Incarnation as the space between

Over the past few weeks I have playing with TaiFlow and developed a move that holds the space, it builds on the thin place idea where heaven and earth come close. I kind of move arms in opposite directions coming together at my core but not quite meeting. It reminds me of the space between us, and the spaciousness g-d offers and holds us within. So it was a joy to get into discussion with Al Barrett, Tim Evans, and Janey Barrett, as we pursued ideas around innovation in the previous post. Al shared the concept that Jesus through the temptation in the wilderness demonstrated that we need to renounce the power of the provider, the power of the performer, and the power of the possessor. As we explored this, it connected so well to the space I was seeking to hold in the TaiFlow move. The incarnation is more about the space between us that our presence creates than our simple presence. The incarnation takes us beyond us and the stranger/other, calls those walls to dust and refuses to colonise the space left, where too often the church seeks to perform, possess, or provide so it becomes a space of intercarnation. (Once again a word Al found)

Beyond adaptation

I am interested in what it means to translate or map the concept that, Innovation is different to adaption, to the idea that church seeks a paradigm shift. adaptation tweaks what is already present, it is part of series is of evolutionary moves. innovation goes back to the drawing without pre subscribed ideas. I have written before on the need for revolution over evolution but I wonder if all the emerging churches talk of paradigm shifts are really just adaptations as still haven’t gone back to the drawing board of who or what is G-d and then really innovated from there.

I came across this poem via a friend of a friend that may help you get where I am coming from

Have you considered the possibility
that everything you believe is wrong,
not merely off a bit, but totally wrong,
nothing like things as they really are?
If you’ve done this, you know how durably fragile
those phantoms we hold in our heads are,
those wisps of thought that people die and kill for,
betray lovers for, give up lifelong friendships for.
If you’ve not done this, you probably don’t understand this poem,
or think it’s not even a poem, but a bit of opaque nonsense,
occupying too much of your day’s time,
so you probably should stop reading it here, now.
But if you’ve arrived at this line,
maybe, just maybe, you’re open to that possibility,
the possibility of being absolutely completely wrong,
about everything that matters.
How different the world seems then:
everyone who was your enemy is your friend,
everything you hated, you now love,
and everything you love slips through your fingers like sand.
(Federico Moramarco)


Last week a I wrote the final report to a brilliant trust that has funded StreetSpace for the last few years, and was simply astounded at all we achieved going from 3 to 62 projects in under four years. I sent the trust pictures from the amazing StreetSpace projects working day in day out in with brilliant young people who really need us.
This week I did our budget for the coming year. As the trusts support is ending and I never let money stop me supporting a potential StreetSpace project, helping young people, we are facing a shortfall and I want to raise some funding to directly support my post and the core work to keep StreetSpace going.
So I am asking friends to help and I am setting the target of raising £2000 a month through regular donations, This might seem like a lot of money but if just half my FB friends donated £10 a month we would hit the target… if every FB friend donated we would smash it and I could spend less time on budgets and more time making work on the ground happen.
I know some of you already support the work, or are committed to local projects, or youth workers themselves but those of you who know me well know I want to change the world, lets do this….please consider a monthly donation – please download and use our response form: HERE…/wp-co…/uploads/FYT_Response-Form.pdf

The edge

Last week I was speaking in Holland at their YFC conference. Whilst they certianly do things differently (ask me sometime about angels massaging volunteers) they were a great bunch of people to be around and share with.

Over meals and conversation it quickly became clear there was a distinct difference in how people were approaching the edgy topics around mission I was teaching. In the uk I am often pinned down by people wanting to argue the theological toss, or perhaps I should say nuances but in holland there a different conversation. It was about how does this connect, how does it help me serve the young people I work with. I think it is in part a cultural openness and difference but more I think it is precipated by their closeness to the edge, their connection on the streets and in the community, where they know things have to be done differently. I was humbled by how even the younger volunteers wanted to grapple with the how the talks should change their practice and structures, how it build community in their context, deep specific and searching questions, that I simply rarly get in the UK.

My post grad work was around how Christian workers/ missionaries responded to the emerging missiology I was developing. one of the interesting things was a link between how open a person is to new ideas that push our orthodoxy around church and how experienced they were in relational based mission. The more embedded people were in the culture they were serving, the more they recognised that old ways of thinking and working werent cutting it and were more open to new ideas around eccelesiology. Yet somehow in the Netherlands even those less experienced recognised and had the desire for change. It was an honour to sit around with so many young people under 20 who are willing to grapple with the real stuff and such a contrast to my experience of similar age groups in the church in the uk.

The Myth of incarnational mission

I have started a blog I cannot finish please help…

‘Incarnational mission’ is a myth. Over the past few weeks I been exploring the connection of kenosis and incarnation, and begun to think that the language of incarnational mission has taken us down wrong track. The word “mission” is an anathema to the word “incarnational” and the twining of the two has precipitated a false understanding and often maintained a practice rooted in power, masked as doing good, humility, and service.

Years ago myself and many others shifted our language away from evangelism, towards mission, then towards missional, then towards emerging, all the time complicit in a power play, that we failed to recognise we were caught up within. Each shift of language was an attempt to move beyond the confines we discovered, and the boundaries we placed around us. Often helpful and well meaning, but rooted in a bankrupt paradigm.
Mission the act of being sent seems counter intuitive to the incarnation. Being sent to another so often comes with a sense of the need of the other. The incarnation was not about choice, it was beyond being sent, is was a vulnerable move of self emptying, an embedding of the word that was already present in the beginning.

How we connect to the word, that was and is present in the community, is key breaking the power binds we are caught up within. Our incarnation must stem from our recognition of the interconnectedness of all humanity, thinking we are sent to empty ourselves in service to others is vanity. Instead we must…..

A call to equality of opportunity

It really isn’t rocket science. The erosion of basic day in day out youth services and shift of funding to targeted work is an oxymoron. For the most needy, most at risk, toughest NEETS, you cant have one without the other. Young people who struggle to relate appropriately to adults, systems, and structures need to use the relationships of trust and support built up between them and youth workers to access, utilise and be encouraged to stick with the targeted services that are there to supposedly help them. It is about basic equality of opportunity.

In the past few weeks I have come across countless small organistions struggling to keep basic services going, whilst target ted providers cannot get young people onto courses. Often these targeted providers are the bigger players who hear about the latest funding stream, or pot of money, they come to the week in week out community groups, to get their places filled, meet their stats, publicise the latest idea, and only those with enough social skills, where-with-it-all and confidence access these schemes, and even then the drop out rates are pretty high. As they do not have the relationship base they fail to present a genuine equality of opportunity to those most in need.

So why aren’t funders, funding those with a 100% success with getting NEETS into training or work? Or 100% success in helping those with mental health get back to work. Why wouldn’t funders bite their hands off? Because these REAL results come from small local community providers who build the relationships week in week out. After three years of building real relationships with NEET young people it is not surprising that when they volunteer on our Zine young leaders programme, they grow in confidence, we know them well enough to address the barriers they face, and they all go onto to employment or training. It is not a surprise that a peer group of people with mental health issues support one another to access employment, make community connections, and so improve their prospects, confidence and employ-ability. It is about a basic understanding of equality and taking the right steps to address the issues faced.

The local schemes work because they address he preexisting issues of inequality, by the relationships built up through regular services. Those on the ground struggle to stay afloat at the coalface as they work day in day out with young people, achieving so much with so little. BUT they dont have the time to keep up with the fast changing funding priorities of the latest government fad, so it is often outside agencies, larger providers, who sweep in to grab the funding, without the ongoing context of regular provision and achieve so little with so much.

So here is a call back to equality of opportunity, opportunity for the small grassroots organistions, that create opportunity for the most in need. A call to see the basic connection required between regular work and targeted work, if we are going help break the cycles of deprivation and poverty that are increasingly taking hold in our communities.

Walls to Dust 16

The space we inhabit with young people and the community is a contested space. Young people are unfortunately negatively stereotyped and scapegoated and so The council like to own the positive change stories that spring up around the work. The institutional church like to own the good news stories, but we refuse to pimp out the lived experience of young people to earn a
supposed place at these tables. Like any project we could tell these stories that would have you weeping in a quiet moment, or shock you with stories of daring do and risk, it would certainly grow our profile and funding base. but paying these games to illicit a response simply builds walls of us and them, both for us a teller and you as a hearer so instead we call these walls
to dust.

A letter to friends on the journey

I have been wrestling with the disconnect between what I am reading and my feelings. On facebook a friend suggested that a letter might be a helpful medium. The letters Bonhoeffer, King, Luther etc were wonderful alternatives to books and academic discourse. The wonderful Kim Hartshorne recently wrote to me following yesterdays blogpost, picking up where my words failed me, so with her permission I have adapted her email with my own stuttering thoughts as a letter to my friends on the journey.

Dear Friends

I know a lot of the time I make very little sense, struggle to communicate the depth and instinctual feelings I have about the shifts in thinking, theology and mission that are going on around me. Every step I take I feel the road rising to meet me and I am sorry, I am not an artist or a poet, so I cannot convey these tentative footsteps. The language I have and the ability of my hands fail me, so I revert to nonsensical metaphors and for the last 10 years have been talking about the church/community as the fourth part of the trinity and more recently questioning the missio dei approach.

The G-d of the street, who is with the poor and the outcast, and broken like me, has released me from worrying too much about how others view me, but I am still captive to many thought processes and my own selfish need for salvation. I apologise where I have been to quick to judge and transferred the pain I see in those around me to others, often to those who are simply trying to understand. Calling the walls to dust has been a powerful process to help me reflect and wrestle with the questions that have been building for years, and I am grateful to the poet who coined the phrase.

The foundational issues that the walls are built on, is that so much of our thinking and practice is binary, and so it fails to embrace the gospel oneness. Missio dei is still a binary way of thinking of God and human action in the world. It sees it as gods domain to be in charge and us to hunt out the scent and follow. The separation between us and G-d that the gospel expelled still remains in missio-dei and many of our ecclesiological and theological concepts.

We need to develop a different approach without the binary constructs that simply end up replacing walls that the gospel broke down. So lets return to Genesis, at creation, where humans are given a privileged place of co-creator. We are given the responsibility to create, extend, make, do justice, in the way God does. He shares his power with us and sends us out as his multipliers. The words used for ‘image’ as in man made in Gods image are ‘tselem’ and ‘demut’ in the Hebrew and mean gods, mini-me’s, like the little gods that were idols to the nations around, they looked like the bigger god they represented. We are Chips off the old block, and in you my friends I see so much my Fathers likeness. To name those likenesses here would mean I would never finish this letter, but I am privileged to journey beside so many mini-christs.

The garden of Eden, the temple and the ark of the covenant were all microcosms, experiments as to how God and his mini-gods would share living and ruling together, encompassing worship, law, justice, eating, money. They were about holistic living, working together, having access to one another. No walls. Drawing others who were outside into this well ordered creative life. At Christ’s coming, the disciples were the microcosm, the model society, having access to god found in Christ and seeing what the good life would look like in that era. They tried to rebuild the walls all the time, keeping out women or children or the sick, but he continued to model to them in his person what it looks like to make choices humanly and be one of gods mini-me’s.

Our calling as humans to include others, do justice, create and extend the kingdom, is a calling to be human which is a call to one of gods mini me’s. Yes we draw on the tradition & scripture patterns and metaphors where we can, and keep in tune with the flow of the spirit. But we are going into new territory and following the internal compass of god inside us, so as humans, we must stop waiting for the word of the external god, and grow into the sense of personhood and agency the gospel ushered in. Too often I am modelling a crippling weakness to my human identity and godly being. I have tested it and realised I have enough anchoring and experience to draw on and god is not going to tell me what to do. I have to decide and act. I have the power in me to call the walls to dust – and to recognise that in others. Humanity has no walls – all of us have god mapped in us. In some of us that has been marred by damage and abuse but it can be restored and recovered by love and acceptance and the accordance of dignity to the sacredness of humanity.

God in this era is coming in on our coat tails, not the other way around, as we empty out and see in Christ the one who utterly inhabited his limited humanity. Take care my friends and learn to walk with yourself, and embrace the liberation that comes with a life without walls. Let us see the liberation for ourselves, those around us, academia, and the emancipation of the gospel and god who we have help captive for so long.

yours with as much faith as I can muster