Tuesday, 30 March 2010

strategic, mission, holistic, money - same sentence?

I received an e-mail this morning from a friend in South Africa, which has acted as a reminder we're not quite the island we think we are. If I'm critical of my friends from the USA, not individually but generally, it's their assumptions our cultural context matches theirs to any helpful degree. However, we also need to be careful we disengage from what we hear from wherever on the basis 'it's different here', SA included. It always is different and always will be, but there are some constants in mission too.
My friend is talking about the appointment of a full-time person, they've made, who will enable their dream of being a 24/7 shelter 'where the specific needs of the shelter dweller can be met in a strategic and holistic way' (I liked that) move towards fruition. The money they'd been given, which they assumed would be ploughed into a better facility is now being used to finance this new post. This is terrific and I rejoice in it. One of my problems, however, is when we try and translate it into the UK scene. We too easily assume this kind of ministry is dependent upon paid staffing and because funds are more seriously limited we assume it can't happen, which in turn seems to be part of the conundrum we're in.
So, what do I need to hear here, apart from the encouragement, from what's taking place elsewhere?

Monday, 29 March 2010

history maker and history makers?

a reminder if you do want to see delirious at number one this year, this is the week to download 'history maker'

Jury Service starts here

Well my Jury Service starts today. I must admit I felt like a convicted criminal by the time anyone spoke inside the Crown Court set up - I can only imagine how those being tried 'innocent until proven guilty' feel!
Whatever else it will provide an interesting exercise in group dynamics -12 people brought together for a specific short term task (I hope) - what else do we have in common is the question I'm asking in the waiting room?
Out of 16 potential jurors only 2 opt to 'affirm' rather than swear on a holy book - which in every other case is the Bible. Interesting. So is the fact the 2 who affirm are probably the 2 under 30.
I need to get the hang of writing my blog via the i-phone - must be able to do it, but where's my keyboard gone?

Friday, 26 March 2010

chris rea at the colston hall

chris rea was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, which is one of the most dangerous forms because it’s usually diagnosed in late stages, in 1994. Back then he had the world at his feet, preparing for a US tour, huge record sales, several number one albums, no shortage of money in the bank, etc.

when he tells his story today, however, he talks of this as the beginning of a new and surprisingly better stage in his life. he’ll talk about learning what matters most in life is precisely the things we tend to take for granted each and every day, like those closest to us, or even the people whom we are forced by circumstance to be near.

what is especially interesting, to me at least, is the way in which it led chris down the road of playing the music for which he’s renowned today – and the concert we went to last night was a wonderful testimony to that. whilst he had millions of fans before his cancer diagnosis, this is what helped him to decide no longer to play what the record labels told him he needed to play in order to sell records. he now plays the blues – not because he thinks people will listen, buy his records, or whatever, but because life is too short to play anything other than what you love. last year sometime in an interview he said ‘if cancer hadn’t nearly killed me, I’d be just another selfish celebrity egomaniac’

OK – I’m a fan already, but chris is a serious talent – the backdrop for the whole concert consisted of his paintings and the music was… well, I think he’s the best bluesman around at present.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

mastering the art of french cooking - i wish!

been away at team leaders and national settlement team this week. thrilled about one student being called to a church and another asked to 'preach with a view' whilst i've been away. as part of our time together this month we met with steve chalke and once again hugely encouraged by his energy and ability to take the gospel into places and arenas most don't. i'm in tonight - as i never allow myself any appointments after i've been away and watching 'julie and julia'. i watched this film on a plane sometime last year and thought maggie should see it as it's about cooking. it's no classic, but simply fun - especially if you like food and blogging, which draws me in on two counts - it's based on two books 'my life in france' which is julia child's biography and a memoir by julie powell. in 2002 julie powell her blog, the 'julie/julia project' and started documenting her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child's 'mastering the art of french cooking'. now this is an awesome project and i'm full of admiration and simply trying to convince maggie into something similar, but as we're both watching the calories at present, i guess i need to give that idea up.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

emerging church?

no blogging for a week is often, in my case, a symptom of not having enough time to simply sit and think and, I guess, that's been the case this week. I was at bu council tuesday-wednesday, which is always a mixture as I came to reflect upon yesterday whilst doing some diy. more about the nature of church and the need to engage today rather than yesterday, however.
i have two projects on the go at present - one indoor and one outdoor - the thinking is whenever i get a day free to get on with something, there's always one on the go. yesterday's rain meant i began the back-door/utility/downstairs loo project! i began with stripping some paper off in the loo. the last two attempts at decorating here were clearly paint jobs - our terracotta, which revealed a green underneath. then beyond that there was what appeared to be a lining paper, then a very loud flower print, then a lightish blue. 'it's just the same as what we've just put in the kitchen' went the cry. now, bearing in mind, part of my plan is to bring some greater co-ordination to these two areas and give a semblance of continuity between the kitchen and outdoors, the plan was to paint the loo the same colour as the kitchen. in actual fact when you look at the two colours side by side, you can use the argument 'they're nothing like each other' very easily - our new kitchen is in a very trendy laura ashley shade of eau de nils - let's face it, they had nothing like that in the 50's! however, the fact also remains, they are both lighter shades of blue.

- how horrifying, i wanted to do something new!
- how hilarious, what's goes around comes around.
- how similar, one new and trendy (ours of course), the other old and dated.
- how different, they feel nothing like each other.

oh bear in mind this is really only the loo we're talking about.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

well done Grange

with the good folk at grange baptist in gloucester today, where i always enjoy going. i noticed something i haven't knowingly seen before elsewhere - maybe because i'm not around immediately prior to the service to notice what people put on their pre-beginning powerpoints. however, i thought putting pictures up of the leadership team was a really useful thing for anyone visiting - it was clear who might be able to answer something if required and who was who when they stood up. - simple and obvious when you think about it & i guess everyone will now tell me everyone does it - apologies if that's the case, but i've not noticed it before. some good football scores today if you're a liverpool fan. i'm off to anfield tomorrow - en route to bu council. we'll probably kick ourselves in the foot again, so not getting carried away as the 4th spot looks out of reach now.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

and vote is for .... marriage

'Children are better off with two parents', according to a new Bible Society poll

Three quarters of people believe that it is better for a child to have two parents rather than one.

In a poll commissioned to coincide with the Christian Socialist Movement’s annual Tawney Dialogue - which will include Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families - more than three quarters of people (79%) agree that it is better for a child’s quality of life to live with two parents rather than one.

Nearly half of people polled (45%) also said they agreed that generally, it is better for a child’s quality of life to live with two married parents rather than two co-habiting parents.

The survey also found that over three quarters (78%) of people believe marriage is a private choice in which the government should not get involved. Nearly two thirds (64%) of people, however, said the government should encourage marriage generally but not through tax incentives.

When asked about improving community life ‘good schools’ (91%) came top of the list of factors which determined quality of life, followed by: lower levels of crime and disorder (85%) and stable families (76%).

These three factors came higher than a strong local economy (71%) and high quality housing (56%).

When asked how important various factors were for couples choosing to get married the poll revealed following results:

Because they love each other 95%
Financial security 76%
To have children 56%
For religious reasons 41%

now, not usually one to venture into general election themes .... I am a little fed up with the majority church mouthpieces trying to be so PC we say little about the positives concerning marriage. Whenever I hear a five live phone-in Christians usually get a knock or two, but surely we can present the positive facts without disenfranchising single parents can't we? I get fed up equally with the assumptions we must be homophobic simply because we think sex belongs within the boundaries of marriage and am concerned we shy away from speaking out a little more clearly.

Monday, 8 March 2010

another place

eventually managed to get to see the iron figures, which make up 'another place' on crosby beach on saturday. i could have spent ages there as they really have a profound impact. admittedly the sun shining was an added bonus, but there's something very calming and reassuring about them. of course, beauty in the eye of the beholder and art and all that means i can make of them what i wish, but the longing and looking to another place beyond, or even on, the horizon seems to be a common thread in others responses and even in anthony gormley's own reflections. all i all a profoundly spiritual experience for me. a good meal with good friends ian and linda afterwards also had an influence!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

och aye

i have to do something about getting a small camera. because I only took hand luggage to scotland, i couldn't fit mine in and then we have blue skies and snow on the hills. still, thanks to john greenshields and his wonderful hospitality, i was able to use his and look forward to seeing the pictures in due course.
the next technology error was i forgot my little apple mac adaptor to fit a data projector. of course, normally this wouldn't be a problem, as i could transfer my powerpoints to someone else's laptop. this, however, was my first try out with keynote - the lovely apple presentation software. again, you can transfer most of the data, but i can't transfer the graphics (well i couldn't). thanks to the chef, chris, at the atholl centre. chris just happened to have one at home and saved the day(s)! why the fuss? with keynote you can actually draw a bell curve and i've spent ages looking for a bit of kit to enable anyone without a maths degree to do this - i found it then nearly blew my first chance. thanks to david, who commented 'lovely bell curve' at just the right point - probably owe him a whisky for that. on that point - don't believe what they say about scots being tight with their money - thanks again, more generally, for the hospitality. alot of thanks - it's definitely the people who make the difference.
how did jesus manage without a laptop?
one of the fascinating areas of reflection after such a visit is the comparison between scotland and england in terms of baptist church life. one might be tempted to think there's not likely to be much different, but it felt quite a different culture in a whole variety of ways. in some ways the guys there reckoned they were 15-20 years behind england in terms of church culture. oh yes, guys in this context equals male - very unusual for me these days to sit down with 20 ministers, all of whom were male. women are 'allowed', but, as i say, as it was 20 years ago here. other differences? the illusion we can make this thing called church work - by simply doing what's not been generally working for 50 years, better is in clearer focus. my hunch is scotland's moving in our direction, and fairly rapidly, but the degree of consciousness is less than here - not that i assume we're in any way fully aware of it. there's a much greater appetite for hearing the scriptures there too - i don't sense this is simply they're higher up the slippery slope we sometimes seem to be on here - it's deeper in their psyche than it was here even 20 years ago and i hope they don't lose that evident passionate desire to hear God. there's other stuff too - they have better hills - real mountains!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Well, I've fallen in love with Scotland again. I'm in Pitlochry with what the Scottish Baptists call 'pre-accredited Ministers' for their conference. I'm finding it fascinating teasing out the differences between the Scottish & English contexts and there does seem to be a number. However, there is inevitably a huge overlap too - so my input is not totally out of synch. I admit to being very impressed with a number of these guys early on in their local church ministries and have heard some really good stories. There's alot of humility, but a real willingness to grapple with some challenging questions. I'm using the theme 'roads less travelled' and looking at Ephesians 4 as main text and a template to look at the Minister as a cultivator, follower and multiplier. Andrew Rollinson has also shared something from his paper on 'attentive communities' which is an excellent piece of work and really helpful stuff.
Scotland is wonderful at this time of year with sufficient snow still lying around to display the hills against a clear blue sky. The hospitality and friendship is really good and I'm grateful to my friends John and Andrew for the invite as I feel as if I'm receiving far more than I'm giving.