Sunday, December 23, 2007

Get behind me Santa!

Christmas is a time when I normally find myself listening to Sufjan Stevens 'Songs for Christmas' (also available on iTunes) at some point. This year was no exception (he's normally playing as people arrive for the Service of 9 Lessons and Carols).
Anyway, he's just appeared in the Guardian with a list of his favourite Christmas songs (the article is entitled 'Get behind me Santa' which made me chuckle). Read it here.
(update: for some reason blogger isn't letting me add links so if you're really that interested then search the Guardian site!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Quiet Time

One of the peculiarities of my job is that even though I am a priest in the Church of England, Christmas is quite a quiet time for me!
Our little community is largely made up of younger adults for whom it is a time of year to go away to see family etc.
So our big event for this time of year is our Service of 9 Lessons and Carols which we had last Sunday evening. After that things tend to quiet down considerably.
So I am trying to use the time to do some reading, particularly as next year we hope to launch some spirituality material for unchurched people.
This week I have read some Bernard of Clairvaux (pictured here). One thing he said that I found particularly interesting is the stages of love that we go through in our spiritual journey. He characterised them like this:
Stage 1 : we love ourselves for our own sake
Stage 2 : we love God for our own sake
Stage 3 : we love God for God's sake
Stage 4 : we love ourselves for God's sake
I'm not sure I totally get the last one and indeed Bernard says that it's very rare in this life. But the others make a lot of sense to me.
I'm very aware of how easy it is to love God and 'do all the religious stuff' for what I get out of it (stage 2) though of course we never put it in those terms. And I'm not sure that's a totally invalid thing (echoes here of the Westminster Catechism where it talks about 'enjoying God' which John Piper also talks about although I'm really not a fan of his).

It's interesting to hear this common theme emerging in the mystics which can basically be summarised as a turning from the self as the focus of attention (stages 1 and 2 in Bernard's schema) to a focus on God (stage 3), which involves a kind of emptying and forgetfulness of self.

Anyway, maybe I'll post some more tidbits as I uncover them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cathecting with Christ (or 'I love Jesus more than you')

Those of you who have read M Scott Peck's seminal book, The Road Less Travelled, will know that he has a whole section on love.

His theory is that what most people call love actually isn't love at all, it's what he calls cathecting. Cathecting, for Peck, is the early stage in a relationship where the heady rush of feelings and emotions sweeps you along. This stage always, always, in any relationship, ends at some point. This is the point that a lot of people bale out of a relationship saying things like "my feelings have changed" or "I don't feel the same about you anymore" or "I don't love you anymore". Our culture makes a direct equivalence between these cathecting feelings and love. But they're not the same.

For Peck, when the cathecting feelings fade that's the point where real love begins. Cathecting is nature's way of getting us together. But it's not to be mistaken for love. Love is the deliberate choosing of the will to be with, and serve, another person despite our feelings - which will ebb and flow in any relationship.

Recently I've been reflecting on this in the light of my relationship with Christ and particularly my worship of Christ. It seems to me that much of the corporate worship I have participated in attempts to keep people in the cathecting stage of relating to God. It's very feelings based, it's often quite romantic. People have talked about the Jesus is my boyfriend/girlfriend type worship songs that are around.

Sometimes it's easy to feel that your relationship with Christ is failing because "it's not like it used to be". I don't think it is necessarily failing, it's changing, it's maturing. I am worried about churches which encourage people to think that if you're not cathecting with Christ you're lukewarm.

Of course, relationships that last involve work, making an effort, keeping romance alive etc. and there will be an element of that sort of thing in our relating to God, but it's a very different thing to the early, cathecting stage.

Monday, November 05, 2007

All Saints Day Service

Enjoyed our All Saints Day service yesterday even though it was a lot of preparation and many of our saints were unable to be there.

We are increasingly developing a rhythm of 'special services' which punctuate our liturgical year - this was our 5th special service of this cycle - 9 Lessons and Carols (last Advent), Ash Wednesday, Good Friday Stations of the Cross, Harvest and now All Saints.

Anyway - it was a good time - and made more fun by the fact that a load of people who had been to the Climate Change camp (near Heathrow's proposed site for the new Terminal) were just back from their protest and were using the Community Centre, where we meet, as a base - so there was a constant stream of people coming into the hall to use the loos which meant there was a bit of a queue and therefore people were standing and watching everything we were doing. A couple even got involved in the service and stayed for communion at the end!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mac OS X Leopard - the Rees view - for Mac geeks only!!!

As I only just bought my new Mac I was eligible for a £5.95 upgrade to Leopard when it was released (last Friday). It was delivered to me on Monday and I installed it on Monday night. So I've had it on the machine for the last few days and thought I'd post some brief comments about how I'm finding it.

Apple claim that this is their biggest operating system upgrade yet with over 300 new features (compared with Tiger). Here's my initial thoughts:

Time Machine : this has got to be one of the key new features. Having recently paid a heavy price for not backing up my data (see earlier blog entry) this is a great feature. You assign an external drive (I have a USB 160GB portable drive) as your Time Machine drive and the computer automatically mirrors your entire hard drive updating the mirror every hour. There's now a Time Machine icon in the dock and when you click on it it opens up a dazzling Star-Wars-esque (the beginning bit where the writing scrolls upwards through space) screen. This is where you can see all the back ups of your drive (most recent at the front going back into the distance with previous back ups behind it). You can then scroll through 'back in time' to previous dates and times to see your system as it was then.

This is a great feature although I'm not sure how much I will use it except for the security of backing up my system in case of hard drive failure. Apple seem to think that random files might just go missing for no reason and that you can then go back in time to retrieve them (searching for them 'through time' via Spotlight) - but in reality how often does that happen? I will still be using Time Machine to back up my system though.

Spaces : This is a clever new feature that allows you to organise what you're doing on your computer in up to 16 separate spaces - so you can group together certain applications in clusters according to different things you are doing and then just switch from one space to another (with useful keyboard shortcuts) as you complete different tasks.

This has the potential to be a great utility but I think Apple have really missed a trick here. Here's why: you can't open the same application in more than one space at a time. What I would really find useful is to set up, say, a work space and a leisure space. In the work space I would have my web browser open with various web-pages open that I was referencing for work stuff + any other apps I was using for work - my word processor etc. In the leisure space I would have my browser open with maybe some football news sites, for example, + maybe a game or whatever. But you can't do that with Spaces. You can only have the web browser (or any other app) in one space at a time.

It's a shame as I could see myself using this utility a lot of it had that functionality but as it is I probably won't use it much.

Stacks : the dock now has the ability to hold folders e.g. your downloads folder or recent documents and then, when you click on them they open out in a fan configuration. This is pretty neat and tidy but I haven't had much opportunity to use Stacks yet so can't really comment.

Finder with Cover-Flow and Quick-Look : this I really like. You now have the option in the Finder to browse your folders, documents, pictures etc. using Cover-Flow i.e. seeing a small version of the actual file not just an icon of it and you can even blow it up to readable size with Quick-Look. This is great if you're browsing through a folder of documents to find the right one - you don't need to keep opening Word (or Pages) to view the documents. Nice.

iCal and Mail : The new versions of iCal and Mail are really sweet - particularly Mail. It has smart data recognition so if someone sends you an e mail with details of a meeting/appointment you can hover the mouse over it and Mail will recognise it as a calendar event and instantly give you the option of making it an iCal entry. You can also now highlight any portion of text in an e mail and instantly turn it into a To-Do which will go straight into your iCal To-Do list (and then, in my case, get synched to my Blackberry). You can also now compose notes and To-Do's in Mail).

So there's my early take on Leopard. No doubt I will get into it more as time goes by. There are a few teething problems I'm already noticing - I use PocketMac to sync my Blackberry and it looks like it doesn't work that well with the new OS. And I've had a couple of issues getting on to Airport networks that are normally fine. It also did something really wierd when I upgraded and wouldn't let me empty my trash - I spent an hour and three quarters on the phone to Applecare sorting that one out! (I needed to as I had about 40GB of data in the trash due to accidentally importing three copies of my iTunes library).

All in all I would say to Mac users out there that it's well worth getting the new OS - it's probably worth it for Time Machine alone let alone the other stuff.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Bishop and the Orchestra

Off to meet the new Bishop of Oxford - Bishop John - for the first time this morning. And this evening I'm off to Bristol to see The Cinematic Orchestra (+ Bonobo in support) live at the Colston Hall with Jim and Brother Ian from mayBe.

Should be a good day!

sent on the move from my Blackberry.....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Goodbye Martin Jol

So Martin Jol, manager of 'my' football team Tottenham Hotspur, finally got the sack last night. It had been coming for a long time.

Whilst it may have been the right decision from a footballing point of view - our results have been shocking and I genuinely don't think he was the man to take us into the top four - I really liked him as a man: he had a big heart, loved the club, loved his players. In all honesty he's been treated appallingly by the club and I'm not sure we would be in the position we are in now (in the relegation zone) if they hadn't undermined him like they have.

He should have at least been given the chance to turn things around - we owed him that after the fantastic progress he has made over the last couple of years. I feel sorry for him - he deserved better. Goodbye Martin - thanks for making our club believable in again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

challenges of work 2: be here now

Another challenge of my work-style is one I am becoming more and more aware of. In my line of work - helping and facilitating the birth and growth of a new Christian community - a massive proportion of my time is spent thinking about the future - where are we heading to, how are we going to get there, will there be enough people, money, facilities, do we need to get a property, where, how, etc. etc.????
I am coming to realise that almost all my headspace is crammed with uncertain questions and thinking about the future - and it doesn't help me to be healthy or wise. In fact it very easily leads to stress and anxiety.
I love the phrase 'the sacrament of the present moment' - in other words, the grace that is available to us if we can be here now (rather than shooting off somewhere in our heads - always living in the past or the future). This is a huge challenge to me - to try and redress this balance and live more peacefully in the present.
In this I can learn from my little girl - she has a very limited understanding of past and present. She can get upset and have forgotten about it literally moments later - like it never happened. She knows what she needs now and she lets the future take care of itself.
I once heard a wise old sage say that it is only in the present that we meet with God - God was there in the past and will be there in the future, but those times and places are inaccessible to us and we can only meet with God in the now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

challenges of work 1 : workchums

I spend a lot of my working time alone - often staring at a computer screen writing e mails or other documents. It doesn't particularly flow well with who I am as a person.
So I'm thankful for people that I engage with on a regular basis that help me to work better.
Yesterday, Jim - who, like me often finds himself working alone and it doesn't suit him either - and I met at our local coffee shop (which now, praise God, offers free wi-fi) so we could get on with the things we had to do but at least be with someone else while we did so, rather than sitting alone in our respective houses.
This morning I had what has now become my regular coffee meeting with my brother nu-monastic abbot here in Oxford, Ian from the mayBe community.
Later on today I went to work in the Bodleian library - and unbelievably fantastic place to work - where I'm putting together some material on the Christian mystics (more on that at some point) and I was able to work near to my friend (and Lily-Anna's Godfather) Alan.
I have a growing appreciation for those who I can share my working life with. Bless you brothers!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Harvest Service

Really enjoyed our Harvest Service last night - it was the first time we had marked harvest and it felt like a good thing to do.
The first hour of the service was spent engaging with prayer stations - confession (pulling up plants as a symbol of our using of the earth without care or consideration), absolution (replanting the plants in fresh earth as a sign of our reconnection with the land), thanksgiving (bringing food that we were thankful for - I brought a lovely bottle of ale!), offering (bringing symbols of our work to 'hallow' our labour once more to God), texts & response (readings from scripture and the christian mystics on our relationship with creation), intercessions (lighting tapers and placing them into a container of earth as we prayed for the earth using a prayer written by Tess), and then communion.
I managed to get hold of a bale of straw - not an easy thing to do for a city boy! - which we used as an altar for the evening (see pic) and we gathered around it for the peace (which we remembered meant not just peace with each other but also peace with the rest of creation - we passed round daffodil bulbs to symbolise this), celebrated communion with a creation-based eucharistic prayer, and then a final benediction (also written by Tess) before being offered a plant pot and some more earth so we could take our bulbs away with us.
A top night!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

harvest home

tonight the Home community is celebrating harvest - giving thanks for the provision of the land and praying for the healing of humanity's relationship with it. There will be prayer stations for an hour from 5-6pm and communion at 6. I'll blog about it tomorrow and perhaps post some pics.

if you're local do come along.

Friday, October 19, 2007

thanks Nan!

My nan rocks. Many of you will know that the hard disk on my computer died a couple of weeks back. My nan has bought me a new mac which is incredibly generous of her.
So I am the proud owner of a new MacBook - complete with inbuilt camera so I can take zany photos like this one.
Thanks nan!
Hopefully I will be back to better blogging ways soon.

Monday, October 01, 2007

the kind of mistake you only make once

so - last week the hard disk on my laptop failed. I've taken it into the shop and they've told me that it needs replacing - and it's not going to be cheap. In fact it might not make financial sense to do it as the machine is getting a little old now - so it might be time to get a new machine - but they don't come cheap as we know (and if anyone feels moved to make a contribution to the 'replace matt's mac' appeal we would be glad to hear from you!).

The absolute killer though is that on my hard drive were 3 year's worth of photos which weren't backed up AND EVEN WORSE all our photos and movies of Lily-Anna from the last 9 months. Total nightmare.

The guys in the Apple shop said they'd tried 3 or 4 different ways to extract the data, all of which have failed. So our last hope is to send the hard drive off to a specialist data recovery place in London.

I have an external USB hard drive but haven't used it to back up our photos - it's the kind of mistake you only make once in your life.

Monday, September 17, 2007

lost and found

The gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity yesterday was Luke 15: 1-10, the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin.

We had a very interesting discussion time at our eucharist on the text. what does it mean to be lost and what does it mean to be found?

There is a very kind of "right-on" perspective which really struggles to imagine anyone as being 'lost'. Who are we to judge people or say that we are 'the found' and that they are 'the lost'. How arrogant and condescending!

At one point in our discussion someone looked out of the window at the street and asked whether we really had to believe that all the people walking past were really and truly lost.

But I think it's vital to hold on to this sense of 'lostness' if we are really going to 'honour' people's pain and take it seriously. The fact of the matter is that as much as we want to say that people are alright as they are (the trendy, right-on view)I suspect a lot of people would not say that about themselves. We want to say they are alright as they are but they know they're not. They know and experience pain and alienation in many different ways and this is a big part of what I would call 'lostness'. They may not use this language but there is a very real sense in which they need to be 'found', and they know it. Our political correctness does not help anyone. And we ourselves, even as followers of Christ, need to go on being found by him - there are parts of us that are still in the 'lostness' of pain and alienation.

Now that 'being found' may not mean 'coming to our church' and believing all the same things we do (and one of the reasons we squirm a bit when talking about these things is that we inherit these concepts with these 'colonial' overtones ringing in our ears) - but if we abandon the possibility that people are lost and need to be found then we not only diminish the gospel we also trivialize people's very real sense of their own pain.

The fact is that, as someone else in the discussion beautifully pointed out, these parables tell us that there is no where that God cannot find us. But God doesn't just locate us, he picks us up and carries us away from our alienation and pain and returns us to our homeland in him.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

iPhone about to get UK release?

It seems that the long awaited and much hyped iPhone is about to get a UK release - are reporting that there is a special press conference scheduled at the London Apple store next Tuesday and the speculation is that it will be to announce the launch.

I am waiting to see what the price will be and which network it will be on. My Blackberry is now due for a new contract but I'll wait to see if the iPhone is affordable before deciding what to do. If it comes in at a reasonable price I might be tempted as my iPod is still one of the now very old (in technological terms) black and white ones - the iPod equivalent of a black and white telly I guess!

does enjoying new (apple) technology make me a hopeless consumerist sell-out, enslaved to the spirit of the age? anyone else planning to get one?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sigur Ros Movie

Seems that Sigur Ros have a movie coming out (thanks to Ben for the tip off).
I'm a big fan of The Ros. We often use their music in church and I loved seeing them live last year.
As we have come to expect from them the film looks amazing - if the trailer is anything to go by it will look as well as sound absolutely gorgeous.
Go here to see the trailer.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Lily-Anna's Baptism

Last Sunday was Lily-Anna's baptism - a really important event in the life of our family and our little faith community.
Here are some photos - you should be able to work out what's going on in each one. Tess Ward co-led the service with me...there's one of the of me doing the actual of the 3 of us...and one of the star of the show herself.
The photos were taken by our friend Suzie - I think you'll agree she did a fine job. If you're interested, the full set can be found on her flickr page here.
I planned the service - we basically followed the Common Worship (anglican) service but with a few tweaks of our own. Towards the end we used a fantastic track by The Cinematic Orchestra while showing pictures of Lily-Anna and encouraging people to pray silently for her. We then invited people to stand one by one and offer a blessing for her life. We've collected the pieces of paper the blessings were written on and I'm going to compile them, along with a selection of the photos, and make a book for Lily to have when she's older.

Some people get very uptight about infant baptism but for me it's a fairly simple and straightforward deal. The question is this - is Lily-Anna going to be part of the community of faith or not? If she is then it's entirely appropriate for her to be baptised as baptism is the mark of being part of the covenant community. In the scriptures there are simply no categories for un-baptised members of the church. We want Lily to play a full part in the life of our little faith community and therefore she should be baptised.
Some people say that she's not old enough to know what's happening. But since when did our life with God depend on our understanding? Infant baptism symbolises beautifully for me the fact that God reaches out to us before we are ever aware of what's going on and before we are ever able to respond to God.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

new iPods

so - only just been reconnected and I'm having a quick look through my regular websites - which include and and what do I find? they've just announced a new generation of iPods including the 'iPod Touch' which basically just looks like the iPod bit of the long awaited iPhone (you certainly wouldn't need both!).

back on wi-fi

it's great to finally get back on wi-fi in our new temporary home. when you don't have it you suddenly realise how much you were relying on it. which of course is true of most things in life.

Friday, August 31, 2007


This Sunday is the baptism of our daughter, Lily-Anna Joy Rees. To the left is the design for a postcard invite I knocked up which we sent out a while back.
It's all a bit hectic what with friends and family coming from all over and getting things like the service itself organised - Tess Ward and myself will be getting robed up and doing the honours. It will be such a privilege to actually do the baptising bit myself.
Readers of this blog can consider themselves invited if they haven't already 'officially' been (by the receiving of said postcard).
I'll try and post some pics afterwards.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another year, another Greenbelt

Back from another Greenbelt and straight into the throes of moving house.
I really love Greenbelt - it feels like the annual gathering of my tribe, or the annual pilgrimage up to the Temple....choose a metaphor that works for you. Anyway, great to catch up with people, drink a lot of tea and beer (depending on the time of day - photo of the pub sign for the organic beer tent on the left), hear some great talks, listen to some great music, and participate in some great worship. Highlights:
talks: John 'O Donahue
music: Coldcut, Andy Yorke and Duke Special
worship: our friends from the mayBe community did a cracking 'beautiful day' eucharist
What about you (if you were there) - what did you enjoy this year?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Celtic Wheel of the Year

It's been great to have Tess Ward become part of the hOME Community here in Oxford over the last few months.

She has a book out - The Celtic Wheel of the Year - which looks fab. She's leading some sessions on it at Greenbelt this coming weekend and she's asked me to provide some music for them so I've written some pieces.

Her sessions (and the book) have 4 quadrants based on the 4 seasons of the year and I've tried to write music that reflects those seasons.

The book is available on Amazon here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

new house

finally found a house for Team Rees to live in for the next 6 months while ours is being sorted out after the recent floods (see pic on the left).
It's round the corner from Pete and Tess Ward (Tess has become part of the hOME Community over the last few months) which is nice.
If anyone REALLY wants to see some more pics (that's you, mum!) you can see them here.

blog trimming

I have 394 unread blog posts in my newsreader. A few minutes ago it was over 400. That's a little bit silly. I am paying less attention to blogs than I was, partly due to the arrival of facebook (which is great for 'realtime' bite-size updates on people but not very deep....wide but not deep...blogs do the deeper stuff better I think).
Anyway, I think I'm going to have to do a bit of a blog cull - I have far too many feeds. I might have to be a bit ruthless.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson - godfather of the Manchester music scene, discoverer of bands such as Joy Division/New Order, the Happy Mondays etc. - died yesterday.
I grew up in the North West and remember seeing him on BBC regional TV when I was a kid though that was before the whole Manchester music scene exploded with him at the epicentre of much of it.
He was undoubtedly a very important cultural figure. Rest in peace.

A Floody Nightmare - update

this phrase - coined by my friend Jon - is probably the best one I have come across to describe out situation. It looks now like we will be out of our house for most of the rest of this year and will be in temporary accommodation - a short term let paid for by our insurers - while builders take up our ground floor + joists underneath, leave open to dry for 4-6 weeks, replace, replaster the walls, possibly put a new kitchen in.
So we've been looking at rental property this week and hope to have something sorted before Greenbelt.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007


So - interesting week for the Rees's.
We're up in Scotland on holiday and meantime, the photo on the left shows you what's been happening on our street. The white house you can see on the right hand side is ours.
So - that's going to be fun to go back to on Saturday!
Thankfully, we have fantastic friends nearby who have been amazing. They have keys for our place and have been in and moved most of our stuff upstairs and even got some of the neighbours to help them put our sofa up on breeze blocks. By all accounts the community spirit has been amazing (and we're gutted we've missed out on that). Our mates went to bed slightly pissed the other night cos they'd been invited into so many houses for a glass of wine!
So - we've been trying to have a holiday up here while listening to the news reports and getting updates from our friends. It's not easy to relax - especially when you switch on the TV to find a Top Gear special on BBC2 where Jeremy Clarkson sets out to prove it's possible to drive to the North Pole! Great timing mate - my house is underwater, due undoubtedly in part to global warming and you're driving across the polar ice caps. Nice one! Tosser.
Is it time to start rounding up two of each species?
Thankfully it sounds like the levels are starting to drop.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Live Earth

Well then, Live Earth. I have to say I was disappointed.
It made me depressed at the lack of genuine musical talent that there is out there (although I guess those with that kind of talent were probably not 'household names' and therefore weren't gonna get invited).
I know that focusing on the music is kinda missing the point but some of it was soooo dire - I mean...The Pussycat Dolls?!! A bunch of go-go dancers pretending to be a band. Watching them made me think that the end of civilisation as we know it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing.

And I loved the way that so many of the bands desperately hunted through their back catalogue to try and find a song or two that had some sort of connection with the environment. Unfortunately, for the aforementioned Pussycat Dolls that means 'Don't you wish your girlfriend was HOT like me?' - at least it had the word hot in the title.

Having said all that I do genuinely like Al Gore. And he did make a point of saying that these concerts were only the beginning of a 2 year programme to change popular perception (apparently more than half the people in the UK, let alone the US, still don't believe human beings are contributing to climate change). God bless him and the work he is doing.

It's easy to be cynical about these things. Chris Rock, the American comedian, when interviewed by (the very annoying) Jonathan Ross, said that he believed Live Earth would solve the problem of climate change in the same way that Live Aid solved the problem of world hunger. Easy to be cynical, harder to remain positive and try to make a positive contribution. Gore has to be respected for that.

And anything involving a reformed Spinal Tap can't be all bad. Their new single 'Warmer than Hell' (in which they ponder the relative temperatures of hell and a climate changed earth and muse on which one Satan would enjoy more) was possibly the musical highlight of the day.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Sister Corita

When we were in St Ives a few weeks ago we went to the Tate - like you do. There was a great exhibition on at the time (it's still on) called 'If Everybody had an Ocean' based on the life and music of Brian Wilson from the Beach Boys.
Anyway, one of the artists whose work was featured in the exhibition was a new one on me - Sister Corita Kent. She was a Catholic nun and quite an extraordinary graphic artist who was quite prominent in the 60's counter-culture. Someone said that she did for bread and wine what Andy Warhol did for Campbell's tinned soup. I was quite taken with the pieces of hers that were in the exhibition and particularly with the way that her faith, art, and the counterculture blended to produce some striking results. For example, how's this for an altar piece:

or this....and here are some of the nun's from Sister Corita's community in production...

Anyway, if this flips your widget you can find out more about Sister Corita here or purchase an art book with lots of her stuff in on Amazon.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Cowley Road Carnival Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the annual Cowley Road Carnival. I love it. For one day they close the whole road to traffic and thousands of people flood the street - it's Oxford's most multicultural area so there's lots of local flavours and colours to enjoy and celebrate. There's a great party vibe and it's very evocative of the kingdom of God.

Last year's was great - I remember dancing on the street to some local soundsystems and generally having a great time in the sun. Doesn't look like there'll be much of that this year though!

A few of us from hOME have decided to volunteer this year and help out serving - doing set up for some of the stages and stewarding etc. Because I have an unusual clergy job it means that tomorrow morning, instead of being in a church somewhere, I can be getting my sleeves literally rolled up and helping to make the Carnival happen.

If you live locally it's really not one to miss!

As hOME meets on Sunday evenings in the Community centre hall - right in the centre of the action - we've decided to cancel our normal service and host a post-carnival chill out room instead (with prayer stations, ambient music, projections, floor cushions, lots of candle light etc.).

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

pet hate

just watching the Henman showdown from the first round of Wimbledon on the BBC and it's reminded me of one of my pet hates. For some reason the BBC in their wisdom only show their mini scoreboard (the one in the top left hand corner of the screen) while a point is in play - precisely the time that you want to be watching the play not looking at the score. In between points - when it would be a good time to check the score - they remove it. It's sooooo annoying! Does anyone have any idea why?

Monday, June 25, 2007

facebook = death of blogging?

It looks like everyone has been well and truly bitten by the great bug that is facebook - I know I certainly have. And it looks to me like there's far less blogging happening as a result. Certainly true in my case. But I don't want to let my blog slide totally so thought I would post something.

We had another soggy holiday in Cornwall last week (Pip and I are considering hiring ourselves out as water-shortage solutions consultants - you got a water shortage? just pay for us to come on holiday where you are and we can almost guarantee that it will rain the whole time we're there).

Came back to do Chris and Katharine's wedding on Saturday (see photo on left and below courtesy of Mel). hOME weddings seem to be like buses - we've had 2 in the last month and none before that. As a result we have unwittingly transitioned to a community that now has a large percentage of married/hooked up people. How did that happen?!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Corpus Christi

Today in the Church Calendar is Corpus Christi - which is a day of thanksgiving to God for the institution of the eucharist.
(the photo comes from the blog of Alan Creech)

It's a big festival in the Catholic world and even though we are not wanting to overly-identify ourselves with any ONE tradition, but drink deeply from all the wells, I am thankful for the eucharist.

It keeps us anchored in the story of the gospel.
We celebrate the eucharist in hOME at every worship gathering (weekly) and I think it's really important that we do so.
At the Last Supper Jesus took, blessed, broke, and shared the bread. The four main 'actions' of the eucharist - taking, blessing, breaking and sharing are also the four main elements of the Christ story. Jesus was given (or taken), blessed by God, broken (primarily on the cross) and shared out for the life of the world as the living bread.

So each time we celebrate the eucharist we are re-enacting the heart of our faith.

But those 4 actions also encapsulate God's action upon us:
he gathers us, he blesses us, he breaks us, and he shares us out for the life of the world : we experience this on both an individual level and a corporate level in Christian community.

So for this reason (and there are others too - for example eucharist reminds us of the essential goodness of physicality), I'm glad we re-tell the story each week in our worship gathering.

interfaith walk for peace

Went on the annual interfaith walk for peace yesterday (see picture on left including one of our guys - Andy - who somehow became chief steward for the march - in the foreground with rather cheeky pose!).
We started at the Synagogue and then walked on to the University church and then on to the Mosque in East Oxford. All the Abrahamic faiths together (+ others too). I even 'collared up' for the occasion (not something I do that often).
In an age of distrust and fear it seems even more important these days to do this sort of thing.
For me I'm not at all going down that relativistic route of saying we're all basically believing the same thing (apart from anything else that would be very disrespectful of the other faiths who, largely, wouldn't want to say that at all). Just saying that we have respect for each other, value each other, can learn from each other, and do not fear each other. And these seem like things worth saying.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Richard Rohr @ York

Absolutely blown away by Richard Rohr at the conference I went to in York over the weekend. He's in my Jedi Council for sure.
I said to someone I feel like I've been born again again.
There's a lot of talk in emerging circles about 'powerless discourse' and a kind of doing away with the 'expert'. I disagree. Put someone who knows what they're talking about in a big room, preferably on a stage, give them a microphone and let them talk at me for hours on end. I don't particularly want to go to something like this and pool my ignorance with a load of strangers in small groups. I want to listen to a spiritual master, which Rohr undoubtedly is.
Of course, we need to make sure we're not confusing this for the real work however. The rubber hits the road when we take this stuff back into Christian community and learn together how to live it out. That's a much more appropriate context for 'powerless discourse' if you ask me.
Anyway - it was truly inspirational stuff. He was basically talking about how bad the church has been at facilitating true transformation in people. That true transformation comes through wisdom (which is actually a common description of the Spirit in the scriptures) but the church hasn't developed a wisdom culture but instead been obsessed with what he calls 'informational knowledge' i.e. it's about getting more and better information, knowing how to label things correctly etc. The church has by and large operated in this early level consciousness.
Instead we need to know how to get beyond what he calls the 'dualistic mind' to wisdom and the 'contemplative mind' which can deliver true transformation.
Of course he said a lot of other things too! I'm looking forward to listening again to the CD's.

Of particular interest to people reading this blog might be the fact that he talked in the last session about the emerging church. In his view it has 3 characteristics:

1. An honest reading of Jesus - not reading the gospels to score denominational points but an openness to receive ALL of Christ's teaching. The church has often emphasised things that Jesus didn't emphasise and ignored things that Jesus did emphasise! The emerging church is seeking to take the whole of Christ's teaching seriously.

2. A passion of justice, peace, and ecological issues.

3. An openness to developing the contemplative mind. (He joked that he would always rather talk about scripture to Catholics, and contemplation to Protestants because both groups are very happy to admit that they know little about these things...the problem comes when trying to teach scripture to Protestants and contemplation to Catholics cos both groups think they have it all worked out in those areas and don't have what he calls 'Beginners Mind'.)

Anyway - as you can see...I'm a bit of a fan...and there is a bit of a guru thing around Rohr which I know he's quite embarassed about (he said so). I did say to my travelling companions (great to be there with Jim from hOME and Ian and Gail from mayBe) that if the weekend ended in a mass wedding we were all in trouble...!!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

a travesty of justice...

there was no way Naomi should have been fired from The Apprentice last night. I predicted Simon's firing about 5 mins into the programme and I stand by my judgement. He was easily more culpable than Naomi for the failure of the task. Sir Alan 'cocked it up royal' (surely a new catchphrase in the making) with his decision last night (and I have a terrible feeling that Katie is going to be in the final!).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Richard Rohr in York

I'm looking forward to travelling to York this coming weekend for the Richard Rohr conference that Contemplation & Action UK are organising.

Rohr is a Franciscan monk and the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, New Mexico (had to look the spelling up on that one!). As he himself says, the most important word in the phrase 'contemplation and action' is the word 'and'.

I was blown away by hearing him speak at Greenbelt a couple of years ago and his book 'Everything Belongs - the gift of Contemplative Prayer' made a big impression on me when I read it last year.

It's great that I have some traveling companions too...Jim from the hOME community, and Ian (my brother nu-monastic Abbot from the mayBe community also in Oxford) and his wife, Gail.

Should be a good weekend.

Monday, May 28, 2007


Really enjoyed our Pentecost service last night. We focused in on the four most well used metaphors for the Spirit - fire, water, breath/wind, and oil.
I did a little thought for the day on what it means to be witnesses - which is why the Spirit is given according to Jesus (and he should know).
It seems to me that we are witnesses in who we are and in what we do. i.e. it's about identity and vocation. And when the Spirit comes something happens in these two areas that make us into witnesses. I looked at Adam - the breath/ruach/spirit of God enters him and makes him into a living being (identity) and there follows the creation mandate (vocation) to be fruitful and multiply etc. We then looked at the baptism of Christ - the Spirit comes and we are told that this is God's Son whom he loves (identity) and immediately after he begins his ministry (vocation). We then went to the Pentecost narrative and saw how the Spirit was given to form the church (identity) and to lead it into mission (vocation).
We then looked at the four images of the Spirit - fire, wind, oil, and water - and discussed what experiencing the Spirit in those ways might mean for us in terms of discipleship (identity) and mission (vocation).
I thought it was a really helpful discussion.
We then had these 4 elements laid out around the room and people interacted with them in whatever way they found helpful, turning their encounter with the elements into prayer for themselves and others.
We also read some fantastic quotes from Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth Johnson, Clark Pinnock and Pope John Paul II on the Spirit and I'm including jpegs of the slides here if anyone wants to click on them to enlarge and read them.