it was great to have a week's break in ireland. we stayed in ballyshane which is in the south not far from cork. this was the view from our cabin. there is an album of photos here - ballyshane.
this statue of a pilgrim is at clonmacnoise in ireland. the site was at the crossroads of the east/west road and the shannon river i.e. bang in the middle of the trade routes. it was founded by st ciaron who only lived there for a year or so but a community was there for hundreds of years (and was ransacked over 40 times by various groups but somehow kept starting over again). this statue reminded me of the one i had seen on lindisfarne a couple of years ago - so powerful and evocative.
i have not done much pilgrimage. i have done plenty of retreats. but they are very different things. a retreat is space and silence and reflection and prayer. a pilgrimage (at least in a group) is conversation, journey, stories, exploration, laughter, prayer, community, place (and guiness!).
at the heart of this pilgrimage was a quest to try and connect with the wild spirit of irish christianity, and to be inspired by the stories and lives of some of the saints. we'd travel to the place, touch, taste, see, experience, imagine it, and hear the stories of the place. we'd have some of our own space at each place, and in several of the places would pray together and reflect on how the stories connected with our own stories. depending on how people like to process things conversations, journalling, group times, reading and some spiritual direction were all part of the mix.
i first came up with the idea for this trip when i read about michael mitton and russ parker's trip to wales a couple of years back. michael's poems caught my imagination and i felt there was something in the stories of the saints that resonated with me, and perhaps with pioneers today. michael and russ agreed to lead a trip for a group of us and so we benfitted so much from their experience and wisdom.
michael wrote a couple of new poems on this trip which he has added to his pages - i can't seem to link directly - so go to his site and click on books and select poems from the drop down menu. here's one of his new ones about sennach whose island we sailed round in a surging sea where we were graced with the site of the fins of a school of dolphins which was amazing
Sennach founded a monastery on the island of Illauntannig, just north of Castlegregory on the Dingle Peninsula, Ireland. Visitors to the island can still see the remains of the monastic community, including some beehive cells, a cross, church and burial ground. Access to the island is not easy!
Your hand that clutches the rim of your coracle
is the same that gently lifts its blessing
on your isle.
Such swells and currents don’t disturb you
for you dream them in your salty sleep.
You feel the surges of God in these waters
divine heaves and sighs
signs of the yearnings of God;
glimpses of the grace of God
in the fin of a passing dophin.
Is that why you set sail to this island
and built your tent from its rough earth?
I see you there, your blistered hand lifting dark stones
one upon the other
transforming these cold rocks into a vibrant home.
This your dysart, beckoning the surf of God
to break over the dry, dry land.
Oh Lord, when I settle too much on my mainland
take me back to these waters.
Let me feel again the movements of the great sea
the surgings of your restless heart.
Let me see the glittering surf
your life breaking through the waters my soul at last in tune with yours.
the feeling captured in the last verse is what i experienced on the pilgrimage - a longing and stirring for the same kind of wild spirit to be at work in me and indeed in cms pioneers and the church. we're tentatively planning another trip for pioneers next year. give me a shout if you are interested.
just back from a wonderful eight days pilgrimage in ireland with a group of pioneers visiting some of the sites of early irish christianity and its saints, trying to imagine and be inspired by the stories. it was a fantastic time. i hope to add a few thoughts about it. first up i have added a set of photos to my flickr pages - ireland pilgrimage.
i'm off to ireland tomorrow on a pilgrimage with a group of ten pioneers to visit some of the sites of the celtic saints such as kevin, brigid and brendan - can't wait! no doubt stories and photos to follow.
sadly it means i'll miss the next grace on the theme of slow but if you are around do come along although the flyer has the wrong month on it - it is definitely in april...
si johnston buzzed me an e-mail to say that having had a small community going for 4 years in NI their community are going a bit more public now - see church. there are not many spaces in NI that i know of exploring christian faith in a non-institutional way. so it's great to see this development.
pete and becca brierly are doing some stuff with them next weekend - 12 and 13 dec - if you are in that part of the world
this is how they describe their thinking about calling themselves church...
church is always spelt with a lower case ‘c’.
church is always plural and never singular.
church is not the space we mostly meet in.
church needs neither prefix nor suffix.
church is as much a verb as it is a noun.
church is, for us, an aspirational name.
andi mac rocks! he is one of proost's unusual suspects - new talent that we publish. he contacted us out of the blue last year and we published clouds - a quirky movie. last year at the greenbelt unusual suspects session he played vampire love - which we adored - even more quirky! that now has an electro french pop sounding soundtrack and we decided to hold it back for valentine's day so it's just come out this month. he was also one of the artists we featured as part of nine with another brilliant piece. andi is now carving out a niche as a designer, animator, illustrator... and he sent me a link to a piece he has done for SAMS ireland called the parable of the sea. it is stunning - simple, sad, powerful.
go and watch it on his site and there is a link to paypal to buy it for three pounds. also if you haven't watched any of the three movies andi has released on proost they are all on his site in the animations section...
sat in the airport waiting to head back to london from belfast. lots of cheers coming from the bar so i guess ireland are winning the rugby?...
the soliton sessions are simply a chance for people to get together and share ideas, stories and conversations about faith, spirituality and mission. it's very relaxed and conversational in style. 50-60 people gathered from ireland, n.ireland, the us, canada, england, scotland. the sessions were spread across one day in belfast and then the weekend in kellys, the (in)famous night club in port rush on the north atlantic coast.
as always at these things the best thing was the relationships - catching up with friends and meeting new people. it was great to see si johnston again - miss him being in london. between him and gareth higgins they hosted the time. i led a couple of worship reflections - reworking some of the stuff from grace when we were rethinking who we were - see this service in the archive if you want the liturgy and this blog post for info on the video . and a couple of conversations. one that i hadn't anticipated i'd lead in advance but seemed to be worth talking about was about helping families and children in communities. i think the challenge here is that often these newer/emerging churches are focused on mission amongst a young adult crowd and not geared up to help families but it doesn't take long before people in the community start to have some! whilst the traditional sunday school approach isn't what people are looking for it's good to talk about expectations and ideas to help support families helping their childrens' faith be nurtured.
juliet turner and aaron espe (i think that was the name) performed a very intimate acoustic concert saturday night. the weather was amazing all weeekend with incredible misty mornings and heavy frosts. the north atlantic beaches are stunning with great surf. sadly we never made it to a distillery but we did help si get through plenty of his whisky...
i stayed with jonny and susan from ikon when i was in belfast (thanks guys). jonny has started a blog posting what he is on his easel in the studio at the time. he also gave me a quick demo of ableton live which was cool might have to try it out. ikon have their first service tonight in their new venue - the black box. it's a wonderful space and of course couldn't be a more apt name. the visit also co-incided with an ikon art exhibition at the waterfront - co:ordinates exploring the co-ordinates of ikon. it officially opens tuesday evening but i was around when it was being put up so got a sneak preview. amazing to have a community with so much artistic talent - loved the heresy monopoly game created by michael.
while i was in belfast i also caught up with spike at cms ireland. good to exchange ideas. they are working on creating a course called discover for churches in ireland in three 6 week blocks. should be one to watch out for in 2008...
si johnston is hosting the celtic soliton sessions dangerous living in february in northern ireland. i'm looking forward to going over and taking part. info about dangerous living is here. click on the two images below to see a larger flier.
spent monday exchanging ideas with cms ireland in belfast. then in the evening headed down to the opening of one colour red at the waterfront. this has been commissioned for multicultural week in belfast. the installation is a series of small cards of images and quotes representing facets of different cultures all unified through the colour red. cards have been spread through the building - i suspect some may be found weeks later. the idea is that you can take a card (or as many as you like) so the installation gradually disappears as pieces of the one colour red disperse around the city. the blurb on the poster says
this installation is designed so that you can take a piece of it home so please do. we hope that by taking home an idea from another culture thousands of our customers will show an acceptance of those cultures and perhaps even gain a greater understanding of them.
if you like the poster image there is a limited 200 edition print run of those posters being sold at five pounds each.
was great to catch up with jonny, susan, jane, carrie, kyle, pete, gareth and others from ikon. in true ikon fashion they are running an athiests for lent course - give up god and explore the works of freud, nietche, and marx (i think it was those three). i loved the sound of the monthly last suppers as well where 12 people gather with an invited guest. over a three course meal in a cafe the speaker presents material, it's discussed around the meal table and then explored further with the speaker.
was also good to see david brown from CIYD (church of ireland youth dept), spike and others from cms, mark and heather houston, dave from echo... i didn't see a lot of belfast as it rained most of the time.
alternative worship and emerging church seem newer on the agenda in ireland than england. at least that's the impression i'm left with as i'm sat typing this at dublin airport. i may be wrong of course (not the first time) but there seems more fear and less permission to reimagine church in the light of the cultural changes in the western world. i realise that the church's mind has been preoccupied with other issues for many years at least in the north. but i hope the emerge day helped spark a bit of thinking about mission, church and worship in the emerging culture and look forward to seeing what emerges in the next decade or so. brad has blogged a few thoughts. i think this is a conversation that is likely to grow in ireland. for people interested, a couple of future events i picked up news of - brian maclaren is booked in to do something in 2006 though i don't know details and i noticed stuart murray is booked at an event in november.
pete rollins from ikon popped down from belfast on saturday. good to catch up over a beer in temple bar and exciting to hear about his forthcoming book (out next year). not many of the people on the emerge day had heard of ikon or their CD DUBH so i gave that a big plug. i.m.h.o. ireland should be proud of such a creative home grown alternative worship community...
it was also good to meet john hebenton from new zealand. he is the national youth network facilitator for the anglican church there and blogs at colourful dreamer. he was over on a sabbatical.
looking forward to heading to dublin this weekend. i have been invited by 3rock youth to do a day's training on emerging church and alt worship as part of emerge:rising - training for young leaders. david brown then invited me to take part with him in teaching for third year ordinands in the church of ireland on the friday. am planning to teach on cultural change, emerging culture, and leadership using whale rider and probes. it will be my first ever visit to ireland having made my first visit to northern ireland earlier this year. looking forward to it...
have enjoyed my first visit to northern ireland. i feel like i have had quite an education in just a couple of days being shown round belfast. yesterday morning gareth higgins (speaker, author, budding film maker, director of zero28, and member of ikon) took me on a bit of a tour and we drove up and down the falls road and shankhill road. i asked him to explain for me the difference between a catholic and a protestant and he gave the most amazing 35 minute response and overview of the history and politics. i wished i'd taped it - it was quite brilliant. it was weird seeing the painted murals with memorials for terrorists/freedom fighters (depending on where you stand) killed in the conflict that have lined the walls for years, still stark and strident. flags and painted paving stones mark out which area you are in especially in the run up to the marches. bonfires are being built for july 11. and yet it is also clear that the atmosphere and situation here is so different to what it was even a few years ago. in other ways being in belfast is like being in any other european city. i'm now in a cafe with rain bucketing down outside...
summer madness has been a success - seems a great relaxed and friendly atmosphere, a good festival feel and the weather has mostly been glorious sunshine which always helps. the sessions i have taken part in seem to have gone fairly well. as always the best part has been meeting people. it's been great to catch up with pete, jonny, paul and others from ikon... , david brown, bruce pont, spike (CMS ireland - had a fab conversation and i'm sure we'll connect more in the coming years), andy hickford, martin montgomery (who came on the trip to india with me), and others
ikon have been working on an album dubh which we (proost) are publishing - it will be out in time for greenbelt this year. jonny and paul performed a few tracks at a late night show hosted by zero28 last night.