Posts Tagged 'community'

Brickbat.

“I used to want to plant bombs at the last night of the proms.
But, now you’ll find me with the baby in the bathroom
With that big shell, listening for the sound of the sea.
The baby and me”.

From “Brickbat” by Billy Bragg.

 

Douglas Coupland entitled his 2001 novel, “All Families Are Psychotic”.  I think the title was memorable and connected with many of us.  It put a smirk on our faces.  It became a cult classic.

The thing is that we all belong to families.  They may be conventional nuclear families or a whole myriad of other set-ups.  You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.

I find it easy to think of church community as a family.  That has been my very real experience in the darkest hours of life or the most trying times.  My four best friends are like brothers to me.  I refer to them all as “bro” regularly.  Would we be as close if we didn’t share a common faith that bonds us that way?  Would my marriage be the way it is if I stopped reminding myself that I’ve to love my wife in the same way that Christ loves the church?  I think that means I’d be prepared to die for her.  That thought often puts tidying up after myself or other menial tasks in proper perspective…

Yesterday, however, Karl said something that really got me thinking.  I know many people find it hard to relate to the concept of God as a “Loving Heavenly Father”, because their own perceptions have been tarnished by the way their own Father’s are or have been.  Thankfully, that has not been my own experience.  That said, if our own experience of our earthly Father is the lense through which we see our Heavenly Father, then that’s a really big deal.

The thing that struck me right between the eyes is that the way in which my children will perceive the notion of Father God will be influenced hugely by how they perceive me.  Now, that’s a REALLY BIG deal!  I think fondly of happy, sun-speckled, cozy, snap shots of intimate moments with my little family unit, but I also recoil in the thoughts of those times when I’m at my whit’s end, hassled, grumpy and determined to get onto the next thing…

It’s good to have another hook to pull my attitude back into line…

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Metamorphis

Hello friend, it’s been some time,
Since I’ve sat at your table and drank your wine.
Worldly lies, empty skies,
But only you can satisfy

Can I be somebody? Not what they want me to be?
Just a pale reflection of what you want me to be”.

From “Metamorphis” by Delirious?


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Who would attend your ideal dinner party?  Who would provide interesting conversation as the aroma of strong coffee scented the room, as wine was drained to top up people’s glasses, as individuals dabbed their dampened fingers on their plates savouring every last crumb of food and as the wee small hours beckoned?  Whose stories would you want to gather in close around the table to hear unfold?  Whose pearls of wisdom would you relish to hear?  Whose jokes or stories would leave you laughing so hard that your sides ached as you gasped for breath and were left defenceless against as tears gathered in your moist eyes?

Eight of us gathered around our table one evening this week.  Feasting on a simple selection of nice breads, red wine and grape juice, great cheeses, light salad and meat.  There was something more than symbolic in the food we shared – the breaking of bread, the pouring of wine.  There was a recognition of provision, of daily bread.  Here was plenty with no need to be gluttonous.  There was a thankfulness not just for food, but for friendships which have developed, for community, for journeying together.  There was discussion of how the future might look and how we could encourage, affirm and support one another in that.  There was little that was superficial.  There was much that was real.

I got to thinking about all the other folks who come through our door, sit around our table or chat on the phone or via email or texts.  So many people whom I know life would be all the less rich for not knowing.  All the individuals who may look like their lives are attractive, who have loads to be thankful for, but whom all have their own battles to face:  hospitalised parents; broken family communication; a loss of confidence in the very institution they have committed their life’s study and work to; financial issues; miscarriages; prisons both metaphorically and physically; relationship issues; fear of facing an uncertain future alone; a realisation that life hasn’t played out the way they might have dreamed of when they were younger; struggles with sexuality; mental illness; sleep deprivation; pressure of employer expectation, to name but a few.

Life is complicated.  We’re not meant to face it alone.  I think we were made for relationship.  That doesn’t just mean boyfriends or girlfriends or life partners, but real and lasting friendships.  Accountability, encouragement, affirmation and mutual support.  I think it means community.  I think that for me church is not a place I go on Sundays (grateful as I am for that place and the leadership there) but the wider group I belong to – scattered throughout the country, facing different situations and periodically sat in one another’s company regaling tales, sharing food, listening intently and knowing we will walk back into our ordinary lives carrying those others with us in our hearts, minds and very spirits.

You Got The Style

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“Yeah, you got the style
And we’ve got the style
And they got the style
And everybody’s got it”

From “You Got The Style” by Athlete.

So we’ve started this new series on Sunday mornings called “This Way Of Life”.  Our growing church community represents such a diverse range of people in terms of age, demographics, socio-economics, style and taste.  Some of have been around churches all our lives, some of us have walked away from organised religion and found our way back to this community, some of us are new to this whole thing called faith, some of us are just checking it out…

Karl talked about some different styles of folks who make up our little family.

1)  Naturalists – who feel closest to God when surrounded by creation.

2) Sensates – who feel closest to God when all five senses are engaged; moved to worship by sights, sounds and smells.

3)  Traditionalists – who feel closest to God through ritual, symbols and structured worship.

4)  Ascetics – who feel closest to God through solitude, silence and simplicity.

5)  Activists – who feel closest to God when engaged in moral confrontations and standing against sin.

6)  Caregivers – who feel closest to God when serving and caring for the needs of others.

7)  Enthusiasts – who feel closest to God when participating in celebration and joyful worship and who want to experience God.

8)  Contemplatives – who feel closest to God when resting in His presence, contemplating and adoring Him.

9)  Intellectuals – who feel closest to God when something new is learned about Him, when mind is stimulated.

Which are you and which am I?  There’s a little test you can do by clicking here.  It gives a fairly crude benchmark, but might be helpful (although defining activism with protesting outside an abortion clinic gives me significant concern and is hugely unhelpful in my understanding of things – go read “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” by Philip Yancey).

The little small group who meet in our home talked at length about the test and our corresponding results the other week.  One of us went away to see if there was any correlation which might shape how we actually run the group or the sorts of things we might do jointly in trying to live our faith out loud.  There were mixed feelings, but a general recognition that it was helpful to see how best to read our bibles as individuals or to pray, safe in the feedom of not having to measure up to one another in how we do that.  Bible study and prayer are, however, fundamental things we need to be persuing and not making excuses for on basis of style.  Also as our congregation grows and changes, it is helpful to recognise the value in different ways of doing things and promoting unity.

Acrobat

img_3369_1 “And I’d join the movement
If there was one I could believe in
Yeah I’d break bread and wine
If there was a church I could receive in
‘Cause I need it now”

From “Acrobat” by U2

Undoubtedly one of the highlights for me from 2008 was spending 10 days with friends we consider family holidaying in Cornwall.    Day-tripping to St Ives, Padzow and The Eden Project.  Eating at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and Rick Stein’s Fish and Chip shop restaurants felt like things we ought to do.  Chilling out over the Guardian crossword and drinking red wine in the evenings whilst looking out over green fields and wind turbines simply felt perfect.

The thrill for me, of course, was stripping off and getting into my wetsuit at every available opportunity.  I did more surfing in one week than I did the rest of the year.  Polzeath, became the spot I surfed most consistantly for the week.  It had a really great feel to it with folks of all ages out in the water.  In fact, one of the most beautiful things I saw last year was a woman of about my age dressed in a wetsuit pushing her baby in a buggy on the beach only to then take a towel out and dry the face of her mother who emerged from the water from a body boarding party.  The grandmother, invigorated from her session, then took over babysitting duties whilst her daughter could wash the tiredness of motherhood off in the saltwater.  There was something intimate in those few seconds I observed of a strangers’ family and genealogy.

The other great thing about Polzeath was the presence of the Tube Station.  You can even see a couple of minutes about it on the attached BBc i Player link.  Fast forward the first 22 mins (unless Cornish tin mining and choral music is your thing…)  Inspired and relevant and, encouragingly, something that all generations of a faith community have determined to do and be.  So sweet to see unity in action and I can vouch for what they are doing.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00gq431/Songs_of_Praise_Cornwall/

Surf”s up!


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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