Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Having scoured my previous posts, not terribly vigourously, admittedly (just used the search box at the top of the page) I couldn't find any explanation of what Holy Joes is, so here's a very inadequate summary, tied up with my history of HJs in the 18 years or so I have been involved in one way or another...

HJs started (or so folklore dictates) when Dave Tomlinson left one of the Charismatic Movements of the 80s (Harvesttime? Pioneer? I think it was the latter) where he was in leadership, with the general feeling that the Theology of the movement was inadequate and he wasn't so keen on the style of leadership. I hope this isn't really misrepresenting the situation, but this is what I picked up on the way.

Dave and his wife Pat decided that they wanted a place to explore faith which, apart from anything else, their kids (who were young adults) could get to grips with Christian faith, and which offered a safe place to believe, or not, but to examine and consider and reflect and argue the issues that surround this Christianity stuff. They met at first in a basement in Acre Lane in South London, and then moved to the Plough in Clapham Junction. At the same time they produced an excellent satirical magazine called 'Nous' which took the mickey out of the excesses of the Church. Not Christian faith, as such, just the Church! That's when I got involved - I loved the mag and was a student in South West London at the time and after seeing an advert in Nous for the Holy Joes Christmas Party (1990?91?) I went and loved this group of people that met in a pub on Tuesday evenings and talked about faith. I was studying for my first Theology Degree and attending a pretty conservative Church, so HJs gave me an opportunity to see things a very different way.

I kept up with going to HJs over the next few years, past my graduation to a year paying off student debts by working in Market Research, then working at Imperial College London as a Lay Chaplain and exploring my calling to ministry in the Church of England. I stopped attending when I went to Cambridge to study Theology and be trained for ministry, which took a couple of years (it was 1994 by this time), by this time I was married, and the scrumptious Jo and I moved to Cambridge, and I attended on occasion, though by now I had enough experience and (vague) Theological Education to be invited to speak. Then I moved to Hampton - on the outskirts of London - and carried on this sporadic attendance and occasional speaking, and on moving to my second Clerical position in South Kensington attended slightly more frequently. During this time Dave Tomlinson had been trained and ordained in the C of E, oh and wrote a very good book called 'The Post-evangelical' then he moved to be a Vicar in North London and HJs took on a separate identity and carried on in Dave's absence - though it moved around Clapham to a couple of pubs then to Victoria (not that far from Buckingham Palace) then to the edge of Westminster (not that far from the Houses of Parliament) then back to Victoria.

When I moved up here to the wilds of Cambridgeshire I kept in touch with Holy Joes. There was no formal membership, and attendance went up and down. I went as a speaker when they were kind enough to invite me - or couldn't find anyone better - but it dwindled a bit, until they took a break a year and a half ago. Now Hjs has started meeting again, with a similar format to before but without beer or smoking as it now meets in a cafe in the basement of a Church. The only original member to still be there is Steve, who is the man whose fault it is that I am blogging! Another long term bod who is still around is my great mate Tom - yes that is the right link - (aka 'The evil Dr Tom - the man who stole the twinkle from the stars') and there are a few folk from the original bunch (some of whom I must say, in a moment of pride, I introduced to the group when they were students and I was lay chaplain!). It's a place to talk, wrestle with faith, disagree, agree, think again, argue and generally should 'bo**ocks when you feel like it! As I said before, try the website and go there if you get the chance. I'll be speaking there sometime in July if you want to meet me there. We'll be in the pub next door to St Mary Le Bow Church where it meets before hand, it's called 'the fine line'.

Link for the Post Evangelical:


Dr.John said...

Lutherans had a magazine likle that when I was in seminary. It was called The Witinberg Door. It was funny and cutting. It was great to read of your experience and remember my own. O to be young again.

Nick said...

Hmm something tells me you'd get on well with The Ship of Fools website. I once visited the sister site of the Ship of Fools - The Church of Fools. That was fun because back in those days any Tom, dick or Harry could get into the pulpit and I actually had a pretty decent gig going. A couple of people actually mistook me for the Bishop of London who had officially opened it a few hours earlier.

Regards and blessings