Monday, October 31, 2005

More Reflections while sitting in LAX

One of the comments that was made at one of the sessions at Iona was from a Church of Scotland minister. She had worked as a University chaplain for a while. In the session she talked about how she had brought students up to Iona and the profound affect that experience had on them. Her comment was that they now lived out that experience in their lives as Doctors and Lawyers and business leaders etc… It reinforced some of my previous reflections on the importance of what we do among young people, and also made me realise that we have nothing like Iona. I am hoping to bring some young adults to Israel and Taize in 2007, and I would hope that that would have a similar affect. The trouble is that it is so expensive and such a long distance. But it does confirm this growing conviction that has stirred in me over this last two month.

On the day before Bonnie arrived, I spent the day with Peter Ball, my equivalent for the Church of England. Our conversation ranged over many things. Two interesting issues was the youth council they have created which meets residentially three (or two) times a year, and spends a big chunk of its time addressing the issues being discussed by the wider church. This does two things. First it allows for a “youth or young adult” response to these issues to be heard by the decision makers. In fact as I understand it several of the youth council attend their General Synod, which meets two (at least) times a year). The other is that at least this group is aware of what is happening, and develop the skills to engage in the wider discussions. As this group takes more responsibility for their life as a committee the skill level in this group grows enormously. Bonnie and I saw this with the group of young people we worked with in Wellington so many years ago. All that goes back to my initial comment about what we offer the young people we do work with. A different way of seeing the world and what their lives are about, and the skills to live it.

The other issue Peter and I talked about is the “Mission Shaped Church” initiative. I do need to say that Peter was not negative about this at all, but he did observe that much of what is being said by the mission shaped church people has been said by those working in youth ministry for a large number of years. But because it is only youth workers saying it, it has not has been taken very seriously. The other observation is that the group who have created the document and term are very keeping control of the whole initiative really although it does release people to be much more creative and look for discontinuous change initiatives. The role of youth ministry within this is still very limited. That makes me worry that again we are just trying to do new things with the age groups that are already part of our aging churches, and not addressing the fact that we are aging.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Pilgrimage in Iona

Pilgrimage in Iona
(20 October 2005 after walking the wild peat bog on Iona)

I passed some tourists on my way here
hunched down against the weather
scurrying along to return to warmth and comfort
following the clearly marked road
hoods held low against
blocking the wind and rain
blocking the bog and rock
hands laden with bags of goodies
tokens of their time here.

I passed the shops and centres
leaving behind the known and comfortable
found my gate immersed in mud and dung
and began my pilgrimage.
I face the wind with empty hands
and eyes open
heading to a known site
with vague notions of a route
ready to be lost, buffeted,
baptised in the windswept bog.

Some would say this is an empty hard land
wet and difficult
to be travelled with care occasionally
only when the need was large enough.
As I wander determinedly into the wild
I know this place as thin space,
God’s eternity
leaking through as the brown wet leaks into my boots
sticking to me as the peat bog crawls up my trousers
chiselling me as the wind whips through and round me.
Stark beauty lurks as water lies just beneath each step
moss, heather, grass interwoven in complex patterns
defying dismissal or belittling
tufts offering safe passage through glistening paths.
Lichened rock crags rising out
so deeply sunk
etched deep with life and nature’s grinding forces
static ancient stone
quiet sentinels to the holy and profane
silent keepers of the story here.

Borrowed boots keep me upright.
I have now way but through
trusting
hoping
I will not disappear.
I cannot stay lillie white and untouched here.
I am a pilgrim
slowly becoming part of this land
as this land slowly covers me.
I am stripped bare of all my pretences
distractions are laid aside
replaced with necessity and care.
I cannot hide in this low divinity
I can only let go
be washed in this rising rain
pulled out into this space
drawn in to the divine flicker within.
I am
And no more.

Thin Spaces – Pilgrimmage on Iona

Today, Tuesday, we pilgrimmaged over the island of Iona. We visited “thin spaces”, spaces where the space between the here and now and the eternal is very thin. We visited the site where Columba landed with his twelve monks. We walked across the heather laden hills, with thick wet peat bog beneath our boots. Some was in silence. Some was busy chatting with the neighbour, the scenery lost amidst the talk. And with each step came the realisation the 1500 years ago the Irishman Colum Cille walked this land, prayed in these spaces, began his redemption in this place.
The thinnest place was the hermit’s cell, out on it’s own amongst the crags and bog. A place where people have come to pray, to be, to be slowly sanded by the wind and the divine.
I have realised as I have thought about thin spaces that the Highlands were also thin spaces for me. And my sadness is that I did not get to stay or to walk in them, but just drove through and around them. Experienced from a car is not the same as feeling the wind and being scrapped. Tomorrow I plan to explore some more thin spaces.

Reflections on my first full day at Iona

Tonight Richard the Warden of Iona, and Malcolm, one of the community members spoke to us about the Iona Community. I found the session really interesting, partly because like the Third Order, Society of Saint Francis, they are a dispersed religious community, and partly because they commented briefly about Corrymeela, which I have been to about 3 weeks ago.
Iona is a community of people that live by a common rule of life that has four basic headings: I will have to blog those later. One of the works of Iona is the Abbey, on Iona Island, which is run by staff and volunteers for the Iona Community. Currently only one community member is present at the Abbey.
Some comments that resonated;
The work of Iona Community is whatever our members are doing. Some are doctors, some ministers, some song writers and liturgy writers, some youth workers etc… While none would say they do these things because they are members of Iona, their work becomes the work of Iona. So too for us Franciscans. I think sometimes we, or at least I, wonder what it is that we do as an order. We do a lot. Each members work is the work of the Order, and when added together, that amounts to a lot. And I think being a member of the Order colours (or at least I would hope it colours) how we approach our everyday work. I am increasingly aware of how much it influences my approach to my ministry, as indeed it influences my approach to life. Maybe not as much as I would want, but the sand paper is at work.
The Iona Community is organised into family groups, i.e. small groups where Community members meet on a regular basis. Part of these meetings is to be accountable to each other for how they live the rule, including how they spend their money, and how they spend their time. We as Third Order are also accountable through our reporting form. But it has become a very individual thing. I have seen it as individual. But I am challenged by this aspect of being accountable to the wider community. I am beginning to see that this is actually an important part of being community. But I wonder how we could do that as Franciscans.
I also like how ministries like the Abbey are seen as part of the work of the Community, like the Corrymeela Centre at Ballycastle is seen as part of the work of the Corrymeela Community. But it is only part of the work. And they employ others to do the work. I wonder what kind of model that offers us as an Order? In part that is what Franciscan International in Geneva and New York offers us. But how can we build on this.
Finally, the comments about leadership were interesting. The Community is very non hierarchical. As it should be with TSSF. What ever role I play I need to remember that, and not get too hierarchical, but facilitative. I look forward to learning and experiencing more of what this thin space offers us.

Travelling in the Highlands and Glasgow.

After leaving Brechin, we journeyed to Creif. We went there to do the Famous Grouse whiskey tour. We missed this by about 15 minutes, so decided to stay in Crief and do domestic things like watching. Thursday morning we went back to the famous Grouse, where we learnt about whiskey production and Bonnie had her first (and probably last) glass of whiskey. It was a great tour. Then we journeyed on to Killen, in an area called Breadlabaine. My interest in this is that my mother’s father’s family sailed out to New Zealand from Novia Scotia (with a wee free Pressy group) on a ship called the Breadalbaine. We went to a museum, where we learnt about the clans, and the Campbells and McGregors in particular.
This area had been actively involved with the two pretenders. I learnt that when Bonnie Prince Charlie announced he was returning and called on the clans to support him, the clan leaders tired to dissuade him. But his charisma carried the day. At he end he returned to France to his comfortable and well off life style. The clans men were slaughtered on the battle field, the clans were stripped of their legal status and power, the clan chiefs were stripped of their status and their land. The wearing of kilts, the speaking of Gaelic and the use of the clan names made illegal. All in all, Bonnie Prince Charlie was a bit of a self indulgent prig really. Luckily none of the Stuarts made another play for the throne. Between James II and Bonnie Prince Charlie the Celtic people of Ireland and Scotland got absolutely hammered, loosing so much. It seems to be a bit of a theme. Leaders pompously leading people who then pay the price for the leaders botch ups. There is a significant lesson here for those of us in leadership. One need only look at Iraq to see this theme repeating itself. George and Tony have lost little in all this. Thousands and thousands of others have lost their lives.
The Centre also introduces people to St. Fillian, the Celtic evangelist who came to this area bringing the gospel. It includes an interesting film of Fillian in which he speaks about his hands, the hands of a healer, through which God brought healing. As I listened to it I thought of the U2 song on “How to dismantle an atomic bomb” “Take these hands.” An invitation there to allow God to take our hands, or whatever, to bring healing to our world.

Killen has a lovely rapids running through the middle of the town. Very pretty. We then travelled on down to Loch Lomond, one of the biggest lochs in Scotland, had small walk at a lovely waterfall, and then travelled on down to Glasgow, which was quite close. We again forgot the lesson of going straight to the Tourist Info Office, and tried booking our own accommodation. We ended up lost on the one way system, and spending heaps on the mobile phone to the tourist info office accommodation booking office. We ended up at a really nice old hotel in the city centre build over the Central Railway Station.

On the Friday, after offloading our car, and deciding that Hertz was really out to rip you off, we spent the day touring Glasgow. We went to the Cathedral, one of the few to survive John Knox’s anti Catholic reformation which destroyed so much. State sponsored vandalism! We couldn’t go it though, there was a wedding on. But we did go to St. Mungo Religious Life Centre. This explores the coming of St, Mungo (Kentigern) to the Glasgow area and his bringing Christianity. It also introduces people to the six main religions, and also explores the role of religion through the life span. It is a really interesting display that seeks to bring understanding and build bridges between the various religious groups in Glasgow.

As an aside, what I have been interested in is how little there is about the Covenanters. These were people that resisted the imposition of English rule on their church and society. The covenanted (I think) to uphold the reformed traditions of Knox, resorting to violence, and being willing to die for their faith. And die they did, Over 100,000 of them over a number of years. It appals me to see how much inhumanity is justified in the name of the God of Peace and love. In the face of this I remember the Taize chant
“The kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Come Lord and open in us the gates to your kingdom.”

Brechin – home?

One of the only places I was certain I wanted to visit was Brechin, a small town in Pict country, near Aberdeen and Perth. (I guess it is Perthshire) The first official recorded entry for a Hebenton was here in 1680’s. My great grandfather was born here, and moved from here to go to Ceylon to work as a coffee planter in the late 1850’s. He sent his 5 eldest children (of 12) back here to live with his sister and go to school etc….
I had a great two hours hunting through the 1861 and then 1851 census for my family’s entry. I found my great great grand father and his daughter for 1861 really quickly. This was after my great grand father had left, and my great great grand mother had died. He and Susan (his daughter) had moved into his brother’s house at 109 High Street. We of course went to see this and photograph it. I found nearly every other Hebenton in 1851, but not my family.
Bonnie and I then wandered about, discovering that Brechin has an old tradition that everything closes at 1pm on a Wednesday. I had had a cunning plan to buy my family wee gifts from Brechin, but as it was Wednesday this old tradition made that nearly impossible. Still we enjoyed soaking up the atmosphere. There are no Hebentons living in Brechin now. We also visited the Pearse Street where my great grandfather’s sister (Susan) and her husband lived. They had no children, but the five eldest in my grandfathers family lived there when they returned to Brechin.
We also discovered that Brechin is in the area where St. Ninian came to evangelise the Picts. So although Brechin itself is not his, certainly he went there, and there was a church and monastery very early on.

A few days later (Friday) Bonnie and I went to visit some relatives in Glasgow, Ewen and George Hebenton and their mum. Ewen and George have done a vast amount of research into the Hebenton family tree, and freely share this with any who want it. A highlight every year is getting their update and Christmas letter. It was so strange talking to a Hebenton on the phone who I didn’t know. And so good to meet them. Their part of the family come from a small village called Tannadice, which is a few km from Brechin. We drove through there as well to see where they all came from.
I look forward to revisiting them in time.

Days of Battles:

Monday we left Edinburgh, through the new city, and on to Falkirk. One of the things happening in Britain is that the canals are being reborn, and are increasingly being used by holiday makers and others. The Falkirk Wheel is a recent addition to the Scottish canals to quickly move boats up and down 20 – 30 meters, instead of having to slowly go through a series of locks which would take at least on hour, probably more. Quite a site and well worth a visit. I discovered later that Falkirk was the site of William Wallace’s great defeat, and the beginning of his end.
You can go for narrow boat rides up the wheel and along the canal before returning, but we chose to go to Bannockburn, the site of Robert Bruce’s great victory over the English.
I found this a fascinating place. Partly I love history, much more so than Bonnie. But I enjoyed learning some of the story around Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce, and William Wallace of Braveheart fame. We kind of did it back to front really, finishing with King Robert.
Shortish story.
All was well until Alexander III of Scotland died suddenly without an heir. Robert Bruce (grandfather of the later King) and John Balliol (?) both had claims to the throne. To avoid bloodshed the Scottish nobles asked Edward II of England to adjudicate. Never being one to miss a chance he declared himself overlord, and name John king, as come say he knew he could not muster an effective opposition. All was well until Edwards demands grew too great and King John declared independence. He was defeated in about 1295, and taken to London as a prisoner, as were the Scottish honours (crown etc…) and the Stone of Scone, a mythical thing that Scottish kings sat on. It was in Westminster Abbey under the coronation chair (which was specially built for it) until it was returned in 1996 to Edinburgh.
Edward slaughtered every man woman and child in Berwick on the border, and in that site forced the Scottish nobles to sign an oath of allegiance to Edward. William Wallace’s father had been killed a little earlier, and William engaged in a guerrilla campaign. In the end the local English “Sheriff” executed his wife in retaliation for murders committed by William. He responded by leading his “gang of insurgents (or freedom fighters) into the sheriff’s castle, murdering them all and throwing their bodies out of the castle. He then with another non noble, Andrew Moray from the North, engaged in guerrilla war fare until hearing that Edward had sent a large army north. They met them at Stirling, near Bannockburn, and using the narrow bridge and road, and the river and bog defeated English army. He then went south raiding English towns and villages, as far as York to provide supplies for the Scottish people. He had nine months grace before Edward returned. The nobles and the cavalry deserted William and his foot soldiers, who were cut down by the longbow men. All this had happened by 1297. William was not captured until 1305, when he was betrayed and taken to London where he was hung, drawn (castrated and have entrails ripped out and burnt while still alive), and then beheaded. He was then cut up and bits sent around to discourage other uprising. Of course all Edward managed to do was create a martyr. The USA and Britain will need to be careful what they do in Iraq.
In 1306 Robert the Bruce met the other noble with claims to the throne, murdered him, and was crowned king. Edward responded by sending another army north, defeating Robert, executing three of his brothers, capturing and imprisoning his sister and wife and children, and executing or imprisoning any other supporters he could find. Robert escaped to the Western isles where he sulked. There he watched a spider attempt 9 times to create a web. Hew returned to Scotland, gathered a small force, and engaged in a guerrilla war against eh English, avoiding any pitched battles. Edward did again ride north, but died on the way, and his son was not so keen on war, and left it alone for a while. Slowly the castled fell, and were dismantled. Slowly Scotland was freed by this army tat used hit and run tactics, both in Scotland and the north of England, using a scorched earth policy against the English. Because he would not fight a real ballet, he was very hard to defeat. 1307, and the guerrilla was hard to beat. When he was forced into a battle, be was experienced at leading armies, his 500 light cavalry were well trained and experienced, and his pikemen were very well trained and used to winning. Although outnumbered three to one, and the opposition having much better armour and weapons, Robert knew the land, and used it to hem the English in, nullify the archers, and in the end slaughter the English army. June 254 and 25 1314 (I think)
While In London I passed the statue honouring Lord Haig Commander in chief of the British forces in WW1. He did win, but the contrast with Robert is huge. Robert had a small army and looked after his men. Haig wasted men. Hundreds of thousands did unnecessary death because of either his incompetence or his general’s incompetence. And today, does America or Britain remember the lesson of Robert the Bruce, that a small guerrilla army in almost impossible to defeat, especially one that will not engage in traditional battles, and which capitalises on the opponents position as unwelcome invaders. Robert was not the nicest person. He assassinated his opponent, and then waged a campaign of murder to silence the aggrieved families and supporters. He would not give Wallace the support he needed, because he was not of noble birth. But he is revered because the hated English were defeated and cast out. What of this applies to Iraq, or any other war being fought today?

After Bannockburn we went to Stirling, and got a flat tyre which took over an hour to sort out, probably longer. We were going to go to St. Andrews, but ran out of time, so stayed at Stirling. On Tuesday we then went to the Wallace Monument, celebrated who he was and what hi martyrdom offered Scotland. Then off to St. Andrews, home of golf, and where St. Rule brought the relics of St. Andrew. Then we headed on to Brechin, where the Hebentons come from.

Edinburgh

As luck or God would have it, we ended up in a B&B about 15 mins walk into the Royal Mile. The royal mile is the street that runs from Edinburgh Castle up on top of its crag, down to Holyrood palace on the flats. It is the oldest part of Edinburgh. On the Saturday night we walked in to town, finding a nice café that did dinner, desert and coffee £7. Then a quiet beer in the oldest pub in Edinburgh, or so the sign said.
Edinburgh is where J.K. Rowling lived when she wrote Harry Potter. As you walk around and learn something of the history you quickly see how Harry Potter came to be. Scotland burnt over 3,000 woman as witches in the witch burning years, and most places have some kind of witches tour happening. Edinburgh burnt more than their fair share. J.K. sat in the Elephant House café while she wrote Harry Potter 1, a really nice café that overlooks the Greyfriars cemetery (of Greyfriars Bobby fame – the dog that wouldn’t leave his master, and stayed at his masters grave until he too died) where 250,000 people are buried in quite a small space, and also looks up to Edinburgh Castle perched on a crag, one of the more dramatic views of the castle really. And all around are these dark and forbidding Gothic and Victorian buildings, and tour groups led by Dracula’s talking about witches and wizards, and even a system of underground passages. This is the world of Harry Potter. As an aside, we can also recommend the shortbread at the Elephant House, yes we went there.
In our day in this wonderful place we toured the castle, as you do, walked the Royal Mile, ate at the Elephant House, twice, and generally wandered around, finishing with a drive up around the coast. It is a lovely lovely city.
The next day, on our way out, we drove around the new city, built in the 1700’s in the Georgian style, which is very pretty as well. Then off to explore the sites of battles and victories, and great defeats, all of which forged Scottish identity today.

The Drive North, Hexham and Hadrian’s Wall.

Friday morning we got into our wee car and headed north, hoping to get to Edinburgh. Such are dreams. We eventually got to Hexham, just below Hadrian’s wall. What a nice spot. We found a nice B and B, explored the town and found a nice pub for dinner. The next day we went to the Abbey and discovered it was Wilfred’s see. St. Wilfred introduced the Benedictine rule to his monastery in Hexham, and he championed the Roman cause at the Synod of Whitby which sought to unify the British Church under one ecclesiastical system. Wilfred won the day, and the British Celtic Church slowly faded into history. He is not my favourite saint. Some history tells how he got caught up in his own importance at the end, probably why he was so keen on the more hierarchical and pontificating (no pun intended) Roman system. It was an interesting yet disturbing experience.
The we drove up to Hadrian’s wall at Once Brewed (just down the road from Twice Brewed.) Legend has it that Once Brewed was a youth hostel run by a very strict puritan woman who did not allow alcohol, and tea and coffee was to be brewed only once!!! Twice Brewed however served very weak beer, which visitors asked to be brewed again.
The wall itself was great. To see something that would have been so strong and majestic, and still there 2000 years later. How much of what we build will be there in 2000 years? Then after a look around (although there was so much more we could have seen – a theme all the way through) we headed on up over the border and on to Edinburgh. Our first lesson here is that you do get the Tourist Information to book you accommodation. That way you don’t spend time ringing places to find their booked out, or time driving around finding places with a vacancy. We were lucky and found a B and B in our price range.

England with Bonnie:

It has been a while since I last blogged. Largely I blame my wife.
Bonnie arrived on Wednesday 5th October, and it has been full on ever since, with no time for sitting down at this wee beasty writing blogs. So what have we been up to? This is what I am willing to share. I might reflect on some of this is a separate blog.
Bonnie’s arrival was a nightmare. I was going to be there early, so I went to the bus stop for the bus from Hemel Hempstead to Heathrow. It was well over half an hour late. I had been told I could buy a ticket from the driver. I couldn’t, and as it drove off without me, Bonnie texted me to say she was through customs (they had arrived ¾ hour early) and where was I? So much for my relaxed time at the airport, checking my emails, getting a coffee, being there when she arrived. I was not a happy man. But my aunt came to the rescue and drove me down. Thank God for aunts. I still glare at the national express busses whenever I see one.
That out of the way, and wanting to maximise the time we did have, we hired a car at Heathrow (yet another story) and drove to Windsor Castle, and St. George’s Chapel. A friend of long ago, Rev Michael Boag is the Succentor there. A Succentor? He looks after everything that happens inside the chapel (services) and the Precentor (his boss) looks after everything outside. I am not sure what that means, but Michael does organise and lead all the services, preaches at a lot of them, etc…. He got us in for free, then took us to the Castle while he went off and looked after a visiting choir, and then gave us tea, and shoed us around the chapel. It is a really interesting place. It belongs to no diocese, has it’s own bishop (the Dean) who is also the bishop overseeing the armed forces, so he spends most of his time doing that. They have a community that either lives or commutes into the castle that they care for, plus a huge number of services a week. It is a worshipping church community, and a tourist attraction.
Next day Thursday, we trained into London, and did St. Paul’s, walked along the Thames, crossed the Millennium bridge, visited Harrods, went on the London Eye, and then went to “We Will Rock You” the musical written by Queen and Ben Elton. It was great!!!! A Highlight. Sitting there among all these Queen fans singing along, clapping wildly, really getting into it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Travelling the Virgin

Travelling the Virgin
(On the way from Holyhead to Hemel Hempstead on “Virgin Trains”)

Window seat in unknown carriage
opposite the woman in pink
deaf and blind to all around
immersed in her Ipod and book.
I retreat into my laptop
randomly gazing at England
passing by my window.
It’s too bright on the other side
and the blinds are down.
We pass through Ashton.
Through my ear plugs
Ikon praises the dance
that builds community
and makes me whole.
I am drawn into the Celtic spirit
Centred, slowed down
This small God moment.

Long seedy grass blown back
by our relentless journey to Euston:
muddied work site fenced in by barbed wire
berry laden trees hedging over wire barrier
undulating English pasture and neatly ploughed fields
rivers, towns small and large
concrete creations stamped into the earth
narrow boats and caravans parked waiting
the next urban escapee.
Each picture passes by to Ikon’s mellow tunes
surrounded by greens and browns,
and songs of sweet deliverance

Woman and child behind the seat ahead
playfully try to stay calm
to last this journey through together
Young couple immersed in each other
in their love and lust
oblivious to the student essaying in front
who only sees her books and notes
and all they represent of her life.
Love travels the virgin

We pause by four empty coke bottles
nine empty aluminium cans
scattered rubbish
and three rabbits chewing the track side grass
tastiest bits only
Set aside by others on their journey
icons into our present
In this God moment
I breathe in deeply
God in love with each
touching lightly a smile for each.
I travel the Virgin



Jonny Baker in Ireland

Over the last couple of days in Dublin I have had the chance to spend some time with Jonny Baker, world famous emerging church guru, who works for CMS England. He was over to do some work for David Brown, Church of Ireland Youth Officer (Anglican) with ordinands, and then running a training day for youth leaders. WE spent about 2 hours talking over dinner on Thursday night, and then I went to the training day yesterday, followed by a pint or two afterwards (as you do!)
We share a lot of common concerns really. His observation is that much of worship today is situated in two extremes, dead boring dry liturgical tradition, which is inaccessible to so many, and the Hillsong 40 minute worship is singing tradition with the preachy bit which is great to start with but over time for many is just too “thin” and unhelpful. Like me, only he is doing a lot more work on this than I am, he is seeking to find ways to allow the liturgical tradition to reconnect with the emerging post modern culture, and allows people to both be sandpapered over time by that tradition, and allows them to reframe their ordinary experiences to see the incarnate God in those experiences and to hear the call to live their lives in light of that (that wee spiel is from me, not Jonny). I think this is what Simon and I have been talking around, with all the assumptions that have come out in that. To be honest, I just don’t think either of the extremes described above offer us much in the long term. (Sorry Simon) Research done by people like Kevin Ward and Alan Jamieson debunk the whole Pentecostal, charismatic “we are so good at converting and disciplining people” Over 98% of the converts come from a church background, and the back door is huge. We need another way. That is what I am searching for, and what Jonny and lots of others are doing. Working at find other ways.
In our conversations, the concept of being sandpapered came up. I want to hang on to that. I realise that over the years the liturgy has sandpapered me. In part it has been the scripture imbedded in the liturgy. In part it has been the world view and theology that lies behind the words used and how they are arranged. God has been and continues to use it to reveal the person he desires me to be, like a sculptor.

I was disappointed last Sunday night when I went to a Belfast group called Ikon. They meet monthly in a bar, and engage people in the interface between their questions and scripture and the Christian tradition. It is not really a church, but is coming something. Actually, I have no idea what they do cos the owner didn’t turn up and open the place, so it didn’t happen. But I have bought their new CD which is great, ambient stuff. Check it out on Proost. But it was interesting talking to one of the “founders’ about what they are trying to do, and how. They have developed the jam donut theology around leadership, to describe church, leadership being the jam in the middle. They are a gravy ring, with no leadership. But they are wanting to work on developing the links and sense of community amongst their group of regulars, to become more splat like if you like (my image) interesting concept really.
Then yesterday I had the opposite to that conversation. At the training day we had a number of AOG young people and leaders there. I was really intrigued and unnerved by their passionate adherence to the need for defined leaders to tell us what to think and do, and to the need for preaching so that we get good biblical teaching, so that we know what the bible is really saying. What intrigues me about that is that a really important part of the English reformation was that preachers were not to be trusted that much, and that large pieces of scripture were to be read in church so that the people could measure what the preacher was saying against scripture. And now we have this group of people giving up the responsibility because the preacher knows best. Yeah right!! It is interesting how we read scripture (preaching is biblical - that was a new one on me) and so we need to be preached at, rather than read that the apostles and teachers used the best teaching methods of their day, and used those, and so should we. We use scripture to avoid change and make ourselves so inaccessible to the culture of our day that the gospel gets lost in a whole lot so mumbo jumbo.

Ah well, that is enough of a rant. I obviously need coffee.

Reflections on Ministry Among Young People, and Corrymeela

I have had some really interesting conversations and experiences while in Ireland particularly.

One of these was being driven back from Corrymeela to Belfast by Ivan Cross, a youth worker for Corrymeela in Belfast. We spent about two hours driving back down. He works with groups of young people helping them develop some basic life skills that they might begin to move out of a sectarian world view and have more options really.
One of my questions to him was what affect did he think Corrymeela had had over the last 40 years. His response was that that was hard to judge, and that it would be easy to think not much given the entrenched sectarian views on both sides, which seem to be entrenching even further given the results of the last election, where the UDP (Paisleys party) and the Sinn Fein both increased their vote and number of seats in the UK Parliament. However he thought it has played a huge role in making things as hopeful as they are. He noted the number of people who had been associated with Corrymeela who now were in significant leadership roles and who were working hard to bring about a just peace and to change the sectarian world view.
This made me think about our work among young people in New Zealand, and it made me realise what an opportunity, and what a responsibility we have. Sometimes I get the sense that within Tikanga pakeha we feel really guilty that we are not working with at risk youth, or doing great social work among young people. Even I have at times experienced that. But we do still work with good middle class young people, many/some of whom have the potential to play significant roles in our society and in our church. And we have the opportunity and responsibility, like Corrymeela, to form them in such a way that they will exercise those roles, well formed in the gospel, working for a just society where all are cared for. I also believe the Anglican Church with its particular structure and commitment to bicultural development has a particular responsibility in its work among young people. We have the potential to change our country profoundly, where past injustices are dealt with, where future injustices are averted, where the appalling statistics around Maori are seen as a point of great concern to all new Zealanders…. Well anyway, you get the point.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month.

So what has John been up to?

Monday I went down from Portadown to Dublin. I spent a few hours here, doing email, finding food, checking out ferry and train options for sunday, adn workign out how the city works. Then at 6pm, off to Westport. I was met at the train by the Diocesan Youth Worker (very very part time, worked 90 hours in his first year). Steve is a delightful guy, and he and his wife Orla looked after me really really well. Highlights included the rural life museum, and going to Matt Malones for a couple of guiness' and a live Irish jam. What fun.

Wednesday I went on the train to Galway. The weather was aweful. And to make matters worse I failed to note the signs pointing to the Information Centre, and walked the wrong way, only to get caught in some seriously wetting rain. I nearly gave up in disgust, but after finding the Info Centre, and getting a B&B with a lovely Catholic couple in a B&B called "St. Clares" I settled into enjoying the city. In the end I can say Galway is a nice touristy kind of place, with very nice Fish and Chips.

Thursday back to Dublin, where I did all the main relisgious sites, Christ Church Cathedral, Guiness Storehouse, and a touristy bus tour around the place. The thing about these is you get to see the sites, and have no idea how it all fits together. Crazy.

Today I have been to out to Glendalough and the Wicklows. It was grand. Glendalough is where St. Keven set up a monastry. And then we had lunch at Avoca, the site of the Ballykisangel progamme. Cool. The scenary is just beautiful. One of the places that will stand out is "Guiness Lake" a lake owned by the Guiness family. It has a river of bog water, water that is black in and out of it. They have imported sand on one end of the lake to make it look like the head of a point of guiness. They live in this most beautifaul 500 acre spot, which includes two lakes.
The peat bog on the tops of the Wicklows was just amazing, and really really nice too.

Tommorow I am off to a training day with Jonny Baker of CMS UK, and a franciscan meeting. I am staying with a couple, and then on sunday I am off ot Hemel Hempstead and my aunts.
I will do somemore thinking about this part of hte trip and pur that up later. All I want to say now is that umbrellas are evil. Yes evil. Woman, especially short woman put them up at eye level, wander around blocking footpaths with them and just create havoc. They should be banned!!!! Actually everyone with them are a pain!

One other thought or observation. Dubliners when they get on the lumas tram stand in the door area, and then glare at you when you just push on the tram, as I have had to do. Even when people get out they just stand there, and don;t stand int eh empty spaces, and some then moan about beign squashed. What is all the aabout? It just forces me to practice praying for peace. Hard work, let me tell you.