The relentless fight for political freedom from the market, a missional response

At the height of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln gave and address at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 that contained these words. “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”  What we sometimes forget, is that this battle was directly related to the global market system of the time.  The battle in the USA was whether the State was there in the vision of the founding mothers and fathers of the nation to be centred on human freedom, or like many other nations, end up just another expression of an oppressive feudal state where the uber rich oppress the many.  The battle at the heart of this civil war was for the right to enslave human beings as the cheapest form of labour in the growing of global commodities of the time.  Lincoln won the battle, but I do not think he won the war.  Looking back at the USA now in 2020, I think we can clearly see that the market won and civil rights has never been fully delivered in one of the most divided and unequal societies in the world.

What exists now in the USA and now in the UK is economic slavery, maintaining cheap labour with reduced employment and terrible wages.  The Global Market won, and democracy and equality lost out.  We are now all commodified and where human dignity is now in decline.  You could argue that actually there has been a constant state of battle in the Western World ever since the Black death in 1346, when the feudal system and oppressive market society collapsed in the pandemic, as there were too few workers, so that wages and freedoms had to rise to ensure crops and industry were sustained. It was purely economics that drove this social change, and that since then there has been a battle between a society of justice and fairness v a market feudal oppressive system culminating in our current society.  Until recently you could argue the market had won, but now in another global pandemic, will this give us an opportunity again to diminish the power and relentless scourge of the market society? Or will it actually make a more feudalist system more likely to be reimposed? How does the church respond?

We remember that Jesus’ entire ministry happened in the context of the oppression of the Jewish people under the super power of the time, and that included the imposition of an international market system at the time.  It has always been a personal bafflement to me why Jesus did not call out this oppression at the time, other than Jesus being clear about money about fairness and money being of this world in Caesars name. The only hint of challenge to this, are the words of Jesus before Pilate after he had been flogged where he says “I am not of this world’.  Chad Myers helpfully reminds us that the greek here for ‘world’ here is ‘Kosmos’ the same as ‘domination system’.  With this in mind, Jesus is calling out the Roman Empire as a militaristic market society as a domination system and so we Christians, holding onto our understanding of Jesus ‘now but not fully yet’ Kingdom in the context of having to live in a domination system, but not of a domination system,

I want to point out at this point, I am not being an extreme Socialist or Communist, this is the stories of the Gospels and and Letters of the Apostles, and my thought has always been that more conservatively inclined Christians really need to get back the Gospel narrative, as you will be in for a shock!

So how do Christians react to the reality that our market society continues to oppression and now leads to destruction with global warming and ecocide.  Mission has to start with economic, ecological and social justice.  These are the heart of the Judaeo-Christian understandings of stewardship, jubilee and the Kingdom.  We can not idly sit by and see successive governments just continue to oppress people.  What will it take for Christians in the UK to stand up to the oppression of the market and the invisible power of the super-rich as Jesus sides with the unbearably poor?  What will it take to seek a Government that prevents the excesses of the market system by what used to be called a mixed economy?  What will it take for this to be seen by the church to be a missional priority?  It is not just about evangelism , fresh expressions and new ecclesial communities.  like Jesus turned over the market stalls in the temple for causing de-sacralisation, so we as Christians should be challenging and turning over the market stalls threatening the wellbeing of people and the continued existence of our planet.  It is high time that the Christian Church rediscovered it’s calling and historic roots. Now in this pandemic, can we face this calling to prophetic witness and prophetic living.

We need to talk about truth…

Last year there were a raft of posts, like “it’s not you its me” “we need to talk about church” all exploring why people are disenchanted with church, leaving church and why it is failing to connect with people anymore. Then this All of which are far more symptomatic of a far deeper issue. What we really need to talk about is truth, our approach to it, the false security people invest in mini truths, the lack of trust it can engender, and how our poor approach to it captivates and limits many rather than being liberated and freed.
I think much of the issue is we have tried to limit the truth, and think it can be singular, explained, preached and taught. The monologue sermon, at its core says this is what is true. Truth is something to be wrestled with as we are wrestling with G-d, it demands dialogue, community and lived experience. It calls forth a trust that takes us out of the pulpit and towards discovery, to uncovering, and journey.
The idea of a singular absolute truth is a crutch which if leant on too heavily breaks and brings down with it all it was meant to support. Truth helps us walk forward, in faltering, humble steps, it is discovered as we walk with others, and when we turn the crutch into weapon to ward off others we fall once again. In fact perhaps if we do away with the crutch and lean into the future with the support and help of others we may begin to discover something far more real than the imitations of Truth we have created.

When we wrestle with these deeper notions of truth it will demand a shift in practices that people are drifting away from, a reimagining of the the institution that is loosing its currency, and create a space of discovery and adventure where community is lived and people want to be.

Community isn’t dead it’s just different

Sociologically community has been defined as about shared interest or shared space. Over the years particularly for youth workers, Christians, activists, and in general society community has also become a word associated with closeness, sharing life, positive warm fuzziness etc. It is the demise of this type community that people often lament as gone, because they equate commitment with attendance, regularity, and cohesiveness.

At first I bought into this lamenting, but I have been observing a shift, and think that actually the sharing life aspects of community are not less prevalent than they were before but just different and in many ways more real, and perhaps more mature.

With the young people I work with, and the adults around the fringes of StreetSpace, I am beginning to see community emerge as an attitude that is carried by individuals, that whilst they may not share space very often, or share the same interests, there is recognition of a shared humanity. A commitment and attitude of support, openness, warm fuzziness and solidarity.

I wonder if post modern fragmentation is helping us mature as people, moving beyond a forced community that grows from shared space or interest, to an attitude of being community in the myriad of relationships you find yourself in. A greater openness and honesty that is fostered quickly and community grows from this (sometimes fleetingly but no less community) and where the need space and interest become secondary, rather than primary.

I think we have a lot learn form the type of community I see emerging and fading, ebbing and flowing amongst the young people and ourselves, and it would be too easy to underestimate its power, sacredness, and authenticity, because it no longer fits the old models.

15 things I love about the StreetSpace Community of Practice

1. They help me with my spelling
2. We have a laugh
3. They hold me to account, and most have no problem telling me whats what.
4. They are not too quick to label themselves a movement
5. We share, experience, stories, hopes, dreams and a generosity of spirit.
6. We gathered from Scotland to Southsea
7. The creativity is amazing,- practical and ideas wise
8. The gathering tried different ways to include those who couldn’t be there
9. We have a vicar who knows Wu Tang Clan, and another growing church in a coffee shop that used to be where Two Tone records were based
10. People have no problem with disruptive experiences.
11. We apprentice one another
12. When we gather, unless you know you cant tell who is paid and who is voluntary
13. People read stuff, write stuff and ground it.
14. They don’t take the easy road, and they make sacrifices for others and their communities.
15. If you asked me what does it look like to have a heart for young people on the edge I could say look at any one of our projects!

read up on Community of Practice HERE

The Gathering Part one

This weekend I am at the StreetSpace Gathering. It is a coming together of about 35 people from across the network with 18 of the 36 projects represented. The whole event is developed using a participative processes. Last night we kicked off with a pictionary ice breaker (draw an activity you do the others dont know you do). The aim is to encourage an equality across the group and not go for the I am XX with this many young people in our contact etc.

We then used a random word generator to spark a creative thinking process as the begininng for the themes we will discuss as a group over the weekend. The Random words were:
– Turntable
– Leaflet
– Mystic
– Passive
Each table mind mapped the words and then people swapped tables to gather the wisdom from the other.
We ended up with three themes we will discuss as a whole group this morning:
– How do we develop mysticism and next level spirituality with young people?
– Social media – Practical advice, Benefits, and Communication
– Being Authentic Us and Others
We also developed a further 6 themes we will use in break out groups.
– Values
– Mentoring Peacemakers
– Change what does it mean?
– Learning Passive and Active – How do you build emotional intelligence in an active learning style/ with chaotic yp
– Money
– The Balance Mission/Personal/Professional

Personal responsibility

how do we take more responsibility for our own actions and approaches to faith and life. So often we rely on institutional approaches like membership which tells us what we should do or believe. It replaces grace and the need to dialogue when we don’t agree. To journey to the light is to journey in the light and embrace the difficulties and uncertainties that entails. To ditch the security blanket of the known, the institution, the rules, and regulations To take responsibility for our actions, to challenge the actions of others and so grow and become fellow travellers of light.

Missional communities

I have been reading Richard Rohr on Simplicity

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and he discusses how community happens as people head in the same direction.
The concept of community has always been important to me since reading the early days of David Watson, Keith Green and many others where community living often seemed to be connected to significant moves of God. In my work I have often been at fault of trying to encourage community and in the process stifle it (something Rohr discusses). As I look back at times when I have moving in the same direction with others there has been a real sense of community but without the communal living sense. Still now even years later I know there still people dotted around the world (an extended community) who although I may not have seen in years I would be confident of seeking out if I needed help, I would have no qualms about turning up on their dorstep at 2am. This includes some of the young people who maybe would be seen as the receipents of mission, but were in effect co-creators of community. FYT has always been another part of this extended missional community as we follow the missio dei.

The direction we were heading together was always missional, and this sense of community extends to people who even though I was not working directly alongside were heading in a simular missional direction working on the other side of the country but who I would still count on. Before I was employed by FYt this was how they fitted, but in reality the relationship sense of community has not changed, I just see them more often.

For most of the times whilst I was in these extended missional communities I was in a church, but there isnt anyone from those friends I would be so confident of dropping in on drunk or in need. As I reflect I wonder if this because the churches never had a real missional DNA, (they had other priorities and diversity of directions to travel in) and was my community the by product of following the missio dei (heading in the same direction). Perhaps our extended missional community was church as it was intended to be?

Even now I have people around me who are following the missio dei and all the time new people are added into this extended missional community my hope is that they too may feel confident to drop in me unexpectedly or to ask for help in needed.

A course for community development workers and activists

Exploring the Impact of Travel / Transport on Communities Course code B2
A course for community development workers and activists

Monday 2nd June 10.30 am – 4.00 pm (Tea and arrivals from 10.00 am)

Venue: The Resource Centre, 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA

The Federation for Community Development Learning are in partnership with TWICS as part of the Every Action Counts programme.

The Every Action Counts programme promotes collective actions and work within the voluntary and community sectors. Our overall programme aims to unlock learning, transferable knowledge and greater understanding of how to promote inclusive and accessible environmental actions for community groups and organisations.

This course is designed as an introduction to the impact of travel and transport on communities.

· Introduce the principles an processes of community development as a way to challenge social exclusion and injustice

· Explore the themes of environmental and social justice as approaches and principles to travel and transport issues for communities.

Participants will have the opportunity to:
Identify the key themes and issues around transport affecting communities they are part of or are working with

Discuss the relevance of environmental and social justice approaches to taking action on travel themes with communities.

Identify opportunities for taking community action in response to themes raised during the course.

How to book a place
For more information and to reserve your place please download a form from our website at or contact FCDL at or call us on 0114 253 6770 for a booking form and more information.

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Advocating Community as core to practice

For College I was asked to write a statement on Community and youth work practice.
I would suggest that there can be no effective youth work without community. Young people live in geographical communities, operate in groups or tribes that are mirco-communities, are influenced by the macro community of the global village, and spend time forming virtual communities in cyber space. They are the product of community, shaped by community, and socialized by community. Some might call this an anthropological reason for having community at the center of your practice and to ignore the community dimension of young peoples lives and its influence is a dis-service to the young people you work with. Yet there is a theological reason why community should be core to your practice, as without it community as the center of practice, it is a dis-service to God in whose image we are made. An image, which is one of community. The God we serve is a tri-une God, and the trinity is an image of the perfect community, Father, Son and Spirit all held in balance all One, if are calling young people towards God then we are calling them towards community.

What is our mission? At it’s heart youthwork is about change, change on a personal level, a group level and a societal level, captured well by the words of Christ “I have come that you may have life and life in all its fullness� Therefore as well as the theological and anthropological reasons stated there is a practical reason; namely change comes via community and is needed in communities.

M. Scott Peck Author of The Road Less Traveled argues strongly for community writing: There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community.

Community is central to the process of change for a number of reasons.

Self understanding is an important first part of the process of youth work and the start point for understanding ourselves is community. As others reflect back to us a truer image of ourselves than we may have we journey towards a fullness of life. Therefore engendering a sense of community with the young people we work with engenders life.
As agents of change we cannot achieve changes by ourselves, if we are to work for fullness of life for all there is an inevitable community dimension to our work. I would suggest that if our own fullness of life hinders another from their fullness we are not truly living in the light. Therefore to work for change with, for and in communities, at local, national, global or virtual must be a paramount priority. Not only will the impact of these changed communities help those that are members have a greater fullness of life, but also those who engage in the struggle of changing these communities will also experience at greater fullness of life.
Finally because we are made in God’s image, humanity longs for a sense of communitas. Communitas is an intense community spirit, the feeling of great social equality, solidarity, and togetherness Thunder on the Hill movies

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. Even the hermits of old sought this equality and justice for others, and togetherness with their creator as they retreated to desolate places to pray. The desire for Communitas is more prevalent as a characteristic when people experience liminality. ie when they are undergoing a period of change when the resources they have relied on in the past are called into question. If this desire for communitas lies latent at the core of humanity and comes to the fore during liminality, then it speaks of God’s image in whom we are made, and provides the key to forming lasting, real, dynamic relationships of change, and hope.