It’s been a while since I quoted Thomas Merton….

Just something to wake me up and remind me what is important today. I started this blog as a place to ‘park’ things like this…

Do not depend on the hope of results….

In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships

that saves everything.


A label

I don’t like being labelled and defined. However, someone sent me this and it seems to define a large part of where I am.

Still don’t like the label ‘Progressive’ though… is pejorative- like everyone else is somehow Neanderthal or lacking…

“You might be a progressive Christian if…”

  • You can be described, but not defined: Do people have a hard time putting you into a theological and ideological box?  The Progressive Christian often confuses staunch liberals and conservatives with the unpredictability of her conduct and the openness of her perspective.

You are more than a party platform: Do folks assume that because you land on one side on one issue, it must hold true that you prescribe to a laundry list of conservative or liberal beliefs? The Progressive Christian might be pro-this or pro-that, but he is rarely tied to any set platform.

  • You are not just waiting for the other side to get over its idiocy: Do you think questioning the intellect of the opposition because they are the opposition is silly and not really about having meaningful conversations The Progressive Christian will always honor the idea that community only grows if she is open to the possibility that she might be just as wrong as the other side thinks she is.

You believe God can and does speak through disagreement: Does it frustrate you that so many have a difficult time being open to the possibility that genuine and faithful discernment by opposing sides might take place? The Progressive Christian, even in the most difficult of disagreements, trusts that the other is discerning the movement of the Spirit just as faithfully as he is.

  • You seek the highest common denominator: Would you rather find common ground in larger questions such as, “Who is Christ for you?” and “How do we address poverty and violence?” rather than put a great deal of energy into controlling the every move of other members of the community? The Progressive Christian, by directing energy toward finding common ground on bigger issues seeks to build trust and make real the ever elusive idea that we can “agree to disagree.”

You find God’s inerrant truth in a non-literal understanding of Scripture: Do you believe that biblical authority does not mean the same thing biblical literacy? The Progressive Christian claims the Truth of God is revealed in Scripture, but that it is a truth that must be wrestled with, unpacked and never used as a weapon.

  • You bear with the battles: Ever wonder if some people wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they were not in a good church fight? The Progressive Christian knows that there are times to engage in passionate and righteous interactions, but she is not defined by the polemics nor does she determine her worth by the existence of the fight.

You are appreciate the person over position: Do you find yourself drawn to relationships across theological chasms because the other person is genuine and approaches the journey of faith in similar ways? When engaging in theological discussion over tough issues, the Progressive Christian values the complex personhood that she experiences with the other over and above the rightness or wrongness of the position being discussed.

  • You choose the middle: Do old-school left/right, black/white, good/bad polemics frustrate the heck out of you? The Progressive Christian, often accused of being soft, sees the “middle” as a place to model a new and faithful way of being church regardless of the arrows fired that are fired from edges.

You do not demand loyalty: Are you shocked at the way that “friends” turn on one another when someone engages in real conversations with the opposition? The Progressive Christian can live with the idea that loyalty to a position or a person can easily turn into idolatry and that being open to true dialogue with and being gracious towards people who disagree is not a sign of weakness, but an expression of strength.

It’s Sunday: time for a thought from Eugene Peterson again….


Some advice for preaching today:-

‘…there is the untested assumption that the congregation is close to being the kingdom already and that if we all pull together and try a little harder, it will be.’

(p34 ‘The Contemplative Pastor’)

‘Yes…yes…I know that it is true. I’ll just try and hold that in mind: I have 7 services to do today, out 11 nights this week and we have just launched a £17.5 million scheme to build a new church coffee shop/skyscraper to really point this neighbourhood to Christ, youth group thriving and growing by 100s each day- my volunteers give over 50 hours a week…’ D’oh

The Simpsons

I tried a lesson this week with a group of 13/4 year olds. None of them are going to take GCSE RS, they have finished their school exams and hence their syllabus, they don’t want to be in the lesson and they are bored as only 13/4 year olds can be.

It is like gladiatorial combat in that room- I love it, but it is exhausting. In an attempt to show that RS can be a way to view the world through whether you have faith or not, I turned to cultural icons/ ‘pop’ culture. There is a world of difference between their cultural world view and mine: almost a chasm.

I tried the Simpsons this week- Ned Flanders and Rev Lovejoy- in an attempt (partly for my research) to wrong foot them and discover what they really thought underneath the stock 13/14 year old response of ‘s’boring’.

A few clips, a bit of discussion and some real thoughtful, silence…. I found a quote by Homer Simpson that is one of my favourite ever: deep, funny and at the same time sad:-

  ‘I’m normally not a praying man, but if you’re up there, please save me Superman’

…and this was one of my favourite short clips ever….



Friday music: more of these you have loved…

So my oddessey into my past continues:-


This is only a 10 minute extract of a 22 minute song! 22 minutes- I could run 3 miles in that time!. Looking at the video: what was it I was thinking of when I was 15-21? The beards, the hair, the seriousness and the overblown lyrics?

Yet when I put this on a week or so ago, I could sing along to at least 80% of the lyrics and my knowledge of the key changes and time changes verged on the disturbing.

File under: guilty pleasure. I secretly do still like this….

Totally Random

So my wife is going through one of those periods of trying to educate the children musically. I’m trying to work late at night in my study and I can’t as ‘Simon and Garfunkel’ is blaring out from my younger one’s bedroom (why not Mogwai, Radiohead or even the Stone Roses?).

Is it just me, or is there something oddly creepy about a 7 year old boy repeatedly playing and singing along to ‘Mrs Robinson’ (a song about a seduction of a young man by an older woman) or that line in ‘Cecelia’ about ‘making love in the afternoon, with Cecelia up in my bedroom. When I got up to wash my face, I found that someone has taken my place’? It is a long way from ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam’.

What happened to the good old wholesomeness of ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ by Wings, ‘God save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols, ‘Cocaine’ by Eric Clapton or ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ by Lou Reed?

…on second thoughts, songs of seduction by faded 60s troubadours may be preferable…


I was sent a survey last week. About once a month I get sent surveys. I try and answer most of them as they are usually by people who are doing degrees and seeking to complete research. I was once in that position, and I remember what it was like.

I opened this one and I could not even start it. Now this is no reflection on the person who is doing the survey. It was the title that did me:-

‘….how strategic intent i.e. vision and goal setting impacts church numerical growth. The research will hopefully inform the relationship between church strategy and growth’.

There is nothing wrong with churches growing in numbers and depth or having an idea of where God might be leading them….. but……..but…..

I don’t know who it was who said something like ‘Be careful what tools you use: they may end up shaping you’…. from the idea of ‘vision’ in Acts, we jump to modern management speak of ‘vision’ and ‘goal setting’ (Biblical ref? I’m thinking the parable of bigger barns and the words ‘You fool; you don’t even know where you will be tomorrow’)…and don’t get me started on ‘church strategy and numerical growth (why do some people stop half way through the book of Acts?)….

…when did trying to follow Jesus, humbly, become overtaken by management speak?

…where do people who hurt, who are angular, or who just don’t fit go into this survey?

Perhaps I have been in village churches for too long, but this language leaves me cold….

I used this on Sunday

I don’t remember where I got this from, but I liked this:-

Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

But what shall I do?
Where shall I go?
I’m not even sure what you want me do!
I won’t know what to say…
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

Don’t send me out there…
So much poverty, so much hunger, so much injustice.
I can’t possibly tackle all that…
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

I’m not even sure what I think or feel or believe.
So much to think about.
So many alternatives, voices, ideas…
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

What if people laugh?
What if they ignore me?
What if they think I’m mad?
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…

Use me after I’ve lived my life a bit
when I’ve made some money,
had some fun…
next week…
next year maybe?
Lo I am with you always
to the close of the age…


But… … … .
OK, here I am, send me….
Lo I am with you always
To the close of the age…