Thursday, December 28, 2006

To All New Arrivals

I’m listening to Faithless’ latest album “To all new arrivals”. It’s been slated by many critics, and I can understand why. It’s a very different kind of album. It’s not a pumping trance-dance hard-hitting lyric one like the one we might have expected. It’s more of a chillout album, perhaps reflecting the mood induced by the album’s theme, the arrival of new children in a household. As a fairly new parent, it’s the kind of album I need to listen to after a hard day. What it lacks is a single amazing track, there’s no We become 1, God is a DJ, Insomnia or Mass Destruction here. What there is a loving, intelligent, playful and occasionally inspiring album reflecting on the kind of world children are being born into, pondering both the breathtaking beauty of a new baby, and a mind-numbing sickness in the world. I think this album has the lowest profile of Maxi Jazz that I’ve heard on a Faithless CD, and this weakens the whole. The guest singers (including Dido, predictably and adding little, and Cat Power who adds amazing depth to “A Kind of Peace”) are there, and they’re kind of interesting interesting, but it is the raw power and urgency that Maxi expresses that would have lifted this album to greatness.

I’ll have a few more listens over the next couple of days and see if I reappraise it – maybe it’s a grower.

I’m currently reading Breaking the Missional Code by Ed Stetzer & David Putman. It’s written from a North American perspective, but has something to say to the church scene here in the UK. Essentially it is an exploration of how churches might understand that they are in a mission context, in order to find culturally relevant and meaningful ways of building church. I’m enjoying it and it’s giving me lots to think about.

In church this coming Sunday I’ll be leading the service. We’ll spend some time prayerfully reflecting on the year past, and looking at the year to come. I’ve found Psalm 124 to be helpful in my own reviewing of the year, and we’ll be using that and Psalm 16 (in the Message translation) as a way of expressing our hope for the future.

Our leadership team will be discussing issues around membership this coming week. For some background to this you might want to look at my colleague’s blog

Like many churches we struggle to find a relevant way for people to express their commitment to the local church, and to find a way of meeting legal requirements for us to have a formalised membership. Some would be in favour of scrapping membership altogether, and moving towards a yearly covenant that people make together. Others would like to strengthen the role and place of membership, and to call people to the kind of membership structures that the church has had in the past.

I’m sure there’s some creative solution that has yet to be found, I hate being asked to choose from only two options, so I’ll let you know how things pan out.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ten Weeks

It was at the end of July that I blogged about the impending move, I kinda figured it was time to write more, and to try and create a platform for more regular postings.

We've been here ten weeks now, and it seems strange that it's been so long, it really feels like in many ways we're still trying to get to know the place.

Starting with important things, as a family we're doing OK but it has taken a while to adjust to the move. I guess we'd expected that a move would take us further north, to be closer to family, and so we're still getting used to being further south. Our son is doing really well, despite a few recent bugs. His confidence and joy are still apparent. He's loving living close to a railway line where he gets to see the Eurostar fairly frequently.

Our welcome here was suitable otherworldy. As we had breakfast on the first morning my wife looked out of the window and was amazed to see what we thought were green parrots (we were later informed they are a flock of parakeets), in the trees outside. We really have come south.

As for ministry, well, it's been interesting. I've been mainly getting to know the situation here, as well as taking part in a few special services. Of particular interest perhaps have been the last three Sunday evenings where Simon and I have used movies to explore three key advent themes; we used Signs to explore Faith, Chocolat as a way of looking at Grace and then this week The Shawshank Redemption was used as a way into the topic of Hope.

It would be fair to say that these evenings have had a mixed response. Some of the older members have struggled with the change of format. It's been surprising to learn how rigidly some people expect Sunday times together to be. As we hadn't announced scripture references, or invited people to turn to their Bibles one week, some folks seemed unable to perceive that scripture was used at all. These comments came from people who'd been in church most of their lives, and they seemed unable to spot biblical material unless it was flagged up in a number of ways, it was quite worrying.

On the whole though, the reception has been very warm to a different way of exploring and reflecting on issues. People who have friends who might be thinking about the spiritual journey in a more focussed way were excited that there was something in the church programme they felt they could invite people to.

On to media, i found a great music website that is worth exploring. I've been listening a lot to "No Roots" by Faithless as a warm up to purchasing their latest album sometime soon.

I'm reading Peter Scazzero's Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and finding it very stimulating, I'm also ploughing through Emerging Churches by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger. It's a good analysis of the movement, and has been helpful in shaping my own thinking in key areas, more of that another day I think.

For news I'm picking up the Independent these days, their coverage of key topics has been brave. They seem to have fewer qualms about asking searching questions, and they tend to deal with spiritual subjects more even-handedly and intelligently.

The last movie i saw was Casino Royale, and I think that this does for the Bond franchise Baatman Begins did for that one.

I pray your Christmas will be one where light shines in the darkness, as shocking and comforting as that might be.