Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Present - Christmas Day

Here is the full set of images that has been used over the last few weeks for the Christmas Present project. As I reflect on the journey we have made there are a couple of observations I would like to make.

Trying to get all of the photos done without pre-arranging them was tough.  We only had to arrange two of the images, I won't say which ones... I'll let you try and work it out! It got me thinking that we sometimes try to organise faith to fit nice neat packages, it's this or that, or it can't be that or this.  Why is faith so difficult to tie down?

There was also the difficulty of trying to find venues to act as homes for the photos.  We manged to get three without much bother, but the fourth venue was a lot harder... it reminded me that sometimes there is still 'no room at the inn' for Jesus. I wonder how much Jesus is allowed into our lives? Are there people and places that his extraordinary story never has access to? 

I wonder which image you find the hardest to engage with?  Which is your favorite?

I hope that this Christmas Present project has challenged you. I pray that these images will endure in your heart over the days and weeks to come, and that through them you will see God at work in some strange and wonderful ways.  

Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 4

This week as we approach Christmas we reflect on the Inn Keeper.  To help us reflect on it I have written a poem. Please feel free to share your thoughts. 

When I gaze on the world
The worries and woes
The wounded souls
Wondering where we went wrong
Walking the street
Where people pass by
Not a nod not a hi
Nor a how do you do?
When I gaze on the world
Are we really so worried
By what folks might say
Or what folks might see
When its ear phones in
And mobile on
as our heads are down.
When I gaze on the world
Were social was usual
Standing and chatting
To stranger and friend
Where gathering was fun
Where we weren’t so suspicious
Of stranger and friend.
Where welcome was normal
When there was time to chat, chew the fat.
When I gaze on a story
With its light and hope
Where the keeper of the inn
Was happy to help and happy to chat
There was nothing left
But something so earthy
That grounded the child
in the dirt of the earth.
When I gaze on the story
Does it ask a question
Something of welcome
Something of wonder
When I gaze on the story
When I gaze on the world
When the future looks bleak
And folks are so weak
Will we welcome the stranger
Will we bow to the poor
Will we stand with weathered
And withered of life
Not for us but for them
Will we lose our mobile
Will we ditch the head phones
Will we raise our head
And walk with a smile
Will hope be found in the way that we walk
In the way that we look
In the way that we stand
Will our faces welcome
So I wonder will Christmas be present?

Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 3

This week we are reflecting on 'The Star' and once again I have created a spoken word track.  Before you listen to it though, you need to know a little about me. 

I left school with no qualifications and had very few prospects but I did get on to the YTS (youth training scheme) program. For those too young to know what that is, it was for school leavers to help them get into the world of work and I remember I got paid £27 a week in the first year and that went up to a massive £35 in the second year! Anyway as a result of this scheme I got into the gardening trade... so some of the references in the spoken word track are to do with that... So have a listen and see what you think, click here to hear it in a separate window. 

I welcome your thoughts and comments.

Spoken word track engineered by Tom Roberts
Words - Rob Wylie 
Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins   

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 2


I’ve been working through this for a while now trying to understand the picture we have of a big issue seller in our ‘Christmas Present’ project and the advent story.
As a result of my pondering, I offer you these words to think about and reflect on...

Are prophets all around us? Or are they hidden in the corridors of power?  However we understand that I wonder how many prophets we miss as we go about our everyday lives? Is it the big issue seller? The Occupy campaigners? What about the homeless person sitting in the same old place... waiting? Maybe it’s the young people that go out in there droves on a weekend to ‘forget’ there problems for a few hours? What about through the many projects that help people make a better life for themselves? What about the politician or local councillor who works for their community?  

So maybe the prophets of our day are the people we least expect?

With this picture of the prophet there is also this idea of hoping... We often ask children at Christmas time ‘what are you hoping to get’? When we are older our hoping is for different things and they vary from person to person, but some of the concerns that seem to be on the world agenda at the moment about this question of hoping are - hope for a better future for the generations to come, hoping for things to change in the world’s economic climate, hoping for peace and stability in the world, hoping for employment, hoping that I still have a job in the morning.

It seems to me that the biblical Christmas story has aspects of hope for the future as well as hope for the here and now... we long for it to happen and we long for it to make a difference now, there is a bit of me that wants to ask the question... how can we be prophets... not just to speak into situations but also to make a difference to a situation by the things that we do?
So here are some questions to ponder about this weeks picture:-

Are there prophets all around us?

What are you hoping for?

In what way can you bring hope into situations that you are in? 

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments

Friday, 25 November 2011

Christmas Present - Advent 1

Christmas Present - Mirror Mirror

Ordinary People - Ordinary Places - Extraordinary Story

So the long awaited Christmas Present project is live!  As part of this journey I will be posting a fresh blog each week of advent.   Each blog will show one of the pictures from the project which will also be the focus of services in local Methodist Churches for that week.

Details of where to view the pictures are on the attached flier. 

This week we focus on the expectant Mary and Joseph as they travel to Bethlehem. To help us reflect on this journey have a listen to this spoken word track Mirror Mirror and please leave your comments below.    

Spoken word track engineered by Tom Roberts
Words - Rob Wylie 
Printing and production of the images by trendy-art
Photos by Kat Timmins

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas Present

Christmas Present

Ordinary People - Ordinary Places  - Extraordinary Story

Christmas lights going up in  Knaresborough
Last year I heard a friend talk about a Christmas photo project that he put together. You can read about it on his blog . This got me and a local Methodist minister thinking about whether we could do something similar here in the North East. They did it slightly different to us in that their images were in 3D and they had them up in one place, but other than that it’s basically the same idea.

We have taken a series of photos of local people, in local settings from the North East, who take on the persona of some of the key characters in the traditional nativity story.  Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus, the Magi, angels, shepherds etc. We will be placing these pictures in public spaces for people to view, and we have agreed to have some put up in our local Costa Coffee in Whitley Bay and other local cafes/bars. Then, in the final week before Christmas, we are putting all the photos together in one place for people to view.  The pictures will be on display from the first week in December in various places, look out for the connected flier, and they will also be able to be seen in the weeks to come on my blog.

Alongside this, we got together with a few creative folk to put some worship material together that will be used around a different image on each Sunday through Advent. So if you live nearby to North Shields and Whitley Bay why not invite a friend to come along to church with you and see what it’s all about.  Also over the four weeks in advent I will be posting something each week which relates to one of the pictures we have taken.

The idea behind this is about engaging our local community with the traditional Christmas story in ways that ask the question... what do you do with this story?  This project is about putting the nativity story in a modern context and I suppose asks a challenging question about what do we do with the traditional story that God came to earth as a small vulnerable baby. Why not, as you view the pictures, ask these questions

Is Christmas present for you?

What is Christmas wrapped up in for you? 

Monday, 24 October 2011


I have been trying to write this for a while but I keep finding there is something else jumping into my head to distract me! Over the last few months I have been thinking a lot about how we can create spiritual moments in the midst of the very secular environment which is Sunday@thepub – I will need to blog about that in itself I think – but for now to bring you up to speed it’s a kind of fresh expression in the making. We meet in one of the local pubs each Sunday night and we have used nooma to help us in the past and we have just created another event at the pub once a month which is a chance to watch nooma and discuss faith issues over a curry.

Anyway the whole spirituality thing was highlighted again while I was away at the Breakout conference we had the opportunity to get involved in discussions around particular topics. One of the sessions I attended was about New Monastic’s I found it very helpful and challenging, for myself I know I’ve found it increasingly hard to find a spirituality that works for me and as such I often find myself all over the place, but New Monasticism seemed to strike a chord although I’m still trying to work out what that means and how it might work.

This interest was brought to the fore again after spending a few days on holiday in Krakow, Poland. We visited lots of Catholic churches while we were there and I have to say it was inspiring. The buildings were beautiful, but what really struck me was a palpable sense of God’s presence.  Almost all the churches had people in them that were deep in prayer and reflection, it was incredibly moving.

So back to Sunday@thepub... How then do you create spiritual moments in the midst of this secular environment ... the guy that spoke about New Monasticism talked about ‘finding stillness’ – not in the silent sense but in your inner self. I think this is very helpful... but only if you can find that sense of stillness... We at Sunday@thepub are still some way off that I think, but it’s worth mulling over a little more. 

The other thing that has struck me recently which I think I need to reflect on more is seeing everything around us as a spiritual encounter or as Rob Bell might call it ‘everything is spiritual’. I think these two things could help us in this reflection, but I would love to hear if anyone else has experience in this area. 

Monday, 5 September 2011

I have been thinking a lot about story over the last few weeks, this started a  while ago as I read the various stories that can be found on the fresh expressions web site    Here you find numerous examples of churches and individuals who are trying new things to connect God 's story to the stories of local communities. 

When I think about terms like fresh expressions and emergent church it makes me ask questions about 'conventional church'. Do these new examples mean that church as we have known it has little or no place in our present and future reality? Does it mean that we've 'throwthe baby out with the bath water'? There seems to be discussion after discussion, question after question about how fresh/emergent church sit alongside 'conventional church'. There are certainly issues around about funding new ventures which could be seen to be threatening to 'conventional church'. 

By no means do want to find ourselves with just the new and fresh ways of being church as believe there is still a huge and significant role for conventional church to play as we move forward and the stories that these churches tell are significant and must not be lost.

Certainly it seems to me that how we engage with story is significant and this is clearly being reflected upon in some of the ways that many of the pioneer ministers that I have met are working, grounding there projects in sub cultures, music and art, all of which seem to have a root in the idea of story.  

I think that it's going to be important as the church learns to engage with the world that we listen to the stories of our communities and that we reflect on how we understand our own story of how God has worked in us. I wonder if we need to learn to create spaces and go to places to listen to communities and individuals to see where God's story is visible.  

I heard Rev Dr Barbara Glasson speak at Greenbelt.  She has listened to the stories of those around her and then begun to create spacefor stories to be shared and experienced.   Here is her story from the bread church . 

Rev Glasson talked through some of her book 'The Exuberant Church - Listening to the Prophetic People of God'.  In it she shares her thoughts about how the church needs to 'come out'.  She talked about her experience of working along side someone 'coming out' as being gay. She shared that in the first instance as they meet other people they think this person is one thing and they decide to try to live in that reality for a while, but they find that over time they can no longer live in that way. As the person learns to come to terms with who they are and they realise they can no longer live with the perception that others put upon them or that they put on themselves; they then come out and so their true identity is found and they then become their unique selves. After witnessing a close Christian friend coming out as being gay can see how that works...  I  believe that he is now truly himself... 

Another example is reading the story of Sir Ian McKellen, he talks candidly about his experience of coming out in an interview with Michael Parkinson (found in Parky's People) he says this 'It changes you so utterly inside.  I  wasn't aware of the millstone that had dropped, but it freed up my emotions enormously in life, and blow me, it freed up my emotions on stage and film. I find  I  can cry now. I never could cry before, when the part called for it. Everything started flowing properly.  I  became a normal person at last. You find this odd because you've been a normal person all your life. I wasn't allowed to be a normal.  Now i feel i've joined the human race, and its wonderful'.  

And so thinking this through a bit wonder what it looks like for the church to 'come out'? To be free and be able to be its true self. 

wonder what stories will be told as we learn to come out? I wonder what elements of our past stories we will hold on to and what we will drop? 

If the church is emerging, or being fresh or even coming out can we take hold of the stories from our past and our future... can we see how these stories connect with the world around us and see where the gospel connects?

How and where is Gods story being told today? 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

A journey to the cross – Tynemouth Beach Labyrinth

Over the last few years I have had the pleasure of planning and preparing a few indoor labyrinths, they have been really positive, but I have often thought that although great, that we miss an opportunity to engage with the wider community, and often we would complain that ‘the un-churched’ wouldn’t come in to our buildings.  As i reflected on this there were others that were developing labyrinths in public places.

I came across one that was done on Crosby beach  after seeing what they had created I was really inspired. I decided to explore how we could do it on the coast here in the North East. I decided to use the same model as they had used and after a few tweaks and an added station we began to plan.

It took a couple of hours to set up, our biggest problem was the weather... we just about got the design done and we were putting the various reflections in place when the heavens opened!  The weather soon cheered up and people started to gather and walk the labyrinth.

One of the great things about doing it in a public space is that over the course of the day many folk stopped and asked us what we were doing and why we were doing it, no one actually walked it other than church folk, but I think with a few more alterations we would be able to encourage people to have a go.

There was something special and creative about interacting with nature as we prepared it, hearing the sea, wind and the birds. Listening to children playing and dogs barking... including my own!  There was a tangible presence of the Holy Spirit as we laid this ancient path in to the sand of this modern world... all the while St Georges Church, a gothic building built in 1884 stood in the background.

As folk came out of the labyrinth I heard people comment... inspiring, profound, moving, wonderful. I think in my heart I long for more days like this, a day where faith collides with the world, where the church gets out of its walls and meets people where they are.

At the end of today I went back to watch the tied come in and wash it away, I stood as dusk turned to night and as I was reflecting on the day three people came and asked me what it was and why we had done it. For that conversation alone it was worth it. 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Its been troubling me

As we watch the country come to terms with the events of the last week, we seem to have forgotten some of the other huge events that are going on in our world namely in Norway, Somalia, Syria and the financial crisis in Europe and the United States, as well as the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Yes the events of the last week have been terrible to watch and many things have been written about it from many different perspectives to try and get a handle on the cause and the reasons why. 

What i struggle with in all this, is the way our humanity reacts to such things when there is such a lot is at stake, not just here but also abroad. The attitude seems to be 'nothing to do with me', or to put it another way 'the blame game' and as a result people suffer... either in the context of lives lost and livelihoods ruined in riots or the financial break down of our systems that means job cuts and insecurity or the millions who are starving in East Africa. 

I can't honestly say that this isn't how i react, because i can find myself doing exactly the same. But my awareness of these feelings and my reactions to them makes me feel uneasy and angry with myself.  Maybe our nature is selfish or 'sinful' if you want to call it that. Even so there is also a sense that no matter who we are that we have a tendency towards care and love. 

The situation around Hosni Mubarak is an interesting one and once again we have this sense of blame... i have no doubt that he's no saint but i find the way our government and others are reacting to this situation is nothing short of scandalous. It wasn't long ago that we were sitting alongside him and supporting him and his govenrment; not only him but also other leaders, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and Col Gaddafi of Libya.  Meanwhile some of our other western leaders seem to be free from having to answer for some of the decisions that were made in the 
various conflicts that we have found ourselves in. 

So with this in mind a few questions.

What does the 'nothing to do with me' or the 'blame game' attitude mean for us and society? 

Is there one rule for some and another rule for others? 

Is there such a thing as justice? And who defines it?

How do we grow a sense of love and care to enable us to reach out? 

So much going on, so many questions and i reflect on this passage from Micah 6:8 to help me.  

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
   And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy 

   and to walk humbly with your God.   

Thursday, 4 August 2011

The BIGBible Project | Belonging to an emerging church by @vfxhanley

I came across this and thought it was worth a post as it got me thinking. The BIGBible Project | Belonging to an emerging church by @vfxhanley

As someone involved in a few projects both virtual and in the digital community, many of the folk that i meet and that 'come along' to the things myself and others create, also 'belong' to other types of communities like a 'church' or 'cell group'. There is a sense that some folk identify or belong to a whole range of things. So can we say that people own it in the its 'MY' Church sense? or are people saying i dip in here and i dip in there to get what i want? Do we need to have a more flexible and lose understanding of what the phrase 'belong' means? New technology offers us more scope and problems to create things that people can engage with and that they belong to. 

One of the problems with the digital world is that you can find yourself only being exposed to like minded blogs or websites where you come into contact with things that you agree with rather than on things that may stretch or challenge your perceptions. So whatever Digital communities we engage with they need to find a balance... and that's a tough call.

I'm also involved in a project that hasn't 'gone live' yet on Facebook, we are calling it FacebookNE (NE - North East) - watch this space! One of the conversations we are having about this is - is it enough to just 'meet on line' or as a digital community? Our thinking on this is in its early stages, but we feel there is a few small physical groups that meet (Sunday@thepub) and others, that are doing some things around the themes that Simon raises in the behave, belong believe idea that he poses in his post. Maybe there is an opportunity to not just create a digital place for folk to meet, so they sign up and become a follower or they join a Facebook group or whatever. But maybe there will be opportunities for a face to face meeting. So a digital community decide every now and again to meet up and 'do' something. There needs to be more reflection on this, but the kind of idea we had was to meet around a campaign and worship. 

So do Digital communities need to still be based around geographical areas to allow for potential face to face gatherings?

Wow... two posts in a week... whats happening!

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

I'm not good at this!

So after saying that its been a while since i last posted... its happened again. I have every intention to blog and then it vanishes out of my head, its strange really since i seem to spend a lot of time looking at blogs and websites that are very interesting.

Anyway, lets get on to the real reason for blogging today. I had not really seen the point of using twitter as i thought it was enough to just use Facebook, but i decided to have a go... and i love it! I have found it really useful to keep up to speed with what folk are doing up and down the country in the whole fresh expressions thing and also what a few of my friends are doing in pioneering new communities in places where the Church has pulled out or has never been.

I have also been chatting to friends, who are doing some creative things to reach communities that are far from the walls of the Church; and as such i have been invigorated to think about what kind of faith community i want to belong to, and what kind of faith community i would like to create in Sunday@thepub the project that we are doing as part of my work.

It seems to me that in the communities we are developing and creating in the various pioneering initiatives that there needs to be a sense of openness and honesty that under pins the relationships. The problem we have is that this takes a lot of time and energy, and many folk don't have the capacity to spend time in the settings and spaces that would foster this openness and honesty. Alongside this we have the Church that also wants to see results now!

So what then does this mean? Well i think we need to persist and help the Church to see that we need to be in this for the long hall, i'm encouraged by some of the noises that are coming out of the corridors of power in the Methodist Church that they seem to be committed to this kind of work, i just hope this translates into the Circuits and the Churches around the country.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Its been a while!

I realise its been a while since I posted anything on here, and so I thought it was about time I got to it again, although it could be another few months before Ipost again! So what's going on? Well, work is becoming very interesting with a wide range of projects, course and challenges to be dealt with.

We are in the process of getting the Street Pastors initiative off the ground which is going to be great for our local area and will help the Police deal with anti social behaviour and the many stag and hen parties that come into Whitley Bay in the summer, as well as dealing with the regular night time economy throughout the year.

Another venture which has proved to be challenging and equipping is the msi course which come out of Fresh Expressions. This 6 week course is there to help churches get their heads around fresh expressions and it also helps churches to think think about mission in its broadest sense.

I have also been working over the last couple of years with one of our churches in one of the villages surrounding Whitley Bay, it has been great to get to know the folk and to make connections with other people in the village as we work on events together. This is also a challenge as many of the folk in the church are elderly and are happy to just keep the show on the road, and maybe aren't so keen to get involved in new ideas and projects. What is clear though, is that many churches are beginning to see that things can't go on as they are and some thing will need to change otherwise over the next few years we will see an awful lot of small churches closing.

The next few weeks, months and years are going to be interesting!