Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Follow me

At our most recent Path of Renewal Conferences, one of the things we considered was the call of Jesus to “Follow me.”
In some ways (though certainly not others) a vague call. We considered how it is often helpful in following that call and in helping others recognise their call to embrace vagueness. Vagueness allow us to be responsive and flexible.
This has always been an important element in the Path of Renewal movement. We accompany one another on a journey in which we discover what it is that Christ calls us to in each of our different contexts, both as the body of Christ together but also as individuals on whose lives Christ makes his call.
We went further than that, though, to look at discernment. How do we discern the specifics of the vagueness of the call, “Follow me”.
That, too, has been an important part of Path of Renewal - that we make space and take time to discern the uniqueness of God’s call in each place and for each follower. Making space and taking time are not easy when we are already part of busy communities of faith. Journeying together on Path of Renewal has proved how difficult it is to create the space required and the pressure that is around to maintain the busyness of being disciples. What we have learned anew is the vitality of spending time with God, not just speaking but listening deeply. And we’ve shared with one another the spiritual practices that help us and sustain us in that.
The vagueness of Christ's call is not accidental - it necessitates our walking closely with him, listening, being sure of what our immutable values are, our gospel imperatives, and being prepared and able to change everything else.
Following Christ demands that we are equipped with the same responsiveness with which Christ encountered those whom he met in all sorts of ways in so many places - staying close to Christ enables us to do that.
It is important, now more than ever, for disciples to embrace the tasks of discernment and relearn how we engage in that to enable us to be faithful, obedient and responsive to the call of Christ.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Being intentional

Acts 16:13
On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there.

Whenever I arrive in a strange place, instinct calls me to seek out a river or some other body of water. Walking by moving water enables me to process and shake off the burdens of the day and create the space for new experiences. The rhythm of walking, accompanied by the movement of the water bring refreshment and Renewal.
When the first apostles seek out the river as they go from city to city, they do so with purpose. They are intentionally seeking out those places where folk might gather so that they can engage them with the gospel. Their instincts took them to those places where people had reason to be. Be it the river or the market square, those early evangelists sought out such places with intention - so that they might engage in the mission of God.

Intentionality still goes a long way in gospel sharing. Wherever our routines take us, it’s what we do in those spaces that will shape the nature of our encounters. And so our daily routines, offered prayerfully to God, can become opportunities to witness to the hope that is within us. We don’t, necessarily have to change those places we hang out or even adopt different practices - but we can be more intentional about living out and engaging others with the faith that shapes us.
Every space is sacred space and the way we occupy space with the expectation of encountering God shapes the encounters we have with others.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Stories of Transformation

In the lastest round of Regional Conferences for congregations engaged in Path of Renewal, we’ve been encouraging folks to tell their stories. And folk have been generous in their sharing - as well as honest. Stories shared haven’t simply been all the shiny bits of things that have gone well - but sharing of work in progress, of wrong turnings and changes in direction. There has been a recounting of risks taken and of lessons learned.
There is something about stories that allows both the tellers and the listeners to find a communal point of connection, a shared place of vulnerability. There is the opportunity to see, in a story, a moment of inspiration and of possibility.
Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. Brené Brown, Daring Greatly.
We’ve heard of  a minister being banned from the weekly cafe outreach...  of a congregation with no buildings... we’ve been inspired by the tale of Granny Sparkle, great inter generational corroboration between the church and school community... we’ve heard of experimental work with dwindling numbers of young people ...of leadership development... of generational characteristics disrupting Session meetings.
As well as inspiration and consolation, all of the stories contribute to the reality that none of us has the answer or the solution to how we can effectively join God in mission today - EXCEPT, to show up, to pitch in and to let God be God, using what we have and the gifts we offer.
We should never underestimate the power of stories in transformation and the comfort and inspiration there is in sharing. The sense of being in this together with God enables us to journey on in faithfulness and obedience and to continue to create communities that encourage and support risk taking for the sake of the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Dwelling In the word

Over the last three years, one of the Spiritual Practices we have encouraged in those who are involved in Path of Renewal is “ Dwelling in the Word”, a practice that allows us to hear, discern and to speak aloud God’s word for us in a particular moment.
The slow, patient, persistent introduction of this practice into our gatherings in so many different contexts has affected our culture in ways seen and unseen. Unleashing the power of God’s word has led to barriers being broken down, confidence in discerning the mission of God and personal and communal transformation.
As well as being a tool for discernment, Dwelling in the Word also helps to frame and inform our meeting together. By starting our time together listening out for God, we set up a reverence and an expectation that affects how we are with one another. We see the Spirit of God weaving her way in and around all our encounters and discussions that ensue as we continue to meet.
Just one of many examples, for illustration: listening to the words of Jesus echoing through the crowds who were preventing a blind man from getting to Jesus and considering how Jesus reached out to the excluded and marginalised individual (Luke 18:35-43) allowed those engaged in the exercise to know themselves heard and regarded by Jesus and the rest of our time together was informed by hearing Jesus say “Bring him to me” and “What do you want me to do for you.”
Of course none of this should surprise us  - but as we’ve privatised faith and professionalised preaching in so many of our congregations, it has required a slow work of gentle persuasion to encourage individuals to trust that God speaks to and through them. Biblical literacy in Dwelling in the Word has no relevance. Rather, it is the hearing, sharing and responding to the prompting of God in the shared moment that is vital.
A vital spiritual practice and a tool for transformation.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Auchterarder - "Out there"

Path of Renewal has involved working with ministers in charges, with the proviso, from the outset, that the minister should then gather together a group of folk who will engage with the missional context in each parish and work out what it is that God is asking of them in their particular time and place. Ministers are being equipped to equip and empower others to respond to God's call on their lives.
Over the three years, some of the congregations involved have become vacant and, in two charges, where seeds had taken root and where folk were grasping the nettle, following Christ's commission to "Go and make disciples" it has been a joy to continue working with and celebrating progress in growing missional communities.

The congregation in Auchterarder describe the task like this:

"Path of Renewal's purpose is timeless in that it is to honour God and spread the good news of Jesus in a fast changing world... Connecting with the two thirds of people who claim to believe in God or some higher spiritual power who are not in church. The challenge is to be variable in our approach and portable with our message... a bit like BBC iPlayer which is a variable and portable way of accessing our favourite TV programmes. Engaged in ministry "out there" in public as Jesus did."
  • The congregation are hosting a drop in cafĂ©, initially set up by the NHS and the local Council that helps folk connect, recognising countering isolation as a factor in wellbeing. And the church mini bus helps folk get there.
  • There is a range of activities with children, young people and families throughout the community.
  • Participants in other activities, from lunch club to men's group to walking groups are encouraged to introduce friends to share in food and fellowship and, in time, faith conversations.
"Action often speaks louder than words and in 2018 our journey along the Path of Renewal at APC has been moving increasingly into the things we do, rather than just the things we say. The Kirk’s Path of Renewal process started intentionally with words, in this case as found in the Word of God, which is and will remain at the core."

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

What's the story - in Burra?

Debbie Dobby, minister in Burra, one of the Shetland islands shares their story of Path of Renewal:

Changing perspective

Path of Renewal has changed us. We have a much more inclusive view of who is part of our church, it is not just those who come on a Sunday. Our church is all who participate in its life, those who help us in cleaning and maintenance, those who decorate the church for special events, those who see the building as theirs. We are more tolerant and understanding of one another and of our community. There is no longer a “them and us,” now it is just us.

Sharing Faith

We are now more confident in speaking about our faith outwith a Sunday. We can express our differences and listen to another’s point of view without feeling intimidated or threatened. We have listened to each other, much of our conversation taking place over a Saturday breakfast of bacon butties. Path of Renewal has allowed and encouraged to have conversations that would not have happened otherwise. We have learned to trust one another.


Out of Path of Renewal has come Your Space, where the church is open one day a week for people to come and have quiet space, with WiFi, free tea and coffee. A craft group meet for two hours during this time for chat and friendship, and have welcomed new people, one person comes because, “it does me good.” The ‘welcome stop’ where folk can make a cuppa and use the facilities has proved popular with visitors during the summer.
At Christmas to celebrate our wide church family we had a party in the village hall and invited all who are part of our church, we had over 50 adults and children, who enjoyed an afternoon of fun, fellowship and food.

Path of Renewal for us has been an interesting and challenging journey, with the odd detour along the way, but we have changed, and we have loved it.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Finding our niche?

Ephesians 4:4-7
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
I had a really interesting discussion with a retired farmer last week: he was sharing how, with all the pressures and setbacks that continue to assail farming communities, farmers are having to be fairly creative, finding 'an angle' that will get them noticed and encourage folks to choose their produce over others.
Just a few days before, I'd listened to a young farmer describing how he had managed to leverage his way into becoming a 'barista-preferred' milk supplier. After months of trials and failures, he'd finally convinced a coffee shop to accept his farm's milk as their preferred option. That success led him on to other ways of specialising - the farm has recently achieved organic certification and, his latest pursuit, currently being crowd-funded, is the ditching of single use plastic by going back to bottling milk. He"d already sourced and restored the machinery necessary for washing and filling bottles but crowd funding was needed to purchase the glass bottles which are really expensive.
This resonated with some thoughts I've been having about church- What if the people of God, gathered as community "found their niche" in all their differing contexts?
I don't mean finding a gap and filling it.
Rather, by waiting on God, by taking time to discern the peculiarity of our gifts together, to discover that one thing that we can do well in and with our community alongside God.
It seems we're always looking for the next thing, or simply trying to keep things on the road. But what if we were to stop and ask God: what is required of us for this time and this place? What would church look like then?
And would we have the nerve to do what God asks of us (no more, no less) and trust others to live into their calling, each playing their part in building the kingdom?
Ephesians 4:15-16
But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.