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Mike R

Thanks so much for writing this review of Other, Jonny. You've really put the finger on quite a few thoughts I'd had but couldn't quite vocalise. I have more thoughts myself, but I'm typing them with my thumb on a cell phone, so please bear with me. I must admit, I had a lot of high hopes for Kester's book, as I live on a very rough inner city estate in South London. I wanted this book to give me some hope, as well as some ideas, as I really struggle with living here. Whilst Kester is at pains not to be too directive about practical application, I've got to agree that the book tips over into idealism at points. It was great to be able to help me with my thinking, but for me it wasn't sociological enough. It's a great thought to be able to look into the face of the Other, and try to see how they see you, but what happens when the Other says "What are you f***ing looking at?" and punches you in the face!? I've just read a report by the Royal Society of Arts about the Woolwich model, or how citizens can tackle anti-social behaviour. In that report, they propose the idea that we can all effect change based on the First Aid model. First Aid was created so that ordinary citizens can deal with basic medical stuff on the street and at the scene, originally in times of war. It's something that people can be trained in and certified in, with the requirement to be re-trained every 5 years to hold onto that certificate. Applying that model, the report goes on to suggest that basic community safety skills such as how to spot a violent or potentially violent situation, how to remove oneself safely from such a situation coupled with some simple training in negotiation, conflict resolution and some skills that are used by hostage negotiators. For of this ties in with Jonny's thoughts about how the trickster figure can tactically navigate through a liquid world. I have many further thoughts, but my thumb is starting to ache. In short, I'd say definitely read K's book. Much to delight over, much to annoy, but as ever, always makes you think.


I really wanted to read this but I'm a little weary of pontificating that isn't tied to reality.

I think its no good just putting ideas out there because you are someone with a voice, if you haven't taken the time and made the commitment to live these out somewhere, in an organisation or community, and begun to grapple with the real problems and difficulties, and then applied theology and principle to those tough edges.

I'm sorry if I sound cynical but the world needs us to really show how this works, and to show that it works, not to just talk about it.


Kim, obviously I'd like you to read it, and I want to defend the book for NOT be didactic, for not telling you what to do. My aim is to give some principles by which people can act in locally relevant ways - not to tell people how they should act in their own unique situation. It's very tempting to write that sort of book, but I genuinely do not think that those things help. We like to think they do - but in my opinion it is far better to teach people to fish, not to just hand them fish on a plate. It demands more from the reader, I'll admit that, but I'll persist in doing that, and defend the validity of it.

And, as Jonny has helpfully put here, I've not written the book as a celebration of my successes - quite the opposite. I've written it to challenge myself, and open a conversation about being the emerging movement being more socially aware. Too often we look to books to give us all the answers, but that, I feel, abdicates responsibility from the reader, and this is dangerous and unhelpful.

May be hard to appreciate, but I'm not worried about sales! I am concerned that ideas are put out, debated and integrated. I'm sorry if you're after a text book on how to be more socially active. I can't give you that.

Mike R

Hi K

I'm just wondering - as your book is intended to start off a process as you say, I'm just wondering if there's a possibility to feedback via your blog about how people might work out in that practical local way?

I've wanted to respond for ages, but never quite found the right space on your blog to do so. I think it's great that your book starts a conversation, and is a learning process for the author as well as the reader, but I'm just wondering where the space is for people to work these things out, and I think it would be good for you to foster that space beyond the book, but in a public forum of some sort (as well as in people's own lives of course). I'm not even sure if the blog is the right answer - though it might be.


Good idea Mike. I'll have a think about what might be a good way of doing that. I'd like to get people together physically as well as virtually too. I'm away next week, but will ponder!


Kester, appreciate the response. I just wonder, as there are so many people out there already grappling with the realities of living with this and what they have already learned, who have written for all our benefit, whether you would have been better off just going off and working that out yourself and living with it, then writing a book afterwards? A prayer journal or an accountable prayer partnership would maybe be a more useful place to challenge yourself, rather than a book perhaps?

I'm not looking for a textbook personally (is anyone these days?) as I am working out what is helpful and applicable in the context I am operating in, but I think if you write a book in the emerging context it should have something practically or spiritually useful in it. For me a book on mission has value out of a crucible or furnace of experience/praxis rather than just wondering.

As you say you want me to read it, but please tell me why I would? (I know that sounds confrontational, and it isn't intended to be, I'm just wondering what your point was as regards your 'audience'/readership?) Cheers, K


It's a very good question. I'd say - and I think Jonny's and others' reviews highlight - that there is a lot in the book that is 'creative and provocative' and with reference to your comment above, I think it does have 'something spiritual and practical' to say! Lots, actually - and I wonder if you've taken the wrong idea from the review that it doesn't have anything practical in it.

But it's not going to tell you 'do this, do that.' Rather, it takes a step back and deals with the environment within which stuff might get done. And I strongly believe that that is right.


Ok, thats reasonable.

How about the idea though that in every environment we need to be able to get stuff done, this stuff of the Kingdom. We can push on and just do it regardless of the environment, which will make the environment itself change as a by-product, or we can work to change the environment to enable stuff to happen. I think both are equally valid but the Spirit will illuminate what the combination of circumstances and personality of the people doing the doing would most likely make work.

(I sometimes prefer the 'bull in the china shop' approach myself but of course in a Christian way :-)


Hi Jonny, just posted some thoughts in response to your critique of TAZ:


Hope this provides some clarification as to what I mean by TAZ and how I'm trying to use it... which is not to get away from justice and the other - precisely the opposite!

Mike R

I thought you were on holiday? ;-P


Just one final thing that's been bugging me Jonny, and not been able to put my finger on it til now. You say:

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?

I hope people don't read that and think that I'm somehow against ministries like this that serve the poor. What I'm doing in that section of the book is take an way of engaging 'the other' - like a classic model of a soup kitchen - and see how it stands up in the light of the philosophical and sociological problems that might be thrown at it. And there are some problems which I do think it's vital to reflect on.

As for feasts with strangers, well I have had quite a few! The best example, which I should perhaps have put in the book but didn't because it was some time ago, was the feasts that The Safe used to run out of St James the Less. Here was food prepared by a core of homeless/vulnerable people and served and shared with many other homeless people from around London as an act of celebration. Having gone along to 'help', and feeling all good about myself for doing so, I found that I ended up being served by them, not the other way round. The power relations present there were very very different to any other similar ministry I'd seen before, and the experience profoundly affected me.

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