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.