Tomorrow I’ll be doing my tour from Cornwall to Carlisle which has been something of a bonkers dream for a while now becoming a reality!
This becoming a reality has also prompted another question: “What next?” -we live in a world that wants to know the next thing before we’ve done the previous thing, like living in a game of chess thinking three moves ahead but missing the moment!
One of my prayers is: “Lord don’t let me run ahead of you, not lag behind you, don’t let me wander from you to the liberal left or the religious right, instead help me to keep in step with your spirit”… I know I have “got out of step at time in each of these four directions”.
At the Bournemouth School of Mission evening John Good urged us to imagine we are chained to the King -handcuffed to Jesus- going where and when he goes staying when he stays and moving when he moves, a challenge to the activist and the contemplative, the liberal and the legalist.
Yet in order to do this, we need to learn the lessons that God wants to teach us, and sadly we can all be a bit slow on learning lessons.
Last Sunday I returned to Kingswood to do a talk at a friend’s Church when they were doing a sizzle in the car park. It was a fun event with puppets, choirs and face-painting and I realised that for too often I had been in the mentality of the talk being the “main event” but wondered actually as I wandered around chatting to people whether actually this might be the thing God uses to change and bless someone’s life?
I have come to realise that in some senses everything we do can be missional and everything is evangelistic, it’s a way of life not an activity we partake in on occasions, and things the Church calls evangelism, pastoral care or discipleship are so clearly distinct when in relationship with real people, life can’t be compartmentalised quite that easily!
It was lovely chatting to old friends and some of the conversations were faith related and others life related and that felt okay. It felt weird coming back to Kingswood especially as my own life and future still isn’t as clear as I’d like.
It was great too as a friend who leads the Moravian Church (if you’ve not come across the Moravian’s they are worth a research!) popped into see me as did another friend who heads up the kids work in my last parish. I realise she’s free to come because this Sunday they now have Messy Church at 3:30. Inwardly I felt torn, do I drop in later and say hey or not?
I did my talky bit about needing to ask for help and how we need to surrender to Jesus and ask him to help us live our lives for him. I had a fun prop of eating donuts on a long pole which is technically impossible but people struggled to try and make it work, probably how we all do with life lived on our own in our own way, but actually needing to surrender and ask God for “help!”
God who helps us when we are struggling, was probably the testimony of the last few years of this Church as they came out of a nightmare time, and had also seen the Church split, and a “Splant” form up the road, it had been a tough road, yet here they were out the other side with an exciting new vision for the future, and in this God had changed them from an inward looking Church to an outward and missional one.
I know I need God’s help, feeling daunted about the forth coming mega road-trip pilgrimage, would it all work, praying for travelling mercies and logistics; also with how to work out how I can do what I feel called to do and make a liveable wage, as I ponder about getting another job or whether pushing on and living a bit more by faith is what God is calling me to as Poole New Monastics and The School of Mission both slowly begin their journeys.
As the event drew to a close, I drove past another of my former Churches, and saw they were doing a BBQ for the new residents who had moved in to the new development around the Church. I remembered with that pang of an unpleasant memory about how I couldn’t get anyone from the Church to go to the meeting about the potential new developments, clearly some within the congregation had had a change of heart, and for a second I felt a twinge of jealousy “why would they rally around and help with mission for a new vicar and yet didn’t help me?”
The problem with returning to a place where we had poured ourselves into for 8 years is that even though there are a lot of wonderful memories there are some very raw scars too.
I then wondered whether this particular Church would welcome and love new members, especially if the new members had ideas and maybe took on roles and jobs that maybe threatened some power-bases, I prayed that not only would the Church become good at being missional it would be a great “Incubator/green-house” that enables people to flourish in a secure and loving environment.
Everyone says they want new people, but when they start “messing with stuff” -especially the things we like- sometimes it is a challenge, my prayer is that they respond to the challenge with God’s help/grace and support.
I looked at my watch and gasped as I realised what the time was, I needed to get over to the other side of the city to see my friend Malcolm who was in hospital, I’d actually been up two days earlier as the information I’d had sounded like he was at deaths door, and was pleasantly surprised to see him sat up in bed flirting with the nurses! When I finally got to the hospital he was in a wheel chair being taken to Costa’s by his son.
I thought of him and how rarely I saw them because I was always working, and wished now I had spent more time with them rather than at the endless (and often unproductive) Churchy meetings. This group sometimes called the “Tw@ts of the round table” and more recently Ohana (from Milo and Stitch) which says “no one left behind or forgotten” and wondered that this was probably more of the essence of the Kingdom of God and understanding of what it meant to “be” Church that many Churches with there institutional religiosity that doesn’t look a whole lot like a Jesus-y community.
I began to think of my desire for community of love/support and a message of hope, often we are good at explaining salvation but embodying our faith together as community, what does it mean to be good news rather than just “speak about good news?”
Perhaps, I was right in my earlier pondering as I wondered of the chatting was as important as the the preach -perhaps more so?!