A last reblog

I wasn’t intending to post another one, but the conversation from September 2010 was so strange, so quirky I had to. Back to the original material tomorrow….

Context: the original post header was ‘Is that reverend Peacock?’

I did think of launching into a learned exposition of philosophical import about whether ‘reverend Peacock’ is an entity or merely a honorific title and whether there was a better way of naming my esssence, but I declined. So I merely said ‘It is’.

‘Are you still free to talk to the 8 ‘o’ clock group on Monday?’ went the voice.

‘I am’

‘Ok…..We start at 7.30’ continued the voice.

I can usually find something to say most times, but this time I was silent.

‘Is everything ok?’ went the voice with mounting panic.

I recovered and said ‘yes’…. and then the conversation went further into the land of the surreal with the explanation that, yes, it was confusing, but not half as confusing as when it moved to 7.45…. but by that time I was pinching myself to see if I was still there.

A whole host of questions go through my mind like ‘Why not just change the name?’ , ‘How on earth can someone outside that group make the journey inside?’ or just plain ‘Whaaat?’.

Best stop there: some days you just couldn’t make it up.

Reblog:12

I posted this back in August 7 years ago after we had just come back from France. It was part of an inevitable series of what I learned from being on holiday. I have not learned the all the lessons of this: if anything I have allowed myself to get faster. However, I do try to avoid the use of  ‘busy’ language.

It is strangely apposite as today we are travelling back from France: possibly for the last time for a few years.

———————-

 

Lunch is for wimps’

‘I don’t do lunch’

‘You know I was so busy, I forgot to have lunch today’

‘I had lunch at my desk today’

‘That’s got lunch out of the way’

I have heard all of those phrases and used a fair amount of them myself. Sometimes they seem to be used to ‘big up’ the person saying them: ‘I’m far too important’. Or sometimes they are the result of inferiority: ‘I’m so unsure about myself/the worth of what I do that I don’t have time to stop and eat’.

I think that in our protestant work ethic Brit/USA civilisation this is getting worse.

Lunch/dinner/whatever you call it never seems to amaze me whenever I have had the good fortune to be able to be in France. It seems that many places shut for 2 (sometimes 3) hours in the middle of the day. People pause, take stock, prepare (rather than graze) food. I watched people eat leisurely, talk…leisurely. I watched picnic tables fill up with French families/friends….. table cloths came out- well prepared food (no soggy sarnies)….wine…water. Groups that began picnics before we arrived still eating, slowly, after we left.

When I first encountered it I thought it amusing: who in their right mind would waste so much time in public spaces, eating, talking, drinking when their was so much real work to do.? God wants us to redeem every precious minute- I mean- What Would Jesus Do? Erm…… actually he doesn’t seem to be a good example…far too French…

french lunch

Reblog:11

(This is just one of the many terrible, twee and misleading quotes I unearthed when putting the original title in google. Yuck….)

Many months before I did this post in Sept 2010, I did another one called ‘We believe in Jesus everything is going to work out’. At that time, it was my most read post; just because of the title. In fact, I bet that many- reading what I had written- stopped quickly; perhaps it was not the syrupy concoction that they expected.

So I tried this one: it was not well read, but it says something that I believe and have increasingly articulated.

I included that as a title as that is the top hit on this blog: an earlier post, months ago, entitled ‘we believe in Jesus so everything is going to work out’.

I’m not even sure what it was about- I guess I meant it sardonically.

What is it about being human, or even having faith that wants everything to ‘work out’? (and this is from a person who blubs shamelessly at the end of ‘Love, Actually’- where everything does work out). I do want everything to ‘work out’- even though I realise that it may not, that God uses imperfections and some things that will never be ‘solved’.

I wonder what a church would say if someone stood up to give their story of Grace if they said, not ‘God answered my prayers’, but ‘God questioned my prayers’ or even ‘I asked God for answers and he gave me more questions’?

I believe everything will work out, but not in this life- as I have noted before many many times (for I am in my anecdotage), at the end of the track ‘He never said’, Martyn Joseph says ‘He never said, every little thing’s going to be alright’

Reblog:10

This was the 2nd of 2 posts, originally written in 2010 after preaching in a larger church. 

Even then, as you can see, I was sensing that my journey would not be as part of the Methodist system. I did not know how but I knew I was on borrowed time: restless but not knowing a way forward.

I rarely preach now. The thing is, I hardly miss it.

So there I was, recounting what went on to my wife (who was home alone, studying) who was listening and steadily deflating my ego.

‘You liked it; could you see yourself being a minister at a place like that?’

I thought- a few years back, I would have said ‘Yes’ without thinking. ‘No’ – I replied, ‘I could see myself working out of a place like that- perhaps preaching once a month there, to keep me stable, stop me going off on one. But no- in fact I’m not sure where I could see myself being’.

I happened across this post from a friend yesterday http://dyfedwynroberts.org.uk/index/loving-the-centre-but-called-to-the-margins in which he talks about his own experience of pastoring but increasingly getting involved in real life (the 2 can become mutually exclusive)- this time, Plaid Cymru politics. He talks about the journey he is on taking him from the centre to the margins.

I am sure I am on the same journey and I don’t know where it is going or where it will go. Right now, I cannot see that exclusively in leading a congregation/congregations. I want to be on the margins, ‘out there’ (and away from church environments that talk about ‘out there’ as being ‘out there’ or the dark world)…..some of that may involve some church leadership/organised involvement, but not all of it and maybe not the majority.

Christendom in the West, in Britain is collapsing. I don’t want to be around to shore it up, neither do I want to be away from the Christian community (after all, I’m sure God would say ‘Oi mate- that’s my wife you are talking about. She may be failing, but she don’t need walking away from’)- I have seen too many chaplains who have gone completely native. But I do want to be part of ‘ordinary life’, to have space to build relationships, to experiment and to fail and to be with people who have no time or space for ‘church’.

And that is my current and growing conundrum….

Reblog:9

cross-in-snow-350

From time to time I have shamelessly lifted the quotes of others as I found them helpful. I posted this in November 2009. To be honest, I am surprised that I did: in those days most of what I posted was more explicitly Christian- this could be used in many of the contexts I work now as it is possible for someone without faith to gain something from this.

It is helpful for me now: on holiday, stepping back & looking for renewal.

Far too many words of mine and far too wordy. So try this from “Benedictus” by John O’Donohue:-

May the gift of leadership awaken in you as a vocation,
Keep you mindful of the providence that calls you to serve.

As high over the mountains the eagle spreads its wings,
May your perspective be larger than the view from the foothills.

When the way is flat and dull in times of grey endurance,
May your imagination continue to evoke horizons.

When thirst burns in times of drought,
May you be blessed to find the wells.

May you have the wisdom to read time clearly
And know when the seed of change will flourish.

In your heart may there be a sanctuary
For the stillness where clarity is born.

May your work be infused with passion and creativity
And have the wisdom to balance compassion and challenge.

May your soul find the graciousness
To rise above the fester of small mediocrities.

May your power never become a shell
Wherein your heart would silently atrophy.

May you welcome your own vulnerability
As the ground where healing and truth join.

May integrity of soul be your first ideal,
The source that will guide and bless your work.

nb: to find out more about John O’Donohue and his continuing legacy, try www.johnodonohue.com

Reblog:8

This is slightly ironic: since I posted this in July 2009, I have begun to develop an appreciation for poetry, occasionally even writing some.

I am still interested in U2, but not as obsessively….

I have written before here about my deep love for poetry (there is more than a small bit of irony here; generally I don’t ‘get’ poetry. That may be a legacy of the 1970s when I was at school and poetry was a cue for throat clearing, received pronounciation and over seriousness. I don’t ‘get’ it in worship either as I find it can tend towards the po faced, over earest or plain cheesy. I am open to being converted on this one...).

I have found a book that I liked: ‘Spoken Worship’ by Gerard Kelly (Zondervan, 2007). I saw him last year at a conference and in my best 1950s English: ‘I liked the cut of his jib’. He is a bloke (obviously)…. but that is major for me in a church christendom culture that seems to deny bloke-ishness.

gerard kelly

I also like a person that has a wish that Bono would be the 4th person of the Trinity…

Anyway:- closing stanza from ‘The Taming of the Truth’.

‘..we have taken what was given

as a message for the many

and made of it

a massage

for the few’

I like this- it confirms where I’m at and still makes me think more.

What do you think?

reblog:7

I wrote this about 3 years ago. At this point I did not know that I would not be a minister of a church and therefore not preaching on Sundays. I am free to worship where I want or not at all.

When I have been to worship though, I have always gone locally. Maybe this post still holds for me.

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.

reblog:6

I posted this on 4/7/2013. I am happier with this style of writing- I can see that I developed quite a bit from the early days of blogging.

I do not use the word ‘missional’ much now as it seems like so much jargon. That aside, this is close to where I am now and a raison d’etre for what do now. Plus…if more evidence was needed, I really did like The Cornshed.

 

I read somewhere that one of the simplest ways to be ‘missional’ (it’s a Christian jargon word: previous definitions of ‘mission’ and ‘evangelism’- which in themselves can conjure up images of slightly scary people with no self awareness who just do not listen- have around them ideas of the church as a castle; occasionally the drawbridge is lowered, the believers sally out, bash some pagans and then ride fast back into the castle) is simply to pick a place in the community and ‘hang around’ regularly.

This place could be a coffee shop, pub, bowls club, darts night, gym, book club etc. Anywhere that is ‘you’ (‘cos most of us see through actors) and you simply become part of it, listen, serve, pray and wait. If you want easy answers and safety: don’t do it- join a large church and spend most of your free time there (there may be irony there).

Many people in churches do that automatically; we have not been terribly good and recognising this as Kingdom work (oops ,more jargon)  or preaching and teaching on it. Why many of us who are professional godbotherers need to hang our heads in shame is that in our unconscious actions we have portrayed an image of holiness that is just around being in church and doing Christian activities. Sometimes we do it in our conscious actions: our language is ‘churched’ and the only way you can really serve God is by doing church jobs.  Mea Culpa….I know: there is probably another post to be written on those who believe but have no active involvement in any Church.

My last observation on ‘The Cornshed’ this year…… the person who runs that festival, generously lets me do that. Of course I turn up during the week from time to time and help get it ready- but not as much as most. This year I washed up, ran a couple of errands, made innumerable drinks and- a first- I painted signs (my Methodist forebears would be turning in their graves; the words I painted were ‘Tombola’ and ‘ale bar’). But I turn up and hang around….. and even though half the time I frantically pray and am not sure what to do or why I am there (I think that is a feature of chaplaincy anyway), I have realised more and more the value of ‘presence’ of ‘being around’.

I like to think that although some people may think ‘What a *&%$- what the &*+£ is he doing here?’, still others think ‘Oh the church is here’.

Reblog:5

This post was called ‘Where is God when it hurts?’ It came out on 12/7/2009.

This has been a theme of this blog as it is a theme of many people I speak to: shiny ‘no problems here; let’s pretend’ Christianity has never cut it for me. Although the situation in 2016 is different to 2009 and much of Christianity has changed, there is still an undercurrent of ‘nothing to see here, move on’ in places.

Coincidentally; 7 years later, I am still marking GCSES….

You’ve asked that question. I’ve asked that question. The GCSEs that I seem to have spent my whole life marking lately ask that question- many answer: ‘There is suffering so there can’t be a God’.

I can understand that- I’ve hit that point from time to time. I’m not sure church always helps…one of my pet hates a few years ago was a chorus that had the words ‘And as we worship, our problems disappear’. I cannot find the words to do justice to that line….

And yet… I have a theory that most of scripture was written against the background of suffering. I’m suspicious of Christians and churches that ignore that: when we hit the buffers we have no framework to process it/rant about it.

Anyway, no more talking as it is cartoon time. More from my shameless pillaging of ‘Naked Pastor’….

naked wheres God

reblog:4

I did another long series after my first one. I have abandoned long series since then: I have got more au fait with what works in blogging since then (although I am not there yet).

This was meant to be a series that asked questions and hoped for something different- this is why I called it ‘what if’  This was no.12 and I posted it on 20/05/09

I deleted something about the specific meeting: from memory it was actually very good. In hindsight, this highlighted a feeling that grew in me and led to me becoming very disillusioned with the workings of my denomination; the prevalence of long, sometimes hard meetings late at night. I am still not ‘healed’ of that….

I had a full day meeting 2 days ago. Doesn’t that phrase fill you with excitement? No. Thought not.

I don’t like meetings and I don’t fully know why. I think part of it is that if you crack jokes or are surreal, you get looked at (at least I do!). Think it is also as I crave relationship: deep conversations, trivial conversations- meetings don’t often seem to do that. I often think that much more gets sorted out in 20 minutes in the pub than in 2 hours in a church council….. Life seems full of wild colour- meetings seem grey…

….anyway, part of a poem from Stewart Henderson (it is in ‘Still, facing Autumn’- think you can still get it on amazon) that tangentially relates to leadership and some of the things that could happen to make meetings, well, more ‘playful’:-

‘I believe leaders should be servants

and servants should be powerless

I believe all leaders should spend

part of their training

playing on merry-go-rounds

and building sandcastles.

I believe the church should be a refuge,

a swing park, an embrace’

He later says:-

‘I believe in absurdity’

I do as well- it is the only thing that keeps me sane.