Sunday, 30 September 2012

Harvest poem

We had our Harvest Festival this morning .
It was a family service very thoughtfully put together by Elise and was about being Good Neighbours in our community
As part of the service this poem was read by some of the young people .I found it very moving It is true it takes a few minutes to read but is, I think, very worthwhile It was written by Vincent Harding as long ago as 1960
Powerful and challenging!
    • I had a dream.
      And I saw a city,
      A city that rose up out of the crust of the earth.
      And it’s streets were paved with asphalt,
      And a river of dirty water ran down along it’s curbs.
      It was a city
      And its people knew no hope.
      They were chased and herded from place to place by the churning jaws of bulldozers.
      They were closed up in the anonymous cubicles of great brick prisons called housing projects.
      They were forced out of work by the fearsome machines and computers,
      And by the sparseness of their learning.
      They were torn into many pieces by the hostile angers of racial fears and guilt and prejudice.
      Their workers were exploited.
      Their children and teen-agers had no parks to play in.
      No pools to swim in,
      No space in crowded rooms to learn in,
      No hopes to dream in,
      And the people knew no hope.
      Their bosses underpaid them.
      Their landlords overcharged them.
      Their churches deserted them.
      And all of life in the city seemed dark and wild, like a jungle,
      A jungle lined with asphalt.
      And the people sat in darkness
      I had a dream,
      And I saw a city,
      A city clothed in neon-lighted darkness.
      And I heard people talking.
      And I looked at them.
      Across their chests in large, golden letters-written by their own hands-
      Across their chests were written the words:
      “I am a Christian.”
      And the Christians looked at the city and said;
      “How terrible…How terrible…How terrible.”
      And the Christians looked at the city and said:
      “That is no place to live,
      But some of our people have wandered there,
      And we must go and rescue them.
      And we must go and gather them, like huddled sheep into a fold;
      And we will call it a City Church.”
      So they built their church.
      And the people came,
      And they walked past all the weary, broken, exploited, dying men who lined the city’s streets.
      Year after year they walked past,
      Wearing their signs: “I am a Christian.”
      Then one day the people in the church said:
      “This neighborhood is too bad for good Christians.
      Let us go to the suburbs where God dwells, and build a church there.
      And one by one they walked away, past all the weary, broken, exploited, dying people.
      They walked fast.
      And did not hear a voice that said:
      “…the least of these…the least of these…”
      And they walked by, and they went out, and they built a church.
      The church was high and lifted up, and it even had a cross.
      But the church was hollow,
      And the people were hollow,
      And their hearts were hard as the asphalt streets of the jungle.
      I had a dream.
      And I saw a city,
      A city clothed in bright and gaudy darkness.
      And I saw more people with signs across their chest.
      And they were Christians too.
      And I heard them say:
      “How terrible…how terrible…how terrible.
      The city is filled with sinners:
      To save sinners,
      To save sinners.
      But they are so unlike us,
      So bad,
      So dark,
      So poor,
      So strange,
      But we are supposed to save them…
      To save them,
      To save them.”
      And one person said:
      “Can’t we save them without going where they are?”
      And they worked to find a way to save and be safe at the same time.
      Meanwhile, I saw them build a church,
      And they called it a Mission,
      A City Mission:
      And all the children came by to see what this was.
      And the city missionaries who had been sent to save them gathered them in.
      So easy to work with children, they said,
      And they are so safe, so safe.
      And week after week they saved the children
      (Saved them from getting in their parent’s way on Sunday morning).
      And in the dream the City Missionaries looked like Pied Pipers, with their long row of children stretched out behind them,
      And the parents wondered in Christianity was only for children.
      And when the missionaries finally came to see them, and refused to sit in their broken chair, and kept looking at the plaster falling, and used a thousand words that had no meaning, and talked about rescuing them from hell while they were freezing in the apartment, and asked them if they were saved, and walked out into their shiny care, and drove off to their nice, safe neighborhood-
      When that happened, the parents knew;
      This version of Christianity had no light for their jungle.
      Then, soon, the children saw too; it was all a children’s game;
      And when they became old enough they got horns of their own,
      And blew them high and loud,
      And marched off sneering, swearing, into the darkness.
      I had a dream,
      And I saw the Christians in the dark city,
      And I heard them say:
      “We need a revival to save these kinds of people.”
      And they rented the auditorium,
      And they called in the expert revivalist,
      And every night all the Christians came, and heard all the old, unintelligible, comfortable words, and sang all the old assuring songs, and went through all the old motions when the call was made.
      Meanwhile, on the outside,
      All the other people waited impatiently in the darkness for the Christians to come out, and let the basketball game begin.
      I had a dream.
      And I saw Christians with guilty consciences,
      And I heard them say:
      “What shall we do?
      What shall we do?
      What shall we do?
      These people want to come to OUR church,
      To OUR church.”
      And someone said:
      “Let’s build a church for THEM,
      For THEM,
      They like to be with each other anyway.”
      And they started the church,
      And the people walked in.
      And for a while, as heads were bowed in prayer, they did not know.
      But then, the prayers ended,
      And they people looked up, and looked around,
      And saw that every face was THEIR face,
      THEIR face,
      And every color was THEIR color,
      THEIR color.
      And they stood up, and shouted loudly within themselves:
      “Let me out of this ghetto, this pious, guilt-built ghetto.”
      And they walked out into the darkness,
      And the darkness seemed darker than ever before,
      And the good Christians looked, and said,
      “These people just don’t appreciate what WE do for THEM.”
      And just as the night seemed darkest, I had another dream.
      I dreamed that I saw young people walking,
      Walking into the heart of the city, into the depths of the darkness.
      They had no signs, except their lives.
      And they walked into the heart of the darkness and said:
      “Let us live here, and work for light.”
      They said, “Let us live here and help the rootless find a root for their lives.
      Let us live here, and help the nameless find their names.”
      They said, “Let us live here and walk with the jobless until they find work.
      Let us live here, and sit in the landlord’s office until he gives more heat and charges less rent.”
      They said, “Let us live here, and throw open the doors of this deserted church to all the people of every race and class;
      Let us work with them to find the reconciliation God has brought.”
      And they said, “Let us walk the asphalt streets with the young people, sharing their lives, learning their language, playing their sidewalk, backyard games, knowing the agonies of their isolation.”
      And they said, “Let us live here, and minister to as many men as God gives us grace,
      Let us live here,
      And die here, with out brothers of the jungle,
      Sharing their apartments and their plans.”
      And the people saw them,
      And someone asked who they were,
      A few really knew-
      They had no signs-
      But someone said he thought they might be Christians,
      And this was hard to believe, but the people smiled;
      And a little light began to shine in the heart of the asphalt jungle.
      Then in my dream I saw young people,
      And I saw the young men and women
      Those who worked in the city called Chicago,
      Cleveland [Melbourne],
      Washington [Bangkok],
      Atlanta [Sydney],
      And they were weary,
      And the job was more than they could bear alone,
      And I saw them turn, turn and look for help,
      And I heard them call:
      “Come and help us,
      Come and share this joyful agony, joyful agony,
      Come as brothers in the task,
      Come and live and work with us,
      Teachers for the crowded schools,
      Doctors for the overflowing clinics,
      Social workers for the fragmented families,
      Nurses for the bulging wards,
      Pastors for the yearning flocks,
      Workers for the fighting gangs,
      Christians who will come and live here,
      Here in the heart of the darkness,
      Who will live here and love here that a light might shine for all.
      I heard them call,
      And I saw the good Christians across the country,
      And their answers tore out my heart.
      Some said, “There isn’t enough money there.”
      Some said, “It’s too bad there. I couldn’t raise children.”
      Some said, “I’m going into foreign missions, where things don’t seem so dark.”
      Some said, “The suburbs are so nice.”
      Some said, “But I like it here on the farm.”
      Some said,
      Some said…
      And one by one they turned their backs and began to walk away.
      At this moment my dream was shattered by the sound of a great and mighty whisper, almost a pleading sound;
      And a voice said:
      “Come, help me, for I am hungry in the darkness.”
      And a voice said:
      “Come, help me, for I am thirsty in the darkness.”
      And a voice said:
      “Come, help me, for I am a stranger in this asphalt jungle.”
      And a voice said, “Come, help me, for I have been stripped naked, naked of all legal rights and protection of the law, simply because I am black in the darkness.”
      And a voice said:
      “Come, help me, for my heart is sick with hopelessness and fear in the darkness.”
      And a voice said:
      “Come, live with me in the prison of my segregated community, and we will break down the walls together.”
      And the voices were many,
      And the voice was one,
      And the Christians knew whose Voice it was.
      And they turned,
      And their faces were etched with the agonies of decisions.
      And the dream ended.
      But the voice remains,
      And the choice remain,
      And the city still yearns for light.
      And the King who lives with the least of his brothers and sisters in the asphalt jungle…
      Yearns for us.


Monday, 24 September 2012

Open Mic evening -Central

Long before we opened our Central building we were determined it would be a building to bless the whole community.

We have already done loads of different things and on Friday we held our second open mic night for young people  at Central.

It was an amazing evening that attracted lots of people .It was great to have them in the building and to get to know some of  them just a bit better. 

I am no musical expert, but even I could tell there were some exceptionally gifted young singers and bands who came along .It was a really great evening and gave young people who are too young to perform in pubs a wonderful platform to share their music 

Here are just one of the groups that played on Friday night

PS In case anyone is wondering their behaviour was brilliant 

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Shropshire Baptist Ministers meeting

I have not been the most regular attendee at Shropshire Baptist Ministers meetings over the years for a whole variety of reasons, including busyness,the fact that I have tended to devote time to meeting with church leaders from Shrewsbury, and one or two other reasons I wont go into here, but I did get along today to Newport Baptist Church for the bimonthly meeting and in the event was pleased that I went.

The people there came from a number of different churches around our large county but also included a hospice chaplain ,a prison chaplain  and our local regional minister.The food was good(it usually is!) and it was good to spend time chatting about matters of common interest which ranged from the Baptist Futures process, to creative evangelism and a whole lot else beside.

Jon Edwards from Ludlow was the main speaker. Jon is a great guy ( I have known him since he was 12!) who has has done an incredible job working in part of Ludlow, that is far removed from the usual image people get of that prosperous and beautiful town.   He is exercising  a brilliant ministry  helping the church put down deep roots in the local community in a load of creative ways. It must have been hard work at times but by Gods grace he and the church he leads have made a real difference.

The other thing that hugely encouraged me this morning was how all the ministers and leaders present spoke about the connections they are making with local people and the ways they are sharing The Good News of the Kingdom in so many different ways.

The meeting made be more hopeful about the future than I have for some time.
My prayer is that the people at the centre of denominational life in Didcot , understand and facilitate in every way imaginable, the good stuff that is happening at a local level.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Spoken word website poem

Showed this near the end of the service this morning
A few people asked for the link so here it is
spoken word website
 and here is the video I thought it was quite powerful and reflective a good prayer and poem by Gerard Kelly that really touched me

Radio Shropshire Pause for Thought

The regular presenter Mike George was not there today ,but it was good to meet Vicky Archer  when I went into the studio this morning. I really wanted to reflect on the fact that though the paralympians were amazing and inspiring ,most people with special needs would never manage that but are still of infinite value to God

Well - what can you say about the Olympics and the Paralympics?

The organisation was impeccable ,The crowds were enormous, the atmosphere amazing, the noise of the spectators deafening and the achievements of athletes quite extraordinary -How they deserved and appeared to enjoy the Parade in London last Monday!

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the athletics on 3rd August and will never forget the determination and dedication of all the athletes but especially Jessica Ennis as she ran the 200 metres on her way to becoming Olympic Champion in the Heptathlon

You only get a brief glimpse of these people on the tv screen, or if you're really lucky as I did in the flesh as they compete... but you don't see the hours, weeks, months, and years of training that went into preparing for London 2012.

We'll never forget the names of many of the winners - Bradley Wiggins, Mo Farrer, Jessica Ennis are already household names as is Ellie Symonds, David Weir and locally at least so are Shropshire's own Danielle Brown and Mickey Bushell.

But there were others who did not win medals whose achievements were also quite exceptional for example Derek Derenalagi who lost both his legs after his landrover was blown up by a Taliban bomb in Afghanistan. The medical staff had given up on him and were about to put him into a body bag ,when one of them detected a weak pulse. They saved his life . Now, with the help of the army's Battle Back rehabilitation program, he is a proud Paralympian.

These are inspirational people who have achieved awesome things and done what they promised to do - to inspire a generation!

But there are many other people who were not at London 2012 who struggle on in the face of incredible odds - battling cancer, caring for loved ones who are disabled, struggling with learning difficulties ….

These are people who will never win gold or silver or bronze, they will never stand on any podium or take part in any parade, but they are hugely valuable members of our community.

There is a temptation for all of us to value people by what they achieve or do in life. Sometimes I think we even value ourselves in that way.

The Bible however tells us that God values us not because of what we do but because of who we are - Human beings made in the Image Of God and loved by Him whoever we are and whatever we have or have not done - God loves us.

That is why Jesus came- to show God's love -Jesus brought to ordinary people a sense of their worth when he touched people no one else would touch and healed people no one else could heal they knew that they were cherished that their lives mattered and whoever you are so does yours.

Many years ago I was a part time chaplain in a hospice in another part of the country ,it was my privilege to spend quality time with people who were very ill indeed and to both laugh and cry with them , as in many cases they neared the end of their lives. The care in that place as in other hospices was quite exceptional... pain was controlled, care was given, people were valued, and the fact that they were valued in many cases changed their outlook on life and indeed on death.

Perhaps the knowledge that God loves us that we are of infinite value to Him will help us imperfect human beings to value both ourselves and each other more.

But whatever your outlook on life or faith - if you can see beyond jobs, money, achievements, prestige - to value yourself and the people around you… for who you and they are – then in my view you’ve struck gold!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

How to be a bad Christian and a better human being"

I have been reading Dave Tomlinson's latest book How to be a bad Christian and a better human being" 
It is the first of Daves books I have read since his influential "The post evangelical" and as I expected there is much about both this book and the authour to admire,though I need to say that I do not share his theology especially his theology of scripture which obviously means I do not share many of his conclusions!
The book is written in a popular style and is mercifully free of religious jargon
The rather creative  subtitles to the books chapters reveal a bit about their content 
eg" how to keep faith and ditch religion," how to find God without going near a church," how to think with your soul "and how to make sense of suffering."
I admire above all. Tomlinson's focus on the person and teaching of Jesus and he reminds us powerfully that Jesus as depicted in the gospels was full of compassion for human beings;a compassion that Tomlinson rightly shares and seeks to demonstrate in his own ministry,indeed he comes across as a person with great pastoral gifts and an ability to connect with all kinds of different people.
This is evidenced by some powerful stories that he tells from his own experience as a priest, that I think are worth the the money for the book alone.
Long before becoming an Anglican priest, Tomlinson had a central role in the earlier days of the house church movement and spoke at Spring Harvest and other evangelical conferences ,he therefore understands evangelicalism, which make his implicit attacks on it in the book very well directed indeed!
He is surely right to remind us that that there is much more to Christianity than doctrine, and that Christianity is meant to be life affirming rather than life denying ,so there are lots and lots of positives and yet in my view  doctrine is still very important, if our faith is to be grounded properly
 However you don't have to agree with a book to benefit from reading it so if your interested here is the promo for the book

Monday, 10 September 2012

stepping stones

Here is the link I promised I would post on my blog today  Stepping Stones Just in case your interested!