join us at grace to celebrate pentecost by exploring landmarks of the Spirit in our lives...
this saturday is the first grace of the year in a café style service. iii will be led by flock (aka chris read and harry baker) with their unique contemplative blend of music and spoken word reflections interspersed with pauses for prayer. looking forward to it!
for the first time in a while the advent grace was nine, where we take the traditional nine readings from nine lessons and carols and invite nine people to choose a piece of music and do something else - a reflection, ritual or whatever.
this year was great with a whole range of contributions. a favourite of mine was the first ever contribution from dave and helena who are new to grace. they made this wonderful film to go with the reading from isaiah 9 about 'the people walking in darkness'.
we have quickly added this to proost so it's available to anyone now - it may be a bit late for this year but tuck it away for next if so!
if you are around this saturday why not come along to grace at st mary's ealing. we take the christmas story as outlined in a traditional nine lessons and carols framework but rather than carols nine people will select a piece of music or art and something to reinterpret or tell the story. we have had some great times over the years. i am one of the nine and will be performing a song...
eighteen months ago i was recognised by the church of england as a lay pioneer. this morning i am going to be licensed as such by the bishop of willesden. the way the church of england works in relation to those who are in leadership is a two step process.
(you can simply read the first sentence of each of these steps below but if you are interested what on earth that means i have tried to explain further below each.)
step 1 - you are admitted into an order of ministry (order simply means category).
in the canons (rubric) of the church of england the order i was admitted to is 'lay worker - for those interested canon E7'. this is different to lay reader which most people seem to think is the only category available - in my view it is a broader description of ministry and includes evangelism so suits lay pioneers better than the category of reader. to be admitted in this way you have to demonstrate that you meet certain criteria. the criteria we use are in this document here which has been approved for use by the ministry council of the church of england and shows what is a good direction of travel in my view - recognising some core dispositions but then subsets for various types of ministries such as pioneer rather than a one size fits all. (i actually helped write the pioneer subset!) what is curious about this document is that hardly anyone seems to be using it - they still seem to be using an older approach but i am guessing that will gradually change. the recognition is like a kite mark of training and quality i guess that is able to be trusted across the church. the way the church of england is governed is episcopal which means that a bishop is trusted to oversee procedures - so to be admitted a bishop needs to approve and admit you. this is where i think it gets interesting. cms has become a religious community of the church (which i blogged about here) so rather than being a parachurch agency it is in and of itself a church (mission) community. as such we have a bishop who is linked as a visitor to cms - so we are able to admit people as lay pioneers through cms rather than through a diocese. in my case this makes perfect sense - my identity and calling in the church is mission focused and the majority of what i do by way of leadership is done through cms of which i am an enthusiastic member. the order (category) is a national one so once admitted you don't need to go through the process again if you move to another diocese for example. i apologise if this a bit technical but i have studied it to try and open a way for lay pioneers to be recognised in the church in a way that makes sense and this is the best use (legitimate hack) of the codes i could find.
step 2 - you are licensed for a particular local role/ministry
licensing is the way the church entrusts ministry to people who have admitted to an order. this is how it works for vicars - they get admitted to the order of priest (step 1) and then a license for a particular parish or whatever. so i am being given a license to be a lay pioneer with grace at st marys ealing (as a member of cms) by my local bishop. what does this mean? to be honest it won't change much - i think i may be able to do a few different things such as bury the dead. but i have been leading, preaching, as a member of grace and st marys ealing for about 20 years. like many churches a lot of ministry (rightly) flourishes and continues without being licensed. in my mind the license is simply affirming what i already do and bring - nothing more. but what i bring and do is strongly tied up with who i am and my own sense of calling. it is the recognition of the word pioneer that has made me think this is worth doing because it is affirming a ministry that is not simply pastoral with those in the church but affirms the gift of seeing and building things beyond the edge of where the church currently is. the main part of what i do as a leader in the church actually is through cms in the pioneer training i lead but the licensing system in the church is such that i think it would be too complicated to license someone for a role that is essentially a national one. the church of england still imagines ministry quite geographically i think. that's not a complaint - just explaining why the license is linked with local stuff in ealing rather than everything i am involved in.
so there you go! all that to say i am being licensed as a lay pioneer in the church of england this morning and if you've read this far i hope that sentence makes more sense.
research into new things in the church over the last decade shows that at least half of the new expressions of church have been started and led by untrained and unrecognised and unlicensed leaders - looking back i think 95% of alternative worship grew that way. all that is great in my view! so in doing this i am not for a moment thinking the church needs to license things before they should happen. i quite like it the other way round actually - it's a way of affirming something that has emerged rather than controlling it. but for me part of the reason is that the church nationally is trying to work out what lay pioneers are and how to encourage and recognise them in a way that makes sense. so we have done that through cms and this is simply showing how that can that work with the way a diocese tends to operate around ministry (i.e. a precedent of sorts). we have admitted 12 lay pioneers through cms so far and intend to keep that rolling over the next decade. i hope where cms pioneers land in a diocese that will be welcomed by bishops as a gift to the church rather than a threat, and that lay pioneers who are members of cms are both trustworthy, faithful and hopefully dangerous (in a good or prophetic way) because they are called beyond the current edge of the church in mission.
i also want to stress that this does not mean the way we operate in grace will change or the way i am in grace. the church tends to imagine leadership in one or two people. grace has a very distributed model of leadership which i like so i will carry on in the community there exactly as before. (it would actually make sense to license grace as a whole but i don't think the church of england quite thinks that way!)
july is the last grace of the year (yes we still seem to live in a rhythm of the year as though we are at school) - a bbq and discussion of the rule of benedict. come and join us...
grace last saturday was a repeat of what we call communion by numbers which follows through a communion service round tables in a café style. there are a series of numbered envelopes on each table and when a bell rings you open the next envelope and follow the instructions. it's very simple to set up and run but sometimes the simplest things are the best...
next grace is sat may 9 - communion by numbers. a simple communion service that unfolds round tables café style. i loved this image above from the last grace - when the projector screen was rolled up the projection directly onto the wall and windows of the church looked rather magical...
the last grace was close enough to low sunday (is there a low saturday?). and steve collins led a wonderful grace SENSEOFDOUBT inspired by the story of thomas for whom easter didn't happen. the outline of the service is here in the grace archive and includes some gems...
it was a reminder for me how sometimes simple can be very powerful - there was a slideshow with words and a fabulous soundtrack to accompany it and plenty of space - the tracks are listed and you can download the slides. one beautiful track i hadn't heard before (and got rebuked for shazzaming when i should have been meditating upon it!) was weapons by son lux which has the extraordinary line which i have thought about since and indeed used yesterday with pioneers at cms...
put down all your weapons
let me in through your open wounds
this was a prayer
We thank you Lord for the story of Thomas
showing us that faith was never easy
and that doubt never breaks your love for us
We lift up to you our demands
give me a sign NOW
may your peace be with us
We offer you
Our fumbling answers
when others tell us
you are not
may your peace be with us
We offer you
When we hold back from rejoicing
Because others can’t
may your peace be with us
We ask you
To meet those
In need of peace
In need of blessing
In need of an end to their waiting
may your peace be with them
We do believe,
help us overcome our unbelief
am making the whole thing a worship trick - 58 in series 4...
i have been reading soil and soul by alastair mcintosh. it's amazing. it's the story of how he and others set up the isle of eigg trust and managed against the odds to help the residents of the isle of eigg to clear their laid from the estate. it's a reminder that you don't have to settle for the way things are and in relation to money and power this is so important. it's a also an incredibly spiritual book - on the relationship to land, community life. he is inspired by walter wink's trilogy on the powers which suggests that in the face of any domination system a process of liberation involves naming the powers, unmasking the powers and engaging the powers.
i have been thinking particularly about the internalised scripts and messages people tell themselves that end up imprisoning the imagination. if we are to be free this internal stuff has to shift - we have to learn to believe a different script, a different story. i have been reminded of this through lent as ian adams daily prayer series temptations in morning bell (see here for photos of all the scripts) has been a simple taunt/script that is precisely this kind of thing. it's a wonderful series and it got me thinking what my own taunts or scripts are that stop me from being free. certainly the islanders are not initially free in their own minds and a big part of the liberation is enabling them to begin to believe a different narrative about themselves and their relationship to the laird and the island. once that happens victory seems inevitable.
my favourite paragraph in the book that produced a massive grin on my face was where alastair is reflecting on how ridiculous the situation is - the trust has no resources and the odds are stacked against it. the laird has power, money, control, friends in high places and so on. but there is this great moment where macintosh says with utmost sincerity 'but we do run on poetry'!!! i loved that. the community bards have been the story tellers at the heart of life on the islands so it's with a good basis. but this struck me as wonderful and so like the nature of the kingdom of god and indeed at this moment so like the easter story.
so… last night we had a meal with friends from grace in our kitchen remembering the last supper jesus had with his friends. that was a meal about liberation from a domination system - a passover meal - remembering the slaves exodus from pharaoh's tyranny. jesus of course reframes it for his own life and death opening up liberation. well after discussing ian adams taunts and what we might need freeing from we proceeded to write a liturgy to share with bread and wine round the meal. it was simple - start a line with 'we've got…' and add something and then one with 'you've got…' and add something. what we came up with is below and of course it is called 'we've got poets'. and i think it's worthy of being a worship trick - 57 in series 4. try adding your own lines!
you've got the answers
we've got poets
you've got tunnel vision
we've got a wide horizon
you've got control of the media
we've got a pen
you've got cities of cement
we've got music
you've got the power to make people afraid, to keep them contained and compliant
we've got a different story, a creative resistance, relationships that sustain and nourish us
you've got management
we've got compassion
you've got viciousness and aggressiveness to scare
we've got meaningful relationships that heal and lift us
you' make people rely on handouts
we've got allotments
you've got surveillance
we've got openness
you've got appetite
we've got creativity
you've got the present
we've got future hope
you've got isolation
we've got mail
you've got iphones
we've got iphones
you've got destructiveness
we've got the power to rebuild with gratitude
you've got lawyers, superinjunctions, court costs that bankrupt the innocent
we've got citizens advice bureaux, amnesty international, pro bono solicitors working into the night
you've got shoulder pads and hello magazine
we've got a real example of a selfless life
you've got control of several churches
we've got a small group
you've got a porn empire
we've got our bodies
you've got the time and date
we've got a relaxed attitude to the whole thing
you've got the reactionary press hooting and braying at anyone different fighting on behalf of the powerful
we've got underground whispers, blogs run on love and creativity, networks of people who want a better world
you've got machinery
we've got mustard seeds
you've got tradition, the way things have always been done, the status quo
we've got a different story, anew way of doing things, a vision of how things can be better, more equal, more free
you've got no idea about anyone else
we've got each other
you've got Whole Foods™
we've got bread and wine
you've got death
we've got resurrection
this hasn't been crafted - just a spontaneous piece of liturgy... we were set off on what i think was quite an interesting thought by the line about iPhones and thought an equally interesting liturgy would be to have both things the same all the way through. you've got a story we've got a story etc but maybe that's for another time...
next saturday tend sees grace focus on prayer drawing inspiration from st teresa of avila who many attribute to be one of the key inspirations in contemplative prayer. we now have a cycle of services at grace that flow through a focus on art | word | bread and wine | prayer. a couple of years back i curated a service inspired by john of the cross which i really enjoyed doing and has lingered with me ever since (and indeed i subjected students at ripon college cuddesdon to a eucharist inspired by the same last december) - i guess this is a similar kind of thing though the set up will not be quite so elaborate.
one of the images she use for prayer is that it is like preparing a garden for god hence the imagery and title - if you are coming we will be having a garden theme so do bring a few plants, compost, food waste, tools or any other such items! there will be space for prayer… looking forward to it though i'll be racing back from leicester where i am speaking at a day on vocation (which i am also looking forward to). it starts at 8pm at st marys ealing and there's a café afterwards so plan to stick around.
grace last night was based around a poem by karlie allaway - for fools and dreamers. it was also valentine's day so love had to be the theme… we had fun writing in love hearts words associated with love whether in our experience, our culture.
i had hoped to set up a slideshow scrolling round the images that people could post to instagram with a hashtag #gracelovefeb15 but forgot there was no wifi in the church. but i can share with you a couple of ways i found to do that - go to liveflow and type in that hashtag. the other designed for events - ii.do - you can use a trial version. it's designed for use at weddings. what is rather neat is that they then send you a link to an album after the event and that's on the free version - so the album is here - ii.do album
it was a lot of fun - i am adding it as a worship trick - 56 in series 4.
this saturday chris read is curating grace for the first time - ruah. i'm really looking forward to what promises to be a creative evening with live improvisation and reflective space for prayer - a perfect way to kick of a new year... come along if you are anywhere nearby!
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…
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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.