Desert travel provides time to reflect. Many will know that I’ve reflected a lot over the last couple of years on my experiences of church as I’ve attempted to re-paint the predominant image and experience of church in my local context. I tried to paint in fresh colours a picture of church because of my interaction with Scripture and culture. I tried to ensure that my painting included a view from the edges; the perspective of the dechurched and the unchurched. I guess I was also hoping to influence change in a way that would mean that church became a context which resourced and supported my Jesus-following life. I failed. I failed in the attempt to paint a picture and help facilitate change, and I realised I couldn’t expect this group of people to be what they weren’t. The story line from the movie Chicken Run, narrated by Frost & Hirsch in their wonderful book, The Shaping of Things to Come well captures much of my experience. It’s been a hard year for me, this “church stream” (sense of wanting more, sense of failure, grief, loneliness, experience of hurtful criticism, misunderstanding and lack of genuine support, wrestling with self-pity etc.) converging with other significant streams to form a torrent that has swept so much away for me.
England have just played two games of test match rugby here in New Zealand. I couldn't resist the following (double click on the image to enlarge it). They just played Australia in Brisbane on Saturday night where they got thumped 51-15....oooops!
I just wanted to highlight a film that is to be screened at the International Film Festival in July (Auckland and Wellington). The film is directed by Briar March and is about the wonderful New Zealand artist Allie Eagle. If you are interested in themes of faith, film and art then this film will be of interest to you and I’d encourage you to see it. Briar and Allie are also working with Chrysalis Seed Trust in Christchurch to arrange special screenings in both Christchurch and Dunedin. Dates to be confirmed. Sadly, it’s not going to be in Hamilton, the closest big city to me.
Academy Sunday 11July at 1.00 pm
Academy Monday 12 July at 6.00 pm
Academy Thursday 15 July at 10.15 am
City Gallery Tuesday 27 July at 12.15 pm
City Gallery Tuesday 27 July at 1.30 pm
I was listening yesterday to a recorded lecture by Miroslav Volf – Kingdom and Calling - You will find it here. Volf talks about calling, love of God, generosity, and reconciliation. I found it so useful. It is downloadable, as are wonderful expositions by Vinoth Ramachandra, Marva Dawn, and Dallas Willard.
This is a section from Volf's lecture - a piece he read from Soren Kierkegaard – from his book, Works of Love. It resonated as I reflect on my life, the love I share, the ease with which I fall into the trap of loving in order to be loved in return...
“…Now no one who in love forgets himself forgets his suffering in order to think of someone else’s suffering, no one who forgets all his misery in order to think of someone else’s misery, no one who forgets what he himself loses in order lovingly to bear in mind someone else loss forgets his advantage in order lovingly to think on someone else loss, truly, no such person is ever forgotten. There is one who is thinking about him, God in heaven, or love is thinking about him.
God is love and when a person out of love forgets himself how then would God forget him, no, while the one who loves forgets himself and thinks of the other person, God is thinking of the one who loves. The self lover is busy, he shouts and makes a big noise and stands out on his rights in order to make sure he is not forgotten, and yet he is forgotten. But the one who loves, who forgets himself is recollected by love. There is one who is thinking of him and that is why the one who loves receives what he gives…”
It needs to be read out loud a few times. I found it a bit dense until I started to sink into it...
I loved the randomness of this idea from Steve Taylor - book crossing - the wind of the Spirit blowing from who knows where and to who knows where...God at work...thin spaces where God touches our lives in wonderful, suprising ways.
"...I'd like to add this to my thinking on spiritual growth trails. I'd like to add in a random growth trail - where you sign up and get random CD's, poems, books placed across your path - and together we would search, with a smile, for the God-patterns in this sheer randomness..."
Maggi Dawn, a friend, an Anglican Priest and Chaplain @ Robinson @ Cambridge University picks up on Jonny’s post and gifts us her perspective (that’s how diversely funded conversations can happen) in a post titled Mission shaped (but still thoroughly myopic) church. Thanks as always Maggi.
My unqualified sense is that Maggi’s commentary touches us at a number of points here in New Zealand. While Maggi’s focus is understandably on the importance of chaplains in “schools, colleges and universities,” the points she makes are also relevant to people like me who work in the so-called (wrongly in my view) ‘secular’ workplace where there is little meaningful or useful support for people who are potential (even if not in intentional practice) missionaries in their places of work. They too should be invited to “EVERY church planting and mission event.” More events need to facilitated, dreams nourished, and creativity in partnership with God encouraged.
Significantly more creativity, time, energy and resource of all types goes into the insitution of church, gathered church on Sunday, and building of church community. All needful in their own rights, but my concern continues to be that these ‘inward looking’ focii take priority over outward facing ministry and mission, and the support of that ministry and missional activity. The focus remains on the “core” or “centre” rather than the “edges.” Again, this can’t be an either/or focus. Both are necessary. For me it’s more a question of “weighting” and priority within the context / place in history that we find ourselves.
The two prior paragraphs weren’t intended to be a one-sided rant. Much wonderful outward facing ministry and missional activity is happening. Dinner with a Bishop recently reminded me of that. I was excited that outward facing gospel encounters within culture and society are happening…they just need to happen much more, and what is happening (missionally) needs to be much more affirmed, encouraged, supported, and resourced, especially by those mainline denominations with a rich historical legacy
Another story of how we connect, how we resource and nourish our own dreams and activity, and also those of friends, pioneers, explorers, activists, prayers, and wayfarers around us – those we are in networks with. Thanks Jonny, be encouraged, you taking the time to ‘capture’ and post content and perspective from the conference has in quiet and invisible ways (at this stage) nourished the seeds of change in a location far removed from your own. Jonny, you’ve gifted encouragement, affirmation and a broadening of our sense of God @ work. Like you, I hope that the transcript of Rowan’s address is made available on the Internet in full.
A few weeks ago, I shared a lite-dinner and conversation with one of our Anglican Bishops here in Aotearoa New Zealand…dreams and hopes were shared, I was enriched by the sense of God at work, and moved by a Bishop @ work for the sake of the Kingdom of God, mission, and ministry. When I read Jonny’s post yesterday, I thought of this Bishop and wanted in a simple, easy way to affirm and encourage him…so yesterday e-mailed him a note:
"...The prophetic tradition always voiced an alternative view, a dissenting perspective, rooted in Torah, and a challenge to the compromises of the state and the docility of a public who wanted security and a burgeoning economy and was willing to put up with anything to achieve that..."
"Moore's film may not be a true Jeremiah sermon, but it may be as close as we get in these times..."