Tag Archives: God Stuff

Networks and confidentiality

Slightly different blog post today. I am at a watershed in my life in many ways. Yesterday “something” specific happened, God released his Spirit in a few v. unremarkable but special ways which have reinforced to me I am not going mad about some stuff I have been wrestling with. I can’t explain but through various “ordinary” conversations God spoke to me extremely clearly about some stuff I have been praying hard about.

I realise that some new shoots have tentively poked up through the soil in my life and that I need to nurture them carefully, discerning if they are weeds, seasonal blooms, or things which are going to grow over a lifetime – there seems to be a mix of the latter two but being a realist I want to look out for the first set aswell. With all of them the shoots I am seeing now are the results of seeds planted at different times, some by myself and some by others. Seeds which have been watered and fed by many including those of you I know through this blog and other internet sites we frequent.

This brings me to where I am going with this. Over the last few years I have been very open on here about what has been going on. This is something I want to continue, but am aware will need to change slightly because of the shoots that are growing – confidentiality becomes an issue….for example I don’t feel it appropriate to share what most of them are at the moment in any detail. However, I know that in all my mad adventuring you guys, (regular readers), have been vital and have in many ways formed the core of my support group. Therefore, I am looking for volunteers, (bearing in mind that most of you that I have in my mind here are also Facebook friends), to formally become part of a small “support group” for me. I am looking for people who either know me in real life or have been reading my blog regularly for a while, (give or take a bit at least over the last two years). I am looking for people who are Christians and who are ready to tell me when they think I am wrong aswell as when I am right. I am looking for people who think they can tell what my passions and gifts are aswell as what my faults might be. I am looking for people I can trust.

If you think you fit the bill can you facebook message me and so I can get back to you with a bit more of what’s actually going on in my life at the moment.

Advent – Day 1

Today is the start of Advent. The Church of England is encouraging people to do advent through a “Ready Steady Slow” site. Seems a bit cheesy to be honest, but also potentially useful. I know at times I do need to slow down as well as have a kick up the arse to be a bit more eco friendly, etc in my practice. At the end of each day is a You Tube clip. Today it’s a short one from ++ Rowan which I’m not going to link to because I want to put in two clips.

Firstly, a You Tube clip explaining a bit about the idea is here:

Secondly, for something a bit deeper on advent and what it’s all about try a longer clip from Archbishop Rowan Williams and what he said this time last year year.

It’s the end of an era

Ok, so Sunday sees the end of an era with the last Delirious concert, when they play Hammersmith Apollo. As part of the end of the road type stuff Christianity Today, the US evoish mag, has an interview with Martin Smith. The article, through two questions asked, gives an insight into how the US religious media does and doesn’t get the UK as much as it does Delirious. In his answer it is touching that when others are disparing about some of the stuff happening in the CofE, (like the prospect of cuts due to budget deficits as reported in this weeks Church Times,) Smith gives a message of hope regarding this great institution.

“Is there a big worship music scene in the UK?

There are pockets of it that are alive. And there’s big pockets where they’re not. The UK’s similar to everywhere else in the world: It’s a secular culture and you’ve got the people of God raising the banner and saying, “Hey, I think there’s another way.”

Is it hard to break through to the secular culture in your homeland, even with the Church of England and Catholicism being so prevalent?

I think there are radical elements in each denomination just as there are conservative elements in the radical denominations. I’ve got friends in pretty much all of them. You connect with the people that want to see the world change. There are pockets of people in all shapes and disguises that want to see great things happen. But The Church of England is an amazing denomination with incredible things happening within it. I think that’s going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next year.”

My own memories and views on Delirious are mixed. I’ve heard them over the years in a range of settings: Glastonbury, Guildfest, Greenbelt and Folkstone and have to admit I have found them variable in quality. Folkstone was a kick ass gig where as in other settings they have been more mediocre sometimes. I remember seeing them at Greenbelt one year and being most underwhelmed. It was, I think, when they were going through their Big Audio phase and well, it was the worst in what used to be known as soft rock. For me the thing about Delirious was as a worship band they were actually very good, but as a secular band they were quite average. It was to do with content and delivery I think, and the attitude of the audience. Smith was excellent at manipulating the audience and was/is, at heart, an evangelist with a passion for pop. With the Christian stuff they also had material that a certain type of audience knew how to react to and that audience were their core market. Without the spiritual dimension to “entertain” with they were just another set of guys in t-shirts and jeans with a bit of talent for guitars and keyboard, etc.

This You Tube clip of History Makers shows my favourite Delirious song.If you listen all the way through, to how it ends, you find it nicely illustrates what I was saying about Smith and the audience.

Innuendo – Books and Windows

Back when I was very young Janet and John were alongside Dick and Dora and Peter and Jane. In the early 70’s Carry On films were also popular and the The Life of Brian was yet to become controversial, made in 1979.

Yesterday these memories came flooding back in a mix of innuendo and good hearted nostalgia. Firstly TOH presented me with a copy of “See John Run“. For those not familiar this is a innuendo filled parody of Janet and John from Terry Wogan’s Radio Two breakfast show team. It is v. funny and available on CD aswell as in book form. It has that same kind of v. dodgy but somehow innocent humour that Carry On had.

The second attack of nostalgia came wandering along the main street in Newcastle and seeing the Fenwicks Christmas window. Firstly the thrill of seeing a proper department store Christmas window is something you don’t tend to get so much these days. When I was a kid I remember that it was a big deal being taken to the Co-op in Tractor Town to see the Christmas window and then being taken up to Santa’s grotto. These were of course the days before cheap deals to Euro Disney or whatever when it would have been viewed as ridiculous to think that kids would go off to Lapland or wherever. Somehow our pleasures were more simple then. Anyway back to the present and Fenwicks Newcastle window. This year they have gone for a traditional feel with the nativity story being told as you walk along the store front. It is a full on cheesy 60’s and 70’s style telling of the events with mechanical figures. The ethnic representations are of course cringe worthy and if this were in a church you would be straight onto who ever was organising about the negative images being sent out. However, in this context it is soooooo right.

What I liked best about the whole thing was that I knew this window would be the type of thing your average Christian Voice supporter would applaud as wonderful. Yet, and this is the good thing whilst representing the nativity in a good way the designer has slipped in odd references to popular films including the Life of Brian. You would have to know the films to get the sly references slipped in. In the case of Life of Brian it is the way one of the buildings has graffiti about the Romans in red writing, complete with corrected spelling mistake and a woman looking out of the window as a centurion knocks on the door. Moving along to where Mary and Joseph have escaped with Jesus to Egypt this is represented by some kind of Prince of Egypt scene.

The thing is though just as you need to understand Janet and John kids books to get the full irony of the stories, or know the films to get those references in the window, you need to know the nativity story to get the Christian side of Christmas. For many kids the nativity is another story, and one which is often expanded in schools to allow participation by larger numbers of children, (think the octupus in Love Actually). The windows will look great but not be fully understood without explanation. That’s why things like “Christmas Journey” are great. Christmas Journey is an opportunity to tell the story and get it explained to kids.

Next week it’s coming to the church I go to. We’re getting school kids in to tell them the story. Therefore, when they head off to Newcastle and see the window they will hopefully have a better idea of what it’s about and may be, just maybe, the Jesus bit won’t be just another one of the cultural references being mixed in which you might or might not get.

For those of you with no knowledge of the cultural ref to the graffiti in Life of Brian I leave with you a You Tube clip of that bit of the film

God in the Urban

Glen Marshall has this article in the Baptist Times about finding God in the city. He points out that retreat centres all appear to be in remote locations that hark back to images and ideas of the romantics. Even in the city the retreat centres which exist, such as St. Anthony’s priory here in Durham, tap into those romantic images. The thing is that I think they need to be like that.

The events of this week, she did manage it in for the Maths exam yesterday, so only English to have the resit as the first sitting in the summer – although she refused to go in wearing uniform, have shown me some new things about God and his community. I have learnt alot through the kindness shown to me, particularly through the online community. I have also – and this is something I have struggled to do in the past – got angry with God and managed to express my frustrations in prayer. I have therefore been able to be more honest with God with my desperation this week but also been open to more advice and love. I have taken a few steps forward whilst feeling like I was drowning in the kak. This has been v. much finding God in the urban.

However, in the mist of that I sometimes need to take myself off. Sometimes we need to find God by allowing ourselves to learn to be hugged by him and to rest in him or to deal with difficult stuff in spaces which are totally removed from the types of places where we have experienced the kak. This is easier in “fluffy” settings which enable us to take time out of the everyday.

For me the key, I think, the key is to recognise God in the city and the noise, but also within the quiet.

EDEV – A Reflection

Back in mid February when the weather was cold and I was still in culture shock from the move I started a programme at church called EDEV (Extending Discipleship Exploring Vocation). Having tried to use Google as my friend I have found out that there is relatively little information about EDEV on line that I could link you to. The best I can find are the following: this article (page two) of the WSC Newsheet, this rather incomplete official looking website (pot luck as to whether the internal links will give you any info or not) and this rather interesting article found on the main Methodist website. What you might have noticed from these articles is this is apparently not a course and trying to pin down what exactly it is seems to be like nailing a jellyfish to the wall of a bouncy castle.

At the end of the month the “programme” comes to the end with a celebration service. Now it is nearing it’s end I thought I would share abit of a reflection on my experience of it. It is part of a package that has quite literally changed my view of God and shifted my world a degree or two. As I begin this you have to remember that when I started, whilst I would personally not choose to use either term in relation to myself or my faith, I was a post or recovering evangelical. I had hung on in with church by the fingertips at times over the last few years and was to be honest, spiritually, like a teenager worn out by the frustration in many ways. I began EDEV around the same time I did a much shorter membership course largely to find out more about Methodism basically….oh and try to make some sense of what on earth I was doing with my life. So I guess that the end result has to be taken in terms of EDEV has been just one strand within the thread of the last year that has been my move into Methodism.

Upon arriving we were given our “Ground Rules” for the sessions. These were like a breath of fresh air for me…they were a set of guidelines that stated through their content, although nowhere specifically, this is a safe space. I was not used to having this explicitly set out in Christian settings, yes confidentiality and respect were often mentioned but this actually had other stuff in there. It was the first indication I had that this might not be just another packaged course.

As the weeks went on I discovered that EDEV was more about facilitating and equipping you with tools and information to do your own exploring and journeying with God. There was an emphasis on reflection and discernment and thinking stuff through with God using the bible. For me a session we did looking at approaches to theological reflection was unbelievably useful. That was the session where I first encountered the Methodist Quadrilateral and the idea that you use scripture, reason, tradition and experience, with experience having an emphasis on the importance of our own experience of God’s grace working in our own lives. I have to say I think that if I had to identify any moment in the last year when God had released grace or healing into my life that would be it. Suddenly my experience was something that was not to be seen as something uncomfortable and a cause of dissonance and the root of my dis-ease with church. Rather it was something which could be reflected upon, with the other parts of the quadrilateral. Suddenly I found I didn’t have to view my experience as oppositional to scripture and tradition, and have reason as the referee in the middle trying to keep me sane when I found I couldn’t square the circle. Rather I could reflect using all four elements and it was ok to believe that God has made me who I am totally and that my experiences of him might just be as legitimate as other peoples. This section also validated the decision to do the research and gave me a new confidence that I might not be insane, rather I really might have been taken on this mad journey by God. A key part of the reflection also involved looking at our gifts and skills (and being honest about what they were). It actually gave us ways to do this rather than just saying “identify them”.

Moving on we delved deeper into the bible, looking at how God spoke to people within the scriptures. This got me back to some stories I had too often ignored. The more I looked the more I saw that not only did most of these people say, “me God, no God, can’t do that God” they were all rather human and messed up people. They had infirmities, they had pasts and they all had labels. This was important because it bought me to a point where I came before God with my list of “excuses” as to why I wasn’t a good enough Christian to do x,y or z within any church community. As I looked at my excuses within the light of scripture I found that if the reasons I were giving were legitimate nothing would ever have happened for Gods people. Being a queer, mouthy, single mum who has a habit of making mistakes actually meant I was exactly the type of person God sometimes uses. Eeek….that was another turning point, I couldn’t use the labels or not being good enough as an excuse anymore.

The course took a bit of a turning point after that. We moved on to look at Methodism and what its principles and history were. I love this stuff, aswell as finding it really interesting I also think it is something that we need to learn more. The “low church” denominations came out of the last big period of social change, (the industrial revolution), and as such I think they have alot to teach those of us living in late modernity about how to look at the society around you and find new ways of doing God in a rapidly changing, unstable time. They also have loads to teach about taking risks.

After a summer break we have been learning more about different ministries that people are involved in. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to some truly inspirational people talking about their work.

We’ve also been encouraged to find / do placements to go and find out a bit more about what God might be calling us to. I did a holiday club with our local families and youth worker and went off to spend a couple of days with Never Conforming looking at the work she is involved in. These were really valuable for me in seeing what I do / don’t feel myself likely to do in the future.

The other important element of the course has been having an accompanist or mentor to chat things through regularly with. We have been encouraged to voice the mad things going through our heads to be challenged, supported, encouraged and directed to think again. This was vital for me as it gave me the first chance to voice one specific mad thing going my head…and scarily be told I might not be mad.

The upshot of all this is being challenged to a more grown up faith and involvement with the church, as I have mentioned in other posts. It has seen me going through the process of “going on note” to start learning how to be a local preacher.

Basically it has given me confidence through its emphasis on the way God works differently with differently people, but there are tools we can all use to work out whether God is really involved in something and whether it is the right direction for us to be taking. It has also given me confidence in sharing “mad” stuff with other people to get their thoughts, questions and challenges. It has also given me a new passion for my faith through hearing other peoples stories and sharing bits of their journeys.

So I’d say a couple of things to finish:
(i) if you are a post/ recovering evangelical trying to keep faith in institutional church but wanting space to explore your place within that think about doing EDEV. It doesn’t have right and wrong answers….it gives you tools to help with discernment and discipleship.
(ii) If you are still an evangelical or were never one in the first place and are ever given the chance to do EDEV go for it aswell. Whilst it can be engaged in whatever your spiritual experience, length of time as a Christian it is something which has fresh and relevant material for mature Christians and actually will push you to realistically think about how God might be wanting to move you forward, sideways or whatever.

Talking about my generation

Last week I sat politely listening to John Drane talk about the probable demise of the church. He was envisagening a velvet revolution / fall of the Soviet Union type situation where one day it was there, the next something had just happened. He also referred in passing to the fact alot of people in our churches were going to die over the next twenty years. As I say I sat and listened politely, my mind being slightly cynical about his fall of the USSR analogy.

Last night, however, I had an oh shit! moment when I actually realised the important bits of what he was saying and the consequence for my generation, and knowing the age of many others of you reading this, our generation.

I literally woke up to the what the death of a sizeable number of British Christians over the next 20 years meant. Here are my thoughts:
1) It is easy to think that those currently in the 55-75 age group who are “the backbone” of the church just started to get really actively involved when they retired….this is not the case. These are the people who have faithfully served for years. They have literally kept the church together for ages, serving on committees as well as doing the jobs that have needed doing and being the volunteers running the kitchens, etc. If they are all going to age / die significantly over the next 20 years there need to be people who are getting trained up now to take on the necessary roles, and some of those roles will still exist in some form or another whatever type of church we have. In reality in 15 – 20 years time it will be those of us now in our late 20’s – mid 40’s whose children will have grown up and whose careers will be built who will have the time / resources to be taking on many of those roles. The practicalities mean that our current young people, whom the focus has quite rightly been on (to stop them slipping out the back door) will be busy doing all the things we are doing now.

2) People don’t all die at once, there will be a gradual decline – unless we are blessed with revival. Which ever way we are going to be in a position where one day we will wake up and notice there are either alot of people not there or alot of new people there who are wanting our advice / support as “older” and “mature” Christians. Again this means we will have responsibilities, for handling change and for mentoring/ discipling.

3) As a generation we have spent far too long sitting there moaning. We have dressed this up as wanting to engage in mission, (quite often), in terms of discussion on emerging church. However, we are now at a point where we are talking “mixed economy” in a comfortable way. It is time for us to stop moaning and learn / be trained into handling the change about to come into being. It is also time for us to pray about what is to come. As a faithful people we should be praying for wisdom about it now.

4) We need to wake up to the fact that this is not going to be something for “the professionals” to handle on their own. The structures we have in our churches for decision making, be it synods, church meetings, assemblies or whatever mean that we will be the people at ground level having to make decisions to have them voted on. We will have to engage….we won’t just be able to leave it to clergy, our systems – quite rightly don’t work like that. Also not to put too fine a point on it the pressure on our clergy in terms of doing funerals, etc is going to increase. There are more people now and an aging population – think about it.

5) It is no good trying to pass the responsibility on to the next generation. The next generation are the church with us and will be heavily involved as partners in this, but we are their parents. They will turn to us for advice and as I said earlier when all this happens they will be the ones with young children and budding careers.

6) We also need to wake up to the fact there are less of us. Alot of people in our age group have drifted out of church, how many people did we know who were in churches when they were younger who aren’t now? Those of us who are left are going to be the ones on whose shoulders this falls.

7) In short what I am trying to say is it is time that my generation stopped moaning and got their backsides in gear to prepare for what is about to come. Additionally, it is time churches woke up to the training that our generation will require to take the tourch. Much as everybody may wish they could skip our generation the fact is we are going to have to take on appropriate roles and need training in them now.

8) We need to get our heads around what a missional focus means for us. I think we are so focused on connecting with and understanding our culture we have missed the fact we are going to have to act as mentors and disciplers….which means we need to get our spiritual maturity sorted a bit more.

9) If you are older please pray for us and please take on board that we need to be trained up. Yes, we have and are challenging alot of the things you might have held dear, but we are the ones who are going to be the next set of people with grown up kids and careers that are slowing up.

Coming out and coming in

Back in July last year I put up this blog post which discussed my sexuality and ended with this paragraph:
“I know I hold a position which cannot be justified, and that the secular is sensible enough not to find virtuous therefore, I can’t discuss it with them. The effect of this means I walk around with “the wardrobe on my back”, as the poem says, because it is helping me balance on the fence. It is society’s negative views on evangelical Christianity, rather than society’s more positive, (or atleast indifferent), views on LGBT issues which keeps me with one foot in the closet, but also it is the dominant public messages within evangelical Christianity which keep me holding onto that wardrobe. Yet, through it all I know I am not carrying the wardrobe alone and that each time I feel that I have to deny who I am or ensure that discussion is avoided God who created me fully (and who has intended me to be exactly who I am – both queer and evangelical in a largely secular time and place) is there beside me, absorbing my pain.”

A year on and I find myself in a different place. Largely through the way God has worked and my faith journey has developed this year I am more comfortable with the juxstaposition between my views on sexuality and faith. I have been able to put the wardrobe down. This has meant I have recently got to the position where not only was I in the right place to be in a relationship but I was able to have an honest conversation with somebody very special about how I felt about them. The result of this I am now part of a couple.

This has implications, not least there is now a public coming out to those outside of the church I chose not to discuss my sexuality with because I was worried that it would give them more amunition against the faith I hold as the most important thing in life, and wish to give them every positive reason to engage with. This has raised some questions about why I couldn’t just be honest with them before…after all these are the people for whom it is definately not an issue. I have sought to explain the religion thing, but realise within this I am sending out a negative message about the church – which I don’t want to. I have realised that in my approach I was colluding with the lack of integrity that exists in our culture in many issues around faith and sexuality. I made a mistake, but one which I feel too many of us do.

In our attempts to have a missional focus we become over sensitive, just as in our position in ecclesiological debates we may also suffer from similar problems. Sensitivity is important and within this I do believe that there is a rightful place for discretion and sometimes silence. However, there is also a place for truth telling and for letting go of the fear. If we truly believe in the ability of the Spirit to work within people’s hearts and our own responsibility to be sensitive to the Spirit working within us we should not make value judgements about what we tell and don’t tell people because of the impression it may give of the church. That is not, to reiterate, pushing a total disclosure and spill your guts approach but it is saying we shouldn’t take approaches like the one I did.

For me, taking a trinitarian approach, mission stems from an understanding of the role of God: father, son and spirit in my life and in the life of the wider community, both worshipping and wider. This in turn means that the combined role of bible, tradition, reason, experience (Methodist quadrilatural for those of you into such things) is important for me. What I am increasingly aware of is the need to look at our interactions with others aswell as our own lives in relation to that quadrilateral.

The impact of taking this approach is something that I feel is very important and something to be thought through. Taking this approach involves a process of theological reflection. So as individuals, as well as worshipping communities, we need to be aware of how to reflect theologically and relate this to missional activity. This involves us in thinking about issues of faith and practice and how those are engaged in from an accademic, worshipping and social networking perspective.

Here in lies a problem, in our world of professionalised clergy and academics this activity which we all seek to engage in has been largely put into the field of career development for clergy or climbing the career ladder within the academy. I say this because I have, yet again, become aware of the way in which discussions are held between people of faith in social situations and the way the same issues are taken up within “professional study”.

This week I am extremely privilidged to be attending a conference which I am effectively gatecrashing. It is a linked to a qualification which is effectively a professional development qualification for clergy or theological educators. My supervisors suggested I attend because they knew I would find it useful and interesting. Everybody is being lovely and I am really enjoying it. The thing which has struck me most is the way that during the week we have been able to engage intelligently, (using reason), with practical theology (where we have been looking at data gathered as a result of reflecting upon peoples’ experience), but seeking to frame this within a faith based discussion where tradition and scripture have both been referred to during the week.

The types of issues that I have most often found myself discussing with networks of friends I have come to know, primarily, from interenet communities are being discussed within the academic setting. The discussions are almost identical in nature, except for the fact that this week they are involving a bunch of people who have been in a position to gain the evidence and have a greater voice in the discussion. They are the people whose work and discussions will inform the practice that the rest of us have to choose to (or not to) engage in.

Yet again I am wondering why the gap in these discussions exists. I am here largely because I have been extremely lucky and given the chance, to some extent, to ignore the boundaries which exist. The debates and discussions I am hearing though are ones which need the imput of all sides. They are issues which effect and would equally benefit from the critical imput of the layity aswell as professionals.

Greenbelt is great because it allows for some conversation to take place but what I am aware of is the need for smaller scale discussion to take place on a range of issues relating to missional and ecclesiastical issues. Similarly I am becoming increasingly convinced of the need to encourage more lay people to engage in practical theology. Churches are / should be missional centres where the people as a whole reflect on issues of ecclesiology and missiology and how these relate to our current cultures. At the moment I fear that what is happening amongst the layity and “professionals” is a split between “ordianary theology” and “professional theology” which is disenabling mission and is increasing the move to the “professionalisation” of church activity.

Linking this back to where I started, the issue about the expression of my faith and sexuality related to the interplay between missiology and ecclesiology. I cared about how those outside the church would view the practices and beliefs of the church and how this would or wouldn’t point them towards Jesus. Missiology and ecclesiology were important issues for me as a lay person, and not just things for the “professionals”. Similarly in the research I am currently doing, that stems out of my desire to scream out about the need for the church to take mission to single parents seriously and to invest some time and money in the research necessary to underpin good mission initiatives to people who happen to be single parents.

Anyway rant and thinking out loud over.

Change and “Mission”

Even though I might have switched codes I still enjoy looking at the Baptist Times each week. This week there were two articles which caught my eye and made me think. The two were kind of linked. The first one was a column by Sarah Parry about Change and the second was about mission grants.

The first article discusses Ibsen’s play Ghosts and highlights the fact that change is not easy; it has consequences not only for ourselves but for others. This, she argues, is as true for churches as it is for individuals.

The second article highlights three projects aimed at connecting those outside the church with Christianity. The projects differ in nature, but are all related to people going out into their communities in a relevant way to connect.

Together, for me, they highlight how reaching the place where the types of initiative talked about in the second article occur is not a simple process.

Now, I don’t know if / how I’ll ever be involved in any of the types of things the second article talks about. I have heart for “mission” and particularly helping single parents connect with God and knowing the love he and his church has for them, and practically supporting them, but I don’t know how that will all play out in my future. I hope that I might one day I might find a way for something practical to come out of my research, but who knows. Perhaps I am too much of a dreamer and not enough of a doer….

What I do know though is that the journey I am currently on has involved change and difficult change at that. It has not involved change just for me but for others, most obviously Third Party. Change has a cost, as Parry points out in her article. Having had a bit of previous training in Economics as part of my undergrad studies I understand the concept of cost benefit analysis well. Yet, I miscalculated the costs hugely on this one and the benefits. Until change starts happening you can only guess as what the costs and benefits are going to be for you and those around you. Fortunately, at the moment, I am in a place where I can see that the costs might have been high but the overall benefits may have been even higher with my current adventure for both Third Party and myself. Yet I don’t know. One of the big problems is that when you undetake change you can only truly see the costs and benefits in retrospect. That is why change is so highly based around risk.

Effective mission, as the article shows in some ways, is also based around risk. It is involved in taking the risk of moving away from some traditional models, (although not abandoning them necessarily), and risking new initiatives. As an article by Graham Cray in the most recent edition of the Fresh Expressions news letter makes clear this may involve moving to more incarnational ways of doing things.

Risk gives fear, and change isn’t always good as the first article shows. Yet as the second one illustrates it can be good. Change isn’t for everybody and sometimes we need to let people be as they are. That’s why as Bishop Cray points out in his article that the mixed economy approach to church is important. We will only see the costs and benefits of what’s happening in the church now down the line, but I have to say reading about the things going on around the country I feel pleased about the changes which are occuring and inspired by those who have been willing to go through the pain of change and take the risks.

The Soul of the Wordsmith

Jonny Baker has been musing on the nature of poetry and poets. He says “there’s something about poetry that is close to themes of justice, truth, liberation and ‘maybe the voice of the spirit’. it’s true of art in general that it has that strain but somehow i’m beginning to think that the poet gets to it quicker or more intensely. maybe because it’s just words or maybe because it’s more marginal or maybe because you have to say something… i am so convinced about this that i have decided that if you move to an area and want to connect with people into spirituality and justice find the local poets and it won’t be far away.”

Now, as the daugher of a poet, I find this interesting and believe there is a truth within it. I grew up going on adventures into places of spirituality and justice not because my dad was a saint or a seeker, but rather because he was just him, and it just sort of happened. As a youngster I remember going with him on an anti-aparthied rally to Hyde Park with a bunch of radical Catholics. Turned out he had just offered to drive the mini-bus for some people who wanted to go and actually had no idea about the spirituality of these people initially. I could go on with endless stories like this, my dad’s passion for justice and ability for going on adventures seem to put him in contact with lots of v. spiritual people, from a variety of spiritual backgrounds. The other thing that becomes important with poets and storytellers, I think is there ability to listen. Whilst my dad has an ability to talk for England, (well, it’s his job), he also has an ability to listen, and by that I mean really listen. Poets listen for detail, they listen for things that act as a spark to light the fire of creativity. They listen to people’s stories because they find a worth in them. I think perhaps where their “natural” ability to connect with spirituality and justice comes from is their ability, and may be even need, to combine vulnerability with risk taking and listening. They are adventurers who listen not only to their fellow travellers but to the sounds of the city, the cars, the birds, the leaves, the water and the stillness for inspiration.

Looking around my dads poems it seems he has also picked up on this theme. I found this one called “Poetry It’s” on there which sums it up.

Poetry It’s

Poetry it’s a black, white, yellow and red thing,
A love, hate, mad and mellow thing,
A “I’ve got to break out of the middle of my head and tell the world I’m not
dead,” thing,
A “Let’s cut the bull and tell it exactly how it is,” thing,
A “I need to caress that woman with words,” thing,
A “I’ve never told anyone how I feel,” thing,
It’s a way down deep thing,
It’s an odd thing,
It’s a god thing,
It’s a flesh and spirit thing,
It’s a “What can I do,” thing,
An understanding you thing
It’s an “I am of value thing,” thing
A freedom thing,
A truth thing,
A word thing,
And in the beginning…………………………

by John Row