this tree in our garden is a wonderful tree - this was the best i could do to show off her autumn colours...
if you are in london before december 18 make sure you go and visit clay sinclair's brilliant exhibition utopia at the woolff gallery . there's actually what looks like a cracking evening on thurs 27 november that i am heading in for that is also free - it's a small gallery so not sure how everyone is going to fit in! best not advertise it - doh...
if you can't make it his catalogue is on the woolff site.
well it's a month to christmas which means the season of advent is almost here, that time of expectation and waiting. proost has a new resource we who still wait - this is put together by four artists. chris goan, ian adams, steve broadway and si smith have brought their collective creative wisdom together to shape a wonderful book. it's a book to follow the season with photos, a reflection and a poem each day. download it as a pdf - more info is here.
of course if you subscribe which is a bargain you can log in and download anything for a year!
don't forget there is a proost us site as well.
i have uploaded some photos from the missional entrepreneurship week in devon into a set here
it was as ever a fantastic week. this is the fourth one we have run and it just gets better and better. this is largely due to the amazing effort that cms pioneer shannon hopkins from matryoshka haus puts into it along with the wonderful hosting at pickwell manor. this year there were a whole load of sheets on tables and other things that have been specifically designed for the week. people come with an idea and it gets developed through the week. there is a team of people who work with those on the course through the week to help develop the ideas and the final morning it all culminates in presentations or pitches. this is our very own dragons den - this year there were fifteen offers of support from the dragons plus resources from others in the room - amazing!
whilst there it was great to read a tweet from heather cracknell who came last year to develop her idea of a social enterprise cafe which launched last week - so some of the ideas definitely have legs!
miriam goodacre was there having won the greenbelt dragons den competition and she has kept a video diary through the week. the last one is yet to go up but you can see that on cms facebook page.
due to demand we have added in two weeks next year so the next one is the week of 19-24 april 2015 and then there'll be another in november. there will be more places in april as a lot of the ones in november will be filled by cms pioneer students so book early if you want to get a place.
i was genuinely angry when shell had the audacity to put out an ad making out they are some kind of environmental saviours - what a joke! there’s another energy ad at the moment doing the same thing with an overlay of an orangutan. do these companies think we are stupid???!!! so i was delighted to get an email as a member of greenpeace inviting me to contribute to buying an ad in response which was featured in thursday’s papers doing a bit more truth telling!
if you read my tale of two books shops post, the second of my four books that i purchased at the ICA is i admit a little more obscure than rewilding and you may think what on earth inpsired you to buy that?! it is explore everything: place hacking the city by bradley garrett. in it he describes joining urban explorers who hack the city by which i mean that they find ways into adandoned buildings, sewers, skyscrapers, disused underground stations. the study itself is an ethnography - i.e. the author joins a group to particpate and observe their culture to research and document it. this is a brilliant way of getting inisde a culture and it doesn't take long before he is utterly compelled by it. a lot of this hacking is illegal so what grabbed me about the book? here's a few things...
i love the word/metaphor of hacking. i appreciate it has a lot of negative connotations especially since the phone scandal. but the original definition of a hack is a solution to a specific computing problem. this quickly got extended to life hacks - creative solutions to problems in everyday life usually exploring the limits of what is possible. but it is particularly the spirit in which it is done that is interesting - there is a sort of ethos or ethic of sharing, openness, and decentralisation. rather than a world where i do my thing to gain competitive advantage and keep it from you, hacking assumes that information should be shared in an open source fashion so that somone else can access it, take it apart to its component pieces and reassemble to make something new and better or repurposed which is then shared with the wider community to make the world a better place. this it seems to me is a fantastic metaphor for mission or theology or the church - making available liturgies and theology and canons to be creatively played with to come up with new and fresh takes on things rather than as boundaries to be defended and kept pure. but in the book hacking is really about viewing a very different city to the one on offer, finding a different map and route through, levering open cracks in its surface to slip through. it reminds me of the work by french philospoher michel de certeau in his masterpiece the practice of everyday life where he contrasts the strategies in place within a system with the tactics that 'readers' or 'poachers' use to make do, to create an alternative route which makes a different meaning to the one imposed in the strategies.
secondly i love the spirit of adventure in the book. i think the author feels alive and discovers a sense of wonder in the world and the city - he says that the one thing urban explorers all share is "the desire to find adventure in everyday life. this is the central foundation of place hacking". now this may just be the rush of adrenaline but i think it's a bit more. a friend and pioneer student at cms, steve, suggests that the gospel can be understood as a call to adventure and he is exploring that - i think he'll like this book. garrett has this lovely word for moments when everything is right and comes together, of epiphany, of "when the seen and unseen, the possible and impossible, the self and community fuse" - the meld! what a great word - i know i have experienced the meld in silence when i have felt at one with the world, at home in my own skin, in god, at peace. the place hacker is trying to get back a sense of what they have lost - a sense of self, place and community. in this sense it is a sort of spirituality i think. it's also a challenge to the way things are, finding cracks in the world, in the staus quo to squeeze open and to disturb notions of property and ownership - which if any of you are familiar with theories of trickster who is a mythological character who remakes the world through mischief is one his or her ruses. in a world where the commons has been almost totally eroded we need people doing this in my view. one way urban explorers describe this is edgework which again is a rather lovely phrase - i recognise this in pioneers who find the edges, the margins the cracks and dwell there in forgotten spaces with forgotten people.
thirdly i love the photography - wow! i don't think urban exploration began as that but the book is full of amazing photos taken in these spaces in the city. here's one from a crane on top of the shard before it was finished!
it's a wonderful ethnography, a brilliant exmple of getting inside another culture to learn its language and codes as a participant observer. for students of mission it might not be the most obvious story of crossing cultures but is worth a read for that as well.
inevitably living in london i passed by the poppies at the tower of london. whilst it is impressive i am not a fan (sorry!) - i can't seem to deal with war and especially when it is tied to national interest. i hope now one hundred years are past we might move on as several others have expressed in various articles. anyway of course i took a couple of photos and preferred ones where i was messing around. this line from teardrop explodes seems as good a caption as any though i know i have used it on a photo before!
we realised last night that it was grace's 21st birthday! had a wonderful meal with friends led by steve summers. its become an annual thing now to have a service in the context of a meal in the main space of the church. i really love doing this. one neat innovation last night which i am making a worship trick (53 series 4) was that the words and prayers were written as a place mat - such a simple idea that i am sure will be repeated! i didn't have my camera, only a phone but you get the idea...
grace this saturday is a meal with friends - yes it is a meal so don't eat first if you are coming! i have loved the times over the last few years when there has been a table down the middle of the church space at st marys and commnion has been shared in a meal. do come along if you can. i have particularly pleased that steve summers will be curating - his book on friendship is one of the best bits of contemporary thinking about church (as a community of friends) that i have read. so simple, so practical (his book is far from simple mind as it was a phd thesis). really looking forward to it…
i snapped this on my phone today - an ad from oxfam in today's guardian. when you see it put that starkly it just seems ridiculous, an outrage. why do we have a society that is organised this way? we don't have to organise society this way after all. mean time all the focus is still on those on the other end of the scale to bleed them dry in the name of austerity measures. another world is possible. time for a year of jubilee methinks - restore the land and set the slaves free?!
if you read my tale of two book shops one of the books i bought was feral by george monbiot which is subtitled rewilding the land, sea and human life. it’s my favourite book of the year by quite some way. (i’d actually like george monbiot to run the country - he’s one of the few journalists who seems to talk sense around the economy, politics, and the planet but that’s based on his writings in the guardian.)
i had not come across the term rewilding but instantly like it. the word originally (it’s only 3 years old in dictionary terms) meant putting captive animals in to the wild, then expanded to mean the reintroduction of animal and plant species into the natural world, into habitats from which they have been removed. i remember my excitement in seeing an osprey in scotland for example. but like any good metaphor it’s laced with ambiguity and possibility. so george monbiot pushes it in a couple of directions - one is that he is not interested in returning to a former state, rather to create the space for the complex ecosystems to be able to thrive and flourish alongside modern life. and secondly to see the rewilding of human life through re-involvment in nature - we need rewilding because we have become so cut off from the wonder of the world we inhabit. if you google it you'll see how much is going on to rewild europe for example.
he describes canoeing at sea, exploring forests, the wonders of diversity and being able to walk and be lost in natural environments for whole days - it reminded me of the experience of silence in places. it’s also very well researched and packed with idea and examples of how this should and could and is being done. it’s an extremely interesting and educational book. there is so much new information on what enables flourishing and it is very counter to a lot of preservation practices. it is a book of imagination, ecological imagination. as a christian my hope for the future is for the healing of all things, the renewal of the earth. some of the things described in the book are visibly the renewal of the earth! so for example there are projects in wales (if you are in wales you need to read the extraordinary chapter on greening the desert - isaiah 35’s vision is imagined for the cambrian mountains) and scotland to fence out deer and sheep both of whom are a disaster for the land in their own way or certainly in too great numbers and begin to regrow forests and create trophic diversity. these projects are only 20 years in but the transformations taking place are remarkable. i found it amazing that one of the people monbiot meets sees what he is doing as a 250 year vision.
one of the processes that is undertaken is to drill into the earth and take out a core and to see what pollens are in the soil in different times. what is barren in places was once more like rainforest. europe was home to wolves, bears, rhinos and elephants even. there is no reason why it can’t live again in this way as these projects and others in europe and america are showing. but what monbiot and these others have in abundance is the ability to dream and imagine that other wonder filled, wild worlds are possible. cultures suffer from shifting baseline syndrome which is to say that we all perceive that the ecosytems of our childhood are what’s normal but that may be a state of depletion - we need the imagination to shift the baseline. i love this idea... monbiot has a fantastic table of creatures and their suitability for reintroduction on a scale of 1-10 including pelicans, grey whales, beavers, boar, wolves. before you write this off this is deadly serious and such experiments are taking place very successfully elsewhere. he has a whole chapter on the wolf and how predators high up the food chain can create a very positive impact.
flourishing requires diversity not moncultures. sadly a capitalistic society like ours tends to see advantage in one thing and then promote that...
The drive towards monoculture causes a dewilding, of both places and people. It strips the earth of the diversity of life and natural structure to which human beings are drawn. It creates a dull world, a flat world, a wirld lacking in colour and variety, which enhances ecological boredom, narrows the scope of our lives, limits the range of our engagement with nature, pushes us towards a monoculture of the spirit. I doubt that anyone wants this to happen to the land that surrounds them except those - a small number - who make money this way.
this got me thinking about how easily it sounds like a description of theologies and church which tend towards monocultures of the spirit rather than opening up the riches of diversity. people like their stream, their denomination, their theology, their truth, their take, their worship, their taste and drift towards defending it - yet floursihing of the spirit takes place through the riches of diversity - the church needs rewilding along with the natural world, children and human life.
i could go on but that probably gives you a flavour. monbiot’s story is so compelling because it is also a personal testimony of a recovery of a sense of adventure, wonder and excitement in his own life through his own explorations. he recovers ecological hope.
By seeking the pockets of land and water that might inspire and guide an attempt to revive the natural world I had revived my own life.
jenny has written a very moving reflection on grief a year on from her dad's death - there is no path. she has stumbled across a beautiful poem caled gabriel by edward hirsch which has helped name something.
I did not know that the work of mourning
Is like carrying a bag of cement
Up a mountain at night...
...Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders
it seems slightly crazy to be thinking about next september already having just got under way with tons of fantastic new pioneer students at cms but we have an open day ecah term and this one's is next tuesday november 4. do come along if you'd like to find out what we are up to - andy has blogged about it here .
a couple of months back i had a meeting in westminster and dropped in to church house bookshop as i often do if i'm nearby to see what was cooking in the world of theology and faith. i managed to come out without buying anything which is always an achievement in any bookshop to be honest...
i had a meeting in london that evening and as i sometimes do i went to the institute for contemporary arts which has a great space to sit in its cafe and wifi - the kind of place you can sit for a while and nobody seems to mind. in the entrance is the ica bookshop. i was much less successful in my attempt to not buy books. i came out with four! what struck me about his arts bookshop was the focus of the books. i was so struck by it that i started jotting down titles. i won't bore you with the details but they were on themes like the economy, the future, the planet, identity, culture, the environment, gender and sexuality, how to live in ways that might lead to flourishing (and of course art)... in other words they seemed to focus on how to live in a way that might change the world. this seemed osmething of a contrast with the previous bookshop whose titles were more focused on a church agenda. this is probably grossly unfair and it's not meant to be negative about that bookshop (after all my book was one of the ones on display!!!). rather it was a reminder that artists are exploring and asking questions that are so close to seeing different possibilities for living life. it was also a remider that if you want your imagination sparked you need to get outside of your own area (one of the whacks of roger von oech i believe). and perhaps it was a reminder that in terms of discussion about theology and mission the conversations going on in the wider culture are where we should be hanging out and conversing anyway. i have read two and a half of the books so far and will try and post a review or two (i am also reading a few theology and mission books which i always have on the go so the point of this post really isn't to be negative about those)...
kate tempest was fantastic last night at the queen elizabeth hall on the southbank (which is such a great venue btw). i know i have enthused about her many times on the blog or twitter. she possesses or is perhaps possessed by a wonderful gift, the artful gift of crafting words, not just words for words sake but words that are compelled by a deeper drive or vision or calling for what is true and beautiful and just and alive and human. she is a prophet and stands in a line of prophets - those who see what others don't seem to see and who have always weighed their words and had something to say beyond cleverness or trickery or pleasure... those who are compelled to speak, entrusted with words, words of grief and hope.
she is from south london and has not lost her sense of self or roots which must be a challenge with the incredible roll she is on (mercury prize nominee, brand new ancients selling out, ted hughes award, lots of media attention right now and so on...). and she is at pains to show her thanks and humility which is refreshing.
the evening was the launch of a new book - hold your own - in which she tells a mythical tale of tiresias in an epic opening poem and then cracks open four of the tale's themes - childhood, womanhood, manhood, and blind profit. it's brilliant - you should get a copy and its all new material or at least its not in other publications of hers that i have seen. the tale of an old man who loses his eyes and yet becomes a seer, a blind prophet, is masterful.
she weaves a mix of themes of pain and brokenness and struggle and fear throughout with an appeal to truth and humanness, to come home to your real passions and live out of the gift you bring and your own call. a short review can't do justice to the gig. it was so powerful and moving and truthful. there are some poets who are prophets (and poetry as a mode of speech is surely the mother tongue of prophets) - i remember the first time i saw jean binta breeze and feeling as though empires were collapsing and new worlds emerging simply through her words. kate does this - the gods of consumption are laid bare in all their pitiful ugliness and the powerful called to account. it would be easy to assume she is fueled by christian faith as the themes responate so strongly with what christ is about but i don't think that's the case (though i am sure she would enjoy a glass of wine with him) - the false gods of religion are equally dethroned for their perpetuation of control and fear and i think christianity is thrown in with that lot in her take. but she has met the holy, the unknown god whatever name she might give to him/her and she is shining - i'd love to ask her about that some day...
i hope she does well in the mercury prize but for me kate and her voice and her poems and her words is where it's at. make sure you see her doing spoken word and not just with the band...
there were so many lines that caught my attention and i will linger with in the coming days - "wherever you are from is a holy place" is from the poem these things i know.
last year we had a wonderful day of conversations, research and reflections on pioneer mission at cms. the things presented were so interestng that we ended up publishing them as the pioneer gift (which i hope by ow you have got and read?!).
well this year's is coming up on october 14 - am particularly pleased that steve bevans is able to be with us from chicago and we have a host of other things lined up - see here for details and how to book - it's all focused on pioneering spirituality.
but it's just got better as we have now added in an evening curry with spoken word and music - making the most of gav mart and martin daws being on tour. and they will be joined for a guest appearance by none other than harry baker... looking forward to it.
am planning to head over to see martin daws and gav mart on tour on oct 15 in kingston. join us...
singer songwriter and arts curator gavin mart, + young person's poet laureate for wales martin daws - are coming to Kingston with a creative acoustic set that explores what
'it' is at the heart of the artist.
through expressions in songwriting, music, poetry and spoken word gav and martin explore the following questions:
how does the artist express their yearning for an understanding of something bigger?
what does god mean through the eyes of the artist today?
what is 'it' that triggers our creativity?
how is god understood in contemporary culture?
how can we connect with and support local artists within our communities?
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where i come across creative ideas, liturgies, movies, music tracks, service outlines or anything that strikes me, i add them as worship tricks. i started these in april 2002 when i first began blogging and they have built up over the years so that i am now on the third series. this has proved a pretty popular feature of the blog.