Saturday, July 30, 2005

Adopt Our Furniture...

Jo has posted this elsewhere, and has asked me to put it on here too:

"We are moving in 3 weeks time, and there are a few bits of furniture we don't want to take with us. Anyone who can collect from Sheffield is welcome to take them off my hands.
  • 1 Pine Dresser - 4 drawers + 2 half-drawers, 3 shelves above. 82cm wide, approx 180cm tall, 45cm deep. (drawers and shelves 2 separate pieces, if you see what I mean)
  • 1 Chest of Drawers - 2 drawers, dark varnish, quite old-fashioned, but would probably come up a treat if you were any good at DIY (I'm thinking paint-job here) width 72cm, height 76cm, depth 44cm
  • 1 'bureau-style' desk - definitely functional over beautiful, but quite useful all the same. Top part has little pigeonhole partitions and drop down writing surface. 1 drawer, then sliding doors on cupboard space at bottom. Width 81cm, Height approx 120cm, depth approx 36cm
I realise I haven't exactly sold them here, but really, if you can use any of it (even in your garage or something!) I'd be far happier than having to take it to the tip.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Gift Economy

We downloaded Skype - www[dot]skype[dot]com - today, as a means of keeping in touch with people. Skype is free download software (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) that enables you to talk to anyone else with Skype free of charge: essentially, free phone calls through your computer.

Their website is great; their ethos fantastic - developing a product and giving it away free as a present. It is interesting to see the emergence of a gift economy - as expressed through Creative Commons Licence, for example. There is a widespread suspicion of anything free - as noted in questions like, "What's the catch?" or the low-expectation statement, "You get what you pay for"...In fact, there's an independant streak in all of us that doesn't want to accept anything for free, as a gift; that views such an action as failure, not able to pay-my-own-way. But God's economy is a gift economy. Salvation, at every level - whether eternal destiny, or day-to-day blessing - is a free gift, something that is not ours to buy or earn. And the current renaissance of the gift economy within the New Media - the rejection of the oppressive dominance of the market economy, where even ideas are seen as property to possess and control through sale - speaks of God's gift economy. And as such, New Media creatives who give away what they produce should be endorsed.

If you want to contact us through Skype, our username is "dowsetts". We don't have a headset yet, so right now we can only use it for messaging; but we'll sort that one out in the next few days!

Another counter-cultural economy to endorse is the fair trade economy. Right now, Howies are running a summer sale. I've just ordered a pair of jeans. I can easily get jeans cheaper - made for a western corporation in an Asian sweat-shop where the workers are paid a pitance even by the standards of their own national cost of living, and have no protection regarding working hours or conditions. Or I can pay as much for jeans made that way, with a huge profit margin going to the brand owner...Outside of the sales, ethical shopping might feel expensive. But at what cost do we choose to ignore it?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Gone Swimming

Jo took Susie and Noah to the pool at Hillsborough Leisure Centre this morning, meeting up with Carolyn and Ana Swift.

I think I must have got just as wet leaving Philadelphia (for the very last time!) this afternoon. I managed to coincide my departure with a downpour - Infirmary Road was temporarily transformed into a river; the buses were throwing water up right across the windscreens of cars travelling in the opposite direction (you could see the windscreen-wipers shudder); the cars were throwing water up over the pedestrians (no mean feet where the pavement rises up at the tramstop); and it felt as if my boot-cut jeans soaked up most of it...

Our friends Brian and Amanda came round for dinner tonight - I thought I'd name-check them as I found out they've been reading this blog. Hello! Thanks for coming - it was fun!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Contact Details

We've had to change our email address, as it was tied to this house. (The current one will continue to work until some time in August, but those of you who hold our details might want to change them now anyway while you're thinking about it.)

As of now we're using the domain dowsetts[dot]net - so andrew[at]dowsetts[dot]net will reach us, as will jo[at] or hellofamilydowsett[at] etc.

The address for this blog stays the same, but you can now use www[dot]dowsetts[dot]net as an alternative.

A big "thank you!" to Matt, who helped us with some glitches!

Wallabies v All-Blacks

A robust conversation (check out the comments posted to these links) regarding Ephesians 4 is going on Down Under. Alan Hirsh and Michael Frost have stirred things up with their book The Shaping Of Things To Come (so significant that it is already being referred to as TSOTTC for short). I've only skim-read it so far (it is on my Amazon wish-list), but I know that Hirsh's thinking has in part been influenced by us at St Thomas' (though they reference us as St George's throughout). I think Hirsh and Frost coined the term APEPT - to refer to apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, while avoiding some of the baggage of a wide range of positions that comes with the term "five-fold ministry". We also tend to refer to our own "neutral" term - the Pentagon - as our understanding of Ephesians 4 is part of a wider approach to discipleship in a C21 context, LifeShapes, that uses shapes of increasing number of sides as iconic links to biblical principles.

Steve Taylor, over in New Zealand (whose book The Out Of Bounds Church? is also on my Amazon wish-list) finds the APEPT model one of the more problematic emphases in the emerging church scene. He seems to understand the passage in Ephesians 4 to be talking about a leadership model. As there are other leadership models to be found in other letters Paul wrote to the early churches, Steve argues that Paul is proposing different leadership structures/models in different contexts, and that it would therefore be wrong to try to impose any one of those models on every contemporary context: why give more weight to one New Testament model than any other?

In my view, Steve misses the point here. Contrary to many positions on the passage, Ephesians 4 isn't addressing leadership, but every member of the body of Christ - "each one of us". Therefore when Paul uses completely different terms to describe leadership in other passages (such as elders and deacons) this does not give us different models for the same thing: the terms used are different because Paul is writing about different things!

This passage is undeniably contentious at present (some deny the continuing existence of apostles and prophets, in my opinion on spurious interpretive grounds; some claim these five gifts are positions of authority; some question the discreet nature of these gifts given that there are lists of other gifts in other parts of the New Testament, in my opinion failing to recognise the differences - including context, nature, and specific giver within the Trinity). But the fact that it is being discussed so much in so many different contexts suggest to me that it is something that God wants us to rediscover.

For now, at least, I believe:
5. that everyone is in a fundamental way either an apostle (one sent out to pioneer new things), prophet (one who speaks out God's specific - as opposed to general revealed - will for people or peoples, in ways that encourage and build-up), evangelist (one who shares the good news of the gospel), pastor (one who protects, heals, guides the flock and the lost sheep) or teacher (one who feeds people from God's word, who holds out the kingdom of heaven).
5. that this fundamental nature is of creation order - i.e. how we have been made - awaiting redemption - so Jesus liberates people from the enemy and gives them as gifts to his body, and to the world through his body. (Though I think most of my colleagues would see these gifts more as being redemption order.)
5. that Jesus perfectly fulfils all five roles, and distributes them to his body as he wills.
5. that while we each have a fundamental gift (or, "base ministry") to exercise, Jesus also calls us into seasons of exercising each of the other gifts ("phase ministry") as part of the process of the body being built up, and of us as individuals becoming more roundedly (is that a word?) Christ-like.
5. and that a primary role of those who are called to exercise leadership with the church is to help every member of the body discover the gift that Jesus has made them to be, and to develop in their ability to exercise that gift.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Snail Mail

The bloggosphere is all very well, but few things in life are as exciting as receiving a mystery brown-paper parcel through the postal service. My prize from Phil Smith over at Headway Youth arrived today. Inside were a bag of Traidcraft Fairtrade yoghurt-coated raisins and a Co-op Fair Trade chocolate caramel bar. Thanks, Phil! I'll enjoy them at lunch...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Thank you!

The lovely St Thomas' Philadelphia, ACPI (Anglican Church Planting Initiatives), and LifeShapes Europe teams threw a leaving lunch for us, and for Ann, Hazel and David who all leave this week too. Thanks guys! We shall miss you - probably more than we realise...


I've added some extra talks I've given at St Thomas' over at a few inadequate words, the blog where I post such thoughts after I've spoken them out. A sort of back-catalogue. It's part of the 'clearing out / tying up loose ends' of this week. The selection is slightly random in that only some of the talks I've given have been written out longhand; also, most of my talks included a visual dimension - in the form of PowerPoint or video clip - in their original context, which I haven't included here. But I'm always asked for copies, so for what they are worth you're welcome to them...

Also, check out for tapes/CDs/MP3s - not only my ramblings, but good sermons too! - and other resources including books, worship albums and conference bookings.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mission Priests

This evening Jack, Bishop of Sheffield, was with us to licence Alex Absalom and Anne Maclaurin as Mission Priests for St Thomas' Church, Philadelphia (which was made a parish by the Queen last summer). Our family was "sent out" at the same occasion - Jo, Susannah and I were prayed for; Noah slept through it all on the floor ("Noah" means "rest")...


At church today our immediate future was publically announced. We are heading off to Perth, Australia, for a sabbatical. The dates will be some time in September to some time in December, as yet to be confirmed. We complete on our house sale on 23rd August, and will leave Sheffield on that date, or perhaps the following day.

We're going to spend the time with a church leader in Cottesloe, who has connections with St Thomas' and The Order of Mission. While we're there, we will be exploring the possibility that God may be calling us to go out there longer term: we go out with no obligations on either side, but serious intent to explore whatever might develop - and that feels a good way to test out what God's future for us is. We're confident that the longer term (say, next three years) will either be in Perth or, if it is somewhere else, will come very clear while we are there on sabbatical. Pray with us.


This morning was our last "Encounter" celebration. It was a precious time. I spoke, for the last time, on the theme of allowing the small, everyday things of life to speak to us of God and invite us to respond to him. For the families we have been leading the big challenges are the driving pressures of the professional workplace environment, and - for many of them - a certain amount of unhelpful religious baggage that comes (along with many good gifts) from growing up evangelical. We've sought to encourage a more holistic, generous spirituality - and we go realising how much that has been appreciated by so many.

After I spoke, we shared communion together - a small, symbolic act that represents to us something beyond what we could imagine - and then people prayed for each other at one or more of a series of seven prayer stations designed to help them meet with God through small, everyday things: representations of the bathroom mirror, shaver, toothpaste/brush, shower, towel, getting dressed, and putting on shoes, along with verses from the Bible to meditate on.

The service ended with everyone gathering around us and sending us out, with prayer and a few tears! After the service, we had a (n official) farewell lunch at the Fardon's house, christening their new barbeque. We stayed all afternoon; then on to the evening service where, as in the morning, we were commissioned and sent out...

Saturday, July 23, 2005


One of the current discussions in emerging/missional/fresh-expressions-of church concerns the tension between "missional communities" - that go out to reach the wider community in which they are located - and "attractional congregations" - that invite the wider community in to their Sunday services. In our experience, there is a tension, but it can be a creative one.

The model we've worked to develop here in Sheffield is one of three sizes of community within the church, which we see as reflecting various sizes of community in both Old and New Testaments, as well as in anthropological studies of many different cultures. In our experience, many other churches have the "small group/cell/house group" and the larger "celebration gathering" but the middle size - historically the congregation in the English setting (as opposed to the home and the cathedral), the size that has great missional potential, being small enough to share a common vision and large enough to do something about it - is missing. We've found that being part of three sizes of structure, that fit inside each other, to be effective - each size having its particular strengths and weaknesses.

Jo and I have been gathering a monthly celebration (around 200-300 people) of several missional communities for the past three years. Tomorrow is the last time we'll meet together. It's the last time not only for us, because we are leaving, but for everyone in this particular structure, because particular structures are not set in stone and exist only for seasons, of variable lengths depending on the life-cycle of the church. That dynamic, organic growth and change is evidence of life - including the death of seeds required for harvests to grow. This past three years - and indeed the five-and-a-half years I've been on the team at St Tom's, and the fourteen years I've been part of this church/these churches - has been a great adventure. But as we prepare to move on, we are confident that God has greater things in store - for us, and for those we leave behind.

Entertainment Value

The current top-two ranked teams in test cricket have certainly entertained today. Respect to Shane Warne, not only for being the world's best wicket-taker but also for wearing his MakePovertyHistory wristband on such a platform; to Kevin Pietersen for being the only batsman to have the measure of Warne this afternoon; to Brett Lee for an amazing caught-and-bowled; and Ashley Giles for a deadly-accurate run-out...

Friday, July 22, 2005

Bullet Points*

*I know Dan likes them.

1. Yesterday was Susie's (along with a number of others) last day at Little Imp Pre-School. Jo described the mummies-and-staff response as a "tear-fest"...

2. More underground/bus bomb attempts in London yesterday; the police have shot dead a man on the underground today...

3. Jo and I went out for a meal at The Three Merry Lads last night, with our 'huddle' - the leaders of the missional communities who we have been discipling over the last couple of years. It was our last time together as a group, and great to be able to let them know where we are going next (a decision that will be made public on Sunday, after which I'll post details on here).

4. The Ashes are upon us. Australia's first innings of 190 was nothing to write home about; England's response, even more dismal. Congratulations to both Glenn McGrath and Kevin Pietersen, though.

5. Jo had her hair cut this morning; kind of choppy at the back - a departure from the curled-under style.

6. We had a removals consultant come round today, for a quote. We were really impressed - both by the guy personally, and by the package his company provided.

7. We're off shopping for suitcases this afternoon, if we can muster the energy to get up and out...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

From Spiritual Orphans To Spiritual Inheritors

Deuteronomy chapters 28-30 speak about the consequences that flow out of a community choosing to live in covenant relationship with God, or of their choosing not to. In this context, Deuteronomy 29:29 says, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, that we may follow all the words of this law."

The things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever.

Jesus gave his twelve closest disciples "authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (Matthew 10:1) and sent them out with the commission: "as you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:7, 8). (See also Luke 9:1 ' "he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.")

After this, Jesus appointed seventy-two others and sent them out to do the same (Luke 10:1-24). And Jesus' final words to his disciples - words the church has taken as their mandate for mission, to every people group and in every generation, ever since - were: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:18-20).

In other words, Jesus' expectation that his disciples should be taught how to exercise his power and authority to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, [and] drive out demons, and be sent out to do so as demonstrations of his kingdom breaking in, stands until his return. For, "the things revealed belong to us and to our children for ever..."

Sometimes the things revealed - that belong to us and to our children for ever - aren't passed on from one generation to another. Sometimes they are lost and hidden, and must be rediscovered - almost always at great cost to the individuals or communities who make the discovery. For example, Martin Luther had to rediscover that salvation was through grace, not works - a costly discovery both in terms of the journey that brought him to that place, and the reaction of the Catholic church...As it happens, the Reformers succeeded in passing on this ground to following generations, for whom this revelation could be a starting point from which they could go on. But church history is full of rediscoveries that should never have had to be rediscovered in the first place, and of rediscoveries that are lost again within one generation...

My parents are disciples of Jesus. They passed on many good things to me, things that have been revealed. But they never taught me how to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, [and] drive out demons. As far as I am aware, their spiritual parents never taught them how to do these things. Almost certainly because their parents hadn't taught them...

My peers find themselves in the same situation. In those fundamental areas of discipleship where we are spiritual orphans, we are asking the Holy Spirit to teach us directly [and we are learning, and seeing God's kingdom break in more and more in these areas, though I'm still waiting to raise the dead]. But here's the thing for me: I want my children to grow up knowing these things for themselves - living in the land - so they can go further than us; not needing to win back and re-settle the same old ground...

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

This Is Pure Genius!

Regular readers will know that my interests include Star Wars (the original trilogy, not the more recent prequels) and organically farmed produce. So imagine my delight to find these two great things in life combined, here...


This morning I went to the thanksgiving service for John Elliot. John was 75, but we were not prepared for his death a week-and-a-half ago following an accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with his widow, Rita; his daughter, Jayne; and his sons (who we don't know) Philip and Andrew.

John had a rough childhood, eventually entering into the violent world of Sheffield's gangs. Later, he served in the Special Forces, seeing covert action in various parts of the world. On one occasion, he entered a South East Asian country along with other soldiers, and, after the rest of his squad had been hunted down and killed, he hid in the jungle for three months, picking-off his hunters one by one until they were all dead, before walking out of the jungle. John was a hard man, physically and emotionally; and, in certain circles at least, a feared man, too. But being the only one of his squad to survive on a number of operations led him to believe that "him upstairs" was protecting his life for a purpose.

After John's first wife died, he started accompanying his daughter Jayne to church. In time, he came to faith. Instrumental in that was an Alpha course, on which he also met Rita. Rita was one of the leaders on the course. John and Rita met, fell in love, and were married at our church. There is a beautiful story to this: when she was 19, the Lord had given Rita a vision of the man she would marry - John - and she had waited until her mid 60's to meet and marry him!

In the short years of their life together, John and Rita were instrumental in setting up a Prison Fellowship, regularly going into Doncaster Prison to minister to the men there; and following on from that, establishing a group for men who had come out of prison, wanting to follow Jesus, but whose backgrounds made it difficult for them to join in with a "regular church" community. And throughout this time John himself experienced an increasing measure of freedom from his own past, and significant emotional healing. The hard man became soft. A big-hearted little man who had struggled to express the love that was there became a big-hearted little man who was able to express that love for others more and more.

John and Rita joined The Order of Mission, and just six months before his death they had moved - along with another couple in the Order - to a small local church that is growing a good working relationship with St Thomas,' in order to serve them. In that short time they had already made a big impression!

It was an honour to know John, and I look forward to meeting him again one day. Thanksgiving services are strange things: the joy of our certain hope of heaven mixed with the sorrow of our temporary but very real loss; an act of defiance in the face of death, which has thrown its best shot at John, spent itself, and lost.

High King of Heaven, O bright heaven's Sun,
Grant me its joy after vict'ry is won;
Christ of my own heart, whatever befall
Still be Thou my vision, O ruler of all!

Monday, July 18, 2005

While I Was At Work Today...

...Susie made me this wonderful pop-up card!

I asked her why she'd chosen a rainbow, and she said she'd thought of me, and then she'd thought of a rainbow, and she'd thought I would like that...sounds like the gift of prophecy to me! I was certainly blessed and encouraged!

Inside, the card pops up to show a garden scene with a gate, a heart - "because I love you!" - butterflies and a ladybird, a flower and grass, clouds in the sky, a travel tag, and a little purple foam triangle "because I thought it would be a nice thing for the butterflies to land on when they were tired"!

Greater Love...

Great post by Jonny Baker today on cyclist George Hincapie. I don't share Jonny's keen interest in cycling, but I really appreciate the way he allows God to speak to - and through - him through the things going on around us. We need to rediscover the power of parables in our teaching.

Boxing Match?

Back when we were leading a missional community of international students, we used to hire a lecture theatre for worship on Sunday mornings. The venue had its limitations - fixed, banked seating for one - but we felt it was important for Sunday worship to be taking place at the heart of the university. We used to put the "stuff" we needed to "do" church in a plastic box: that didn't include musical instruments (we used to sing in several languages, and people brought their instruments with them: our Zambian worship leader - mostly guitar for us, though good on keyboard too - married our English saxophanist!), or whatever was available in the room itself (OHP, and a slide projector, that I used on occasion), but other than that, if it couldn't fit in the box, we didn't need it to "do" church.

Today I've packed up my personal belongings in my office at church. I needed two boxes. Hmm...

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rites Of Passage

1. This morning we all went along to "Generator" - one of the missional communities that have been accountable to us over the last couple of years. They were dedicating four babies, and there were a lot of visitors. It was a good occasion, our last time with them before we leave, but Susie was a little intimidated by so many people...

2. In the afternoon, we went up to the Nick Jnr Jump-Up in Norfolk Park - an exercise in manipulating parents into buying Sky by ramming the loveable little cartoon characters down their children's throats. Un/fortunately, six-foot tall latex loveable little cartoon characters have a tendency to freak Susannah out - though Noah loved it! (Anyway, we had no intention of buying Sky - and neither did anyone else judging by the disappointed salesman who was on commission...) While Noah enjoyed the noisy goings-on on the big stage, I managed to console his sister by taking her to her first ever ballet class at Angelina Ballerina's Dance Academy. She actually enjoyed herself, though she was cautious to admit it...When I told her that I was ever so proud of her, and that she had been fantastic, her understated/overstated response was, "I know."

3. In the evening, I spoke at the last (ever?) Teaching Service at St Thomas' (services/structures change from time to time). It was a hot night, and the service had already gone on a long time before I gave the kind of word I really don't like giving (or listening to) - long and densely-packed, but, much as I'd rather be shorter and lighter, that was what I felt God had given me to share, and that was that. I've never known so many people walk out when I've spoken, anywhere! But when I finished, a lot of those brave souls who had made it to the end came forward for prayer in response, and several people took the time to tell me what they thought (all positive - I guess those who weren't impressed had already walked out by then!). Paul (senior leader at St Tom's) said he believed it had been a prophetic word from God - but that perhaps only five people would have been able to take it all in. To be fair, I had up-front warned them all it wasn't a sermon but a scattering of seeds, and if they tried to take it in like a sermon we'd all come undone...Maybe we did, maybe we didn't. In two weeks time, I'm leaving, anyway!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Photo Shoot

This evening we have been culling photographs from what Susannah (4) called "the old days, before we had a digital camera." You recall: back in the day when a photograph was a physical, as opposed to a digital, artefact. (Recently, a friend of ours took a film-photo of Noah, who ran up to see the picture, and threw a tantrum when there was no picture to see!) In our case, "the old days" is everything before 2005...That's a lot of memories! Anything with the kids in is especially hard to throw away. Of course, I can't think when we last looked at some of these - things like our Graduation Day, 10 years ago. I think we'll end up getting someone to scan the pictures we want to keep: that way, the computer throws them up from time to time on screensaver, and we get to enjoy them. It makes more sense than taking up room with things we never get out of storage.

Best In Show

I've always been proud of Jo for the effort she has put into our garden...
...but this season she has surpassed herself!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Scent Trails

It is hot again today. I had just crossed the main road at the end of our street, on my way in to work, when I stepped into the slip-stream of a woman walking in front of me. Her perfume wafted along behind her, and it smelled good. After several paces, I overtook her - and stepped into another slip-stream, this time of a man. His after-shave also smelled good. By 8:30am the air was hot enough to carry these delicate scents, and not yet hot enough for them to have been drowned out by sweat turning stale!

At the risk of being considered some kind of freaky scent-Stalker, or of receiving comments concerning how I might smell (no-one smells at their best on a hot day, thank you), I share this story because these chance encounters prompted me to meditate/pray, for the duration of my walk to work, that I might carry the fragrant aroma of Jesus with me all through this day; that I might bring that smell into the lives of everyone I meet today...

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?"
St Paul, writing to the church in Corinth, 2 Corinthians 2:14-16

Monday, July 11, 2005


It has been hot, for here - high 20'sC - the past two days, and forecast to stay that way for the rest of the week. This evening, Jo, Kirsty and I played Scrabble in the garden. I am, quite possibly, the world's slowest Scrabble player, but there we are...

We have an ordinand on placement with us for the next two weeks (and again for a fortnight in September, but I shall be gone by then), and I'm co-ordinating his time with us. In some ways, this is not the best time of year to get an exposure to the variety of life at St Tom's, as pretty much everything slows down over the summer and picks up again with the start of the new academic year - when students return, and families get back from the staggered holiday season. So, I have no idea what he'll make of this fortnight. I suspect it will prove worthwhile in ways that could never be "co-ordinated" anyway. Which is good, because my co-ordinating abilities rank up there with my Scrabble skills...

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Over the past few days, several people have asked us if we know yet where we are going when we leave Sheffield this summer. The answer is, we still don't know. Right now, there are possibilities to the west, in America; to the north, in Sweden; and to the south-east, in Australia. We might end up in any one of those nations, or even somewhere else as yet not showing up on our radar...

Since we have come back from holiday, Susie is talking in very positive terms about moving, living somewhere else; and Noah is positively straining at the leash to go. (That's a metaphor. We do not have him on a leash. Although today was the day Susie discovered how to shut him in the garden shed...) As for Jo and me, we just want to know now. Its not a wobble in faith - we're completely confident that God has things in hand. But this morning a friend described it as being like a kid counting-down to their birthday - they know there will be presents, but they want to know what those presents are. That describes it well. Wherever we go, it will be good; but we just want to know where we're going now...

Saturday, July 09, 2005


ProudDad Productions brings you the first major retrospective of self-portrait photography by s&n group.


Susannah holding "her" snail...

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Gleneagles Communique

Read the agreement reached by the G8 leaders, released today, here.

As has been said by both politicians and campaigners, this document represents the start of a journey, not its conclusion.

Once I've had a chance to read the document closely and reflect on it, I'm sure I'll post some thoughts. Here, though, is a starter-for-10:
While the ability of science to read our physical environment, evaluate changes, and attribute causes, is clearly limited, there would appear to be enough evidence to state that human technologies originating in the "developed" nations over the past 300 years have caused greater scarring to our planet than all other human technologies developed over our entire history combined. This being so, why would we assume that the way to address environmental problems caused by such technologies is to continue along the same trajectory, in pursuit of "cleaner, greener" technologies?

Sesame Street

Remember how Sesame Street was "brought to you by" a particular letter and number each time? Well, today is brought to you by the letter "B"...

This morning I took Noah to the bank to pay in a cheque and change our remaining dollars back into pounds; then on to the Co-op to buy bread and butter. While we were out, Susie helped Jo make biscuits, from a recipe she wrote down at nursery. I like that the recipe traces the biscuits from source, in a little booklet Susie had to fill-in/illustrate. Here it is:

"My honey biscuit recipe book by Susannah Dowsett."

What you need:
A cow
from which we get
To turn into
A thousand bees
to make
A hen
To produce an
From which we need
A field of sugar cane
To make
A field of wheat
To make
Bark of a tree
To make
cinnamon stick
to grind into

How to make honey biscuits:
1. Mix together 120g of sugar and 120g of butter until creamy.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of honey and 1 egg yolk. Mix together.
3. Add 180g of self-raising flour and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; mix together until it forms a dough-like texture.
4. Take a teaspoon amount and roll into a ball shape; then roll in a mixture of sugar and cinnamon.
5. Place on a baking tray, leaving enough room for the biscuit to grow.
6. Put in the oven at gas-mark 4 (170C) for about 12-15 minutes.
7. Allow to cool before eating.

Overcoming Evil

"Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
(Romans 12:17-21, which quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 and Proverbs 25:21,22)

For as long as western leaders meet threat with threat, act of aggression with act of aggression, the terrorists that they pursue have won the war.

For as long as the response of western populations is a determination to carry on as normal - where normal is to eat food produced in such a way that imposes hunger on others, and wear clothes produced in such a way that imposes poverty on others - there will be no decline in the supply of fresh terrorists.

To the extent that we choose to do what is right for humanity, as opposed to what is expedient for a few, lies the hope of overcoming acts of terror - perpetrated by both self-appointed terrorists and democratically elected governments.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Cry Mercy

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

For those who have lost limb and livelihood, and those whose life is ebbing away, we pray: Lord have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For the Metropolitan Police, those who co-ordinate the Major Incident Plan, and those who seal off the City, search for any unexploded bombs, and sift through forensic evidence, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For the Fire and Rescue crews, the ambulance crews, and hospital teams, fighting to save and re-build life under extreme circumstances, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For those who wait to hear whether their loved ones are safe, and those who have already heard or are yet to hear that they have lost relatives or friends, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For those responsible for these attrocities, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For those who have witnessed traumatic events, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For our Capital, and for our nation, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For our political leaders, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

For those who must respond at every level, we pray: Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

Terror In London

Reports are coming in of several explosions on the London Underground Network and on a number of double-decker buses in the City. All tube trains and buses have been stopped from running. Officially the Government are not putting events down to terrorist attack; but it seems hard to explain three buses being torn apart in three separate locations down to other causes. The BBC are running continuous live news.

Please pray. Cry to the Lord for mercy.

If you would like to join with others, we will be praying at our set times of 12noon and 3pm at St Thomas' Philadelphia Campus. We may well host additional times of prayer, which we will try to communicate as widely as possible.

Out of how you imagine the world to be, out of how you imagine what the world could become, so you will act.

Boomtown Rat

How we live, what we do, flows out of our imagination - how we imagine the world to be, and what we are capable of imagining it could become.

Last night I watched the final episode of Bob Geldof's series Geldof in Africa, part of the BBC's "Africa Lives" season. To end the series, Geldof returned to Ethiopia (the entire episode was filmed there); the place where, as he put it, Africa began for him and for many of those watching, as we watched the BBC reports of the Ethiopian famine back in 1984.

It was clear, watching Geldof, that Africa filled his imagination. He said as much himself; and the beautiful series, and accompanying book of his own personal photographs and essays, witness to his words. And out of what fills his imagination, so has he acted, over the past two decades: as an ambassador for this great continent; and as a prophet to the West, a thorn in the side of politicians and financiers (reminescent of Elijah, accused by King Ahab of being the Troubler of Israel, when in fact it was Ahab's actions that had resulted in God's judgement), calling us to account for our sins against our neighbours (sins both of comission, where we have exploited others; and omission, where we have failed to heed their cry).

What fills my imagination? What fills yours?

Not-So Grumpy Old Man

In the parking lot (English: car park) of an American church, we found that they had designated parking not only for wheelchair users like Dan, but also for old men like me. In response to my post yesterday, Dan accused me of being a "grumpy old man" (Dan is an impudent young whipper-snapper) - and my wife accused me of being a cynic.

Far from being grumpy or cynical, I am, in fact, full of hope:

When I look at the Church in the West, I am immensely hopeful - in the face of tragic fracture, and of more people leaving than discovering week-on-week, year-on-year - as I see worshippers whose senses are becoming attuned to the worship offered up to God by all creation, and who seek to join in with the song (not least the defiant worship offered up by species facing extinction); as I see Sunday-congregations rediscovering day-by-day community; as I see commitment to the ongoing process of making disciples replace the consumerism of winning converts or an increased market-share of existing worshippers...

When I look at the wider world, I am immensely hopeful - in the face of 30,000 preventable deaths per day, and AIDS and war and natural disaster; problems that will not disappear in a day - as I see a people movement rise up in the West, perhaps most of whom do not even know God's name but who are resonating with and responding to his dream of a society that cares for the (AIDS, war, famine, flood) widow, (AIDS, war, famine, flood) orphan, and (displaced persons, refugees) alien...

When I look at my own family, I am immensely hopeful - in the face of having no clear idea where we will be living and what we will be doing in just a few weeks time - as I see my wonderful wife and children; and look back at our time here in Sheffield, and forward to what the future holds...

I could go on, and on. So, if I choose not to buy-into the hype that tells me I should jump up and down with joy at yesterday's announcement, I won't.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

De/Constructing Olympic Venues

So London has won the race to hold the 2012 Olympic Games.

This is Good News for job creation, in particular for the construction industry!
This is no different from Egyptian Pharoahs conscripting labour to raise Pyramids as eternal monuments to their glory...

This is Good News for wealth creation, in particular for the tourist industry!
This is most likely a significant increase to the tax burden on those least able to afford it in our society, not only to build but to maintain the venues...

This is Good News of great joy: sporting facilities for all, promoting health of body, mind and soul!
This is access for the priveleged few, enabling the chosen ones to be formed in the image of their sporting idols, sacrificing their bodies to injury or drug scandal in pursuit of a piece of metal on a ribbon...

This is Good News of racial harmony, the nations coming together in peace, not war!
This is all-out political-, ideological-, media-propaganda racist warfare; in admittedly respectable clothing (very thin veil)...

This is Good News for beleaguered politicians - a timely distraction from the G8 Summit...

Is this good news?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Food For Thought

I had lunch with Ben today, at the Blue Moon vegetarian/vegan cafe next to the cathedral in Sheffield city centre (UK: city centre // US: down town). I had a sweet-potato stew - delicious. Heading there, and while we ate, the conversation tasted good, too.

After lunch we wandered across to the Millennium Galleries to see The Designers Republic exhibition. The Designers Republic are, amongst other things, a commercial advertising agency, who also create artwork - as in this particular exhibition - that confronts our assumptions about, and exposes the 'dark-side' of, consumerism. Of course, the fact that they are in commercial advertising does deconstruct their deconstruction of materialism...but then, we reflected as we moved on again, this has always been the dilemma for the artist, whose role is to challenge the worldview of their society, but who requires a patron - who wishes the artist to produce propaganda in support of their worldview, the very worldview the artist seeks to challenge - to support them. Subversive? Selling-out? Symbiotic? Often Ben's wife Helen and my wife Jo find their respective husband's conversations to be so much pretentious twaddle...but then, as Ben put it today, it is their job to think that!

Monday, July 04, 2005

Virtually In Edinburgh

Like many others, I can't be in Edinburgh for the events surrounding the G8 summit this week; but thanks to Ben for this link to the Virtual Rally. Stand up and be counted. Help MakePovertyHistory.

4th Of July: Bi-lingual Post

"Happy Independence Day!" to all our friends in the USA, especially Joe, Sarah and Emmet Freeman, who know what we call it over here...

"Happy Thanksgiving Day!" to all our friends in the UK, especially the American ex-pats...

And just so our State-side friends know, today really could be an American-style Thanksgiving Day here, as the weather is more appropriate to November than July. It's cold, dark in the middle of the day, and raining. Aren't you glad you're not here!

Sunday, July 03, 2005


East meets West in this photo of Pall Singh and Andrew Jones. But which represents which? Pall is a British (West, Britain being on the western edge of the Known World - with anything to our west, such as the Americas, being the New World) Indian (East). Andrew is a [tallskinny]kiwi (East, New Zealand being east of India, and about as far east as you can go before falling back into yesterday's West) of European (West) descent, who currently lives in the Orkneys (a parallel universe in the far North).

Pall is engaging in mission with what he refers to as the "Goodness Gracious Me /The Kumars at Number 42 Generation" - British Indians for whom your average white middle-class church is too western, but for whom most of the (excellent, in many ways) average Indian church here is too eastern - like going back to India to visit the grandparents. Like British-born Indians, Sanctuary is a fusion of (at least) two cultures. Pall led us in worship, using Indian-inspired visual (film) meditations over which he led us in prayer; and inviting us to go up to a table, whenever we were ready to do so, to take Indian bread, and wine, to take an Indian sweet as we thought of and prayed for family, and to place a stone in a bowl of water as we prayed.

I was a little surprised that Pall's approach to resourcing Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims on a spiritual journey towards Jesus was troubling to some of those gathered, who felt that in order to genuinely follow Jesus people from these cultures needed to 'Christianise,' by which I mean take on European Christendom. To my mind, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, along with Europeans, are biblically all Gentiles, and if the early church determined that Gentile converts did not need to take on Jewish culture, why should eastern converts take on western culture? If European converts took pagan religious festivals and endued them with Christian meaning to create Christmas and Easter (not literal commemorations, but rich celebrations, of Jesus' birth and resurrection), then why should not the same be done with, say, Diwali, the Festival of Lights (God the Father being described in the Bible as the Father of Lights; Jesus, and his disciples, as the light of the world)?

Andrew Jones led two teaching sessions. The first, in which he spoke about the nature of kingdom growth and the principle of finding the Person of Peace and entering into/staying at their home, could have come straight out of St Thomas' here in Sheffield. I like it when I come across the same teaching, from new or different angles, in multiple contexts: the evidence of two or more witnesses...

In the second session, Andrew threw out all sorts of interesting observations, weaving together biblical observations from the Wisdom Writings (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes) and contemporary cultural shifts - such as 'new' approaches to leadership and structure within a community (ants in Proverbs/emergence theory in business), 'new media' (that turns passive readers/viewers into inter-active writers/surfers) - to bring out several pointers for those seeking to engage in mission in our changing cultural context.

One of his thoughts I was most struck by was on operating according to a gift-economy (which is, after all, God's economy - grace). In the market-economy, when you give something to someone, you get financial renumeration (plus profit) in return. In the gift-economy, when you give a gift, you receive in return not renumeration but enhanced reputation - and this in turn enables you to give away more gifts to more people. Andrew illustrated this from the internet: when you blog something people value, Google notes that they are visiting you, notes when they link from their site to yours, and your site moves up the Google ratings, where more people can discover it more quickly...Anyway, I value the gift-economy, and am challenged to live more and more according to this subversive economy of the kingdom. Cheers, tsk!

Photos: Eastern communion table; Jonny Baker feels the effect of a hot, dark room; Bob Hopkins and Roger Ellis; Pall Singh and Andrew Jones.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Dance Upon Injustice

The ReSource day was good - I'll post about it over the next day or so.

Being out all day, we missed most of the Live8 concerts, but we're catching what is still to come this evening. Robbie Williams is, quite simply, a very talented young man...and The Who remain a very talented bunch of middle-aged men! And as for a Pink Floyd reunion...

Apparently 85% of the world's population has access to these concerts, taking place around the world today. That is staggering enough. But it isn't just a passive access - for those who have access to computers or mobile phones (admittedly a smaller percentage of the world's population, but many, many millions nonetheless) this is an interactive experience, where they can add their weight to the pressure on the eight men who will meet in Gleneagles at the G8 Summit. [Both the impact of the information revolution, and the social justice agenda, tell us important things about the mission context we find ourselves in - things worth extended reflection elsewhere.]

No-one knows whether these men will in fact dare to represent those who they are called to represent. But never believe that together we cannot change the world.

On this day, we witness the Kingdom of God - always bigger than the Church, and in situ before the Church - break in.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Would You Like Custard With That?

We are off to Birmingham for the day tomorrow, with our friends Ben & Helen (see photo). Ben, Helen and I are going to the ReSource Church Plant Training day at the Custard Factory. While we're at that, Jo (who grew up in Birmingham) and the kids will meet up with an old school friend, Amy. It should be a good day all round.

B&H are coming round for breakfast before we set off. We were going to have croissants and pain-au-chocolat, but now Jo is considering making little pancakes - a Nigella recipe she is trying out for lunch today, with bananas and golden-syrup and chocolate sauce to accompany them...

Meanwhile, in the strange world of my children, Noah has been wandering around the house this morning saying, "I want to go home! I want to go home!" - by which he means where we were on holiday - and wandering around the garden saying "Hi guys!" and requesting "High Five!"s from me - two expressions he picked up in Lexington...and Susannah has introduced Jo and me to her pet snail (garden inhabitant), Horace: she holds him by his shell, and watches him come out of it...