Monday, 28 June 2010

shoulders for rugby

My Dad used a couple of lines on me quite regularly. The first would be as he firmly clasped me on the shoulders and with a hint of a smile he would say, 'you have fine shoulders for a rugby player'. The second would be the well known saying of ' you're built for comfort not for speed.'. How I'm not in therapy...... Anyway, all this was done quite affectionately and is to say that I am not one of lifes natural runners. The past few weeks, however, has seen me giving the jogging thing a go and then, to some suprise, starting to enjoy it.

I am now managing to run 5 miles to work and have found in the process that my prayer life has taken an upsurge. I have joined a renovare group which has encouraged regular and deep prayer. This is an area I've struggled with for a while. It's the deep aspect I struggle with. I can pray, it comes with the job. I can talk hoping someones listening, but that's not the same as deep communion with God. The running though has changed this.

One of the renovare exercises was to give chanting a go. This has been a previous no go area for me. Basically I would get bored and lose interest too quick. Running though has changed this. I don't take an ipod i just sing or chant (silently of course, I need no more eccentricities to make me look bonkers). This eventually gives way to prayer where I actually feel I give way to God.

Now it has crossed my mind that this 'giving way to God' thing might really be just exhaustion getting the better of me. It has also crossed my mind though, that the spiritual practice of work as prayer may actually have a lot in it. Monks have been doing this for centuries, using rhythm and labour as a part of their spiritual formation. I can't imagine that the running thing will stick for me (see my fathers comments earlier)but it does feel that I have made a significant step in my own personal experience of prayer through physical expression.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Sight Tested

We had a leadership team meeting last night and got on to the subject of church vision. This is an area that I have to admit I've not done well on. Over the last couple of months a few people have commented on what they describe as a lack of vision and each and every time I have looked rather blank at the whole thing. Seriously, it throws me every time.

It's not that I have no idea what they are talking about, it's that I don't understand how they have missed it. As soon as I acknowledge though that they have missed it I also then have to acknowledge that I must have failed to communicate it. So my blankness just goes on.

The thing is though, all of us here have been preaching the vision for around the last 4 years. We've run sermon series on it, away weekends, training days, blogs, basically, the whole 9 yards. I partly put this lack of communication down to the fact that our vision has not fallen into the neat category that is often wanted.

Our tag line is, 'Helping people follow Jesus' and that is it. The vision within this though, is that we don't try help people by selling them a picture and product of Jesus that they may like. We are not trying to market Jesus so that people will feel warm and fuzzy enough to come along on a Sunday and sign up. Our picture is way more exciting than that.

The vision is for us to be church. Deeply deeply be church. That means that we commit spiritually, in depth, to one another, we show the hospitality not of the sterile coffee morning but of the lavish welcome of Jesus. We serve the least and welcome the stranger and invite all to be on the journey with us.

Last year one of our neighbours was uncomfortable with the Night Shelter here. When Mary spoke with her, she lamented that when she moved over the road from church she had expected that would mean that she was over the road from nice folk who would voice hymns on Sunday and be peaceful. Instead, asylum seekers, the homeless, the middle class, drug addicts, young people are all congregating here through the week and its just not what had been hoped for.

That is our vision, right there. To be church in the most Gospel sense of it. To seek to embody what it is to be a community of Jesus Christ in all its diversity and variety and in that we will be 'helping people follow Jesus'. We are not the church of the least, the most, the homeless, the housed, we are the church of Jesus Christ. Or at least that's where we're headed.

Some have left, because this wasn't clear enough or because they wanted a different vision. Some left because it wasn't comfortable here and they wanted safety and sanctuary and a place that wasn't so hard to be in. Some have arrived though, enlivened by a church truly engaged and with something to say. Some love the fact that we don't just preach it but live it. Some are seeking Jesus who never before had set foot in a church. Really, not church movers but new blood looking for Christ.

Vision, I'll give you vision, lets be Gospel.