Thursday, December 27, 2007

flesh and blood

This Christmas I've been reflecting on the earthiness of the incarnation. What was it like for the Holy Child? And what changes because of it? God with us, alongside us, one of us. If God comes in this way then God must come deep into the human condition. Flesh and blood. Capable of the best [and what a best]; of the worst [that possibility surely has to be there, though scripture and tradition are very clear that Jesus never took that option]; even, perhaps capable of the mediocre [question: did Jesus ever do anything half-heartedly?] Whatever it was like for the God-Man I find in the incarnation strength, hope and possibility. Whatever we face, God is truly with us, alongside us, one of us. Someone has travelled this way before.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

There she goes again: the Liverpool Nativity

I really enjoyed the Liverpool Nativity on BBC 3 on Sunday night. Produced by the same people as last year's Manchester Passion, the Nativity story is set in the present, recorded live in the city, and uses music from Liverpool's rich back catalogue [I loved Teardrop Explodes Reward and the La's There she goes]. The Mary and Joseph characters are played brilliantly by Jodie McNee and kenny Thompson, and lots of familiar Liverpool actors play in other roles. It's really good to see the great story 'out there' and being wondered at. If you didn't catch it you can see it again on BBC iPlayer

bishop's call

Very encouraged yesterday. Our new bishop John came to the deanery for the day. He facilitated a very good conversation with the clergy of the deanery at chapter in the middle of the day, and in the evening he spoke at deanery synod. The bishop talked about the current situation in terms of mission and called for us to create 'counter-cultural Christian communities', offering 'radical hospitality, generously engaged with the world around us, and passionate about God'. Sounds to me like a very important and timely call.

Monday, December 10, 2007

God help me

Last night was mayBe's Eucharist with Vows and Blessings for the coming year. Pics are from the evening. This is the third year we have done this, each time at the beginning of Advent. I find it a really a compelling moment. Our vows include elements taken from St Benedict's rule, and include learning that we have received from other great teachers like Br Roger and the Taize Community. For my role the opening question and required response get straight to the heart of things:

Q. As mayBe community we commit ourselves to believing and living in the one God has sent, Jesus Christ. Will you seek as our abbot to point the community at all times towards the one true light of the Gospel of Christ?
A: With God’s help and your prayers I promise to serve God and the community in this way.

I know this orientation of the community towards Christ must start close to home - with the demanding task that is me. May God, indeed, help me.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

try this improvisation [5]: Meister Eckhart's circle

Here's a ritual/improvisation that you might like to try the next time you are on a beach. We've done this on our latest mayBe retreats in October and November in South Devon. The starting point is this wisdom from the Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart [1260-1327]. He speaks in male language but we read it out in both female and male.

"A person who wishes to begin a good life should be like a man who draws a circle. Let him get the centre in the right place and keep it so and the circumference will be good. In other words, let a man first learn to fix his heart on God and then his good deeds will have virtue; but if a man's heart is unsteady, even the great things he does will be of small advantage".

To make the circles we found it worked best to tie 2 small sticks or screwdrivers at either end of a metre or 2 of fishing line or string. Put one stick firmly into the sand as your centre, then with the string tight, with the other stick make a circle [the circumference] in the sand around it. The circles may overlap if you want. Stand, sit or kneel at the centre of your circle, and let Meister Eckhart's words do their thing on you...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

feeding the stove-animal

At the weekend I hosted our latest mayBe retreat at Old Walls in South Devon with Ali, Cara, Debs, Emma, Gail and John. Lots of practise of contemplative prayer - plus much laughter, creative stuff and walks. We arrived on a freezing Friday and kept feeding the stove-animal* all weekend [*thanks to Jane Kenyon 1947-1995 for that image from her poem 'two days alone']. One interesting strand that emerged was how tough it is for people who are naturally prone to constant activity to slow themselves. We think that attention to breathing can play a big part in this - and next retreat we are going to put in a session on breathing right at the start. The pic is Cara doing some creative stuff.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Blah! good

Our first Blah! in Oxford went well on Tuesday night - big thanks to those who came and contributed - a full house, very good stuff from Jonny Baker, interesting conversations during and afterwards, and lots of good contacts made by the people who came I think. Looking forward to organising the next one now. Jonny brought a series of pics that he had taken from the bridge between St Paul's cathedral on bank of the Thames, and Tate Modern on the other. A good image of where we find ourselves.

Monday, November 12, 2007

50 weekend

We had such a wonderful time this weekend gathering with friends over Friday night through to Sunday to mark my 50th birthday. Saturday began with breakfast in Quod, then a walk around Oxford followed by drinks at the Kings Arms, high tea at the Old Parsonage Hotel and back to ours for the evening. Sunday morning we had mayBe's Remember+Be+Peacemakers Eucharist on Portmeadow, then into another celebration with more friends at Manos cafe in Jericho. It was great to have friends from different places all together, and so good to have our James, Esther and Rachel back from university with us. What a brilliant way to begin being an old boy! The pic is enroute from pub to hotel.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blah! in Oxford

Matt Rees from hOME and myself are organising a first Blah! in Oxford. We've asked Jonny Baker to come and faciliatate a conversation around 'what is emerging church?'. It's on Tuesday 20 November 8pm @the Phoenix cinema bar. The idea is that we create a place where people involved [and looking to get involved] in emerging stuff can exchange ideas, stories and inspiration. May more good things emerge...

Friday, October 19, 2007

when all hell breaks loose

Found myself at 8.15am today running up our street faster than I thought possible. A good neighbour had just rushed to our door to tell me that Gail was in a traffic accident at the end of the street. Is everything in our life about to shift?

Thankfully both Gail and the motorcyclist are OK. Shaken but OK. Car and bike will need work to make them fit to drive. And so last night's contemplative wisdom at mayBe community meal gets tested sooner than we had anticipated. Is it possible to live like this?

'Life still happens...
Yet in all
we are the tranquil awareness
that grounds and presides and is one with all,
whether things are going well in life
or all hell is breaking loose.'

[M Laird]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

skating on the surface

We had the third mayBe retreat this weekend at Old Walls in South Devon. Seemed to go very well. Really good to be able to give ourselves over a weekend to some of the contemplative practices that we have been working on over the last few weeks. Again feels like we are skating on the surface of something very big. The pic is of some kind of water boatmen in the stream that runs through the village.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

urban mission house

Excited about Becky's ideas for what she's calling an urban mission house in Blackbird Leys. And good to see this project both gaining energy from, and giving energy to mayBe. On Monday evening the mayBe guardians were wondering what other callings might take shape like this in and around the community?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

skimming stones

The current mayBe cycle on 'the interior life:who are you?' is stretching me. As it should. It's following me around. Breaking into my dreams. We are trying to work out and practise a way to live in the spirit of the mystics. Feels like we're skimming stones on the surface of something big.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

new role

I'm enjoying my new additional part-time role as Chaplain and Tutor for the Oxford Centre for Youth Ministry, who offer a degree course validated by Oxford Brookes University. The course is also delivered in Cambridge, Bristol and Nottingham, with around 50 students at each location. Really impressed already with the people - staff and students alike.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Happy times for Gail and I last week on Mull and Iona. It has been so good for us to make a pilgrimage / holiday / holy-day there for a week for the last 7 years. This year was no exception: mackerel from sea to plate in 30 minutes, a beautiful walk up the volcano at the north end of Mull, swimming - a sudden disrobement when the sun came out - and musing together about life love and happiness.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Greenbelt Festival 07

Great time at Greenbelt. This is the third year now that mayBe has done something in New Forms and this year, for the first time, we did what we usually do for worship - Eucharist [see the pic]. Lots of us involved in preparation beforehand and in enabling it on the day, including... Simple but beautiful design by Cara, Rachel and Becky. Atmospheric video from Jane and Tom. Cool music from John and Jim. Spacious liturgy by Sam and Emma. Andrea's construction of the Eucharist worked beautifully. And Gail's Yahweh ritual was really good for me. Surprise highlight [I love those GB surprises] was John O'Donohue, writer, story-teller and purveyor of wisdom. Love this poem of his [which we've just put on the mayBe website] called 'Fluent': I would love to live/ Like a river flows / Carried by the surprise / Of its own unfolding.

Monday, July 23, 2007

here comes the flood?

Strange waiting time this weekend. The Thames is in flood, and rising, and apparently will come our way. The Environment Agency say that it may peak this afternoon, tonight or tomorrow. We have no sandbags. The house is in precautionary chaos - sofa and chairs raised up on tables, all my vinyl LPs upstairs on the landing, with all our photo albums. Saw 2 crazy guys attempt to swim the river yesterday afternoon - they dived in and were taken downstream very fast, just managing to make the far bank. Gail and I took our car to higher ground last night near the Iffley Road. Everywhere the air is cold and wet from the river.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Julian and the parables

Brilliant weekend away with the mayBe community in the Quantock Hills. With various visitors calling in we numbered around 30 this year. Great to have John and Emma organising most of the practical stuff, enabling me to spend more time with people and to focus on the praying times. We had an impromptu game of football on Saturday morning and I loved it. Even the hamstring pull in the dying seconds was worth it. In the prayers and Eucharist we attempted to get a dialogue going between some of the parables of Jesus and some sayings of Julian of Norwich. Think it worked well - I'm going to do more on this. The pic is of the camp fire on Saturday night. Chris was playing the Beautiful South.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stealing Up

I'm very excited about the other contribution from mayBe to this year's Greenbelt festival. Ruth Platt and Darko Stavrik from mayBe are are film makers and call themselves UrbanFox Films. They are big fans of film makers like Luke Moodyson, and I think their stuff is compassionate and tough. Stealing Up' is a short film of theirs to be shown at the festival. It looks at themes of love and loss, of parent and child. It features Maxine Peake - you may know her from Channel 4's 'Shameless' and from 'Confessions of a diary secretary'. The pic is a still from the film and features a famous local landmark around here.

beautiful day

The sky falls and it feels like it's a beautiful day... Looks like we've found our theme for mayBe's Greenbelt service this year [10am on the Saturday of the festival.] We had our first planning session on Saturday downstairs @ Manos [which is becoming another home for us]. We began with ideas coming out of our current look at the human body - then we remembered that our mates at Moot had the body as their theme last year and we didn't want to duplicate what they've done. So we moved to the possibility of the present moment - not waiting till things get perfect or better or even just OK but giving ourselves fully, in the 'now' moment, however it feels. Gail remembered her grandma talking about 'the shit and the honey.' Can we find beauty in both? Good question.

community conversation

mayBe had its 3x yearly all community conversation on Sunday, leading into Eucharist. I thought it was good. We asked 3 questions of ourselves: 1) what's life-giving or good about this community? 2) what's harder - what do we need to give attention to? 3) what insights are around re next steps? I was particularly grabbed by 2 things. Firstly, several people suggested that we can go deeper into the praying way [which chimes in with what I'm feeling]. And secondly, for a while the idea of a few mayBe people living in a community house has been tentatively around - on Sunday Becky made a suggestion for a next step in exploring that direction. Becky has lived in a community house before in NZ and has friends over here at the moment who helped form it. We are going to invite them for a conversation.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

with Fr Richard Rohr

In the last 18 months I've been going back again and again to the writings of Franciscan priest Fr Richard Rohr. This weekend I went with Gail and with Matt and Jim from hOME to a conference in York featuring Fr Richard. So much wonderful stuff - inspiring us to keep on seeking to be engaged in the present moment and following in the way of Christ for the world, with what Fr Richard calls a contemplative mind. I want this this to keep on shaping me. And I hope that I can keep on encouraging others in mayBe community and beyond to explore a similar path. Here's a pic of Jim, Jo, Ian, Gail and Matt at meal time.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

muscle tone for the culture?

I love the music of John Adams [no relation]. The pic is the cover of the CD of his brilliant opera El Nino. In the latest issue of the Observer's Music Monthly magazine, there's a good article on contemporary classical music, featuring Adams. In an interview he says that 'if opera is going to have any future at all as a living art form, it has to take hold of the psychological themes and undercurrents of our present lives'. The article also features the theatre director Peter Sellars who has worked a lot with John Adams [he directed his first opera Nixon in China]. He speaks about providing 'muscle tone' for the culture. Stimulating stuff - and I think there's a connection with what we are trying to be and do in the emerging/emergent church.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

try this improvisation [4]: flying kites for Ascension

There was, perhaps inevitably, barely a breeze. On Sunday morning on South Park we flew kites to mark the Ascension of Christ. This is the third year that we've done this, and I love the whole process. Making the kites, decorating them, and then trying to get them airborne. This year I went for small and light, with a kite made from wrapping paper and drinking straws. My Chi-Ro symbol was mistaken by someone for a skull and cross bones. The pic is of John - whose kite flew beautifuly.

everything in the universe would love to be iron

Justin is a friend mine, a conversation-maker with mayBe and a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford. He does all kinds of amazing stuff with atoms and lasers. On Wednesday I got myself invited to one of his lectures. I'm now doing some teaching/facilitating around emerging church themes, and I wanted to pick up some tips from Justin. Very good he was too. My background is arts, not sciences, but somehow Justin got me hooked on the possibility of plasma physics. He speaks of science with the voice of a poet. Like "everything in the universe would love to be iron". I can't remember exactly why everything in the universe would love to be iron - something to do with iron being the perfect elemental structure to hold itself together, I think. This week it's going to be all about the z-pinch and Tokamaks. I'll have some of that please.

Friday, May 18, 2007

close-up to the earth

I was on retreat last week. Not always comfortable - as is right, of course - on retreat we should expect the tough times as well as enjoy the sublime moments. I went for lots of walks, and occasionally lay down in the grass. Being really close-up to the earth is a very intense sensation. Alive, held, part of something much bigger. And wet.

a fiercer love

Ray has a form of dementia [vascular - blood vessels in the brain hardening and getting smaller]. Ray is my dad. He and mum [Rosemary] adopted me when I was a few months old. He's just turned 80 and is still very fit physically, but the dementia is advancing. Speedily. It seems so hard that someone so interested in life, so optimistic and so selfless should find himself in this place. It's also really tough for Rosemary. I've been finding this poem helpful - 'Geriatric' by RS Thomas:

What god is proud
of this garden
of dead flowers, this underwater
grotto of humanity,
where limbs wave in invisible
currents, faces drooping
on dry stalks, voices clawing
in a last desperate effort
to retain hold? Despite withered
petals, I recognise
the species: Charcot, Meniere,
Alzheimer. There are no gardeners
here, caretakers only
of reason overgrown
by confusion. This body once,
when it was in bud,
opened to love's kisses. These eyes,
cloudy with rheum,
were clear pebbles that love's rivulet
hurried over. Is this
the best Rabbi Ben Ezra
promised? I come away
comforting myself, as I can,
that there is another
garden, all dew and fragrance,
and that these are the brambles
about it we are caught in,
a sacrifice prepared
by a torn god to a love fiercer
than we can understand.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

in the cathedral

This morning I preached at Christchurch Cathedral Oxford. An interesting space to work in. The cathedral covers a large area but is actually made up of a lot of smaller spaces. When I do this kind of thing I like to enage with the congregation. Archdeacon Julian told me beforehand not to try that - you preach from a high pulpit sideways-on halfway down a long narrow aisle - and if you try to maintain eye contact, it'll look you are watching a tennis match from the umpire's chair. So it was a bit like being on the radio. Seemed to go OK, and I enjoyed the new experience. Great to have lots of mayBe people there. The theme was vocation and I used quotations from various people in mayBe community. Here's one of them, from Michael: 'Could it be that the most profound aspect of vocation is that God may have formed us with desires and aspirations which mirror the Kingdom of God, and thus vocation is best discerned in those areas of our lives which give us and others most joy'... You can download the sermon from mayBe resources

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

vinyl rush pt3. meet me down by the pylons

Meet me down by the pylons. Big thanks to buddy Matt Rees, massive Van Morrison fan of this fair city and abbot of hOME. Last week Matt was telling me about the Van gig [see Matt's blog lostempires, livingtribes] and saying that his favourite Van album is Into the music. I've been playing Wavelength for ages. So I got out my vinyl copy of Into the Music. As Matt promised, side 2 hasn't left the turntable: Angeliou. And the healing had begun. It's all in the game. You know what they're talking about. I'm in a trance-like state...

And when there's no more words to say about love I go
Meet me down, meet me down
Meet me down by the river
Meet me down by the water
Meet me down by the pylons...

wild flowers

I met up with the bishop yesterday to talk about the latest in seeking funding for mayBe. I'd written a couple of weeks ago with some suggestions as to how we might go forward if no funding partner is found [as is the case at this moment]. This was the follow up meeting, and various of those ideas seem good to work on. We found ourselves talking about the Diocese's emerging church projects as being small but bright wild flowers. More as this story unfolds.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Mhairi is a local girl

I spent Monday afternoon this week with a group of students from the Oxford Centre of Youth Ministry. I'd been asked by OCYM to give a session on the Celtic Christian tradition. See the pic of us on South Park where we created an act of worship drawing on the tradition. mayBe is not a self-consciously Celtic community, but many of the emphases of the tradition [as much as we can know anything about it] can be seen in our life. I've been doing some research in Carmina Gadelica recently - the amazing volume of prayers, blessings and incantations collected in the Highland and Islands of Scotland in the mid to late 19th Century by one Alexander Carmichael. He realised that a vital tradition which had been passed down orally through the generations - possibly from as far back as Columba and his contemporaries - was on the verge of being lost, and set about collecting the evidence before it disappeared. One of the things that I found there is the sense that the saints and angels, the heroes of scripture, and even Jesus himself are very close. They are amongst us. They are earthy, local, and friends. Mhairi is a local girl who milks the cows. I like this. It makes our calling to follow in their footsteps somehow more possible, more practical, more vital. We can be saints too...

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


Our son James is 21. As of 5.15am yesterday. He started very small. Now he's almost 5 inches taller than me. I love him so much. We had a family meal out last night as we do for everyone's birthday. We talked about times good and times not so good. Of football in the garden - how many games did we play? I miss that. I hadn't realised before he spoke of it last night quite how hard he had found us moving from Cambridge aged 11 [when I had finished residential training.] Ouch, revelations like that cut deep to a parent. Did we do the right thing by our kids? Anyhow, somehow he's emerged from it all very lovely, with a great sense of fun, and very good company. This pic is of him around age 8 or 9.

Mark = Hemingway?

Holy Week and Easter 07. Perhaps because some of the open-endedness surrounding the next steps for us in mayBe, this year the Holy season seemed very close-up. Connected. Intimate. The foot-washing ritual at Maunday Thursday's community meal was powerful. And funny. Bernadette was concerned that when she washed my feet we might find it all 'too sensual'. It was nice, even really nice, but both agreed not quite that nice. Good Friday's Stations of the Cross walk in Shotover was simple. We stopped every 10 minutes or so to hear an excerpt from Mark's Gospel. Is Mark the Hemingway of the Gospel writers? You know sparse, to the point, simple? He left us without comfort. Holy Saturday vigil [see the pic] brought a really important moment to our evolving life - Topsy's baptism, mayBe community's first. The rest of us splashed water on ourselves and lit candles as a sign of renewing our baptismal vows, or simply of wanting to be on the spiritual journey. We used Andrew Jones' brilliant idea of mixing some dangerous words of Jesus with the sigur Ros video for Glosoli. Niamh and Theo [aged 2 almost 3] leapt in manic fashion as the kids ran up the hill. Resurrection day was, for the first time in years that I can remember, a beautiful weather day. The Eucharist was simple, and, as is our tradition in mayBe [3 years old and we have traditions now] the final liturgical act on this day of resurrection was the throwing of a frisbee "with abandon". Everything looks a little different now...

Saturday, April 07, 2007

in the pit

In the pit. About 1.45am on the night between Maunday Thursday and Good Friday. Dreaming of course. Perhaps this comes from trying to 'live Holy Week'. Should come with a warning label. Tried to remember the words of a Psalm but couldn't. Words that may have been said by, and given strength to Jesus on the night before his death when he was held, possibly in a pit or cell under the house of the High Priest. You can visit the place in Jerusalem near the church of St Peter in Gallicantu. I've found the words now. It's Psalm 88. 'I am counted as those who go down to the pit; I am like those who have no help'. How good it is that the Psalms don't try to make everything better. They let it be.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The choice is this, Cara said

The choice is this, Cara said. Side with the bullied, or side with the bullies. Last night I was abbot on tour to the mayBe community meal @ Jon and Tops - lovely welcome everyone, thankyou. We were talking about the place of suffering in the Christian tradition, wondering at Dietrich Bonhoeffer's claim [and he of all people had a right to say this] that 'suffering is the badge of true discipleship.' Perhaps it's almost fraudulent of us to imagine that we could have any kind of link to the martyr Bonhoeffer. We live in a much safer place and time than Nazi Germany in 1937 where he wrote 'The cost of discipleship'. Where's our suffering? What's the cost to us? Where's our courage? But then, Cara said, the choice is this. Side with the bullied, or side with the bullies. And I bet that by the end of this day, most of us will have had the opportunity to make that choice, wherever we are. Side with the bullied, or side with the bullies.

a waiting time

A waiting time comes to an end. For over a year in mayBe we've been seeking a funding partner for the next phase of the community's life beginning May/June 07. We've had a number of refusals, and couple of very near misses. Now we have one last big application in with a charitable trust, and they have promised an answer by the end of the month. The funny thing is we find ourselves stangely at peace. That could change of course, but lets go with it. I am the big cost for mayBe - in other areas we are covering our own costs - so if we don't find that funding partner our idea is for me to look for a new job or for a combination of income-earning gigs. mayBe is quietly vibrant, with a strong culture of participation, and either way - funding partner found or job/gig search for me - I am confident that mayBe's life will continue to evolve, enabling the people in and around mayBe to go on making small differences for the world in the hope and peace of Jesus son of the loveliest Mary...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sound II

I was at Winchester Cathedral yesterday meeting Canon Roly Riem. We are both interested in trying to encourage Benedictine type spiritual practise in an everyday setting. Roly showed me round the cathedral - very beautiful it is too - with lots of creative and prayerful spaces. I'd wanted to see Anthony Gormley's Sound II installation, which is in the crypt, for a long time. It's quietly powerful - and if you've not seen Sound II yet in the flesh [metal], now is a very good time. This is apparently the first season in ages that the crypt has flooded, and installation really works best in its setting when surrounded by water. Perhaps the figure with hands cupped, standing in water in an underground place, encourages us to remain in prayer, whatever is going on around us...


It's the sounds that may stay with me the longest. Bells. Rain dripping. Shuffling feet. Chanting. Even snow falling. Into great Silence [see my post last month] was all and more that I had hoped for. It reminded me that if we stop hurrying, and if we simplify, we may see more clearly the wonder that is all around us. The film lingered lovingly on the apparently mundane stuff of life - the cutting of cloth, the preparation of vegetables, the washing of pots, the clearing of snow. There's a tough humility to these monks - I guess they have to be both, it's a very demanding calling - and the film didn't romanticise their way of life. There's a very powerful scene where a younk bother is tending to a old brother who has sores on his arms and back. The young man quietly, gently, lovingly massages some ointment into the old man's stretched skin.

There are some memorable moments scattered at intervals through the film where individual brothers are asked to look directly into the camera. Also some funny full-of-life moments, like a scene close to the end when, out on their [weekly?] walk in the mountains in winter, we see some of the monks attempting to slide downhill on snow shoes, falling over, laughing, going for it again.

At the end of the film there is a brief interview - the only one in the film- with an old brother who is blind. He worries that the world has forgotten God. And then speaks simply and movingly of God's goodness.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

feast day

Woke up this morning full of anticipation: mayBe's 'hungry thirsty' Eucharist out in the open followed by cafe time. Then England v France in the 6 Nations. Finally a family dinner in the evening. Simple stuff really, but very good - truly a feast day within the wilderness of Lent.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

catholic day

On Wednesday I was at an event at Lambeth initiated by the Fresh Expressions people, organised by Ian at Moot, aimed at engaging the catholic constituency in the C of E in conversation with various practitioners of 'emerging church' [like us]. Apparently there's very little overtly catholic involvement in ec / Fresh Expressions. Heard some good stories particularly of how the Mass is being given new energy in various youth contexts. Some of the guys are involved in something called Blessed in South London and they organised the Eucharist we shared. And good it was too, with a memorable moment when our confessions where put to the flame in dramatic fashion. Next step may be to have a pilgrimage, perhaps to Glastonbury, with an ancient-future theme. Sounds good to me.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Paul from mayBe and I enjoyed meeting up with Patrick Todjeras from Vienna on Friday. He's doing lots of research into the emerging conversation and is at the early stages of doing something in Vienna with some friends - its called seelenstoff which means something like what it sounds like in English - soulstuff. If you can read German check out this blog they have got going: emerging church osterreich.

Monday, February 19, 2007

try this improvisation[3]: what's my name?

Powerful moment for me in the ritual at yesterday's Eucharist on the Meadow. We gave each other a white stone and mused on the possibility of an unseen name written there for each of us, a name known only to God [check out Revelation 2]. What's my name?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

a new national anthem for England?

Not sure what I feel about national anthems. Quite a few seem to be about beating the ancient enemy [whoever that is]. Perhaps I don't like the way that they draw me into their fervour. Perhaps I'm just jealous that other countries seem to have better anthems than us? Which leads me to ask, how about a new national anthem for England? How can 'God save our Gracious Queen' be England's anthem when the Queen and that anthem belong to the whole of the United Kingdom? How about an anthem that gives us a vision for what England and the English could become at our best - a generous, inventive and open-hearted people in a beautiful country of dramatic coasts, rolling hills and spirited cities.

Suggestion: let's look for something to come out of the new English folk tradition, in the same way that Scotland's de facto national anthem is the brilliant 'Flower of Scotland' by Roy Williamson of the Corries? Here's some songs from the new English folk tradition that convey some positive stuff about England, and even if they are not anthemic enough they could perhaps inspire a song that is...

Maggie Holland's 'A place called England' [I only know the excellent version by June Tabor]:
'come all you at home with freedom whatever the land that gave you birth
there's room for you both root and branch as long as you love the English earth...
for England is not flag or Empire, it is not money it is not blood
it's limestone gorge and granite fell, it's Wealeden clay and Severn mud'

'Sweet England' [traditional - check out the brilliant version by Jim Moray on the CD 'Sweet England'] about an emigration to America that went wrong and a subsequent returning to England...
'there's a neat little cottage with a rose at the door
and there with my aunt I would live my life oer
I'd nurse her in sickness and tend to her pain
and thank God I'm back in sweet England again
sweet England again'

If that's too twee try this from Show of Hands, from the song 'Roots' on their latest album Witness
'without our stories or our songs
how will we know where we've come from?
I've lost St George in the Union Jack
it's my flag too and I want it back
seed, bud, flower, root
never gonna grow without their roots'

Anybody know if Billy Bragg has a song that might work?

winter for a day

Winter for a day in Oxford and much of England this week. Everyone excited. Schools closed. Strangers talked to each other. News dominated by transport chaos. How much snow did we get in Oxford? 6" max. Same week in upstate New York? 6 feet. Now THAT'S winter. Still it was great for a day. Walked through this scene at lunchtime in Christ Church Meadows and it felt like I was in of one of those paintings by Brueghel the Elder.

Into Great Silence

We've been waiting for this for a long time but at last it's coming. The film Into Great Silence by director Philip Groening is about a Carthusian monastery in the French Alps, and it's coming to the Phoenix for 2 showings: 3.30pm Sunday 11 March and 7.45pm Tuesday 13 March. We'll be there! The conditions set by the community for filming included no artificial light, no music [other than their own Gregorian chants], no interviews, no commentary and no accompanying crew. The result is, says The Observer 'a meditation on lives given over to poverty, prayer and solitude... an experience from within a repetitive, spiritual existence'. Groening lived in a cell of his own for a total of four months to make the film. We know that in mayBe we are just scratching the surface of the great monastic tradition, but it has inspired us from the beginning and is shaping our life as a community. The film should be interesting. And perhaps demanding. The Observer review goes on to point out that 80% of novices in the Carthusian order drop out. When the reviewer saw the film 80% of the audience left before the end.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

grit in the bread

Great to be on the first mayBe monastic retreat this past weekend in South Devon with Andrea, Cara, Chris W, Jackie and Rachel. I really liked the way that we found ourselves taking some ancient paths [eg we hung a triangle up and rang it to call us to prayer 4x a day] but also staying in our contemporary setting [eg so that the weekend newspapers and the conversations they provoked were a vital ingredient]. On a beautiful cold Sunday morning we had our Eucharist on the beach. The sand whipped up and gritted the bread and flecked the wine. On a personal note it felt as though a lot of my current callings were coming together in one place this weekend: enabling community to happen, exploring and opening up the possibility of prayer, and facilitating hands-on creative stuff. It doesn't get much better than that.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Really looking forward to our first retreat this weekend. A full house in South Devon with 5 mayBe people. I'm hosting. We do plenty of active stuff so I think that this focus on prayer and the seeking after God is very important. The weather forecast is good, which is helpful because we are planning to share Eucharist on the beach when the rest of the community are doing the same in Oxford. Oh and I've suggested that watching the England 6 Nations game is a potentially holy activity worthy of a retreat.

Monday, January 22, 2007

to the brave and faithful

Brilliant performance by Leicester Tigers on Saturday night to beat Munster who had never previosuly lost at home in the Heineken. Apparently Munster's motto is 'To the brave and faithful nothing is impossible.' Well Tigers lived that to the full from the first moment to last. Gail and I watched the game at the home of our buddies Ken and Debby. I'm blaming the excitement of the game for the [un?]healthy amount of red wine consumed.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


What am I? Really interesting discussions around mayBe at the moment in our naming cycle. At the conversation around the community meal this week we realised that, for some of those mayBe people who see themselves as wanting to follow in the way of Christ, there are nevertheless mixed feelings around about being referred to as Christians. Because of the stuff - the perceptions, the misrepresentations and the baggage - that seem to go with that name. We want to qualify it. Add a long explanation of what that means to us. Or say something like "tell me what you mean by that term, and I'll tell you whether that's me". For me personally I'm happy with the shorthand of the term, honoured even to be asked to carry it - but also I want to put something into the mix about the idea of movement and orientation. I guess what I am trying to do each day is BECOME Christian. Some days I get a little closer to that possibility, on others my attempts are shambolic. Good thing that God's love is the ultimate reality, not my attempts to be whatever.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tikkun Olam: repairing the world

A really good day for mayBe today. For a few months I've been talking with Kathy who represents the Liberal/Progressive Jewish congregation at the Synagogue in Oxford, hoping to begin a conversation with them. They graciously [even bravely] invited us to join them for their monthly service, followed by the kiddush blessing and a shared lunch at Kathy's home. Their welcome was really warm and generous, despite the fact that many more of us turned up than I had predicted. The whole day was fascinating and - for me personally moving - and I'm looking forward to hearing people's reflections. In his sermon Joel was talking about Tikkun Olam - the good deeds to which we are called by God in order to repair the world. I like that. Invitations were being made for a return visit to mayBe, I'll be catching up with Kathy, and Joel and I are planning to go for a pint soon. Really looking forward to see how this conversation develops...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

horses in the cathedral

And now we have horses. Great to be back together as mayBe community on Sunday and at this week's Eucharist on the Meadow [it's a cathedral to us] we had 2 horses join us as the Gospel was being read. For a while it all seemed very much in the spirit of St Francis. OK Gail [country-born/city dweller] was being nibbled but Dave [jounalist/car mechanic/dad-to-be] was doing his horse-whispering thing. Then a bunch more horses came, and they were pretty big. Seemed like some of us were getting a bit concerned so we processed to another part of the Meadow. The horses' interest waned, and the Eucharist continued. They did not follow us to the cafe, nor to the pub.