December 15, 2015

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
embraces

So you wait
and the wait weighs heavy

The wait moves slowly
It won’t be hurried
Cannot be coaxed
blackmailed
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

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Christmas @ 10:48 am

December 14, 2015

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.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Christmas @ 4:19 pm

December 10, 2015

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.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Church,Emerging,Fresh Expressions Cumbria,Mission,Youthwork @ 10:23 am

December 9, 2015

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.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Christmas,Misc @ 10:51 am

November 23, 2015

Navigating structures

One of the things that attracted me to my new role is how committed the leadership of the locally established church was to trying something new and seeking to reshape their structures towards this. Equally it brought a sense of trepidation in taking the role as I do think “newness has to happen elsewhere”. The phrase captures my lifetime of experience (so far) of being on the edge and is taken from Jonny’s reflections on Arkbuckle (HERE). You can also see some my further reflections on how this applies to our approaches to church (HERE) particularly the Typology work which connects to newness and Fresh Expressions. As an aside I think one of the reasons why lay led Fresh Expressions are so successful (HERE)is that culturally the lay leaders are automatically a space that is of newness happening elsewhere.

So even in this role with great supportive senior clergy who are trying to take risks, reshape structures and systems, I still feel called to try and navigate, carve out, and create space for a newness beyond. The work on structures so far has been excellent at starting the journey towards the more Modal/Sodal Fresh Expressions column of my typology, people are having great conversations I can capitalise on, and I have a least 6 Fresh Expressions things bubbling up in the first three weeks. However I think part of my role has to be about creating the elsewhere space for the more Emerging wing of the typology which will help generate the stories sparking the re-imagination of church, and I have couple these in the pipeline as well.

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Fresh Expressions Cumbria @ 9:43 am

November 16, 2015

Blending Metaphor and Creative thinking

So I am two weeks into my new role as the Fresh Expressions Enabler and buzzing with ideas, met some great people and trying to navigate the structures and systems in place. There is a move in the diocese to reshape with Methodist and URC partners into mission communities, and inevitably everyone has a different take on what a mission community is. There are big questions about how to work with the structures and divergence as well as the need to recognise and embrace that “newness happens elsewhere”.

SO two things have come to mind, firstly is to try and find a metaphor for Fresh Expressions/ Mission Communities/Pioneering in Cumbria, that is broad enough to cope with the divergence but sufficient to bring some focus. (at the moment I am playing with dry stone walls). Metaphors can be powerful, and the strength of using them in an emerging context is obvious. They offer stretch and focus, give people space to imagine and ground practice. I am also interested in using it as what Edward De Bono would call a provocation to promote creativity (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjSjZOjNIJg about 3mins in) and as a tool towards lateral thinking. This may mean reducing the dry stone wall concept to a single part (eg stone) to increase the effectiveness of the provocation, but somehow we need to help people change track. Perhaps the balance of using the stone as the provocation and wall as the metaphor will mean discussions can navigate the divergence/focus issues.

Secondly I want to navigate some regional types of mission communities that can span the structures and re-imagine Fresh Expressions in this context, and equally these could act provocation signposts to encourage people down a different track, the challenge will be how to shape them and communicate them with the wider community.

What are the weaknesses of this approach and has anyone blended metaphor and creative thinking approaches in the emerging church contexts?

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Emerging,Fresh Expressions Cumbria,Mission @ 10:05 am

October 1, 2015

fresh expression a technology

Has Fresh Expresssion become a technology built the knowledge bases of experimental mission and the emerging church of yesteryear? One of the definitions of technology is machinery or devices built on scientific knowledge. In youth work or social sciences academics are quite used to thinking about practice and processes as a technology, but like any technology the danger is the system becomes the end, it takes on a life of its own and and too easily be seen as THE answer.

In an age where church is struggling to connect with community, it is little wonder that the technology of Fresh Expresssions is being embraced. It is also not surprising That like technology of old, systems are being pulled together and new pathways being created to enable this technology to spread. When steam revolutionised farming, it spread quickly, and created a whole industry, that within a few years was wiped out by the tractor. Steam engines took time to build, new factories and systems were put in place and by the time many were ready for use, they were an obsolete technology, sold off cheaply and now consigned to museums, and wonderful Fred Dibner type characters.

The emerging church that gave birth to FE was more than a technological shift. It was a paradigm move of thinking and practice and the technology developed from it was often done so by those outside the field. It is too easy to see technology as the answer, a short cut and allow it to hide the deeper issues that the original thinkers and practitioners were trying to challenge so the paradigm shift still required remains masked to many by the technology around it. Perhaps even making real change much harder. To stick with the farming analogy, to put the cart before the horse!

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Church,Emerging,Heretical imperative,Mission @ 7:14 am

September 23, 2015

In memory of Ken

‘Only a theology which is marked by the spirit of adventure, the urge to discovery and the practice of pilgrimage, rather than one which is static and propositional, can respond to people in transition and upheaval’. Ken Leech, Doing Theology in Altab Ali Park, p25

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Uncategorized @ 8:08 pm

August 11, 2015

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…

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Church,Emerging,Heretical imperative,Mission,Uncategorized @ 9:37 am

June 18, 2015

How is G-d made real?

Those moments pass fleetingly, when heaven and earth seem to touch, through the ages these times are described in different ways, a thin place, a quaking, the ah-ha moment. Yet what if there is something about the way we think about God that is the reason these are fleeting? Some flaw in our thinking, our narrative, our approach that means G-d can only ever be glimpsed in passing… an approach so rooted it not only limits us to fleeting moments but by its outworking it means that very few others are able to catch these moments and so start to embrace the presence that is always all around us.

I wonder if we have too narrow a view of the sacraments. Is there space for a kind of sacramental missiology, where we can take an apophatic view of the sacraments? Where by not talking about or practicing the sacrament of communion but by sharing a meal within the context of an ongoing relationship where community is fostered, people are real, that g-d is fleshed and blooded amongst us, but by naming it and calling it out as community or special, it would slip through our fingers like sand. Or that young person who gets a tattoo of religious significance after regular contact with a mission community, that actually baptism takes place but baptism does not need to mentioned, and if it is will it make the ink fade away….

This item was posted by Richard Passmore

posted to Heretical imperative @ 11:02 am

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