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Elder than before

Well hello. It’s been a long time since I posted anything hasn’t it! Well, it’s a new year and a new start and I feel I have a few new things to reflect on, so I thought I would try and start blogging again, more for my own benefit than anyone elses! I am not presuming that I have anything particularly profound to share, but I do feel that by writing my reflections I assist my own thought-processes, and in the midst of that there may be one or two things that help you ponder your own situations also … so let’s rock and roll!

Over the last 18 months or so I have been on a process of discernment concerning an invitation to become an elder of a group called Servants, (an elder is a kind of voluntary advisor). I have known of their commitment to live in slum communities in Asia for some time, and enjoyed a rich season when their former UK coordinator, Helen Sidebotham, helped key contributors of several UK national organisations focussed on serving and learning from urban priority areas, meet together to build friendship and share ideas.  Servants’ values have always resonated with Urban Expression‘s and so when the invitation to consider becoming one of their international elders came I knew it was something I should give serious thought to.

IMG_5805The discernment process required a visit to one of their international teams, and a foot operation delayed this longer than I hoped, but eventually in October I went to visit one of their teams in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Living with a friend of the team in their slum community was a privilege and a deep opportunity for learning and I feel that there are several things worth reflecting on.

I have subsequently said yes to becoming an elder, and so 2015 sees me learning more about the people involved in this humble organisation and finding ways to support the volunteers who are choosing to live in some of our most densely populated areas of the world.  Over half the world already lives in cities, (see an interactive map here) and in the next two decades this will rocket to three-quarters of the entire population, with slum communities exploding in size and estimates of a third of the world being in constant movement.  So the Servants’ teams are ahead of the curve in many ways and there is much to learn from them. I look forward to this opportunity and will try and share some initial reflections over the coming weeks.


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.

ImageA team of creative thinkers has put together a useful resource called Faith in Food banks which helps groups reflect on this rising phenomenon.  This piece of work, the first of a series of three being pulled together by the Joint Public Issues Team, is geared towards helping Jesus followers (in the main) think about why they might be running (or thinking about running) a food bank.  I think this kind of stuff is vital because whilst it is imperative that we look after the vulnerable, it is also crucial that we look at the bigger picture and ask deeper questions about what food banks say about people, communities and God.

The Mission Theology Advisory Group that I am part of, has also done some work on the theology of food banks. This somewhat more lengthy piece of work offers quite a thorough investigation and is a complementary addition to JPITs resource and is available to download via a link on the right of their page..

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!

IMG_2494 - Version 2Some of you might know that I have serendipitously ended up helping a declining Methodist congregation re-imagine itself.  The faithful but ageing congregation have contemplated closure several times over recent years and as they once again considered their options last summer, I proposed quite a radical change of direction and suggested we relaunch as a hub for creativity, music and the arts. To my astonishment they went for it!

Momentum has been slowly growing over the last few months and this Saturday we take things up a gear with an official launch event which will hopefully showcase the groups that are beginning to find a home in the chapel and give an example of how the space can be used. I have no idea how many people will come and no clue what will materialise as a result, but it’s turning into quite a fun adventure with bands, poets, organists, choirs, story-tellers, artists and yarn bombers all joining in!

Dave Walker, the chapel’s resident cartoonist, has created a fabulous website which tells more of the story so far, so do check it out if you would like to know more. And if you are in reach of Essex, do feel free to come along on Saturday and  join the fun of the launch event, details of which are below.

Fishermen's Chapel Launch Programme