Friday, December 29, 2006

the waiting game

our baby is now 4 days overdue and we are getting pretty bored waiting around for it to make an appearance. we have used the time constructively though - we've managed to get through a whole season of 24 (season 5) which was great quality and utterly addictive as usual.

so the race to get the house finished before the baby arrived was not as much of a race as we thought it was! but it's pretty much done now.

apparently there are some fabled suggestions as to how to encourage the onset of labour - curry and sex being two of them. Although, as comedian Jeff Green pointed out, having to make a choice between those two might be the reason you got yourself into this situation in the first place!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

repentance and faith

This week has been crazy - trying to get the house finished before the baby comes. The plan was something like this:
Mon & Tues - Tiler, Weds - Plasterer, Thurs - Plumber, Fri - Carpet Fitter, Weekend - baby. We're about half way through and we're not too far off schedule. We're really hoping the baby delays it's arrival till after the carpet's down though!
Anyway, last Sunday night at hOME I shared some thoughts on the day's gospel text, which included John the Baptist's words - 'bear fruit in keeping with repentance'. I said that repentance and faith seemed to form the core of both John's and Jesus's proclamation. My problem is that we seem to have changed the content of those two key elements. We have turned repentance into 'feeling sorry for wrong things' and faith into 'mental assent to a set of concepts'. I don't think either are correct.
Repentance is an act of the will, before it is ever an emotion, that enables us to 'speak the same as God' i.e. to call something as God calls it. And I don't think it's primarily about right or wrong actions, but true or false identities. When we sin we act out of a false identity - not who we are in God. And when we are holy we are acting out of our true identity, and we are living the future life now. It's not some arbitrary list of do's and don't's.
Faith is not about mental assent to a set of doctrinal statements (even the devils believe in that sense) but about action - following Jesus into transformed identity and reality. It's not my place to judge but I think that's why such a huge proportion on the last census identified themselves as 'Christian' - because we have ended up with a concept of believing without following. We have separated the two.
If we are turning (repentance) to follow Christ (faith) we can expect to see change in our lives - fruit in keeping with repentance. If we are no different now to how we used to be this raises some serious questions.
It wasn't a light-hearted discussion in hOME that night! But important stuff nevertheless I think. The podcast will be available here as soon as I manage to locate my firewire lead in our building site of a house!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Nativity Story

Pip and I went to see The Nativity Story this morning. It was an odd mixture - it was earthy and gritty for the most part, which was good, but then there were some oddly cheesy moments - the birth scenes (John and Jesus) were a bit unbelievable and the less said about the star over Bethlehem the better. Also, I was slightly disappointed with how they did the angels - they could have done something creative but they just went for the old 'guy wearing white clothes' option.
Having said all that, I did find it moving and I am not ashamed to say that it made me cry more than once. Other things I thought:
- we don't give Joseph enough credit. He doesn't get much air time in church but his part of the story was so important.
- the fragility of the whole thing. There were any number of points that the whole thing could have turned to custard (let's not get into the theological points hidden within that sentence!)
- the sheer stupendousness of the whole idea...God becoming a baby....what?
- the in utero Christ. I feel pretty familiar with the baby Jesus, the child Jesus, the man Jesus, the crucified Jesus, the resurrected Jesus etc. but I haven't given much time or thought to Jesus in the womb. There's a lovely moment when Mary feels the foetus move for the first time which I found very moving.

Anyway, go and see it if you can.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


We had another very good Service of 9 Lessons and Carols last Sunday evening. It's become a bit of a highlight of the Advent season for us. It was great to have so many guests and visitors too. As usual we had quite an eclectic mix of Lessons - some video stuff (I particularly liked Janine's use of Sigur Ros's Glosoli video for the Magi Lesson - it's an amazing video well worth checking out if you haven't seen it), a dance, and lots of other stuff. The above photo (from Rich) is of Martin doing his Lesson - he used a clip from the film 'The Believer' about a young Jewish guy who becomes a neo-Nazi! Pippa did an amazing meditation reflecting on her current experience of being pregnant and relating that to Mary's experience - it had at least one person in tears (well done wifey!). And of course the mulled wine and mince pies topped things off in the only really appropriate way!

Monday, December 11, 2006

New Bishop of Oxford

Today the identity of the next Bishop of Oxford has finally been announced (we were expecting an announcement at the end of September). John Pritchard is currently suffragan Bishop of Jarrow in the North East (so good monastic connections there with the Venerable Bede!) but I must confess I haven't heard of him before. Anyway, I just saw the local TV news item about it and he sounded ace. He was only on for a few seconds but used the time to say that he saw himself as a leader in mission (and said that's what he thought a Bishop was) and that he wanted to see the best of 'continuing' churches but also wanted to place an emphasis on 'new expressions' of church. So, we're off to a good start I think. If anyone wants to find out more about him (particularly Oxford types I guess) there's info here.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

'9' tomorrow

Tomorrow night at hOME we are having our Carol service - a Service of 9 Lessons and Carols (with the Lessons being re-interpreted by 9 different members of the hOME community). We nicked the idea of Jonny/Grace in London (though we do it slightly differently). It's a highlight of the Advent season for us. If you're around the Oxford area do come and join us for some Carol singing and some mulled wine and mince pies afterwards. 6.30pm at St Alban's on Charles Street.

blogger beta

there have been gaps in my recent blogging - apologies faithful readers, I will try to plug some of these soon. But, as those of you who visit the site will see - I have now migrated to blogger beta (they finally let me on to it) - and this will explain to those of you who use RSS readers why all my recent posts have been republished.
It is a real step forward for Blogger as a blog engine, and easily enables you to add sidebar categories and other content.
I thought I would take this opportunity to change the strapline of my blog. Since I began it a few years ago it has been 'would the last one out of the church please switch off the lights'. But this statement doesn't accurately reflect my heart. It sounds like I have given up on the church but actually I love the church (even though it does drive me nuts sometimes).
So I have changed it to 'slowly learning to live life with God, and others, for the sake of the world' - which is a much closer reflection of where I, and us as a church community I think, are at these days.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

My amazon wishlist

we're approaching the time of year when you will all, no doubt, be wondering what to get me for Christmas. Well - panic over - I have updated my amazon wish list. you can view it here. I have even added an order of priority and some comments! Happy shopping!

Monday, November 27, 2006

the Skinny at hOME

Good to have Andrew Jones with us last night at the hOME gathering. He joined in with our worship and we gave him the mic for a while. He told us some stories and shared some thoughts. He blogs it here and you can listen to the podcast here.

A load of us went for pizza and beer afterwards at Cafe Coco down the road from our meeting venue.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Casino Royale

Pip and I went to see Casino Royale last night. Brilliant! Two hours of top notch entertainment and definitely the best Bond film for a long time. Everyone's right about Daniel Craig - probably the best Bond since Connery. I'm really glad they decided to go for a much grittier, 'real', Bond, and it was a much grittier, 'real', film too - far less of those cheesy one-liners, no unbelievable gadgets that Bond just happens to have on him and that just happen to be the perfect gadget for the moment, no stupidly named, double-entendre laden females. Bit disappointed about some of the product placement in the film (you even see Richard Branson for a split second which is a bit bizarre), but all in all this is a cracker of a movie. Go see!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Off to Lindisfarne

After another lovely evening tonight with the hOME community I am off on retreat early in the morning to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria for a few days. It's come at a great time - one of those things that's difficult to plan when you have to book quite a way in advance. Lindisfarne is an old place of retreat for me - I used to go there when I lived in Edinburgh as it's actually only about an hour south of Edinburgh. I'm planning to read the Orthodox classic - The Way of a Pilgrim - as well as Richard Rohr's 'Everything Belongs'. But I'm sure that much of the time will be spent walking and praying and reflecting. And I might even make it to the pub too. Bring it on!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Spurs v Chelski

as a long-suffering Spurs fan I have been waiting 16 years for Spurs to beat Chelsea. 16 years of hurt ended yesterday (though I suspect Jonny might have a different perspective on the result!)

Quote Me Happy

Another great quote - via Bob Hyatt's blog - from the inimitable Brian Maclaren:
"It's often easier to promote Christianity than to practice it". Ouch!

"absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"

There has been a lot of talk - perhaps even a resurgence in some senses - of atheism recently. It's cool to be atheist again. Richard Dawkins book 'The God Delusion' has received a lot of attention (and also, it should be pointed out, some pretty damning responses as well). I blogged below about this quote - "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" - which I came across recently. I love it and it's really made me think but as I have reflected on it I have begun to wonder whether actually the problem is not a lack of evidence for God's existence but - and I know this sounds nuts - almost that there's too much! Now I know this is not an argument to use when talking with an atheist! But the whole of life seems so deeply suffused with divine presence that I wonder whether it's just too obvious - we're too close to it - and we almost can't see the forest for the trees. What do you think?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

iCount - Stopping Climate Chaos

Off to London today to participate in the 'iCount' Stop Climate Chaos march/rally in Trafalgar Square. Speakers to include: KT Tunstall, Rob Newman, Miranda Richardson, Simon Amstell, Rufus Hound, Ashok Sinha (Director – Stop Climate Chaos), Bishop of Liverpool, Adam Hart Davis, Dr Hany El Banna (President – Islamic relief) and Sharon Looremeta. If you're around London why not come and play your part. It's from 1-3pm. More info here. There's a service before hand at St Martin in the Fields church nearby at 12.30.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Seth Lakeman - Freedom Fields

As previously confessed on this blog, I have a bit of a folky streak which I have lived in denial of for some time. I guess it comes from the same place within me that enjoys a good, organic, cider occasionally (I know - my emerging church, belgian ale drinking, credentials are now in tatters).
Anyway, I have recently discovered the wonderful Seth Lakeman - nominated for the Mercury Music prize this year - and his debut (I think) album - Freedom Fields. It's really beautiful stuff - especially if you like your folk with some vocals and singalong tunes.
One thing I have noticed about folk though is that although the music is very often beautiful and you find yourself humming along quite quickly, when you listen more closely you find that, lyrically, the subject matter can often be quite bizarre. Take Seth Lakeman's new single as an example - it's a gorgeous song but it appears to be about a white rabbit. I guess I should have worked this out from the title - 'The White Hare' (ok so not a rabbit exactly, but you get my point). I know it's probably a metaphor for something (haven't listened closely enough yet) but you can be driving along singing the song to yourself and then be slightly alarmed by the fact you are being moved by a song about a rabbit!
Do have a listen though - you can hear the song in question on his website here.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Nativity Story

New Line Cinema - makers of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - are releasing 'The Nativity Story' this December. It looks like it's surfing a kind of post Passion-of-the-Christ sort of wave - same look and feel judging by the trailers - gritty and pretty faithful to the texts by all accounts. I know some people really didn't like TPOTC but I did and no doubt will like this one too. It would be easy to be pretty cynical about it and say that it's obviously just a cash-cow for the studio (who no doubt saw what an amazing money spinner the Mel Gibson film was and thought "we'll have a bit of that action"). Maybe I'm playing right into their hands. But you can make up your own mind - more info here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Bill Viola - The Messenger

As I was walking through Oxford today - on my way to a joke shop to buy a ridiculous Mexican moustache for a Mexican party tonight (where do we get these stereotypes from? Do all Mexican men have moustaches?!) I happened upon a poster for a Bill Viola installation that's happening down the road from us here in Oxford, in Dorchester Abbey (which also happens to be the fantastic old monastic Abbey where we have our Service of Vows at Easter). It's called The Messenger. I have no idea what it's about but it's on for the next week each evening (it's only visible at night) and I plan to go tomorrow night. I saw some of his work - following a tip off from Jonny Baker - earlier in the summer at the Haunch of Venison gallery in London. Viola's medium is High Definition video installations. Should be good. More info here. If you're local to Oxford I recommend you going to have a look.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bring Back God!

I don't think I could ever justify paying £55 for a T-Shirt but I thought this was a note-worthy one to bring to your attention. It's by the designer Katharine Hamnett who is well known for her commitment to fair-trade and ethical fashion and who has designed T-Shirts in the past for a friend of mine - Greg Valerio - who runs CRED (now the sole importers of fairly traded platinum into the UK (I think). Anyway - I love the strapline that goes with this shirt : 'Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence'. We might need to pinch that one! (Thanks to Barry Taylor for the link).

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Firefox 2

So the new version of the Firefox web browser has just been released and I seem to be an early adopter. It's generally more of the same but better but I particularly like the way you are able to specify which feed aggregator you use (NetNewsWire Lite in my case) and then when you click on the feed button for a particular site it will subscribe and load it up automatically. Looks like Andrew Jones has had a party to celebrate its release and dedicate it to God - which I thought was hilarious, very Andrew, and great.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Man, I'm such a Geek

Off to a lecture this lunchtime by Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs) at the Said Business School here in Oxford. He's talking about the development of Apple, and his new book iWoz. Here's a picture of the two Steves back in the early days of Apple - Wozniak is on the left.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Lectionary Reflection

today we remember St Luke the evangelist, and today's gospel reading is from Luke 10. There we read the familiar words, "the harvest is plentiful but the labourers are few".
I want to suggest that when it comes to evangelism (which I would see as one part of mission) we often get this completely the wrong way round. Our attitude seems to be that the harvest is pretty feeble. There are not many people who are interested in becoming disciples of Jesus, so it would seem.
But Jesus suggests the opposite: there is nothing wrong with the harvest, that's not where the problem is. The problem is with the lack of labourers to gather the harvest in.
Perhaps we need to balance our prayers for the world - which are right and good - with prayer for ourselves, that we might be better labourers in the harvest field.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gloria EP - new preview track on MySpace

There is a new preview track from our EP - Gloria - on our mySpace site. Go here to listen and here to purchase.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kate Rusby

Pip and I had the great pleasure of seeing kate Rusby at the New Theatre in Oxford last night. She was wonderful as were her band - the standard of musicianship was amazing. So it's time for me to 'fess up': I may have given you all the impression that I only listen to electronica but actually, sometimes I listen to folk music. It's ok, it's under control. I could stop at any time. It's only a small amount. I've heard it said that folk music is a gateway and can lead to 'harder' things, perhaps like Latin, or Prog Rock, but I'll have to take that risk because sometimes it's just so darn good.
I have a little daydream that when I am old you will find me in the corner of a pub out in the countryside somewhere playing folk tunes with others near a roaring fire - I will be playing something like a bodhran or pipes or a whistle.
Have I gone too far?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Training Day: Spiritual Direction

If anyone reading this lives in the Oxford area hOME is hosting a training day this coming Saturday (7th). The subject is 'an Introduction to Spiritual Direction and Christian Listening Skills' and it's being led by the wonderfully named Barbara Doubtfire. Barbara is the Diocesan spiritual direction co-ordinator and a former nun.
We're looking more closely at this subject as it's an aspect of what God seems to be saying to us as a community at the moment about the subject of hospitality.
Hospitality is actually all about listening. Listening deeply to the lives of others that God brings to us.
If you live locally and would like to come along then do drop me an e mail - - and I'll let you know the details.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

new Album Leaf record

The Album Leaf have been one of the greatest joys of my musical life over the last few years so I was delighted to see, whilst browsing in Fopp yesterday (surely the best record store chain we have) that they have a new album out, entitled 'Into the Blue Again'. For those who haven't yet experienced the delights of The Album Leaf they have a MySpace page where you can listen and also download one track. Enjoy!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Gloria EP - new preview track on MySpace

There is now a new preview track from the hOME Gloria EP to listen to on our MySpace site. It's an electronica setting of the old prayer of St Patrick - St Patrick's Breastplate. As before - the EP is available for download via our Lulu site, where you can also listen to previews of all trh tracks and download instrumental versions to use in your own setting.

Friday, September 22, 2006

if you're local to Oxford...

...the Al Gore movie, An Inconvenient Truth, is now showing at both the Phoenix and the Odeon. Go see it and tell your friends. As Empire said in their review, "if you ever thought it was possible for a film to change the world, this could be it."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Peace One Day

Heard a report about today's Peace One Day (not a snappy title - but I think someone had already pinched 'World Peace Day') on the Breakfast news this morning and found it very moving. The dream of one day where all forms of violence are laid down is a very potent prophetic sign of the inbreaking of the kingdom of God. There are some fantastic suggestions for how to participate in the day here - including some very overtly spiritual ones.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

hOME Gloria EP

We've just finished hOME's first 5 track EP. It's for sale by download via our Lulu site where you can listen to previews of each track and download. There are also instrumental versions if you want to use the tracks in your own setting. On our MySpace site there is a full track from the EP that you can listen to. Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

who's he talking about?

A little while back I suggested that the story of the Sheep and the Goats may not mean what we often take it to mean. Some people didn't like that too much.
In a nutshell, I suggested that even though we have always been told it's about how we treat the poor, could it actually instead be about how the world treats Jesus' disciples? There are some hints in the text that it could.

In yesterday's lectionary readings we find a similar idea emerging. Luke 6:20 says,

20 Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.

Obviously this is the parallel to Matthew's account of the Beatitudes but I thought it was noteworthy that Jesus is directing his statements, not to the poor in general, but to the disciples.

Admittedly, a few verses later Jesus says "Woe to you who are rich" and it could be said that if he is directing verse 20 towards the disciples why not verse 24 too, but I'm still left with this sense that Jesus isn't saying that to be poor is somehow virtuous in and of itself. There are unfortunately plenty of very poor people on estates all across the country. Some of them have ASBO's. In what sense are they particularly and unusually blessed, or have a special relationship with God, simply because of their social status?

Of course I'm not saying that God doesn't care about them and that we should not care for them or work to eradicate poverty. Of course we should. I'm just asking a hermeneutical question - what was Jesus really getting at with some of these things that he said?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Five Years On

"Let me say this another way… the ‘War-On-Terror’ has to date killed 8 innocent people for every innocent person killed in a terrorist attack… discuss." Great, thought provoking post from Jim on this very sombre day.

Friday, September 08, 2006

go and see this film...please

An Inconvenient Truth - the Al Gore movie - that I blogged about before opens in the UK today. You really must go and see it and tell all your friends to go and see it too! Definitely one of the films of the year for me.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

emerging jerk?

While surfing the web for images for a flier the other day I came across this from Matt Glover.

I've seen it all now!

Thanks to Kyle for the tip off.
The 'Left Behind' series of books and related paraphanelia has been a festering sore on the body of Christ for many years. Now they've gone one further and released a video game. The plot in brief (cos it's not worth any more of my time) - Christians who have been 'left behind' after the rapture has taken place have to either convert others who are still on the earth or kill them! It was difficult for me to type that last sentence as it's SO RIDICULOUS.
Anyway, read a great rant about it here.
Should you be so inclined visit the official site here.


Off to Greenbelt in the morning. Can't wait.

TV Update

After a very disappointing weekend, football wise (my team lost) Sunday night had a couple of TV gems to cheer me up.

I have already blogged about The Miracles of Jesus. This was the last one of the mini-series and it focussed on the resurrection. I thought it was great. High production values and perhaps surprisingly sympathetic although in this age of increased sensitivity around religion (normally every other religion except Christianity - though I understand why I think) perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. I thought it was surprisingly theologically robust - looking at the theological significance of the resurrection etc. I know some people have found it slightly patronising in tone and lacking other sources (where were the famous talking heads we have come to expect in these sorts of shows?!) I liked it.

The other gem was Melvyn Bragg's hour-long interview with Rowan Williams later on ITV1 (there is a transcript of an excerpt here). I always enjoy listening to Rowan talk - he's so erudite and articulate about faith and life. And he always strikes me as being a really humble, holy guy (ok I'll stop sucking up to the boss now!). The interview was revealing - he talked about his upbringing and what God means to him personally and his experience of prayer. He bigged up 'Fresh Expressions' of church as something he was particularly excited about.
But the thing that made the biggest impression on me was his reflections on monastic life. Apparently he considered becoming a monk in his mid-twenties. When Bragg pushed him further on the reasons for this Rowan said that the rationale behind monasticism is the desire to 'dial-down' the noise and clutter of life - by taking out the 'hyper-choice' of contemporary life i.e. when your life is ordered you don't spend energy on when and what you're going to eat, what you're going to wear, what you're going to do, how you're going to pray etc. and so a space is created - a mental, spiritual, and emotional space - within which you can go deeper into God.
That made a lot of sense to me.
He also said that we need monastics because we need to have 'people who can see' around. Not just people who can 'do' things, but people who can 'see' deeper levels of reality.
I hope we can take on some of these thoughts in our little monastic experiment here in the hOME Chapter.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

here we go!

Really excited about the start of a new football season today. Come on you Spurs!


Some days you wake up in the morning and say to yourself "today I think I need to go to the zoo" (well, at least I do). So yesterday, Pip and I went to Marwell Zoological Park (near Winchester) where we met up with Pip's god-daughter and family and spent a few wonderful hours looking at the animals. Our trip confirmed to me something I already knew - Tigers are easily the best animals in the world, hands down.

An Inconvenient Truth

Was lucky enough to get tickets for a preview viewing of Al Gore's film - An Inconvenient Truth - a couple of nights ago. You have just got to see this film. It's based on his lecture tour on global warming (which sounds really dull, I know!) but it's very well conceived and released by a major studio so the production values are really high. I found it very moving. If you live in the States and you haven't seen it yet - WHY NOT?! It's been out for a little while over there. If you're a UK resident go and see it when it gets its full release in a couple of weeks time - and tell everyone you know to go and see it. There's much more I could say about it but I don't want to colour your opinion.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Miracles of Jesus

Really enjoyed The Miracles of Jesus last night on BBC1 which I taped as it clashed with our gathering.
I thought the dramatisations were really great and Rageeh Omaar's narration was very Tom Wright-esque I thought: lots of talk of how Jesus was acting in ways that only God could act etc. This was perhaps surprising given the fact that Omaar is a Muslim.
The question of whether or not Jesus thought of himself as in some sense divine and how that self-realisation developed was fascinating and very thought provoking.
I know it sounds daft but the dramatisations brought home to me again the fact that we follow a man who lived in many ways just like everyone else lived 2000 years ago; a man very much of his culture and time whose ways would be very strange to us now, but a man nevertheless who we believe, as Christians, was in some mysterious way God himself among us.
I know that sometimes I lose sight of that and end up with a Jesus who has somehow come loose from the world that he was a part of.
Anyway, if you've missed the show so far make sure you catch it next week when it focuses on the resurrection.

missing verse

I noticed when reading the Lectionary on Saturday that there is a verse missing from the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew 17 verse 21 doesn't exist. You've got verse 20 and verse 22 but no verse 21. So far I've looked it up in the NIV and the NRSV and it's not there in either. Go look it up for yourself! Maybe it could be the theme text for some church or other body - any suggestions as to who it should be the theme text for?!! Or, perhaps more constructively, does anyone know why there is no Matt 17:21?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The St Tropez of Devon!


5 of us had a fantastic week away in Salcombe, Devon, last week courtesy of Jim's brother Andrew who has an amazing holiday home down there overlooking the estuary out to sea. It was brilliant to sit out on the terrace, have a glass of champagne (it was Jim's birthday while we were there), read, listen to the iPod etc. Someone described it to me before we went as the 'St Tropez' of Devon and they were right. We really could have been on the Med - we had sunny weather all week and could sit and watch the boats coming in ("...and I watch them going out again" - sorry, Otis Redding moment over now). My favourite moment was when I came in to the kitchen to find Mark (far left) watching a big boat through the binoculars saying "So Mr Bond, we have been expecting you" (in a kind of vague european, mr big, dr evil type way). Thanks for organising it, Jim - I'm looking forward to the next one already!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

emerging church get-together

(thanks to Andrew Jones for the picture)
I really am a bad, bad blogger. Nearly a week has gone by (a long time in the blog world) and I have yet to record my thoughts and feelings about the 24 hour get-together I went to last week at High Leigh conference centre for those involved in the 'emerging church' in the UK. It was a privilege to be there and great to connect with many friends from around the country (too numerous to link to here).

As usual with these things there's as much value in just being together - at the meals, down the pub etc. - as there is in the actual sessions, as good as those were.

We were there principally for two reasons : to have some time reacting to Ryan Bolger (and Eddie Gibbs's) book - Emerging Churches - from a UK perspective, and to talk about whether or not we needed to be more intentional as far as networking individuals and groups together is concerned.

As far as the first of these aims was concerned it was great to have Ryan Bolger present with us to talk about the book. I think it's a great book - I loved the stories etc. My concern is that the '9 marks of the emerging church' that it presents (don't have it to hand so can't list them - go look it up!) sound to me simply like authentic Christianity rather than any particularly post-modern form of Christianity! I think it was helpful to have these characteristics mentioned - on the level of practices - but I also think that if the emerging church is truly about incarnating Christian community in postmodern culture then we also need to tease out what is specifically postmodern (not simply biblical) about the way we are expressing faith together.

So, for example, I think that one of the features of churches who are intentionally seeking to exist in the postmodern context is a desire to operate beyond conservative/liberal polarities.
In other words - if the emerging church is about engaging with postmodernity what are the things that make it postmodern? I'm not sure the book answers that question although I think maybe one of the 9 points (doing away with the sacred/secular split) begins to.

As far as the other aim of the get-together is concerned there was some lively discussion about whether or not we should name an intentional network and have some more shape to what we are doing (together).

My gut feeling is that there should be some more intentionality but we don't need to name it. Let's just let it evolve naturally. I would be happy to get together again like that next year and maybe all the people who were there this year could suggest others who could be invited and it could just grow naturally and organically.

(BTW on the naming thing, some were concerned that if we don't name ourselves others will do it for us - but in the scriptures naming was always done by others).

So intentionality : yes (so thumbs up for get-togethers and gatherings) but naming and structuring it too much: no. (Unless we called it something like 'Old Wine'(which incidentally I always thought was supposed to be the best anyway!).

One last thing - I'm really looking forward to us getting beyond the self-referential stage in our get togethers i.e. getting together to talk about the 'emerging church'. Don't get me wrong - I thought last week's content was good and necessary. It's just that there is a stage beyond being very conscious of a new tool and that is incorporating the tool into yourself (almost as an extension of the body) where you become less conscious of the tool and more conscious of what you are doing with the tool.

So I look forward to more times of gathering together when we're moving beyond talking about who we are and we give more attention to what we are trying to do. My suggestion would be to have a conversation about theology (get a theologian in to spark us off) or spirituality or mission.
Anyway - sorry about the long, rambling post.

Had a great time - thanks to Jonny and Ben for organising it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

warning: controversial post

Today's lectionary readings (gospel reading) afford me an opportunity to share a view which will probably make me unpopular with some people (so why would I want to?...hmmm.. am I a theological masochist?).

Today in Matthew 10 we read this verse:
"And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly be rewarded." (v 42).

This, I would suggest, is pretty obviously an anticipation of the longer parable of the Sheep and the Goats that we find later on in Matthew (25: 31-46).

I've got to say that I think The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is one of the most misused passages of scripture I've ever heard. The message, we are told, is usually something along the lines of:

'it's really important to minister to the poor because when we do so we are actually ministering to Christ. Jesus told us that whenever we feed or clothe someone, or give them something to drink, we are actually doing it to him'.

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard the Sheep/Goats story used in that way.

But I don't think that's what Jesus is saying in that passage at all.

The key to understanding it is surely the phrase "the least of these brothers and sisters of mine" (25:40). This was a phrase that Jesus used (also in Matt 10:42 quoted above) to refer to his disciples. In fact in the Matthew 10 passage he makes the link explicit ("one of these little ones who is known to be my disciple").

So the sheep/goats story isn't about how we treat poor people. IT'S ABOUT HOW PEOPLE TREAT JESUS' DISCIPLES!

They were the ones who Jesus was sending out with nothing - no food, no extra tunic, etc. i.e. in relative poverty and reliant on the generosity of those they encountered. (see the gospel texts from last week - the fourth Sunday after Trinity). How they were received and treated would influence God's judgement of people.

All of that is not to say, of course, that we shouldn't care for the poor and those in need. OF COURSE WE SHOULD. Just not on the basis of the sheep/goats story which is making a different point entirely.

Ok - rant over. Thanks for listening!

answer phones

I swear to God I can't remember the last time I tried to call somebody and they actually picked up the phone! No one ever answers the phone anymore. What's happening to our world?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

brownie points

Do brownies really get points? and if so, what do they get them for??

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

today: robes, viola, and mooters

Today is looking good.

I will be pretending to be a proper Anglican priest when I go and pick up some new robes in a few minutes. I say 'new' which makes it sound like I already had a set but that is not true. I have been ordained for 3 years and all I have owned is a single clerical shirt. But I am having to borrow robes too often now and so I am now finally getting some of my own.

Then I'm doing a little bit of recording with Tom at lunchtime as we try and get the first hOME EP finished.

Then I'm off to London. On Jonny's recommendation I am going to check out the Bill Viola exhibition at the Haunch of Venison gallery.

Then I'm meeting Ian Mobsby for a spot of dinner before going to Moot this evening in Westminster. Ian has invited myself (and I'm bringing along a couple of others from hOME too) to go and share with Moot the story of the new-monastic journey we've been on.

Should be a good day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

reflections on wimbledon

2 Things that annoy me about Wimbledon:

1. the way they only display the score (in the top left corner) when the action is happening and remove it when the action has stopped - THAT'S WHEN YOU WANT TO CHECK THE SCORE!!

2. The way that the ball boys are now, as part of their job so it seems, expected the continually hand a towel to a player between every point. IT'S NOT THEIR JOB! I've played tennis in very hot weather. You don't need to towel down after every point. What next - ball boys expected to give quick rub downs and massages? THEY ARE THERE TO COLLECT THE BALLS! (Now I know that the towelling down thing is a little mental routine thing and nothing to do with actually needing to towel down - Sharapova always tucks hair behind both ears just before serving..even if there's no hair to be actually tucked in - but COME ON!).

1 thing I would like to see at Wimbledon:

a player reading a book in installments each time they sit down on their chair every 2 games. If it was a 5-setter they could maybe complete a whole short novel. Can you imagine? That would be great (especially if when the Umpire calls 'Time' the player asks him to hold on until they've finished the chapter!).

The Convent - form and content

Pip and I have really enjoyed watching The Convent on BBC2 the last 4 Wednesdays. There are a couple of things I want to comment on though.
Firstly, there is a very interesting article in this week's Church Times (no weblink available unfortunately), by Nick who was in the programme The Monastery and is now training for ordination. His basic point is that religion is not therapy and to confuse the two does a disservice to both. Religion is always focussed on the other - God primarily, and our neighbours (and is essentially corporate in nature)- whilst therapy is focussed on the self (and is essentially individualistic in nature). He felt that to a certain extent The Convent has allowed a blurring between the two. I think it's definitely true to say that the show did very much talk in terms of MY path, MY journey etc. etc. So Nick's point is that in a consumer culture, religion is now viewed as one more lifestyle option and is essentially about a personal 'detox for the soul' (which is how the show was advertised actually). What do other people think about this?
Secondly, I have been thinking about the monastic life in terms of form and content. Regular readers of this blog will know that the monastic tradition plays a very important part in the life of our community. Last Easter 8 of us made vows and committed to live by a Rule. The deeper I get into this whole thing the more I realise the power of these rhythms to change us individually and corporately.
The 4 women who entered the Convent were certainly shaped by the pattern of the communal life - the regular times of prayer etc. But the content did seem to be often very dreary. Does that matter? Is it simply the patterns and the rhythms that shape us or does the content within these patterns matter? I guess we're probably all going to say that both are important, but what are the relative values?

RSS Comments

does anyone know a way of creating RSS feeds for comments on Blogger (or other formats for that matter)? It would be great to be able to track conversations happening in comments through my newsreader rather than visiting the different blogs directly.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The da Vinci Code - what's the problem?

I realise I may have missed the boat on this one, but allow me to play catch up (as they used to say on cult 80's daytime telly - 'Going for Gold' - ahhh student life..).
The basic premise of the Da Vinci Code plot is that the church has been guilty of covering up a secret that, if discovered, would rock the very foundations of Christianity. And the secret? That Jesus was married and fathered a child.
Now, whilst wanting to make absolutely clear that I don't believe Jesus was married or fathered a child, what exactly would be the theological problem if he had?
I mean, he was fully human - no debate there (any more) - so where is the theological conundrum (another game show reference - sorry!) if he had??
Obviously, if he had and it had been left out of the gospel records then that would throw up interesting questions about the reliability of the scriptures, but leaving that aside for a moment - where exactly is the problem here?

Friday, June 30, 2006

people change

So last night at our huddle - whilst talking about many deep and meaningful spiritual things - Nelly Furtado came up in conversation. What is up with that girl? She's gone from "I'm like a bird" to "I'm like a prostitute". The evidence for this (as Chris has pointed out - he's just showing concern for his compatriot) is that her new album is called 'Loose', her last single was called 'Promiscuous' and her current single is called 'Maneater'. Something ain't right in Furtado-land.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


I guess that most people who read this blog will know this already but for the sake of the one or two others it's time to announce to the world that Pippa and I are expecting our first child.
The due-date is, wait for it, ....Christmas Day. Can't believe it. So obviously it will have to be called Yeshua Immanuel Noel as a result. It's a sign. Poor kid. I feel sorry for it already.
Pip and I are now waiting expectantly for the parental feelings to develop.
We will definitely not be getting one of those 'Baby on Board' signs for the car though. "oh, ok - you have a baby on board, I didn't realise...well, I guess I better not crash into you then in that case".

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

does anyone know the name of the film...

I'm sure I've seen a film involving an army unit that hasn't heard that whichever war they're fighting is over and so they are still fighting it. They're out of communication with their base etc. I know it sounds a little like Apocalypse now but it isn't that. Does it ring any bells with anyone? I'm preaching on Sunday morning for a church in town and I'd like to use it as an illustration.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

summertime vibe

a modern day St Francis

It's been a pleasure to have Travis from Church of the Apostles, Seattle, with us the last couple of days. I met Travis when we visited COTA after Easter. He's currently spending a month on 'placement' with Moot in London. Anyway, he's one of the most pastoral people I've met. We could do with some people like him in hOME.
Anyway, yesterday morning Travis and I were just chilling out in my front room when we heard our little cat come through the cat flap with a bird in her mouth that was still alive and struggling (and occasionally succeeding temporarily) to get away. We managed to get the cat away from the bird and then Travis got the bird on to our dustpan and he took it out into the garden (I told him to kill it!). I, meanwhile, stayed in the house trying to stop the cat getting back outside through the cat flap.
I eventually found the thing you can slide into the cat-flap to stop the cat getting through it and then I went out to see whether Travis had completed his executioner duties.
He was stood at the end of the garden blessing the bird! I saw him make the sign of the cross. It was a vision of a modern day St Francis!
The bird was injured but not so badly that we felt justified in killing it. But it wasn't flying off and we couldn't leave it in the garden cos the cat would have got it. So I suggested we put it in a box and sent it down the river. We found a little cardboard box, put some grass in the bottom of it, put the bird on top of the grass, and pushed the box out onto the water and watched it drift off downstream.

This morning I suggested to Travis that perhaps someone was sitting by the riverbank yesterday watching the river drift by only to see the bird in the box drifting past them and wondering how on earth the bird had managed to build a boat for itself and launch it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

TV Theology

I think you can tell a lot about where someone's coming from theologically by whether or not they leave their TV on standby.

Monday, June 19, 2006

US Anglicans elect first woman Presiding Bishop

So the General Convention of ECUSA (or just 'The Episcopal Church' as it's now called which sounds a bit like they've forgotten about the rest of the world - not something Americans are often accused of ;-)) have gone and elected a woman as Presiding Bishop for the first time - Katherine Jefferts Schori, formerly Bishop of Nevada.
Not being someone who opposes women becoming Bishops (looking forward to the day it happens here) I don't have any problems with it per se. It's definitely going to stoke some people's fires though and it's quite amusing that just when the conservatives thought the fight was on another front (i.e. the gay thing) the focus has shifted to another contentious area.
are there any American readers of this blog who have an inside word for us on this one? is she cool?

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Little and Often

ok - I really want to be a better blogger. I have decided to adopt a 'little and often' approach to blogging for the next little while. That's also my approach to prayer right now largely due to Phyliis Tickle's fantastic volume - The Divine Hours : Prayers for Summertime - which is helping me stumble towards four times a day prayer.
Pippa and I are up at my parent's place in N Wales right now (really glad my mum decided to get wireless broadband a little while back). Many of you will know that my dad has been very ill for some considerable time now so it's good to be up here for Father's day.
Looking forward to hOME tonight. We have been blessed by Kyle Potter's presence amongst us as a community over this last academic year while he has been in Oxford - a long way from home which for him is Lexington, Kentucky where he is part of The Vine and the Branches Community with Alan Creech et al. Anyway, tonight is his last night with us before returning to the States and he is going to lead the discussion on the lectionary texts for today. We will miss him.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trinity Sunday - participating in God

[UPDATE : The podcast link is now fixed. Apologies to the many, many frustrated people who were unable to download it!]

After the drama of Easter and Pentecost (loved our Pentecost service - we had sparklers and everything!) Trinity Sunday marks the start of the rather curiously named 'Ordinary Time' (BTW I found Alan Creech's comments on this title very helpful).
I led the discussion on the Trinity on Sunday night - and, after some preliminary theological groundwork, tried to focus in on how we relate to the Trinity.
For years I heard it said in church that the Christian life is about us asking/inviting God into our lives - these days I find it more helpful to consider that God invites us into HIS life.
The image used by the Cappadocian Fathers for this was that of Perichoresis - the dance of the Trinity (one of beautiful mutuality and interdependence) - and us being invited to join the dance (thereby becoming 'partakers of the divine nature' (2 Pet 1) - i.e. divinization).
But the problem is we are poor dance partners and we don't know how to dance. So the Christian life, the Spiritual life, is about us learning how to dance - learning the rhythm of God as it plays out in all aspects of our lives.
If anyone is interested the podcast is here (and is also available through iTunes - search for hOME).