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’.
As you read this, I am between days at the local rock festival: ‘the Cornshed’. We call it the Cornshed as it is mainly in a shed that was used for storing corn.
For the 3rd year in a row, I am the ‘official chaplain’. I get to wear a laminated pass like wot proper people do at rock concerts and walk around with an official teashirt with ‘godsquad’ on the back. I’ve blogged about it each year I have done it. I have loved it.
All week I turn up on site, sometimes around lunch, sometimes in the afternoon and do bits to help set up (this year, carrying 10 metre pipes around the site nearly gave me a hernia. But hey, I am a man- hear me roar…I just about managed it nonchalantly- but inside I was being ripped apart). And then on the two nights, I walk around, kind of acting as an ambassador, watching out for trouble and talking to people- lots of them. Occasionally praying with people.
Most people are locals and I know them- it is great for building up contacts. This year I’ve got people praying for me.
Anyway: the post title- as the pumps were being set up (it takes a long time), partly as I was around and maybe as I was the visiting holy man, I got to taste the first beer. Honestly- life rarely gets better than this…
You will need to scroll back and find the original post (go on…you want to...).
But if you don’t want to…. this guy that I meet at the local rock festival says that he is going to turn up at church…. and does…. hope you are now with me….
…anyway…last night I’m in the pub after a church meeting. The same guy is there… going through Sunday night, blow by blow- totally unembarrased by what he has heard and seen and felt. He is saying how his week has felt different. Then he is going round the pub, telling people about it (wish I had church members like that….hell, wish I was like that) and inviting people to church…. and one says they are going to come this Sunday.
I cannot theologize this (also, this week, someone who I spoke to at this rock festival, now wants to bring their child to ‘Sunday school’…and we don’t have one at the moment)… I don’t know where this is leading to…
…and I’m on my way home with a friend who describes himself as an athiest (who earlier that evening is selling the virtues of ‘messy church’ to his mate) who says ‘you know you are held in respect in this village… this place must be like a dream to you’…… Yes….in many respects it now is……..
I had seen him around the village in my 5 years of being here. He was about my age and often to be seen hanging around another gathering spot where the beer was much better than the weak tea we serve in chapel.
Anyway, I got talking to him a week or so ago when I was chaplain ‘God squad’ at the local rock festival. He talked and talked. He talked about how he used to come to chapel when he was much younger. I asked him if there was any mileage in doing church in the pub. We bumped into each other several times over the week. The last time I turned up he said ‘I’m coming to see you at chapel’ (People asking to come to church is not quite as rare as a socialist USA president, Westlife going techno or even McDonalds becoming an organic ‘slow food’ vegan restaurant, but it is not far off). I told him the next time I was there….. and thought ‘it is the beer talking’.
I bumped into him 3 days ago. He said ‘It is tomorrow night isn’t it?’ I explained the gig- evening, small congregation…’yes I’m coming’.
Sunday night- he turned up and he got something out of it. ‘I’ll come again- even if you are not there. I know some people here.’
I don’t know where this one will go, but I’m utterly gobsmacked. I can’t cope with this…..
It was Winston Churchill who said ‘Jaw Jaw instead of War War’ …great… I agree with him (which no doubt gives his ghost a tremendous fillip to know that an unknown Methodist Minister backs him).
I’m still thinking about a comment that someone made to me at last weekend’s rock festival about why Christians seem to value worship above action. IÂ also work in an institution that is good with words and not so good at…….well, doing as much as the words suggest (And I’m guilty as charged m’lud).
Found this hard hitting quote a few days ago:-
‘As Followers of Jesus we know what we need to do, but we’re afraid to do it. So, we create new language, new systems, new programs, so that we can talk longer and more intelligently about what we have no intention of actually doing’.
I have never before arrived home at 1.40am and then managed to get up to preach at 8am. I managed it yesterday, just…..
What is it about hanging around a festival with a ‘God Squad’ t shirt on, drinking beer (as opposed to wearing a dog collar and drinking lemonade)Â that makes people want to talk? They did- lots of them, before the point where alcohol has given them courage, around the point where alcohol gives courage and beyond the point where alcohol is begining to drown everything.
Got some real/passion anger from someone I knew- why do Christians spend their time in church and not in the community…why do they rate worship above ‘acts of kindness’? And why when people who don’t come to church do (for parade services/civic occasions) are they patronised/spoken over? And lots of stuff about ‘what is the meaning of all this?’, ‘We know you, you’ve been around a bit…..so tell me what is it all about…?’
Each year I do this I feel more at home- I love it. I get a little more angry- church is full of good, faithful people- but I don’t like it when what we do and value as ‘good’ is that which speaks primarily to us. I love doing this kind of thing, but at the same time it does me no good- I just get angrier in meetings when people say ‘ah well, you have got to consider the older ones/our needs/traditions/ we need building up first’ and I see the need/beyond the margins…… when the church becomes missionary it becomes most truly a church…
nb: I wasn’t looking for it, but I got a lot of good feedback from people outside the church…people I thought never noticed/hardly knew what I did……..something to hold onto I think….
Live music, well played- fantastic. I’m hoping that heaven has it’s fair share of gigs…
I loved the music, but again it was the conversation and the connections.Â Being in this environment in this village is better than several school assemblies or services. My shirt started lots of conversations (obviously not literally…..there was alcohol there, but nothing that I noticed that might have lead to people believing that shirts spoke.…).Â Â I found out things and learned information that I can take nowhere, tell no-one, but only pray…
The experience of praying with someone on a packed floor as they were waiting to play ‘Brad’ in a short Rocky Horror tribute was more surreal than it sounds……….
Say Vicar, we’d love to get married……. but do you always dress so…casual…
I got to meet a first class cricketer, had a bit of a chat with him and shook his hand. I’ll never wash it again. When he plays for England, you will read it first here….
Ok- at this festival we all get toÂ wear official t-shirts and have laminated badges: how cool is that? I’ve always wanted to do that. Crew members ( c’est moi! I am in rock heaven…) can have an inscription on the back.
This is mine:-
When the organiser dropped it off last week she was apologetic ‘It’s a joke -is it ok?’ I like it- I like the irony. Plus…didn’t I hear something about being a ‘fool for Christ?’
I was at a welcome service this week in an Anglican Church and all the ‘clergy’ (yeuch, I hate that word) processed in in their gowns etc. I knew many of them- good, holy, ‘real’ people. I understand the symbolism, but I can’t help but feeling that all this finery increasingly does not communicate that well to large segments of culture right now. Can a wild prophet 2000 years ago be best represented with all this finery and formality that speaks so strongly of christendom? I’m not sure.
Can the same man be represented at a rock festival by someone wearing a ‘God Squad’ shirt? Does this come closer to people…I’m not sure, but I hope so…
Blissful, blissful afternoon yesterday and it was all working… I’ve quoted him before, but in the words of the incomparable Van Morrison:-
‘You must remember, there will be days like this’
My oldest son recently asked me: ‘Dad, why do you enjoy talking to people so much?’ (italics are for emphasis). I think I said something like ‘Life is short and people are so fascinating’.
My day was blissful as it was sunny and I got to listen to people and talk so much and made lots of connections: bumping into someone on my way to the ‘Cornshed’….lots and lots of connections and good conversations setting up the festival……building up connections and stories within the village……bumping into kids from another school on our village green and making connections with their dad….praying with someone ‘going through the mill’ right now….
With my old evo head on: was it ‘witnessing’ (the word makes my blood run cold: hide your personality and blast em with the ‘four spiritual laws’ and get on to the next target)? There are times in conversations like today when God feels so present and the air feels so alive and everything feels possible…when every conversation feels like holy ground…..
…if I could just do this for a living…… ooops I do….
And, whisper it not in Gath and Ashkelon, there is a very real chance I could get to meet a first class cricketer tomorrow who will come and present something at the Cornshed. If heaven is any better than this, it better be pretty damn good……
Hope I can remember days like this….