ok i confess this is a little sad... but there was one tune i wanted to trace from the tour de france coverage. a minute or two later i found the playlist for the whole series of programmes here. one thing leads to another so i then created a spotify playlist with the tunes that were available (which sadly misses out a few including radiohead, diva and bibio tunes - i also missed out florence as the machine as i can't stand their music!). and if you are also sad you can listen to those tunes here (at least if you are in certain countries). i added in kraftwerk's tour de france tunes at the end for good measure!
so another tour de france is over. what am i going to do at 7pm each night instead of watching the highlights?!
if you've not wrapped you head around it it may just look like a bunch of guys riding 3500km round france. but it's so much more. yes there's the overall race for the yellow jersey which simply goes to the rider who makes it in the least overall time. that was an exciting context this year. alberto contador won for the third time (and i suspect could well win another three). to win you need to be a good climber up the most ridiculous mountains - why anyone would even think of climbing them on a bike i have no idea! and you also need t be a good time trialist where time can be gained. the rest you can get away with. i actually miss the team time trial which seems to have been dropped from the tour. andy schleck proved this year that he will be a competitor who will push contador over the next few years. the gap in the end was a controversial 39 seconds, the time andy lost on a stage where he had a mechanical failure and contador didn't wait which would have been the thing to do according to the etiquette of the tour which says you don't attack the yellow jersey when someone has a mechanical failure.
then there's any stage win which is an achievement in itself - some are flat which end up either being won by a breakaway or sprinters. if there is a breakaway it is usually chased down and the sprinters compete for the line. they are basically a different kind of rider - power and strength rather than the lean agility of the climbers. mark cavendish, the manx missile, proved that he is simply the fastest sprinter winning 5 stages. remarkably this was after a bad start where everything seemed to go wrong. he wins when he gets in the zone by several bike lengths which i don't remember any rider being able to do in quite that way. he has now won 15 stages in total, more than any sprinter before and has years ahead of him. but the fascination is also how the teams get the sprinter to the line. each team has nine riders and cav is always at pains to say that whilst he wins the stages it's only because of the efforts of his team. because of wind resistance you need to tuck in the slipstream of riders in front who peel off one by one before the sprinter heads for the line. mark renshaw is cavendish's lead out man. he got thrown out of the tour for head butting a fellow rider whilst sprinting at 70km - no mean feat. i thought it was harsh - his lane was clearly being cut by dean who was putting his elbow across renshaw in highly dangerous fashion. but maybe the third head butt was one too far! that cav could still win stages without his lead out was also amazing.
when we first started watching the tour british cycling was nowhere. now cav is one of many good british riders. will team sky be able to produce someone able to compete for the yellow jersey itself in the next few years? who knows...
there are other contests - points, king of the mountains, team, and young rider.
the scenery is breathtaking across france and the commentary both brilliant and hilarious. i still think it's the single most difficult sporting event there is.
join us in the snug at the big chill house on friday august 20th for the launch party of landskapes, the new grace cd. the room has its own bar, sound system and projections. it should be a cracking evening. the room will hold about 150 people max. we want to pack the place. spread the word, forward the invite to friends, and note if you arrive after 10pm you'll have to pay.
richard sudworth reflects on mainstreaming pioneer ministry where he suggests
The truly innovative step would be to offer training that is wholly related to the context of mission.
which of course is exactly what we intend to do with the pioneer training we are developing. but richard goes on to say that this is as second best as other things on offer because what is really needed is a reappraisal of all ordination practices which should be framed by a missionary theology.
i agree with all that richard is saying - i would love to see the whole system reappraised and changed but that is going to take some time and not something within my particular remit of possibilities right now. so i think developing something that reframes the whole training around mission in context as we are doing is a great way to go. i'm a bit confused as to why it's as second best as what is out there, or does richard mean second best in relation to changing everything?... who knows!
i called in to uva's installation chorus on sunday. i love their stuff. the wapping project was a fantastic space for it. huge pendulums with a speaker and a light in each swing in sequences in the space. it was so dark that as ever it's difficult to photograph but i tried. i also took a short movie which may give you a better idea which i have added to vimeo here.
it was exciting this week when curating worship landed on my doormat! it's not technically out until august 19 so it was something of a surprise. if you order through amazon they won't issue it until then. but i have got a load of copies so if you want one soon you can order it through proost (of course!) or me direct. i'll organise a book launch in due course but it will probably have to be after greenbelt.
those of you that follow the blog may already know the back story here. but in case not, curation is a term usually used in the art world for the role of imagining and overseeing an exhibition or installation in a gallery or museum. but it has been picked up and used as a different way of thinking about leading worship in alternative worship circles for about ten years. it is pretty much universally agreed that this started with mark pierson and it certainly first appeared in print in the prodigal project. what's good about it is that it gives a very different model and way of thinking to the worship band leader or the president - not that those are bad - they are simply a different genre.
just over a year ago i was early for a wedding and visited an art gallery while waiting and picked up a couple of books on curating. inevitably a few blog posts followed. one of those books was a series of interviews with curators by hans obrist. i thought it was a great idea and began via e-mail some conversations with people who have inspired me, to try and get into the creative processes involved in curating. it was quickly very interesting. so i floated the idea to a publisher and to my amazement they instantly said they'd love to do it (thanks alison!) and in less than a year from that conversation (august last year) the book is out. it feels like it has happened by accident!
it's in two parts. part one is some reflections of mine expanding on some of the ideas in the blog posts on what is involved in curating - see  |  |  |  |  . then the second and main section is a series of twelve interviews. i hope it's helpful to anyone working creatively in putting together worship whether in a church environment or in public space. i have found doing the interviews incredibly inspiring. thanks to everyone who agreed to be interviewed for the book.
kester brewin's first book the complex christ is brilliant - i really enjoyed it. i thought it was one of the most creative books out of the emerging church conversation at the time and the chapters on dirt and gift still live with me. so i was looking forward to Other...
i sort of regret having labelled a previous blog post romantic tosh. off the back of a piece kester had written suggesting that the emerging church had retreated to the institution i rang him up to say i thought it was romantic tosh and went on to say why. that was a private conversation. but kester then proceeded to out that conversation on another blog post so i felt compelled to blog something possibly against my better judgement. having done that has made it difficult to know how to get into a review of other but here goes.
it's a great title - i wish i'd thought of it. as soon as i saw it i wanted to read the book because it's one of the big questions that i struggle with. how do i be a good neighbour/friend to people different than me and at the macro level how do we create a society that lives with others in peace.
it's a great cover - love it!
it's a great framework - kester takes jesus summary of the law and explores three relationships with self, god and others. the subtitle is loving self, god and neighbour in a world of fractures. what might love for the other mean in each of these dimensions? this was a framework that we used (thanks to kev and ana draper) to explore the labyrinth only we had a fourth which was the relationship with the planet. each of those three makes up a section of the book and he then concludes with some practical suggestions of what this might look like.
it's creative and provocative, both of which i hoped it would be. one of the things i like about kester's writing is that he explores a range of texts in philosophy, culture, sociology and weaves together threads and connections. he also loves hyperbole - in fact at times i suspect he has a cheeky grin on his face as he writes something that he must know is a bit of a wind up. he weaves some of his poetry in the mix. that style of writing makes you think. it raises questions as much as giving answers. it has a restless spirit to it. since reading the book i have thought about it a lot which i can't say for all the books i read. i actually found a comment kester left on a review very helpful where he says that he is writing this book because it's a question he lives with, not because he has all the answers - here's the quote:
I wrote it precisely because I KNOW that my practice is lacking, that I know I need to do better. One line that got cut from the front, which I kind of wish I'd insisted on leaving in now was 'I wrote the last book to challenge others; I've written this to challenge myself.' So no, there is no self-deprication, because there's little I can claim to be doing which deserves any great praise. But I've written the book to try to change that. We'll see how it goes.
i think it would have been good to add a bit more of that tone in the book.
the strongest section in my view is the section on self where kester shares volf's concern that we need to foster and become social agents capable of creating just and peace loving societies. who am i in a world of facebook where i present a cool pseudo self through my status updates with my real self somewhat hidden in the background? am in danger of just relating to pseudo others? as in the complex christ kester draws inspiration from the narrative of jesus' journey into the wilderness away from any connectivity to a life 'lived in the clearing'. i was surprised at points just how critical kester is of the liquid environment and technologies but it is probably time for a bit of a wake up call all round to pause and reflect on who we are becoming. the thing that really caught my imagination in this section was the call to mature and become parents - again it surprised me. it seemed to come from the leftfield. we recently did a grace on the story of the prodigal son and i realised that for me i wanted to become the father - able to reconfigure the world as an order of grace and embrace. kester connects to this story and says that every child has to face and choose whether to become father and mother for others. this to me is central to the christian narrative - the passion. to what degree can i live a passionate life in the way of jesus christ, the way of self giving love on behalf of others? i am reading this at an interesting moment - aged 45. i don't know how long i will live but i have loved life so far. but let's say i go on to 90?! then i'm half way. kester says
The second half of life is the life of the father, the parent. To the young it may seem that life is over by this point. Our parents are boring and square. They don't have the radical energy and iconoclasm of their children. It will be painful I imagine to hear my children say this. And I realise now it must have been painful for my parents to hear this from me. But I begin to see now it is only in the move towards the individuality, the security, and maturity of the second half of life that we begin to become the sort of selves that can live in harmony with others. At the same time I see that there are still many dark nights to be navigated, many hours spent awake waiting before the legal self dies and grace begins to move in me.
this section then opens up the challenge of darkness and struggle as part of the journey of the self. kester unearths a gem in the fantasy cycle from booker's book the neophiliacs. there's lots of wisdom here, lots to chew on.
dare we explore the other within god? this section ebbs and flows in a few directions including exploring how god might be close and far (immanent and transcendent). the most interesting question this section opens up is the degree to which we have domesticated god. is god bound to our agenda? what about the story of the other? i was struck by precisely this question when i visited jerusalem some years back and realised that in the narrative of joshua and the promised land the palestinians are other in the story - they identify with the canaanites. god is bound in the joshua telling rather than free. in what ways have we tied god to our story? to consumer capitalism? there is an equal danger if we make god too remote, too other. and kester says there is a balancing between binding and separation. i know that kester will get criticised by theologians. this happened in the complex christ. but i don't think he's interested in reading all the theological tomes on the trinity to locate what he's saying in that discourse. i think he's finding some different metaphors and analogies and writers to stir up a different way of seeing and thinking. it's for others to reflect on how that mixes in the discourse of theology...
in an interesting thought on leadership brewin concludes that the role of a priest is to create environments where this binding and separation can be celebrated and explored. part of that is to take people into uncomfortable dirty spaces such as jesus did time and again with the disciples to experience transformation in encounters with strangers. this is a great missional instinct. the funniest passage in the whole book - i literally laughed out loud - was when kester got on one of his hobby horses - having a pop at ordained priests. he chooses exodus 32 as a passage to discuss priesthood, conveniently overlooking any other passage he might have chosen! in this passage the first act of the levitical priests is to protect god's holiness by slaughtering 3000 of their own people. it is a shocking passage. kester then says
I am not entirely familiar with the inner workings of the selection process for ordination in the various Chrisian denominations but I'm fairly sure that a willingness to slaughter in the name of God is not tested very often.
in terms of loving our neighbour, the other within society (we're now into the third section of the book) kester says two values are important - locating what we do in the economy of gift, and that we should lean towards the temporary because it's only in the temporary that violence that is required to maintain structures of oppression is mitigated. i love the notion of gift and want to be a generous and gift giving person and think that it is something our communities should aspire to. but kester is in danger of being ungenerous himself in his example- he critiques soup runs as patronising, as a power play, hospitality on our turf and terms suggesting that a feast is a better idea as we become artists of the invisible. it sounds great but my question is a simple one. how many feasts with strangers have you had? and especially if it seems you can't be the one hosting because that's a power play so they have to spontaneously erupt?! if i buy into this notion, then it's meaningless if those ideas don't have legs - i just can't imagine what those legs are. he goes on to hold up the food pantry in section four as a shining example but that sounds like what he criticises here. i'm not trying to defend soup runs per se - this just opens up what i perceive to be a massive problem in this section of the book. it's too idealised. it may be that it's about putting the ideas out there and it's for others to do the work that gives legs to the ideas. but overall i ended up being almost entirely unconvinced by the stuff on temporality. kester draws on hakim bey's notion of the temporary autonoumus zone (TAZ) - in a regime of power people find gaps in the maps away from the authorities to create something short lived, temporary, that dissolves before the authorities can latch on to it and it dissolves to re-emerge elsewhere. the rave scene, festivals, flash mobs and so might be examples.
it's not that temporary is bad or wrong. i think that the idea is great and have enjoyed lots of these temporary type spaces and think that reflecting on how to create some is a great idea. it fits well particularly with the worlds of art and performance and celebration. my issue is that as a strategy for loving the other it's close to hopeless. the lid is lifted off this in the final section when i actually physically breathed a huge sigh of relief when kester tests this idea on esther baker (yes my younger sis) who works with prisoners. she says prisoners need permanance or at least solid ground. there you have it - the poor, the marginalized, the real other probably won't get included in our TAZ. so the suggestion of church as TAZ is naive at best. i think it's simply the hyperbole that got to me - TAZ as part of what church is about sounds great. kester holds up the death of vaux as some sort of heroic act and suggests in a comment on one of his blog posts that maybe 5 years is an ideal length of time for some communities to exist. i just can't go with this. i have no problem with things ending and clearing space for new things to emerge but thank god for communities who are faithful and offer some welcome for those who simply won't make it to church as TAZ. you get depth in relationships through commitment and longevity and even stability.
ironically i fear the world kester describes works best for the postmodern flaneur (or pirate or heretic or trickster or tactician or artist of the invisible) who has resources and a confidence about their person to tactically navigate the liquid world but in the way that they choose and here's the rub with who they choose (i.e. where's the other now?). they like to avoid fixation, keep their options open as the carnival goes by. in other words it's a world with me at the centre - indiividualism by another name. zygmunt bauman is the person who lays bare this world better than any other writer i know - he has pulled the rug from under my feet on this and held up a mirror to me as i actually like living like this and could live like this quite easily. is this our binding of god, our syncretism, our making of god and god's body in our image, the god of the postmodern consumer? in an article that simon hall pointed out to me bauman suggests that individualism has won out over community - people are simply not engaging in institutional life, in the political processes, in community, preferring instead this sort of temporality. but actually research suggests that the numbers doing anything in the way of activism a la TAZ are far less than even those in political parties - really where does it lead in effecting real transformation of an unjust society. probably nowhere near where committed engagement does. i was stung by this sentence from bauman - Such carnivals are séances during which people hold hands together calling the ghost of deceased community. Not an insignificant part of their charm is the awareness that the ghost will play but a fleeting visit and will promptly go away when the séance is over. the question kester's book raises on this for me is how does becoming the parent relate to this? isn't temporality as a tactic avoidance of taking up this call to parent? clearly kester doesn't think so. i do.
one of the pratical suggestions at the end is church as TAZ and i know kester loves hyperbole but when he says things like 'against the model of church as permanent structure offering a familiar liturgical rhythm of worship which appears to take as its inspiration the parable of the persistent widow grinding God into submission through constant nagging... i offer a vision of christian life inspired by TAZ' it's just simply a cartoon that i can't take seriously. it's ungenerous and annoys me. kester has made me sound like a defender of the realm in a number of blog articles and this and i'm really not normally honestly! i have a vision of church as a community of others - the worldwide and historic body of christ - with theologies and bindings of god that are diverse and at times problematic. but if i don't connect in to this wide community then i'm just left with what i choose and those who choose like me.
this book got me thinking as much as any other i have read in a while - that has to be good! read it and see what you think. it's asking questions we need to wrestle with - how can i love god, self and neighbour in a world of fractures? i think it does well in the first two but leaves massive gaps in the last...
grove books have been a really good resource for the church. they are usually about 5000 words in lengthy and come in themed series - youth ministry, biblical studies, spirituality etc…
well a new series has just been launched on leadership and graham cray opens it up with a booklet on discerning leadership: co-operating with the go between god. it's a wonderful little book inspired by or with a big nod in the direction of john taylor and his amazing book the go between god. the argument goes that the world has changed so much that old models and ways of being a leader simply don't make sense or work any more. john taylor is famously attributed (along with others) for saying that mission is discerning what god is doing and joining in. the central act of leadership is then discernment. this chimes in with kirsteen kim's thesis in joining in with the spirit which i raved about here - maybe what we are seeing here is a new openness to the work of the spirit in mission which is an exciting thought.
what i like about graham's thoughts is that he is trying to carve out something a little bit different to where emphases have been before in leadership. he encourages the idea that discernment is a communal act and not the preserve of the leader. if anything the leader(s) role is environmental - i.e to create the environment in which the missional imagination of the community can flourish. this is a leadership that lets go of control and trusts the spirit and the community. that discernment is about a triple listening - to god, the church and the wider community/culture. in a culture in flux, nothing's fixed or certain so it requires a flexibility and an openness to respond and adapt creatively in the spirit. i have heard andrew jones talk or blog a few times about pattern recognition and with a nod to william gibson's sci fi novel of that name graham picks up on this idea here. i think that's a very helpful kind of language around discernment.
i have been asked to write a grove booklet for this series which probably won't be out for a year - it will be called leadership in the new environment and i hope will build nicely on graham's work...
a couple of months back landskapes the new grace album was released as a download. i blogged about it here. i love it - completely biased of course. i wasn't involved this time round in producing it or even writing any of the tracks. it's the labour of love of matt stevenson and others including harry and joel. it's more of a DJ'd soundtrack to grace than a collection of songs - this is truer to what you'll get if you come along - ambient, chilled, spoken word, lazy house, dnb, dub step....
matt has worked on getting a physical CD produced which looks great - packaged in cardboard foldout with a 12 page booklet of photos from grace. the sleeve is designed by steve collins. it's only £7.99 and you can order it from proost of course or pick one up at a grace if you ever come along. the weird thing about price is that the last grace album we did sold fro around £12.99 - how times have changed for the customer!
it's still available to buy as a download...
whilst i was looking for something else i came across this paper i presented at a global connections forum in february 2008 - baby or bathwater? must we ditch traditional structures to do mission well? i hadn't realised or have forgotten that it was online as an article in an encounters e-zine from redcliffe (which by the way is a brilliant series on mission with 33 issues - i'll blog about that another time...). it's also here as a youtube video.
anyway following the discussion on romantic tosh and reading a recent article by theo hobson in the guardian, which shares this romantic view and seems to suggest that emerging church is about leaving the institutions as completely washed up and bankrupt, this article seems to say what i think in response (and i clearly haven't changed my mind in the last two and a half years) - that leaving and staying can be good acts and we are better off for both. hobson is clearly only seeing one strand of what is emerging. i am both bored and frustrated with what i perceive to be a very ungenerous view of what people are doing - hobson says for example that we must simply dump all that ghastly old baggage, of bishops and buildings, rules and power, and start a new sort of Christian cultural presence. allow me to (somewhat embarrassingly) quote myself...
I am relaxed and hopeful about all of these things. Both ways, staying and leaving, can be good. Renewal comes from the edge and the centre, within and without, and if the church is emerging both ways that seems good. Let some leave and pioneer and let some people stay and pioneer. The wider mission community should certainly be able to celebrate the newness of God's work, both in and outside of traditional structures, by crossing cultures and setting up new paradigms. It has been a privilege to work with CMS who have invested in encouraging both...
...Church is the whole body of Christ world wide and down the ages, visible and invisible. We only really know who Jesus is as we see the many faces of Christ, the theological takes and expressions of his body around the world and down the ages . It takes a whole world to understand a whole Jesus Christ . Church is not just a nice idea – it is about knowing Jesus. Whichever way the emerging church plays out its mission, that connectivity into Christ's one holy catholic and apostolic church is crucial. That does not necessarily mean institutionally, but relationally and in the spirit and heart of its leaders.
So my take is that the emerging church in the UK is growing out of contextual mission in postmodern cultures seeking to grow indigenous expressions of church that are both related to the wider body of Christ and faithfully improvised out of the riches of the tradition within and without the traditional structures. Must we reject traditional structures to do mission well? Not necessarily, though plenty will be ditched and new things brought into play out of the tradition, and that will be fine. Are we in danger of throwing baby out with bath water? No - not in the UK. We have an amazing gift at this moment in time that I thank God for, especially when I travel to other parts of the world.
someone sent me a link ages back to this light printer. i have a file where i keep a list of things to blog about and have only just got round to this. thanks to whoever passed it on to me... yes light writing - does what it says on the tin. not sure how to use it or how to make it but i am adding it as worship trick 92 series 3 in the hope that someone will pick up on it and do something with it [adam over to you?!]