loved this reflection by richard rohr on who would want to be a prophet? in which he suggests prophets are on the edge of the inside combining tradition with iconoclasm and usually are trained in the system so they know how to work it...
You have to know the rules of any tradition, and you have to respect those rules enough to know why they do exist--and thus how to break them properly, for the sake of a larger and more essential value.
it was lovely this week to get a few days retreat/silence/space for prayer. i found st clare's portiuncula on the web through the retreats web site. it is hosted by a fransiscan sisters community. the space itself has five rooms (hermitages) with a gorgeous view over the valley. the building is about 10 years old, beautifully designed with a lovely fountain in the centre that symbolises the overflowing of god's love for the world, and a chapel. it also has a peace garden with a gorgeous labyrinth in the chartres design. one morning when i walked this labyrinth it was so frosty that after each step the coldness of the stone left a frosty footprint as you can see in the photo. each day i met with one of the nuns to chat about how i was doing which was also helpful. i mostly tried to be silent and walk and pray and think but i did read chesterton's biography of st francis while i was there which was a good companion. it was a great way to head into lent...
grace last night was based around a poem by karlie allaway - for fools and dreamers. it was also valentine's day so love had to be the theme… we had fun writing in love hearts words associated with love whether in our experience, our culture.
i had hoped to set up a slideshow scrolling round the images that people could post to instagram with a hashtag #gracelovefeb15 but forgot there was no wifi in the church. but i can share with you a couple of ways i found to do that - go to liveflow and type in that hashtag. the other designed for events - ii.do - you can use a trial version. it's designed for use at weddings. what is rather neat is that they then send you a link to an album after the event and that's on the free version - so the album is here - ii.do album
it was a lot of fun - i am adding it as a worship trick - 56 in series 4.
i got to interview steve bevans at our cms conversations day on mission spirituality and here is the first part. steve has such wisdom about mission - it's always a privilege to hear him sharing it. this is posted at the cms pioneer blog. if you want to hear more about the pioneer training come along to an open day on march 3. good news is that we have just heard that we will be publishing a follow up book to the pioneer gift on the theme of pioneering spirituality - out autumn 2015 - which will have a chapter from steve.
every organisation, institution, business has to negotiate change. the rapid changes in the wider culture and perhaps especially in technology in the last 30 years make it feel as though change is the new constant. i happen to quite like change and newness but i realise not everyone does. it can certainly generate anxiety and fear in good measure. and in many places there is a very real sense of pressure. the new environment seems to call for flexibility, adaptability and improvisation. however when the pressure is on there is always the opposite instinct at play - defence of what already is, the status quo, at all costs and resistance to change.
in the next few days the church of england governing body general synod is receiving several reports. they were published a couple of weeks ago - on discipleship, simplification, resourcing the future and resourcing ministerial education. they have a focus on mission, growth and investing better in those at the margins which in itself is encouraging (though i realise 'growth' is a complicated word that has had a backlash from those who see it tied to measures of success and effectivenes making the church sound like a business). the church of england is full of surprises! i realise a blog post about some church reports might not sound that interesting but in their own way they are putting before the church questions about the inevitable incoming future and whether the church of england will act on the basis of courage or fear. without question she has to change!
i won't go through all the reports here but the one of most interest to me personally and the pioneer leadership training at cms is the resourcing ministerial education one which stresses the need to train people for adaptibility and flexibility for the future. it is also the most far reaching in its proposals. in my view by far the most interesting and long overdue proposal is to rapidly develop lay ministries and increase numbers and to that end developing a stream of funding for lay ministry training especially to resource the future. this will be funding training in a similar way to ordinands. my own take on the various streams that have brought challenge and renewal at the edges of the church in the last thirty years is that they have been largely lay led - in many cases unpaid, untrained and not licensed as well! the majority of pioneers training at cms are in this category. this is genuinely exciting news. it will be for ministry that is licensed but at cms last year we admitted 8 people as lay workers in the church of england which we can do because we are a religious community of the church - i am one myself. i'm slightly pinching myself on this as it's as though we have set something up that has anticipated this future. if this goes through it looks as though people in the church of england could train with us to pioneer and get fees paid for.
there is also recognition that training that is on the job or in-context produces good results and they are trying to encourage development of more pathways like this that are within reach of people who are training whilst working which is a good model and will generate innovation especially if the matched funding proposed is agreed to. this is causing great anxiety amongst providers of residential training who will no doubt be on the defensive at synod. both have their place and as far as i can see a mixed economy of provision is envisaged but for pioneers, on the job training is both recommended and the only way i would ever be interested in training pioneers. it's also so much better value - i know people hate discussions around money but money is a real issue in pretty much every diocese. there will be opportunity for innovation here for colleges who have almost exclusively focused on training ordinands because that is where the money has been. the proposal on money is that there will be a standard grant allocation that a diocese will decide how to spend on approved providers.
the report proposes increasing ordination numbers especially younger and i hope that pioneer numbers will get back on the up - we'll see. dioceses will have more say about the training pathways. they want to review and streamline selection process, presumably for pioneers too so it is done in a year. individuals pathways for training will be more flexible. they are proposing tough limits on age by making dioceses pay for over 50s. there will be money available for leadership development beyond the first phase of training.
in other words it's proposing something of a sea change. i think it's exciting, challenging, and hopeful. it's not without its problems and more work needs to be done. for example i think the critique of business approaches and language is welcome. i liked linda woodhead's challenge in the church times and on tv to not collapse the church into a congregational paradigm or a clerical paradigm but to retain a vision of church in society and public life. decisions won't be made on details - i think it will be a discussion and then voting to give permission for the reports to be taken forward. the key issue for me is imagination. i have in my mind arbuckle's phrase 'culture eats strategies for breakfast' and hope that the culture of the church doesn't eat these up but has the imagination to see ahead. don't be afraid synod!
a really positive review of the pioneer gift in last week's church times which was very encouraging describing the book as having a deep wisdom throughout seeking to hold together inherited patterns of church practice with innovation
i was very excited this week when mission on the road to emmaus came through the post. it's a book exploring the idea of prophetic dialogue in mission through a range of themes such as migration, identity, ecclesiology, creation... i think it's a fabulous book (having proof read an advance copy). it's edited by the amazing cathy ross and stephen bevans.
i have a chapter in it exploring prophetic dialogue and contemporary culture. i feel both excited and privileged to be in a book with people in missiology who i look up to and have learned so much from. it feels slightly odd to reflect on network theory and a massive attack concert but it's all an arena for mission! i think this is a very fresh mission text and find the notion of prophetic dialogue opens up mission themes in interesting ways.
just back from a weekend in birmingham with cms pioneers reflecting on mission and crossing cultures. it included a visit to a mosque and a ghanaian pentecostal church. it's so interesting to get these insights into life in britain. a bundle of photographs and a blog post are over at the pioneer blog here.
harry has another TED talk up - this time he was invited to take part in TED@StateStreet in london. on the power of self acceptance (and a little more wholesome than the don't flop battle!). i particularly like the line in 22 about the bankers being the robbers in a room presumably with a lot of people working in finance...
harry's latest don't flop battle is now online...
[update: sorry i should have put a health warning on this. do not watch with your kids - this is not a child friendly dinosaur poem! rap battles are well... battles but don't take it all too seriously. the backdrop to this is that a rapper took on his english teacher and don't flop ended up inviting poets who bring word play and trickery to compete with rappers with their insults and rhymes... and yes i wasn't posting this as a worship trick!]
the current situation of the wealthy elite in our country and indeed even more so in our world is disgusting and something has got to change. at times i have felt physically sick when i have read of the behaviour of the rich in the wake of the 2008 crash in their own sector and their attitude to the poor. i fear if it is not legislated to change by governments in countries like the uk and usa then it is like a pressure cooker that is going to explode at some point.
today oxfam have published a report wealth: having it all and wanting more. this really is saying the same as their october report even it up: time to end extreme inequality, the statistics are mind boggling. the richest 1% own half of the global wealth. their share keeps increasing in the wake of continued governmental belief and practice in deregulation. supposedly deregulation leads to creativity and fredom for enterprise. but it's stark glaringly obvious that deregulation has created a culture of greed and self interest.
we owe it to ourselves to get informed about this. i don't know if it's just me but it seems like there is a rising anger and awareness. even though it's extremely difficult to fuly grasp the workings of (the god of) the market i have recently been helped to understand it by a few things...
supercrash - a graphic novel by darryl cunningham. this is a book yes in pictures that i wholeheartedly recommend.
capital by piketty - last year an economist who did some counting that caught bthe world's attention as it highlighted how inequality was rising but hugely problematic. it's rather a large book sadly so here's a four paragraph summary!
the new economics foundation are an amazing think tank - follow their work. think tanks have been extremely important for the rise of neoliberal capitalism. so it's a relief to find one or two who are doing the thinking on economics out of a different imagination. this paper is very important because it makes the case that inequality does not lead to flourishing in the economy. it's obvious it doesn't lead to flourishing in life as a whole!!!
ann pettifor's work is genuinely brilliant, a prophet i would say - she now works for another think tank - policy research in macro economics (PRIME) - keep an eye on their work.
the book to get your blood boiling but also highlighting so many shocking things about our society in relation to power, money, politics and privilege is the establishment by owen jones - totally brilliant. i can't recommend it enough. i have two chapters to go and will review it then.
i also try and read most things george monbiot writes as he seems to have a pretty good sense of things.
there are also growing numbers of documentaries of the superrich on their yachts and islands and castles and palaces and private estates living in their own bubble. honestly sometimes it's like watching a james bond villain - epstein and his island for example - just hideous. is it going to get to the stage where they build their own armies to defend their stuff from the rest of the world???!!! that seems to be the way it's heading.
what can be done? a lot actually! it's not hard to work out that you don't have to run society this way. we need to manage the financial sector to address it's immoral greed and that needs international as well as national involvement. it also requires separating the vested interests of the rich from government - it's all too cosy cosy. we need jobs for all and invest that way including reducing inequality. we need fair taxation that hugely shifts inequality and invests taxes in arts, education, welfare. simple! who in politics has the courage to do it? oxfam and others all have theior own take but essentially it's in this kind of direction. i don't hear a lot from the main parties. they seem afraid. who is going to rise up and have the courage to make a better society?
the ealing photography group i am part of have an exhibition in artisan coffee shop on ealing broadway which runs for three months. the photos are in four panels and each month a new set of people from the group exhibit. i'll have a couple of photos in march/april. go grab a coffee and take a look...
was quite a magical grace on saturday night especially as it was chris read's debut curating. the evening was on the theme of ruah - the creative breath of god and a double bass was improvised all night to symbolise this. then there were a series of cards with a sequence of numbers on which represented a mood/feeling as interpreted by chris. the numbers are chord sequences - don't worry about it if that makes no sense. grace is II, V, | I - perfect cadence. people could choose and/or were given a range of cards and on the back expressed hopes, dreams prayers for the year gone by and the one ahead. these were then randomly lined up with a regular return to grace and the sequence of cards improvised as a musical flow carrying those hopes and prayers by chris on guitar and the double bass. all rounded off with a new flock tune with chris joined by sam on cello which was also quite amazing in the space... steve has a ropey video here.
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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.