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.

Advent weight

Strange how this stuff happens but before I posted my #adventweight tweets and without either of us knowing what the other was doing, Lori was asked to post an advent reflection and she wrote this amazing poem.

There is a wait
and the wait weighs heavy
It breathes deeply
as if asleep
not stirring
Try to reach around it
But as if magnetic
It draws you

So you wait
and the wait weighs heavy

The wait moves slowly
It won’t be hurried
Cannot be coaxed
reasoned with
or forced

It just waits
and the wait weighs heavy

‘and G-d said…’
G-d breathed
G-d became
was and is and is to come
and we waited
and we wait

we wait
and the wait weighs heavy

Recreating St Nic in our own image

I was watching The Santa Clause film the other day with my daughter and thinking how real Father christmas has become, how millions of people make Father Christmas real without him physically existing, yet he is manifested and brought into being by our giving of stockings and presents. Yes I know the story of St Nic, but can’t help thinking our desire to see the magic in children eyes stems from a deeper need to make manifest something we have all lost. However in doing so with Father Christmas we have lost more of the mystery of life than we have found, in trying to make the magic happen, it once again slips through our fingers…Kester writes brilliantly on the need to recover something of St Nic here and in doing we might just recover the truer mystery beyond.

if you want to pioneer Set your face like flint

I work with the wonderful Carolyn Dykes who has been pioneering the Network Youth Church across Cumbria. NYC is a fantastic initiative, it was way ahead of the curve, and has been trying to develop a more ecclesiological rooted model of youth work practice across the diocese for the last 7 years. Pioneers find new routes and pathways, and with the archdeacon Kevin, Carolyn has been pioneering within the structure of the established church, to create space on the ground for new forms of church with young people. In many ways she has had the hardest task of all pioneers, working within the system, and if I did #wonderfulwednesdays like my friend Gemma, Carolyn, Kevin and NYC would definitely be up there for a post.

As I said before, I often encounter people doing great stuff on the ground, but who are too close to it see how good it is. In this quiet corner of the North West I think I have uncovered a real gem in NYC. There is still a long way to go if we are to really embed a fresh approach to mission and ecclesiology, and I am really looking forward to helping NYC move forward into a new phase, but Carolyns vision and drive has been really pioneering, and I suspect really hard work! So here are a few of the things I have already gleaned as I have come alongside NYC:
– Embedding a radical approach into diocesan structures is hard work but it can be done!!! Amen can i get an amen!!!
– Holding the ecclesiological model is difficult but direct lines through the structure to episcopal oversight can be found
– even when senior leadership get it, the local context might not, so relationships and trust needs to be won and systems and permission from above can help
– The structure can help, but can become a problem, hold the values and be flexible, if good stuff happens on the ground you already some structures in place.
– The gravitational pull of traditional approaches to mission and ecclesiology is almost a cultural embedded phenomena it is strong and can easily lead to mission drift, but perhaps the structure can help act as a corrective to shift the culture towards re-imagination.

Some things need to be carried

I have been posting a series of advent tweets under the #adventweight and for some people these tweets are hard to embrace. In the tweets I try to put myself in the shoes of others for whom the run up to christmas may be hard.

I often find myself needing times of lament, to pause, to cry and weep, to embrace the fact that some things simply need to be carried. As I watched the film Field of Dreams for the umpteenth time last night, I found myself once again weeping unexpectedly, as the film reached a point of reconciliation between father and son, and was reminded that in my life this is something I just need to carry. My relationship with my father was rocky due to his alcoholism and yet in the dying moments of his life there were glimmers of hope and grace between us seeping through the cracks, but still many years later there are things I just need to carry. So as I prepare for the hope to come through #adventweight I remember that there is no magic bullet, not everything happens for a reason, and in the midst of new birth, hope and surprise, there are still things at just need to be carried.