Sunday, February 18, 2007

Inconvenient Truths

Tonight was the latest in our series using movies in Cafe Church to explore spiritual themes.

An Inconvenient Truth, the enthralling documentary of Al Gore's powerpoint presentation on climate change (and what a miracle to take such potentially dull material and presenter and to turn it into something rivetting) gave us the first of what will likely be a number of opportunities to explore climate change and environmental issues from the persective of our lives being led as Jesus followers.
We used five short clips from the film, interspersed with a quiz, some thoughts and reflections and also three focussed zones. One zone invited people to get in touch with the idea of God as creator by using clay we provided to model something or to use the paper and paints. We invited people to reflect on the creative process, and frustration that might arise as their creations didn't turn out as they'd imagined.

Our second zone invited people to pray, and to make a note of the issues they were praying about.

The third zone used some of the eco-congregation material as the start for some discussion on how we as a church might respond to some the issues we'd been raising in the evening.

Several things stood out about the evening. The first was the quality of the conversations, response in prayer, and the creative output that came. In truth I hadn't been sure how responsive people might be feeling, but the issue was one that many people had clearly been thinking a lot about, and were enjoying the opportunity to express some of that thinking and reflection in a church context. The second pleasing thing was the generally high level of knowledge about the issue, and some of the practical responses that would be helpful to make. The real challenge comes in moving beyond the knowledge and into the action.

I was personally very provoked, as ever on this subject, about my own responses. We've changed the lightbulbs, increased our use of public transport greatly and we try and make good choices when we shop. But i know I am as conflicted as anyone. There are days I run late and it's too easy to jump in the car, and times when i buy something that just has way too much packaging. It would be easy to get downhearted and feel that the issue is too big. However, I reminded myself, and shared with the church, the reflection that we follow a God who is as able to inspre other people's hearts all over the world as much as he is inspiring ours. That it's not my responsibility to make other people's choice, that I have to make the ones I can.

We followed Cafe Church with the second of the joint meetings between our youth and young adults. It was a fun time of getting to know each other a bit better, watching a Nooma dvd and then hearing from one of our folks about a short-term mission trip to West Africa. She presented really well, and gave us a flavour of her experience there. We are getting to grips, slowly, with the creation of new ways of doing church, and I'm not sure whether they realised it or not, but tonight had many of the elements we ought to be thinking about includng when we more consciously plan for worship experiences.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Come the Revolution

My week's having a bit of a revolutionary theme. This week I got round to watching "Moulin Rouge" with its own powerful rendition of The Children of the Revolution used to bracket and background the movie and key scenes. I was blown away by several scenes, especially the excellent medley of love songs sung in the elephant room and Roxanne. The irony of these children of the revolution being as much under the power of the wealthy ruling class as they were before (business instead of royalty) and the use of love songs that are the backdrop to our contemporary lives being used to highlight the rampant hedonism of the period portrayed were insightful and profound. What we might look back and criticise in that generation we have fully embraced in our own perhaps?

The other Revolution in my thinking is the title of George Barna's book that I've nearly finished. Its a wonderful little book, very readable and very direct. Barna has thrown his lot in with, and is seeking to clarify and encourage the role of a new breed of Christian he sees emerging in the USA. He attempts to codify some of the key characteristics, and explain why these new spiritual revolutionaries are sitting very lightly to established church structures. In essence he thinks they are too savvy to give their time, energy and resources to anything other than that which pushes forwards God's agenda. It's a challenging read.

Towards the end of the book he outlines the ways that revolutionaries might be changed by participating in the revolution. One of the changes he sees is a realigning of personal identity. The true revolutionary doesn't have to act, it's part of who they are. Their whole world becomes wrapped in the revolutionary endeavour, everything is seen through the lens of the revolution, especially their own sense of self and mission. He writes a few lines that struck me forcefully,

"Let me also point out that a major reason why most local churches have little influence on the world is that their congregants do not experience this transformation in identity. Our research indicates that churchgoers are more likely to see themselves as Americans, consumers, professionals, parent, and unique individuals than zealous disciples of Jesus Christ. Until that self-image is reoriented, churches will not have the capacity to change their world. After all, a revolution is a dangerous and demanding undertaking; it is not for the minimally committed."

(Revolution, by George Barna. 2005 Tyndale)

Is this really why we struggle. Can we forget (to a certain extent) the challenges we face by changing society? Is the real key to seeing the Kingdom of God established, strengthened and extended a true revolution in the self-identity of every person who would claim to follow Jesus, and if that's so, why isn't that what's happening now?

It's providing a lot of food for thought, and I'll need to find places to turn those thoughts into helpful discussion. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It's a freedom thing

So. here's a pic with the freedom key just put in.

It's not subtle is it?

It'll take a while to get used to being in, and i may use a different attachment as although this one makes it very easy and gentle to put on and remove, it is very dangly.

Anyway, if you see me and I'm not wearing it, do ask why not. And if you haven't hit the Stop the Traffik link that the top and begun to get involved, then please do.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Getting Pierced

So, here are some pics of the first part of my awareness raising for the Stop the Traffik campaign (follow the link from the top of my blog for more details). Along with one of my colleagues, Simon, I had my ear pierced, on Friday, so that today, Sunday, in a special service to focus on the campaign I could have a freedom key hung from it.

I'll be able to post the pics with the key in tomorrow, I'm awaiting for them from the photographer.

In the first pic, I am just having the needle pushed through, in the second the ring is being threaded through the hole and in the third that's how I look with the ring in.

Some people have asked why I've had it done. And there are a number of answers. In part it is because I'd heard of another minister who'd done the same thing, and was inspired by that. But the piercing for me had a deeper meaning. In the Old Testament, a slave who had reached the end of their service could opt to remain with the household they had been a slave in. There are, of course, huge ethical issues and grey areas here, how real was the choice to stay or go one might ask. However, the sign that a slave had chosen to be a servant, that he was a free person who had chosen to serve was that he would have his ear pierced. It was a bit more brutal then. I sat on a bed and had a sterile needle pushed by hand through my ear lobe. A slave staying with the household he'd been serving would have had an awl driven in with a hammer, against the doorpost of the master's house.

So, my ear is pierced, as a mark that I am a free man who has voluntarily chosen to subject his will and freedom to another master. It's a liberty I wish others could choose. I support Stop the Traffik because many millions will never have the choice I do, and I want them to.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Coupland Movie Trailer

I have no idea when or if this is going to get a UK release. If anyone has more information, please do let me know. Vancouver, aliens, slackers and pot - has Coupland got stuck in a rut?

Teaching and Learning

On a facebook group i'm a member of someone asked what it would be like if people who teach in church could help their listeners realise that this was the first word, not the last, on a subject. How different would things be if people used sermons as a starting point for discussions, rather than just assimilating a new understanding of truth into their understanding of Jesus and his message? The message was written from an american perspective. The text in italics was my reply.

I'm not sure I'd fully identify with the idea that when I taught something it was the final word. I find myself more and more inviting people onto a journey of discovery, offering suggestions, sharpening questions, discovering more options that the two I'd been presented with.
Although contemporary spiritual seekers here in the UK will often be willing to follow a new age guru, when it comes to the message of Jesus it seems that everyone has an opinion, and they all are held as valid. I'm not sure who I am to claim the sole validity, but the church's usual approach leaves most people cold.
The approach in higher education here is a kind of "guided learning", it would make a good model for churches. What would it be like if someone spoke on what they owned as merely one perspective, and then invited seminar groups to take their message apart and see what stands up to scrutiny and application?

I wonder what it would be like? In my previous church I had a small panel of people who used to appraise my sermons for me. I wonder if there is a way of encouraging groups to make it a regular practice. Would ministerial egos withstand it? I think the team here would be fine, it might make what we do better, and would almost certainly lead to a greater degree of "doing theology" in our congregations.

I wonder if this could only be done by a few, or whether it would be an option for entire congregations on a Sunday? It might hasten the end of a bad way of teaching that we seem far too wedded to given the society we live in.

I wonder how many barriers there would be to it, and where they'd come from? Feel free to leave any thoughts.