i am so pleased that finally rage despair hope has landed in proost as a downloadable resource. the artwork is a set of illustrations on the book of job by the amazing si smith. i first saw the artwork and we used it a few years back at grace in 2011. it's been developed as a resource by the creative guys at youthscape - originally designed for schools it coud be used in loads of ways. we based an alternative worship service around it for example. anyway the resource includes the following
on tuesday we had a celebration at CMS for the pioneers who have trained on the CMS pioneer training and were graduating, finishing, getting ordained, or becoming lay pioneers. it was a wonderful occasion. one of the students, steve, had put together the celebration which included a boat filled with water as a centre piece. there was a brilliant moment late on when he switched on two fans with a plastic sheet attached which became a billowing sail. this was all exploring the idea of journeying and relying on the wind of god's spriti to fill the sails for the next part of the adventure. steve had also written an opening piece of liturgy/prayer which he has kindly sent and i have put below - the same god, locating pioneers in a long line of ancestors who have gone before...
The same God who spoke in to darkness, ‘let there be light’,
The same God who was with Noah and his family in the flood,
The same God who called Abraham and Sarah and promised them the stars,
The same God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush,
And was with him through the sea and into the desert,
The same God who was with David as he approached Goliath,
With Daniel in the lions’ den,
With Samson, with Gideon, and with Jonah in the belly of a fish,
The same God anticipated by Isaiah, by Anna and by Simeon,
Who came as a baby, born in a stable, and fled as a child refugee.
The same God who turned water to wine,
walked on the seas and modelled self-sacrificing love;
healing the sick, touching the untouchable, even raising the dead.
The same God who wept.
The same God, which this world found guilty, and nailed to a cross.
This Jesus, this God, who could not be defeated but rose victorious,
This God who let his wounds be touched by doubters,
Who ascended to heaven, and descended as fire,
The same God, who appeared to Saul, and inspired a new way of living.
The same God, who has been seen in the lives of the saints past,
In Benedict, in Francis, in Julian,
in Mother Theresa, In Martin Luther King Junior and in myriad unsung heros of our faith,
This same God,
The pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
Is here with us, gathered today.
As we mark this occasion and celebrate with our pioneering friends,
May we know your presence and closeness,
your comfort and disturbance,
your grace, peace and love.
congratulations to ali middleton getting ordained deacon today as a pioneer. it’s been such fun to have ali train with us on the cms/omc pathway. every year now i am involved in training ordinands and i will go to services where they are ordained deacon. so i am getting to know the gig/liturgy. this is all a bit church of england and even then a bit technical so feel free to zone out until the net blog post if that's not your world. but it has provoked a few thoughts in me about ordained pioneer ministry and i am left wondering why the church is not embracing it more fully. and why the training for all deacons is not more mission focused and pioneering too?!
when you have finished initial training for ordination you are ordained deacon, and then after a year of being a curate in a church with a supervising vicar you usually get ordained priest the following year. in both services the liturgy articulates what it is that you are being entrusted to do by the church in a declaration. here’s the full declaration for the deacon:
Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ's kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God's purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.
Deacons share in the pastoral ministry of the Church and in leading God's people in worship. They preach the word and bring the needs of the world before the Church in intercession. They accompany those searching for faith and bring them to baptism. They assist in administering the sacraments; they distribute communion and minister to the sick and housebound.
Deacons are to seek nourishment from the Scriptures; they are to study them with God's people, that the whole Church may be equipped to live out the gospel in the world. They are to be faithful in prayer, expectant and watchful for the signs of God's presence, as he reveals his kingdom among us.
the culture of the church in many places seems like we have not read paragraphs one and three so there is a focus assumed for a deacon of learning about preaching, baptism, funerals, pastoral care and worship including the eucharist - i.e. the internal or cultic activities of the church. these are of course important but they seem to me to make much more sense and to be much more exciting if framed in the context of the other two being the bigger calling and frame.
here are a few phrases i have pulled out just to make the point a bit clearer.
pioneers are often in a new context so ali for example will be in a housing area where there is no visible church to catalyse something. this list seems a great checklist for her and other pioneers alongside the more emphasised paragraph two. i could do the same with the priest declaration but maybe i'll save that for another time. but when a deacon is ordained priest they do not stop having the mandate of being a deacon and fulfilling that commission so this still applies.
there are several things i could draw out of this. allow me a couple...
it makes sense for those called to pioneer where appropriate to be ordained - it fits brilliantly with this commission and that is the mind of the wider church. (i am not of the view that all those ordained are pioneers - they clearly are not though they probably need to be pioneering.)
all deacons, not just pioneers are called to participate in god's mission in quite tangible ways and need to be spending plenty of time beyond the borders of the church. i wonder how much of curates' curriculum for training is focused on these tasks and how much on paragraph two? i have a pretty good idea...
anyway way to go ali and other pioneers taking on this commission today.
i started writing worship songs years ago because of words (ok i wasn't that keen on the music around either!). i found if difficult to find words that articulated what it was we as a community then (st matts in bath at the time) believed and wanted to express. it was a great journey of expression and led me to explore the same in alternative worship through a range of art forms. and actually it also led to setting up proost to collate songs and liturgy and movies that had this same sense of expression from the grassroots in soulful (and theological) ways. i am still surprised how few communities go this route. i get that it is more time consuming but it is so much more rewarding that simply using commodified worship songs or liturgies written in high places. though of course blending your own expression with good stuff written by others is probably even better...
anyway all that to say i was sent a link to this blog/site plural guild which is the first i have seen for a while that really embodies that spirit of articulation. and the words are words i can sing which i have to say is a refreshing change (and i know i am hard to please). so thank you to plural guild (love the notion of guild by the way)! the song below seems especially poignant today on a day when my country have voted to leave europe - love the line there is no other there is only us. there is a also a downloadable album of advent and christmas songs too. i am making these worship trick 64 in series 4
st mary's ealing hosts a series called st mary's sessions. it's actually a really great venue for this sort of thing. we'll be hosting gav mart as part of the series at grace in july. but this weekend at almost zero notice and in spontaneous fashion st mary's sessions is hosting a jazz festival - see poster for details. chris read is playing saturday evening.
really looking forward to gav mart hosting an evening for grace on july 9. gav is a singer songwriter and will be joined by friends for 'myths from the margins' which will also be the latest in the st mary's sessions series.
we have an open day next tuesday for the cms pioneer training. i find it's round about now people suddenly think about september onwards and maybe doing something new including some training. if that's you then come along and find out about the pioneer training.
the options are to do a module (or more), a certificate, diploma or masters through durham university with us. our usp is pioneering mission and mission that is contextual i.e. takes seriously what that means and looks like in the community and culture you are in. all of that is wonderful but the real benefit we have found from what people feedback is learning with others who are creative and exploring mission at or beyond the edges of the church. there is so much benefit from the friendships and journeying together. see the flyer here and do email the address on there to let us know if you are coming.
ok that is not the most exciting blog post title so well done if you got beyond the title! but last night i spoke at a deanery synod in bournmouth on the theme of reimagining the church which is part of the focus of winchester diocese. for those not in the church of england a deanery is an area grouping of churches. at one level deanery synod neither sounds nor is the most exciting event on the planet. but what was both interesting and surprising last night was that the group planning strategy for the deanery presented a paper on their vision for the future which was fully supported bar one abstention for one quarter of the posts in the deanery (4 out of 16) being focused on pioneering in mission. this has a way to go before formally becoming policy with money allocated and so on. but imagine if every deanery in the country were able to imagine its mission and ministry in this way - it would significantly change the landscape. further the vision for these posts was not for all ordained either - the pioneering posts in particular may be lay or ordained.
mission shaped church is now over a decade old but on page 136 of that report is a section entitled the strategic role of deaneries which suggests that one of the best ways to recalibrate towards mission especially in the nitty gritty of the allocation of resources for mission is to think and plan in terms of deaneries. so it's great to see this actually happening (i realise it has elsewhere in some cases too - i have been impressed with the way bath and wells diocese have created pioneer posts through organising team or deanery ministry). there is so little will and imagination in many places towards the reallocation of resources for pioneering mission so this made a refreshing change and i hope it's indicative of the way the church as a whole might think to shift it's focus. would it be too much to ask that a quarter of funded posts in the church were outward focused in mission?
so i was flipping through guardian articles on my phone while eating porridge this morning and clicked on an opinion piece about beyoncé's new album lemonade. i am not really a beyoncé fan - never owned a track actually. but i like to keep up with the zeitgeist and i absolutely loved her performance at the superbowl and the video of formation that went with that track - which was powerful, defiant and prophetic.
anyway this opinion piece is an amazing piece of writing - i could almost feel the empathy, tears and passion coming off the words. i haven't heard a single track off lemonade or seen a single video but having read this opinion piece i think i'm going to have to. here's a piece mid flow...
We are the women left behind. We are the women who have cared for other women’s children while ours were taken away. We are the women who work two jobs when companies won’t hire our men. We are the women caring for grandchildren as our sons are taken by the prison industrial complex. We are the women who march in the streets and are never marched for. We are the women expected to never air our grievances in public. We are the women expected to stay loyal to our men by staying silent through abuse and infidelity. We are the women who clean the blood of our men and boys from the streets. We are the women who gather their belongings from the police station.
have a read of the whole piece. i may about to purchase my first beyoncé album. this piece reminded me of the track black woman by seun kuti which was one of my favourite tracks last year and i put on full blast driving up the m40 to oxford today. of course the former is from the perspective of a black woman and the latter a man but somehow they connected in my mind.
as promised here are my favourite photos of mel from our portrait challenge. in the photo group i am part of we have occasional challenges. a recent one was to be paired up with someone at random and take portraits of each other to then show the group. i took photos of mel which was great fun and she kindly said i could post them in flickr. there's a set of five here. it's actually quite a scary challenge both to be photographed and to photograph someone - there's a vulnerability all round. it's probably why i usually take other types of photographs normally. but we both ended up enjoying it and it's given me confidence to think i can and like photographing people. me by mel are here if you missed them
in the photo group i am part of we have occasional challenges. a recent one was to be paired up with someone and take portraits of each other. here are the results of me by mel- she has mainly abandoned using her camera and now takes photos with her phone and posts regularly via instagram so wanted to experiment to see what kind of results you could get with a phone. so this is me posing for mel! i'll post some of my results of taking photos of her later in the week when i get a minute...
i was excited to see an album from gav mart and martin daws out on proost - bring it down. gav is a musician and singer and martin is a wonderful spoken word poet. i love the blend of spoken word and music in this way. they have been touring so it's great to see they have put an album out. available here...
proost is on a roll this year with some great material - it's worth subscribing then you can log in to the back end whenever you like to download resources. don't forget if you are in the usa there is a us site here where you can pay in dollars.
i really hope it is!
i am so pleased that someone has leaked the panama papers. they show what we all know really. the so called democratic world we live in is one in which greed rules. the rich and powerful are able to make obscene amounts of money, hide it out of sight of the system and regulations, whilst at the same time not giving a s**t about the poor. in fact the poor don't exist in their world because they can lived in gated communities and go to private members clubs and avoid them. the thing i hate about it most is the sense of entitlement - people start to believe that they are superior, that they deserve it, that they are entitled to it. i really hope that this exposé will shine a light on at least some of this practice. and to state the bleeding obvious - we do not have to run a society this way. in fact it is a rubbish way to run a society. it makes my blood boil the way it is ideologically driven by the ludicrous idea of deregulation and a free market - i.e. if we leave things alone and don't intervene everything will go well. WRONG! what happens is greed rules the waves as is being demonstrated again and again again. it needs to be addressed through regulation and taxation. i think this economic disparity is the big justice issue of our time (the environment is the other huge one that we have still got our heads in the sand about and of course they are related). it is compounded by the fact that it is hard to make sense of - the financial systems seem so confusing (to me at least) that it is like dealing with smoke and mirrors; and it is hard to know what exactly we can do about it other than tweet or write a blog post. because often those rich and powerful are cozied up with the media and elected to run our governments. i am being dramatic i realise but this is an incredible drama we are witnessing.
i went to see misty in roots in concert on saturday night. they are a brilliant reggae band made famous through john peel's love of their album live at the counter eurovision in 1979. what i particularly loved about the gig was the blend of spirituality and political insight. the opening song was a praise song to god (jah - his most excellent greatness) - i recognised the words as from psalm 150. it was so uplifting (and i'd love a worship band like this!). the second song was 'poor and needy' with lines such as
Deliver the poor and needy from the hands of the wicked
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?
Defend the poor and fatherless,
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
this was then followed by 'babylon's falling' railing against corruption and hypocrisy of the powers that be through the image of babylon - that puffed up city and empire whose rulers thought they were gods and could never be called to account. but of course like all empires babylon fell in dramatic fashion. and the concert went on flowing with a spiritual and political message of lament and hope. i have been thinking about it ever since for two reasons..
the first is it reminded me of how reduced our repertoire tends to be in today's worship in churches. when did you last hear a song lamenting the state of the economy and calling for judgement on the wicked? at best we will get that in a reading. but the hymnology has generally collapsed into the private sphere where god is close to me but it makes no difference in the rest of my life, or is so abstracted up in heaven on a throne that there is no connection. it is a regular occurrence for me to go to a church and find no connection between the worship songs and what i want to express. (i am reminded of robert beckford's book jesus is dread where he asks whether you can have a black political christianity.) the size of the problem was brought home to me in a sermon i heard a while back that defended stephen green from the pulpit as 'being a nice guy' and a christian whilst making absolutely no comment on the scandal of banking he was involved in - i.e. faith collapsed into private sphere with nothing to say to the bigger justice issues of our time. i regret that i didn't stand up and shout the preacher down to be honest - i was hopping mad.
the second is that this language and imagery of babylon seems so poignant in today's world - and the panama papers is the tip of the iceberg of those who think they are like gods but for whom their empires will eventually fall and they will be called to account.
right i am actually meant to be packing my bags to head off on a silent retreat for the week - see what i hear in the presence of silence
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.