Wednesday, February 28, 2007
a little piece of nothingness...
beside my bed i keep a little piece of blue velvet cloth. its one of the only items in my life that carry a religious significance for me. i'd like to try to explain why, in this post.
it comes from a service i helped lead at moot with mike. the theme was, very simply, presence. for me, the themes that emerged throughout the service surrounded the absence of god in my personal life. i'm not even sure if i'd say that i feel god to be absent. maybe its that i have arrived at a place of doubt, which verges on/amounts to unbelief. during the service mike and i lifted up a large sheet of velvet cloth which had been draped over something at the front of the church throughout the service. it was blue velvet. very dark, almost black. then, very calmly, but rather dramatically, we ripped the cloth in two halves, revealing a large icon of christ. i then proceeded to cut up the cloth into small pieces so that everyone present could take home a piece.
i took my piece home with me that night, and it has been significant for me ever since. being very dark in colour, it partly symbolises for me a kind of mobile black hole. wherever i set it down, its like a black hole opens up to reveal the absolute openness, or emptiness of god. thats not to say i think god doesn't exist, quite the opposite. but its not a very personal god, or a very easily defined god. in this sense, god has become the question for me, the mystery of life. no, this is not a hopeful image. but its significant for me because it reflects my utter disillusionment with (or loss of faith in) dogmatic religious faith. its important for me, somehow, to affirm what i don't believe in. within this however, is the hope that i'll meet god - revealed/concealed in unknowing/darkness - just like the icon. like a kind of curtain, similar to the hebrew temple curtain that separated people from the holy presence of god.
more positively, it is essentially about faith for me. for better or worse, i have presently no faith in any one of the common representations of the divine/religions. but i recognise that these are not god. such representations are, to me, just human constructs. or as pete rollins says of theology - it is that which is done in the aftermath of the divine. a fumbling, clumsy, very human attempt to make sense of an experience of god. thats not to say that theology/religion is useless, but that it is temporal, contextual, failing and not ultimately representative of "truth". realising this fact has led me to peer out into the abyss and chaos of existence outside of the safe surrounds of a "statement of faith", or a water-tight worldview. its a truly life-giving place to be for me. i really feel i am 'trusting' something, something so vast that i am at once lost and found in its presence.
i would like to thank mike actually, for his input into the service - all the best ideas were his.
thanks for reading.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Urban rhythms 5: poverty
Between 1886 and 1903 Charles Booth conducted the Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People in London, the results of which were published in map form and are now available here. The map is coded with coloured blocks which describe the inhabitants of different buildings in the city according to a key ranging from black (‘Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal’) through blues and red to yellow (‘Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy.’) The results revealed a diverse city made up of both rich and poor, often living in close proximity. Recent studies have found that whilst buildings may have come and gone the overall situation is not that much different today.
The map makes a direct connection between property and wealth but disregards many people and hides many of the subtleties that maintain this situation. Many people are homeless, whether living on the street or existing as nomads moved around ‘hotel’ rooms while authorities find them homes. House prices have risen beyond the reach of most first time buyers forcing them into long term rental situations. This year city bosses made sizable bonuses whilst the minimum wage is still £5.05 per hour. A living wage in London is £7.05.
With the wages we do get, or perhaps the credit we can find, we buy 'things'. We have homes full of widescreen tv’s, shoes, iPods, laptops, household appliances, clothes, gadgets… We own stuff, often so much stuff that we do not have room for it all at home. Instead we rent storage space where ‘things’ are left though never used.
presence | acceptance | balance | creativity | accountability | hospitality
image: Inquiry into the Life and Labour of the People of London
tags: rhythm of life, moot, London, urban, urban rhythms, poverty
It seems to me that there is a real dearth of good art-related blogs at the moment, but this post from yesterday really got me thinking, as it talks about both art and religion. I'm not sure I would agree with everything entirely, but it does provoke some thought. It goes like this:
"The art world of today is not evil, it is simply inadequate.
If the art of today is lacking, it’s not only the dealer’s and collector’s fault…it’s everyone’s. –Edward Winkleman
If Painting A Day is the most important art movement of our time, then I think it’s safe to say there aren’t any important art movements at present. –David Palmer
Art is and has always been only one thing: the representation of what people find important. In the distant past, Western art portrayed religion. The artist was a craftsman employed for this purpose. Some artists did their job so well that the work became important in itself, quite apart from the subject of the work.
This progression of artwork gaining importance in its own right (separate from the subject of the work) eventually led to the point where art itself became a form of religion — and of course, a worthy subject of art.
As in any religion where there are not rules against it, artists attempted to portray their new god. But what does the art god look like? Art is of course an abstract concept, not a god created in the image of man.
The portrait of art as a god is most explicit in so-called “abstract art” — an attempt to represent art itself. That is why the question, “is it art?” is so important and far more literal than we normally realize. The question “is it art?” is important when, if the answer is “no”, the work has no claim to value — like a mediocre portrait that is not even a good likeness of the subject. If Jackson Pollock’s work is not art, it is nothing but rubbish, little different from a house painter’s drop cloth.
The art world, if one can apply the term retroactively to the past, was once a world of idealism and wonder. Today, the art world today is a world of anomie. Anomie is, at the social level, instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values. At the personal level, it is unrest, alienation, and uncertainty that comes from a lack of purpose or ideals.
Why should the art world be a world of anomie? The answer is simple: no one believes in the art world anymore, the religion of art has been discredited. Imagine Christian art made by people with no belief in Christianity. That is much like what our art world is today. Yes, there is money to pay the actors, there are the museums which are the temples, but the religion is dead.
The reaction of the different actors in the drama is of course different. The dealers and curators, priests of the dead religion, continue with their empty rituals and try to pretend that nothing is amiss. For the artist, the reaction is the retreat into private spirituality — the only escape from anomie. You can read the same statement again and again from artists: “I make my work for myself.” For whom else should the artist work?
As Ed says above, this is not the failure of one group of people. We can’t blame the dealers for our problems. We are facing a failure at a broad cultural level, a failure of the entire religion of art. I don’t mourn the loss — “art for the sake of art” was always an absurd notion. But until art is applied to another purpose than glorifying itself, artwork will be nothing more than the separate longings of isolated individuals."
Another one to add to the feed aggregator, methinks.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Mootevangelise me >>>
I will come back with details once a date is found. You will be pleased to hear that I have caused them some hilarity already - in my late night email after I explained what we were doing, I finished off the email with "We are looking forward to experiencing an authentic expression of Jewish worship, when we come along to your mosque". Luckily the Revd Rabbi found this hilarious and shared it with the synagogue. Doing my best for interfaith understanding. The link for us will be Bill Gates that some in Moot will know (the other Bill Gates who incidentally is writing a manual on computing) from St Matthews - who attends Church & the Synagogue. I will email once a date/day/time are sorted. Sorry for the delay, but we are awaiting the President from the Synagogue to get back to Bill and I.
Sunday, February 25, 2007
Kathy known to some in Moot, has a background in spiritual direction, ignatian and other forms of contemplative approaches to prayer.
Lentern Reflections 1
Kicking off this weeks lent reflections, Peter Hanaway explores the issue of God & Love. Please see the attached sermon in MS Word form.
On Wednesday this week at 7.30pm, there will be a Discussion Group to explore the content of the thinking behind the homily.
Venue: St Matthews Conference Centre
Time : 7.30pm, Weds 28th Feb.
Hopefully see you then. SERMON%20FOR%20THE%20FIRST%20SUNDAY%20IN%20LENT%202007.doc
Friday, February 23, 2007
Pub Spirituality in Westminster | Tues 27th 7.30pm | Green Coat Boy Pub
This is number two of this new discussion forum to explore spirituality. This week we seek to explore the issue of 'Love' and 'Hope' as an aspect of collective human consciousness. What is it about where does it come from, and what does it have to do with the divine. If you are spiritually searching and interested, let us know.
Godly Play | Alt Worship 4 all | 25th Feb 3pm
This is a key area of Moot development, so we would encourage people in the Moot community not to see this as 'kids stuff' but a key opportunity once a month for the ability of all the community that is Moot to come together. It is the only place where people with kids can actually be together at Moot with people without kids.
So let's not buy into just opting out of this because kids are present, but see it as an opportunity for a community to come together - and you know what - you might just learn something - even if it comes from the mouth of a kid!
Hopefully see you all there.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
HoverAid are responding to the current flood and imminent cyclone in Mozambique. Hovercraft are ideally suited to flood relief work and that's what they intend to do.
As of 12 hours ago the relatively small cyclone that was threatening the south of Mozambique has intensified and turned north. At Category 4 it is almost as big as cyclones get (as bad or worse than Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans) and it is now heading directly for the area where there are already 70,000 people displaced, and 200,000 at risk. This is quite possibly the worst possible situation that could have arisen, and aid organisations are scrambling to get their people OUT of the area - that gives you an idea of the potential risk over the coming day or two.
HoverAid has a hovercraft in next door Zimbabwe, and used it for flood relief in Mozambique in 2000. They are now a full time organisation with a long term project running in Madagascar and on Sunday we took the decision to deploy the hovercraft in Zimbabwe which is currently mothballed. They need £10,000 to get it up and running and moved into Mozambique as fast as they can to enable relief work, food distribution, etc The hovercraft is a good alternative to the one helicopter currently available.
If interested in supporting this please click here
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The Smoker's Prayer
As this flame ignites
tobacco and paper
so ignite me
with your consuming fire
this mix of good
and bad air
this quickening death
as I let go
both the things I cannot cope with
and the things I can
a temporary relief
And as I stub this cigarette out
I remember that I too
will one day burn no more
For dust I am
and to dust I will return
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Monday, February 19, 2007
To order a copy for yourself and thereby donated money to Moot's work, click here
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I was crying
divided in two
a casual observer
watching myself cry
What's the matter?
I casually asked
Not knowing how long
This division would last
wanting to join in
what is this about?
I give up
wasting of time
And I think I am whole again.
This deal enables you to receive up to 6 DVDs a month , with a free initial trial. As Moot engages with using film to further Christian spirituality & exploration - this may be an opportunity to watch films as a spiritually nourishing activity.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Urban rhythms 4: speed and memory
London is an urban patchwork that has been worked and reworked. It continues to evolve. Unlike cities such as Paris or Bath where the urban forms of their centres has been frozen in London a succession events such as the Great Fire and the Blitz have prompted new additions and repairs. The new sits alongside different layers of the past. The city also acts as a repository for objects from other times and other cultures. Institutions, such as the British Museum, British Library, National Gallery or the Natural History Museum, gather information, memories, artefacts and art from previous eras and cultures. The past is invoked in the present.
Newer technologies of connection, network our immediate locale with more distant events. Download times get faster. News coverage is proliferate, often the media will release a story before it has actually happened: ‘Today the government will announce…’ SMS messages tell us of busy traffic we will meet in the future and should try to avoid. The future is implied in a more intense present.
We try to live in the midst of this, somewhere between slowness and speed; striving to get things done whilst trying to find some peace and quiet, hoping to reconcile the ancient with the future. Ironically we also spend much of our time in inbetween states. Our average commuting time is 45 minutes each day.
The Slow movement, originating in Italy, aims to counter the rush of contemporary living. It embraces slower food, slower travel, slower schools, slower living,… a whole slower approach to life, taking our time to enjoy and appreciate. Similarly the Long Now Foundation exist to ‘provide counterpoint to today's "faster/cheaper" mind set and promote "slower/better" thinking.’ Whilst Carl Honoré praises slowness James Gleick thinks fstr. On 5 September 2001 Buchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany, began playing a piece of music by John Cage entitled ‘organ2/ASLSP’. The piece lasts for 639 years.
presence | acceptance | balance | creativity | accountability | hospitality
image: Chris Oakley, The Catalogue
tags: rhythm of life, moot, London, urban, urban rhythms, speed, memory
Monday, February 12, 2007
pleased to say that I have been interviewed for my MA research dissertation and book (to be published in May) through the emergingchurch.info site, click here to read it.
The book will be available shortly, for advance orders, see the mootique. A downloadable (and cheaper) pdf version is also available. All profits from the book will go to fundraising Moot initiatives - including the money we need to raise so I can remain employed!!
So please do consider supporting us by placing an advance order.
Friday, February 09, 2007
Reflections following Soliton session Northern Ireland & time with Ikon community
Spiritual community – some at the gathering felt that to call anything church was to render it to being a power discourse and one of institutionalisation, why not just live with a spiritual community?. That when we think of church – we think of the metaphor of the body – but neglect the idea of the bride of Christ. Therefore we tend to loose the focus on relationships, of shared spirituality, these get watered down into hierarchy, power, and institutionalisation. There is some truth in this, but I hold tightly to the idea of ekklesia as an alternative community, originally a playful construct of a community that includes those who are traditionally excluded – the poor, slaves, women, children – all had a voice – the imperfect visible church reflecting the kingdom of God. Rightly, a postmodern theological understanding of church is primarily about church as community – reflecting the nature of God as trinity.
Franciscan & Dominican models – One of the most fascinating talks – were by two Christian community workers aiming at reconciliation. One of these talked about the need to balance radicalness with accountability. One talked about contemporary forms of church reflecting the premodern models of St Francis and Dominic. These modelled radical communities who struggled with trad church, who desired to do something new, but at the same time, maintained accountability to the traditional church. In this way, they were able to balance radicalness with accountability. He talked of the essential nature of the church in diversity but reflecting its one-ness if it is going to be sustainable. For me, there were many resonances with what Moot is trying to do by drawing on new monasticism in the way it has a rhythm of life, exploring a yearly aspiration service with the Bishop, and seeking to balance worship, mission and community.
Ikon – I have really enjoyed hanging out with the Ikon crew and attending a Sunday gathering at their new home in the Black Box in Belfast and also an art gallery in the waterfront. They are a very radical group, and I have enjoyed getting to know Cazi, Cary more in particular – knowing Pete & Padraig well already. What has fascinated me is about how they are exploring what they are doing. Those who know me well, know my fascination with the way that God makes church out of anything we tend to do if it has some longevity. Many of us have started doing new forms of worship with no ambition to make church, but as services became established communities became embedded and before you knew it – you were doing mission as well – or God was challenging you to engage with elements of worship, mission and community (which together makes church) when no one was thinking this way. Groups that don’t face up to this ‘IS’ tend not to survive. For me – it is a given – that God will make church whether you start with worship, mission or community whether you like it or not, or it will, on the whole, not survive. It seems to me that Ikon has started with radical and creative mission through its monthly Sunday gatherings of people who are and are not Christian. It is contextual and pretty unique in the way it does mission – and it is not even thought of as mission – but for me it profoundly is. It now has a developing community, exploring how it builds intentional community – and also forms of worship – as Padraig explores doing something using a taize style. I think once you accept that God seeks to build a Christian spiritual community out of what you are doing, then it is easier on you!! I really enjoy Ikon, and the freedom and honesty there is in what they do. Its a shame the pond seperates us, as I would love to hang out here more.
Hanging Out - Our dear Brother Mark McCleary has put me up for over a week - he is a star. I am off this evening to the North Coast with Aaron to check 0ut things up there and to catch up with Si Johnston, before returning...... I am not rushing back!!
Saturday, February 03, 2007
A spiritual vision of what is possible through an arts cafe church
Today, I had an epiphany moment in a cafe called 'Common Ground' after a coffee with Cazi of the Ikon Community. I paused and sought God about what and where I am about, and what God wanted through the crap, fragile, incomplete and broken me. I was directed towards this poem on the wall, that articulates everything I dream about a Moot Cafe Church as being. On the wall of a cafe in Belfast. You may call it a coincidence - but I have too many coincidences to believe that self-talk anymore.
So read on this slowly, attending to the playful detail, savour the deep meaning, because from where I am standing, God as spoken directly to me about how the Kingdom of God can be made manifest through the ordinariness of a cafe and I want to share it now, as I believe God is speaking not only to me, but to our Moot community ....
On the table behind the menu & napkin
by Paul Hutchinson
there will be
- swarm of orders
there will be spilt milk;
glass on the wooden floor
there will be
coffee and muffins
there will be
of love throu flaws
there will be
faces wet from crying
there will be
during the counting of
there will be
for still stop-offs
there will be
relaxing on wooden chairs
there will be
over chocolate brownies
there will be
in visitors pockets
there will be,
stating in pens secluded
A broken word
there will be:
bursting and re-defining
on the table beside
the menu & napkin & menu.
Friday, February 02, 2007
March 31st | The Entrepreneur Imperative
blah... learning days 2007
Blah... learning days take place in London where we bring together key speakers for a day of discussion around a key area in the ongoing conversation about mission in a changing culture. We are very excited to be hosting the first day of 2007 in conjunction with Ethos on the MLS ship HMS President which is on the Thames in the centre of London.
March 31st | The Entrepreneur Imperative
with Bill Bolton 10am – 4.00pm on the HMS President, Victoria Embankment
Bill leads the field on thinking about entrepreneurial talent. He has been closely involved in the 'Cambridge Phenomenon' - he set up the St. John's Innovation Centre which now has an international reputation for generating new businesses and nurturing entrepreneurial talent; it helped to launch about 500 businesses - 2 businesses a week for 5 years. He was a UNESCO professor of Innovation and Technology Transfer and is a specialist in Business Incubators. He has written three books, and has developed an entrepreneur evaluation tool that identifies people’s entrepreneur potential and also that of entrepreneur enablers. While his background is in business, he sees entrepreneurs working with three kinds of capital – economic, social, and spiritual. He has also recently written a grove booklet on entrepreneurs and the church.
A changing world is the entrepreneur’s natural habitat. Business, mission, spirituality, social transformation are all environments where there is huge change. So it makes sense to see what might happen if we can encourage more entrepreneurial thinking and activity.
Cost including lunch and refreshments £15
Book online here
Blah learning days are a partnership between CMS and Moot. This day is being held in conjunction with Ethos.
Reverence for Life, Music for Life
A Global Wave of Music Uniting the World
Anyone in the world can participate simply by signing up and playing music.
The Vicar and the Lingerie
The good father arrived in God's own country on wednesday afternoon. I picked him up from the airport, made sure he was fed and watered and then left him in the hands of the Soliton crew for the evening. What could possibly go wrong ?
Well it appears that our dear father had managed to pick up the wrong bag at the airport. To be fair to him it was identical to his bag. His bag was picked up by someone else who quickly realised on opening it that the Bible at the top did not belong to them.
Unfortunately the bag that Father Mobsby had picked up belonged to a young couple returning from their honeymoon and contained a number of electronic devices designed to enhance their sexual pleasure and a large selection of womans lingerie. It did take him a while to realise it wasn't his bag but after a quick taxi ride back to the airport the swop was done and the world was back to normal.
So be calm everyone - things are as they should be - Chaos theory and Mobsby are still the best of friends.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
Glimmers of Hope for us all
Just heard on the Radio about a new station launching tonight, SalaamShalom Radio is hoping to celebrate the rich and intertwined history of both Judaism and Islam. How incredibly refreshing to hear of something as prophetic and hopeful especially given the times we are in. I think there is a lot we can all gain from these initiatives and we can all take inspiration for such inter-paradigmatic dialogue.