Some thoughts after a holiday club in half term…

kk 2013

Just finished helping to run a 3 day holiday club in our village hall. This is how it is for me:-

* The number of volunteers who gave up huge swathes of their own time and the quality of what they did left me feeling amazed and grateful.

* The amount people are prepared to give to short term intense commitments.

* I absolutely love doing things like this: working with children, with people who have no or hardly any church background.

* Networks: I am lucky enough to be in a place and to be in enough ‘third spaces’ within that place to build them and access them.  I would get so frustrated in a ‘traditional’ Methodist Church appointment where the majority of time it seems is spent with those who come into a church(I love the mix of people I minister to). I am not knocking this; I know some are called to this.

* Sustaining weekly kids work is proving really hard at the moment: I am wondering if these kind of ‘temporary community’ events may be a way forward- the level of relationship seems to grow deeper.

* ‘Christendom’ is breaking down: we had a break from doing this holiday club for 5 years & I have noticed doing this has become ‘harder’- the gaps between church and community are growing.

* I live in a wealthy area: the number of people who go away most school holidays (summer, Oct half term, Christmas, Feb half term, Easter, May half term) seems to be growing.

*I need a holiday! As a good introvert with extrovert features, I love being around people, but most afternoons have been spent in my study working away from people.

But I am just so grateful to God to have the chance to do this….

Those who give

Ok; it was only a little thing, but over 30 kids in this village have benefitted over the last few days by a whole team of volunteers giving up their time to put on a holiday club. They could have stayed at home, or not bothered, but they didn’t.

I feel so grateful that they did and I see this time and time again repeated across churches with service in their communities. So today I am happy and grateful.

 

Those Who Give

There are those who give little of the much which they have–
and they give it for recognition.
Their hidden desire makes their gifts unwholesome.
And there are those who have little and give it all.
These are the believers in life and the bounty of life,
and their coffer is never empty.

There are those who give with joy,

and that joy is their reward.

And there are those who give with pain,

and that pain is their baptism.

 

And there are those who give and know not pain in giving,

nor do they seek joy, nor give with mindfulness of virtue;

They give as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes

its fragrance into space.

 

Through the hands of such as these God speaks,

and from behind their eyes God smiles upon the earth.

(Kahlil Gibran)

 

Oddly prophetic

I rarely watch ‘Newsnight’ but caught it last week. I watched this section open-mouthed and genuinely grateful that my license fee enables things like this to happen.

[youtube]xGxFJ5nL9gg[/youtube]

Yes: he does not give a complete vision and you may be thinking ‘but will it work?’. But, in a western culture where politics seems to have become management, the rich get richer and large swathes of Western Europe have no engagement with any political process, this makes for compelling viewing. I was practically on my seat cheering when I watched this.

The more I see of Russell Brand, the more like him: passionate, inconsistent, lewd, funny and angular. Why is it a comedian proving more prophetic than a politician? Maybe it is because he has nothing at stake and can speak freely. Maybe we need the Shakesperian fool more often than we think we do.

Holiday Club….

Today I will mostly be at a holiday club. Well, the holiday club only runs from 9.30-12.30, but what with setting up and then clearing up/debriefing and preparing the next day and collapsing in a heap, it will take up most of the day.

We restarted it last year after a break of 5 years or so. Last week after weeks of publicity/invites etc we finally made our target number, but it was nip and tuck to get there. I still hope for 1 or 2 extra this morning and the next 3 mornings.

I could dearly do with a lie down at half term! I suppose a lot of the volunteers could as well.But I am looking forward to it: lots of activity, fun and engaging with a group of kids who are largely outside regular church. I don’t know what the long term effects will be: we don’t really have regular Sunday kids work at the moment, but I think one thing to do is just to put stuff out there in a form and style that matches what people are used to. It is based on the story of Paul and uses pirates (don’t ask); mainly because the biennial Amateur Dramatic children’s production was called ‘Pirates of the Currybean’.

If you are the praying kind, prayers please over the next few days and beyond….

It’s about time we looked after ourselves

I found this in an old sermon and don’t know whether I have posted it before. It is from Richard Rohr but I don’t have the exact citation.

I am preaching today on Luke 18:1-8 and also on 18:9-14 and find this appropriate for both readings. When Jesus tells parables he often monkeys around with his hearers’ heads: using the outsider in a way to point truth back onto the insider. It is perhaps salutary that Jesus invariably gets most angry with the insider. Worth reading in another week when our leaders have been getting themselves worked up with how nasty they can be to illegal immigrants/asylum seekers.

Those at the  edge of any system and those excluded from any system ironically and invariably  hold the secret for the conversion and wholeness of that very group. They  always hold the feared, rejected, and denied parts of the group’s soul. You  see, therefore, why the church was meant to be that group that constantly went  to the edges, to the “least of the brothers and sisters,” and even to the  enemy……… When any church defines itself by exclusion of  anybody, it is always wrong. It is avoiding its only vocation, which is to  be the Christ. The only groups that Jesus seriously critiques are those who  include themselves and exclude others from the always-given grace of God.

 

 

A plastic duck

duck

This sits at the stop of our stairs along with lots of other plastic ducks. It belongs to my youngest son who has a bewildering array of similar items. All are invested with names, back stories and stories. Frequently, we will all join in with this story telling and surrealness. He knows they are not ‘real’: that went years ago, but they are still there as a way of expressing who he is and the way he sees the world. More than any of us, he sees the world through story and fantasy.

Every time I see it, it is a reminder to me that if there has been no space for story,being surreal or to play then the world is a grey and humourless place.

Friday Music

[youtube]uK5eP1kes0A[/youtube]

Two weeks today, Martyn Joseph comes to play my local village hall. It is more than a dream come true.

As support is this guy, Willy Porter. I am amazed that he is not more widely known.

Amazing. Even though I secretly want to break his fingers…..

Class Envy?

(I think I got the image off a site that said ‘prestige vehicle solutions’. I didn’t realise I had a ‘problem’ that ‘needed’ a ‘solution’)

I was nearly cleared off the road by a large bus a few days ago. The driver smiled nervously at me: it was hard to drive down such narrow roads with such a large vehicle.

Actually, I lied; it was a large 4×4: so necessary for doing the school run in these parts (irony intended). I don’t think it was your average 4×4; it had so many letters on the back like ‘SE’ ‘TDI’, ‘SRI’ & ‘UYIR’* & even I with my laughable knowledge of cars could see it was something special.

After I had got over my class envy, I became incredibly sad. Is this all there is? I mean; you take away a big story like a Faith (say Christianity) or a Creed (like socialism or a passionate humanism) and what is left? Looking after those close to you is a good thing: it is what we are supposed to do…. but without a bigger goal, where does it ever stop: there will always be one more thing to buy/holiday to go on/better car to get. ‘Society’ can become only those you chose to engage with/are like.

People around my age at least have memories/earlier frameworks to place alongside this new future. I fear for young children brought up in this culture who have no framework with which to contrast the wealth/comfort they are brought up in.

One of my friends encapsulates this dilemma from a similar mid/late 40s perspective. Here is a sample quote:-

‘It was also impossible to ignore the fact that communism seemed to fit remarkably well with the ideas of another radical, called Jesus.

Some people say that ideas like this are dangerous. Perhaps they are. For most of us however, they became the background hum of guilt inside our middle class lifestyles. Slowly our radicalism was buried by salaries, mortgages and the shopping run. It survived only in a few donations to charity, the odd sponsored third world child and the choice of newspaper we read’.

There is more during a long post over at http://thisfragiletent.com/2013/10/20/community-has-to-be-small-or-it-becomes-bureaucracy/. Towards the end there is a story of a community in South America that offers one of many different models.

 

(*- it stands for ‘up yours, I’m rich’. I may have made that up)

Hustling…

I have been doing a lot of ‘hustling’ in the last few weeks:-

I have been out trying to sell Martyn Joseph tickets: facebook, twitter, texting, emailing. There was going out and persuading people to put posters up that I had stickered with prices and tickets. Then there was speaking to people- following up social media contacts: trying to get a ‘buzz’ going. It was not easy, but then it was not hard either: this was something that I had a hunch that people would come to and be a part of if they just knew more….but I also had a passion for the music. And it is going well- gig two weeks on Friday & it is now at the minimum level I would have been happy with on November 8th. Maybe it will reach the level that I would have been ecstatic with back in December when I first made the pitch to his management. Tickets still available! (http://www.wegottickets.com/event/229763)

I have been ‘hustling’ with others for a half term holiday club. We relaunched this last year and just made the number we wanted. We are still below that number (just) but have a further pool of people who might be part of it; many with no church contact. In a post Christian society this kind of thing is hard; particularly in an affluent area where people have so many options for leisure time. Again, we used much the same methods (social media etc make it easier to build up a background ‘hum’). Places still available!

Both are exercises in ‘temporary community’ which is good- I like being part of this. The second involves more than the first, but is also temporary. Both are finite- although perhaps they may have future implications (people who are warm to music, possibility of more gigs, people who want to talk, new ways of kids work etc etc etc). In both, I have built up a number of new acquaintances. Even as an introvert, it feels better talking to people….. than sitting at a desk fretting….

It got me thinking about the number of meetings I have sat through and chaired where church attendance/involvement has come up. Sometimes these are hopeful, but they can become bleak: ‘why won’t anyone come?’ Underneath can be a sometimes unacknowledged ‘But I do not want any change from what I like and cling to.’

Leaving aside the issues of: does attendance equal discipleship? Isn’t it better to see church as a ‘going’ rather than ‘coming’? etc etc etc, it has struck me how little ‘hustling’ goes on in the sense of ‘I go to a church, this is what we do, do you want to be part of it with me?’ I feel this seems more marked from those who value what happens now and tend to resist change.

Whilst in no way a panacea for all ills, I am wondering if a little more ‘hustling’ might go a long way?

 

‘I’m just looking for a gooood church’

If I had a £1 for every time I heard that, I would be a very rich man (well my wealth would exceed £37 anyway).

I first heard that phrase in the 80s when I was a student. Apparently one of the goals of evangelical experience was to find a ‘gooood’ church (I elongated ‘good’ as it seemed to be said a lot like that- often in a southern middle class voice.) At this ‘gooood’ church you would find excellent ‘teaching’, kids work, music etc etc. And I bought it: I was young, away from home, a newish Christian and it all seemed so exciting. Besides students are largely disconnected from the indigenous community anyway & many are young in the faith.

When I moved away and got a flat, later getting married, I moved to a large town. I confess I didn’t go to the nearest Church, but the one the Methodist Superintendent recommended. It was still possible to walk there (just) and the community had some connections with where I lived. However, I don’t recall, except latterly, even going into any local churches or getting involved in the community where my neighbours ‘lived and moved and had their being’. I did begin to think it was strange that some people travelled over 10 miles to come to this church; presumably having even less involvement in the place where they lived.

If there is one thing the ‘Fresh Expressions’ Movement has opened our eyes to it is ‘place’: God loved this place, this time….start with what God is doing in a place- either in a local church or with some involvement/contact with it. The world has too many churches/denominations without starting another one. If the world needs Christ, it has more chance of seeing him if your community sees you sticking around as opposed to watching your exhaust fumes as you travel to that goooood church and spend a good deal of your social time around there.

One of the many reasons why I am reluctant to use the label ‘evangelical’ much anymore (apart from the fact I loathe labels), is that this desire to find a ‘goooood’ church seems to mark this movement especially strongly. I found a really helpful post, albeit from a different cultural setting here:- http://chrisbreuninger.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/surprised-by-rant/

Here is an extract:-

‘The problem goes like this: the church implicitly or explicitly promises spiritual growth through it’s various programs, and when the church does not deliver on that unrealistic expectation, some feel let down and start shopping for a new church.

Now, there’s nothing wrong about changing churches. Sometimes that’s a good move. But when it’s precipitated by the expectation that the church is responsible for my spiritual growth, it becomes problematic on a number of levels.

For one, it displaces responsibility away from the individual and onto the church to “feed me” through… you name it: sermons, music, programs, socials, etc.  As such, it trains people to become consumers of religious goods rather than equipping people to become  disciples of Jesus‘.

I love that phrase: ‘consumers of religious goods’- it marks us all; protestants more, evangelicals even more so.