ian adams latest book running over rocks came out over the summer. i read it on holiday (our holiday started out sharing a meal with ian and gail before cycling from south to north devon so it was nice to catch up with ian as well). it's a lovely book of spiritual practices.
there are a number of reasons i like the book.
the first is that i think i have become more and more interested in how to live a life. that is perhaps a glaringly obvious thing to say. is there any other option? in the summer john drane was reflecting with some of our pioneer students that the old adage believe-belong-behave had been reconstructed some years back as belong-believe-behave but now the front foot is perhaps on behave-belong-believe. i can think of a thousand argumenst to have with that phrase anyway which is not the point - the point is that it reminded me that lifestyle or how to live out a life as a human, as a person, in community, following christ, that somehow makes a difference in the world is what many people are seeking after. in other words its a life that is embodied, lived, practised. i certainly am interested in a life of faith that enables me to live in a more christlike, prayerful way, paying attention to the world, god, others.
the second is that i think ian has a great way with language - he seems to talk about faith in a way that is open and welcoming and accessible and creative. i am sure he has thought hard and worked carefully on this. it's no mean feat.
the third is that the practices are really good and helpful. there are 52 in total and they are organised into sections - like earth and body, stillness and movement, possibility and so on. you can dive into any section or any practice. you could pick a practice each week of the year. i think it would make a good book for a community to go through in a season like lent. the practices are also a good mix of ancient tried and tested along with creative and fresh ideas. here's how ian describes practices in the intro
Practices are the earthy business of encountering ideas, then working out how they might take shape in us. They help us move from aspiration to reality. They work slowly over time. We shouldn't expect immediate results, but we can expect that through them the change for good that we seek will come, gradually forming something new within us.
the fourth is that ian has great wisdom. he has soaked himself in much of the understandings of those who have navigated the religious life and draws on it in a way that is accessible but has depth. the section of practices of descent is a good example.
the fifth is that ian has written a poem for each practice so there are over 50 poems which is a delightful addition.
practice takes practise - in other words this is not a book to read like i did - in a week! it's one to try out and practise. in my defence i have kept the book with my journal having read it so that i will come back to many of the practices. it reminds me a little bit of anthony de mello's book sadhana a way to god - which is a book i have come back to so many times with its spiritual exercises.
ian and gail are leading a retreat in may which looks like an absolute bargain if you would like a weekend to be introduced to some of the ideas.
if you are interested download a copy of the annual report for the cms pioneer training course i lead. the idea of an annual report may not sound that exciting but I really like writing it as it's a chance to look back and reflect. it's now 3 years since we started which is hard to believe. it's been both hard work and fantastic in equal measure. people say that it takes 3 years for a start up to get established so i think we have made it - it feels like it. we have a new year of students starting the week after next. at this point we have 13 or 14 new who will be doing either an MA or Foundation Degree - which is a really nice number. the will be joining the other two year groups and on top of that we will have people doing individual modules. it never seems to stand still...
if any of you reading are pioneering, into mission, or whatever way you want to describe it, check out what we are doing. a couple of good ways in are ReSource weekends , and we also have a day in november conversations on pioneering presenting research around pioneering mission with a number of speakers that is going to be a really good day. i will blog about that separately in the next couple of weeks.
beth keith has published a piece of research looking at fresh expressions of church amongst young adults. i always love beth's work - she has a knack of lifting the lid off things that then seem obvious in hindsight. the report is called authentic faith and you can buy it here - i am hoping a couple of our younger pioneers might review it for the pioneer site but meantime here's a piece by beth that gives a few headlines and here are some comments in response by young adults.
she identifies 5 different types of church - church planting hubs, youth church grown up, deconstructed church, church on the margins, context shaped church
the most interesting part for me is around groups are are connecting with those outside of church. she says
The churches managing to reach young adults with no prior faith or church experience - and from a broader socio-economic background - exhibit very different traits and practices. Meeting more often around the dining table than the church building; eating together is the new 'Sunday service'.
I learn most from experience, from being out in the context that is being explained and taught. I smell it, taste it, imbibe it and assimilate it, and then I can apply what I learned to other scenarios. I learned more and was challenged and excited more than I have been in the entire academic year, this weekend. It reminded me who I am in a way that the classroom never can.
occasionally something comes along that is a wonderful surprise. this happened to me recently when a book arrived in the post called and we will become a happy ending. it's a collection of stories and sayings, ponderings and pictures that describe a church called theStory in canada - it fuses meditation, liturgy, prayer, art, theology. it's laid out beautifully like a coffe table book. it really is amazing. you can preview the book here
when things like this come along i find myself filled with hope. it's a real labour of love. it's available on proost i am delighted to say - proost exists for precisely this sort of creative publishing that comes from the bottom up. it's available as a downloadable pdf. of course if you are a subscriber it's available as part of your subscription! i actually have 10 physical copies that i have bought - they cost me around £15.50 each by the time postage is added. i am very happy to pass them on at cost price so if you know me or bump into me just ask. or you can order it through amazon.
i recenty spoke about soulwork. forgive the wordplay but more recently i got to visit s korea for the first time and take part in some seoulwork (!) with the diocese of seoul. i have added a set of photos to flickr here (though i didn't have much time to get out and about on my own with a camera). and i have written about the trip here - pioneering in seoul.
ian adams runs morning bell - it's a simple e-mail and usually one sentence to reflect on prayerfully each day, a call to prayer. it gets sent via e-mail, twitter, facebook - take your pick. i realise i think i have never made it a worship trick so will add it to the series...
starting today is a series on silence with images and thoughts from me...
thanks to bob carlton for the link to #4, a poem from empire remixed blog that begins like this.
comrades in the struggle for
the Party w/out a vanguard
the anarchic community of communities...
in september i read a poem by michael mitton inspired by the celtic saint kevin. well it turned out that it really caught ric stott's attention as an approach to pioneering mission. he has blogged about kevin's hand - and this is a painting of his. what i think is interesting about it is that the stereotype of pioneering is often thought of as an activist or at least someone who is making things happen through doing stuff. st kevin offers a different model of pioneering through stillness and patience.
it reminded me of the book by elaine heath - the mystic way of evangelism which fuses insights from the contemplative life with mission. i meant to review it but never got round to it. but here's a quote i jotted down...
Christian mysticism is about the holy transformation of the mystic by God, so that the mystic becomes instrumental in the transformation of God’s people. This transformation always results in missional action in the world. The idea that mysticism is private and removed from the rugged world of ministry is simply false. All the Old Testament prophets were mystics. Their visions, dreams and other experiences of God were for the express purpose of calling God’s people back to their missional vocation.
there's an interview with elaine here
i am very excited! yes some people don't believe that my laid back self does excitement but i am honestly (at least inside)!
the first copy of making communion, a collection of communion liturgies from grace has landed on my doorstep hot of the press. this is the latest in proost's pocket liturgy series. it is the longest yet at around 150 pages. i feel very proud of it having helped put it together.
there's a couple of reasons i particularly like this book...
the first is that grace have spent a lot of time over the years trying to work out how to be creative with communion whilst also being respectful to the tradition we are located in (church of england). so this book gave us a chance to write a summary in a 20 page introduction of how we have thought that through and worked it out. i hope and suspect this may be of interest to lots of other communities who are trying to negotiate similar challenges. if you do read it we would love some feedback and further discussion around that.
the second is that there are 24 liturgies or ways that we have celebrated communion. most have been written by members of grace. a few are from other communities and used with permission. but there are some really lovely and inspiring prayers and approaches. many are on the grace web site in the archives but it's great to pull them together in one place.
you can order a physical book through lulu who we use to self publish.
if you are a proost subscriber, then you can access the book as part of your subscription. did you know that there are now around 25 books published on proost?! i have all the pocket liturgies on an ipad so can pull them up at any time. the books alone are worth more than the cost of a subscription before you add in the movies and albums and other stuff.
grace last night was inspired by john of the cross and invloved an exploration of longing, the veil of the senses, the veil of the spirit and union with god. it felt a bit back to the old school as we draped muslin screens, got slide projectors out and went slightly ott! i have added the outline of it and linked to photos, prayers, stations, movies and so on in the grace web site archive here.
i am adding the whole thing a a worship trick...
andrew brimms has published another free book. you may (or may not) remember i blogged about his last one unintended consequences. it's called the narky nazarene and is by andrew and nat. it's a similar style - cheeky, provocative and really good! i assume it was compiled over time as a series of discreet reflections on jesus and what it might mean to follow him. the image above is one, or another page simply says -
downward mobility: he came down from heaven to earth - what's your next move?
it's simple, honest and direct. for me it captures something of jesus the prophet which is an edge that sometimes goes missing as the church prefers jesus the king or jesus the priest. there's a link from andrew's site to download it for kindle. i don't have a kindle so asked andrew to send me a pdf which he kindly did. on a second glance i think it may not be free now - it could be the bargain of 75p. either way it's worth getting...
it's the first grace of the year this coming sturday - why not join us? post christmas here's the blurb...
What did you want? What did you actually get?
What will you do with it now that you've got it?
How do we recognise the true worth of what we are given?
Join us on Saturday 12th January for the first Grace of 2013.
It would be great if you can bring, or be prepared to talk about:
- a valued gift
- an useless or unsuitable gift
- a gift whose true value only became apparent much laterHope to see you
first worship trick of the year - no idea what number i have got to. i must tidy them up... anyway lou davis, venture fx pioneer in edinburgh, is doodling in response to a short section of the bible. it sounds like a great way to reflect but i doubt i will find the time or artistry so i will check her doodling instead.
this is a space to think, pray, relax, meditate
the photo above is of my feet when i was sat in the space (clearly being distracted). the last three years have been the busiest of my life. i realised at the start of this year that i can't do another at the same rate. i like the start of the year because it is a space to reflect and rethink some patterns. but i know i need to rebalance my life in some way for the year ahead. here's a few things i am thinking about that hopefully will help
rhythm of life. jen and i have found developing a rhythm of life really helpful in the last couple of years. what i mean by this is that we have plotted on one side of paper what our yearly, monthly and weekly pattern looks like. we try and make it a natural rhythm with the seasons of the year. and have then added some things that we want to try and do that are energising - for example inviting people round for meals at least once a month, a termly day of silence, not working more than two weekends in a month, having a weekly meal where we linger at the table for the evening and share bread and wine... we then talk about this every month or so. it's not a heavy thing - it's light touch. and in some ways it doesn't matter what's on there - it just helps create a conversation about it.
retreat. since starting the cms pioneer training, we have asked students to take a retreat each year. well you can't do that without doing it yourself. this is now essential for me. this year i am booked in to an 8 day silent retreat which i am nervously looking forward to.
holiday/rest. the last couple of years i have not managed to take my quota of holiday from work. this is entirely my own doing. i intend to change that this year and have sat down with jen and already diaried things we will do which already feels good.
art. imagine a world without gigs, music, film, photography, festivals, poetry, books, exhibitions? whenever i look back over the year and thngs that have energised me art is always a big factor - both the enjoying and the creating. and yet it's easy to forget or not prioritise it.
stop doing some things. i have already shifted one thing in my life this yar and i have a list of others. i realised in converation with a friend that i am my own worst enemy here. i do things out of habit and because i can - some of those i smply need to let go of or let others do. so i will be working on those habits. part of the reason for stopping is that i want to carve out time for thinking and possibly studying a day a week if possible.
prayer. i need and want to pray but find it difficult like everyone else in the world! i am someone who likes change so need to keep it fresh. this year i am starting off by using a book that cost me one pence second hand finding god in all things exploring ignatian prayer along with prayer exercises from sadhana by anthony de mello (which you can also get for one pence), a book i have had for years. i intend to read them both slowly and linger with them trying out the exercises and prayer.
someone to reflect with. i am fortunate to have a great community grace that i journey and explore faith with. if you are not part of a community why not join one or start one? - if you are near ealing come and join us! i also have someone who i meet with 3/4 times a year for some intentional conversation about my life in relation to faith. this is a wonerful thing to have found.
so there's a few of my thoughts on what i am hoping will help me find space to think for the year ahead. i had originally started this post with the intention of reviewing two books. these are two very recent books on finding space to think and pray. i'll recommend them by way of an end to the post because if you are looking for a book to help you these might be ones to explore.
the first is less is more: spirituality for busy lives by brian draper. when this book arrived we had two people living with us and before i had had a chance to look at the book they had both picked it up and read it and loved it. it's a book that explores exactly what it says in the title. it's contemporary, practical and easy to read. the irony is that i was too busy to read it at the time!
the second is return to our senses by christine sine. she is a prolific blogger and creates lovely prayers and liturgies. spirituality is her thing. this is another very easy to read book with very practical ideas and suggestings for prayer using things like gardening or breathing.
both are the kind of books that would work best if read an practised slowly - even though they are both easy to read. they would also be good books to explore and try the various ideas with others - maybe a book for lent? and they are both cheap to buy which is always a plus.
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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.