Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Welcome to the Welcome Wagon (attention Sufjan fans)

Wow! The 'Welcome to the Welcome Wagon' is really something.

The Welcome Wagon are husband and wife - Rev. Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique. Vito is a Presbyterian minister in the States.

It's an album of old-time religious country-ish songs given all kinds of special twists by producer Sufjan Stevens who also plays on the album. Here's some of the blurb:

The debut album by The Welcome Wagon unveils a ramshackle sing-a-long enterprise of a Presbyterian pastor (the Rev. Vito Aiuto) and his wife (Monique) wrestling out the influences of folk music, religion, popular culture, and church tradition in a collection of songs that is as soulful as it is good-humored. This gorgeous brew is reflected in the group’s repertoire, which unflinchingly consolidates a vast history of “sacred” song traditions: from Old Testament psalms, to Presbyterian Psalters of the 17th century, to iconoclastic pop innovators of the 1960s (The Velvet Underground), to charismatic Catholics of the 1970s (Lenny Smith), and into the melancholy lovelorn pop of the 1980s (The Smiths). There are even a few originals. Armed with a particleboard parlor guitar and a plastic glockenspiel, pastor and wife stumble their way through an arresting catalog of hymns—hallowed and unholy—with the simple desire to know their Maker—and to know each other—more intimately.

I got my copy free via Todd Fadel who is putting together a new network called 'Love is Concrete' and is offering the album to entice you to sign up (worked for me!).

To read more about the album - it's worth investigating believe me - and get a free download of one of the tracks go here. Or go to the 'Love is Concrete' page and e mail Todd to get a link to download the whole thing for free.

Monday, December 22, 2008


I enjoy getting Richard Rohr's daily e mail. Today's was particularly good I thought.....

"The reason we have trouble with the full incarnation in Jesus is probably that we have not been able to recognize or admire our own limited incarnation. We also have a capacity for the divine.

Theological doctrine we can deal with, but ourselves we cannot. It is comparatively easy to admit to a historical divine/human integration or personification, but it is apparently difficult to accept that same integration or personification within our own remembered and regretted lives. But this little self on its insignificant journey is very likely a microcosm of what God is doing everywhere and what God did perfectly in Jesus. If we are to believe the whole, we must start by trying to believe the part. If we are to love God’s beginning and God’s conclusion—Jesus—then we must try to love God’s process—ourselves. He is Alpha and Omega, but we are beta, gamma, and delta. It is all one. Truth is one. And we have been made one by God’s yes to flesh in Christ"

You can sign up to get them here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sainsbury's - a bit like Helm's Deep

I was in Sainsbury's quite late last night - picking up the glasses for our Carol service on Sunday. It was eerily quiet but there were LOADS of teenage staff stocking the shelves...stuff everywhere.
Today (Saturday) is supposed to be the busiest supermarket shopping day in the whole history of the planet or something. So they were preparing for the onslaught.
It kinda reminded me of the scene in 'The Two Towers' where all the good guys are in Helm's Deep preparing for Sauron's army which they know is coming!

Friday, December 19, 2008

BBC releases iPlayer for Mac & Linux

Well they've taken their time about it but BBC's iPlayer is finally
available for the Mac.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Earth from the Air exhibition @ Oxford Castle

We went out for breakfast at Carluccios's at Oxford Castle yesterday morning as part of our wedding anniversary celebrations. Great food - certainly a whole lot better than the meal I had the night before at Loch Fyne which was very ropey and disappointing.

Anyway - when we came out of Carluccio's we found ourselves drawn in to the spectacular free exhibition of very large photographs by Yann Arthus-Bertrand that are all around the exterior of the castle complex. His work is marketed as 'The Earth from the Air' and is now rather ubiquitous having been made into books, T-Shirts etc. (you will probably recognise the middle bottom image from the montage above).

BUT - it's really worth seeing. I found it to be quite a spiritual experience - wonder, awe, a recognition of how small we are and how beautiful the earth is. The photography is amazing - brilliant to see very large, original prints which the images above and others you may have seen on the web don't do justice to.

The exhibition runs to January 11th and if you're local to Oxford I highly recommend you see it (especially as it's free!!)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

free music

Church of the Beloved - sister church to Church of the Apostles (COTA) in Seattle - are offering an album of new music FOR FREE!! Gotta love that generous spirit.

Judging from the first track (the only one I've had time to listen to so far) it's a cracker.

Download 'Hope for a Tree Cut Down' here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

new blog

I have decided to begin a new blog. This is perhaps foolish as I am such an infrequent writer on this blog. But one of my frustrations with this blog is that it is quite muddled content-wise. So my new blog - which I will keep alongside this one - will have writings on prayer and spirituality and nothing else. My old blog (the one you are reading right now) will have all my general news-y type stuff. I will also link between the two.
'The Inside Word' (which I have decided to call the new blog) will help me to process some of the stuff I have been learning over the last few years about the the contemplative path. I am not claiming to be an expert in this field by any stretch of the imagination. I am a seeker just like many of you. But I find that writing helps me to process and remember what I am learning. So perhaps I will be writing there for my own benefit more than anyone else's.

Anyway - if you're interested you can follow my meanderings at

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Really pleased to be able to tell you all about an exciting new venture I am involved in.

StillPoint is a new collaboration between Ian Adams and myself. It's a 'Centre for the Practice of Christian Spirituality in Oxford' aimed at nurturing spiritual practice. Right now it's a Centre without a physical centre - we will be putting on a range of events - conferences, arts events etc. - in different venues across the city in 2009 and beyond.

Most importantly we are having a launch night in The Phoenix Cinema here in Oxford on Wednesday 4th March, 2009. The Bishop of Oxford will be in attendance (great to have his backing and blessing) and - as part of our presentation - we will be showing some chapters of One Giant Leap's film 'What About Me'. We're really excited that Jamie Catto from One Giant Leap will also be joining us for the launch night and taking part in the evening.

You can find out more about StillPoint on our website and if you would like to come to the launch then please let me know and I will send you an invite.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


May your advent journey be a blessed one this year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Interested to see that 'streetcar' has just been launched in Oxford and that they have a car very near to us.
Our car is definitely in its twilight years and I am fascinated by the possibility of doing without one - for ethical & environmental reasons and using something like streetcar instead.

Probably the way to do it will be to run it concurrently with our old jalopy for a year and see what it's like.

Anyone out there had any experience in using it or a similar scheme?

UPDATE: I've now registered on to this as they were doing a 'free' £30 credit before the end of November.

Band of Brothers

I am surprised at how much I am enjoying 'Band of Brothers' which is being repeated on BBC2 at the moment. Surprised because I think I am a pacifist and this is definitely in the 'glory of war' type of arena. But I am finding I can enjoy it without giving up my pacifism - if anything it confirms my belief in the utter futility of war. But in a world in which selfless acts are quite hard to come by (but thank God for the exceptions) it's quite compelling to see people absolutely committed to each other and literally putting their lives on the line without any sense of doing it for what's in it for them.

Why does it take things as horrendous as war to bring the best out of the human spirit?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

more iPhone apps like this please (if Jonny had an iPhone he would make it a worship trick)

There are lots of fantastic iPhone apps (to use apple speak for a moment) on the iTunes app store and I have downloaded lots of free ones. I've picked up a lot of useful tools.
But all the apps are very functional (leaving aside the games for a moment). But yesterday I discovered some really beautiful apps of a very different sort via Creative Review which I was browsing in Borders.
The one I'm most excited about is Bloom which is a programme developed by Brian Eno who describes it as a 'generative music application'. It's really ace - you use finger taps and gestures to create a soundscape. There are 9 different 'moods' and as you tap away it loops what you have played which builds up as you add layers. If you want to start again you shake the phone and it clears. It's all set to quite pretty, simple graphics (like the ones in this image) which react to your finger taps.

For those of you who know Eno's stuff it's very much in the 'Music for Airports' territory - very ambient etc. You could certainly run it through a PA and it would sound great and if there was a way of hooking up the visuals to a projector you would have an instant alternative worship environment!! Jonny should make it a worship trick!

Monday, November 24, 2008

advent series

I am way behind on blogging and intend to catch up soon but wanted to get this up as it starts next Sunday. As usual - if you live locally it would be a pleasure to see you.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

well done America!

Very pleased with the outcome of last night's vote. I stayed up till 130am watching the early results come in and would have liked to have stayed up later but today would have been a write-off.

Anyway - delighted that Obama has won (and a McCain/Palin victory would have been unthinkable but I appreciated McCain's graciousness in defeat).

A couple of notes of caution however....firstly, as my friend Chris Langston says, we perhaps have to be a little cautious about anyone - however talented - that makes it to the top of American politics. Perhaps this is similar to the old adage about winning the rat race and still being a rat.
Secondly, this victory is perhaps similar to how we in the UK felt with the arrival of Tony Blair. And that didn't exactly work out brilliantly did it?!

Still - I am genuinely relieved at the result and am hopeful that Obama will reposition America in world affairs so that it is seen as a country that makes the world a better and safer place and not the opposite any more.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cara Dillon

Cara Dillon has been one of my 'finds' of the last year. She has one of the most exquisitely beautiful voices I have ever heard. She'll be too folky for some of you but I absolutely love her stuff.
Anyway - Pip and I had tickets to see her at the Carling Academy here in Oxford back in June. The gig was cancelled and rescheduled for last night. So we finally managed to get babysitters (thanks Jim and Mary!!) and went over - got there for 815pm only to find her half way through her set!!
'Gigs aren't what they used to be' I was thinking (finding it incredible that a headline act would be on stage at 750pm) and then we realised that in fact two gigs had been shunted together and that actually Cara was now playing as the support act for Glenn Tilbrook (ex 'Squeeze' singer). We were not happy (having paid £30 for the tickets).

Anyway - I went over and chatted to Sam Lakeman (Cara's husband and band member) who was at the merchandise stand. He was very apologetic and I managed to blag a free CD of Cara's new album (which isn't in the shops till the New Year apparently). He also said we should ask for our money back! So we went to the box office and talked to the manager who gave us £30 in cash! To top it off he put us on the guest list for Seth Lakeman next Tuesday! (which I can't actually go to cos of Blah! Oxford - but nevertheless...)

So let's do some accounting....
cancelled gig
missed half of this gig
money back
free CD
guest list for Seth Lakeman
we heard half of her set anyway

So by my reckoning we are up!

Anyway - you can hear more of the beautiful and very talented Ms Dillon at her Myspace page here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Steve Croft is moving on from Fresh Expressions

It's been announced this morning that Steve Croft who heads up 'Fresh Expressions' is to be the next Bishop of Sheffield. Fresh Expressions are announcing who is to take over his job next week.

I've just started a one-day-a-week job with Fresh Expressions - working with Ian Mobsby on content for their website. I don't work directly with Steve but I can see he's done a great job over the last 4 years of promoting Fresh Expressions of church across the country.

Read the full story here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Richard Rohr webcast on Emerging Church

Richard Rohr - one of my spiritual teachers - is doing a live webcast on Saturday November 8th at 4pm (UK time) on the title 'What is the Emerging Church'. There is a suggested donation of $5 (£2.70) for what I am sure will be 90 mins of wisdom. For more info and to book your place go here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Coupland's Law

I remember reading an interview with Douglas Coupland a few years ago. In it he said that each morning he would go and buy a selection of newspapers and glance quickly at the headline on each one - if they were all different he knew we were ok for another day; if they were all the same we're screwed.

Using Coupland's law it would appear we (or more precisely the global economy) is screwed.

Free electronica!

Electronica fans amongst you might be interested to know that I stumbled upon some quite beautiful IDM (intelligent dance music - apparently it's a genre) (thanks to the other day by a musician called 'Esem'. He has an album ('Scateren') available on a Creative Commons license for free download. It's lovely stuff and will probably feature in some of our worship sometime soon.
The only problem is that it's in .ogg format so you will need to convert it to mp3 to play it in iTunes. On a mac this is relatively simple - just download a free bit of software called SoX Wrap which will perform the conversion for you. Windows users you're on your own I'm afraid.
So - get on over to here and get hold of a top free album, and don't say I never give you anything.

Friday, October 10, 2008

the lectionary

The Lectionary (for the uninitiated - the lectionary is a set of readings from scripture for each day of the year) has become an important part of my spiritual practice. If you have an electronic calendar of some kind (iPhone, Palm etc.) and want to have the readings automatically appear on your device (just the references not the full text) then there's a handy, free, file you can download from here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

reimagining the good life

The most helpful thing I took from the evening with Tom Sine (see post below) at the CMS house recently was his call for Christians to 'reimagine the good life' (sorry, I couldn't resist the pic - used to love that show when I was a kid!).

He said that where we seemed to have ended up with (as Christians in the West) is with lives largely shaped (in terms of values, aspirations, lifestyle choices etc.) by consumer culture with a little weekend spirituality tacked on.
In other words - our vision of what the good life is is pretty much the same as anyone elses.

We need to reimagine what living the good life looks like - and paint some pictures that imaginatively express and celebrate a different set of values.

I wonder whether this might be one answer to my earlier question of the missing interim models i.e. how do we go about creating community when we don't live together or very near each other. I wonder whether community is one of those things that happens as a by-product of something else, rather than a goal in itself (and if that's true then the phrase 'intentional christian community' perhaps isn't that helpful!). Perhaps we will see a greater depth of community happening when together we reimagine the good life.

So - an example of this might be the following: a reimagined good life might involve a desire to grow more of our own food. So we might do this with other people e.g. we might share an allotment etc. as we do so we find that we are living more deeply in community with the people we share the allotment with. But we didn't set out to deepen our community, we set out to grow more of our own food.

So maybe if you make 'community' an end in itself it's very difficult to acheive?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Harvest Supper this Sunday

This Sunday we are having our harvest supper. We celebrated harvest for the first time last year and it felt like a good thing to do so we're going to make it part of our yearly cycle. We are asking people to bring home-made or unprocessed food and canned food for the local food bank. We're going to have our service around a big pot-luck meal. Looking forward to it. Feel free to come along if you live locally.

'modern life is rubbish' (an occasional series of things that annoy me)

People listening to music on the speaker of their mobile phone. It's

StillPoint recommences next week

Back in June we trialled a Monday night session we called 'StillPoint' which is a meditation class/group designed specifically for people who are 'spiritual-but-not-religious' at a local cafe.
We've taken a break for the summer but we are beginning the sessions again next Monday night.
If you are local to Oxford and are wanting to explore the Christian mystical tradition & contemplative prayer - whether or not you would call yourself a 'Christian' - then please feel welcome to come and join us.
StillPoint has its own wee website here where you can get more info (and please pass on the info to anyone you might think would be interested).

Monday, October 06, 2008

Blah! Oxford with Ian Mobsby

Tom Sine in Oxford - where are the interim models for community?

I've got a bit behind on blogging recently so I'm trying to catch up post holiday (see next post when I get a moment to write it).

A couple of weeks back I went to an evening at the recently launched CMS community house in Oxford. If you haven't come across this yet it's a great initiative - CMS have recently relocated to Oxford and as part of that relocation they have invested in a couple of large houses in East Oxford which they have knocked through to create one very large community house where they hope to model creative communal. missional living. Some of the Home guys live there and Jim, our Warden, was very involved in getting it set up.

Anyway, they had an open evening with Tom Sine - author of books like 'The New Conspirators' and 'Mustard Seed vs McWorld' - who was chatting and telling stories etc.

It was great to be there. Enjoyed it. Tom spoke a lot about different communities who are living communally and how important these new expressions are. I agree. He also acknowledged that it's not easy to set up. This too is very true.

I asked what we could do about this gap between, on the one hand churches (like ours) saying that they don't want to just be a Sunday gathering, and, on the other hand - full on communal living. What's inbetween?

Tom's best answer was to move towards proximity living - i.e. trying to buy or rent houses in the same geographical area. I think this is a great idea. But I also think that even that could take considerable time and effort to bring about.

I'm still left thinking - what does it mean to be community when we don't live close to each other and we don't live with each other? How can we generate some interim models or foster greater community somewhere in between?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Raed tihs... yuor mnid rokcs!

Cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

Friday, September 19, 2008

my week beats your year

I'm enjoying the new 'Genius' function on the new version of iTunes.

If you haven't got it yet this is what it is: you select a song and ask iTunes to create a playlist for you of similar songs from your iTunes library. You can also see recommendations of similar artists iTunes has for you from its Store (so obviously they are onto a good thing here too).

iTunes gradually 'learns' your likes and dislikes over time and streamlines its selections based on your choices.

Anyway - already this week (through Genius) I have discovered a top new band that I had never heard of before - Telefon Tel Aviv. Not - as you might think - an Israeli electronica outfit (shame really) but a duo from New Orleans. It's really beautiful electronica....lush textures and lots of broken beats etc. - for me there are similarities with Mylo (but less obviously pop-y/commercial) and The Album Leaf. If that's the sort of thing you like then check them out at the iTunes store here. ('my week beats your year' is the title of a track from their album 'map of what is effortless').

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Holy Cross Day

So last Sunday was Holy Cross day. This is a major feast in the lectionary but to my mind it's a bit of an odd one!
Unlike Good Friday - when we remember the theological and spiritual significance of the cross - Holy Cross day is when we focus on the actual wood of the cross itself.

It's beginnings are in the supposed discovery of the true cross by Helena - mother of the Emperor Constantine - in 300 and something.

The one thing I do find helpful from all of this is that it's reminder that spirituality and discipleship etc. are about physical things. It's a helpful corrective for when we get too other-worldly and ethereal - which we are all prone to from time to time. Holy Cross day says that God's actions in the world have to do with very solid, physical things like wood and flesh and blood.

So we marked the day anyway in our community and spent some time talking about the cross.

Monday, September 08, 2008

heavy reading

Mondays are childcare days for me.

Lily-Anna and I often end up walking to the Central library in the middle of Oxford - she enjoys being in the children's section, looking at the books etc.

So we picked up some interesting books this morning. Couldn't help but chuckle when I saw them side by side on the sofa!

Which one should I tackle first?!!

Friday, August 29, 2008

watching and waiting

A lot of the daily lectionary readings at the moment are stories that Jesus told about watching and waiting - particularly for the 'owner of the house' or the 'bridegroom' to return.

I see in this something that speaks directly to the practice of contemplative prayer which has to do with developing presence, awareness or mindfulness.

We do not see. we live a dream-like, sleepy existence. We need to wake up and be alive to God's life which is all around us and within us. Prayer should help us to do that - to open our sleepy eyes to the wonder all around us as we watch and wait for the movement and activity of God to be revealed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GB 08

Just back from Greenbelt.
It was a different kind of festival for us this year. This was mostly because Lily is now 19 months old which meant that this year was the 'in-between' year: last year she was still a baby and not mobile and so we could just take her around in the pram and that sort of thing. And next year we will probably register her in the fantastic kids festival.
But this year she is walking and needs more stimulation so much of our time on site (we were staying with friends off site which was great but also made us a little more disconnected) was spent entertaining her - which was fine and often lots of fun but it did mean we didn't do as much programmed stuff as previous years. And I ended up doing bits of different things (half a talk etc.) so it was all quite fragmented.
So because of that there's not a whole host of highlights to mention (at least as far as the programme goes) but here's some stuff I did enjoy:

- Julie Lee in the Performance Cafe on Sunday : exquisite songwriting and singing in a rootsy, folksy, bluegrass americana style with excellent contributions from her co-musicians
- One Giant Leap 'What About Me' : again could only stay for the first bit of this but seeing excerpts from the film and listening to one of the film-makers made me want to immediately go out and buy the DVD. Amazing.
- Seth Lakeman on Saturday night : I think he's invented a new genre - stadium folk

Didn't go to much prayer/worship stuff this year and to be honest the one or two bits I did go to didn't do much for me (but that probably says more about where I was at).

As usual one of the most brilliant things about Greenbelt was connecting with people: really enjoyed chatting to Karen from Seattle, the two Ians (Adams and Mobsby), Nadia from Colorado, Si Lockett from the Shire, as well as the usual Oxford posse.

So there we go - another festival over. I always end up leaving my wristband on for a few days afterwards...can never bring myself to immediately cut it's like some sort of umbilical cord that still connects me to the fact that I was there with my tribe even if I am now back in normality.

So - what was your highlight?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

some people just don't get it

How about this for an image that totally misses the point of the cross?!! I'm hoping it wasn't supposed to be serious.
(from Bob Hyatt's blog)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

silence please

I am increasingly becoming aware of the importance of silence for a healthy spiritual life.

I have recently begun reading the blog of Maggie Ross/Martha Reeves (she is an Anglican solitary who spends her summers in a remote part of Alaska and her winters teaching in Oxford and elsewhere (though I've never had the chance to hear her). She writes under the name Maggie Ross.

Here's a couple of lines from a sermon she preached at Mansfield College in Oxford back in February to whet your appetite (and provoke you no doubt!):

"silence....will help you in every aspect of your lives if you will simply sit down and make room for it."


"....if you pursue the work of silence even for six months, your life will change dramatically, and if you persist you will find the joy that no one and nothing can take from you, no matter what happens."

Read the whole sermon (and subscribe to her blog) here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

olympics: when is a sport not a sport?

I'm enjoying the Olympics. The sheer diversity of sports and athletic disciplines is staggering.
Last time the Olympics was on I remember having a pub conversation with some of the guys from Home (that's you Jim and Rich!) about what makes a sport a sport. The conversation came out of the fact that some of the events seemed a little silly (thinking now of things like that gymnastic nonsense when the gymnast throws a ball around or waves a stick with some ribbon on the end - stuff like that).
I seem to remember we put forward the idea that to be included in the Olympics a sport had to have an objective element - longer, faster, higher , the most goals etc. Something that was objectively measurable. So anything with a panel of judges and scores for artistic merit etc. HAD to go.
Off the top of my head that means that these 'sports' would no longer be in the Olympics - synchronised swimming and diving, trampolining, gymnastics etc.
Some of these are great to watch (the gymnastics is amazing) but I'm not sure about it as a sport.
Am I being a sports fascist?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

reading scripture

For some time now I have tried to follow the lectionary scripture readings as part of my daily spiritual practice. I like being in step with a global community of believers and I like the rhythm of daily readings from the Old Testament, Psalms and New Testament.

I have often struggled to maintain this discipline for various reasons however. Recently I came across this volume which helpfully puts all the readings together in one place for each day (so no more flicking around or trying to remember where to stop reading etc.)

I have been using it for 2 or 3 weeks now and it has really helped. So 6 days a week I try to use this first thing in the morning but on Sundays there are no readings as that's the day when I read scripture with the community (Home) instead.

If you think you too might find this helpful pop over to Amazon and get yours here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Greenbelt daily diary available for download

Starting to get excited about Greenbelt now - a week today we'll be there.
I was tipped off today that you can download the Daily Diary in advance (for £2) so you can begin to plan your weekend now! They don't want you to disseminate it or print it and they don't want you to not buy one when you get there - because they need the income from the sales, which is fair enough. Get yours here.
Anyway - just downloaded it and had a quick look. Very frustrating that all the things I'm interested in all seem to clash with each other or be at a very inconvenient time!! Oh well.

Too cool for (nursery) school

Michael Phelps

I thought this (from Patrick Moberg) was most amusing!
He's a wonderful illustrator - check him out at his site.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

emerging and contemplative

A few days ago I blogged about the conference next year featuring both Richard Rohr and Brian Maclaren. Rohr very much represents the contemplative tradition and Maclaren is often seen as a spokesperson for the emerging church movement (though I know he wouldn't be comfortable with that and I'm not particularly but let's go with it for now).
It's fascinating to me that they are connecting.
Yesterday I was speaking to someone who said that they thought we were beginning to see real crossover between these streams and I too see a convergence of the contemplative and the emerging streams. It's certainly true in our experience.
As usual there is real diversity in the fresh expressions of church we're seeing - so this wouldn't be true for every 'emerging church'.
But I think it's quite an important thing to notice and pay attention to. Anyone else been thinking about this?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

another way of looking at forgiveness?

I guess most of us who would call ourselves Christians have at one time or another prayed a prayer asking God to forgive us for something.
And by that we normally mean something like "I have been wrong. This wrongness counts against me. Please take this wrongness away so that it doesn't count against me anymore".
And there's probably not a lot wrong with that way of looking at what it means to be forgiven by God.
But this morning I was thinking about this subject again and it occurred to me that there is another way of looking at what it means to be forgiven that might be more helpful.
And it relates to an understanding of forgiveness as healing.
Let me use an example. If I am unkind towards someone and I recognise it and ask God for forgiveness, what I'm actually doing is not so much asking God to rub out a black mark against my name, or to let me off the hook as it were, but to touch and heal whatever it is inside of me that makes me act unkindly towards that person.
I need to be forgiven.
I need the things in me that stop me living fully as a human being to be put right within me.
If the roots or the inner life is good and whole then the branches and the fruit will be good too.
Is that a more helpful way of thinking about what forgiveness is?

Monday, August 11, 2008

should Peter have got out of the boat?

Yesterday's gospel text was the story of Peter getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus on the water.

We had a lively discussion on this text at our eucharist. I put forward the suggestion that in actual fact Peter's getting out of the boat could be seen as an act of unbelief rather than the great act of faith it so often is seen as.


Well, the disciples are all in the boat and the storm is raging all around them. Jesus walks towards them and says "It is I. Do not be afraid" (his favourite command). Peter then says "IF IT IS YOU command me to come to you". In other words, Peter couldn't take Jesus at his word and believe it was Christ.

In the end Jesus rebukes him for having "little faith". Was this in relation to his sinking or in relation to him not believing it was Jesus in the first place and needing extra proof??

What are the implications of this?

In our discussion I said that the disciples who stayed in the boat were, in an important sense, just as faithful as Peter who got out of the boat. We live in a Christian celebrity culture where the daring exploits of a few 'superstar' Christians grab all the headlines. We are used to seeing certain people elevated to a superior status - the books, the tours, the conference platforms etc. etc. And these people are, for the most part, good people and we should listen to them and thank God for them.

But meanwhile the rest of us are still in the boat wondering whether we should have got out and walked on the water too and perhaps feeling a little bad that we didn't. But staying in the boat can often be just as faithful a way to live as getting out and walking on the water.

Greenbelt line up is looking good!

Really pleased to see some of the late additions to the Greenbelt line up.
Jose Gonzalez is now playing. You may know his music from the Sony advert shot in San Francisco a few years back (the one with all the coloured balls bouncing down the streets). I loved his album 'Veneer' but I've never seen him live.
Seth Lakeman has also now been added. Pip and I saw him live in Oxford earlier in the year and he was great. He'll be a little too folky for some people but don't let a violin stand between you and a good time is what I say.
It's shaping up to be a good one this year! Full line up details here.

Also just noticed that - among all the great and the good contributing worship this year - St Gregory of Nyssa church from San Francisco are doing something. They're a very interesting church I've been watching for a couple of years now - doing some very progressive liturgical stuff. Check out their site here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

jedi council

There are a number of people that make up my own personal Jedi Council - favourite writers or speakers, inspirational people etc.
Two of them are Richard Rohr and Brian Maclaren.
So I was pleased and excited this morning to see they are doing a conference together next year. And it's in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So right on my doorstep too! I wouldn't normally even consider going so far for a conference, but how often do you get two of your Jedi's on one bill?! + Shane Claiborne and Phyllis Tickle thrown in too.
Anyway - more info here if, like me, you're interested.

Friday, August 08, 2008

good friends, good times

Some friends of ours here in Oxford - who shall remain anonymous as I think they would prefer it that way - have taken pity on us.
After a pretty crappy week last week (see previous posts) they wanted to cheer us up so tonight they are coming round to babysit and are paying for us to go out for a meal. Fantastic!!
We are so chuffed - such a thoughtful thing to do.
So this evening we're off to check out Jamie Oliver's new Oxford restaurant - 'Jamie's Italian' (see pic).
It's good to have good friends!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

everything is spiritual

Really enjoyed watching Rob Bell's 'Everything is Spiritual' DVD with a bunch of the guys from Home last night.
This is the DVD of his one man show which he performed across the States in 'secular' venues last year - just him on stage and a huge whiteboard on which he scribbles and doodles as he talks for about 1 hour 20 mins.
RB is a really great communicator - very listenable to. And I thought this was an interesting approach. He spent a lot of time talking about cosmology and the physicality of the he was majoring on natural revelation rather than special revelation (see Romans 1).
I also heard him talk about the contemplative path - although he never used this word. For him, spirituality is all about being awake and alive to the wonder that is staring us in the face but which we are all too often too blind to see.
Spirituality is about presence and sin (he didn't use this word either) therefore is about blindness to the wonder.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

feeding of the 5000 - eucharistic patterns

Love this image which I found online last week as I was preparing some thoughts on the lectionary texts for last Sunday for Home (and its now on the front page of our site).

The feeding of the 5000 is such an interesting eucharistic text. We find in it the same 4 dominical eucharistic actions of taking/giving, blessing, breaking and sharing that we see in the accounts of the last supper. Paul repeats the pattern in 1 Cor. 11.

Of course, it's the same pattern that we see in the ministry of Christ -
- he was given to the world
- he offered himself to the Father (we see this most clearly in Gethsemane)
- he was broken on the cross
- his life is shared out for the nourishment and healing of all

And it's the same for us -
- we are given life by God
- we offer ourselves back to God through a life of following in the way of Christ
- as we do so we are broken as we embrace the cross and die to self
- our lives then become a source of life for others as Christ's life in us is shared

That's why the eucharist is so important for us. We celebrate it every week. It symbolically re-enacts the heart of what the way of Christ is all about - death and resurrection, the paschal mystery.

Friday, August 01, 2008

today's disaster!

so after 8 months of being very careful with my iPhone, this morning I dropped it for the first time and - as you can see - the screen has totally cracked.

So better get back on to the insurers for the second time this week. Maybe I should put their number on speed-dial!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

it never rains but it pours!

So last night Pip was taking Lily-Anna up to bed when she discovered water pouring through our bedroom ceiling, down the light fitting, and onto our bed. We think it had been doing it for about half an hour before we realised.
The ensuite bathroom is located directly above and the water was coming from there.
I turned the water off at the mains and turned all the tapos on to drain the system but it was still pouring out.We called out for an emergency plumber who turned up 30 mins later. It was a good deal, we were told, because there was no call out fee. They only charged an hourly rate of £119 per hour!!
The plumber told us it was a simple job and could be done within the hour. It ended up almost going into a third hour by the time he finished! So after VAT that came to almost £300 which I thought I could claim back from the insurers but now it turns out I can't.

Anyway it turns out that it all happened because we've had really hot weather and the plastic brackets that hold the concealed cistern in place had warped and the cistern came loose and emptied itself through our bedroom ceiling.

The original plumbers that fitted it should have used brass fittings but took a shortcut and used plastic instead. Thanks guys. It'll be weeks before we're able to use that room again. Life's good ain't it?!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Funeral today

My dad's funeral is today. If you're the praying kind your prayers for
our family are appreciated.

Monday, July 14, 2008

theology: starting big

I have been reflecting recently on how we go about making our theologies.
It seems to me that a lot of our theologising starts from the micro and works towards the macro. We start with ourselves at the centre, and with various notions about personal sin and personal righteousness and then we try to work outwards towards an understanding of God from there. Of course this is quite subtle - we would never deny that God is creator as well as redeemer and that theology done properly always starts with God at the centre. But though we say those kinds of things I think we're still very egocentric when it comes to our theologising. We have an over inflated sense of our own importance in the grand scheme of things.

What if we did our theology from the macro rather than the micro? God is creator, this is God's creation, God has a plan for its renewal and all things are being caught up in this huge movement of the Spirit. It's not primarily about human sinfulness! We can so easily spend so much time picking over the bones of personal moral/ethical choices (and the Anglican communion is doing a lot of this at the moment) or the minutiae of church life that we forget to lift up our eyes to the hills and see the big picture of who God is and what God is doing.