirituality


Anchored%2015.07.15

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At The Fishermen’s Chapel we hold occasionally regular opportunities for stillness and reflection called Anchored. It occurred to me this morning that those who would like to but are unable to get to these events, might like to participate in the quietness of their own space. Others who live too far away to participate may also find the content thought-provoking or might like to adapt the concept for use in their own context. So here is this morning’s ‘Anchored’

Anchored – Breathe – July 2015

Call The Midwife

He called me a midwife. It was an interesting phrase and one that I have had resonance with, so it was affirming when a friend made that observation themselves.  It was a comment made as I explained a new job that I have just started.

Two weeks ago I started a one year, part-time role as the Launch Leader of St Mark’s in 10418444_392524797582507_8564473434353009348_nMarks Gate, which will complement my continuing work as one of the co-ordinators of Urban Expression. This Anglican church on the outskirts of east London has taken a great risk and bulldozed it’s run-down, high-maintenance building, and entered a partnership with a redevelopment group to build a purpose-built complex which will seek to serve this community. More than 50 flats will be used by the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham to provide much needed accommodation in our capital, 1 home will be used specifically to house those who have been homeless and 3 flats will be available for other church use, perhaps by a team of volunteers or a ‘missional community’ maybe. The ground floor will be given to the church and includes a large central community cafe area, large and smaller meeting rooms (one with a sprung floor and one that might become a fitness room), staging for theatre productions, new pre-school/nursery facilities, sanctuary and garden.

The recently retired, hard-working and long-serving vicar has worked diligently to bring this into being to ensure a long-term, effective, generous Jesus-centred presence in this community which finds itself pushed and pulled between boroughs and therefore in the lowest 10% of deprivation. Because the vicarage is also part of the redevelopment they have been unable to appoint a new vicar as yet, so this exciting baby initiative needs a midwife to try and bring it safely into existence while the process of advertising for a new priest gets underway.

10924715_10153015664656145_7062367970030198955_nSo my midwifery bag is packed with a willingness to listen to the church and the community, a growing understanding (through my project management of The Fishermen’s Chapel) of helping a church take risks and grasp opportunities that come their way, and a belief that communities that have frequently felt marginalised have immense strength and heaps to teach wider society. But this is going to be a big baby, so I am also a little nervous!

I increasingly recognise that I enjoy starting things, imagining new possibilities and building teams… and then get itchy feet and a little bit bored! So this opportunity to walk with this church through this year of transition really excites me. Some may know that I am not usually a fan of church buildings – I have had people walk out and others call me the spawn of Satan for suggesting we might become more effective followers of Jesus if we close our church buildings! – but I have said publicly that IF you are going to invest in a new building, for goodness sake make sure it has a cafe, children’s facilities and a gym! So 10945542_393610480807272_6997419458285906933_nmaking this work is something of a personal challenge for me!

It is only a temporary role, so I will not be moving to the neighbourhood. The church will be advertising for a new vicar very soon and she or he will have the incarnational task and privilege of continuing to contribute to, build and serve community. If you are an Anglican priest looking for a multi-cultural congregation who have shown immense courage by embarking on this adventure of pioneering, and are passionate about urban, outer-city estates, keep your eyes open for the ad 🙂

 

 

At the beginning of each new year it has become common place for people, especially the scholarly, to review the books they’ve read. I am not particularly scholarly and don’t read to relax, however I was curious to remind myself what books I’ve tackled this last year and was pleasantly surprised by what I’ve digested. get-attachment.aspx-6

Faitheist is an honest, humble and though-provoking biography of a young man who ‘became a Christian’ but then rejected religion because if it’s ability to painfully exclude and manipulate people, but who has ended up being an advocate of inter-faith dialogue and partnership. Some deep challenges for people of faith and atheists who seek the welfare of society and a great example of someone who refuses to hate.

The Reason I Jump is a delightful biography written by someone with autism. A precious insight into the mind of a remarkably self-aware person living on the autistic spectrum.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers, The Urban Halo and The Sound of Worlds Colliding are each real stories and reflections from people living in or alongside slum communities around the world. The latter two are written or edited by people who have been part of Servants teams, the charity which I have recently become an elder of (see former post). One of them, Craig Greenfield has since developed the inspiring Alongsiders initiative, equipping those who have grown up in slum communities to mentor children growing up alongside them in those neighbourhoods. It was a delight to meet him and hear more whilst in Phnom Penh. The love of these authors for these neighbourhoods-become-home is tangible, but so is their cry for the rest of the world to engage with these marginalised communities that are rapidly housing the majority of the world’s population.

Whilst staying in the slum community in Phnom Penh I chose to re-read the Gospel of Mark from my host’s doorstep. It was healthy to read it from a different perspective, one which looks far more like the original context than my developed world, privileged, powerful perspective. It made me interpret some bits quite differently and I scribbled lots of questions around the text which I will come back to one day. I interspersed this with reading Scarcity, an intellectual investigation into how lack of time, food, security, or anything else, makes us react. A little light on the practical solutions for this activist, but it did suggest there are some similar responses to be aware of in our efforts to counteract poverty.

I visited the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum whilst in Phnom Penh. It is an essential but awful visit to make. Whilst there I heard the story of Chum Mey, a prisoner at the school, turned prison, turned museum. Although tortured, he avoided death because he was an artist and was regularly called upon to paint members of the Khmer Rouge. At the end of the tour I met him at a stall where he sells his book Survivor, the triumph of an ordinary man in the khmer rouge genocide. He has committed himself to tell the story in order to prevent such genocide happening again. In the intro he says remarkably:

“…I do not condemn the people who tortured me. If they were still alive today and if they came to me, would I still be angry with them? No. Because they were not senior leaders and they were doing what they had to do at the time. I consider them victims like me, because they had to follow other people’s orders. How can I say I would have behaved differently? Would I have had the strength to refuse to kill if the penalty was my own death?…Even the ones who tortured me, they also lost parents and family members,”

In a similar vein, using real life global scenarios Andrea Riccardi in Living Together investigates our yearning to live in a peaceful society whilst surrounded by conflict and violence. Exploring issues of globalisation, identity and cohabitation from various standpoints, it charts changes throughout history, attitudes to religious groups and even raises the awkward topic of jihad.

Incarnate: The Body of Christ in an Age of Disengagement is a story- and theologically-rich investigation into contemporary issues which might tempt people to excarnate, or disengage, themselves from the world and communities they find themselves in – to be present but not available. This, Frost argues, is counter to what the incarnate, enfleshed, embodied Jesus models and so he includes examples of how to take root, embrace place, and appreciate who we have been made to be as humans. Rarely have references to films, zombies, porn, cities, clicktivism and menstruation all appeared in the same theological book!  It was contemporary, thoughtful, grounded and affirming.

To be honest, I am only half-way through Half The Sky: How To Change The World. It is a thoroughly disturbing examination of how women and girls are treated around the world, yet inspires the reader with incredible stories of how many have overcome. “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict”, says a former UN force commander of the extortionate number of women raped in war. And the authors suggest “it appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century”. Reading this is like having a bucket of cold water thrown over your head to awaken you to such routinised genocide, and provokes the religious to deep soul-searching as we share more than a hint of culpability in shaping attitudes which promote inequality.

Bnw8VRaIYAEfnm1.jpg-largeLife is a constant journey and process of reorienting ourselves to our context and circumstances.  The moment we cease to be open to this possibility and convince ourselves that stability of life or thought is normal, we become slaves to fear and grief and fail to encounter neither the painful reality of the unknown nor discover the joyous beauty of new creation hewn from discomfort and disorientation.

Those who exhibit courage, tenacity, humility and grace to grapple with the unexpected, the unprepared for, the surprising and the unwanted will plough new depths of their soul and, if patient and vulnerable enough to invite others into their struggle, will inspire and give permission for them to embrace a narrative of rebirth too.

I am grateful for several friends who have modelled this grace, honesty and vulnerability to me in profound ways these past couple of weeks.

Psalm 23 for the workplace

I have sometimes used this version of Psalm 23 which is re-written to relate specifically to the workplace.  Whenever I use it several people always ask for it, so I thought I would post it here.  To be honest I only found it by chance and although I have tried, I cannot see who has written it.  If anyone knows, please feel free to add a credit.

 

The Lord is my boss, and I shall not want.

He gives me peace, when chaos is all around me.

He gently reminds me to pray and do all things without murmuring and complaining.

He reminds me that he is my source and not my job.

He restores my sanity every day and guides my decisions, that I might honour him in all that I do.

Even though I face absurd amounts of emails, system crashes, unrealistic deadlines, budget cutbacks, gossiping coworkers, discriminating supervisors, and an achy body that doesn’t cooperate every morning, I still will not stop…..for He is with me!

His presence, His peace, and His power will see me through.

He raises me up, even when they fail to promote me.

He claims me as His own, even when the company threatens to let me go.

His faithfulness and love are better than any bonus cheque.

His retirement plan beats every pension there is!

And, when it’s all said an done, I’ll be working for Him a whole lot longer…..

and for that, I bless his name!