Listen and Love with no strings attached….

one of the things that was evidenced in the Utopia for realists book was how well people responded when given no strings attached money. Experiments offering homeless people a no strings gift of 3k showed amazing turn arounds, and even when given to people deemed higher risk eg struggling with addictions. It made me think about people perceive the church as having strings. I wonder how much we have corrupted love, how much we have overthought love, categorised it, conditioned it and disconnected it from grace. Sarah Savage, ‘The experience of being listened to is so close to the experience of being loved as to be indistinguishable.’ To truly listen is to love and yet even in fresh expressions where listening precedes loving and serving, and building community we easily fall into the trap of listening with an agenda, we listen to spot the opportunity, to find out how we might love and serve this community. We need to to better empty ourselves, to more fully understand grace if we are to really listen and love.

Realist or Idealist

Im reading a great book Utopia for realists and it made me ponder how often people mistake me for an idealist when Im often just a realist. Theres a great chapter on why we should give everyone free money, and the evidence that no strings attached giving lifts people out of poverty in amazing ways and really strong evidence for the universal basic minimum income. Yet how often do we (and I think very often in the church) struggle with new ways of doing things even though there is often overwhelming evidence that if you doing things differently good stuff happens. We are locked into certain patterns and behaviours, ideals and constructs, that mean we ignore new possibilities even when confronted with realism (often in terms of evidence based research) about what is currently going on or with realism (often in terms of evidence based research) about how different approaches work.

Too often it is idealism that makes people write off new ideas, its just too pie in the sky, and yet too often realism is mistaken for criticism, so little headway is made there either. I think I am often caught somewhere between the two, I dream of a better world and do what I can towards it. I read research and try to use evidence, experience and the Holy Spirit to feel my way forward, so can be told Im being critical. Any ideas?

Live life on the bass note not the treble

I was at a FX Gathering last week and Abi Pitt from the salvation army used the phrase about paying attention to the bass notes and not the treble and I loved it. A while back I developed a presentation around the idea of Fxs and Jazz, how knowing the basics helped with improv. (not that I know anything real about jazz). What i loved about the bass notes was that so often its the treble that sticks out, that call to attention, those moments are often easy to spot. Perhaps if we pay attention to the bass notes of love, acceptance and humanity we can become more like Jesus and spot Matthew that tax collector, sitting in his booth going about his everyday business and not just Zacchaeus up in the high in the tree.

Fierce contemplation for nomads

So good to hang out with people interested in the new St Kentigern school this morning exploring rediscovering the lost art of contemplation. Particularly enjoyed teasing out the difference between meditation and contemplation and this story that shared from Kahil Gilbran. Four frogs sat upon a log that lay floating on the edge of a river. Suddenly the log was caught by the current and swept slowly down the stream. The frogs were delighted and absorbed, for never before had they sailed.
At length the first frog spoke, and said, “This is indeed a most marvellous log. It moves as if alive. No such log was ever known before.”
Then the second frog spoke, and said, “Nay, my friend, the log is like other logs, and does not move. It is the river that is walking to the sea, and carries us and the log with it.”
And the third frog spoke, and said, “It is neither the log nor the river that moves. The moving is in our thinking. For without thought nothing moves.”
And the three frogs began to wrangle about what was really moving. The quarrel grew hotter and louder, but they could not agree.
Then they turned to the fourth frog, who up to this time had been listening attentively but holding his peace, and they asked his opinion.
And the fourth frog said, “Each of you is right, and none of you is wrong. The moving is in the log and the water and our thinking also.”
And the three frogs became very angry, for none of them was willing to admit that his was not the whole truth, and that the other two were not wholly wrong.
Then a strange thing happened. The three frogs got together and pushed the fourth frog off the log into the river.

I struggle to cope when Im honest with myself…

Earlier I tweeted…

Why were we captivated by the kids in the cave in Thailand but not the 1000s who die crossing the Med – is it the smaller number, that they were a footie team, we’ve been caving but not fled a warzone, or its simply a good story and we are lying to ourselves that we care?

Im impotent with compassion fatigue
i tend to turn off the news
I feel I need to do more, do differently, and sometimes I do and often I don’t. Each time a see a lifejacket wether on the news or canoeing in the lake, I see a Syrian child.
I squash the images to survive, I glimpse moments of joy and hold my daughter close, and each time pray I wrestle.

The 80’s and the teens

When I grew up in the late 70s and early 80’s people friends had written off God because of science, I felt like people had written faith off and weren’t even seeking truth other than through technology and the sciences. The known and concrete was what my friends were after, growing up in family vaguely connected to church I knew what they meant, and so we didn’t really give faith much serious thought till 86. But I remember we knocked stuff around before that at school, probably a fledgling gen x’ers wondering but disillusioned. I certainly remember that having faith conversations with my peers was non existent or difficult, until the 90s when the disillusioned wonderers wanted to wonder even more and hyper modernity really kicked in as institutions became more distrusted, including the institution of science, and people recognised that perhaps there were more mysterious things that couldn’t be explained easily and everyting could be questioned and deconstructed.

Now I feel I am back full circle where it’s much harder talking about faith once again, not because people aren’t seeking but because the truths they have uncovered so far about about love and life, (perhaps encountering the God who is love beyond the walls of church) don’t match up with the judgemental insistution they perceive the church to be. Recently I was trying to find a venue for this, and people were very hesitant to be involved in something perceived to be by organised religion, saying work for the church for problematic even when you see how much this event is telling a very different story.

Learning from the other side of Alcoholism

Who do share the rail with? As you kneel to meet your maker in the bread and wine who kneels beside you? The ragamuffin Brennan Manning asks ‘Do you believe that God loves you in the morning sun & in the evening rain- when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves you this moment as you are & not as you should be.’
If you don’t then maybe it’s time to find a few ragamuffins to share the rail with.

Brennans writing was so helpful to me in my early faith and as I came to terms with the alcoholism of my father. If you haven’t read his stuff read it. Meeting in the 90s is etched in my memory.

My mate saw an angel and ignored it..

I remember a friend telling me he was driving one wet and windy night and he saw an angel. Which he describes as a full on angel, big and bright type thing. The angel told him not to carry on this road but go a different way. Anyway he ignored the angels advice —-How what, Why, WHO THE HELL IGNORES A FRICKING ANGEL?—- anyway he does carried and crashed the car on a slippery patch!!! Serves him bloody right!

We were discussing participation a while back and I was struck by the voluntary participative nature of a lot of the bible stories. It seems people were never forced by God to take on the roles that go on to be described in the bible. It made me wonder, were there are whole raft of people who got asked by God to do something and basically said no so never made into the bible. The big bright angel shows up and people ignore it.

How many Marys did the angel approach before he found a Mary that was willing to say “I am the Lord’s servant, May your word to me be fulfilled.”

A new sort of resource church

Came across this article on Size Matters by Paul and reminded me that I had slipped in to the church commissioners report last year that our Mountain Pilgrims group (which was also cited by the ABC) was a new sort of resource church. What makes a resource church a resource church?
Mountain Pilgrims is tiny, but massive, it is shallow but deep, it is new abut ancient, it is open but centred, but most of all it is “allelon”, it is a shape and size that allows one anothering. If you want to know more on allelon read Pauls article or I have added a quote below.

Before Christmas we had our first Mountain Pilgrims leaders Tribal Gathering, in the room there were 9 people representing about 150 others, there were two tribes missing, and on the horizon we identified another three tribes were on their way to join us in 2018. We wrestled together on values, on shapes and words, we were challenged by each other’s theology and presence. The gathering included members and leaders as we are pretty blurry as to who is who, but we were one Anothering .

We have a brilliantly supportive bunch of people creating space up here for new things to happen in the county at all levels Including in the formal diocesian structures. Generally with the desire to try and find ways to make mission happen. I am so grateful to the volunteers and officers that work behind the scenes, they are brilliant people. Recently a committee for the diocese met and it was reported back to me that the question was asked About the financing of FXs. Whilst it’s small potatoes the finance officer reported that some members of MP had started giving to MP, and this was significant to the committee. It made me wonder if it is finance that makes a resource church, a resource church, as often scale is cited as a way to become self financing to resource mission? Then as I thought further maybe as we don’t have staff costs and buildings, of a normal resource church do those small potatoes mean we are already a resource church that pays its way? We are pretty much self funding, have gone from zero – 150 people in under two years with a total cost of about 2k and a bit of my staff time. So if it’s finance or numbers that makes a resource church a resource church do we fit the bill.
Maybe it’s resourcing mission that makes a resource church, We have resourced mission across the county, have new MPs groups springing up, and have resourced traditional churches to develop outdoor based mission opportunities. In the Spring one group is refounding a redundant church and starting a monthly Celtic type Sunday service that will be followed by a 4 mile walk and discussion.

Maybe a resource church has to have a big capital investment in staff and set up costs, because it’s about speedy growth. Mountain pilgrims we grew a further 20% this month alone, imagine what might have been if we had a couple 100k to play with instead of 2?

If what makes a resource church a resource church is up front investment imagine what we could have done with 100k instead of 2.

You might read this and think Richard is anti resource churches, I’m not but we do need to ask some critical questions about how change happens. If we are going to turn this big ship we need tug boats not new rudders, but you will have to wait for the next post on “was Jesus a both/and kind of dude?” When I can explain that.

Is there any theological insight into this question of church size? John Taylor in his seminal book ‘The Go-Between God’ explores the question of church size. His starting point however is not the church as we experience it, or whether this church or that church ‘works’, but the church’s essential nature as a fruit of the work of the Holy Spirit. For Taylor a primary spiritual nature of the early church is mutuality in community, expressed by the word allelon, ‘one-another’, a word that occurs frequently in the New Testament. Taylor he argues that church must be:

of a shape and size that enables this ‘one-anothering’. This is the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is a hallmark of the church’s spiritual identity, about what the church is before it is about what it does
of a significant enough size to ‘be an embodiment of the life of the Kingdom’ but not so big as to tend toward a withdrawal from that sense of church alongside and amidst others in the world.
not so big that it has to be structurally organised to the extent that it thinks of itself primarily as an institution rather than a community.