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.

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…