Tuesday, December 19, 2006

try this improvisation [2]: throwing up [wheat and chaff]

For Sunday's mayBe Eucharist we were out on the meadow again - it's a cathedral to us, more than ever - and we were working [briefly - it was a beautiful but cold day] with the day's Gospel reading from Luke 3. This is the uncomfortable passage where John the Baptiser pictures the Messiah coming with 'winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’ Big thanks here to sarcastic lutheran Nadia who had posted something on this on her blog last week. As a result we found ourselves wondering what might be the wheat and chaff in our lives as individuals and community - and if there might be stuff that we think of as chaff which might in God's care actually be wheat [and vice versa]? For our ritual we threw our wheat and chaff [OK porridge oats and suflower seeds] into the air, saying "my wheat and chaff". Seemed to work, and left me trying to understand what my wheat and chaff might be. The pic is by forever-mayBe Steve back visiting us from Bristol.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

vinyl rush 2

In June 1977 I went to a big outdoor gig at Knebworth with my best buddy Mike [and about 60.000 others]. Genesis were headlining, Jefferson Starship were on the bill, and Devo were met with a hail of bottles, but the other band I really wanted to see were then up-and-coming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers from the USA. And very good they were too. I remember Tom Petty wearing a big black top hat like the undertaker in a spaghetti western. They felt like a bridge between a lot of the rock stuff I had first got into in the early 70s, and the punky stuff I was into in 1977. Listening this morning to their first album, and I got that vinyl rush again...

vows are tough

A thought re vows and blessings that we made as community on Advent Sunday coming out of a conversation with someone in mayBe. We might imagine [and did] that in the high that came from making these vows we would feel particularly 'spiritual' in the days following, and that the vows would be relatively easy. Not so. Both of us were finding it tough going. I suppose this isn't surprising. In my experience it's often when we commit to something - anything - that the real testing of that commitment comes, and this I think is true whether we put that down to 'the way life is', or see it - as the Church does and the saints always have done - as part of a bigger struggle between God's good world coming and death-dealing, dehumanising powers. So the struggle is to be expected. How did we forget that? I'm holding onto the idea that we're not alone in this. That Christ is our companion and friend. And that there's a whole bunch of hopeful-falling-rising-dogged pilgrims from around the world and across the centuries who are somehow with us...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

vows and blessings

Sunday night was a big deal for us. This year on Advent Sunday, as last year, the mayBe community made vows and prayed for God's blessing on our life. The vows we are using are largely inspired by what we found in the Rule of St Benedict, but also shaped by some contemporary verisions of the monastic life. And they are seriously demanding. The only way I'll have any chance of living them out at all is, as the refrain goes each time "with God's help, and your prayers". I'm playing U2's "I will follow" a lot at the moment, a soundtrack to vow-making? You can now check out and/or download a copy of the vows on the mayBe website. After the Eucharist we went as always to the pub. See pic of Jackie, Chris and Cara.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I'm gonna do it all someday

Gail and I have probably been playing one CD the last 6 months more than any other: 'Scribbled in Chalk' by Karine Polwart. Seemingly simple [actually not sure if they are that simple to play] songs of hope in the midst of the tough stuff. Apparently some primary school in the Borders has adopted the song' I'm gonna do it all' as their anthem for the year. I've got a feeling that they are not alone. Last night as part of the week-long celebrations of my birthday [the older we get the more time we give to birthdays in this house] we went to see Karine and her band play in Wycombe - and very good they were too. Anyway, right now I’m gonna sail right out on the Atlantic / I’m gonna catch me a fish that’s bigger than gigantic / I’m gonna cook up a fine fish tea / It will be like some kind of Galilee /I’m gonna do it all some day

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the really beautiful game

On Saturday I went back to Hillsborough- a long planned venture with Si Smith - to see the famous but fallen-on-hard-times Sheffiield Wednesday play Leicester. It was great: noisy passionate support, a bag of chips for £1, and the Owls playing in the way they should - passing the ball to feet and attacking. About 2 weeks ago I was on the point of saying to Si to forget it, after the unworthy sacking of Paul Sturrock, but I decided in the end to go. And I'm glad I did. The woman next to me said at the end "great, but why didn't they play like this for Mr Sturrock?" Question: the great south stand (the one with the clock) is now the Windsor Food Service South Stand, the Kop is now named after a local radio station, and - I can't quite believe this - but I'm sure I heard the announcer saying that 4 minutes extra time was sponsored by some company....what else is there left to sell? Wednesday won 2-1.

Friday, November 03, 2006

3 meals good

Well it seems to have gone well last night! Txts/email from both the other meal hosts last night said so, and it was good with us too. We had a really provocative conversation coming out of the passage in St Luke's Gospel where Jesus stands up in the synagogue and reads from the prophet Isaiah 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me / because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor / He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind / to let the oppressed go free / to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ We were asking ourselves if we were given the opportunity to stand up and read out something that gives an idea of we are and who we think we are called to be, what might we consider saying. I liked Sam's idea of being called to recognise the sacred-ness of other people. [Here's a pic of us last night: Sam had left at this point l-r: Gail Michael Kate Ian Kim Andrea Jackie Katelyn]

Thursday, November 02, 2006

3 meals

Today is a small step but a big day for us in mayBe. For our next cycle leading up to Christmas our community meal is becoming 3 meals in different locations, all at the same time on Thursday evenings. Each meal will follow the usual simple pattern of shared food, conversation and blessing. But we imagine that in time each one will evolve something of its own character too. It has been great to see the community meal grow, but we have reached the point where mass catering becomes something of a challenge, and where it becomes more difficult to care for each other, hence this step. We also imagine that through doing this more friends of mayBe people might join us on the journey in the company of Jesus Christ. Hosts are: Em and John, John and Tops and Gail and Ian.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

vinyl rush pt 1

Last Christmas my in-laws Pete and Chris gave me a turntable, and what a top gift it was. In 2006 I've been rediscovering my old vinyl. Not all of it - some has not stood the test of time. But some has, magnificently. Like Rod Stewart's You wear it well from Never a dull moment, to which I found myself lurching around the living room today, undignified but ridiculously happy. Hard to imagine that Stewart was pretty cool back in 1972, long before a lot of you were born, actually long before most people were born. Just a great song, brilliantly played and sung. And is it just me, or is vinyl a whole lot warmer, real, here, than CD?

Monday, October 16, 2006

the beautiful game?

First time for ages on Saturday I went to the footie with our son James. He's been an Arsenal supporter since we moved from Sheffield when he was 9. We became Red members (hand over your cash) last year to try to get tickets for a game, with no joy. But this year's move to the bigger and impressive Emirates Stadium seems to have prised the door open ever so slightly for games with lesser clubs, and here we are for the 3-0 game v Watford. Have to say Arsenal played some lovely football, and the boy Theo will go far. Why didn't Sven play him having taken the courageous decision to take him to Germany? But you can only take so much slick football. So I'm looking forward to a real footballing experience in a few weeks time - going back to Hillsborough to see the famous Wednesday...

Friday, October 13, 2006

emerging = distorting?

Week 3 of the critics series in mayBe. A thought coming out of last night's discussion [being facilitated by Niamh - see pic]: we do 'believe in' stuff in mayBe, and that's important ( so for example we know that we are seeking to follow Jesus Christ, we are trying to cultivate living in the light of God as Trinity, and we hold the historic creeds of the Church worldwide) BUT our instinct is that HOW we hold those beliefs is just as important as the beliefs themselves. So there's something about trying to hold any beliefs we have humbly; being willing to be surprised, perhaps overwhelmed by the even-greater realities behind and beyond those beliefs; not feeling that we have to 'understand' them to allow God to shape us; and certainly not forcing them on other people.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

religion = stupid

We're into week 2 in mayBe of opening ourselves up to our fiercest critics [real. potential or imagined]. This week Martin Amis [see last post] and Richard Dawkins ["bad ideas, useless ideas, waste of time ideas like rain dances and other religious customs, will also be passed down the generations - the child brain is very susceptible to this kind of infection" interview with Salon.com] Ouch. But actually the consensus in our conversation seems to be that our spirituality/religion is not sustained by evidence. We would have dumped the whole thing a long time ago if that were true. But somehow we seem to keep on being found by the brilliant-unsettling-mystery-that-is-God. Tomorrow we're in the park for our Eucharist. Jim's got this idea for throwing leaves in the air and watching them fall.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

a night in with our fiercest critics

Looking forward to our October cycle in mayBe - a night in with our fiercest (real or potential) critics. The idea is that we be open to them changing us if that is required, as well as perhaps confirming our direction if that seems good. Liza suggested it so she gets to go first this week and has produced a starting point resource for the conversation around the community meal (available via the mayBe website) on the 19 th C. Danish Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard (pictured). It seems that he had a thing about community - which is a really big deal for us - suggesting that community can be an excuse, diverting us from the real work for each individual of seeking God with authenticity. Should be good. Today we were knocking around ideas for other critics - including possibly Martin Amis on the idea of religion full stop: 'Today in the West there are no good excuses for religious belief - unless we think that ignorance, reaction and sentimentality are good excuses' [The Observer 10 Sept 06]

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Holy Cross day

It's Holy Cross day. When I was a kid at school we used to play football against another school called Holy Cross. And get beaten by scores like 11-0. It wasn't, for me, an encouraging introduction to the idea of Holy Cross... But this is a good day. It gives us space and permission to see Christ's death on the cross not only as a moment of suffering and abandonment - which it certainly is [see the barbed wire pic by Jane from mayBe] - but also as a sign that whatever is destructive and de-humanising will not have the last word. The cross is in this sense, a promise of hope. OK, this is not backed up by serious research, but I reckon that the wearing of a cross by people trying to follow in the way of Jesus Christ is, in the UK at least, not that common anymore. And that's a shame, because this symbol has great potential for good. Perhaps the cross needs to be quietly reclaimed from TopShop? Not as a statement of victory, but a sign of hope for the world. Let's wear it, tattoo it, paint it - and allow it to work away at us.

Friday, September 08, 2006

freedom songs

Isn't it great to be given an amazing piece of music out of nowhere! At last night's mayBe community meal we were finishing off our redemption song cycle by asking the question 'what kind of song are we living as community, and can it be a freedom-bringing song to people around us?' As part of that process people were invited to bring songs that we find 'freeing'. You can check out the playlist that emerged on the mayBe website. Lots of great stuff there. One I really liked was 'There will always be (room at my table for you)' by Adem, which no doubt will find its way into a mayBe Eucharist soon. Thanks for this to Tom who belongs to Peace Church in Birmingham but spends lots of time with us when he's in Oxford with Jane. There will always be room at our-His table for you...

Monday, September 04, 2006

try this improvisation [1]: small = good?

Enjoyed our first shared worship gathering with our buddies from hOME yesterday. We met up at our summer home (also on high days and holidays) ancient Bartlemas chapel - then on to the Angel for a pint. It was very good to share Eucharist, and good to continue in the spirit of Eucharist at the pub. We were working with 2 of Jesus' parables of small things - the mustard seed and yeast. As our improvisiation we took pics on our phones of small stuff around us - here's a pic of a small creature that someone spotted. Seems to me that in our setting and calling smallness can actually be a strength - enabling authentic Christ-community to happen, and creating space in which people might bump into, and begin to orientate themselves towards, Christ. Small = good?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Festival highs

GB highs: being there with mayBe community - almost all of us, plus friends, in tents in one place on the site - brilliant. Offering our Magnificat installation and alt. worship service (see pic by Tom Baker). Everyone came to set up the signpost, organised by Dave our can-do man. Finding myself in 90's disco at the Winged Ox with the community celebrating post-service in the small hours of Monday morning. Meeting up with people inc conversation-makers with mayBe Si Smith and Michael Symmons Roberts. GB lows: uninspired by the music this year - and by the main stage thing - didn't go to see one thing there. Missing some of the most interesting stuff cos it clashed with what we were doing (or preparing to do): Ikon, My Morning Jacket and LDL...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Greenbelt 06

Almost there: Greenbelt Festival 06. Last year we (mayBe in Oxford) did a service at GB for the first time and it was great for us as a young community. A bit scary of course - we were going from our very relaxed, intimate setting to a much bigger thing, but it proved to be a real community-building moment. This year we hope for the same. The really exciting thing is that we are all involved, and that no-one is really sure what our installation or service (both called Magnificat) will look like because they will only come together at the Festival. If you are there please look out for us and say hello. The pic is one that we'll use at GB - painted by mayBe's Rachel Yates during and around one of our worship gatherings earlier this year. As you can see Rachel is a bit brilliant...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

4am wake up

Back from a week's holiday (see the pic of Gail walking). Woke up the night before last and found myself trying to solve the Israel-Palestine-Lebanon situation. Not that ambitious then. Pleasing to say I don't usually wake with such global concerns on my mind. But there it was, and there I was. Found myself imagining the protagonists sitting together for a meal, with their children, grandchildren and grandparents in tow. The room might be pretty crowded but I imagined smiles and laughter breaking out, and things beginning to change. Dream on. No really, dream on...

Monday, August 07, 2006

a beginning

So it starts here. Been waiting for a while for the mayBe community blog to get going but it's taking us time to get it together - so I've decided to start a personal one. The name comes from a great story in the Old Testament / Jewish scriptures which has been working away at me this summer. It's about this guy called Jonah who wants to do the right thing, but rarely manages it, and for his troubles ends up, so the story goes, reflecting on life from the inside of a big fish, before being vomited up on a beach. Feeling queasy already...