Being bestself and politics of powerlessness

THIS Article is probably the best thing I have read in a long time. When I came to my new role I determined to be myself and have already found myself apologising for speaking too much, pulling back from leading in certain circumstances and hesitant as I try to get the balance of leading and serving right.

I know my own tendencies to wonder (that isn’t a misspelling) off point, weaknesses in thinking there is a right way, a desire for something other, that ends up with some people isolating themselves from what we were trying to build, and I am aware of my responsibilities in that process. So I identify strongly with the author of this and why I was drawn to occupy in the first place.

The challenge of my #adventweight series was to remind myself of our shared humanity, by distance from others plight, and soften myself to do more in the year ahead. Yet to move from these reflections to actions means I need to be my bestself to not capitulate to the internal or external fears, to be aware of the gifts and strengths I bring, to challenge myself to lead again at times, and to know when pull back, and it is only in doing that will I begin to discover my true self and fuller humanity and what it means to be made in the image of g-d.

Apologies this wasn’t intended to be a self reflective piece but a heads up to the best thing I have read all year. It’s a long article so here is an extract to encourage you to read the whole thing.

I’m at a retreat center in Florida, at the first ever Wildfire National Convening, with 80 members of organizations from all over the country: folks from Ohio Student Association, Dream Defenders, GetEQUAL, Rockaway Wildfire, and the Occupy Homes groups in Atlanta and Minneapolis. It’s the first night, and the organizations are performing skits that explain their origin stories. It’s Rockaway Wildfire’s turn?—?a group that formed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, merging the relief effort with organizing in Far Rockaway, Queens. Out there, floods fell on top of broken schools, impoverished projects, and a population that was drastically underemployed and over-policed. The folks in the Rockaways were losing their homes to foreclosure before the floods wrecked them, losing their sons to prisons long before the storm came to displace them.
The skit begins, the lights go down. We hear the pounding of feet against the floor, which sounds unmistakably like heavy rain. And then a chorus of howling that sounds like the violent wind that battered the New York area that October in 2012. Then heart-wrenching wailing, like a child crying. Pounding and howling and wailing that get more and more intense like an orchestra building up to its crescendo. Suddenly, I’m crying. The sounds catapult me back to the hurricane, but also to the fear I carry with me of the many more hurricanes surely on the way, and the children and parents and friends we will have to protect when they come. Suddenly the sounds come to a crashing halt, the lights go up, dimly, and I realize most of the other people in the room are weeping too. There is silence, the kind of hanging stillness you stumble on rarely, when a room full of people dedicated to the struggle are all quietly reckoning with the fear we carry in us every day and the doubts we have about whether we can do what must be done. Then one of the actors breaks the silence with the last line of the play, delivered soothingly to her child, as if she has read the minds of the 80 fighters gathered here: “Don’t worry, baby, don’t worry. We’ll be alright. Momma’s gonna start a revolution.”
The fear is real?—?palpable and also grounded. In addition to good organizing, it will take some small miracles to win the world we all deserve. It’s better to acknowledge that than to try to bury it. At least it’s honest. And who knows, maybe there is something about fear that?—?when we turn and face it?—?can be grounding instead of handicapping, can help us sit in the stakes rather than live in denial, can compel us to take the risks we need to take rather than to hide, can drive us to be the biggest we can be instead of shrinking. Or at least, that’s my hope.

The power of campervans and the type of church I long to see…

Often people of faith ask me what type of church I want to see, or to explain my take on mission or faith, sometimes more due to their own insecurities and the need to put that stuff in a box. Others who ask, I know it is about their own journey, and usually in both cases I do my best to be open real and honest. Then I sit with them in the sorrow these answers offer, as they come to terms with the fact that there is no easy path or as they put me in box that captures them more than it holds me.

There is a distinct shift happening around what is church and a shift happening around dialogue and acceptance within more general evangelicalism. When i read THIS my first reaction was probably to box each side,…. but maybe I will just keep that to myself because I am sure boxes and walls don’t matter… what I liked, was that it was localised, real, and gave you glimpses of the dialogue that must have been happening behind the scenes.

Recently we have been selling our campervan as we cant afford the move to Cumbria that we feel called to make, and the conversations with potential buyers have been interesting, as I explain to strangers the reason we are selling. More often than not, it opens discussions on the type of church and faith I want to see. These amazing humans who are fearfully and wonderfully made, open up as talk of journeys (real and metaphorical) are shared, and we joke about life, rust and holidays. I find little need to sit in the sorrow of being put in a box, but liberated to walk the road ahead knowing a few more people are tentatively exploring the path before them. Missionally trying to sell this bloodly van has provoked some of the most meaningful encounters I have had in a long time, yet i still struggle to explain myself.

In world dominated by boxes and walls often the only way to explain is to revert to types and models, so perhaps for those who need to put me in a box, or those who want to continue the journey I offer THIS as perspective on the emerging church as the type of church I want to see…

what lies beyond..

I have been listening to some stuff around evolutionary consciousness, and Integral Philosophy over at Home Brewed Christianity.
I think a lot of what Radical theology has to offer but the deconstructive nature of a lot of post modernity often fails to begin the reconstruction that the practitioner in me yearns. What I like about the conversation about evolutionary consciousness is the reconstructive possibilities in particular the connection with values. I think some of Wilbers work (which lacks a bit of rigor) is coming through in spiral dynamics and from a few tweets it seems to have been picked up on by Rob Bell. However what I am interested in is the trajectory incarnational mission offers to concepts around evolutionary consciousness.

When we think about embedding values into our practice we often overlook the evolutionary nature of this, if God is love what does this say, where does it take us beyond simply having love as a value that underpins the work. How can it help us incarnate so the community connects with lies beyond, where perhaps part of what lies beyond is love itself.

The story that captures and liberates rather than captures and confines

Does the christian story capture or liberate it you. As 17 I was captured, captivated and embraced by the living story of christ but it is all too easy to be confined to pages, rather than liberated.

The importance of the stories of others should not be underestimated, and I love reading biographies and first hand accounts of those who have gone before. However The power of the story is not in the telling but in passing the originators spark to another, so let your lives be their own story. We need to live our lives as an adventure, the story we pass on needs to be our stories of journeying with G-d, yes inspired by others but not a secondhand telling.

Growing church from Scratch with young people

It was a great day around the Table yesterday, exploring the theme of growing church from scratch. It was a bit like a gathering of the tribes of people working on the edge with young people and communities, with lots of StreetSpace peps, some VFX, Worth Unlimited, Urban Expression, CMS, and CYM peps all gathering in Hodge Hill with Janey and Al Barrett. As you can imagine conversations were important, stimulating and out there. Simon Succliffe kicked the day off brilliantly with some mobile new testament ecclesiology, I took up the story looking at how youth ministry informed how we got to where we are now, and Jo Dolby started to unpack the tearing of the temple curtain and the implications this offers our communities. Then Janey Barret led us through an art space involving fruit, and Al shared on the wonderful approach of Hodge Hill. The next event is in Oxford, eating alone, looking at how we sustain a pioneer spirituality.

You can find my slides and notes at Church from scratch copy

Packed lunches v inheritance tax

Recently I had the equally heartbreaking and humbling experience of watching two girls show each other what they had in their packed lunch boxes that day. One opened her box that simply contained a single Mr Kipling Angel slice and the other opened her box to show a pack of Skips (crisps). The girl with the crisps turned to the other, and said “don’t worry we can share”.

The privelage of witnessing companionship and love of the girls is obviously tempered with anger that children in the UK in 2015 should be in this position.

Today I had to pull the car to the side of the road as I drove to pick up my daughter as I caught the news about the latest conservative idea not change the inheritance tax rules to disqualify houses upto a £1000000 (a million) pounds, and the talk of being able to pass onto your family your house. I understand this is aimed at the middle class vote but the inherent injustice of the systems that woo the more well off and that have penalised the poorest, meant I too once again pull the car to the side and weep.

I cannot square the circle or cope with my emotions as I reflected on the generousity and humanity of the girls sharing their packed lunch verses the inhumanity of those in power, and the steps they will take to try and stay there.

Don’t panic but….

As you may know things are really tough for the central finance for Streetspace / FYT and John Wheatley, Dylan Barker and I have been working hard on funding bids to make up the shortfall. We have submitted loads of grants we are hoping to hear from soon but we are looking at raising around £25000. As employees of FYT, a charity, there are certain processes and procedures that need to be followed and so we are meeting on Thursday where formal warning notices that our jobs are risk will be have issued to all three of us. This gives us another month to raise income or further cut costs or hours and our hope and prayer is it will not get as far as redundancy.

In many ways we see this an important positive opportunity to push into the new world of what pioneering youth work and mission really means and get even more creative with our approach. Our aim for the coming few years had been to transition the whole of StreetSpace from fees and bills to gifts and conversation, but this is going to take time and unless some of the grants come in, or we raise income in another way we may struggle to make that transition.

So I would value your prayers for us, our families and the extended StreetSpace community. As said we have some grant applications already in, and many people I know via facebook already support frontline youth work projects, so please do not divert your giving but if you think you can help us financially you can do so via:
an online donation to FYT using: https://www.give.net/20022128
by phone, text: FYTR01 £(then either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10)’ to 70070
To make a monthly donation or one off gift by cheque or BACS, please use this form http://www.fyt.org.uk/…/wp-co…/uploads/FYT_Response-Form.pdf so we can claim the tax back to increase your gift at no extra cost to you.

Through a window

I am loving Ian Adams morning bell reflections for lent you can find out more here. This series of snowy, slightly out of focus images and words seems to have been taken from a train or moving vehicle. The challenging words bring me up short, and as lent should makes me re-evaluate and prepare myself for the year ahead.

The images and words set off all sorts of connections in my brain and as I sit with them I move from a disconcertion, to peace to hope as I look forward to the Easter. The movement reminds me to sit with the disconcerting feelings they raise and to embrace the words in the now. The peace comes not as a relief but from a knowing that we can live beyond the temporal, (perhaps at times only fleetingly) but we need to embrace the reality of the everyday and ourselves if we are to do so.

Liberating communion, the ongoing story

I was privileged to be part of the Incarnate Gathering last week, and whilst I was asked to speak I received far more than I gave. The theme was Other and I shared around Other as the space between us. It was great to meet Abdul Rehman Malik who is a journalist, speaker and part of the Radical Middle Way. Abdul spoke on “Everything Perishes Except the Face of God: Seeking the One in a Hyper Diverse World”. His shared stories from the Muslim tradition offered some great insight into notions of Other.

In my usual way this ended up with me putting two and two together and coming up with five. The weekend started me wondering about how notions of Other connect with the ongoing story of fullness of life. We know there can be no fullness of shalom for us, when there is poverty, oppression and disparity for others, when we cannot break bread with others who may differ in perspective. It started me wondering about the points of tension, in the Christan faith that separated myself and Abdul, and the particularity of communion.

One person shared a story of how they had had a passover meal, with people of different backgrounds and faith stories and towards the end had moved into another room to take communion. On the table the symbols the bread and wine were surrounded by the everyday life objects that had unconsciously been placed on the table, a nappy, keys, bags, etc. It was a wonderful image of community and incarnation, yet they were conscious that as they shared communion no matter how inclusive their language was, some would be excluded or exclude themselves from the table.

Now I know I am dangerous ground playing with the Sacrament, but what if communion is another part of the ongoing story. More than that what if by its very nature it has the possibility to include rather than exclude, to help us towards the redemption of the whole of creation, not by seeing other as something that may taint, but as a resource towards wholeness and shalom. Something that helps both us and another creatively hold the space between us, something that recognises difference but imagines and commits to a new way of being.

We need to remember communion has never been a static thing, it is different in different traditions, its elements have changed over time and with different cultures, as have the liturgy and words. BUT Imagine the passover was just the start, the last supper a step along the way, and that the christian tradition thus far has helped us, but now communion once again needs to be re-imagined, perhaps it even needs to be liberated from the christians. It will not be an easy journey as we are both part of a radical monotheistic tradition, but I long for the day when Abdul and I can wrestle in the space between us and perhaps work out what it means for us break bread together.