Monday, July 31, 2006

Enhancement (The Secret To A Better Life)

From the stellar rise in cosmetic surgery; to the latest track and field athlete to face a ban for using performance enhancing drugs; to the spam offering Viagra that bombards our email inboxes; ‘enhancement’ is the word of the day.

In his letter to the believers in Philippi, Paul wrote of having learnt the empowering secret of being content in any and every situation (Philippians 4:11).

Not content with any and every situation. The person who believes that they are, or should be, content with any and every situation can never make a difference to the lives of others; can never confront oppression and injustice; can never take up the Jesus manifesto to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release for the oppressed; can never lay down their lives in the hope of something better. Indeed, the primary purpose of power discourses is to keep us persuaded that we are content with any and every situation…

But, equally, the person who is not content in any and every situation can never make a difference to the lives of others either. They are too busy tinkering with, tweaking at, their own; seeking to find their lives, and losing them in the process.

Enhancement [just to clarify, I am not talking about reconstructive surgery after illness or accident] is all about not being content in any and every situation. We live in a culture in desperate need of discovering the secret, before it enhances itself to death…

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Saturday, July 29, 2006


I know this seals my fate as a highly unoriginal person, but I might just have to say that Two Cathedrals, the final episode of Season 2 of The West Wing, is my all-time favourite piece of TV drama. This weekend saw the first screening of the final ever episode of The West Wing on UK television; also marked by back-to-back ‘best episodes’ all day today. I didn’t stay in (I may be highly unoriginal, but I have more of a life than some people might think); but I did catch at least part of Two Cathedrals

In Two Cathedrals, President Bartlet attends the funeral of his personal secretary, Mrs Landingham, who was killed in a car crash in the previous episode. During the service, his thoughts return to when they first met, many years earlier, when he was a senior boy at a privileged school and she was a secretary. In flashback, the viewer learns that – seeing his potential, and wanting him to realise it – she had sought to persuade him to take up the cause of the women teachers, who were paid less than the men. Eventually, she thanks him for agreeing to do so – a decision he denies having yet made. Yes you have, she replies: you just put your hands in your pockets, turned away and smiled. I just put my hands in my pockets, the young Bartlet protests! No; you put your hands in your pockets, turned away, and smiled. That’s what you do when you have decided that you are going to do something.

Back in the moment, today is also the day that it has been made public that Bartlet has been suffering from multiple sclerosis for eight years, and had deliberately kept this information secret when he ran for office. A major investigation will follow; but for now he must face a press conference, at which he will be asked whether he intends to run for a second term in office? As the episode – and second season – build to their climax, we cut back-and-forth between Bartlet, making his journey to the press conference through a tropical storm; and his press officer, who is fielding the assembled journalists until he arrives. Finally, Bartlet enters the auditorium and takes the podium; and is asked the inevitable question…he does not answer immediately, and we cut away to each of his senior staff; each waiting, unsure as to what he will answer, unsure as to what they want him to answer. And then the camera pans round behind the podium and we see Bartlet slip his hands into his pockets; then up, so that we see the slightest of smiles break on his lips. And that’s it: the screen goes black. The End. We don’t get to hear his answer; but we, the viewer, know…

I love the drama of this particular story-within-a-story. I find it inspirational. Everyone needs to be inspired. And I think everyone needs an inspirational leader. I’m not talking about a particular type of leadership; but a particular type of leader. Bartlet is inspirational, as a President; but it is clear that he has been profoundly inspired – throughout his life – by the woman who was ‘just’ his secretary…

As I look around, I see people exploring issues of church and mission and culture struggling with ideas of leaders and leadership. I see a rejection of the type of professional clerical leadership that dis-empowers congregations [though I don’t go along with the idea that clergy dis-empowers laity per se]; a rejection of the CEO-style of leadership modelled in ‘Baby-boomer’ churches; and an attempt to embrace a more level, more inclusive, leadership by the whole body. And that’s okay [with – as with any style or model – caveats]. But I want to be led by someone who inspires me; and I, in turn, want to be a leader who inspires others.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Baby-sitters Go AWOL

I intend to blog much less frequently while the children are on their summer holidays.

But they are out without me this afternoon, and some friends dropped by who are off to South Africa for the summer, to work in an orphanage. They left their blog details, and I know several people who will want to follow along, so I told them I’d add it to my blog-roll…

Miri, Rachel and Jemimah’s South African Adventures!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Flies And The Turd

Walking to work this morning I disturbed several emerald flies feasting on a dog turd as I passed by along the pavement.

Flies get a bad press, because they sit in shit and then sit in your fruit bowl without wiping their feet (so wash your fruit before eating, and get over it). But if it weren’t for flies, we’d be ankle-deep (and rising) in things we’d rather not think about.

The thing is this: the flies were beautiful – jewel-like, flashing in the light. If God gave beauty to nature’s bin-men, functionality without beauty is meaningless; ‘good enough’ is not good enough…

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Friday, July 21, 2006

More Questions

I’ve been thinking about:

Asking questions, rather than providing answers;
Drawing-out understanding, rather than imparting knowledge;
Seeking the response of the heart, not [just of] the head;
Church/mission leadership as spiritual director, rather than CEO (cf The Monastery, The Convent).

Within The Order of Mission (TOM), we make use of questions, in a communal context, as a primary vehicle for spiritual formation. The use of questions draws on Wesley’s use of questions, from which the name Method-ism – first used derisively – comes. We make use of a set of questions pertaining to ‘character,’ and another pertaining to ‘skills.’ Character is a more fundamental issue than skills, but learning relevant skills is part of the discipleship process too. Each set of questions is loosely separated-out into those that address our relationship with (or posture towards) God, each other as Christians, and those around us. Whereas Wesley made his disciples answer every question (ending with the question, Has anything you have shared here today been anything less than the whole truth?), we ask God’s Spirit to bring a particular question to our attention – through which we may discern a sense of God’s discipline or affirmation in our lives.

It is a simply tool, easily reproducible in a range of contexts (e.g. appropriate skills would vary, according to the primary values and particular context of any given community).

I guess the challenge is to make more of questions as missional strategy – and not simply to set someone up in order to hit them with an answer…

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Thursday, July 20, 2006


In order to stay true to its nature and vocation, the caterpillar must embrace/be embraced by the cocoon – hidden, still – and become visible again in a physical expression unrecognizable as the caterpillar, despite fully sharing its DNA…

The ‘death’ of the cocoon is a rite-of-passage: the passing of an immature form; the turning-into a mature form (i.e. a form that is able to reproduce itself). The death of a caterpillar that does not metamorphose is simply death. And yet there is risk in the process, for the cocoon is vulnerable to prey: re-birth is not inevitable or guaranteed…

The wings of the butterfly are composed of hundreds of tiny cells, which are held together by networks of veins that provide structure. Some cells are small, and, combined, create overall pattern; other cells are larger, and create a fuller range of colour as they reflect the light that falls on them…

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“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119:103

“If you find honey, eat just enough – too much of it, and you will vomit.”
Proverbs 25:16

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006


“Jesus is asked 183 questions directly in the four Gospels. He only answered three of them forthrightly. The others he either ignored, kept silent about, asked a question in return, changed the subject, told a story or gave an audio/visual aid to make his point, told them it was the wrong question, revealed their insincerity or hypocrisy, made the exactly opposite point, or redirected the question elsewhere!
Check it out for yourself. He himself asks 307 questions, which would seem to set a pattern for imitation. Considering this, it is really rather amazing that the church became an official answering machine and a very self assured program for ‘sin management’.
Many, if not most, of Jesus' teaching would never pass contemporary orthodoxy tests in either the Roman Office or the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of his statements are so open to misinterpretation that should he teach today, he would probably be called a ‘relativist’ in almost all areas except one: his insistence upon the goodness and reliability of God. That was his only consistent absolute.”

Franciscan priest Richard Rohr, writing in Third Way magazine (summer 2006, Vol 29 No 6, page 27).
With thanks to Malcolm Chamberlain for bringing it to my attention.

“The fear and rejection of doubt as a legitimate part of faith can be seen at its most stark in the twentieth-century Church’s obsession with the area of apologetics…Legal terminology is often employed within this apologetic discourse so as to give the impression that Christianity can be proven beyond all reasonable doubt by a cold and objective analysis of the empirical evidence for its claims. Broadly speaking, we can identify two types of apologetic procedure employed by the Church: word and wonder. The first of these builds an apologetic case via the use of reason so as to logically convince the other that Christianity is compelling and must be accepted by anyone who wishes to be rational. The second builds an apologetic case via the use of the miraculous in order to demonstrate to the other that they ought to believe. Because of their compelling nature, these apologetic strategies can be termed ‘power discourses’…
…This type of discourse endeavours to compel individuals to bow their knee regardless of their motives or the nature of their desire. Like a lover of nuts who is offered thousands of shells with no centre, so we offer to God thousands of ‘converts’ with no heart…

…Instead of religious discourse being a type of drink designed to satisfy our thirst for answers, Jesus made his teaching salty, evoking thirst. Instead of offering a scientific explanation that would convince, or publicizing the miracles so as to compel his listeners, Jesus engaged in a poetic discourse that spoke to the heart of those who would listen. In a world where people believe they are not hungry, we must not offer food but rather an aroma that helps them desire the food that we cannot provide. We are a people who are born from a response to hints of the divine. Not only this, but we must embrace the idea that we are also called to be hints of the divine.”

Peter Rollins, How (Not) To Speak Of God, pp. 35-37

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Swash Buckle

On Saturday night we got round to watching the first instalment of Pirates of the Caribbean, just as the sequel reaches the cinemas…It is a great fantasy adventure, reminiscent of The Princess Bride – except that The Princess Bride lacks the genius-at-work that is Johnny Depp, the very likeable Orlando Bloom, and the very lovely Keira Knightley…

I love the open secret that apprentice blacksmith Will Turner (Bloom), and not his drunken master, is the real master swordsmith. I like open secrets…they add something to a story.

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Riding Storms

At the end of the day, Karen led us in a time of worship, reflecting on the story of Jesus and his disciples crossing the sea, and a storm hitting the boat they were in (Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:23-25). Karen’s meditation applied the account to the experience that, as we try to cross over to the other side – to engage in cross-cultural mission, to reach out to other people – storms try to sink us. In our small boat, tossed by the waves, how do we feel? Empty; afraid; unsure of where we are going; lost; abandoned by God; sad?

…And where is God in our experience of the storm? God is with us in the boat…

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blah...Emerging Church Tour, Part 3

I guess the highlight of the day for me was listening to Karen Ward from Church of the Apostles (COTA), an Episcopalian/Lutheran emerging church plant in the Fremont neighbourhood – or neighborhood, I suppose ;-) – of Seattle. Karen’s community is part of the New Monasticism that would also include The Order of Mission, and so it was good to be able to hear of the journey they are on at Fremont Abbey, where Karen is Abbess.

The biggest event in Fremont is the Summer Solstice festival, followed by the Winter Solstice celebrations. It is a context many Christians would find themselves uncomfortable in, but COTA gets involved with their neighbours, participating and actually facilitating in the community events. This is, of course, no different from earlier, European Christians’ engagement with the pagan festivals that became Christmas and Easter; and while I am aware that some Christians believe that we should not participate in such ‘pagan’ events – in my view because they fail to understand that REDEMPTION is the heart of our message – most of the Church does. Christmas and Easter are ‘safe’ because the issues were wrestled-with so long ago; Summer and Winter Solstice are not ‘safe,’ but…in this, COTA sets a fantastic example for us to rediscover. At the same time, those involved in COTA self-consciously place themselves in the Christian tradition, taking the historical Church calendar as their primary measure of days, weeks, and seasons…

Miscellaneous things:
Stations of the Resurrection (as well as the more familiar Stations of the Cross)…
catechumenal groups (“more hard-core than Alpha”!)…
being a Eucharistic people: God has taken us, blessed us, broken us, and gives us away…
the lectionary text is “what the church eats”: where do you see yourself in this text; how is it asking you to change?

Missional Monastic things:
COTA Rule:
relationships, rhythm, conversation, creativity, sacrament, service…

COTA Postures (I love the idea of Postures – of how we stand in relation to God and our neighbour):
presence and awareness…availability and vulnerability…attentiveness and mindfulness…wonder and expectancy…

COTA Practices:
daily prayer and supplication…sabbath and re-creation…feasting and fasting…pilgrimage and accompaniment…tithing and alms-giving…reconciliation and consolation…confession and forgiveness…justice and kindness…thankfulness and praise…charity and love…

The language is different from that of TOM, but many of the ideas are the same – though there is plenty here I want to learn from. I guess the key for anyone looking to establish an Abbey or Order is that you have to observe your own values and practices, then name them and live up to what you name yourself. Importing a package will prove hard, and unfruitful (as opposed to the organic approach, which is also hard, but – I hope, and believe – fruitful). But we have much to learn together; and “the construction of a variety of local theologies” (David Bosch) does not preclude cross-fertilisation: in fact, it relies on it!

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blah...Emerging Church Tour, Part 2

At one point in the day, there was a Q&A session, at which one comment was made that was so full of questions that the panel couldn’t pick up on them all; including a point I want to come back on here:
“Emerging church just seems so ‘hip.’ Where is the cross in all this?”

First, on being ‘hip’: there are certain interests shared by many engaged in the emerging church conversation that are considered by some others to be ‘hip,’ and therefore an attempt to be ‘hip.’ For example, I wear howies jeans; drink fairly-traded coffee (and, indeed, tend to eat and drink a lot of fairly-traded and/or organic produce), and enjoy European beer. All of these things can be accused of being ‘hip,’ but in fact I wear howies jeans because I am concerned that the chemicals used in the production of almost all jeans is bad for the planet and bad for the people who produce and wear jeans (including me), and I also don’t want to support companies that manufacture clothes in sweat-shops. And I drink coffee and beer because I am European (we’ve been drinking coffee since the 1600s, and beer much longer than that; so I’m hardly jumping on a band-wagon there); and buy fairly-traded and organic produce out of a desire for justice for people and stewardship for the earth. If this makes me, for some brief moment, ‘hip’ then so be it; but the suggestion that I am doing it to be ‘hip’ is nonsense. And anyway, don’t people who are ‘hip’ – and even people who are self-consciously trying to be ‘hip’ – need opportunities to experience God’s Kingdom at work in their lives, and perhaps help interpreting those experiences? Or have they received their reward in full?

Second, on where is the cross in this?: I’m aware of three crosses.

There is the cross of Christ, and it is right there in the worship of the emerging churches, which tends to centre on participating in the Eucharist; and in the self-understanding of the emerging church as a Eucharistic people, taken hold of by God in Jesus, blessed, broken, and given away.

Then there is the cross that I am called to take up daily as I follow Christ, my cross, my dying to self. I experience this death on a daily basis, and my testimony is that it is excruciatingly painful. But without the cross, there can be no resurrection; in my experience as much as in Jesus.’ Yes, there is an element of walking away from things we don’t like – soft-rock worship and three-point sermons, perhaps. But many of us sense that God has called us to walk away from, and die to, many things we love and value, and have found identity in. Many of us have cried tears of loss and sorrow, before we have cried tears of joy. I’ve shared some of my own journey, in posts such as this one; but I know that many others engaging with emerging church have similar stories. If you want to know where the cross is in the emerging church, step out on the journey.

And finally, there is the invitation to others to take up their cross and follow, to imitate me as I (seek to) imitate Christ. It isn’t ‘hip,’ but there you go.

UPDATE, 20/07/06: Steve Collins has posted an excellent response to the 'hip' element of the question, which gets to the reasons why so many people involved in the 'emerging church' can be seen as 'hip' (with thanks to Jonny Baker for the link).

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blah...Emerging Church Tour, Part 1

We’re back from a fantastic weekend in London, staying with a friend in their luxurious basement flat in Shepherd’s Bush. On Saturday, Jo, Susannah and Noah were taken on the big red buses to see the soldiers at Buckingham Palace, explore St James’ Park, Green Park, and Hyde Park, and dip their toes in the Diana memorial fountain; while I took the tube to the blah…emerging church tour.

Here are some thoughts from the day:

Ryan Bolger spoke about his research for Emerging Churches, asking what it would look like for a community of Christ-followers to emerge in a given culture, as opposed to importing a (church) culture into another (community) culture? As illustration, Ben Edson spoke about sanctus 1 in Manchester, which came about in response to the growth of city-centre living in the heart of Manchester as it was redeveloped after the IRA bombing of 1996. I was struck by Ben’s long-term commitment to live as one of the community, learning to understand them, and identify “glimmers of God” already present in the neighbourhood. I think we are mistaken to assume that we – perhaps those of us who grew up within the Church culture – can just engage with the people that live around us. If we were to go as missionaries to South East Asia, our first three years would largely be spent learning the language and culture (perhaps this in part accounts for an increase in such ‘traditional’ missionaries coming home after only one term, because they had expected to be telling people about Jesus and found that they could only just manage to but vegetables in the market? I don’t know). But England is just as cross-cultural a mission context (and I’m not even talking about the multi-ethnic dimension)…

…I also valued Ben’s ‘revised cultural correlation’ – a revision of the idea that Christianity provides answers to the questions being asked by our culture; to the idea of a two-way conversation, in which both sides can mediate truth and goodness. This is not relativism or syncretism; but the idea that God can teach us through those we go to in his name – an essential humility, which also keeps us open to child-like wonder…

…Missional activity engaging with missional reflection: on contextual ecclesiology, referencing David Bosch – “mission and ecclesiology as contextualisation involves the construction of a variety of local theologies” – and on the hermeneutic of community, referencing Lesslie Newbiggin – “…the remembering and rehearsing of Jesus’ words and deeds…[the community] exists in him and for him…its character is given to it, when it is true to its nature, not by the character of its members but by [Jesus’] character…”

Steve Collins also shared from the experiences of the grace community in London. Good thoughts on everyday spirituality – not ‘bringing things to God’ (as if he wasn’t there already) but attending to the relationship that already exists between God and other things, and perhaps changing our own practices in response…I was challenged by the idea that doing things in the home privatises the thing/event/action…therefore church/mission that is meal-based in the home may in itself be a barrier…which brought me back to those spaces that blur the boundaries between public and private, such as the café, pub or restaurant (and the observation that the house churches of the New Testament met in the blurred public/private space at the front of the building, where commerce took place in the pre-industrial setting).

I’ve posted about Emerging Churches before, but here is the summary form:
“Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.” [p. 45]

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Truly, Madly, Deeply

This evening I watched Truly, Madly, Deeply, a Channel 4 documentary on Stars in the Skies, currently Britain’s only dating agency established by and for people with learning difficulties.

Although their disabilities are primarily physical, the majority of the people I currently work with have some form of learning difficulty, to a greater or lesser extent. Although I am obviously not at liberty to discuss their lives, I think that I can say that some of them are in relationships, and some of them are not; and that those who are in relationships have to deal with the particular pressures that brings, and those who are not in a relationship have to deal with the particular pressures that brings…

The whole ‘area’ of vulnerable adults being in potentially sexual relationships is something of a minefield, raising all sorts of potential for intentional or unintentional abuse, or accusations of abuse. It is also fair to say that certain learning difficulties are often associated with extreme obsession with the physical act of sexual intercourse, detached from any broader appreciation of the nature and requirements of an exclusive relationship. At the same time, these are individual and adult human beings, and need to be respected as such. After all, who is to judge whether any of us can make a go of being in a relationship; or deny any of us the opportunity to find out through experience? In my opinion the Stars in the Skies staff came across as caring, supportive, and responsible in both their attitude and their procedures (including chaperoning, and after-care). Minefield or no, I thought it was great to see such an initiative being taken; and fantastic to see such a positive documentary treatment of the lives of some of those involved.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

A Rush Of Blood To The Head

So who does Horacio Elizondo think he is?

When Zinadine Zidane head-butted an opponent in the World Cup ’06 final last night, the referee did not see the incident; nor did the two assistant referees. It was the fourth and fifth officials, looking at video replay, who brought the moment of madness to the referee’s attention. But video evidence is not admissible in the course of a game: it cannot be used to over-rule where a decision – off-side flag; penalty awarded, or not awarded – is shown to be incorrect. The referees did not see the incident, and so, having had it drawn to his attention, Mr Elizondo had only one possible response: to cite Zidane for misconduct in the post-match report, causing him to be summoned before a disciplinary hearing, at which he could explain his actions and be given a not-insubstantial fine, and a however-many-match ban (academic, given that this was his last match, but necessary nonetheless). But Mr Elizondo did not do the only thing he could have done: he reached for the red card, and dismissed arguably the greatest exponent of The Beautiful Game (“What? Aren’t you forgetting Pelé?” “Please. Why do old people insist that everything was better when they were young?”) in the closing moments of his illustrious career. The only conceivable explanation is this: Elizondo sought to make a name for himself.

In support of this claim, this is the referee who flourished his red card at Wayne Rooney just eight days earlier. Rooney had a Portugal player hanging on to each arm. The referee should have blown his whistle there and then, and awarded England a free kick. But he did not. Rooney shook one of his assailants off; and so the remaining one went to the floor, trying to pull Rooney down with him. In his attempt to stay on his feet, Rooney put his foot down on his opponent’s groin – a groin that was only there because the player had gone to floor in an attempt to pull Rooney over. And for this – the referee egged-on by winking Ronaldo – Rooney was dismissed. Flack was directed at Wayne, for loosing his temper; and coach Sven Goran Erickson, for leaving Rooney on his own up front, a strategy guaranteed to see him losing his temper in the end; while Elizondo marched on to the final. Here, surely, is an official seeking to be Somebody; a referee whose actions bring the game into disrepute.

The referee does not see what is there; he interprets what is before him. And I do not see what is there, either: I interpret too. And my interpretation is informed by all of my prejudices, which filter what I ‘see.’ (I proposed calling our first child Zinadine Zidane. My wife was having none of it. Fortunately for her, we had a daughter, and it mattered not.) This is how we make sense of the world. It is not that there is nothing there; or that there is anything you like there; but that we don’t see ‘it’ as ‘it’ is. And whenever we talk about God, or humanity, or the world we live in; and whenever we read scripture; we do so through a constructed and a compromised grid. That doesn’t mean we should not speak – for, with no way of removing ourselves, of being a neutral observer, the only alternative would be to join the giraffes as a silent species. But it does suggest that we should speak provisionally, partially, with humility; and hold our views lightly. Even our views about [insert here].

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

Get On The Dance Floor

Whenever this advert comes on, my son [aged 3] gets on the floor and dances along…

It makes me smile. And when I catch the ad and he’s not around, it makes me think of him dancing along, and that makes me smile too.

You might like to join in. Only ever four steps.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Emerging Theology

Andrew Perriman offers a(nother) stab at describing the theology of the emerging church. This ongoing activity is important, not as prescription but as description; and as apologetic in response to those who see the broad trends labelled the emerging movement as sub- or even anti-Christian faith, or, at best, as uncritical zeitgeist. There is much in Perriman’s tentative list that strikes me more as the rediscovery of orthodox elements of Christian faith, born again in a new missional context.

Andrew Jones has already picked up on Andrew Perriman’s post. Andrew Hamilton recently lamented having such a common name, in a comment on Andrew Jones’ post on Googling. The secret, Hamo, is to combine the common name Andrew with a far less common one. Such as Perriman. Or Dowsett ;-)

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My Life As A P*rn St*r

Some days ago, on the joint occasion of the Somme anniversary and England going out of the World Cup, I posted a poem exploring our national identity. That poem was then quoted on another site, of a hard-core pornographic nature. I wonder whether this is a first for missional church bloggers, or whether it happens to some of the more widely read practitioners all the time?

I do not condone pornography. As an industry, it objectifies and commodifies people; turning them from a subject who can be known relationally into an object to be consumed and thrown aside for my own gratification. That is ‘okay,’ we justify, because we will never meet the people in the photos. But the habitual decision to look at such images (and porn is addictive) leads men (in particular) to look at women (if the men are heterosexual) they do know, do see on a daily basis, in the same objectified and commodified way, as meat for feeding our sexual appetite. If we are ‘respectable’ men, we will seek to contain such feeding within the imagination; if we are not ‘respectable’ men, we will seek to give physical manifestation to our fantasies. (In contrast, the objectification and commodification of Rooney or Zidane as footballers – for porn is not the only example of this process – does not lead us to look at the men we know as someone to play football with, to feed another physical appetite…)

Pornography needs to be exposed for what it is; but what of pornographers? Those who work in the porn industry, along with other ‘tax collectors and sinners,’ are not welcome in our churches (unless, of course, they are ex-workers, in which case we will parade them as trophies). Like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11), they would be dragged to the front to be condemned by ‘respectable’ men. But they are human beings, like the rest of us, who are loved by God, like the rest of us. Being web-linked with such people does not make me ‘dirty,’ any more than being linked with ‘dirty’ people made Jesus ‘dirty.’ Nor does it make me feel ‘dirty,’ though it did give me cause to reflect on dirt issues, what makes us ‘clean’ and ‘unclean.’ So, do people need to ‘get clean’ before we will acknowledge them? Or do we need to walk away from such ideas, as Jesus, kneeling before us, writes in the dirt?


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Night Visitors

The night fragrance of honeysuckle coming in through the back door, still open gone 11pm; and a beautiful ghostly moth glancing off the kitchen lights, that came to me when I held out my hand...

Summer Fruits

The other evening, drinking wine we'd brought to their garden table, our neighbour offered to pick 'our' redcurrants (the bush comes with the house) and make us a summer pudding, and 'our' gooseberries for gooseberry fool. That seems a good exchange, and a great neighbour, to me!

She'll have to be quick, though. Bright and early on Sunday morning, the garden was full of birds: blackbirds fighting in the apple tree; tits and sparrows hanging from the washing line, and thrushes plundering the redcurrants just before they turned ripe enough for human consumption! They've not been back since, but it might only be a matter of time.

Provincial Lad Going Up To Town

It never rains but it pours. You wait ages for a bus, and then three come along at once. And we have four or five social invitations for 15th July…none of which we can attend because we’ll be in London. I’ll be at the blah…emerging churches tour (Ryan Bolger and Karen Ward); and Jo will be taking the kids to see the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, and possibly on the London Eye.

Ryan Bolger’s co-author on Emerging Churches, Eddie Gibbs, is a Visitor* of The Order of Mission. I was chatting to Eddie about their book the other weekend, and flying the idea of a comparable volume looking at non-English-language continental European emerging churches. He thought he might know just the person to coordinate such a project…I’m not saying who – though I will say they are the quintessential continental European – but I hope they might be interested, or at least open to persuasion! Whoever ends up being involved, the outcome will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to meeting up with whoever will be at blah…London on the 15th – and just a little jealous that I shall miss out on the Eye.

*Visitor is a technical term within the tradition of monastic Orders. Visitors are not members of the given Order they relate to, but, as senior leaders within denominational and/or training institutions, hold that Order to account on behalf of – and therefore vouch for the Order to – the wider Church. Visitors for The Order of Mission are drawn from the various denominational backgrounds the Order arises from and relates to; which at present is predominantly (though by no means exclusively) Anglican, Baptist, and Lutheran.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Lie Fallen

They’d come in tens of thousands,
Groups of friends
From every town in England,
Crossing the Channel, telling each other,
“We’ll make it all the way
To Berlin, and victory;
Just you see if we don’t.”
Rank upon rank behind their colours
Lined up, waiting for the off:
Hearts in their mouths; daring to believe
That they would live to fight another day…
Meanwhile the generals played their
Cards, and called for strategies of
Level-headed genius – or madness.

Young men in lines advancing all day long,
But without gain;
Sustaining loss, but without giving ground;
Grinding-out a desperate stalemate,
Neither side able to break the deadlock…
…the dreams of a nation cut short with
Deadly accuracy.
And with the setting sun, the claret European sky,
The witnesses sat stunned; or wandered shell-shocked
Through the ruined Army of St George.
Back home, a population dropped their heads
In disbelief, and asked:
“Where do we heirs of fading glory
Go from here?”



British losses on one day: 57,470.
[19,240 dead; 35,493 wounded; 2,152 missing; 585 taken prisoner]
Lest We Forget