Wednesday, February 23, 2005

 


HUNTER S THOMPSON

Sadly, Dr. Thompson, Raoul Duke, the inventor of Gonzo-journalism himself, has died from self inflicted gun-shot wounds. A writer, journalist and un-ashamed polemecist, it's come as a shock but not much of a surprise. A man of legendary drug intake, his acerbic wit and turn of phrase, coupled with an ability to spot phoney-ness a mile away was something I can only aspire to. A real shame and a great loss.

I read a book of his collected letters a few years ago: "Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist 1968-1976" Utterly amazing.

He once wrote a book called "Hells Angels" which was a chronicle of his adventures following said group around.
A few years later, someone wrote to Dr. Thompson asking if he knew anything about Christianity amongst Hells Angels. I have reproduced reply he wrote below, as I think it particularly pertinent.

Dear Mr. Schultz...
...in response to your query about Hell's Angels and Christianity- which I note you have spelt with a capital "C." In that context, I'd have to say that the Hell's Angels have no attitude at all toward Christianity; this is one of the few redeeming facets of their collective personality. Through no fault of their own, they have been spared the millstone of one of history's greatest lies.
... the answer to your second question should be self-evident by now: the notion that capital C christianity might reach anybody who's in touch with the reality of this world strikes me as a hopeless joke. Those bastards have done enough damage with their hypocritical, dues-paying, soul-rotting cage of a mean religion. If any of those hired swine had a decent impulse in him, he'd get the hell out of the way and make room for some christians.
I trust this answers your question.

Sincerely
Hunter S. Thompson

 
RAGE!

Just heard on the news that our wonderful christian Brothers,(must be men), in Christian Voice are trying to stop Cancer Charities from recieving donations from the 'filth' of Jerry Springer.

Be afraid - the nutters are out there and 'spreading god's love'.

details here »

Sunday, February 20, 2005

 


LONDON ZOO in CHAMONIX MONT-BLANC

(left to right Si, Mike, Carey, Gabriel)

Where the hell were the rest of you!?

 


Theology and Community

Thoughts on Karl Barth Pt.1

I'm currently reading "The Word of Christ and the World of Culture - Sacred and Secular through the Theology of Karl Barth" by Paul Louis Metzger.

This will be the first of a few postings on my thoughts about this book. It's not actually a Karl Barth book, but a book by someone about Karl Barth's books, which is hard to get your head round. However, my first thoughts are a step back from that to something broader.

For me the writings unfortunately end just where I start to find them interesting - as they veer towards sociology.
Is it the role of theology to guard against wandering away from authentic belief?
If that is so, do we allow the theologians to be our conscience, pulling us back everytime we stray too far leftfield?
Or is it everyone's individual responsibilty to be theologically adept - to plunge into an undeniably closed discourse that requires us to delve into a realm that is (sometimes) far too insular to allow the average person of faith to grasp meaning?

My feeling is that a sense of community is vital in this. It is a source of conflict that could yield tremendous wisdom for all - if we allow it to.
Both the theologian and the average christian have a responsibility towards each other.

The community must call the theologian to account. It is simply not acceptable for theological discourse to maintain a sub-cultural insularity; it must allow it's relevance to be explained clearly in order for the undeniable benefits it has to be manifest in the church. It is important to explain what the difference is (for example) between something like anhypostasis and enhypostasis, what the relevance is, and why it matters, in clear terms that people can understand.

Barth is undeniably a modern - and it is true that we live in a postmodern age, and therefore that meta-narratives need to be questioned responsibly. Otherwise such discourse will run the risk of seperation, irrelevance, and dissonance.

However to put the other side of the argument, it is equally important that theology be allowed to question the community, and draw that community back to orthodoxy when it strays too far.
For that, everybody needs to be inquisitive enough to insist on a sense of responsibility. We all need to "do theology", in order to rest and rescue it from death by academia - to make it within our grasp if it is not.

I have
deliberately posted this comment to take up the thread on theology that has been wandering betwen different blogs recently, as I think it is a helpful one.

But only if we remember that without responsibility, Christ's church dies.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

 
Bishop of London Reviews 'The Complex Christ'
As you all know, the Bishop of London is coming to lead a Moot discussion event in April. It may be helpful preparation for you to read the review of the Bishop of London for the Complex Christ, Click here

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

 
I had a moment of clarity............

but it passed.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

 
Moot Community Lent Journals
Thanks to Mike's planning and commitment, a number of us in Moot are expanding the idea of an Advent community journal to the journey of Lent to Easter. A number of the journals are floating around Moot for adding thoughts, reflections....

As Mike said:

During the planning meeting last night, I floated the idea of doing "Lent Journals" a bit like the Advent Journals as invented by Tall Skinny Kiwi. (He's a guy who has his own group/blog/website/ideas/life/etc for those who don't know). The idea is that we get hold of about 5-8 notebooks, and give them out to moot members. As we journey through lent, we write down thoughts, feelings, ideas, drawings, whatever you want, basically. After a week we bring the journals back to whatever meeting is on that and swap with someone else. Over the 40 days of lent, the journals make their way around moot so that everyone gets to contribute something. It's a great communal exercise, a good aid to prayer, and, as lots of us are doing the lent course at St. Matt's, it could help get our heads around the idea of Lent, beyond it being an excuse to give up fags/booze/chocolate/etc.

I think it is going to work well, thanks Mike.

 
New links with the B1 Community, Birmingham

At last I have started to travel around to complete the interviews for my MA dissertation, and it was with great pleasure that I went to B1 who describe themselves as a fusion of a number of the categories listed in the mission shaped church report.

They describe what they are doing as:

B1 is a community of people committed to journeying with the spiritually interested as they explore Jesus Christ. We’re here to help others make creative connections to God. Church is often the last place people think of to find a safe place for spiritual questioning. That’s why we’re engaged in trying to re-imagine a church more accessible for the cultural contexts of our day.

We meet in different places in the city centre. Though we feel committed to the centre, we relate through networks of relationships that span Birmingham. We believe this approach best fits the fluidity of urban life these days. If you’re looking for a church that values friendship, creativity, community, respect, and fun, why not check us out?
The interviews were really interesting and there were, (from my perspective), lots of links to some of the views and values of moot. It was again very encouraging. I seem to be having a very encouraging month!! Next will be interviews with Sanctus 1 and then in a couple of months COTA in Seattle....

 
the Smoke Guide to the Apocalypse or St John’s Letter to Time Out


And I stood upon the banks of the river and saw a mighty beast rise up out of Cricklewood to sit upon the throne of the city and the beast was in sight like unto a newt. And the number of the buses of the city was then ten thousand times ten thousand, though some were like unto concertinas and consumed by flame for no apparent reason amid much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the number of these buses was 436. And then from that place which is called Chelsea came forth a great abomination, and its name is called Toyota Landcruiser. And a door was opened in the side and his name that passed through it is called Joshua, and on his right hand sat Emily, for they were forbidden to walk to school upon the stones of the city as their father had, and the buses of the city were also forbidden unto them, whether they be like unto concertinas or not.

And I heard the voice of the Paddington Times say “come and see”, and I beheld and lo, the waters of men did issue from the toilets of Bayswater like the great river Euphrates and I saw some men in confusion drive into the Congestion Zone and be charged. And greatly did the Evening Standard enlarge and falsify their wrath and proclaim that Chaos was upon the city not to mention thunderings, lightnings, earthquakes etc. And after this was the beast cast out from the city by the fathers of Emily and Joshua and in his place rose up another beast and the name of this beast is called Norris, and he exerciseth all the power of the first beast only stupidly. And the number of this beast is ex-directory, for his own safety. And the buses of the city grew then like unto the lilies of the field and neither toiled at night nor had their own designated lanes, and the speed-cameras were beaten into bull-bars and the people spoke with one voice and the word upon their lips was bugger.

From smoke: a london peculiar Issue four, p45. An excellent little read that doesn't even have a barcode, available from lovely bookshops around London. See www.smokelondon.co.uk

Thursday, February 10, 2005

 
Ian attends Lambeth Partners Meeting about Fresh Expressions of Church

It was my great privilege to be invited to support Steve Croft the Archbishop's Missioner and Director of the Fresh Expressions, and the Archbishop by sharing the story of Moot at a Lambeth Partners Meeting. It was a greatly encouraging event to hear the interest in supporting and developing the whole mission-shaped-church/fresh expressions vision. People responded warmly to what we are trying to do with Moot. It was good to support Stevens presentation with Moot as a practical example of what is happening.

Steven Croft and Rowan Williams shared some of their vision and strategy - and it was great to hear how central 'fresh expressions' is to the vision of the Archbishop. There were lots of gems in both their presentations, and I was deeply moved to hear such passion for the sort of things that matter to people like me.

In the Archbishop's presentation he talked about how church happens, and that it happens in varied situations. One quote was "where people meet and encounter Jesus Christ, this is church". It is this insight - an incarnational and fluid understanding of church that is at the heart of the vision - and one that I know lots of people like me share and long to see develop. They both described what is going on in the country as a 'kyos' moment in the history of our Church and this country...... I couldn't agree more. A theological integration of doing mission AND church as an inseperable moment.

The 'Lambeth Partners' is a charity and association that raises money to support particular aspects of the vision of the Archbishop of Canterbury - and Fresh Expressions is the main part of this. The partners are made up of people who support and donate money to a charitable fund to try and make a vision become a practical reality. Rightly, a lot of the vision is to support, promote and assist nationally individual fresh expressions, whilst working with families of the Church of England and the Methodist Church in England to promote planning, resourcing, and leadership training for these type of project-churches.

All in all, it was a great privilege for me to attend, and was what I was needing to hear, I am very encouraged.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

 
Mission Action Plan
Hi all. People at the Moot planning meetings will have heard a bit about the 'Mission Action Plan' for St Matthew's. It's a document produced at the request of the Diocese of London in order to assess the viability of all parishes, and is principally a response to an orgnization in which finances are tight and where some parishes are struggling to survive. That said, we have great opportunities to contribute to the big picture given here, and Moot is already modelling a lot of what is written about in the plan, through services, weekends away, community groups, mission, the arts, social activities, and more....

As promised, the Mission Action Plan is attached for your contemplation and comment.

MAP_2004.pdf

Sunday, February 06, 2005

 
Lent is upon us
OK, Lent is happening very quickly this year. This time in the churches calendar focuses on reflection and prayer as we approach the Cross and Easter. Traditionally, this starts with the Ash Wednesday Service at St Matthews 6.30pm on Wednesday 9th February.

From then on there will be a Wednesday Lent Discussion Group starting at 7.30pm in the conference centre, that concludes with Compline at 9pm.

Lent Discussion Group ‘Journey into Faith’
Feb 16th Exodus – What’s wrong with Egypt? The common sense of unhappiness with life as it is, and the hope for something better.
Feb 23rd Covenant – The discovery of a new land. Exploring our commitment to God, and God’s commitment to us.
Mar 2nd Exile – Removal to a place of captivity and uncertainty. The encounter with doubt and the dark night of the soul are realities in our journey of faith.
Mar 9th Returning – The people return to the land. We discover ourselves again as the pilgrim people of God, and realise there is no easy resolution to the clarity and uncertainty of faith.
Mar 16th Kingdom – Desires fulfilled. A time of vision and hope as we seek to establish the Kingdom.

Stations of the Cross
Tuesdays at 17.30pm
A devotion following to Calvary with the Stations of the Cross in St Matthew’s Church carved by the school of Eric Gill. Short meditations and prayers at each scene help prepare us for the celebration of the Easter Mystery.
February 15, 22 March 1, 8, 15.

Sunday Sermon Series on ‘Our Calling’ at the 11 O’clock Sunday Services
Feb 13th ‘Called to be Me’
Feb 20th ‘ Called to be Confused’
Feb 27th ‘Called to be faithful’
Mar 6th ‘ Called to New Vision’
Mar 13th ‘Called to commitment’

Moot Sunday Services
Feb 13th ‘Trusting in God’
Feb 27th ‘Make Poverty History’
Other St Matthews Sunday Evening Services for Lent
Feb 20th Compline
Mar 20th Compline
Any queries, please do come back to me on mootserve@moot.uk.net


Saturday, February 05, 2005

 
Good stuff on other blogs

Si continues to write great stuff. He has written an excellent piece on the problems of how leaders of traditional church judge emerging church projects. Click here for info.

Trev Williams formerly of the Sanctus 1 Community now in Oxford has written some music, check it out here

 
The Business way is not always the right way
Si and I were having a conversation on a curry run to Brick Lane yesterday that has got me thinking. One of the greatest ironies of the more solid forms of Church, is that it seems always to respond to culture in the wrong ways. That it is always slow to include people who are different and changes in thinking, music, art and language but always seems to absorb changes in business or administrative practice with little critique or concern.

It continues to really worry me that many churches have moved from a community committee model to church.business.uk, to a more buisness model with the usual excuse of promoting efficiency and effectiveness. That debating meetings and councils have become board meetings, that parish councils have become executive meetings, and that church activity has become a business-planning approach.

It is my experience that the more mega churches - that are run with departments, managers and business plans have sold out on the whole idea of a 'body of Christ' or 'priesthood of all believers', it has become largely Jesus.co.uk which seems to me to dumb down on the faith and where mission becomes focused (if unconsciously) on '£pounds per conversion spent'.

This seems a far cry from the disciples, the early church, and the re-membered community of Christ transformed to the work of the faith through discipleship, generosity, worship and community. An alternative society (ekklesia) or Kingdom based on the powerless, the excluded and unacceptable. A far cry from the average congregations of today.

In many of these growing business-churches, it is all about marketing, keeping customers, enticing new customers, and building the brand. Now I am not saying that we do not need to respond to living in a consumptive culture - but it seems to me so ridiculous that more solid forms of church slam alternative worship or justice-models of church that are currently being explored as fresh expressions - including my own favourite the cafe-church - whilst the very same churches have shifted from being faith communities to business-product corporations. The danger is that these 'adjusted forms' do not critique or explore counter-cultural forms of community rather than the business way which must bear results in the short term - then what are they going to offer the world in terms of faith, spirituality and hope in a world saturated with too much business and too little compassion, love and hard grafted long term social projects including a post-modern expression of church-as-community.... These new product-driven churches can then become dehumanising, and promote a very individualistic designer faith, where the idea of the Kingdom of God seems an ancient relic for a different vision.

My Mum said to me recently, that she liked all the new adverts she had seen on the bus and train promoting the new 'Alpha' private dentist plan. I explained that although all the people appeared to have perfect teeth, it was selling a Christian evangelistic course. This event confirmed my fears completely. Such a form of 'church' has nothing to offer my family or friends, but maybe that is the point. It is far easier to build a Kingdom on the rich, those with disposable incomes, and the powerful. But I think I am right in saying that Jesus directly slammed this approach in his exchanges with the Pharisees, Saducees and the rich. It seems Mike Riddell's book "Threashold to the Future" continues to be a prophetic calling for fresh expressions of church to be somewhat of a corrective to the influtration of global capitalism into the church.....
I hope that our little 'fresh expressions' can challenge this, and that we don't sell out by pressure from funders to create mega churches - all show and no substance, and certainly nothing that will help us be the church of tomorrow.

Friday, February 04, 2005

 


Creativity as Worship

"Everyone is born creative; everyone is given a box of crayons in kindergarten. Then when you hit puberty they take the crayons away and replace them with books on algebra etc. Being suddenly hit years later with the creativity bug is just a wee voice telling you, "I'd like my crayons back, please."

from "How to Be Creative" by Hugh McLeod

Worship is something very important to emergent church. Emergent church can sometimes take the form of alternative or creative WORSHIP. But let's not confuse the two...
Defining creativity can be a bit of a mine-field. A bit like defining Worship. Creativity is a basic impulse. Some of the earliest and simplest of cultures have made creative marks. From stone-age paintings to ancient China, from early churches to bedouin tents, from renaissance patronage to Hoxton Square.
The traditions of different forms of creativity within church history are endless, varied and amazing.

I hear this phrase quite a lot: "I'm not a creative kind of person. It's alright for you - you're an artist. I'm a petrophysicist / secretary / accountant/ (delete as appropriate). I can't do creativity."
Regardless of who you are or what you do, we all do creativity - You came up against a miniproblem at work today. You made a mental leap, and you got around it. You wear black rather than red. Or green rather than blue. You preferred the shoes you bought to the other 200 you saw that day, after spending what seemed like ages trudging round shops. You went to the hairdresser and asked for that haircut, after thumbing through magazines and talking to friends. You painted your living room that colour, and hung those paintings up. You graffittied that wall the other day.

Its easy to be suspicious of creativity - you never know what you're going to get. It's a fear we all have - the same fear I get as an artist. A fear of sticking your neck out and looking stupid. A fear of being laughed at. A fear of what might happen if things get too leftfield. Fear of a blank canvas.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." Marianne Williamson

This is not a Christian-ised version of the ‘Nietscheian’ will-to-power idea, but a fulfillment of our need to worship the God who created us.

Everyone has potential. As we confront and are confronted by Yahweh, the more human we become. We are allowed and encouraged to be real, to be the people we were created to be. Accepted. It's OK to love, be sad, happy, worried, elated, jump for joy, listen to music, be creative, eat Smarties, express anger, ..., (that's not an exhaustive list).

"Why be creative?"

Well, why not? It's something that comes very naturally. "Art needs no Justification" as Hans Rookmaaker once said. It's frustrating having to spend time justifying creativity, when you just want to get on and do it. It's not really about creating funky services or great works of art (well, alright, if you really HAVE to).

It's about worshipping God by developing the reach of who you are as a person. And that includes your creativity. It's also about developing your reach in community. Remember the cliche? about a community being "more than the sum of its parts" ? A community helps you to develop responsibly, whilst encouraging others to do the same. And encouraging you to encourage others. Or it can squash and stifle creativity.

Like anything, creativity is open to abuse. But for a long time (too long) creativity has been virtually banned because of the fear of abuse.

Would you ban prayer because it can be abused?
Would you ban power structures because they were open to abuse?
Well, maybe.

And as Walter Wink has highlighted so eloquently in his "Powers..." books, a church community can have an identity with attributes just like a person can. A church can be friendly, sad, pathological, creative, psychotic, philanthropic,... (again, not an exhaustive list!)
And a church community can also be self-aware or not - It can be self-aware about whether it wants to be Christian, feed the poor or foster creativity.

A creative church is an appealing one. Appealing in appearance, and it appeals to the whole person. It hits you at every level, and asks questions of you.

Someone once said to me that they thought so-called "Creativity" was self-indulgent. It might be I suppose. But we've been given permission and encouragement by the big I AM to be as creative as we're capable of. We all have. Your frontal lobe was built that way. It's an act of worship to be creative.
It would be rude not to....

"Therefore, I urge you, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1


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