Friday, June 30, 2006


Hospitality and balance

Something from the reading at Morning Prayer today really struck me. It was from Luke 14:

He said also to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

I haven’t been able to come to any of the Rhythm of Life discussions but have been thinking about it. The two things this made me think of were hospitality and balance. I was talking to someone in the community the other day and he said that there used to be a strong tradition in moot of people inviting other people that they didn’t know very well round for dinner – which doesn’t happen very much any more. That’s not quite ‘the poor, the lame, the crippled and the blind’ but there is something in it about expectations of repayment. If I invite my friends round for dinner, it’s not necessarily in expectation that they will invite me to their house, but that I will be cared for, nurtured and sustained by their company. By inviting strangers, you take a risk that it will be hard work, that they won't enjoy your company or you theirs. But that’s at the core of true hospitality, inviting without any expectation of return.
This leads me on to balance though. Often when I come to a service I’m tired, and want to be refreshed and fed. What I really want is to talk to the people who I know care for me. It’s very hard, in that frame of mind, to talk to strangers, new people, people I have to make an effort with. Relationships need to be nurtured, and we all need close relationships to sustain us, and it’s appropriate for some of those relationships to be within the community. We’re not monastic in the sense of forgoing any exclusive relationships.
So there is a struggle – for me to achieve balance personally through attentiveness to my needs, self-care, and fostering the relationships that are important to me, but also for me to give, to be attentive to the needs of those on the fringes of the community, which is I suppose about balance within the community.
I often think the greater challenge in ‘love your neighbour as you love yourself’ is to love myself – and that’s a long and difficult task. But I think sometimes I can tell myself I’m looking after myself - loving myself – when actually I’m refusing to take steps into challenging and uncomfortable places.
This Bible passage presents me with a real challenge. Anyone want to come over for dinner?


From St. Albans to Home and Back Again...

I guess I never really went back to St. Albans, but it has that Tolkien feel to it, so what if I am trying for a sweeping epic feel to this blog. I am not embarrassed because I realized that although he is a saint Rowan Williams does have the voice of Saruman. The below picture is before Saruman fell so he is still good.

Alright enough with the Hobbit/Wizard images, I need to be blogging about my time here in England.

So, I went on the great pilgrimage to St. Albans celebrating the life and death of this Saint last Saturday which ended up moving me greatly. What a wonderful place it was much better than the St. Albans where I was the youth director yet it had some similar controversy. After the procession with the massive floats, second only to the massive number of priests congregating together to concelebrate with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and watch what happens. Yes this Cathedral on the left is where Jeffrey John was made Dean after he was asked to step down from his appointment as Bishop of Reading by the Archbishop of Canterbury. So, I watched them all process to the Cathedral together. I watched them turning around many times to see if they had come to blows. Alas, again just like the Consecration no one said anything during the procession. In a country that has more Paparazzi than North America, you would expect them to say or do something, just something that could get us a picture or something to tell the kids, but alas no, they just walked together and spoke and smiled at one another hoping that this would just be one more procession to a shrine.
And then it happened, just when we thought that it would be a hot afternoon without any controversy, Achitophel spoke: That is him on the right next to Jeffrey John he is the Bishop of St. Albans, Christopher Herbert. Now I have just gone from Tolkien metaphor to 2 Samuel or John Dryden analogies but follow me here. Bishop Herbert gave an impassioned speech about the state of the communion and how it is MEAN. He stated that we have focused on exclusivity to the detriment of human beings. Now of course this is just after the election of a female Primate, and because I seem to believe that the world revolves around me, I thought he was talking about America but no, he was speaking about his beloved CofE. Of course I had to be told this by the ever astute Frs'. Philip Chester, Peter Hanaway, and Richard Jenkins so that I might come out of my American cocoon and breath the free air of the real world. After realizing what had happened it made me sad because I love Fr. Rowan Williams, I would go wherever he sends me, and I would follow him into a volcano. He has embodied the only hope for the Anglican in his marriage. That is Liberals and Catholics living together.

After Lunch we ran back to hear Fr. Rowan's response to the Bishop's Sermon. In two hours, he had crafted and memorize a wonderful response that spanned Christian History from Alban to the present, and gave a trajectory to the future. He never once used a cliche or catch phrase like Exclusive, Inclusive, or Pluralism, that have all become meaningless words thanks to our churches present political nightmare. He made a call to live for the future of the church, which is at once glorious, as we sat in one of the oldest and majestic cathedrals in England, and gruesome considering the violence which birthed that building.

So, what of HOME, because I did not go back to Seattle but rather to Oxford. HOME is a fresh expression of church in Oxford near St. Clement's. I spent two days there enjoying the river, football, Ali G, and the simple worship of Evening Prayer on Sunday evening. I found HOME a bit more Evangelical than MOOT or COTA, that is not to disgrace them, rather it was refreshing. They kept a discussion going during a service for an hour which was on the storms in our lives, and how we can continue to have faith in the midst of them. We then had a curry (they were surprised by my choice of a vindaloo). We then hung out and watched football and Ali G on Monday, as well as move about through Oxford where I saw Christ Church Cathedral, and bought a couple of books on Ethics from Blackwells. HOME was restful and reminded me of much that I have missed since moving away from my Evangelical Heritage. Even though they are not an evangelical institution HOME has kept what was good from the Evangelical church where it seems that I have not. It was convicting, and I am glad that I it happened. I wish I could have spent more time with them. They are a wonderful hybrid that seems to have a lot of respect for the city of Oxford.

So I am left with questions again. How do I qualify my language, so as not to use words that leave people in their apathetic assumptions? How do I embody an unassumptive (if that is even a word) or a conscious life? I realize that by becoming conscious of my struggles with Evangelicalism I picked up other assumptions of a more Liberal Catholic Emerging Church/Fresh Expression variety. How do I get to a point where I might transcend these labels, and focus on a life lived with God and others? I guess I really don't know, except through accepting my humiliation, and following the lives of the saints as opposed to following the lives of those who manage well.

Your Brother in Christ,
Travis K Smith


The Spiritual Search without & within

As Mike and others have said, I have found the book around the monastery profoundly moving as its seeks balance between being true to God, true to yourself and true to others. It is a painful read as you slow down, but it is really good for you. Click here for info It is vital that we find peace in these inner parts of ourselves. Gareth in a very wise moment called it, 'conversion of the inner you to Christ', and that for me hits the nail on the head. I really struggle often with liking myself, about being single - the list goes on - but real peace is not to get addicted to running around or consuming - but to face these things and see Christ in them as I struggle to be whole. We need inner as well as outer conversion.

Reflecting on it, the documentaries on the Monastery and the Convent are all about this, about finding an inner order, of inner conversion - to imagine Christ as caring and involved with our inner stuff - we seek to avoid, cry, deny, be bulshy and a host of other reactions than face painful facts. That is why the two communities are so powerful - in that they love people to enable them to delve into the painful and dangerous. As we watch on TV. I was profoundly moved un the last episode of the Convent which touched on all this stuff. I hope some day that Moot can reflect this love of God centring on everyone's lives - a real depth of being which can only be attractive to those who encounter it at the edges. How different would church be if it was all like this?? I am now an avid viewer. I go on retreat myself next week Thurs-Sat....

Monday, June 26, 2006


Mortal Face

I saw
a mortal face
I could see
my past, my present, my future
all at once
in her face.

Her hair
and somehow less
than I remember
Her health
where once
it was not in question
momentarily held
in check.

I could see
the memories
called back
their present over shadowing.

I could see
this moment
also fading
a vague sensation
a memento
irrelevant to the present.

And lastly
this present warmth
and everything else

Copyright 2006 Michael L Radcliffe


Moot Godly Play Sunday 25th

Pleased to say that we had a sizeable group on Sunday despite the desemation of the football. We explored the theme of 'exile and return' which was led by Vanessa. It was interesting how the kids focused on the return home as a key good bit of the story that related to their own lives, whilst many of the adults related to the trying to keep the walls up with the pressures on home life, or about feeling like exiles wandering in the desert being held somewhat captive.

I think for the first time we had real engagement between children and adults in the story and activities, which was great. We also had a new visiting family who I think will be returning. So thanks to all you who supported and helped and attended on sunday. There will be another one in July before we break for August and begin again in September.

If you are interested in Godly play reframed into a form of alternative worship for children and adults to inter-relate and participate, please join our e-mailing list by emailing with your details which will be held in confidence.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Urban angels

Walked past my car on friday morning to find that someone had smashed the drivers window. Nothing had been stolen, just a window broken. Amazingly someone had noticed the broken window, covered it over with two plastic bags, taped it up to stop the rain coming in and attached this note.

Didn't know whether to be angry or grateful.

Thank you, whoever you are.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Life undervalued in the brave new world

Last Tuesday, whilst I waited for Gareth at London Bridge Station - I was struck by the mechanical sounds of the information voice synthesised announcement which stopped me in its tracks....

"Ladies & Gentlemen...Unfortunately trains are delayed this afternoon at Bermondsey, due to a passenger under a train, we would like to apologise for this inconvenience and delay on your journey" And shortly afterwards...

"We are sorry to announce that trains are now not stopping at Bermondsey due to a passenger under a train, we would like to apologise for this inconvenience to your journey."

At the time I was quite shocked and angry that a precious human life was treated so disrespectfully. That something as sacred as a person that reflected the image of God, was so desperate that they had to try and kill themselves by throwing themselves under a train. That must of felt like hell, how in pain can that feel like, how awful that there was no solace for that lonely soul. But we can't say kill themselves for fear that we might upset our British consumer sensibilities. And all that we can say is to water life down to an inconvenient delay. Under a train? How crap, How sanitised, how avoidant - I inwardly raged at the apologetic voice and its happy sounding stanza as if it was announcing a departure from Heathrow airport - with no pitty - no life - yes a departure - but a failure of humanity - a computer apologising for a life snuffed out by pain and the lack of a place in the world. No human grief - but a delay to peoples time. Well I stopped and prayed for that soul, and hoped that something transcendent and transformative could come out of my offer of a spiritual humanising moment amongst the pretense of a real world. Today was my Matrix moment. I am still human but is anyone else? The Jubilee line was hailed as the new modern tube in its technology and style - give me real people any day - and not this strange place where humanity is nothing more than a purchaser of a transportation service run by the cyber.


Welcome back Cotta: Or why Humiliation can lead to Sanctification

So I was honored to be invited to the Consecration of Stephen Conway as the next Bishop of Ramsbury. He will be a Suffragan of the Diocese of Salisbury, and everyone was there, and I mean everyone, (that is except Ian, some of the Non-Stips have to get paid). Anyway there was a slew of Bishops, Priests, and even a couple Deacons (I didn't realize the Church of England actually ordained Deacons anymore, interesting). And of course me, who seemed completely out of place, like Barbarino at a country Club. That is him on the left, it was one of John Travolta's first roles as an actor in the Seventies. He had a hilarious role of being an obnoxious and out of place person throughout the series Welcome Back Kotter (drop the r and it sounds the way Barbarino talked).

So, the reason I was completely out of place was because of dress code. All priests were to go in Cassock and Surplice, with a red stole for Alban the Proto Martyr. And yours truly went with a Cotta instead of a Surplice. Yes that is correct I looked like a glorified Altar boy.
Standing with distinguished priests, like Fr. Phillip, and Fr. Richard, surrounded by Surplices I came with a Cotta. Now it is not because I did not know the difference rather I set everything out, and in a rush to get to the door I grabbed what was left on the vestments chest which I thought was the surplice I laid out (which of course was on the chair). So, I go into the crypt at St. Paul's Cathedral past Nelson's tomb, and the rest of the famous people, and put on a Cotta that came down to my navel, and barely covered my elbows.

Now you would think everyone would laugh, but no, the English are very polite, they just did not invite to any lunch afterwards. Now I am pretty sure that Fr. Phillip was asked about it, which he quickly responded "yes, I know". I felt pretty absurd processing out with the rest of them, hoping praying that I would be covered by their white flowing surplices which when down to their hands and knees. I do not know if anyone discovered, no one has spoken about it, but everyone who I have spoken to has laughed for a while which is nice join in the humiliation.

Which has forced me to look again at humiliation. And has forced me to ask the question about whether or not humiliation can lead to a right relationship with God (i.e righteousness). I believe that sin is the reality of a world created by God yet somehow separated from that very being. Not that there is a real tangible geographic separation but rather we as humans cannot relate to our creator the same way that say I speak with Ian, or touch a tree, or eat Trine's wonderful supper (thank you by the way). You see there is no response that I can sense in the way I sense the above images. I am left alone to come up with my own devices on how to understand God, which of course leads to idolatry. I make god in my own image, and I get the responses from this god that I want to hear, touch, taste, feel, and see. So in some sense the identity of this god is me. In some sense then humiliation forces me out of this relationship with myself where I am forced to live in a world where I am definitely not God, and in the case of today look like a buffoon. The dark side of this process is the image of shame that seems to come from humiliation. Yet, I think it is our response to humiliation, it is our acceptance of an identity given by another. For me that identity was the two words f**k up, which was given to me by my Father when I was seven.

You see when I enter St. Paul's Cathedral looking different, and like a fool, I want very much to take the stick to myself and say "you are nothing but a f**k up." But you know what I am just a human being who stumbles about in the dark and makes mistakes. Being a f**k up takes away both my identity as one who is loved, and replaces it with the identity of worthless. Being worthless allows me not to actually change, and therefore continue the cycle of idolatry where I am stuck as either god, or the f**k up. Where I never enter into that identity given to all of the body of Christ "You are my child, in whom I am well pleased"

Your Brother, and Altar Boy, in Christ,
Travis K Smith

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


They Have Done it Once Again

Not only was St. Edward's King and Martyr Cambridge a birth place of the English Reformation, nor just the grave site of the great Christian Socialist and Theologian F.D. Maurice, but now it is the spring board for Christianity's entrance into the Goth scene.

What a wonderful evening! I spent all day walking about Cambridge never entering this small church, nor realizing this indeed was the church that housed the bones F.D. Maurice, and was where Bilney, Latimer and others congregated to preach reformed sermons. I finally got in at about 8:00 pm and saw a slew of candles all over the floor. The associate a man named Marcus looked overworked and overwhelmed so I helped him by lighting every candle in the place.

I have to say that I could never get tired of worshipping to Bauhaus, the Cure, and Sister's of Mercy. The music was played from a small boom box in the corner, where one of the twenty or so people present was sitting. The service was a basic Anglican BCP service with some changes here and there but nothing terribly different. The only real difference is that it was done in the dark, lit only by the candles put out earlier. As the sun went down it became darker and darker so that the stain glass behind the altar went from a light blue, to a dark blue black notice the altar picture.

Marcus, shared that he was indeed a self-proclaimed goth, and that Goth's were closer to Christ because of their willingness to step into the darkness. Every since my miscarriage I have found a similiar hope in actually stepping into pain rather than theologizing it away. I found that the same theological jumble held not weight for the pain that I was enduring, and (like now) I realized I had to express it rather than hide it. This Marcus would say was like being a Goth, and I think I agree with him. Maybe I can be a Goth and where only priest shirts, and dockers, without the make-up, beautiful gowns, sexy collars, and tight corsets. The only cool thing a man wore was Marcus' flowing coat although it just looked like a blue version of a Mad Hatter outfit. Anyway I regress the service moved me, and inspired me to preach a sermon at COTA's next Sanctorum service.

Lastly, their hospitality was extremely moving. They invited me to go clubbing with them afterwards, who does that? I was stuck unfortunately, the sermon went nearly an hour and I had to catch the last train to London at a quarter past eleven. So, perhaps next time you amazingly eyelinered crew, maybe next time.


exciting potential for women bishops

You might remember me blogging in February about something called TEA, which was the outline of a proposal for enabling women to become bishops in the CofE without disenfranchising people who can’t accept the ordained ministry of women. It wasn’t a very satisfactory document by any means, but it was, apparently, something that the bishops could all subscribe to. There is a General Synod meeting in a couple of weeks. What we were expecting was that the bishops would present a more worked-up version of TEA which Synod would have to accept or reject.
I was talking to Ian and Gareth about this yesterday, and one theme that arose was how this was a very ‘top down’ approach – the bishops coming up with something and trying to get people to agree with it, rather than allowing things to come up from the people in parishes, deaneries and dioceses – which doesn’t feel very healthy or really what church should be about.
The bishops had a big meeting a couple of weeks ago, at which one thing they did was discuss how to take this forward in view of feedback they had received since then, and how TEA had been developed by the Bishops’ working group. There were also several senior women present at some of this meeting.
I've finally had a chance to look through my Synod papers today and have found something very cool. As a result of this meeting, the top down approach seems to have changed totally – they have acknowledged it won’t work. What instead is being presented to Synod is the opportunity to subscribe to the 'theological principle' of women becoming bishops – without having to subscribe to a way of doing it. Here’s the wording:

The Archbishop of York to move:
‘That this Synod welcome and affirm the view of the majority of the House of Bishops that admitting women to the episcopate in the Church of England is consonant with the faith of the Church as the Church of England has received it and would be a proper development in proclaiming afresh in this generation the grace and truth of Christ.’

that is amazing, because Synod agreeing with that statement doesn’t have direct implications for people in the church who don’t agree with it. It’s not about what will or won't happen to people who would feel pushed out of the church if they had to be under the authority of a woman ('provision') - it's a broad but clear and positive statment about where the church is at.
So people who do want women bishops, but don’t want to hurt anyone, can (hopefully) agree with this with a clear conscience. It's very, very good for justice and equality.
What is then proposed is not a framework from the bishops, but a commitment to continuing to explore possibilities at parish, deanery and diocesan level, and to prepare legislative groundwork that provides a range of options. So the bishops don't have all the answers.
Read what the Archbishops have to say here.
I’m so excited!


two great websites

Two really good web sites from the latest Creative Review magazine... is really fun - it dynamically collects emotional data from blogs and represents that data visually so you can explore how people are feeling around the world right now. Seems today that the most popular emotion is that of feeling better and the least if that of feeling charming. could be used in a worship service - its by menthol who make hand cleansing products but the premise of the site is confession. You type in your confession and it magically appears written on a palm of a hand before being washed away. You can also see what other people have confessed - including the rather worrying confession that someone had dismembered their best friend!

Monday, June 19, 2006


The Mystery of an All Male Species Dashed...

Archeologists at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities realized today that what they believed was an all male species (otherwise known as Primate) indeed does have female members of the species. They discovered late last night UK Time the remains of a female Primate in the Nevada desert of the United States of America. It seems that the mystery of how an all male species like the Primates ever reproduced has been solved. The evidence of Katharine Jefferts Schori, or as Anthropologists are now calling the Shemate because of both her significance and her solitary example of a female form of the species, has brought about a proverbial Copernican turn in the scientific paradigm concerning Primates.

So, why is she the only one? Anthropologists, have been in dialogue with Sociologists about the answer to this question, they are puzzled as to why the male Primates seemed to be separated by their female counterpart. "Nevada, certainly is far away from the U.K." says one leading Anthropologist who was commenting on the traditional place where Archeologists have found the remains of this ancient animal. Sociologists have an answer to the question, they believe that maybe the male species were intimidated by their female counterparts, pushing them to the outskirts of Primate Society to lessen their influence.

"Remember" one Sociologist remarked "Primates look like homo sapiens except for those strange bones protuding from their heads, and of course the lack of female counterparts." So, now with the discovery of this Shemate, does this make them human. No one is jumping on that bandwagon too quickly, "one female in the midst of thousands of years of history does not make you a lost wing of the humanity." Says one Natural Historian. Yet some are saying just this, "Look, bones aside, everything else seems human, but why would a people group subjugate the female population like this?" The mystery goes on, these Primates will always keep us guessing.

T.K. Smith
Reporter for BBC 13

Saturday, June 17, 2006


Hip Hip Hazzar!

Three Cheers as Her Majesty Celebrates her 80th Birthday!

A few choice images from the mornings festivities which culminated in red arrow fly over and the "Feu de Joie", a rifal salute never seen in the reign of our current monarch. Until today.

The morning starts with an easy game of fetch!

The massed bands start to arrive

Did anyone send for the cavalry?

Her Majesty and Prince Philip arrive on the parade ground

The royal standard is unfurled and the first duty is to inspect the lines... our monarch has a keen eye, I hope our troops have polished their boots well!

Then comes the parading. The most impressive of which is the cavalry and the artillery.

The Queen returns to the palace to conclude the celebrations as the Red Arrows fly down the mall in a moving display of patriotism.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Moot Scripture Space, Tues 20th June

Scripture space : 20th June 7.30 for 8pm, Moot Tower Room led by Jonathan Mosedale

Mark 12: 1-12 - Violence in the vineyard

see also Matt 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-19

Comparing allegorical and social-historical readings...

Scripture space is an opportunity to critically explore the meaning of texts to resource us
Living in our complex modern world, so please do consider coming along.

If you plan to come please email


Haw's for thought

My route to St.Matthew’s and the studio takes me through Parliament Square every day, right past the Houses of Parliament, in London, UK.
For sometime now, a guy called Brian Haw has been sitting in front of Parliament in protest over the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war.

Unfortunately, due to some rather draconian and hastily passed laws, he’s been reduced. His signage used to spread all the way along the edge of the square, and included some very clever artwork by Banksy. However, the police have been, and taken most of it away, leaving the rather Canute-like figure that you see in the photos above.

I wonder about Brian. Some would see him as a postmodern hermit – prophet for our age like some kind of contemporary Simon Stylites. But who was he before? It’s often said of some of the more extreme old-time prophets – be they Moses, Isaiah, Simon Stylites – or maybe even Brian himself – maybe they should just have been sectioned or given the right kind of medication. What’s the difference between Brian and David Blaine? Some of our ideas of what constitutes being a Christian have become so corrupted with time, that we now rationalise them out of our lexicon – we pay lip-service to ideas such as meekness, humility, obedience and the like, but when it comes down to it, we see most of these things as another form of doormat-ism – a one-way ticket to poor mental health.
Why did Brian Haw take up the position he occupies today? Was it really an altruistic protest over the Iraq War? Or a failed marriage? Or maybe, just maybe, the kind of draconian laws that I mentioned earlier are slowly sending our society into greater mental chaos every day.

It seems to me, that to recover a sense of meekness, mercy, humility, and obedience amongst other Christian virtues is our most urgent task at the moment. The TRUE nature of those qualities has been lost in the mix, and to dig out what they really mean for today is a task-and-a-half. It’s a cheese-wire line to walk, but we must walk it. And I feel that it’s something that has to be done in the context of community, rather than playing the Romantic male loner-hero figure that I see every day.


Today's work

"Holy Water/Holy Shit"
Acrylic paint on found object.
Copyright 2006, Michael L Radcliffe.

A sculpture I made this morning.



Her shoulders
were so square and straight
you could use them
to draw a line
on the wall
that would put
a spirit level to shame.

She had
no form or majesty
but everyone looked at her,
nothing in her appearance
but everyone desired her.
She was despised and rejected
a woman of suffering
familiar with grief.
Now, people hid their faces
because she held
people’s desires
to account.

Copyright 2006 Michael L Radcliffe

Saturday, June 10, 2006


Consuming Coldcut

I downloaded the latest Coldcut podcast this week. I've subscribed to it, as it's so good. It's all free, so I can thoroughly recommend it, if you haven't done so already.

The latest is a straightforward mix tape, interspersed with thoughts and musings. One of the musings is on a subject that I've been interested in for a while now. IIt's a subject that seems to leap out at me from different sources all over the place at the moment. Must be a sign.

He has this to say:

"How come is it, that consumerism has found so many ready vocalists for hire, in the pop artists of today? Most Hip Hop now seems to be nothing more than adverts for Capitalism. The Bling consciousness. And the people fronting it are working for selling that consciousness. That's what bling's about. It's about jealousy, stopping contentment, arousing greed, discontent, for more. What I got's better than you. My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they're like, it's better than yours... something like that, isn't it? (Laughs)"

It gives me hope that more and more people are starting to see through consumerism for what it really is, and I pray that eventually the tide will turn towards a more generous and selfless ethos.

Plus, I've gotta do SOMETHING whilst the rest of you are watching the football.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


Train Church

Article here by Bronwyn Law-Viljoen on the work of photographer Santu Mofokeng. One series of the photographs document church services held in unusual places; in this case a commuter train in South Africa. An extract from the text:

'The itinerant churches were partly a response to the strains of commuting forced upon millions of South Africans: the rising in the dark, the long journey to places of work, the return home late at night. One simply had no time to go to church.

But apart from their purely practical import, the train churches may also be seen as an attempt to appropriate the in-between of the journey to and from work, to recast the repetitive hardship of commuting in spiritual terms, or, at the very least, to create a space for the rituals of worship within the constraints of forced movement. The spiritual atmosphere of the train is both a release from and a reminder of oppression.'

(Ta to Haunted Geographies)


Staring at the sun

TRACE have images and movies available from a NASA space explorer which is presently floating around somewhere pointing at the sun. It's not the friendliest of sites to view stuff on but might provide some useful resources for services, visuals, etc...

(Ta to Pruned for the link)


Guess who's coming to dinner

So, Carey and I had Travis over for dinner last night. It's true, what James says, he IS a good guest. Not wishing to alarm him too much, I picked him up from Streatham Hill station with the immortal words: "Welcome to the shitty end of town."

I introduced him to the joys of John Peel, Goldie Lookin' Chain, and Gogol Bordello. We discussed the vagaries of the British social security system, and transactional analysis, and then, after a quick ingredient check, we fed him our best Chicken Lhaksa, before settling down to The Monastery Revisted. Being a "Sceptic Tank", he hadn't actually seen The Monastery before, and was very moved by the show, as were we all.

A stiff Caipiroska was thrown into the mix and might have oiled the wheels of the evening somewhat.
Topped off with a brief educational tour of Brixton village and a potted history of Black London as I drove him home to emphasize the anthropological side of his time in South London, it was generally an all round enjoyable evening.

He got back safe and sound to Westminster in good time for bed.

No really, he's fine


Al Zarqawi killed, an Iraq success story ...

I woke up this morning to see the front page of both the BBC and Yahoo news reading Al Zarqawi killed!! A major success in the U.S. led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror. It is amazing what is happening in one's life when major things happen in the world. When 9/11 happened I was sleeping when the U.S. invaded Iraq I was eating a hamburger at a local Red Robin getting over a huge blow up with my wife. This morning I have been preparing to put together a talk on the Meaning of the Eucharist. What a difference success means today and what the first Christians saw as success in the life and death of Jesus Christ. As a member of the Emerging Church, and now Fresh Expressions here in the UK, I wonder how we contextualize the gospel to this world, that is the world of violence we see in our two countries?

Context seems to mean everything these days. Post-structuralism dictates to us that every bit of meaning that we find in the world is mediated to us through some sort of context. Family systems theory and transactional analysis pushes the need for differentiation in hope of beginning to understand what effect living within our contexts has done to our psyche. As I prepare for this talk I am beginning to realize that I am being drawn and quartered from four different contexts. Sorting them out has been difficult to say the least. Maybe I should pray for differentiation.

The first is my familial background. I am one of the only men in my extended family who has not been in the military. Two of my cousins on my father's side of the family have served in the American military and continue to do military type activities. One was a scout sniper in the Marine Core, and the other has served three tours in Afghanistan as a medic with the Special Forces. When I struggle with my call to the ministry (or when I watch shows like 24 and other violent options) I always fantasize about what it would have been like if I enlisted. You see I was prevented because of my allergies and instead I watched many of the men and friends in my family go off to the military and come back strong in body, and disciplined in mind. This is what I dream about, to become more disciplined in mind and body.

The second being my environmental background as a young adolescent. I watched violence tear up my best friend and his family when his father was murdered on my twelfth birthday. Of course it did not affect me the same way as them but it forced me to question the violence in the world, the hero images in my mind as looked at my cousins, and the different television programs and movies I grew up watching. You see America pushes the need for heroes, and the strong to admire and imitate. Where was the strong when a person shot my best friends father while he cooked at Chicago's downtown?

As I grew out of the need to be a hero, I embraced the importance of education. I became the first person in my extended family that ever graduated from University. Of course one of my grandmother's brothers started at Yale but was so poor that he began to write the rich kids English papers at a dollar a page and was found out and got the boot from the authorities in the department. The important thing for me was to be educated and intelligent. It is interesting that the year I started at University was the year that Forest Gump came out at the cinema. A movie where the main character is too stupid to sin.

Lastly, is my Christian background. In the near eleven years that I have been taking my faith seriously I have move in many different directions. From a fundamentalist beginning, to a more open evangelicalism, towards Anglo-Catholicism, and now I am just sitting in the middle of many different traditions. I hold the charismatic expectation that conversion actually changes us. I see us sanctified by Christ through our dialogue with God and the world as we participate in the sacraments of the Church, so I guess that makes my piety of the Anglo-Catholic variety. I agree with N.T. Wright who sees Scripture as being the first four acts to a five act play. The fifth act we have to work out using the first acts authoritatively. Lastly, I see social action as a necessary call to anyone who follows Christ, I agree with Stanley Hauerwas who sees the church as a social ethic rather than needing to follow one of the different options given by the state.

You see this leaves me in a state when I look back over my life. I want to see the world through the lens of heroes and villains, but I am crippled by a struggle with the different voices that speak into my life. I know that Al Zarqawi is violent, but have we (that is the coalition in Iraq) in going to war against terrorism just made him into a warrior rather than a murderer? I do not know, by taking a cue from this country (who has dealt with terrorism longer than we have in the states) I understand "going to war against terrorism" as a problematic way of dealing with the problem. Is it not a police action, can we ever defeat terrorism in the way that the allied forces defeated Germany, Italy, and Japan in WWII? Terrorism might be something that we have to live with in world gripped by sin, and we should fight against it for sure, but maybe not in a way that takes an entire country with it. But again does this make the work of my cousins, my father, and grandfathers not worth anything? I have no answers but questions that may remain unanswered. Is maybe our role then asking questions rather than pronouncing judgment in either direction in cases like these.

Ian speaks about Unity in Diversity as the only hope for the Anglican Communion, to take this a bit farther it seems to be the only hope for people in general. I have delineated four diverse voices that emerge from my being. The quest for coherence might be at its end. I only hope that in this violent and incoherent world we might find peace of mind and world through a united but diverse body of Christ.

Your Brother in Christ,
Travis K Smith

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


A March Through Clapham

The Revolution will not be televised
it will take place
in expensive restaurants.

No more
will I stand
for an under-paid waiter
serving me
poor service.
No more
will I stand
for some jobsworth
young girl
because I read
my paper
while nursing
one cup of tea
for one hour.
No more
will I stand
whilst gaggles of estate agents
procrastinate over their coffee
knowing full well
that I am literally starving
in the queue
for a table.

I am revolting
over comfort!
Those who have
no comfort
can make their own arrangements!
I will lead an army
of disaffected spenders
on a march
through Clapham!
Then will the world
be a better place!

Copyright 2006 Michael L Radcliffe

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


A CHANGE OF MIND AND HEART (repentance maybe...)


So Karen, my boss, has been on me to blog about the goings on in the last week. It has been a whirlwind to say the least. This last week I have feared not knowing exactly what to say on one of these things. This is my wife's specialty, she is funny in print, me I am just obnoxious in person. So, I am afraid that my intellect and my loud, obnoxious, and most of the time inappropriate humor is lost when it comes to this medium. When the fourth e-mail from Karen came to Ian and myself, I realized that I must blog, or risk destruction when I return home. But what to write about? Do I let Karen in on the wonderful discussions with Andy, Fr. Peter, and Carrie, at the informal party at St. Matt's on the day of my arrival? Should I portray the creative deconstruction of Moot's legendary frontman Ian Mobsby, by Neil and myself before Mass on Sunday? Can I even bear witness to the amazing afternoon at James, and Flora's flat on Saturday? Should I write about the daunting task of reading the Gospel according to St. John with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the audience? All of these pale in comparison to what happened this evening.

Moot invited me to its monthly planning meeting to let me see the way they work together to keep this barely funded thing afloat. I have to say I was impressed to say the least at Mike's leadership, and Ian's servantship, at the meeting. It went really well, and I found myself feeling comfortable in contributing when does an American ever truly feel excluded anyway, we tend to barge into conversations, but this time I felt invited. By the end I realized that I had just witnessed twelve Christian people sit in a room together and make their way through an agenda without a hitch. They were kind, and actually listened to one another, and the amazing part is that everyone contributed. In America there are always those quiet people (I know I do not belong to this variety) who the leader has to prompt to contribute, but here the meeting went along quickly and they finished a ten part agenda in two hours. That is a record in my country.

Yet even this was not the highest point of the evening. The evening was topped off by meeting possibly the Church defecator otherwise known as Sylvester Stallone. He was not in any of the Rambo or Rocky pictures, nor was he as built as Sly in his movies but nonetheless Ian assured me that this man's ID really read Sylvester Stallone. No, it was not the actor but a homeless man with the same name who needed a place to say. We do not know if it was really the person who both urinated and defecated in the foyer on Sunday, but it could be, Ian tells me that he has come around a few times. Now of course this does not make him our masked pisser, but it has kept you reading up to this point so let me continue.

He gave the same sob story that every homeless man gives, and I was not really moved anymore than normal. What shocked me was that I witnessed someone truly listen to him. Ian listened to this man's story, called a few hostels, gave him money, and finally promised to call The Passage in the morning (that I will be doing after the children's Mass). For the last year I have struggled with the Christianity and political fiasco that occurs in my country. I have come to the conclusion that Christians tend to defer their mission to their government. I have seen liberal Christians in America focus on changing their government with an inherent belief that they are most capable to "handle" the problems that is poverty in the world. At the same time I have seen Conservative Christians push the poor away because our government has enough in place already to cure their "problems". In a nutshell I see Christians shirking their God given mandate to be present with the poor in their daily lives. I witnessed, in a country that has more policies in place to "handle" the "problems" of the poor, someone who really was present with this man. Possibly the same man whose excrement Ian had to clean up the day before.

So, my heart has been captured by you Mooters, and I am overjoyed to be here in the presence of people who know God. Jer. 22:16 states that those who plead the cause of the poor and the needy are those people who know YHWH. I am excited that all of you have invited me to be among you, and I look forward to the next four weeks to be as wonderful as this one.

Your Brother in Christ,
Travis K Smith

P.S. Karen I will tell you what is happening as it continues to happen, Transfigure will be up and running very soon.

Monday, June 05, 2006



Moot:Blah Learning day on 17th June

I am sorry to announce that we are postponing this learning day until
The autumn 2006 due to sudden and unexpected family illness of one
Of the days contributors. I am sorry for the late notice, but we are
Not giving up, just seeking to reshedule this event.

We will be coming back with more information as soon as we can. Apologies
Any inconvenience caused.

Ian & Gareth from Moot

Saturday, June 03, 2006


Alistair MacGrath - Free Lecture 22nd June

ANNUAL LECTURE: St Pauls Theological Institute is holding an inaugural annual Lecture will be held in HTB on Thursday June 22nd at 7.30 pm. The Lecturer will be The Revd Professor ALISTER McGRATH, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, who will lecture on "Has Science Killed God? Richard Dawkins and the Meaning of Life. Entrance is FREE! Click here for more info

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