Friday, 31 December 2010

happy new year!

Well we're on the brink of 2011 & I need to begin to surface after Christmas. I love this particular Banksy and have been thinking a little about it over the last couple of weeks. The last I heard, 1 in every 8 pounds spent in the UK was spent at Tesco's - nothing particular against Tesco's as it's actually our own 'corner shop', but the power of the few seems to be a growing phenomena. So, on the brink of another year, I'm wondering where we're going next?
I'm wondering about this in church terms too. I've recently begun to look at the statistics, so far, gathered as a result of the October collection of figures. My first reaction has been a temptation to sink into a sea of despondency as I genuinely anticipated them looking better in the West at least. However, the figures are down again in such a way as suggests our Baptist  churches are still shrinking in numerical terms, however anyone wishes to massage the figures. The outlook is not great either - looking at the percentage of those 75+ among our congregations.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was great, which we saw in 3D Christmas week. Still didn't manage to see Of Gods and Men, so Glen Marshall will be disappointed, but I'm grateful for his enthusiastic commendation and will get there as soon as.
Absolutely loved The Nativity on BBC. Not read any reviews - must do that, but not really had time. For me, it brought a number of things to life - yep, I know it's not necessarily accurate, but if it brought me to tears having lived through 30+ years as a Christian, it must have something to commend it. More importantly, I'm sure it must have spoken powerfully to many other people to whom the story of Jesus' birth has previously been unaccessible.
Shopped till we dropped today - would hate to give anyone the impression I'm not caught up in the material pre VAT increase frenzy - it's incarnational is my excuse!

Friday, 17 December 2010

small, simple church

I'm really suspecting more momentum for church planting is bubbling up from a smaller base than we've been used to in the past. I've met and keep meeting more people who are looking to have a go at something new. One of the barriers is clearly the leadership of those in their current churches it seems and we need, generally, to gain a bigger capacity of heart for what God is doing among us is my take. Of course, it's easy for me to say this as I'm no longer feeling that tension as a local church leader between wanting to build the whole group and releasing people into something potentially at a tangent. What I am finding, however, is I'm a useful broker between those with a creative missional energy and their leadership.
Two conversations I've enjoyed in the last week:
One with a vicar where I went into the meeting thinking the message was 'this is our village, keep out' and came out with a very real sense of partnership and co-operation.
The other was talking to someone involved in planting in persecuted countries who received a message whilst we spoke saying someone had been killed in one the churches on Iraq. It's such a message, which makes you realise we're in such a different place here. Great on the one hand, but complacent with it.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Most of my inspiration this advent has come from two particular friends:
      Simeon who I know no more than anyone else and what I read in Luke chapter two.
      Geoff Colmer who told me something about the nature of all good musical composition.

Simeon, it strikes me, lived in hopeful imagination. We simply know how others viewed him – ‘a good man, a man who lived in the prayerful expectancy of help for Israel.’
He waited … patiently, hopefully, righteously…. but he lived out his life in that place of creative tension. The word was now, but not yet. The tension it created in him was only resolved when he held the tiny Jesus in his arms – ‘you now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised.’

Geoff explained recently how any decent musical composition, (whether it be Humpty, Dumpty, or a Wagner Opera, which were the two examples he used) works with a dynamic built around three elements:

Equilibrium – ‘Humpty, Dumpty sat on a wall’
Tension – ‘Humpty, Dumpty had a great fall’, then (sing it out loud or in your head because it gets worse ….) ‘All the kings horses and all the kings men’.
Resolution – ‘Couldn’t put Humpty together again.’

The thing, which struck me especially, is without the tension, conflict, anxiety music lacks dynamism and movement.
I remember when more involved with counselling individuals and couples, so often hearing how ‘last week’ (ie their counselling session with me) had ‘made things far worse’. My response was always ‘that’s very good’. The thing I discovered was things usually had to get worse before they could get better – the tension had to increase. Only when we dare to confront the reality of submerged emotion and repressed feeling do we invariably get close to the real issues, or the resolution people despair for seeking after in grief.

There is no Christmas story of any eternal significance without an Easter story.
There is no resolution without tension.
There is no resurrection without a cross.
There is no Christmas worth having without an advent of the tension of waiting, the frustration of preparation, the infuriating nature of listening, the pain of unrealised hope.

The tree was my favourite image of those I took driving home yesterday. It was absolutely freezing, just getting out of the car to take the photo. A solitary tree waiting for spring.

You may want to look at where today's post is duplicated. This is a regular advent blog, which a whole variety of bloggers contribute to each year.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

I was passing through the kitchen on Sunday and the Andrew Marr show was on – if my life was more organised, I’d record it and sit down Monday morning with a good cup of coffee and watch it more intentionally.
Anyway, I caught a comment around the observation ‘technology has made our lives more comfortable, but actually, underneath, nothing has changed.’ It was made after Andrew Marr had read the headlines from an old copy of a Sunday Newspaper no longer in print – I caught neither the name, nor the year, but it did stay with me.

There’s plenty of truth in this:
Human nature hasn’t changed.
Generally, in the UK, life is more comfortable – it was more than 50 years ago being reflected upon.
The problems referred to do remain – unemployment, economic crisis, severe weather, etc.

So too within the UK churches:
Human nature hasn’t changed.
Life is more comfortable – we have chairs instead of pews, heating instead of coats, screens instead of books, etc.
Whilst the problems remain and are still avoided at all costs the costs have increased in value as too churches are looking downhill.

I don’t Tweet, but maybe I should. I read a fascinating interview with Twitter’s new chief executive, Dick Costolo, at the weekend. A number of things struck me in a new way:
He said ‘I’m currently trying to define what its purpose is long term.’ This a found fascinating – their business is valued at $1bn, but they don’t know what it’s for! Put this in the church landscape and we’re familiar with this argument – don’t do anything unless you’re sure of its purpose versus we’ll just do what we do and God will lead us step by step according to where He leads.
Costolo has taken over as CEO recently from Evan Williams. Williams, was co-founder of Twitter and is moving position to focus on product development. So a key founder is leaving the lead role to focus on something more functional? Now, there’s a lesson we could learn if we’re to explore, a little more, the uncharted territory of Ephesians four.
‘When Twitter reaches its potential, that’s success. And its not done that yet. It will have done so only when billions of people around the world are using Twitter on a daily basis to consume the majority of their information in real time.’ – wow! That’s why I’m thinking I need to get into Twitter, even if I don’t Tweet for a while yet!

Monday, 29 November 2010


Just been to one of those meetings where a group of church leaders wanted to do something next easter. The suggestion was to turn something designed a few years ago aimed at inviting new people to become part of the 'easter experience' into a church service for church goers. Novel idea, but can;t help thinking we've done that one!
So, mightily refreshing to view this clip sent from my friend Paul. Popped it here in the hope it might give someone an idea...

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

small again is beautiful

I seem to be having another round of conversations where the issue of church membership keeps arising – again! However, so does the question of small groups, which appear to have been put on the back burner in many places.
Being part of things Baptist, we have a pretty high view of membership and this has worked well in Christendom. It’s a very useful when you can identify the point of believing in Jesus Christ, belonging to a local expression of the body of Christ and beginning to live according to the expectations of being a new creation in Christ all in one event. When joining that church is also the step we take, arriving at the end of a long journey, which has enabled the accumulation of a more than a superficial understanding of Jesus and the Church along the way life is neat and tidy. Let’s face it most people knew in the UK how they should live as Christian disciples before they set foot in a Christian Church even 30 years ago.
Counting who comes in the front door (whether that be the ‘attenders’ or the ‘members’) does strike me more and more as being not the most helpful means of discerning what God is doing among us. These, however, remain the best measures we have. Of course, when the number of members equalled the number of missionary disciples, to use the jargon, that was OK. How do we count the number of those who go out the front door – sent into the world as disciples as it were?
This is where the small group conversations come to the fore. In one conversation, with one of our newish Ministers, recently he told me they had about forty members and about forty people meeting in small missional cell groups during the week. Each group is not entirely made up of the same people, but he’s onto something I’ve no doubt. My hunch is this church will grow beyond its current numbers, whichever figures they count, in the next year – because forty people focused upon living missionally will make a difference. It’s even more than a tiny mustard seed.

Monday, 22 November 2010

front room

Went around Front Room 2010 yesterday. Front Room is an art trial, which has now been going for ten years in Totterdown. It's grown significantly over the years and understandably so because some of the work is superb. Obviously, it varies, but that's according to taste, although with 200 artists now taking part, there's bound to be something for everyone. There's over 60 venues now and I'm delighted Totterdown Baptist Church pay host to a number of them. They're now over 4000 visitors, which has risen from 2000 only a few years ago.
Having admired so much of the work during yesterday afternoon, I came away with the words of a postcard in someone's hallway ringing in my ears - 'I wanted to go out and change the world, but I couldn't find a babysitter'.

Preaching at Blagdon - small village church, but asking some great, big questions. So, why not plant something new in a much bigger place? If our focus is church, it's un-doable, but if it's missional/kingdom, why not? 
Managed to get some more digging done on the allotment - such a relief that in the middle of November, there was no one else down there - a sign (we hope) once the digging's done, we wont need to sign our whole lives over to becoming sustainable!

Three points for Liverpool, so still on the up. Is it the effect of a change of culture?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

allotment 22b - the first chapter!

Preaching at Totterdown on Sunday, which was good as I hadn't been for some time. Sometimes when you return to a place you notice the changes those there all the time miss. The number of different nationalities has increased, which was hugely encouraging. Next weekend is the Totterdown Art Trail, one of a number now in and around Bristol. The church, thankfully, have begun to engage with this fantastic opportunity and host a number of exhibitors. I recall over 2000 people walked round last time around and it was pouring with rain for much of the weekend, so we hope for better things this time.
The photo reveals allotment plot 22b, our very own allotment, which we began to dig last Saturday. You'll notice there's a bit of work to be done! As my friends are all asking 'when will you have time?' it's going to be interesting. Certainly a challenge to make time. It's whole new world, just along our road in the allotments. There are 4500 allotments in Bristol, about 150 among 'ours'. As there's such a waiting list now, only half plots are issued to newcomers, so this represents alot more people than the number of units. They even have a shop for seeds, canes etc. (only opens 3 hours a week and we take a turn). It's a significant community, so this should be interesting apart from the fresh veg.
On beginning I did, however, feel like I was back at school and not brought the right protractor, or something. I was asked, eyes clearly on my rather dirty looking spade, 'are you going to dig with that?' I considered a number of replies, which I contained within the boundaries of thought. I then heard a story of one infamous lady who turned up with a spade on which concrete had set, who was advised to 'go home, spend three hours on getting your spade so you can see your face in, or buy a new one.' That three hours was repaid many times over in increased efficiency apparently. Now, having had a demonstration of my spade's ineffectiveness, compared to someone's well cared for mirror like precision instrument, I came come and started sharpening my spade!
Later I'm off to a group of deacons to tell them to do the same thing!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

church planting and/or BU Council?

It's been an interesting week - so far! 
Yesterday was a little fraught. I'd returned from BU Council a day early to talk with a small church about possible closure, or at least that's the language some people have unfortunately been using. 
Anything but! It's a church we thought we were trying to re-plant, so it was clearly going to be catastrophic to end their life together and long history come to an end, even though everyone remaining recognises the need for a very different way of being to reflect and embed the good news in this community.
Not a good start when the car doesn't start! Assumed it was battery, which did have loose leads, but no - starter motor. Good old RAC (and thanks Ian Bunce for the tip off I could use my Tesco Clubcard points for a renewal because I'd only just done it). Left the RAC man fixing the car and I took a taxi to get to the next meeting - £11!! for 4.7 miles. I'm so out of date with taxi fares and I admit I paid Mike nothing for the lift home - but thanks.
Anyway we faced a familiar problem - what do you do about structure, buildings, governance requirements with so few people?
Church planting among Baptists is struggling with the system, which assumes church is what church was - in terms of a Minister paid, a group of people we call a church wanting a life together as it was twenty years ago, a structure of governance revolving around finance and fabric and a Christendom assumption people will just turn up.
Sadly we are still keeping in place a reversal of the idea - Christology shapes missiology shapes ecclesiology. Baptists began, I believe, with Christology. It was the central idea 'Jesus is Lord' which gave legs to the shape of their life together. Sometime later when this movement was messy, vibrant, challenging basic values assumed in society and seeing people know for themselves the lordship of Christ, we developed something now referred to as 'our ecclesiology'. Aspects of this remain as relevant now as the day Conrad Grebel and others were baptised - after all, didn't Helwys and Smyth get he virus from the continent? However, some is a reflection of a later day and is drawn from wider society. Sadly, the desire for Baptist to become respectable and aspire to the same status as proper Churches were influences too. So, what do we do? What comes first the ecclesiology or the Christology? What really makes us 'Baptist' - Jesus or history (and a very selected reading of it). I know which I want to get my vote (!!)
In this particular case, we're trying to find ways forward, which remove some of these obligations from a small group until much later, but this group already have the baggage from the past. Effectively we'll try and build a mission team of twelve (to satisfy Trust requirement) who will have to be the trustees, but their responsibility will be to establish missional discipleship and grow a variety of networked groups. Someone said 'sounds like what a church and  leadership should be' - and, of course, therein lies many of our problems. Separation of structure from purpose, process from outcomes, values from vision.
Now that started me thinking again about the BU Council and where this week I was seeing this thing called Baptist movement most clearly and there I'd better stop.

Monday, 8 November 2010

St Fagans - on retreat

We’ve been away for what has now become an annual 24 hour retreat. The ‘we’ is a cluster of Regional Ministers from three associations. We’ve done this twice now and have booked next year, so it’s a firm tradition!
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people dwell together in unity (psalm 133).
We worked with two passages from Joshua 3 & John 15 and there were so many good things about the 24 hours. I do believe every Minister needs some friends to whom they are accountable and we all need times when we’re intentionally apart from the normal stuff specifically to allow God to put the spotlight on our hearts and minds.
Some of the light relief (by no means all!) was provided by our South Wales brothers who took us to St Fagans – the Welsh National History Museum. It’s a fascinating place – one of Europe’s leading open air museums with over 40 buildings, reflecting different historical periods, which have been re-erected in the 100 acres of parkland.  The wall paintings here are in St Teilo’s Church, erected in stages between 1100 and 1520 and then re-erected around 20 years ago here. The paintings have been restored to reflect, as accurately as possible, the originals from 1500-1530 and I just thought they remain very powerful for the second visual age. As for the Team Leader in the old Unitarian pulpit ..... we can only assume he's bringing calling for repentance.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

the wonderful lake District.

Just back from a week off in the Lakes. Plenty of rain - no day without some, but a fantastic week. I have to say, having been walking last year in the Annapurna foothills, I think the English Lake District tops it in many ways.
My motto this week was 'walk, don't run' - not simply because I left my trainers at home, intending to spend each day walking. We managed to walk on all but one day, despite the rain, and it was magnificant.
Walk don't run - I took my laptop for DVD's, but resisted e-mail, which was helped by not signal I guess.
Walk don't run - I can think when I run, believe it or not. I must admit, I was surprised, but the problem with it is, where does it go? At least walking encourages a slower pace all round - a leisurely tea room afterwards, etc, etc.
Walk don't run - how can we do, therefore. what Jesus did? Walk everywhere! 
I'm not entirely stupid and am not suggesting we all go our and by sandals, but if walking provided the environment to think, pray and talk to fellow travellers, where are the practices which ensure ample time for thoughts to ferment?
We returned home to find out we've reached the top of the allotment waiting list, so maybe there's ana snwer to prayer here.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

PMC missional experimenting.

Just when you think things are looking up, the ceiling falls in. Admittedly, that's how I felt after the Mersey derby game, but when we returned home on Sunday, after a good lunch with Steve and Linda, the back bedroom ceiling had done just that. A leak .... drip, drip, drip until the whole thing collapses under the weight. Prophetic? Hope not.

Yesterday was a PMC steering group day, which was good fun (another good lunch). We began looking at the missional experimenting phase of this three year process we're working through - along with eight churches (4 Baptist, 3 Anglican and one hybrid LEP). It's going well, although I'll be surprised if all the churches involved feel the same way. 

Why? One of the significant themes arising from the retreat days each church has recently had, facilitated by ourselves, is the process is clearly throwing up how the church system is not working from a missional perspective. This I think is one of the reasons why the PMC process scores over most of the programmes out there. You can't become missional by attending a conference. You can't become missional by changing the structure. You can only have a hope of changing by experimenting and attempting to learn from the actual practice. In various situations, the churches can't get to the practice because of their system. The fault lines are drawn in different places, but the good thing is, PMC provides a framework and sufficient time to address them - if churches are willing. What tends to happen without any commitment to an on-going process is we simply withdraw and hold back - again.

Friday, 15 October 2010

water, water everywhere .... ?

OK, I didn't realise it was blog action day, but it is a great idea. The focus this year to focus awareness on the problem of scarce clean water.
In a world where ....

African women walk over 40 billion hours each year carrying cisterns weighing up to 18 kgs to gather water, which is usually still not safe to drink...

Water wars are beginning. The conflict in Darfur is at least, partly attributable, to the lack of access to clean water.

The Christian Church is too quiet about a growing world crisis.

It takes 24 litres of water to produce one hamburger (don't ask me how they work that one out!).

something is fundamentally wrong.

made in Dagenham

We went to see ‘Made in Dagenham’ this week and as I have a few friends who hail from there, I’d better watch what I say! No need on this occasion, however, because I thought this was simply a great film.
For those who haven’t caught up with this one, it’s about the strike at the Dagenham Ford factory in 1968 that led to the Equal Pay Act. As the film decided upon for our next film club discussion, it had many of the ingredients for plenty to talk about.

Well made – Philip French (Guardian) introduced his review with …. ‘given the Calandar Girls treatment. Well, I liked the Calendar Girls too and my very near name sake directed both, so biased? I thought it was done well.
Thought provoking – wow 1968 wasn’t long ago is what made me sit up straight. I’m old enough to remember who won the League & FA Cup in 1968, but not who went on strike. A lot has changed since then. What still needs to happen?
Feel good – I don’t think it’ll be just those who consider themselves to be of working class stock who’ll feel good about this. It felt like a triumph for the working class, women, the underprivileged, the overlooked, the downtrodden, the ordinary majority, etc. Yep felt good – even a round of applause afterwards, but then Tony Benn was a local MP at the time.
Funny – I laughed out loud several times, bit wasn’t embarrassed, didn’t even get poked in the ribs, because everyone else seemed to enjoy it too.
Serious – what does this teach about the Kingdom of God? That’s the question I’ll be taking to the film club discussion. I’m also hoping one of my friends who told me his Auntie was one of the women will be letting me know whether local Christians engaged with this in any way.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

the crux

If you’ve not seen ‘The Crux’ I would certainly recommend anyone taking a look. I didn’t know it existed until Sunday evening, but what a find!
I had to lead prayers this week at NST and only realised Sunday evening, so what do I do? I thought I’d read ‘The Bridge’ which is one of Friedman’s Fables because I wanted to flag up the question of how we determine what our responsibility is in a variety of situations. I thought I’d quickly have a google search to see whether many people had said much about Edwin Friedman’s work recently and eureka found this…..
You can find this short film on youtube too.
Read this and other fables in Friedman’s Fables by Edwin Friedman.
Basically a man is taking a quiet stroll across a bridge when he’s stopped by a stranger, who asks him for a moment’s help. The man agrees, instantly finding himself entangled in a life or death relationship with this stranger. The man must then decide whether or not he will accept responsibility for the life he holds in his hands.
It’s used as a discussion starter for counsellors and therapists about the need to hang on and the right to let go, but I think it has a huge amount for Ministers to usefully explore.
Is the Church a breeding ground for unhealthy dependency? Discuss.

Monday, 11 October 2010


I'm thinking about something one of our Minister's shared with me last week. He quoted someone who'd told him 'most young Ministers overestimate what they can achieve in one year, but underestimate what they can achieve in ten.'
It's very appropriate as I'm at our national Settlement Team meetings this week. I've discovered, since I've been part of this group it's often been shrouded in mystery. I confess, as a local Minister, I never gave it a thought and so I'm bemused by those who do. However, basically, we act as the go-betweens between Churches who are looking for Ministers and Ministers who are looking for Churches. Without going into all the details (not because they're secret, but because it's fairly tedious to relate) we go through the Ministers names, one at a time, and their details get sent wherever they request, or a Regional Minister suggests.
Anyway, back to the quote - I'm sitting here thinking why is this only true of 'younger Ministers?' - seems to fit pretty much most.
It's often said a Minister sees the most fruit after they've stayed in one place more than seven years. Of course, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy - in that longer pastorates only tend to occur where there's a good grounding of trust and a n environment of fruitfulness, even if this is yet to show in significant numerical rises. Partnerships which end before then are not necessarily unfruitful, but people move on quicker where there's tension, for whatever reason.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

more than a game....

I felt sick on Sunday. I was travelling to preach at Winstone – harvest festival at a small village church in our region. However, it wasn’t nervousness about the event to come, but listening to the harsh reality of Liverpool descending into the relegation places in the Premiership. This is the once undisputed greatest team in Europe. This
So, what, I can almost hear anyone reading saying and at this point moving swiftly onto another blog.
So why, I hear myself saying, should I register such an emotional reaction to something many sensible Christians would consider trivial?
Truth is, many people are more bothered about the ups and downs of their football clubs, or many other things, than the organisational ups and downs of their church – especially blokes. However, there’s also some big system questions going round my head … and heart.
Liverpool have announced they have some new owners today. Liverpool fans a fan groups have been talking about the need for ‘integrity’, ‘values’ and ‘traditions’ things we feel have been submerged by the recent owners, Hicks and Gillett. Surely it’s down to the players and/or the manager? What part do the owners have? Is there any connection between those who run the club and those lead the club and perform on the pitch?
I’m one of those who sees a connection between the fact LFC have made the worst start to a season for 57 years and the fact there’s such a desperate situation behind the scenes in the backroom. For me it’s the connection between the cultivators of the environment and the deliverers of the values.
Bill Shankly developed a culture. His legacy was something, which lived on beyond him and the reason why supporters have been so angry recently is because the values he instilled are under such threat. Just a football club …. don’t make me laugh. 

church planting movements

This week I’m at a conference – ‘Church Planting Movements’ with David Watson. Very interesting and hugely challenging. TiM have facilitated this and the question posed is ‘time for Europe’? We’re well familiar with the fact the church is growing on every continent apart from Europe and so we do pose a rather different challenge.
Well, I came because we’re planting, but at a rate of one at a time and I’ve been exploring how we can begin to multiply. I’m also very conscious our models, in the main, are limiting by their very nature – too resource hungry and not proving to be particularly reproducible.
One of the key challenges I’m facing this week is the extent to which the models were hearing about are transferable to the UK. Been talking to Pete here who’s working with the Simple Church ideas in and around Nottingham and he seems pretty confident what we’re hearing is transferable, so it seems the next step is to give some of it a go and see.
I’m a little stunned by the lack of UK focused people here – I understand it was limited to 50 spaces and because a couple of mission agencies bought in 2/3 of the places it’s bound to be limited, but it still doesn’t explain the seeming lack of interest. One explanation I’m leaning towards is because we still have a one planter, one church model and we have very limited experience of multiple planters or, as we’re focusing upon this week, facilitating planters.
My hunch to try and work with a group of non-trained ordinary people has been backed up by what we’re hearing, but the main ‘planters’ used are not always Christians, which is another step we hadn’t thought of. Basically they become the facilitators of a new group of interested people and the discipling process begins well before faith I Jesus is a reality.
It’s been good to revisit Pilgrim Hall even if we’ve had almost constant rain. 

Friday, 1 October 2010

film clubs?

Now, hold onto your seats everyone, the West of England Baptist Association is getting trendy! We've just started a blog 'making a difference - the unrolling blog story of mission in the West of England'
I realise not all who pop in here are from the West, but I hope it'll be of interest beyond our boundaries.
It's hopefully a conversation starter, or a help along the road of discovery how we can best engage people, in a meaningful way, concerning the reality of Jesus. I was asked a while back by someone in Swindon: 'do you know of any churches who are finding ways ahead, which would help us engage people attending our craft club into a more spiritual conversation?' We ended up sending some ideas, one or two contacts, resources, etc., but basically were left asking the question how do people get a handle on this stuff without reading six books, or simply copying someone else's idea? For me, it's the beginning of the realisation of something I'd hoped our website could become from the off, but realise we've a long way to go. If anyone has any great ideas of how we can develop more the idea of a forum to look, learn and input thoughts, ideas, patterns, which can help encourage others, please let us know.
The picture today is from the entry re the film club Nailsea Baptist have begun - I know others are into this arena, so it would be good to hear from some of those too and provide a place others can discover they don't have to re-invent the wheel every time.
You can have a look at the early blogs via the front page of

Thursday, 30 September 2010

20:20 vision or nightmare?

Oh boy, where are we going? I noticed the headline (well, couldn't miss it) in the Baptist Times the week before last - 'Church decline over?' I know it was a discussion and I recognise there was a question mark, but we are so desperate to convince ourselves the projections aren't likely to happen. Frankly, this disturbs me.
What also concerns me is, as someone who's sometimes accused of being a naive optimist, I'm in danger of being cast in the grumpy old man pessimist, talk down anything good, mould. Our 20:20 vision questionnaire among our own churches is an attempt to get to, where I think most things start from, present reality. It's already interesting to hear people's responses to this. 
Some are saying because they anticipate the future being bright, there's no need to think about such questions as where they're going because God will continue to lead them. I'm all for that on the one hand, but see churches frequently restricting growth because they've not facilitated more space, more leaders, etc. - anticipating further growth and development sounds too much like planning for some to grasp it seems. In the present climate of a reaction to anything which sounds modernistic, or management oriented, this is anathema.
Others are saying, it's a waste of time thinking ahead (we want to know where people think they'll be in ten years time - hence 2020) because In one particular response, 'planning for the future is a red herring for what we should be doing here and now.' In this case, there's a sense of present paralysis because surviving today is all that matters. In ten years time they wont be here!
The problem is the past, present and future are all actually linked together. Yesterday is the biggest predictor of what I'll be like today and today is the best indicator to how I'll act tomorrow. Character is forged not produced and so, it seems, are churches. Not surprising really as it's people, which make them up. The transition from organisation to organic is not proving to be a comfortable one.
The photo? This years holiday - sunrise, or sunset? Equally beautiful, but one brings the arrival of light, the other night.

Monday, 27 September 2010

church planting 101.

Here's a brief response to the church planting 101 weekend just past - basically 38 people participated in the Church Planting 101 course held at Patchway Baptist Church, Bristol on Saturday 25 September. Jointly sponsored by WEBA, Bristol Baptist College, the Incarnate Network and Urban Expression, this day event explored the basic principles and practices of church planting, illustrated with three case studies from practitioners. Feedback from participants - not only Baptists, but Anglicans, URC, Methodists and others - was very positive. For some, this was their first encounter with teaching on church planting; others were already involved and looking for encouragement and further guidance.
The course will run again in the autumn of 2011, but before that there will be an opportunity to explore similar issues on Emerging Church 101, to be held at the same venue on 14-15 January. For those wanting a more extensive and wide-ranging course, there is the  Crucible course in Birmingham, organised by some of the same organisations, which runs over three weekends in October, February and July. For further information on either of these courses, contact Stuart Murray Williams

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

survival, or blessing?

"Well, did you survive seeing the Pope?" - one question I've been asked this week, which I guess was not asked with the intention of the literal meaning of those words, but did highlight one of the words, which kept coming into my mind - 'bizarre'.
"Well, are you going to blog on your response tot he service on friday?" was another question, which has prompted me to stop and try and verbalise one or tow thoughts.....
Bizarre - why? For me to be there seemed odd to me for all sorts of reasons. In terms of social background, (I told Maggie she had to wear a dress - clearly wasn't brought up to understand 'day dress' meant something else) ecclesiology, political leanings, theological perspectives, having better things to do with my time. 
Yet I was there. Maggie and I went as a couple. I had the opportunity of two tickets and chose to take my wife. I don't habitually invite her to inductions, or other representative events I have to attend, but I did this one. We went to see the Queen too at a Maundy service, we were disappointed not to be able to dine as guests of the Royal navy when in Bristol, but such events are few. Basically, it was a 'social' occasion and on that level it was significant. I enjoyed spotting some of the 'great and good' (this comes into the bizarre nature of my own feelings about being there - Baptist Ministers have not historically been perceived as great, nor good, but then neither have Pope's from our viewpoint!). Douglas Hurd, Norman St John Stevas and other notable ex political leaders, as well as the necessity to be seen present brigade. It was good to see Tony and Gordon apparently enjoying a laugh together. Having said that it was not the most significant social occasion for us even at the weekend. Our 30th wedding anniversary - close family boat-trip above included - took precedence.
Would Jesus have got in? A thought, which struck me in the queue to get through security. We had to have a passport, or photo ID, a utility bill with an address on, a security search. Would Jesus with 'no fixed abode' have got through? Probably not. Does this imply I don't think Jesus was there? Well, actually, I think he sneaked in past the security guards somehow, or another.
It was political. I cheered inwardly at many of the comments made by the Pope and Rowan Williams. I rejoice in the fact the Pope says it as he sees it and challenges governments to pay attention to the claims of Christianity, points our Britain disregards the moral and ethical fabric of our background at our peril and people seem to listen, at least politely. Christendom is not entirely dead, but whether it will be promoted from the air of the ceremonial and traditional frameworks of Britain, or be relegated down to the traditional historical frameworks remains to be seen.
It was historical. First time, this that and the other and I was glad 'to be there'. But was the historical significance an indication of the radically reduced significance of the church in UK society, which is one factor in the greater willingness and tendency to focus upon Christian unity. I would not have been there, I suspect twenty years ago and I probably would not have been invited then either.
As a service for Christian worship, I benefitted from the opportunity, although it was difficult to fully focus on the task in hand (think about that one and you'll see the problem). I thought someone somewhere put some great thought into the choice of hymns and wording used for prayers. Very clever, some provocative. I appreciated the first line of the first hymn "Christ is the sure foundation'.
"Did you actually see the Pope?" - well, I saw his head one way up the aisle. We were ten metres away from the action, but it was hidden behind an impressive bit of Westminster Abbey. Impressive building, but theyw eren't built for participatory worship of a present kind, enjoyed the incense though! Of course, that was the root of the my problem - I went to an Abbey to see the Pope - and that's not why you're supposed to go.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

me, the Pope, but probably not tea ....

I'm genuinely quite hesitant to say this, but I'm off to Westminster Abbey with the Pope tomorrow. Well, at least that's the reason I've given for not being able to do a number of other things invited to.
Obviously, 'with the Pope' is a significant exaggeration of what I anticipate will be the case. It's a 'service of prayer' at which the Pope will be in attendance - even that's my take as the official invitation says something like 'a service of evening prayer in the presence of ...'
Yesterday I walked into a gathering of our Ministers as they were talking about the Pope's visit and there was much laughter, but also a range of very sensitive issues mentioned, which have come into sharp focus with this visit.
I've had a range of responses from people when they've become aware I've accepted this invitation. There are those who probably think I've sold my soul and this ecumenical nonsense has eroded the last remains of non-conformity in my blood. On the other hand, there are those who simply think what a great social occasion to have been invited to, what do you have to wear, etc. Of course, most fall somewhere in between, but inwardly I also have, and continue to, experience an oscillation between both extremes. Thankfully most of my waking life is lived in-between too!
Does it imply I agree with Catholic doctrine on a whole range of issues? Obviously not.
Does it suggest I support any suggestion of 'cover-up' in child abuse scandals? Absolutely not.
Does it suggest I'm an inquisitive human being who responds to the flattery of being invited to such an historic occasion? Clearly, the evidence suggests this is also obvious.
Does it suggest I've had to compromise something of my own beliefs and understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ? Honestly - I've experienced no such tensions.
Does it make me uncomfortable - because the way I suspect the media coverage influences how some people regard the church, including renegade Baptists? Frankly yes.
Will I be wearing a hat, or a papal decoration, both of which are allowed on the invitation ......

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

just a staff meeting?

I just had to blog about our staff meeting this morning. On the one hand not very exciting, but from my perspective, a tremendous privilege. It highlights why ‘working’ (I tend to always put that word in inverted commas – being a Minister still doesn’t feel like work!) in a Christian environment seems so strange to many people and some of the ways it is quite different. Of course, whether these are for better, or for worse, will depend.
We met at Lesley’s home. Lesley only works part-time as our administrative assistant, I think her title is. Lesley is off work because she’s had an op on her feet, which has involved nine of her ten toes being broken. Consequently, she’s wearing a pair of not very trendy looking sandals. These are probably not at all like the ones Jesus and the twelve wore as they have a steel sole. Obviously, as her employer this is not best practice, but it was her idea and she lives along the road from the office, she provides good coffee, doughnuts, why argue? We read the bible and prayed together, there were bits of personal stuff to share together – an hour gone. We made some plans, we tried to work out how some stuff could be improved, we talked about new possibilities for which everyone has a will to see happen. This is an exciting team to be a part of and I guess I simply wanted to express my gratitude to God for them all.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

food, glorious food....

This has, so far, been an interesting and fascinating week - and it's only Wednesday! Just had a good chat with Jim Gordon over tea-time who has restored my faith in theological education. Jim is the Principal of the Scottish Baptist College and I happen to be at Regents Park in Oxford because our regular Team Leaders meetings are placed to meet the various Baptist College Principals. 
It was our 30th wedding anniversary on monday, so Maggie and I went out for a meal - and a really good one too at Loch Fyne in Bristol. Of course, it tasted all the better because it cost us very little for reasons I wont go into.... but they are legal.
Then last night, it was Brassiere Blanc in Oxford to mark Pat Took's retirement. Pat, my colleague in London, will be sorely missed for many reasons, but basically because of who she is. It's difficult to believe I'm a Baptist Minister. I don't feel guilty about eating out in such good places, but I do sometimes look over my shoulder for fear someone will report me to Home Mission.
I'm glad we find Jesus eating out with friends and enemies alike on a regular, possibly frequent, basis. I think, if I read him rightly, he wasn't there primarily because of the quality of the food, or the price tag on the bill. I'm not sure he was there because of the quality of the relationships if they're to be tested at the start of the meal, but because of the potential quality which a meal provides an environment over which they can be created. Jesus sent out 72 to 'eat was is set before you' which hasn't been a challenge over the last two evenings, but that's not always the case. It's this food (and drink), which Jesus describes as the 'wages' of mission - one of my fears about our present day professionalisation of ministry is we quickly regard the wages we are worthy of in rather different terms.

Monday, 6 September 2010

a miracle, or two!

Well, I ran the Bristol half marathon at the weekend, raised nearly £6k for a children's centre in South Africa, ordained and inducted Paul Carter at Nailsea, but .... the really significant news in the Coles household was our chickens arrived!
To be exact, we went out out and bought four chickens to install in our coop and newly built run. This one has been called Priscilla and the more amazing news is we had two eggs on Sunday! Now, to the uninitiated, chickens laying eggs is not going to be amazing news, but according to all we've read, we weren't to expect any eggs for at least two weeks. Consequently, Maggie running around the garden with an egg in each hand, exclaiming 'it's a miracle', caught me by surprise and hence no picture! 

quick half marathon update!

Yesterday was the Bristol half marathon and I managed to get round in 1.41.08. People tell me this is very good, but they kind of add a silent 'for your age' afterwards! 
The good news is I've now had £5800 given or promised towards my £6000 target to raise towards building the children's care centre in Zululand. If anyone's missed out on what this is all about, feel free to check 

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

I can't believe it's 1st. September tomorrow and I've only just realised I have to pay my car tax. I've had four days off, but frankly, I need to go back to work for a rest - gardening and building a chicken run to go on the front of our newly delivered chicken coop! I knew all those episodes of The Good Life would begin to bear fruit one day.
It was good not to be preaching on Sunday and I enjoyed just being around. However, I came away from the morning service having had two good chats, which I hope bear fruit. Especially the one with Rob who might know someone who could write a phone app for my missional DNA group materials, which would be fun, I must admit. 
Less than a week to go now until the Bristol half marathon. I have less than £500 to go to reach my £6000 target for the care centre in South Africa -

Thursday, 26 August 2010

where's your canary?

The story in the current world news, which I keep thinking about is of the Chilean miners. 33 miners, trapped 700m underground. It's amazing they were found alive after, I think, 17 days searching, but I understand the news they might not be rescued until Christmas has now reached them - wow!
Now my story (the vague link here is the canary) because the using canaries, as an early warning system in British mines, was in place until 1987. Toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and methane in the mine would kill the bird before affecting the miners. Canaries are well known for their continual singing and so they often provided an audible, as well as visual warning sign of trouble.
Now the church link - I returned from a recent visit to a church thinking 'how many canaries need to die before someone thinks we might just need to do things differently around here?' (probably subconsciously because of the Chilean story - told you there was a link here!).
Basically this church has declined drastically, numerically, over the last twenty years. They've abandoned their sunday evening service, which was a serious blow. They've now had to start giving meetings, which I was told have been going for years (over 25 was quoted), etc.
However, alongside this there was a strong hint, in a whole variety of conversations, we are who we are (I wanted to add 'once were') and we are not going to change - anything.
So, what would I do? I'd buy some canaries! Basically, we've asked all our churches recently to begin thinking and talking about where they think they'll be in 10 years time - if the recent trends at work among them continue. What are the signs we all need to alert us we're actually headed in the wrong direction? If I was miner and my canary fell off its perch, whatever else I'd do, doing nothing would not be an option. My fear is in many churches a swift calculation goes on in people's heads - how old am I? how much air is left? If the answer comes out as 'enough air for me, then someone else can close the door when they leave.
Yeah, OK, not very promising for a thursday morning, but it is August and it is raining - again.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

maybe small is still beautiful....

I went to meet a small village church to see what we might look at together. There were five of them and one of them wasn't part of the sunday congregation, which could number eight, but an infamous week recently was recalled when the visiting preacher turned up to no one! It's a chapel, which has existed for hundreds of years and their independent trustees have grown old and decided there's too little energy to carry on - none of them have been part of the worshipping community in the village for years. It seems strange to me, therefore, this is the meeting which gives me hope from the gatherings I've been in this week more than any - and I've been talking with various groups about much larger and potentially more influential projects. I'm not sure why yet. It may have something to do with the fact the only two old ladies who live in the village itself meet every thursday morning int he chapel to pray and I just sense there's more prayer for the kingdom and the future of this particular place than some of the other loftier concerns. We'll see....

Monday, 16 August 2010

party time

Had a good weekend, especially because we were able to catch up with a number of old friends we haven't seen for too many years - courtesy of a ruby wedding anniversary party.
Returned to Liverpool letting two points slip to draw with Arsenal after leading until the final few minutes. The thing I like about Roy Hodgson (Liverpool's manager for those really not interested) is his manner. He comes across as the epitomy of a non-anxious presence and as I've often looked for parallels between leading a Christian congregation and football management, I like that. Now a non anxious presence cannot guarantee success, but it does make for better relationships and greater understanding of responsibility in a complicated system like a football club.
Inevitably, also meeting a load of old friends, many of whom are in different churches now from the one we were once in together,w e heard a fair number of stories about 'how's your church going?' The role of the key leader, or Minister, featured rather largely in many of the conversations and when you have these summary conversations, you get the headlines, gut impressions, but an indication of how the landscape has changed in a a particular church over a ten, fifteen, or twenty year period in some cases. This is some of what i thought on the way home:

The Minister is too significant.
Church leadership is causing too many problems and not solving many.
No one seems to know what to do.
People are deeply concerned about the future, but feel powerless to influence it.
If we seem incapable of passing our faith on to a new generation of our own children (I was deeply disturbed by how few children of these twenty or so couples are following Jesus today) it is not surprising we are struggling to reach a new generation of new people.

That said it was a great party - good friends, great food (especially the king prawns) and a really good live band. Special thanks to Graham & Gill.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

sweet dreams are made of this

Well, it seems as if it's a good thing Steven Gerrard turned up for England last night. I didn't see it, however, as we went to see Inception. Basically, we got home near 12 & went to bed so I thought it would be interesting to blog with my thoughts as my head is till full of the film and ideas it unleashes. 
I wake up singing, in my head, 'sweet dreams are made of this' the old Eurythmics song, which has some very interesting lyrics about the interface between dreams and reality. For me, (I've been on planet holiday and a different one before that, so no idea what the critics say the film's all about yet) this was what it was all about 'for me'.
OK, to start with I was thinking, what the heck is all this about, because there's various layers and levels and I was not at all sure when they were dreaming and when they were in real time. That clarifies as the film unfolds and it was certainly a film, which drew me in and is still drawing me in the day after - so it must have something going for it. I'm tempted to say it's a brilliant film and my hunch is it will be one of those which grows and grows in popularity and acclaim - of course, I've been wrong before, but I'd recommend anyone seeing it.
It's a psychological thriller. The basic plot being an attempt to enter someone's dream world in order to change their thinking and ultimately decision making to the advantage of others. Can't say more, it'll spoil the ending!
Inevitably, one thing I did especially enjoy was the playing around with the concept of an idea as a virus, which once planted, grows and grows and has the capacity to take over someone's mind. I'm sure Alan Hirsch will love this & I certainly did. Anyway, back to reality ....

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

back from Corsica

Well, we're back from two weeks away in Corsica. Nearly everyone I met before responded in the same way - 'sounds nice, never been'. It is really nice and I have now been. Here's some thoughts:

Wonderful to have two weeks where we could really chill out.
Some amazing scenery practically at every turn of the road, or mile of the coast.
Great to swim in a warm sea.
Good to have some time to read for pure leisure.
Love the French culture, although there's a strong thread of Italian here too, which adds to it all.
Annoyed about a camera problem which meant I lost a week's worth of photos.
The wonder of mobile technology - great when we needed it, but switched off pretty much most of the time.
Need to find out more about the church in Corsica - barely evident.
Heaps of thoughts and reflections, which need to be processed.
Space and time is a gift, which must not be kept wrapped for the next break away.
Feel more like facing today's challenges because of refreshment.
How come I'd never heard of such an amazing place as Bonifacio?
God's creation is too amazing for words.
Corsica has soared in my best places list - not that I have one, but if I had ....

We spent a week each in two different places with a night in a hotel in-between. This is the view from the roof where we barbecued several nights during week one in Propriano. It was such a great spot we preferred to get back and eat there and watch the sun go down than eat out.

Friday, 23 July 2010

a look on the bright side...

Well, Corsica beckons, but I think this has been a good week. There's probably something psychological going on around holiday's coming, everything seems rosy, but thinking about the last few days I developed a warm glow en route home this afternoon on the motorway, which was more than the usual friday evening feeling. So, what's causing all this chaos on the motorway system?
Basically, I think over the last three days I've had three meetings, which were all a reflection of significant potential in each of the churches represented. They were all different from one another and in significantly different places, but there was a confidence in God as well as an expectancy about what God might be doing in the future. To be honest I can;t ask for more than that. In one situation we were thinking about re-planting another church with the help of a larger one, another are re-shaping their structures to face the challenges of the future, the other were a group of elders struggling with some big challenges, but in faith. I might be going on holiday, but the west of England is in good hands!

Monday, 19 July 2010


I'm not planning on reducing any blog entries to once a week, nor am I intending a weekly update on where I've been preaching. However, it does just happen I was at Welton yesterday morning and, along with being at my home church in the evening, it's caused me to think a little more about why we meet on Sundays the way most of us do.
Before all that - I always enjoy meeting people at Welton and it is one of those churches I could easily feel comfortable being a member of. Yesterday, I had some great conversations afterwards with a range of people about how they're engaging during the week with other people, not-yet Christians. A couple leaving the church formally, but not informally (we had a commissioning) to engage more in their own village, a GP talking about his Practice as a place of engagement, a guy involved in the whole re-enactment of US Civil War battles & Western genre in general who's clearly bringing Jesus into their frame and others - no wonder dinner was ready when I returned home!
One of the questions I'm coming away with is what can I help multiply from what I hear and see Sunday by Sunday? It's not about the passing on of good ideas, but helping people to be inspired by one another because there's some great stuff going on.
So, what are we doing when we gather on a Sunday?
The phrase I hear more than any other, when I ask what people are looking for when they gather on a Sunday, I think, is 'to be fed'. 
I guess as Baptists are the pre-dominant group I'm asking, I shouldn't be surprised , or shocked by this. After all, we hold the preaching of the word highly and we are founded upon a foundation which relies upon God speaking through his word - to anyone, which also implies to everyone.
However, I am increasingly disturbed by the answer.
Not because I want to diminish the place of preaching - to be honest I'm not at all a 'let's replace the sermon' person and firmly believe the answer to bad preaching is not no preaching, but good preaching.
Not because, either, I'm not wanting people to be fed, or don't believe anymore in the ability of God's word.
My disturbance, I think, is wrapped up with what this says about people's expectations - Sunday gathering is being regarded as an end in itself in a way I do not believe it was intended. Sunday is the day of resurrection which is why Christians gravitated to this day for worship together. Something of this has been lost and with it teh sense of God re-creating and making all things new.
Yesterday we talked about how different Sunday is when we come together to celebrate who God is and where he's been seen and found in the previous week - both through our living and the wider world. Couple onto this the expectation God will be at work in and through us all next and we're onto something. Regarding the couple commissioned yesterday - it was great, but it in many ways we should not be seeing them as anyone special, or anyone different. We've talked a lot, as Ministers, about the relevance of the workplace, about workplace Ministry, about relating the work of God to the work of people monday-saturday, etc. in recent years. Honestly, how many references do I hear, or see, week by week? How much helps me in my life apart from the organised gathering? What degree of relationship is there between what happens when we gather and what God is up to when we're apart? The answer to all these questions, sadly, is 'next to nothing'. Herein lies a deeply disturbing issue.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Well, I stayed at home last night to watch the World Cup Final. I originally kept the evening free in my diary when the fixtures came out with the vague notion England might be playing! Thats aid, I was glad my pre-tournament tip, Spain, won as I think it was a victory for decent football. That said, it was a strange World Cup, but you can read 'why' in many other places - I still think there's a need for a 'faith in football' blog, which if anyone wants to join me on setting this up, get in touch.
The morning, however, was a different kettle of fish. I was preaching Paulton which is a small church south of Bristol. I announced tot he congregation I have two new heros. More accurately, a hero and heroine - the husband and wife team of Barrie and Sue Clarke. Barrie is a 'retired' Baptist Minister and Sue claims it's mostly down to Barrie, but they are clearly a great team and both have contributed significantly to what can only be described as a huge cultural shift in this particular church community. I'm not sure how old they now are, but Barrie wasn;t just retired when they arrived at Paulton. In seven years the church has turned around. Yesterday there were 43 in attendance including a group of young children. This is a stark contrast to seven years ago - my memory is of about ten people, seriously approaching a reasonable life expectancy and a very formal atmosphere. That's all changed and I came away shouting 'hallelujah', etc.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

all at once

I'm someone who likes to do everything, all at once! It's a personality thing (defect? - certainly in others', who are wired differently, eyes). It gets me into trouble, primarily with myself because I take on too much, attempt things in too little time, frustrate those around me because there's too little attention to detail, get frustrated when things don't happen quick enough.... oh boy, this list could go on for a fair bit.
However, there is something about 'all at once' which is at the very heart of these things called 'movements' and the antithesis is something, which is at the heart of institutionalism.
I've been looking at Jack Johnson's charitable work again following going to see him in Cardiff last week and I have to say the words are great in what and how they convey this sense of movement. See for yourself at but here's a few observations:

"All at once" - why not? He's talking about Global change and realises, as everyone else instinctively knows that change is only feasible in proportion to the people on board. Any one individual is limited by the sphere of their actions, which is why Jesus commenting about 'greater things than these' being done by his disciples only makes sense to me if it's, at least in part, about disciples multiplying his acts, words, etc - increasing the sphere of his operation.

"An individual action, multiplied by millions, creates global change". It says what it does on the tin. He says upfront what's going on here - only you can do something, it does make a difference. However, it's only when we see our small contribution as being part of a much greater purpose will we be motivated to do anything & glean any sense of it being worthwhile and effective. Isn't Jesus demonstrating this is how he works time and time again? Here's something to do, go and do it, before you understand fully what the kingdom of God is all about - when he sends out his disciples, the seventy-two, plus all in the great commission.

"your actions, your choice, your voice" Here's the culturally savvy bit - no one wants to be told anything very much today. The converse is, we only do what we want to do and that's always been the case. The kingdom of God is within you says Jesus and whilst, there's debate around what that means, it usually means we've run out of energy debating. However, doesn't Jesus when he's standing in front of any individual give you that sense he's looking at their potential, free of the shackles of sin, rather than their past, performance or status, etc.?

Thursday, 1 July 2010

roy hodgson and jack johnson...

Jesus never spoke once about the Christian life; he simply spoke about life.
I’ve often thought about writing a book comparing the styles and approaches of various football managers with church leadership. Unfortunately, even I’m not convinced anyone else would be interested!
However, Liverpool do have a new manager and the Guardian article is headed up by “Kop needed a new sage to restore spirit – now they have one in Roy Hodgson.” The article is littered with religious language and could easily be talking about a church or the Baptist Union in many ways. Well, as I say, I find it interesting!

Went to hear Jack Johnson in Cardiff this week. Now that was a great experience. Obviously, the music has to be something you really enjoy, but I find he’s also an interesting guy and someone I’d really like to sit down and have a coffee with, or I guess a long drink on a beach would be more appropriate.
Maggie & I were not the oldest ones there – I didn’t get everyone to produce their passports, but I’m sure it wasn’t simply wishful thinking. What I’d like to know is, with an audience and following primarily made up of 20 something’s, whether it’s simply his music people are drawn to, because it seems to me there’s something else going on about identity & ethos. There’s no doubt he promotes some healthy values in a very acceptable way, which knocks on the head some of the nonsense about what this generation are looking for and responding to. I’ll have to continue to muse on this one….

Monday, 28 June 2010

cultural streams?

Well, the least said about the abject performance from England on the football field, the better! What is interesting, as I make my way to Didcot to talk about the pace of mission in our system, is the relationships people are making between the role of the Manager, the players, the Premier League, the grassroots, the coaching systems, the time off and breaks, the money, the organisation of the FA & FIFA, the technical changes deemed necessary, but not fundamental to the problem, etc - the whole system of British (yes!) football.
Personally, I registered little emotional disappointment about the result because there was little gap between my expectations and the reality - the manner of our play, however, was disappointing.
Another big issue, which has caught my eye, however, is the question of the place, or breadth, of 'popular culture'. When Rolf Harris is opening Glastonbury at 80 it has to be a recognition that something has radically changed in the last 40 years since Glastonbury began. The perceived radicals have clearly changed as well as growth in the overlap between several influential cultural streams - as with our party politics, the centre stage has grown and the fringes less influential? There were more people watching the football at Glastonbury than can fit into Wembley Stadium today!