really enjoying getting to know paul bradbury more over the last few months. he has posted a poem/lament over on his blog
i have read a stack of books this year and always mean to mention them on the blog and don't seem to get round to it so alongside editing photos from the summer in the next month i'll add a few books i have read that i think worth a mention...
first up words of hope from amos trust is a collection of prayers and liturgies and reflections - it's delightful and poignant. amos trust is small human rights organisation challenging injustice and cultivating hope. the words capture their spirituality wonderfully well. it's such a refreshing change to read words that you can echo an agreement to in your own heart. i find the arriculation of spirituality in much contemporary worship is either very focused on individual relationship with god or on proclaiming how great jesus is on a throne in the sky. it's harder to find songs and prayers of longing and anger and hope that relate to the world we actually live in.
this book is a reminder to me of the importance of communities and movements articulating a mission spirituality not just in mission statements and branding and in news stories but also in prayers, liturgies, poetry, art and longings that are expressed soulfully. it is of course what proost has been about and is about for years!
i really hope it is!
i am so pleased that someone has leaked the panama papers. they show what we all know really. the so called democratic world we live in is one in which greed rules. the rich and powerful are able to make obscene amounts of money, hide it out of sight of the system and regulations, whilst at the same time not giving a s**t about the poor. in fact the poor don't exist in their world because they can lived in gated communities and go to private members clubs and avoid them. the thing i hate about it most is the sense of entitlement - people start to believe that they are superior, that they deserve it, that they are entitled to it. i really hope that this exposé will shine a light on at least some of this practice. and to state the bleeding obvious - we do not have to run a society this way. in fact it is a rubbish way to run a society. it makes my blood boil the way it is ideologically driven by the ludicrous idea of deregulation and a free market - i.e. if we leave things alone and don't intervene everything will go well. WRONG! what happens is greed rules the waves as is being demonstrated again and again again. it needs to be addressed through regulation and taxation. i think this economic disparity is the big justice issue of our time (the environment is the other huge one that we have still got our heads in the sand about and of course they are related). it is compounded by the fact that it is hard to make sense of - the financial systems seem so confusing (to me at least) that it is like dealing with smoke and mirrors; and it is hard to know what exactly we can do about it other than tweet or write a blog post. because often those rich and powerful are cozied up with the media and elected to run our governments. i am being dramatic i realise but this is an incredible drama we are witnessing.
i went to see misty in roots in concert on saturday night. they are a brilliant reggae band made famous through john peel's love of their album live at the counter eurovision in 1979. what i particularly loved about the gig was the blend of spirituality and political insight. the opening song was a praise song to god (jah - his most excellent greatness) - i recognised the words as from psalm 150. it was so uplifting (and i'd love a worship band like this!). the second song was 'poor and needy' with lines such as
Deliver the poor and needy from the hands of the wicked
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?
Defend the poor and fatherless,
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
this was then followed by 'babylon's falling' railing against corruption and hypocrisy of the powers that be through the image of babylon - that puffed up city and empire whose rulers thought they were gods and could never be called to account. but of course like all empires babylon fell in dramatic fashion. and the concert went on flowing with a spiritual and political message of lament and hope. i have been thinking about it ever since for two reasons..
the first is it reminded me of how reduced our repertoire tends to be in today's worship in churches. when did you last hear a song lamenting the state of the economy and calling for judgement on the wicked? at best we will get that in a reading. but the hymnology has generally collapsed into the private sphere where god is close to me but it makes no difference in the rest of my life, or is so abstracted up in heaven on a throne that there is no connection. it is a regular occurrence for me to go to a church and find no connection between the worship songs and what i want to express. (i am reminded of robert beckford's book jesus is dread where he asks whether you can have a black political christianity.) the size of the problem was brought home to me in a sermon i heard a while back that defended stephen green from the pulpit as 'being a nice guy' and a christian whilst making absolutely no comment on the scandal of banking he was involved in - i.e. faith collapsed into private sphere with nothing to say to the bigger justice issues of our time. i regret that i didn't stand up and shout the preacher down to be honest - i was hopping mad.
the second is that this language and imagery of babylon seems so poignant in today's world - and the panama papers is the tip of the iceberg of those who think they are like gods but for whom their empires will eventually fall and they will be called to account.
right i am actually meant to be packing my bags to head off on a silent retreat for the week - see what i hear in the presence of silence
the current situation of the wealthy elite in our country and indeed even more so in our world is disgusting and something has got to change. at times i have felt physically sick when i have read of the behaviour of the rich in the wake of the 2008 crash in their own sector and their attitude to the poor. i fear if it is not legislated to change by governments in countries like the uk and usa then it is like a pressure cooker that is going to explode at some point.
today oxfam have published a report wealth: having it all and wanting more. this really is saying the same as their october report even it up: time to end extreme inequality, the statistics are mind boggling. the richest 1% own half of the global wealth. their share keeps increasing in the wake of continued governmental belief and practice in deregulation. supposedly deregulation leads to creativity and fredom for enterprise. but it's stark glaringly obvious that deregulation has created a culture of greed and self interest.
we owe it to ourselves to get informed about this. i don't know if it's just me but it seems like there is a rising anger and awareness. even though it's extremely difficult to fuly grasp the workings of (the god of) the market i have recently been helped to understand it by a few things...
supercrash - a graphic novel by darryl cunningham. this is a book yes in pictures that i wholeheartedly recommend.
capital by piketty - last year an economist who did some counting that caught bthe world's attention as it highlighted how inequality was rising but hugely problematic. it's rather a large book sadly so here's a four paragraph summary!
the new economics foundation are an amazing think tank - follow their work. think tanks have been extremely important for the rise of neoliberal capitalism. so it's a relief to find one or two who are doing the thinking on economics out of a different imagination. this paper is very important because it makes the case that inequality does not lead to flourishing in the economy. it's obvious it doesn't lead to flourishing in life as a whole!!!
ann pettifor's work is genuinely brilliant, a prophet i would say - she now works for another think tank - policy research in macro economics (PRIME) - keep an eye on their work.
the book to get your blood boiling but also highlighting so many shocking things about our society in relation to power, money, politics and privilege is the establishment by owen jones - totally brilliant. i can't recommend it enough. i have two chapters to go and will review it then.
i also try and read most things george monbiot writes as he seems to have a pretty good sense of things.
there are also growing numbers of documentaries of the superrich on their yachts and islands and castles and palaces and private estates living in their own bubble. honestly sometimes it's like watching a james bond villain - epstein and his island for example - just hideous. is it going to get to the stage where they build their own armies to defend their stuff from the rest of the world???!!! that seems to be the way it's heading.
what can be done? a lot actually! it's not hard to work out that you don't have to run society this way. we need to manage the financial sector to address it's immoral greed and that needs international as well as national involvement. it also requires separating the vested interests of the rich from government - it's all too cosy cosy. we need jobs for all and invest that way including reducing inequality. we need fair taxation that hugely shifts inequality and invests taxes in arts, education, welfare. simple! who in politics has the courage to do it? oxfam and others all have theior own take but essentially it's in this kind of direction. i don't hear a lot from the main parties. they seem afraid. who is going to rise up and have the courage to make a better society?
last night i watched charlie brooker's screen wipe 2014. it's a month by month roll through the year with him taking pops at virtually everybody in his perceptive and sarcastic fashion. i laughed out loud several times. part of me wishes he would rant less and shift the tone as i think he has things to say to a much wider audience but i like it none the less... but in the middle of it was an extraordinary five minutes by the wonderful adam curtis who is the most brilliant documentary maker, at least when it comes to taking a helicopter view of the narratives in the wider culture. turns out that that segment is on youtube so take five minutes of your life and watch it.
i've called the post wake up because it's one of a number of things that i have read or watched recently that have reminded me of how much things need to change and i need to wake up and (together with others) imagine and work towards a different kind of world and society than the one we have now...
richard passmore offers a very moving reflection on memories of being 16 and that he wouldn't survive today with the latest government proposals on young people which demonstrate
a society that has lost its way, a society of selfishness, greed and power
rene padilla hung out with cms for a few months earlier this year as a missiologist in residence. one of the phrases i picked up from him which is the title of one of his books is the church as an agent of transformation. his basic point is that the church doesn't exist in and for itself but to help transform the local community in response to whatever social or spiritual or physical needs there are. i was reminded of this today when i read tearfund's report in the thick of it. there is lots of stuff around (and i contribute to it from time to time) on the challenges the church faces in relation to the cultural changes often finding herself stuck in a world that is passing. it can end up in a bit of a negative spin. those challenges are real and i am not wanting to deny or minimise them but it was good to read a very different kind of critique of the local church that is saying what good news it is!the local church is uniquely placed, in the thick of it, around the world in local communities acting as an agent of change in relation to HIV, poverty, education, environmental challenges, justice and advocacy to name a few issues. in many ways the local church has a reach and connection to the local community that ngos find much harder and more expensive to gain. this is the opening to the report...
A dramatic untold story is unfolding in some of the poorest places on our planet. Here, at the heart of HIV epidemics, at the epicentre of disasters, the church is bringing transformation to some of the most vulnerable and remote communities on earth – sometimes singlehandedly. Often the church is reaching these places in a way that other institutions do not – and cannot. Its long reach and presence extends even into war zones, refugee camps and mountain hamlets. Crucially, it is tackling poor people’s material and spiritual poverty to bring development that is truly sustainable.
gospel means good news of course so it's good to hear the church can be good news in this way. and of course it raises the question for any of us in a christian community/church how we are bringing transformation in our own local communities?
i have visited bethlehem once in 19998. the trip i went on was amazing - hard but really good. i went with the amos trust, a small charity who punch beyond their weight standing in solidarity with the oppressed and campaigning for justice. because they are small they invest time in particular areas and relationships. palestine and israel has been one of those areas. anyway all this by way of saying amos trust are organising a trip the gospel under occupation in may next year. kester brewin and chris rose will lead the trip. and here's some info
i realise i never said anything about the last grace which focused on bethlehem. it included a 26 foot screen to show the actual height of the now walled city of bethlehem. and there were various segments of an amos trust video that were shown and a set of stations for prayer. one included standing in solidarity offering messages of hope to residents of the hamlets of humsa and hadidya, in the occupied palestinian territories. more details are on the Amnesty website. and dean has added a set of photos here...
this coming sunday (25 march) is 200 years since the abolition of the slave trade bill was passed in uk law through the house of lords. i confess my knowledge of the history is pretty thin. but one of the groups heavily involved in the campaign were the clapham sect who also founded cms. william wilberforce is the best known member of that group. amazing grace the film that tells the story of the abolition through his life is out this coming weekend and the preview is tonight.
the current issue of yes magazine focuses on the issue of slavery (15mb pdf).
the irony is that there are more slaves today than 200 years ago with child soldiers, sex trafficking, and forced labour. this is tragic. lots of groups are making the most of the anniversary to focus attention on the issue of slavery today. these are a few things i am aware of. feel free to add any others in the comments and i'll paste them in...
african snow - a play that cms has sponsored
free for all - the cms youth team are undertaking a huge tour round the uk
ending slavery resource pack - education pack for cizitenship, RE, and history
the truth isn't sexy - i love this simple campaign to raise awareness of trafficking through some fairly full on beer mats in bars and pubs. there's a parliamentary launch tomorrow - well done guys!
stop the traffic - coalition of organisations, with a particular campaign focused on chocolate.
chaste - churches alert to sex trafficking across europe
set all free - churches together site
rowntree uk slavery report
all this can be a bit overwhelming. find something that touches you, or grabs you and get involved. an example of a group getting involved that inspired me is a youth group from st pauls and st barnabas in oldbury who are working on a production esther's story. as part of the promotion for it they put a video together and it got aired on channel 5 news - amazing! the play blurb is...
Shocked by the imprisonment of young women in a nearby brothel a group of teenagers from an Oldbury Church are actively and creatively highlighting the modern day evils of human trafficking and sex traffiking through a youth theatre production at Leasowes Community College Theatre, Kent Road, Halesowen, B62 8PJ.
The performance will be on 27th and 28th March at 7.30 p.m. with doors open at 7.00 p.m. Tickets are reasonably priced at £2.00 for adults and £1.00 for under 16’s.
Tickets from Paul and Barnys 0121 4226700
si has been working hard along with others at protest4 to develop the truth isn't sexy - a campaign against human trafficking, an apt response to the 200th anniversary of the abolishing of slavery next year. a key part of the campaign is some beer mats to be placed in pubs and bars with the kinds of images you'd see stuck up in phone booths round london advertising prostitution which have true stories on the back. very edgy and a welcome campaign. there is a get together at greenbelt 2pm saturday - details are on the protest4 home page
i'd not come across it before but it was wonderful to find a fabulous coffee shop in covent garden that serves great coffee, is stylish and is the antithesis of the global corporate coffee chain. progreso is run for the coffee growers who own a share of the business - their coffee sold in their cafe. oh and i forgot to mention... free wireless internet.
looks like they want to expand the business so try and get one in your area...
i also went to the book launch of brian draper's new book searching 4 faith. brian is an amazingly gifted writer. i think of him in the league of mike riddell when it comes to writing on spirituality. i've not actually read it yet but i'm sure it will be good. it's a book for spiritual seekers introducing them to jesus.
to celebrate new year chinese lanterns are hanging in oxford street (and of course in chinatown)...
Protest4 is an open collective of individuals and groups in emerging culture responding to the issues of injustice in our world. the first issue being reflected on and campaigned about is human trafficking. si says:
Protest4 will hopefully simply act as a convergence point for anyone wanting to open source their knowledge, experience and projects tackling any and all issues of justice. While human trafficking is the first issue being looked at by various people, the court is wide open for people to converse and kick off conversation and action on a host of justice-related issues. So, if you're feeling so inclined, do register and add your voice, skills and passion.
the site drop down menus don't currently work in safari or explorer but do in firefox. this should be fixed shortly...
Mission 4 Justice April 15th, 7-9.30pm
Tom and Christine Sine are speaking on mission, justice, life and faith for students and young adults.
Venue: St Mary's Church, 57 Kennington Park Road, SE11 4JQ.
Nearest tube: Kennington or Elephant and Castle (10 minutes Walk).
Tickets are £5 available on the door.
They have been invited by SPEAK as part of the Trade Justice Global Week of Action
(click on the image for a full size version of the flyer)