Saturday, December 31, 2005

coming up for air

Well I've finished one of my two essays now. Which is good. Especially as I've now got the shorter one to do.

With a bit of luck I'll be blogging regularly again in a little over a week. Just think, by then there'll be even more football to reflect upon.....

Tomorrow (ok this afternoon) I'm off to Nottingham, to see Chesterfield take on Nottingham Forest. But, its like, they're, a proper club. Tis madness.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

fair trade - home and away

This story (which was linked to by Mark), together with a conversation I had with a friend this morning reminded me of the importance of campaigning for fair trade, and to make poverty history, not just in the developing world, but also in our own countries as well.

My friend was telling me about a couple of incidents which had happened recently. A few days ago she had a knock at the door - it was a milkman (what's one of them you might ask), trying to drum up business. Things had gotten so bad that he was at risk of going out of business. My friend, being suitably caring and compassionate, decided to start ordering milk from him. Compare this with the fact that a certain supermarket just down the road, was doing a promotion whereby they were giving away milk. FOR FREE. Just because they could.

Yes of course we need to campaign for fair trade across the world, and buying fair trade coffee, tea, orange juice (my personal favourite) is great. But I can't help but think we need to remember that fair trade should apply everywhere, in our country as well. It's not just 'in Africa' where multi-national corporations are screwing over the little guy.

but this is just genius

Ok, so I'd kinda made a bit of a self-conscious decision to not post to 'tat', but this is just genius.

Well I think it's quite funny anyway.

(via Ian)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Today, while in Oxfam picking up some Christmas essentials, I also purchased Ceasefire, an album by Emmanuel Jal and Abdel Gadir Salim.

Emmanuel Jal perfomed at Greenbelt this summer (though I missed him). He also performed at the Live 8 do dah in Cornwall. The two artists are both originally from Sudan, though from the opposing sides in the civil war there. As the comprehensive album notes say, both artists have been deeply affected by the civil war. Jal was a child soldier and Abdel Gadir Salim narrowly survived a brutal stabbing.

I can't really imagine what either of those experiences would be like. To type it so easily doesn't really do justice to either man's experience. Reading some of the lyrics (they're available through the above link), reminded me of what a screwed up world this is, what a mess we've made of stuff. But in the lyrics there is also a sense of hope, a sense of 'what if', a sense that things could be better. Listening as two men, one Christian, one Muslim, perform together, reflecting on what that symbolises, you get a glimpse of that hope.

Go buy it, or at least check out the lyrics.

Inside the album cover there's a striking picture of a while Make Poverty History wristband on a black persons wrist. Sometimes I really can't believe how unfair the world is. I've been in school again this week, answering (or at least trying) young people's questions about God and stuff, including questions about suffering. I just don't get how we (I say we cos I know I'm guilty) can think that it is fair, right, 'Christian' that there is such inequality in the world. How can I as Christian talk about peace and love over Christmas time, when there is such oppression, inequality and neglect going on in the world? When I am oppressing others, by the products I buy, the decisions I don't challenge, and the things I let go cos I just can't be bothered to do anything.

Monday, December 19, 2005

another sheffield youth work blogger. woohoo

Have just discovered that as well as Andrew having recently started a blog, so has fellow South Sheffield youth worker Pete Everitt.

Ok so we're a little behind the times up here.

erm, sorry. i'm a bit busy at the moment

Just thought I'd apologise for the general lack of activity on here at the moment. It's my favourite time of year you see....essay writing time :o(

"How has globalization contributed to the de-privatization of religion?" (5000-6000 words)


"The use of the Bible in Latin American Liberation Theology" (4000 words)

Tis gonna be a fun Christmas time methinks....

Monday, December 12, 2005

curry with kendrick

At the risk of sounding like a terrible name-dropper, I had a curry with Graham Kendrick the other night.

He was up in Sheffield to present BBC 1's life Sunday morning worship which was being filmed at All Saint's, Ecclesall (just up the road from me). On the Saturday evening I had been helping at a youth event, which originally grew out of All Saints. Following the rehearsal for the following morning's broadcast, 'Graham' popped along to the youth event, where he was squeezed into the running order and performed a song. I've got to admit, despite my intial dissappointment when it became evident he wasn't going to play 'Shine Jesus Shine', he was rather good.

Along with some of the other leaders who run this youth event, I then went for a curry with Mr. Kendrick afterwards. It was all a little bit bizzare. I can't remember what he had, but I had a very tasty chicken balti.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

not so white band

I'm loving what the Make Poverty History campaign have done with the white band that appears in the corner of my blog.

If you haven't got one on the corner of your blog then go here and get one. You also might wanna think about sending postcards and letters and stuff to the politicians that MPH recommend. Get involved.

i'm so excited

Well I think I'd have settled for that draw at the beginning of the evening. Thankfully the pundits on BBC were helpfully tempting fate by using words such as 'formality'. When will they ever learn???

Thursday, December 08, 2005

chav nativity

I was fowarded this by Andrew. I quite like it, so thought I would stick it on here.....

There's this bird called Mary, yeah? She's a virgin (wossat then?). She's not married or nuffink, but she's got this boyfriend, Joe, innit? He does joinery an' that. Mary lives with him in a crib dahn Nazaref.

One day Mary meets this bloke Gabriel. She's like `Oo ya lookin at?' Gabriel just goes 'You got one up the duff, you have.’ Mary's totally gobsmacked. She gives it to him large 'Stop dissin' me yeah? I ain't no Kappa-slapper. I never bin wiv no one!'

So Mary goes and sees her cousin Liz, who's six months gone herself. Liz is largin' it. She's filled with spirits, Barcardi Breezers an' that. She's like 'Orright, Mary, I can feel me bay-bee in me tummy and I reckon I'm well blessed. Think of all the extra benefits an' that we are gonna get.' Mary goes 'Yeah, s'pose you're right'

Mary an' Joe ain't got no money so they have to ponse a donkey, an' go dahn Bethlehem on that. They get to this pub an' Mary wants to stop, yeah? To have her bay-bee an' that. But there ain't no room at the inn, innit? So Mary an' Joe break an' enter into this garridge, only it's filled wiv animals. Cahs an' sheep an' that.

Then these three geezers turn up, looking proper bling, wiv crowns on their heads. They're like `Respect, bay-bee Jesus', an' say they're wise men from the East End.
Joe goes: 'If you're so wise, wotchoo doin' wiv this Frankenstein an' myrrh? Why dincha just bring gold, Adidas and Burberry?'

It's all about to kick off when Gabriel turns up again an' sez he's got another message from this Lord geezer. He's like 'The police is comin an' they're killin all the bay-bees. You better nash off to Egypt.' Joe goes 'You must be monged if you think I'm goin' dahn Egypt on a minging donkey'

Gabriel sez 'Suit yerself, pal. But it's your look out if you stay.' So they go dahn Egypt till they've stopped killin the first-born an' it's safe an' that. Then Joe and Mary and Jesus go back to Nazaref, an' Jesus turns water
into Stella.


Monday, December 05, 2005

another tough day at uni...

This afternoon, following my final 'Religion in Contemporary Politics' lecture, I slacked off and went to the cinema. I went to see Flightplan.

It was a pretty good film, starring Jodie Foster and Sean Bean. Admittedly Sean Bean was a little stereotypically English - how many real English people use the term 'Godspeed'? Really? But it was suitably exciting, and I didn't know how the story was going to unfold until it did. You get hunches about certain characters, but not all of them.

I'm not saying you should rush out and see it at the cinema, but when this film comes out on DVD you could do far worse than check it out.

The other great thing about being at uni, is the continuous free high-speed internet access. This has led to my discovery of the wonders of the BBC Radio site...there's so much cool stuff to listen to.

youth ministry?? ordination??

Theres an interesting post here on Mark Berry's blog about whether there is a need for youth ministry ordination. It's in the comment's where things get a little more interesting.

It's in the comments where things get a little more interesting. I've said my piece, and as I've said on here before (and again), I am still confused by what people mean when they talk about youth work and youth ministry. Is there a definitive answer to what each of these terms means? If there is, I'd really appreciate it if someone could enlighten me....

challenges and opportunities facing youth ministry today

Below is a collection of thoughts I put together for a job interview presentation a few weeks ago. I was asked to consider the challenges and opportunities facing youth ministry today. I'd be interested to here anyone elses thoughts/comments....

Support and Develop existing ministry
• Help churches take ownership of the youth work
• Mobilise volunteers
• Raise funds
• Support and empower leaders
• Appropriate and adequate training

Explore, Imagine and Create new models of ministry
• Acknowledge our short comings
• Explore what the Gospel means for young people today, in the differing contexts in which we live
• Equip and empower churches, leaders and young people
• Remain accountable
• Create sustainable and effective models of ministry

Work together
• Communicate with one another
• Learn from one another
• Be accountable to one another
• Appreciate different models of ministry
• Help people recognise the potential that already exists
• Think strategically, as we look to serve young people, schools and local communities
• Model behaviour and attitudes to young people
• Remain flexible

Fulfil our calling
• Be a part of God’s mission, sharing His Good News with all young people
• Create space for young people to think, to explore faith and spirituality
• Support and nurture young people as they grow
• Help young people experience fullness of life

Sunday, December 04, 2005


One of the questions that has come up repeatedly in the RE lessons I've been doing, has been about how Christians can believe in God, when there is so much suffering in the world.

Up until now my answers have kinda been based around the idea that God gave humans freewill, to act as we choose, but that the choices we make can affect others, and possibly cause them suffering.

I guess that I still hold to this, and I know that this doesn't really explain natural disasters and stuff like that, but as I was watching Joseph last night, I was reminded of how many people in the Bible suffered.

It got me thinking that perhaps yes, humans do cause some suffering to other humans, but the Bible provides us with examples of how people live through suffering (or not), of how people can trust God in the midst of their suffering.

Just a thought....but one which encouraged me...

the last couple of days...

...have been rather manic.

On Thursday night I was helping out at Scouts again. We were cooking. It was a bit messy. We finally finished clearing up at about half ten.

Friday morning saw me back in our local secondary school doing another RE lesson. It went really well. I'm going in again in a couple of weeks to do another, which is pretty cool.

On Friday evening I spent all evening constructing Santa's grotto, getting ready for our Christmas Fair on Saturday. As if that wasn't enough, I then made my way down to the Scout Hut, ready to set off on a night hike. It was good fun, but kinda wet. It rained most of the time we were out, but thanks to my new waterproof trousers I didn't get too wet.

I spent all day Saturday manning Santa's grotto at our Christmas fair - NOT being Santa as various people had suggested. It went ok, but I was pretty tired by the end of the fair. (I did treat myself by getting my nails done, alas there is photographic evidence).

Yesterday night I finally got to relax. I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Lyceum in Sheffield. I was really well behaved and managed to restrain myself from singing along. The show was fantastic. It was just slightly better than the version I saw when I was about seven, and my brother was performing in it at school.

Thankfully it was family service at church this morning, which meant I wasn't responsible for doing anything. I have to admit that I was struggling to remain focussed during the service (ok ok I'm not very focussed much of the time, but it was worse than usual), and I was very glad when we were invited to sit down.

Anyway, I've got a fun drive down to Birmingham for university to look forward to tomorrow morning....

Monday, November 28, 2005

suffering - why?

Last week when I was in our local secondary school, taking questions on the (tiny) subject of why Christians beleive in God, I was asked about why God, and suffering. Does the existnece of suffering disprove the existence of God etc. How can I believe in God who lets it happen etc.

I gave the normal kind of - God, gives humans freewill, other people's suffering is a result of other human beings misuse of that freewill - answer. But it really didn't seem very satisfying, to the young people or to myself.

I'd be intrigued to hear other people's views on this - how to explain it to people, whether it is just a matter of acknowledging the fact that as humans we can't have all the answers....

did i really think we would keep winning?

On Saturday the bubble burst. Following 5 consecutive home wins, Chesterfield dropped two points, letting Blackpool get a draw out of a rather scrappy match.

Initially we had made it look very easy, Sammy Clingan firing home from a free kick early on, but then our captain, Shane Nicholson, set a wonderful example for the rest of the team by gettring himself sent off. Seems the referee didn't approve of him punching someone. Funny that.

Admittedly the recipient of the punch was dimissed as well, he had provoked Nicholson by kicking him when he was on the floor, but the match ended up being a disappointing affair. One all the final score.

Not to worry, we're still fifth in the league.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

the existence of hell?

An interesting article from the Taize website.

back to school

Today I've been into our local secondary school twice. The second time was for the ongoing after-school club that I'm helping at. But this morning was "So why do Christian's believe in God?' session. It actually went really well, I quite enjoyed it. It was hard work, and there were some of the young people asked some really good questions. We strayed off topic at times, touching on opinions on gay priests etc., but I managed to sit on the fence on most issues, and it didn't get too uncomfortable.

Going in to do a repeat performance next Friday.I'm not sure how that sessions is gonna go. I've been informed that the group mainly consists of Muslim boys. Could be interesting.....

Monday, November 21, 2005

why do we believe in God?

Ok ok ok. I have some inkling as to what I might answer when asked this question. Which is convenient, because on Thursday I'm going in to our local secondary school to talk with some GCSE R.E. students about why Christians believe in God (hmmm, that should be easy). Thankfully the R.E. teacher said she wasn't expecting me to convert them all (which is good), but I'm still not exactly sure what I'm gonna say.

If on the off chance anybody reads this before Thursday, do feel free to offer any thoughts/comments/hints.....

"no i'm not a proper scout. i just help..."

Last Thursday at Scouts we had the honour of being joined by former Chesterfield legend, David Reeves. 'Reevsie' was doing a bit of football coaching with the boys. It was fantastic.

On Saturday I helped a couple of guys put a new roof on the Scouts garage. It was absolutely freezing, but it was kinda fun. I say fun, I think what I mean is that it was different to the stuff I normally do.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

knock, ring, letters through your door....

So the postman came a little while ago....

Amongst the crap there were two things of note. Firstly a letter confirming that I had been unsuccessful in a job interview earlier this week. Second the new Howies winter catalogue arrived :o)

Regular readers might have notices that my posting frequency has been rather low over the last few weeks. Truth be told, this whole job thing has been playing on my mind. It's been something I've been thinking about a great deal, but I've not really wanted to share about it on here. As I like my writings on here to be about stuff that I'm currently thinking about, I've kinda opted for not sharing much at all.


Anyway, life goes on, I'm just off into our local secondary school to have a chat with the head of R.E., and then I'm helping out at their new after-school club. I get to play with computers and things. Tis a hard life I know.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

'reading week'

I'm currently taking two modules at university. On Mondays I study Religion in Contemporary Global Politics, on Tuesdays I study Post-colonial Criticism and Biblical Interpretation. They're both quite interesting subjects. Annoyingly the reading week for each module have come at different times. A bit frustrating. Anyway, I thought it would be best to make the most of the time I had so I caught up in somew cinema-going!!

Last week I went to see Lord of War, starring Nicholas Cage. It's not a bad film actually. It tells the story of an amrs dealer, how he has gone about his business over the last however many years. A chunk of the film is set in Liberia, where, in the real world, they are currently holding elections, and George Weah, the former Chelsea footballer, is one of the presidential candidates. Anyway, the film was really good, and I quite liked the ending. I won't say what happened, just in case you haven't seen the film, but I enjoyed it.

Yesterday I went to watch 'Good Night, and Good Luck' (couldn't find an official website). Theres a review of the film from the New York Times here. The film tells the story of CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow, as he reported on, critiqued, challenged and questioned the activities of Senator Joseph McCarthy (he of 'Communist witch-hunt fame). I didn't know a whole lot about the history of that time, and now I have at least seen one point of view. The film was very good though. It's directed by George Clooney, shot wholey in black and white, and has a pretty smooth sound track. The film isn't officially released in the UK until February next year, but when it does come out, it's well worth a watch.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

formalising the informal

This is something thats been bugging me for a while now. Formalising the informal. It can be really frustrating. Let me explain.....

There's a group of youth workers in Sheffield, of which I am one, who meet together every so often to pray, chat, share news, mainly chatting it seems. It's generally good, but every so often the question of what we're doing is raised. Why are we meeting? What are we trying to do? What is this going to achieve? Should it be a priority in my diary?

Every so often these times together are incredibly productive, people share something that's on their heart, people get to seek advice about issues that are real in their lives. But a fair amount of the time, to the outsider, and sometimes to those on the inside, it kinda looks like we're wasting time.

Now to be fair sometimes we do waste our time chatting about stuff, but I think it's important to just be together, to be in one another's company. These relationships that build up, create a safe space for us to share, to make ourselves vulnerable. I just don't think it would work if every session had an agenda, demanding set aims and objectives.

In one of these sessions (this afternoon as it happens) we were talking about certain elements of the statutory youth provision in Sheffield. This got us talking about the need to 'tick boxes', to count how many people we are working with in various contexts, etc etc - you get the picture. But for me this just isn't what youth work is about. Youth work should be to do with informal education, and I have to ask myself if this is really happening in its true sense of the term, when there are so many boxes to tick, so many generalised, non-context specific outcomes to be achieved.

I can't help but feel that formalising things that are meant to have a certain amount of informality to them, just doesn't work.

Now I know I'm rambling here, and I know I've made some generalisations. I also think that this rant could be condensed somewhat. But I do think that in this strive for efficiency (yeah I've read stuff about McDonaldization of society as well as of the Church), we lose the focus, we lose touch with reality, with the real people we are working alongside, with their real issues in their real lives.

assorted oddities

So this article amused me. It's good to see that being named after famous people is not just something limited to our country.

Also my friend Andrew has just started a blog. He's another youthworker-ish (or is that youth minister) type.

It's taken me a while to come to terms with it, but Chesterfield got a bit of a drubbing at the weekend, losing 5-1 to Swansea. (Lucy - be kind)

The other day there was a fair bit of concern about an pastor in East Timor, called Ferdie Flores. Apparently the situation was not as severe as was first thought.

As it has just been Halloween I'm hoping that pumpkins will be going cheap again, so I can make some more pumpkin soup.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


I'm well aware thats its been a while since I really posted anything of note. (Football is very important of course, but I appreciate not everyone shares my love of Chesterfield). Truth be told, I'm not quite sure what to write. There are various things going on in my life, and various thoughts going round in my mind, which, quite frankly, I'm not sure I'm ready to share yet.

Some of this probably comes from the fact that I'm a bit of an introvert. I like to think things through before I speak. Some of the time. Honestly. But I'm also aware of the need to spend time reflecting in private, something that Richard kind of talks about.

Rest assured I will get back to blogging marginally more interesting things in due course. But for the moment, I'm just doing some thinking....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

on a roll

Went to watch Chesterfield again this evening AND WE WON AGAIN!!! 3-0, fantastic. A great looping header from The Chief, aka Wayne Allison (who is 37!!), and a free kick and a penalty from our captain - Shinner - Shane Nicholson (the picture). Now I know this is tempting fate, but we're in 5th now, and at the end of the season 5th place would get you into the play-offs.....

Sunday, October 23, 2005

tempting fate

So yesterday I went to watch Chesterfield against Huddersfield. Huddersfield were top of the league. Not any more!!!

Chesterfield evetually won 4-3. It was a fantastic match. But I've got to be honest, I was glad when it finished. We went 3-0 up in the first half. Which was a little surreal. We came out after half time and Huddersfield were dominating. Mark Hudson, who left Chesterfield for Huddersfield (claiming that he was too good for us) nicked one for them. That didn't go down to well. We won a penalty late on, which we scored making it 4-1. But that was when it started getting silly. Chesterfield's goalkeeper Barry Roche, who had earlier saved a penalty, was named as Man of the Match. This was with about 87 minutes gone. Huddersfield then went on to score two more goals, not good for the nerves. After some of the most ear-piercingly loud whistling I have ever heard, the referee, who had had an 'interesting' afternoon, finally blew for full time. At last.

It was a cracking game, and I'm so glad I went. For the neutral it would have been a great value afternoon, but for the Chesterfield fan's it was all a little bit close for comfort.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

well there aren't really any new ideas are there?

This morning at Sunday School I borrowed an idea for how to discuss the Trinity. The session went well, but it was quite short, due to the fact that there were a couple of baptisms this morning, one of whom was one of the members of my Sunday School group.

We've had a new vicar at Holy Trinity, I'm guessing I've mentioned this before. At the end of each service he gets feedback from the children's and young people's groups about what we've been up to. Initially I was a bit sceptical about this, but now I really appreciate it, as it raises the profile of the youth work. We have, however, cottoned on to what he does, and the young people in my group are now primed with answers which will get some sort of a reaction. Last week we dealt with atonement in 40 minutes (it's not that complex a subject is it?), and this week we had been comparing the Trinity to Jaffa Cakes.

After the service I had been invited round to the house of the member of my Sunday School group who had been baptised, for food (loads of it) and drinks (some v good red wine was flowing!!). The fact that the jaffa cakes had been mentioned served as a good discussion started - it got me known. But I also realised how glad I am that I work for a church. It instantly means that people know (vaguely) where I stand on stuff (ie. I have some belief in God - whatever that means), which can lead to some interesting conversations. I don't doubt that the quantity of wine we had drunk meant we were a little more forthcoming in our conversations, but I just felt really pleased to have been able to be me, sharing a little bit about what motivates me, why I do what I do, with other people. It felt good. I want to do it more.....

Saturday, October 15, 2005

very fast, very dangerous

Last night I went to see a band called Reuben. They were cool. Suitably loud, suitably heavy (I mean that in a rock music style rather than a cool/'urban' style).

This morning I slept. Well, kind of. I dozed, while listening to Radio 4. Now this might sound a tad peculiar. But the other week I was talking to someone and he was telling me what he did when he couldn't sleep (he'd had some operation relatively recently, the pain kept him awake at night). He said how in the middle of the night, Radio 4 is great to listen to because its just people talking, in relatively smooth, easy to listen to voices. I thought I'd try listening to Radio 4 this morning whilst dozing. And it was great. Every so often when I woke up I'd get little snippets of interesting conversation. Brilliant.

This afternoon I went over to my Mum and Dad's and helped my Dad re-lay some paving slaps in the back garden that have been uneven for years. It was actually quite fun.

i guess this is some kind of an apology

Sorry, if my last post caused any offence. It certainly wasn't meant to. I was just sharing something about which I had laughed with a friend of mine (who had said it in the first place).

I'm not trying to be some kind of an insenstive bloke. Maybe it just comes naturally....Anyway....In some mediocre attempt to win back what little respect I might have once had from a particular person, theres a great new website about the role of women in youth ministry. You can check it out here ;o)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

getting pregnant

I was speaking to my friend the other day (and she insisted on remaining anonymous), about getting pregnant. She was telling me of some reasons why she thought getting pregnant was a good idea:

1. It would get her out of her crappy job that she doesn't really enjoy.
2. She could eat whatever she wanted.
3. She could get fat and nobody could tell her off.

I quote this, simply because it made me laugh. I have permission to quote this, so long as it is anonymous. I am not being an insensitive male. Am I?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

football for free!!!!!!

This evening I went to watch football for free!!!! Woohoooooo!!! I went to Hillsborough - home of Sheffield Wednseday, to watch England under 21s vs Poland under 21s. We (England) won 4-1. Which is rather nice. It was a great first half - 3-1 at half time, but the second half was rather tired, a bit dull if I'm honest.

But it was free, thanks to my mate Gareth, or rather thanks to Gareth's, fiancee Alison's boss, who got given a pair of complimentary tickets, which ended up in mine and Gareth's hands.

Friday, October 07, 2005

do not worry about tomorrow!

This morning, I, along with many others, recieved an email from br. Paulo - one of the English brothers at Taize.

Dear friends,

A month after br Roger's death "Le Monde", the French newspaper, sent a writer to visit Taizé. And a week ago this article, which introduces brother Alois, our new prior, was published......

I am attaching an English translation of the article. Henri Tincq has kindly said that the English version may be reprinted in diocesan or local Church magazines, provided that his authorship and the source are given. Namely, "Henri Tincq, Le Monde".
Here's the English translation....

Brother Alois of Taizé, with Roger’s blessing

Blood during the evening prayer, at the time when silence descends in the Church of Reconciliation, as the lines of a heady chant vanish into the air. Hundreds of young people, sitting around the brothers in white, kneeling in front of a forest of candles and icons, witness the drama. The peace of the evening, the peace of the prayer, of the psalms and chants is shattered by absurd violence against 90 year old Brother Roger, stabbed by a mentally disturbed woman.

At 9.30 pm, that Tuesday, 16 August, Brother Alois was in the church of St Agnes in Cologne, where he was taking part in the World Youth Day meeting. Told about the death of the founder and prior of Taizé, he immediately took to the road, arriving in Burgundy at daybreak. At 8.15, the time of the morning prayer, without a word being spoken, he took Brother Roger’s place in the church. The children, as if nothing had happened, came to sit around him. At the end of the prayer, he embraced each of his brothers.

That’s it. The handover of power has taken place. With no conclave, speeches or enthronement. Alois Löser, a 51 year old German, has become the prior of Taizé, successor to a man of God, Roger Shutz, the founder of the community, a symbol of reconciliation between divided churches, a spiritual father of our times, a friend of popes and young people. Everything has happened with the most extreme gentleness – the absolute opposite of his death.

Brother Alois is one of the ‘children’ of Taizé, in the same way that we say of the circus ‘he was born into it’. At the age of 16 he went there for the first time and learnt French through the psalms. ‘At Taizé I discovered the simplicity of sung prayer’ he says. At 20, he put on the habit, and at 24, made his final vows: ‘The presence of God here is a reality which is visible everywhere. I felt that he was taking all of me.’

That same year, 1978, Alois Löser travelled with Brother Roger to Nairobi where they stayed in a shanty town, then to Johannesburg, where the prior of Taizé had been invited by Desmond Tutu as a sign against apartheid. It was there that Roger designated Alois as his successor. For twenty years the secret was kept. It was only in January 1998, during the community’s annual council, that he asked his hundred brothers to open a sealed letter, originally intended to be read after his death, disclosing Alois’ name.

The fact that Brother Roger so early on chose as his successor this young man of 24 (who then apparently had nothing in particular to recommend him apart from coming from a family that had migrated from the Sudeten mountains in Czechoslovakia before the war) and never changed his mind, no one tries to explain, putting it down to a gift of mystical foresight. One thinks of the bible story in which God fetches the most humble of the twelve sons of Jesse to succeed King Saul and makes him into the great David.

How irritating Taizé is! This habit, ever since its foundation in 1940, of never doing things in the same way as others. Managing a succession without drama, at the time of greatest drama. The inner certainty of the brothers, who always have a smile on their lips without it ever being arrogance. The way they have of hiding their denominational identity, of seeming to disregard power games and ambition and letting themselves be led by the vocabulary of ‘trust’, ‘kindness’, ‘simplicity’ and ‘fidelity’. And finally this way of expressing their faith which has survived all fashions and generations for sixty years and still attracts young people from all over the world who come looking for meaning or for comfort, for help and a little love.

It is perhaps this that gave rise to Alois’ early and mysterious calling. This man is a rock, representative of the quiet strength of Taizé, with the certainty that his path is beyond his own understanding and that he is led by someone other than himself: ‘Let God work. Believe that he is there in the history of the world, as he is in that of our community’. Try drawing out of him the details of his private life, and he retreats behind a beaming smile. Not out of shyness, or to remind you to respect his privacy. But because this is unimportant, because the only thing that matters in this place is the meeting with God, in the thrice daily community prayer.

You discover only that Alois Löser was brought up a Catholic and that he is of the Taizé generation of the 1970s. Brother Roger knew how to shape people. Brother Alois remembers that at 19 he was sent alone to Prague – he a young German for whom Eastern Europe then seemed another continent – to meet in secret with believers. Then he visited Northern Ireland, Africa, Rome, where as a young man he ‘saw the humility’ of Pope Paul VI, and Sweden.

So much for the initial stages. As far as Protestant churches went, he knew only the one in the part of Stuttgart where he went to school and which he never, then, dared to enter. In Sweden he discovered the great Lutheran tradition. Taizé wishes to remain a sort of sign which prefigures the reunification of the churches. ‘But if you look on ecumenism as an end in itself’ Alois warns, ‘ then you lose sight of the true goal which is the common meeting with Christ. It is to this meeting that we come three times a day here in our community prayer.’

Brother Alois went to all Taizé’s youth meetings across the world. In between he studied the Latin and Greek Church Fathers, Irenaeus and Origen, who showed him that the tradition of the church speaks equally to modern times. Then he discovered the writings of the theologian Henri de Lubac and of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1945, from whom he remembers the duty of rebelliousness and of faithfulness to the word of Christ. Alois is also a fan of football and classical guitar. Narciso Yepes, the great Spanish guitarist, who was a Taizé regular, gave him his guitar one day. Alois is one of the composers of the community’s chants which have gone all round the world.

Brother Roger’s room remains intact, with a book by Cardinal Martini near the bed, scattered letters from Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa, and the 15,000 messages received since his death. From the window one can see the rolling meadows flooded with sunshine and the memory of the great spiritual experiences of the France of years gone by, in Cluny and Cîteaux, so close at hand. At Taizé life goes on. The legacy is well kept. The orphan has pardoned the murderer of his ‘Father’, repeating the words of Christ: ‘Forgive her, for she does not know what she has done’ There is neither outrage nor fear, and at the moment of farewell, the words, quoting him again: ‘Do not worry about tomorrow!’

Henri Tincq LE MONDE 29 September 2005

Original French version available here
Translation: Sue Helm

can't think of a title

It feels like I've been a bit slack on the whole blogging thing over the last couple of weeks. There's a reason for this.

I've been busy.

I've started back at university now, which means I'm down in Birmingham every Monday and Tuesdy. I do love going to uni, it acts as a bit of a break from being in Sheffield, I also enjoy studying. This term my two modules are "Religion in Contemporary Global Politics" and "Post-Colonial Criticism and Biblical Interpretation". Catchy titles I know. Not only do I have to spend time in lectures and driving down to Birmingham, I'm also acutely aware of the amount of reading I need to do. I really don't wanna leave all my work to the Christmas holidays this year. Cos it would be nice to be able to relax.

I've also just started 'field-work tutoring' for CYM, who run the degree course that I finished a little over a year ago now - Youth and Community Work and Applied Theology (another catchy title I know). I'm kinda flattered/honoured to be asked to do it. I'm also looking forward to doing it as well. I know there'll be times when I'm pulling my hair out, but I think it will help t re-enforce stuff that I learnt when I did the course.

Work has also been busy. Thinks are starting to move/change/develop now that the new vicar is here. And thats good. We're looking to develop a drop-in youth-club. Now I know this is harldy a revolutionary idea, but it could be really good for the local community, for the church and just good in general. I'm kind of excited (in my not-overly-enthusiastic way).

The other thing that took up some time the other weekend was a youth/leaders conference. It went really well, with about a hundred people there during the day, and over three hundred young people/young adults/youth leaders there at the evening event. Nail The Truth is something I've not blogged about a great deal before. NTT is a growing/ developing movement of youth workers/ministers across Sheffield, representing different churches from different traditions, working together to resource and support local church ministry. In the past I've had questions about the name, especially with the concept of 'truth', but one thing that really motivates/excites/challenges me is the potential for some really great stuff to happen when people come together, working together, serving one another, and putting our own agendas aside.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

various things which have come to my attention......

This looks interesting. Heard about it here. The Church of England looking to appoint vicars with a brief wider than just parish boundaries. I reckon it'll be a good thing. It's something that I (and I imagine lots of other people) have been thinking is important for a long time. I know that in my youth work it has been essential to network with other people outside the parish, as well as be willing to cross parish boundaries as well. I know that what the Church of England is proposing to do is a bit more than just crossing boundaries, rather it seems to be admitting that boundaries can be restrictive. But it all kinda seems a bit like common sense to me. Doesn't it?

Also, Chesterfield performed magnificently again at the weekend, with a fantastic victory away at Colchester. We're now 6th. I don't want to tempt fate or anything - but that's a play-off place....

Thursday, September 29, 2005

the interview with god

I was forwarded a link to this (thanks Nix). Now some of you might think it's a bit cheesy. Perhaps it is. And no, it's not an actual interview with God. It's just a poem. I say just a poem - poems can be pretty powerful. Anyway in my opinion it's well worth checking out.

the making of the christian

There's a good article here about the difference between discipleship and spiritual formation. It's an interview with Richard J. Foster and Dallas Willard in Christianity Today magazine.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

youth work = youth ministry?

Like many others I have blogged about this subject before. But as the debate is rearing it's head again here amongst other places, I thought I would offer some thoughts. (I was also intrigued to note that my blog appears in the list for 'youth ministry'....anyway)

Youth work (in my opinion) is any activity, be that a youth-group, youth-club, youth-whatever, that is based on the principles of empowerment, equality of opportunity, participation and education(1). Youth work employs methods of informal education rather than formal education(2). In my mind at least there is little doubt as to what youth work is (there may however be some questions as to what qualifies as youth work, but that's another issue).

Youth ministry on the other hand, seem to me to be a little less well-defined. Well, it's possibly over defined, in that I can see two broad definitions of what it is....
"The term ‘youth ministry’ seems to have a variety of uses. In Youthwork and the Mission of God(3), Pete Ward, speaking about the British context, uses the term ‘youth ministry’ to refer to the activities of professional youth workers engaging in Christian youth work, youth work which is funded by the Church . Ward uses the term ‘ministry’ in order to draw parallels between the activities of the professional Christian youth worker and a member of the clergy.......American literature on ‘youth ministry’ includes theory linked to carrying out informal education activities in the light of the Christian tradition(4), as well as the “‘how to do it’ guides and checklists”(5) which by their very nature encourage a mentality which believes there are set patterns of behaviour to follow for both youth workers and young people.

With the increasing popularity of North American ‘how to do it’ youth ministry literature in Britain(6), the term ‘youth ministry’ now seems to have two meanings in the British context. Amongst those Christian youth workers who have gained professional qualifications in youth work, qualifications recognised in the secular field as well as the religious field, ‘youth ministry’ refers to the “more reflective and academic approach to Christian youth work”(7), an approach which could be described as pragmatic. Amongst Christians who are influenced by the American ‘how to do it’ youth ministry literature, the term ‘youth ministry’ is describing an approach to working with young people which could be described as normative."(8)
In writing that essay I was analysing different approaches to working with young people, using langauge taken from certain areas of missiology. By 'pragmatic' I am referring to practice which begins it's response by first considering the current context in light of the Christian tradition, then acting appropriately. By 'normative' I am referring to practice which begins it's response by seeking to ensure that certain beliefs, traditions and rituals will be passed on to future generations.

In my opinion there are instances when 'youth work' and 'youth ministry' are interchangeable terms. But not always. For example, there may be occasions when youth ministry uses formal education methods. In my understanding this means it is probably no longer classifiable as youth work.

I also take Richard Passmore's point (see these comments), that possibly this whole argument about youth work or youth ministry is a little unnecessary.

Pesonally, this is how I currently see what I do (in no particular order)....

I try to work with young people using the principles of informal education. I believe that these methods are not oppressive, ie. they do not hinder other people experiencing what it means to be more fully human.
I try to work in a way which will promote fullness of life (opportunities to be more fully human) for those I work/live alongside.
I try to work and live in a way which will enable young people (and all people) to experience a right relationship with themselves, with other people, with the world around them, with God.

(1)Kerry Young, Towards a Core Curiculum – The Next Step: Report of the Second Ministerial Conference, written by Kerry Young on behalf of the National Conferences Steering Committee (Leicester: National Youth Bureau, 1991) 16 quoted by Kerry Young, The Art of Youth Work (Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing, 1999) 15-16
(2) See a website such as Alternatively go and read some of Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (London: Penguin, 1996), 52-60
(3)Pete Ward, Youthwork and the Mission of God (London: SPCK, 1997) 2-3
(4)Dean Borgman, When Kumbaya is Not Enough: A Practical theology for Youth Ministry (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997
(5)Michele Erina Doyle and Mark K. Smith ‘Christian youth work (youthwork) – a guide to reading’ [website page]; available from; Internet; accessed 18 April 2005
(6)An example of such a book is Doug Fields, Purpose Driven Youth Ministry: 9 Essential Foundations for Healthy Growth (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1998)
(7)Pete Ward, ‘Introduction’ in Dean Borgman and Christine Cook, eds., Agenda for Youth Ministry (London: SPCK, 1998) 1
(8)This is quoted from an essay I wrote for my MA - the module was Research Methods - my favourite ;o)

There is a really helpful diagram here, that shows a way in which youth work, youth ministry and formal education might fit together.

Monday, September 26, 2005

well i had to write something....

....after all it's been nearly a week since I last posted. It's been a hectic few days. A busy weekend, followed by two trips to Birmingham (today and tomorrow) for university. I'm really glad to be back studying - it was just rather annoying that due to a lack of communication I didn't know what modules I was doing and when until the end of last week, by which time I'd already filled my diary with two meetings this evening. :o( Ah well, at least the boys were able to celebrate another fantastic win at the weekend. 8th in Coca-Cola League 1 now. That's almost a play-off place.....I know I know. I should stop dreaming.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

a new kind of conversation

So I thought this looked really interesting....

A New Kind of Conversation

Blogging Toward a Postmodern Faith


Brian McLaren, Mabiala Kenzo, Bruce Ellis Benson, Ellen Haroutunian and Myron Penner.

This blog-book will discuss what a postmodern evangelical faith looks like. The blog format will make it possible to allow you the reader, to participate in the writing of both the blog and the eventual published book to follow by Paternoster. Be a part of this experiment in conversation by adding your voice to the discussion.

“A New Kind of Conversation” begins on Sept 15th 2005.

I've just spent a couple of hours reading most of the stuff that has been posted so far. It's not exactly light bedtime reading, but it is pretty interesting stuff....if you like that kinda thing....I'm really intrigued by seeing how the conversation develops, and the way in which there is freedom to develop different threads. It will also be very interesting to compare the final editted copy with the conversation as it actually happened online.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Here are some thoughts that I shared at our joint evening service this evening (joint with our two local Methodist Churches). For a while now I've been thinking about worry, about the future - all that kind of stuff....

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace."

Time, change, its always going on around us. There’s nothing we can do to stop time, theres nothing we can do to speed it up.

Leaves are beginning to fall from the trees, it's autumn. The leaves falling are yet another reminder of the seasons, the passage of time etc.

Why I like Autumn…
I think of Autumn as a warm cosy time, theres a feeling of expectancy, maybe even of looking forward to Christmas already.

But that's not all. Often, by the time we get into October, November, I can look back and realise that all those new things that were happening in September, that I'd given so much time to worrying about, I have survived. The world hasn’t ended, the new school isn’t all that bad, the new job is going well etc.

Time and again in my life people have told me not to worry. I know I worry a lot. It's one of my worst traits. I know. I’ve had Matthew 6:25-34 quoted at me soooo many times. But it’s true. Worrying will achieve nothing. It’s not that it won’t help, but it can actually make things worse.

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine was talking about the idea of ‘God having the whole world in his hands’.

Now I sometimes thing of God struggling to hold the world aloft. But maybe, God’s there with the world cupped in his hands… It’s almost effortless….

Ecclesiastes 3: 9-15
"What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God does it so men will revere him. Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account."

God has designed the world in a way which we will never understand it all. It pains me to say it, but I can't know everything.

We are to revere God, to marvel at his greatness, His great faithfulness, the way the planets keep turning, the seasons will follow one after the other, the way He continues to provide for us, day after day…

Great is Thy Faithfulness
"Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
there is no shadow of turning with thee;
thou changest not, they compassions they fail not;
as thou hast been thou for ever wilt be.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by moring new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided,
great is they faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
join with all nature in manifold witness
to thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by moring new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided,
great is they faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by moring new mercies I see;
all I have needed thy hand hath provided,
great is they faithfulness,
Lord, unto me!

Sunday, September 18, 2005


A fantastic win for Chesterfield yesterday. 2-0 down at half time, but we came back and beat Walsall 3-2. Superb.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

"nikes, nokias and nintendos"

Kester Brewin has shared some thoughts and reflections on the role of advertising.

Having shared all too familiar stories of kids who can't afford to pay school trips, but will pay for "Nikes, Nokias and Nintendos", he concludes by stating
in an age where more and more of our field of vision is being chopped up and sold off to space for sale - hoardings, petrol pumps, escalator steps, TV shows, urinals - this constant message of aspiration and tantalisation is making us all poorer.
I agree with what he says, but would not just leave it at that. I would go as far as to say that the role of advertising in our society has reached the point where it is oppressive (it hinders us on our journey of becoming fully human).

Questions which then arise in my mind include....

How can we be liberated from this oppression?
How are we to act in the face of oppression? (Matthew 5 38-41)
How can I as a youth worker provide opportunities to reflect on the world around them, and the impact of advertising on their lives?
How can I facilitate some kind of conscientisation? (Paulo Freire - Pedagogy of the Oppressed)

By now you might have guessed that I've done a bit of thinking about this subject before today. I wrote an article for Perspectives, which was published at the beginning of the summer. As it is still the current issue of the journal I'm not sure whether I'm allowed to post the whole thing on t'internet, (you could always subscribe - it's very good) but if you want to carry on this discussion in the comments, or by email....

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

blog = opportunity for slating others????

Now in comparison to some people I'm pretty new at this whole blogging thing. It may be the case that I don't 'get it', but just recently I've become increasingly frustrated with some of the blogs I've been reading, especially some of the comments on blogs I've been reading.

You see, for me blogging is not about finding new and creative ways to slate other people's ideas. It actually hurts me to see some of the 'un-thought-through' criticisms and slatings that various people feel it's acceptable to post. It can be a strength but increasingly I fear it is a weakness of blogging, that people's thoughts get posted so quickly, at times it appears, with the potential consequences not being fully thought through. I wonder how healthy the allowable levels of anonymity are? Do people not realise the potential hurt their words can inflict?

I think that blogging can provide opportunities for true dialogue to occur, but it often seems that blogging just provides further opportunties for people (myself included) to go on thinking that we've got the right answer in our little clique.

crash: moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other

Yesterday, despite having little money, and in the midst of the 'panic' over petrol, I decided to treat myself by going to the cinema across the other side of Sheffield. Somebody, (I can't remember who - feel free to say if it was you) recommended that I go and watch Crash.

It's set in Los Angeles, and provides a snapshot of life in a multicutlural, racial-tension filled, post 9/11 society. You see the way in which a whole array of characters go about their lives, and the way in which these different characters interact with on another - as the subtitle says "moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other". Sometimes we see these characters as the oppressors, sometimes as the oppressed. It's a fascinating film, with a good soundtrack and some cool stuff on the website - especially the "experience the film" bit. For me, it re-enforced my understanding, or rather lack of understanding, of the why the world is the way it is. Relationships between absolute strangers seem so messed up. Fear prevails. People look out for their own interests, with no consideration for anybody else.

For me it was a hard-hitting, perception challenging film, and would provide plenty of stuff for discussion in a small group setting.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

cricket: reflections on a slow game, steeped in tradition

Yesterday.....England won the Ashes back. I have to confess that I watched quite a lot of the cricket, not all of it by any means, but by yesterday it had become utterly compelling viewing. I can still remember going round to my friend Adam's house on the first day of the first test back in July. I'm not sure I really believed we could do it back then. BUT WE HAVE!!!! It did seem a bit of a farce at the end, what with the bad light/when can we end the game??? fiasco. But that'll be forgotten in due course.

It's probably also worth paying tribute to Richie Benaud, providing us with his wonderful commentary for the last time in the UK.

Towards the end of the day Mark Nicholas, Channel 4's presenter on the cricket said some interesting stuff about tradition....I can't really remember exactly what he said, but I remember thinking that there certainly are times when it is important to remember and honour the traditions which have developed over the years. One such tradition is the 'gentlemanly' way in which cricket is to be played - the great Shane Warne being a fine example of this. Seeing the commerardery between the opposing sides, the concern for the injured etc. makes you realise that it is possible for sportsmen to be compassionate, reasonable human beings. Let's see if the overpaid footballers realise this...

Nicholas also made it quite clear (and I agree with him on this point as well) that the farce over the rules about how the game can be brought to an end, show how rules and at times traditions, can get in the way. The question cricket faces (and indeed the church) is how do we honour the traditions of our ancestors, while working in a way which is suitable for the fast-paced society in which we now find ourselves.

Now I'm not expecting cricket to engage with this issue, but one issue I believe the church must engage with, is whether or not we consider the current nature of society (the fast-paced, efficiency-driven world) to be a healthy thing, and do we actually need to spend some time critiquing culture, maybe looking to transform culture, rather than just work out ways for us to 'do' church within it.

This whole thing about efficieny is something John Drane talks about in his book The McDonaldization of the Church. To what extent does the church bow to the surrounding culture, taking on the quest for more efficient programmes, structures etc.

I was talking with my parents the other day, about church structures and endless committees etc. One thing I have become aware of over the last few years, is the importance of the process. Now I know that a lot of committees can be quite dull, but sometimes I think we can forget that committees provide space for people to think, to talk, to feel as though their voice is being heard. I wonder whether this process, of sitting and talking to each other, of showing care through listening to one another, of builing up relationships with one another, can be lost in the streamlining and drive for efficiency.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


Apparently the Chesterfield players were wearing white wrist bands during our game against Bournmouth yesterday. Couldn't spot them myself, but good on 'em anyway.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

dreams can come true

This afternoon Chesterfield played Bournemouth, in Coca-Cola League 1, and WE WON. And we didn't just win by the odd goal, we won 3-0. Fantastic.

dreaming of victory

I'm just about to go and watch Chesterfield. We've yet to register a result other than defeat at home soe far this season. I'm hoping, dreaming, wondering if it is at all possible that we might manage to salvage at least a point when we 'entertain' Bournemouth this afternoon.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

an easy essay, by peter maurin

Jordan Cooper posted a link to this. I thought it was fantastic, so decided to post it here as well...

The world would be better off
if people tried
to become better,
And people would
become better
if they stopped trying
to be better off.

For when everyone tries
to become better off
nobody is better off.

But when everyone tries
to become better
everyone is better off.

Everybody would be rich
if nobody tried
to become richer.

And nobody would be poor
if everybody tried
to be the poorest

And everybody would be
what he ought to be
if everybody tried to be
what he wants
the other fellow to be.

(Peter Maurin, along with Dorothy Day, founded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933.)

missing the point of mission?

I had coffee with a fellow youth worker (Rich) this morning - we ended up chatting for most of the morning. The conversation covered many different topics, one of which was short term mission trips or missions trips as some people (not us) call them. I thought it might be worth sharing (with Rich's permission) some of our reflections, or at least what I can remember from this morning, about short term mission(s) trips....

Rich has spent quite a bit of time running and hosting short term mission trips, mainly in the USA and I'm currently studying for an MA in Mission Studies. I say all this not to make anybody look bigger/better/cooler, rather so whoever reads this knows that the subject of mission is something we both have an interest in. We spent a fair while discussing the pros and cons of short term mission trips. Both of us have been on short term mission trips in the past, and Rich in particular has, in recent years had considerable involvement with short term mission trips. This morning we had a really healthy discussion about short term mission trips and both of us shared some of our thoughts and questions…

1. We both have questions about the value of short term mission trips for those the ‘missionaries’ are intending to serve. I know that sometimes the cost of getting these young missionaries out to far-flung destinations can be such that if it were given as cash to the local community, it would make a vast difference to the life of that community. I recognise that often there is no substitute for human interaction, and I certainly don't want to encourage giving financially as the only kind of giving. I also know that sometimes the fundraising projects to pay for plane tickets etc also raise additional money to go direct to the organisations working day-to-day in these local communities. That's all great. But the question still remains, is us, flying half way around the world, to paint houses (or whatever) the best way for us to engage in mission?

2. Many people talk about mission in terms of what those participating in the mission trip will get out of it, eg, new experiences, a deepened relationship with God etc. Now don't get me wrong, I think new experiences are good, as is a deepened relationship with God. But if these are the sole purposes of the mission trip then something is a little bit wrong (in my opinion).
Now obviously nobody ever states that these are the sole purposes of short term mission trips, but sometimes I have to wonder. Let me explain…
I recently spent some time with a group of American high school students who were over in this country (the UK) on a short term mission trip. These missionaries had been doing various things around the community as well as in local schools. Now the activities they had been engaging in were all well and good, and I know that having a bunch of people who speak funny coming into your school can draw a crowd BUT what value is there in the long term. Both Rich and I agreed that the most beneficial short term mission trips we had had dealings with, were those when groups of people had returned to the same place on more than one occasion. When I spoke to the leaders of this group of American students they seemed to have no intention of returning.
Reflecting on the aims of this trip, it seemed to me that the only real aim was that these American young people would gain new experiences, possibly develop better relationships with other members of their group, and having shared some new and exciting experience together, have learned to have to put their trust in God, and thus their relationships with Him may have deepened. IF this, or anything vaguely similar happened, then that great. Really, I think it is. BUT THAT’S NOT MISSION. Or at least that not all there is to mission. Is it?

I guess that one of the things I’m trying to say is that mission, for me, has to be something more than just a week or two every summer, I get the feeling it is something that I am called to do with the whole of my life – I want to be a part of a Christian community, which is a part of God’s mission to the world, expressed through His creation, the sending of His Son, and hopefully His church. Mission, for me, has to be about the way we as a community live our lives (possibly as some kind of act of worship – though that’s for another time!!), demonstrating who we as a community are, what we as a community stand for, 24/7.

Incidently the Church of England's Mission-Shaped Church is now available to download as a pdf.

from jam to death

I was meeting yesterday with a couple of volunteer youth leaders. One of the things we were meeting to discuss was some of the youth group programme for the next term, but, as many meetings seem to do, we ended up discussing many different topic (at the end of the meeting we commented how we had discussed subjects ranging from jam to death - not v cheery I know, and not meant to sound insensitive).

One of the things we spend quite a bit of time talking about was the use of the internet in church/youth work stuff. Our church doesn't have a website at the moment. I know it really ought to, and conversations are happening about how this issue can be resolved, but at the moment it doesnt. Having spent some time looking at other churches websites I have become aware of the different uses of church websites. The internet provides churches with another way to present themselves to the world at large. Most churches use their website to portray factual, unchanging information about the church, its activites, the staff, the mission statement etc. This is great, and when it is done well, can be very effective.

Other church websites, and in my (limited) experience it seems to be the youth work/ministry websites, have discussion threads and chat facilities. We got quite excited by the possibilities of this within the youth work context, as well as the wider church context. I'm guessing a number of people have tried out different things, so if anybody has any comments/reflections/suggestions on this area I'd love to hear...It would be great if people have examples of good or at least innovative uses of the internet in terms of church/youth work websites.

so many thoughts, so little time

First things first, can I apologise for not having posted since last week. There's been so much going on, so many thoughts (and a few worries) going around in my head.

I thought I ought to get some of these thoughts on to my blog. But before I do that, I'll share whats been going on....

On Monday evening, our new vicar was installed and collated (think thats right, feel free to correct me if I've got my terminology wrong). I'll be honest with you, I've been getting increasingly nervous abut Peter's arrival. I'd met him a couple of times before and he seemed like a lovely, down-to-earth, normal guy (which is good, and unlike some vicars I've met in the past). But the thing that was causing these worries, really, was change, uncertainty, the not-knowing.

On Tuesday evening I went to St. Chad's, Woodseats to see Andrew Foulkes be licensed by Bishop Cyril of Doncaster, to be youth minister at the church. It was a really relaxed service, that had a friendly, informal yet sincere feel to it.

Yesterday (Wednesday) I had my first proper meeting with the new vicar, and unsurprisingly it went well. Once again I had spent far more time than was ever necessary worrying about something over which I had no control.

Friday, September 02, 2005

spirituality of regeneration

While at Greenbelt I went to hear a guy called Alastair McIntosh. I'd first read about this guy in the writings of George Monbiot. Alastair's talk was entitled "Four Quartets and the Spirituality of Regeneration. Now not being a literary type I didn't realise what the Four Quartets were (I now know they're written by T.S.Eliot), but I did/do have an interest in community regeneration.

The session was really good, Alastair interspersed readings of Eliot's poetry with his own thoughts, some of which I imagine are included in his much praised book, Soil and Soul. The notes I took are a bit random, they don't necessarily flow, but within them I think are some interesting, maybe even helpful thoughts, perhaps just beginnings of thoughts....

Jung - we can't resolve our neuroses, we just outgrow them.

When involved in any kind of social activism, we must be in touch with the Godhead, or we will become burnt out.

Solidarity - causes us to question our spirituality, to reconnect, remembering our history, revision of the current situation, reclaim that which is needed to bring about regeneration.

This is not something that is imaginary, rather it is imaginal - we are on the threshold, a visional realm.

As we talk about community regeneration we are not talking about pantheism (God is nature), rather we are talking about Panentheism (God being present in nature Psalm 104, John 1).

Three stages of life as a whole, as well as the life of an activist.
1. Departure - the start of the journey
2. Initiation - stormy waters, alone, in darkness. Completed when the 'ego' falls into place. Facing our shadow side (Jung). Engaging with the powers (Walter Wink).
3. Return to the community, enriched, bringing wisdom.

In both life, and activism, it is not a question of whether our work fails or not, rather, we must remain faithful to our destiny, our vocation, our calling from God.

Faith is to do with an attitude to life, not just creeds and dogmas. All things leading to a deeper revelation from God.

The sickness that has led to the disintegration of society is fundamentally spiritual.

We must lose everything so that all that remains is our spiritual self.

Church - a trellis upon which the vine of life can grow towards the light, NOT a cage.
We must liberate it.

Geographical communities as against communities of interest (and possibly virtual communities - though this might have been my thought as against his words) - meeting places, embodied, a sense of belonging.

Parish/place/community - where there is a sense of belonging, which leads to a sense of identity, which leads to a sense of vision, which leads to a sense of responsibility, which leads to a sense of belonging, and so on.....

To be real humans once more, we must re member, re vision, re claim

There are those who fear that in community, the individuals will be washed away. But in reality, the opposite is the case. It is only in a community, one with another, that we discover who we really our. Jesus taught us to pray "Our Father..." not "My Father..."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

why blog?

Why blog? I’m trying to think of different motivations people might have for blogging. But ultimately it all seems to come down to the same thing. People want to speak. People want to tell other people about what they’ve been doing and thinking about. (This kind of carries on from some thoughts posted by Miz)

I think free speech is good. For this reason blogging is good. I recognise that not everybody has the same amount of access to blogging and the internet. I don’t think this means I should stop blogging however. But what it does mean is that
1.) we might want to think about enabling more people to have access to the internet – if this is realistically possible. If not, why not?
2.) when we blog we must remember that we are just one voice amongst millions. Humility? Taking the lesser place at the table (see point 9 in Andrew Jones’ Spirituality of Blogging).

But the problem is, sometimes a lot of us (myself included) just blog crap. A lot of what we say is drivel that very few people actually care about. But does this matter?

There is always going to be a problem with sifting through loads and loads of information. I don’t know how search engines work, but I question whether they are always going to be ‘fair’, what if we miss out on a useful piece of info just because it does not have a high Google rating? On this point there are obvious (at least to me) links again to point 4 of Andrew Jones' Spirituality of Blogging – something about building up a good reputation. Again, is this ‘fair’? (Don’t worry, I am asking myself the question why I am concerned with things being fair or not.)

But on the issue of reams of drivel, I do think (at least for the moment) that it is important to blog holistically. If we are going to blog about our lives in any way, we must try and show a whole picture of our lives – not trying to hide bits away (point 3 of Spirituality of Blogging). Mustn’t we?

I have another question, which I’ll throw into the mix just because I can. Why do we think we have ‘the right’ to so much instantly accessible information???? People have survived for years without all this information, about what people all over the world think about all sorts of things. Is it actually going to make life any better for anyone? Is it going to give us more to worry about (how are my blog stats doing today?)

These are just some thoughts. Make of them what you will, if you read them at all…Comment if you so wish…I’d love to know what other people think, do other people ask themselves these questions? Where is blogging going?

Perhaps I'm taking this all to seriously and just need to stop thinking....

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

the last lunch

As you can tell by my ridiculous amount of posting today, I'm not exactly hard at work. Today I had lunch with my Mum and Dad, and my brother Andy and sister-in-law Liz.

Andy and Liz are moving to Germany on Saturday. Having spent the last eight or so years in Guildford, Andy doing a lot of stuff at St. Saviour's, particularly with the student and young adult congregation there, and Liz working for the YMCA, they have decided it is time to move on. To Germany.

Andy will be doing student outreach stuff for a church in Marburg (about an hour from Frankfurt), called Christus Treff (I know this website is in German, but you can translate it into English). Christus Treff has links with St. Mary's, Marylebone.

You can find out more about what Andy and Liz are up to here (it's a pdf file).

two blogs worth looking at (regularly methinks)

Among the new people I met at Greenbelt were Ian and Dave. They have blogs.

Ian runs Youthblog, which as the name suggests reflects on youth work and youth ministry.

Dave runs The Cartoon Blog and also Cartoon Church which provides cartoon based resources for churches.

the importance of blogging holistically

During the sesion on the Spirituality of Blogging, the point was made about the importance of blogging holistically. There was a brief discussion about running a number of blogs, writing to different audiences, and whether this constitutes keeping bits of our lives seperate? Whether it does or not, I believe it is important to have a holistic attitude to blogging, to blog about all areas of our life, in a manner which shows who we are as whole people.

In the past people have questioned my blogging about football, in particular Chesterfield F.C.. But a being a Chesterfield fan is a part of who I am, it helps to define me.

For this reason I will contine to blog about football, in particular the ups and downs of Chesterfield F.C., and will take this opportunity to shamelessly celebrate our second victory of the season, which sees us climb out to the relegation zone (Unfortunately I am thinking about relegation before August has finished).

running into god

Went to hear Dave Tomlinson speak while at Greenbelt. The title of this post, the seminar, and Dave's new-ish book, is Running Into God. Here are some rather brief notes I made during the seminar....

The WHOLE earth is full of God's glory - not just church, the Church, or whatever we consider to be 'Christian'.

So how do we see the world? God is in everything, in the little, ordinary, every day things, these rumours of glory, these transcendant windows.

The ordinary is the sacrement of the divine.....

How can we discern God outside the Church?
It's not about things labelled as being of God, nor is it to do with religious orthodoxy, rather it is to do with people's fruit - the fruit of God's Spirit...

Dave spoke quite a bit about Amos (the prophet, in the Bible).
Amos 9:7 - the Israelites meaning the same to God as other nations....God hears the cry of many peoples....the oppressed, destitute, lonely...

What sort of God do we beleive in? A God who would judge people simply due to the culture they were born into, or a God who is bigger than that?

spirituality of blogging

Here are some notes from the session at Greenbelt by Andrew Jones on the Spirituality of Blogging.

Andrew started of with a variety of thoughts around the subject of blogging....before moving on to ten or eleven 'points' about the spirituality of blogging.....

We are undergoing a second renaissance. Readers are becoming writers. Consumers are becoming producers/co-creators.

We can access information freely and quickly from the huge database of information we are currently contributing to. This database will continue to be accessed (in some form, by whatever means) for years to come.

Athanasius, writing in the 4th century, wrote about the accountability which can be developed through regular writing. (Andrew has blogged about this here).

Apparently a new blog is started every two seconds.

We know more than our Pastors.
Bloggers are the vanguard of the participatory church.
We are seeing the rise of a new kind of preacher, whose methods work both inside and outside of traditional church structures.
(Tim Bednar)

Why blog?
to participate, it's in the 1st person, it's a discipline, to preach, to earn permission, care, to build the Kingdom

1. To blog is to find yourself in a place of PRAISE
Praise meaning to publically acknowledging.
Publish our glad tidings daily....

2. To blog is to find yourself in a place of ACCOUNTABILITY
Athanasius stuff
Eph 5:21
Is blogging more accountable than writing books, in that we have the opportunity to repent?

3. To blog is to find yourself in a place of VULNERABILITY
Blogging gives people a window to your life.
A challenge to open up our lives...

4. To blog is to find yourself in a place of GIVING
The blogosphere operates on a gift economy.
Gain reputation not remuneration (Google ratings etc)
A good name is better than riches (Proverbs)
Freely you have recieved, freely you give.
Yeast - building things up, not puffing up
To blog = to give away

5. To blog is to find yourself in a place of CREATIVE NAMING
Just like Adam in the garden, it is in the blogosphere where ideas rise up, concepts are being named....

6. To blog is to find yourself in a place of REPENTANCE
(see the ACCOUNTABILITY stuff)

7. To blog is to find yourself in a place of FELLOWSHIP
Hyperlinks - one of the greatest inventions of our time???
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
Linking to one another, as our stories become intertwined we have a responsibility to care for one another

8. To blog is to find yourself in a place of EVANGELISM
Showing, sharing the whole of our lives....

9. To blog is to find yourself in a place of INTEGRITY
Where our writing matches our speaking
Informality - in the physical world we use facial expressions, tone of voice, body lanugage etc., in the virtual world we are beginning to find other methods to informalise eg. smileys, .....s, erms, uncorrected typos.
When we comment on other peoples blogs we must assign our own place, other people do not know who we are, with what authority we speak etc. But we must remember to take the lesser place at the table
In what way does the appearance of our blog reflect who we are, where we are at (messy + untidy, neat + tidy)???

10. To blog is to find yourself in a place of WATCHFULNESS
Spiritual discipline of watching and praying
Watching out for one another, covering people's backs...

11. To blog is to find yourself in a place of POSTERITY
To store and guard the things of God
Permanence, part of the database
We are historians, journalists...

Andrew finished the session with the Blogger's Prayer (also on his own old site)

Control your own stories + Be found...

Update Andrew has added his own notes here, along with links to other people who have blogged about the session.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

back from greenbelt

After a rather hot, slow and slightly smelly coach journey, I got back from a great weekend at Greenbelt.

Overall I had a really good time, even though I might have tired myself out trying to cram in a bit too much. Heard some great speakers (more on them in future posts), listened to some great music, laughed/cringed at some brilliant comedy, 'did' worship in a number of different styles, caught up with some old friends and met some new people as well.

At this point I'm aware just how many hyperlinks I could list, but I'm not gonna do that now. It would be dull. Instead I'll break my musings down into more posts, which will appear in due course......

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

whale rider

Just watched Whale Rider. I saw it going cheap in Tesco this evening, and thought it was worth the few pounds they were asking.

I remember Jonny Baker writing a post about this film some time ago. As he, and others say, the film raises a number of questions about the way in which communities pass on their traditions from one generation to the next, especially in a changing context.

If you've not seen it, it's well worth a watch.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

this week

This week I am working in our local secondary school - Abbeydale Grange. I'm helping out at a summer school for young people who will be starting Year 7 in September. It's pretty cool actually, getting to play, i mean work, with computers and digital video cameras (the school has Specialist Media Arts Status). The young people are making their own music videos which will be entered into the BOOM! Music Video Awards.

The BOOM! Music Video Academy is something run by MTV and Adobe. It supports teachers as they encourage young people to develop their creative skills. It seems pretty cool.

Then on Friday I'm off to Greenbelt for the weekend. It's going to be a long week, and I'm looking forward to next Wednesday when hopefully I will get a day off.

Friday, August 19, 2005

how taize changed the church

A really good article continuing to reflect on the life and work of Brother Roger.


I've finally got myself in gear and have just booked my Greenbelt ticket.

I'm actually quite excited. I wonder to what extent my emotions have been affected by the fact that Colin and Edith have just played the theme tune to Baywatch. Anyway.

Tag greenbelt2005

what classic movie are you?

So I've never actually watched this film. But apparently its a film on which the 2002 Adam Sandler film Mr Deeds is based. This happens to be one of may favourite films. It's somewhere in my top 10 (don't ask what the other 9 are - I'm not sure yet).

what famous leader are you?

Which is nice for me. Obviously a personality test comprising just nine questions is not the most accurate thing in the world. But interestingly, I do share the same Myers-Briggs personality type as Gandhi. Maybe the test is accurate after all.....

Thursday, August 18, 2005

endings and beginnings

I wasn't really sure what to post when I heard the sad news about Brother Roger, so as you will notice, I just posted a couple of news reports.

Having had some time to reflect on what happened, I find myself experienceing a mix of emotions. Obviously there was a certain amount of shock and sadness on hearing of the way in which Brother Roger died, and the very fact that he had died. But in all honesty, I think people, including Brother Roger, were prepared for him to die. He was ninety, and although he was continuing to play his role within the Taize community, he was a frail man, who knew that his time on earth was coming to an end.

This year was my first at Taize, and what I witnessed this year was incredible. People come together at Taize, from all over the world, representing different denominations, different faiths, or even no faith at all. And in spite of all these differences, people live, work and reflect together as a community, serving one another, and serving God.

Brother Roger no longer heads up that community here on earth, but the spirit in which he founded and led the community lives on, a spirit of peace, harmony and simplicity. There is much to be learnt from the way Taize operates, much that we as individuals, communities and societies as a whole could learn. I for one am very glad, that this example of living together as a peaceful and simple community will carry on under the leadership of Brother Alois, Brother Roger's appointed successor. My prayers are with him, and with all the members of the Taize community.