Monday, December 23, 2013

What I've been up to....

It's been a good, thoughtful Advent.  The Advent Doors project which I talked about in my last post have been very well received and highlighted a lot of creative ability within the members of St John the Divine, Victoria.

I've also been writing for the staff blog - including a tribute to Nelson Mandela, some thoughts about changes we are making/have made at the Church, about the process of choosing a Bishop for British Columbia (a very different affair from Episcopal appointments in the Church of England) and some reflections on Social Media and retelling the Christmas story.

I keep on preaching, with sermons podcast each week, which you are welcome to listen to and comment on.  As an Arch-liberal I a surprised I don't have quite as many responses as I thought I would!  Lots of support here in the congregation!

If you want to have a catch up on the Advent Sermons, then here they are embedded...

Advent 1

Advent 2

Advent 3

Advent 4

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Advent Doors Victoria

Doors of Victoria
We are, at St John The Divine, Victoria, offering our own twist on the Advent Calendar.  Thinking about our context, in the heart of this city, and as those who wish to ask questions about meaning, hope, faith and love we are offering online reflections every day through Advent. 

Each day sees a picture of a door from somewhere in the Downtown area (or nearby) with a thought based on what the door may represent.  It's a chance to consider some of the delightful and difficult, the festive, the grimy, the thought provoking, the disturbing aspects of our city. 

It's not always a comfortable experience looking at ourselves like this - or indeed asking questions about doors which are opened or closed to the most vulnerable, the needy, the privileged, the comfortable, the rich or poor.  Please join us in our reflections. 

Here's an introduction to the series.  Also findable on Twitter #AdventDoorsVictoria.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Making space for creativity - silent thoughts from a Quiet Day!

The original title of this post was "Entering Deep Time' - which was the title of a Quiet Day here at St John the Divine today.  It was a day to introduce us to Advent and there was more in it than I could write in a post lasting anything less than a day!  So I just want to give a couple of reflections of my experience today.  And to consider how this is a good start to Advent!

First to say that we were treated to a lot of silence - and as those of you who have read this blog for any length of time will know, this has previously been a difficulty for me, but is now a delight!  A previous posting and explanations of my dislike of silence (from way back in 2007) can be found here and here.  The great revelation of silence being, indeed, somewhat golden can be found here.

I have discovered, and it struck me today, that entering into silence can create different reactions at different times.  This may seem obvious to most people, but I hadn't really reflected on it too much before, I really should read 'The Book of Silence' by Sara Maitland which I bought some while ago, it probably says something about this.

So, today's experience was of two types of silence.  I found the profound and settled silence, which is my usual expectation of silence - a silence of peace, where one seeks to quiet the mind and open the heart to the whisper of God.  It's sometimes quite hard to get to that silence, but it is pretty much what I feel I want to slip into when I say I want some 'quiet time'.  My revelation, though, was a different kind of silence, a very active minded silence.  There's probably a technical term for it, but it was a time when the scripture on offer for Lectio Divina and the other texts which our Quiet Day Facilitator had provided interacted with my already Advent minded brain cells to start firing and imaging and thinking and planning. 
It wasn't an uncomfortable event, like those times when I have an idea and no way to write it down and I am desperate to record it and feel frustrated that I can't explore on paper all the possibilities that these thoughts are offering. In fact I did do a little of that in one of the silences on offer today,  But it was a silence which gave me freedom to roam around my own imagination, to think, to pray, to talk to God, to dream a little and even to formulate some ideas for my sermon tomorrow!  It was a silence in which it felt good to be 'active' mentally and spiritually.  It was fun.  Not something I would have said about silence at all a few years ago.

Alongside all of this, I was struck by the excellent content of the day which was prepared by one of our gifted congregation members.  It contained thoughts on Kairos and Chronos time - something which is probably worth reflecting on another time.  It contained thoughts on the Three Advents which Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Merton wrote about - and which you can read about with a bit of assistance from 'The Internet Monk' here .  We were encouraged to meditate on words from Isaiah 35, and to reflect on this verse
 "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word."
Luke 1.38
with prompts such as: "'Ponder what Mary's 'yes' means for the world.  To what or to whom might God be calling you, right here and right now? What new 'yes' may be emerging for you?"  We considered the "seven O's " of Advent.  We considered Evolutionary Christianity which is continuing to emerge and challenge any spirituality which thinks small and neglects our place in an expanding, infinite, mind-bogglingly vast and ancient cosmos. We shared the Eucharist.  We sat in silence. A lot of silence.  It was enriching, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring. And other blogposts may well come out of it.  But for now I need to get back to my sermon with a 'Deo Gratias' - "Thank you God" for the day and for the amount of ideas that can come from silence, and making space for creativity.  A great start to Advent, the opportunity to encounter God afresh in 'deep time'.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Jesus is Lord, or King, or say what??!?!?!

We use words, titles, images and ideas in our Christian lingo that perhaps don't mean what we think they mean.  Or what they used to mean.  Or what we want them to mean.  Or what we are afraid they mean.

This Sunday is the festival of  'The Reign of Christ', at least that is how it is known in the Anglican Church of Canada. In other traditions it is know as the 'Festival of Christ the King'.  The idea of calling God 'King' is fraught with difficulty, as is the use of so many of the images that many of us who have been immersed in Christian culture for some while tend to use.

So I felt the need to preach on some of the difficulties with the image of Christ as King, to touch on the issues of gender and power that come with such a title, to consider exactly what type of ruler we might consider Christ to be, and to respond to a conversation (some might even call it an argument) that has been taking place on my Facebook page following a status I posted a few days ago.  Here's the sermon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Book Review - Awakening Faith

Every now and then I get books to review - and I am very glad I got this one!  Have enjoyed, and am enjoying it very much...  Here's a copy of the review I added to

Awakening Faith - James Stuart Bell
Interesting insight into early Christian writings and an inspiring devotional
So often, as was the case in my own studies, introductions to that group of bishops, theologians, monks, writers etc that we call 'The Church Fathers' (not so many women, unfortunately) are only found in dense, dry, academic collections; so this gathering of devotions is a pleasant alternative which gives some idea of the breadth and depth of the Church in it's formative years.

With a substantial, but not overly taxing, amount of writing for each day (one page) along with a verse of Scripture, there is the opportunity to see something of what these early Christian's were wresting with, considering, praying over and formulating. Remembering that the Bible as we know it now was not in existence, that Christian Theology was in the early stages of its evolution, that many of these followers of Jesus were starting from scratch when it came to the words and ideas that have become the core of Christian faith, there is wisdom in this collection that is fresh, imaginative and exciting. Some of the phrases, concepts and expressions may jar with us - there are some quite negative attitudes to women or 'outsiders' that are difficult to disentangle from the writings - but we must remember they wrote in a different time, a different context and a very different world to that which we now inhabit and their dedication to Christ allows us to see the truth beyond the flaws.

The format is very helpful, devotions for every day stretching over a year. It feels enough to get the mind and heart working, without being too much to process in one go! The updated language is helpful too, readable and clear English.

Pep up your spiritual reading, a copy of Awakening Faith is a helpful reminder that the Christian Faith has twenty centuries of heritage, not just a few decades or a couple of centuries. It might even inspire more study of these Christian classics.

I received a copy of this book for review from Zondervan, through Cross Focused Reviews, but I am not under any obligation to review it positively - that's all due to the book itself!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Sermon which upset someone

So, I'm not a theological conservative.  That probably comes across in pretty much everything I write, but I thought I should say it.  I believe myself to be orthodox, however, and hold to those things which the Church expresses in the catholic creeds.  I also have a relatively 'high' theology regarding the inspiration of Scripture.

But I am not a Biblical literalist, nor do I hold to a doctrine of the infallibility of Scripture. I can't.  The Bible is too rich, too deep, too difficult, too flawed for that.  And by flawed I mean I understand it to be the record of human beings trying to make sense of God at work.  It has the breath of the Spirit blowing through it's words and on every page, but when we try and make sense of God there is a chance we will go awry.... 'Hey lets condemn (and or murder) pretty much everyone who isn't in our tribe, that's obviously what God wants' kind of awry.  And if we study this book carefully then we see that ideas develop, things change, people learn more, and grow, and experience God in new ways and so their understanding grows.  Of course we don't have our Bibles laid out in chronological order and divided up by editorial structure which would help us in understanding that, but that's a post for another day - like this one: A Big Bible Overview

This is all a preamble to last Sunday's sermon, which was on the readings the C of E commonly associates with Bible Sunday. In the Anglican Church of Canada it was simply Pentecost 22....

This is God's Story, Our Story, Everyone's Story, the recorded version of last Sunday's sermon should be below, if not, please click here:

And for the record, the reason for the title was a response to this sermon which came from someone I hold a deep affection for, but who cannot accept that each word of Scripture did not drop straight from the mind of God to the pen of the writer.  This man has an admirable desire to share the love and light of Christ,  and knows the Bible well. I stick with what I said in the sermon though - I sincerely believe there is only one Word of God and he is Jesus Christ.  Scripture contains the words we have been given to discover the Word.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Tattoos, Twitter & Being a "public person"

I have, in the past two days, had some excellent conversations with some very good, creative, thoughtful people.  This is one of the perks of my job, on a good day, the other is that I got to have these meet ups in two of Victoria's best coffee shops (competition is great here, so when I say they are the best, they have to be really good!) - the two shops are Serious Coffee and 2%Jazz
- Vancouver Island based purveyors of excellent caffeinated beverages! (No tis not a sponsored post, I just believe in credit where it is due!)

It's a huge privilege being able to make time to talk to people about their story, to hear about just how much they have experienced, the skills and talents they have and what they have given and are giving to the life of the Church and community.  And these meetings were humbling examples of that privilege.

At one of these coffee based encounters I spent some time talking to one of those responsible for the St John the Divine Twitter & Facebook presence.  Bob is a creative guy with experience in newspaper editing and legislative record keeping (as well as other things) - he is also a Twitter and Facebook person himself and in the course of our conversation he said something which struck me:  "I don't share as much about myself as you do."  It wasn't a criticism, just a comment on the way I have chosen to make myself present on both my twitter and facebook pages.

To give some context, this was particularly in the light of a recent tweet which shared a short video made as a possible 'sales pitch' for a TV show that never was

This show was one where I would have been a part of a group of people who were all interesting, diverse, perhaps even a bit unusual.  The one thing that would have been shared would have been that they were all people I have got to know in the course of my duties.  One of which was my good friend Steve (that's him on the left) from 'Cranberries Luxury Hideaway' a self made man with more ideas buzzing around his head in a day than i have in a week!  Another group were those attached to the Yarcombe Inn where I was part of the group who set it up (also as part of a TV show) as a Community Run venture.  Last but not least was my biker buddy Chris, of Chris' tat shack, who was going to do me some ink, probably live on TV if he got the chance!

In the course of our conversation I did acknowledge that I had a tattoo, two in fact and there has been the inevitable embarrassing Facebook sharing of a picture of them both.  I also shared something of the fact that as a minister I found early on that I was a public person - someone who was known in public, whose face and details and lifestyle and phone number were in the public eye.  My response to that has been to be as transparent as possible - and to try and disabuse as many as possible of the idea that Clergy are in some way distant, superior or different to the rest of us.

I do get concerned sometimes that this might be perceived as some huge ego trip - or indeed that it might be some huge ego trip on my part!  But I hope that in being as authentic as possible I am not simply bolstering my own ego, but being part of a movement which is abroad, intentionally or not, amongst my sisters and brothers who are in ministry - lay and ordained.  This is a movement that says being a Christian, and serving the church, does not separate us from reality, and we don't see ourselves as better than anyone else.  We are who we are, we are who God has made us, though by the Grace of God we aren't quite who God will have us be.

So we invite you to walk with us in our becoming.  And see us warts and all.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

As if by magic

Here's Sunday's sermon

It kind of links with last week's on grace, plus my post on 'sin', plus my last post on suffering, plus pretty much everything going on in my head at present...

Blurb from website:
The parable commonly known as the 'unjust steward' is one of the more tricky and difficult of Jesus' stories. Or is it? We wonder what it says about God, but perhaps it isn't trying to say anything. Perhaps it is just an interesting story to ponder. An exploration of the power, purpose and point of parables.

On Suffering

There are some days I really wish I had all the answers.

Or just a few more.

There have been a number of people who have responded to my blog post last week on Sin, and to my sermon on lost and found on Sunday a week back, and just in general discussions, and a few conversations people have requested.  Most get stuck at the question - how does God allow suffering?  If God is as gracious as I would (boldly and wholeheartedly) proclaim then how can God allow people to suffer?

It's not a new question. It's something Theologians and Philosophers have been struggling with for centuries.  Our Hebrew/Christian Scriptures also wrestle with it - as is entirely appropriate for books which contain God's revelation of Godself to humanity.  But there are no easy answers, no pat response.  At least not from where I am sitting.

Some traditions will say 'It's all God's will, so it's a mystery'.  I get the second part of that, but I (like so many) don't get the bit that somehow God wills people to suffer.  The idea that God puts people through tests, which can involve such pain as losing a loved one, suffering through illness, desolation and agony is, frankly, abhorrent.  And though some say "it's just an unpalatable truth that we have to be subject to God's sovereignty in these things" I would respond "baloney".  This of course is a deeply worked out theological response. Almost as profound as the idea of God's 'smite' button on the Divine PC!

I've mentioned before on this blog, probably a few years back, that I fear sometimes we imagine God to be like Gods of Olympus in the 1970s movies where Jason and his Argonauts were moved around like so many pieces on a chess board. Do we really have a view of God that just makes us pawns in some gigantic game? Those of us who wrestle with  discerning God's activity and who try to find meaning in good and bad, in the world around, in reading and learning from scripture find such a picture of what is manipulative and ultimately cruel divinity offensive.

The idea that God would actively harm people, even if to create 'strength of character' or to test them, or to teach them something suggests a fair amount of sadism on God's part.  On a purely human level, I might want to teach my kids a lesson, and sometimes that might mean stopping them doing something they enjoy - but punishing them by denying them hope, or love, or by physical violence is not 'teaching' it's abuse.  I know there are times when we feel a profound absence of God, and when we feel distant, or despair overwhelms us but I am skeptical of the idea of a God who withdraws from us, or distances him/herself from us.  On the other hand I don't believe God scoops in as rescuer either, but is alongside us in our suffering rather than giving us an escape route.

It's the presence of God, even when unfelt, that is for me the Christian response to suffering.  In a short blog post like this I don't even pretend to be able to work out an answer at length, or even of depth, but I profoundly believe that God is present and alongside us in our suffering.

There was a quote from Father Nathan on Twitter this morning which grabbed my attention:

This reminds me that suffering is not just an 'in theory' for God,  but that God knows what it is to suffer, and empathises and suffers with us.

The struggle I think many of us is to find meaning in suffering.  We as human beings look for meaning and pattern, for what is behind what is happening. We search for meaning.

We ask why, it's the way we seem to be built.

I wonder if sometimes, though, there is no 'meaning' behind suffering.  Is that harder to deal with?  That there is no purpose to suffering, but that suffering just 'happens'.  As a Theologian I can link suffering to sin - not to one person's sin, but to the brokenness of a world where sin prevents wholeness.  This is a creation 'groaning in travail' because of the darkness of the world that comes from the brokenness that sin brings to our world.

We can't draw a straight line between a person getting sick, or being in an accident, or losing something, or suffering and their own sinfulness - that only reflects a view of a God who is capricious and vindictive. But we can gain some meaning from saying that God has given us complete freedom, and so the world is as it is. What I mean by that is the gift of free will we have to take into account God not just 'allowing' us to make choices, but making a world in which absolutely genuine choice is possible. Now I'm not arguing for creationism in the narrow 'it took SIX days' form, but I do believe in God as a creator who had and has a hand in this universe.  My favourite description of this was my undergraduate lecturer who said his understanding of creation was God looking at nothing and saying 'know me' and everything going from there.  That allows me to understand a God who creates by God's word, and yet the infinite possibilities of a "big bang", a dynamic universe and the processes of evolution.

So we live in a world where earthquakes and volcanoes erupting happens, and people are hurt by that.  But without a dynamic, molten core the earth would be a dead planet.  We have weather which causes flooding, freezing, or cancers through sunshine - but without the dynamic meteorological system we wouldn't have the seasons that make growing, sowing and reaping, possible.  Though there is an ongoing discussion as to how much we are adding to extreme weather events by our care, or lack, of the environment....

We have a world which is alive with the possibility of absolute freedom.  This means that it is not a safe, easy, trouble free world.  We have a world which is dynamic, and wild, and dangerous.  We also have a human race which is prone to sin, that we mistreat each other, and ourselves and that can bring about consequences which harm us and one another.  Along with this I believe we have a God who is absolutely with or for us, but who rather than intervene in the world which s/he has made absolutely free, works in and through us, frail, fragile, fallible human beings in order to offer hope, life and healing to this world.

So what is our picture of God?  Is it of an interventionist God who causes one person to be ill, another to be well with apparently no justification one way or another - or even worse, to try and prove a point or test someone?  Is it of a God who has no concern for human life or suffering? Is it of a God who has chosen to allow humanity such freedom that we do get sick and die and we do live in a world that is dangerous and dynamic?

These are only my thoughts. I make no claim to having all of the answers.  I wonder if we are so keen on finding 'meaning' and clarity that we do find it hard to cope with mystery, or open ended questions?  I certainly think that church communities should be places we can wrestle with such things - and these thoughts, along with a challenging bit of Luke's Gospel and some deep conversations I have had recently had a profound effect upon my sermon for this week, which I will post in audio format very soon....

Please comment, please discuss. Join the conversation....

Monday, September 16, 2013

Back into the old routine (with some help from the Holy Sky Cactus)

This was yesterday's sermon - returning to the Audio Digital age thanks to Chuck! Some background might help with one mention....

We've brought back an 'introduction' to the theme for the day which the young people stay in for (rather than leaving for their own activities/learning/worship during the processional hymn). Yesterday Craig, our Families Minister, carried on the lego theme from last week by updating the 'parables of the lost' to include the lost lego piece - where the nave was searched diligently until the holy sky cactus was found... (see picture of last week's creation below to view the holy sky cactus in place - rh side, in the gap, just below the chap dressed in white, though it has ascended since that picture was taken).

So I mention lego in the sermon, at some point, if I remember correctly....

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Kickin' It Old Skool

Ok, a made up title to get some attention :-) But there is a reason - since moving to St John The Divine I have had my sermons podcasted, which has meant even less attention has been paid to New Kid Deep Stuff than usual, and attention was, admittedly, pretty minimal anyway.
This last week our Sermon poster was beset by tech difficulties and then was away for a few days (well deserved, the guy does TONS of stuff around St John's) so it is time for me to revert to posting my sermon online in the tried and true method.

Some background - we handed everyone who came to church a block of lego, and then by the time we started the sermon I asked what they had built...

With one block

Then our young people gathered the lego together and made this by working together.

That might help.  

Proper 18 (2013) Year C RCL Principal

Count the cost.  Or not.

OK, how’s the lego – have you had fun building?  Show me what you’ve made… What do you mean you’ve not made anything???  Why is that?

Hmmm. So we will have to do something – any suggestions? 

Work together, now there is a good suggestion.  And if there are any young people, say, elementary and middle school kids, perhaps you’d like to go around the Church and ask folk if they would be good enough to give you their lego blocks.  I believe Craig is going to help you with some construction work at the back….

And for the rest of us.  What does this mean?  Why lego? [Continued here]

Friday, September 13, 2013

Whatever happened to sin?

Well, my first post for the Times Colonist went live on the website yesterday.  Those of you who have looked back through these hallowed pages will have read a version of it before a few posts ago, I thought it a relatively good introduction to myself with some reflection on who we think we are and who we project ourselves to be.  But you know what it's about if you either followed the link above or read 'Who Am I?' below.
There was at the time of writing this only one comment, and it is one that has caused me much thought in the past few hours.  It was a response that said 'I see no one who needs fixing or forgiving in any way' and made a case that grace is such that we are who we are and who we are meant to be - at least that is how I read it.  Go look, see what you think and let me know.

Whilst I would identify quite strongly with a more liberal understanding of Christian faith, and would consider us to be graced rather than cursed, blessed rather than condemned, I would hesitate to say there is nothing wrong with anyone.  I don't have to travel too far from this Church building to see the effect of a broken world, broken systems, the evil (yes, I believe in evil!) of those who push drugs, or abuse others.  I don't even have to get out of my chair to encounter a person who recognises alongside a deep sense of being loved and accepted by God that he is imperfect, (to a certain degree) damaged by the bad parts of life, constantly making mistakes and not good at discerning or following the way which God might intend for my life.

So I come to God with a sense of unworthiness - my imperfection in the face of God's perfection.  It's not a case of 'O wretch that I am' (though I feel like that sometimes too) but a recognition of need, of hope, of gratitude and above all, of grace.

Grace, of course, is freely offered, and to be freely accepted.  It comes with no strings, except the ties of love to a living and gracious God.

There was a comment by a wise colleague of mine about the Church being obsessed with a model of 'Medieval sin management' - where a sense of unworthiness translates into a way of controlling the masses, making people feel unworthy in order that the priest/institution can have control over them by parcelling out forgiveness at the price of allegiance, or obedience, or money!
 This isn't what I am talking about!  I recognise that my need for healing and forgiveness can be met by God alone, with no-one else needing to mediate that.  Just as my sense of worth comes from a God who loves me and gives me life.

For me the message of grace is not that we are all alright.  But that we're not, but that is alright.

Jesus himself was deeply conscious of that need to offer forgiveness, and of the sinfulness of all people. The story of the man lowered through a roof
or a woman caught in adultery show that (though I am always shocked that the one who was the other part of that adultery gets away scott free - which is a discussion for another time).  Also, no matter how I might understand what happened on the cross, there is and has been from the beginning a link in Scripture between all that Jesus suffered and the brokenness of the world.  I am not going to open up discussion on subsitutionary atonement or penal substitution here, but sin, theThe witness of the Bible is that we do fall short of God's intention, and we are broken.  But broken does not mean worthless.

Whether we hold to a doctrine of 'original sin' or 'original blessing', it is impossible to get away from the broken and battered world in which we are placed, and the structures of oppression and injustice in which we are (often unintentionally, but sometimes deliberately) involved, complicit and/or active.  We are not, as much as I see the positive in people as much as I possibly can, perfect.  Hence I believe it an important part of our worship to learn to leave behind the weight of our imperfection and brokenness liturgically with some form of confession.  This is a discussion we will be having at our church soon!  Again, not to wallow in a mentality that always says we are bad, but that there is wrong, sin, that we need to let go of, or be healed from.  This is, I believe, the human condition.

Yes we are graced, blessed, loved, accepted and precious, but to extrapolate from that we are perfect or have no need of God's forgiveness and healing is,a limited viewpoint and not one that comes - in my understanding - even from a broad and liberal reading of the Christian Gospel.  We proclaim healing, light and life in the face of a dark world, through the power of Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.  We don't proclaim 'don't worry. be happy'.

God forgives us.  Forgive Others.  Forgive yourself.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Christian Education Canada

A local parish, St Peter & St Paul, Esquimalt, has undertaken to provide, from a number of sources, an online resource of Education for the Anglican Church called Christian Education Canada.  It's a big name, with a big aim, and is just taking shape around online discussions and a Google+ page they are constructing. At the moment videos and records of G+ hangouts are being hosted by the Parish page on Google - though I think there will be a G+ page for CEC.

Well, I have put my two cents worth in and made a pilot video which I hope to expand into some talks on the Creeds.... Actually my gifted and energetic colleague and friend, Craig Heibert, St John's Family Ministry Co-ordinator has.  This has been accepted by CEC and I am just planning to get my head around the idea of how to address the Creed, or indeed which Creed... I suspect my thoughts will be based on work previously done with colleagues from the Papworth Team Ministry on the Apostle's Creed.

Anyway, visit the G+ page or go via St Peter & St Paul's... but here's the video that Craig and I put together - or rather, he put together and I waffled through....
If that doesn't work, please do watch it on the page - here.
I've also discovered that SJD has a YouTube Channel which has lots of very interesting stuff here

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sunday's Sermon...

Here's Sunday's sermon from last week, I will get around to writing something sometime soon... seem to be rather busy at present....

The blurb for this sermon:

Do we make 'Christ in our own image'? Or do we allow Christ to transform us into his image? Following on from the Gospel encounter with a 'daughter of Abraham' in the Synagogue we consider Jesus' relationship with the law, his Jewish roots and a 'true and lively faith' of grace and compassion. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The sermon - podcast version

This is me saying what you might have just read if you followed the link from the last post!

My first sermon for St John the Divine

Well, this is it, my opening sermon.  Don't get too excited, it won't win any preaching awards, nor lead to revival in BC, but I wanted to be clear and straightforward for my first Sunday serving in this place....

It will be available as a podcast soon (oooh, I hear you say, or maybe not)

Warning, I may have used the opening story before....

Eat Drink and be Merry ?

A priest takes up his new role as rector of a parish. All seems well during his first Sunday service and as people start leaving the minister says goodbye at the door and has the usual 'lovely sermon', 'thanks for joining us', 'welcome', 'glad to have you on board' etc from those leaving, until about ten people along a dishevelled looking man says 'long winded', and 'dreadful voice' and then wanders off back into the church. A few more folk shake hands and say farewell with 'thank you for your words for today', 'good to have you here' etc and the same chap returns saying 'boring', 'what have we done?', 'dreadful sermon'. [more]

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Who Am I?

What Am I After All
What am I after all but a child, pleas'd with the sound of my own
name? repeating it over and over;
I stand apart to hear--it never tires me.
To you your name also;
Did you think there was nothing but two or three pronunciations in
the sound of your name?

                                                                                                      Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

What complex things we human beings are.  At any given moment we combine layers of experience, belief, fear, hope, love, truth, deception and so much more as we present ourselves to the world around.  I love Whitman's poem above, which seems to express something of that complexity of our identity, and encouraging us to consider who and what we are, and not just our external, but our internal complexities.

In moving not just from one Parish to another but to another Diocese, and another province, another country, another continent, I have been mulling over this question of who and what I am.  Not in a conflicted crisis-of-identity kind of way, but in an relatively playful and thought provoking way.  The opportunity arises for me now to present myself in a very different way to the way I appeared in my previous life, I'm obviously still the same potato shaped bearded type, but I could (it seems to be) present myself pretty much as any kind of minister I like!  I could play the tough, no nonsense type or the arty-farty type.  I could be an all embracing team player or a lone wolf.  I could be fire and brimstone,or insubstantial and ethereal.  I could be hard, or cold, unrelenting, unbending, or warm, open, gracious.

In fact all of these I can be at any time.  As I have grown older, and grown up, I have realised that though I can, if I wish, present in different ways by far the best is just learning to be me.  Pretense, falsehood, deception, play acting take up so much energy, and mean trying to keep one's story straight all the time!  It is quite hard enough learning who we are, and trying to be ourselves, so why waste energy on anything else?

And over these past years, as I have walked with Jesus, as I have grown in faith and understanding (and I am mature enough to realise that despite my predilection to self-depreciation I have grown in such things) I realise that I am, in a way that I probably haven't been able to say before, happy with who and what I am.  I am not claiming to have got beyond all of my faults and insecurities, nor beyond my need to feel loved and accepted, but I recognise that even for all my mistakes and shortcomings I am who I am meant to be.  I am seeking authenticity, and I rest in the knowledge of a God who knows me better than I know myself loving me beyond all reason and beyond my understanding.

I am continuing on that journey of finding who I am meant to be in Christ.  Not losing my own identity in the process, but being incorporated in the body of Christ and by Grace knowing what it is for my selfishness to decrease and Christ to increase.

Which brings me back to the Original heading of this post... the question 'Who Am I' can be taken in two ways.  Firstly a question of identity, something that I will continue to explore through my whole life and especially at this time with the people of St John The Divine and my colleagues in the Diocese.

Secondly there is a sense of unworthiness.  Not a self-condemnatory sense, but a humbling sense of 'why?'  to the question.  Who am I that I have been called to this place and given this task?  What gifts do I have to meet these challenges?  Why does God love me and want me to do this?

Again, the heart of this, as a Christian and as a Priest, is to rest in the love and grace of God in Christ.  And my challenge continues to be allowing that deep sense of God's love and forgiveness and graciousness to sink in.  To remember that no matter how inadequate I feel, or how unworthy, or broken, or lost, there is a deeper stream of life and love that comes from the divine, from the heart of God.

In a lighter note to end this post - an 80s moment!  I used to listen to a lot of CCM - that's Contemporary Christian Music to all you normal people out there who have probably never heard of such a thing. One song that I do love from that era is an expression of that question'Who am I?'  I'm not sure of it's musical merit, it is an 80s track after all, but I I still like it.  So here it is.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There's no place like....

We're here - Victoria, British Columbia.
At least I have an excuse for not having been active on Blogger for a while, I have had no access to a PC for over a month.  This has been a joy and a trial. I have been missing writing generally (which I find much more agreeable with a keyboard and screen) and writing about faith, for sermons, newspaper articles and the (very) occasional blog article particularly!

So here we are in sunny Victoria (I am assured this will not always be the case but we are making the most of it while it lasts) and have settled in to our new little home... much smaller than the Vicarages we have been fortunate enough to have since we were married 20 years ago but we are still very fortunate to have..... and I have sworn my Oaths of Alliegance to the Bishop, the Crown, and the Doctrine and Worship of the Anglican Church of Canada.

This means I can start work tomorrow

I am at the stage where following send off from Five Alive Mission Community, a joyful and moving experience we have had a few weeks of holiday, firstly in San Francisco then in our new home City of Victoria.  It has been great, time with my precious family, meeting new people and being bowled over by hospitality and generosity shown by so many.  Now it's time to get going, to get myself involved, to seek God's way for me in this place, and to make a home - both spiritual and physical, in a whole new world.

I'll try to keep up with the blog posts letting you know how things are going.  I had better get back to thinking about Sunday's sermon now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The things that make us think...

So, we're leaving the country soon to go to the land of Maple Leaves, Beer, Ice Hockey, Mounties, Moose,
Mountains, Bacon, Snow and lots of different stereotypes than those to which we are used... stereotypes which seem to be drifting sadly towards intolerance, racism, poverty and a dismantled social welfare system...though I prefer the Tea, Vicars, Cucumber Sandwiches and lovable Cockerneys of bygone eras!

Such a move is bound to create lots of very mixed feelings and the odd sensation, more so than previous moves, that things are being done 'for the last time' in this particular context.

For example, as an Anglican Clergyperson in England I am legally bound to perform the weddings, funerals and baptisms (colloquially known as 'hatch, match and dispatch') of anyone who lives within the borders of our parishes - though there are some conditions on these things, it is pretty much an expectation that the local 'Parish Church' will perform these functions for all who request them.  Which I love.  I sometimes have problems fitting in all of these 'Occasional Offices' along with all the other duties I have to perform, but they are a HUGE privilege and a point of Pastoral contact that allows me to meet people at the highest and lowest points of their lives and share, unconditionally, the joy and compassion of Christ!  Though human experience is the same all over the world, the unique position of the Church of England in this sense of Parish Ministry is not something replicated elsewhere.

Such differences are the things which are making me think at this moment!  I don't  feel sad that I am leaving, though I am sad at those I am leaving.  I know that this is a place I could come back to with people who (hopefully) I will see again. I have a strong sense of rootedness around here - this is the area I was born and grew up in, and the homecoming was a powerful one, and one I thought was likely to be permanent.

I remembered this afternoon the overwhelming feelings of going to Stockland Church, a village I have a long connection with, as their Vicar for the first time.  I felt amazed (and still do) that God had called me to come back to this place with such a particular role and that I was meeting with school and family friends from twenty years before in such a new way!

There will be much that is different in our new life - but the process of taking stock and moving on is in itself quite a helpful one, or at least I am finding it so.  It would be easy to become maudlin or nostalgic, or to create a phantasy of what things will be like in our new country and new life, but it wouldn't be anything other than a pipe dream.  I am grateful for recent experiences which have pointed me more towards enjoying the moment rather than living in the past or the future!  It doesn't mean I can't dream, or hold to precious memories, but it does mean I am inhabiting this place and this time without a painful sense of either dread or loss...
I am always encouraging people to enjoy the journey as much as the destination, it seems that this time I am listening to my own advice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Another review - Next Generation Leader

I've been enjoying listening to audiobooks as I have travelled around lately, and am fortunate to be a part of ChristianAudio's reveiw panel, so here is my latest review:

Andy Stanley - Next Generation Leader

After spending a fair amount of my Masters reading books on leadership I can honestly say I wish I'd had this one to refer to! A warm, practical and spiritual guide to what makes a good leader tick and a good grounding for all of us called to any form of leadership in business or ministry.

One of the pleasant aspects of this book is how Stanley's advice, rooted firmly in Biblical narrative, is transferable between 'sacred' and 'secular' occupations. It's makes clear yet unforced connections between our own integrity as Christians and our ability to function as effective leaders. Many books of this type seem to try and shoehorn Biblical examples into contemporary living, whereas Andy Stanley uses the stories and characters of Scripture to both ground and exemplify the gifts and requirements of Leadership.

The narration is clear, easy to listen to, but also keeps one's attention. It made very good in-car listening, with lots of parts grabbing my attention.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this free as part of Christiaudio's Review opportunities, but this did not in anyway influence my opinion of this product.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pentecost Thought For the Week - audio

Here's my bit for the paper, and for the first time ever... it is in advance!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A Sermon for Pentecost!

Woohoo - it's celebrate Church day!

Here are my thoughts and words from this morning, at least the script - there was a fair amount of departure from said script!

Year C Pentecost (2013) RCL Princpal

Celebrating Church

Today is a celebration – a day to celebrate Church!  Not a phrase we use very much – hooray let’s celebrate Church is not the usual attitude I have experienced in my years of ministry.  And for those of us in the business of leading within the Church our minds are more often than not on ‘how’ we are doing Church in any given week and how the component parts are going to fit together when we get there!

It’s not often, I suspect, that any of us really think about what it means to be Church and why we ‘do’ Church.  We just get on with it – sometimes struggling, sometimes anxious about what is going to happen.
So to hear the stories of Scripture – the amazing start of the Church at Pentecost, or Jesus talking in terms of doing things greater than him through his Spirit – seems a bit distanced, a bit abstract… not really the kind of Church that we are used to.

But WHY NOT? [More]

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Thought For The Week - on Clutter and distractions!

The title says it all :-)

Thursday, May 09, 2013

A Review of Sinner's Creed audio Download

This is a surprisingly honest, thoughtful, reflective account of the Creed frontman's experience.

From the vivid opening statement of a 'fall from grace' (and from the balcony of a hotel) through the rollercoaster of Scott Stapps life this is an honest, intelligent reflection on the story of a creative, thoughtful, troubled soul.

A more cynical listener might dismiss this as Stapps trying to explain his reasons why all of the criticisms levelled at him are unjustified. If one listens carefully, though, there is an almost brutal honesty about his own failings, the pain he has felt and darkness that has often been overwhelming in his life.

The big surprise is how articulate Stapps is about his own faith and life - obviously he's a creative singer and writer, but the way he is able to talk openly about an abusive father, substance addiction, his own 'hero complex' and rejection of narrow Church experience is a revelation.

This six and a half hour opus is well narrated with plenty of expression, the content compelling and the style easy to listen to. Recommended listening!

I had a free download copy from Christianaudio, but didn't have to be positive, this review is all my own opinion!

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

It's all about the blogging baby...

Well, it does seem that today I have overdone things...  Whilst I have the impetus I am making the most of it... So here is a thought for the week

We Have Been Away For A Little While

File:ST-TNG The Neutral Zone.jpg

.... but now we are back

A little bit of Trek humour there, with words from the Romulans in Star Trek The Next Generation.... Though we might question the merits of bringing the Romulans back anyway... but I digress...

Yes yes yes, it has been a while, amazing how time flies.  The irony being that this Lent, during which I didn't managed to blog once, I set out to have a slower, more reflective approach to this season of penitence and praye. It turned out that it was my busiest most frenetic Lenten season ever so all of my hopes of thoughtful blog posts disappeared, as have the weeks!  Now we are nearly at the end of the Easter Season and once again the time which seemed to abundant weeks ago has slipped by.

So much for all my 'mindfulness' practise, my 'slowing' and indeed my 'praying'.  Not that I haven't been praying, but not in the centred, reflective way I was expecting to.  Which leads me again to question both the wisdom of my own model of working at this time, and whether I am trying to live up to unrealistic expectations in my own ministry, as so many Lay and Ordained Ministers end up doing.

Of course I am in a more reflective/nostalgic/thoughtful/slightly panicky mode anyway with our impending move!  That also means we are clearing out ready to ship off - some stuff being sold on eBay, some on Amazon Marketplace, some via Garage/Car boot/Yard sales.

Alongside all these things comes concern about housing (not yet found anywhere for our July 1st move!) and sorting, and making sure finances are all in place, and wondering about what we should do with our lovely French house that seemed like such a good idea a year ago!

So if I seem distracted, I apologise.  I might go for a flurry of blogging activity as I seek to get things straight (at least inside my head) in the coming weeks/days/hours... including a whole lot of 'Thought for the week' recordings I have been meaning to record and post, but for now this is a quick hello, and a watch this space.  Hopefully you wont' have to watch for too long!

Too good not to post

It has (again) been awhile, I could have spent hours writing up the experiences of the past few weeks but have been processing them rather than proclaiming them.  Maybe I'll come back soon, but for now, this moving piece of poetry is too good to miss.  It was taken from The Blog of Kevin and comes from the remarkable Saying Goodbye Charity that is there for those who dealing with the loss of a baby.  There is lots in this short video that deals with the theme of loss for any of us, and it is beautifully put!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Thought... Proud of my children....

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sermon Catch up...

Not posted at' Deep Stuff' for a bit, so here's the beginning of the sermon from Sunday just gone.... with a link to the whole thing at the end...

Lent 2 (2013) Year C RCL Principal
Honesty and Trust

If someone came to the Rectory telling me that they hear the voice of God, I must admit that I would think the worst.  Just as if someone approached you telling you that they had conversations with the almighty then we might feel a little disturbed.   This is not the kind of person we want to sit next to on the bus….

BUT  Imagine what it would be like if we could talk to God freely and hear his voice!  If we shared such an intimate relationship with God that we were able to sit and chat and be chatted to in return. [More]

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Back In The Day...

We have started the Big Sort Out - which is how I am describing (with intentional capitalization to make it clear this is an 'event') the preparations for our move to our new life in Canada and our new Spiritual Home of St John the Divine in Victoria, BC.

Of course this could just be an excuse to get rid of lots of the crud we have been gathering for decades and replacing it with new crud.  This is something we, as a family, seem to excel at!  But this isn't a post about de-cluttering, emotionally, spiritually or physically - that's something that a quick google will reveal is talked about to the point of cliche...

There is one good quote about Clutter though, which I will share with you.

That'll do.

No, the thoughts that inspired this blog post, if inspired isn't too big, pretentious or overstated a term, were all the more mundane.  I realised that as I started sorting (well, we have four months) I have lots and lots of cassette tapes...

I wonder how many of us still use cassettes.  Of course when I was in my teens they were the best way for us hip young things to get our music from place to place, and we loved making copies of songs to present to that special person, or to a best friend, to share music that meant something.  I loved looking for cheap cassettes in the stores around Notting Hill and I have pretty much kept all of my cassette tapes.  In fact I am now trying to sell/give away/clear out many of them.  Though I am dumping the ones I recorded myself, compilations, copies of vinyl LPs I own etc etc I am sorting the rest out.  And here is how some of them look (my gallery)

You can click on any of these if you want to see my sometime ropey, sometimes inspired musical tastes over the years between 1981 and the mid 90s, which is probably when I had pretty much stuck with Cds, and being the techno-bunny I am most of the stuff I listen to is now MP3/iTunes stuff, or Spotify, or even (recently) various musical podcasts and Cross Rhythms radio.  The cassettes are all available, by the way - just email me :-)

But seeing all these cassettes (and many more) brought back vivid memories of where they came from, how it felt to get hold of them and listen to them, the excitement of hearing music for the first time and of working out what I liked or not.  I chose the title because of all the feelings that these cassettes have brought up and the reflections they have caused - the phrase 'back in the day' is a recent addition to common English, I believe - I think we used tend to say 'in the old days' - but that sounds a bit too historical, so I have decided on a title that suggests more personal reflection!

These cassettes cause me to remember the feeling of discovery - there were few outlets for learning about music in the UK in the 1980s, the magazines (which you couldn't listen to), the radio (which was quite circumscribed), the occasional record shop that would let you take a quick listen if it hoped you would buy something  (not the case in the little Market town I grew up in) - we also had 'Top of the Pops' - a weekly TV show with music from the charts, and women who danced wearing jumpsuits or leotards called 'Hot Gossip'.... But on the whole music was shared around friends, and we relied on each other to get to know different stuff!

I was quite proud  of the fact that I had discovered 'Christian Music' - the UK didn't have the big Church networks, Cable TV and music production facilities of the States, so there were few Christian Artists and few outlets for their material here.  I found a bookstore in the nearest City to my town and I would save up to buy a Cassette of Petra, or Amy Grant, or whatever was in favour at the store that week.

The idea that there was, somewhere, a culture of music and events, and mega churches, and 'Christian Celebrities' and TV shows and all that jazz was exciting and encouraging for our group of friends, who felt like (and probably were) 'Yokels in The Sticks' and whose experience of Church was small, sometimes even small minded, and insular.  It was exciting to see that there were people elsewhere in the world who were creative and dynamic and musical and talented and Christian!  Though I would steer away from many of the commercial aspects of the 'Christian Culture' now, and would never knowingly watch a Christian TV channel I still appreciate the broader perspective that these things, or even the idea of these things, gave me.

And so now I am packing up many of these cassettes and selling them off or giving them away.  I have much to be grateful for about the journey that these were a part of, and lots more I could say - and don't get me started on my heavy metal phase.... will see if I can get that photo uploaded sometime :-)