Sunday, 24 April 2016

Love one another

John 13:34-35
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
These words of Jesus, set against the backdrop of him washing the disciples' feet,in some ways make all our angst to find just the right model of discipleship a nonsense and, in other ways, sets us the biggest challenge possible:
How can we make disciples if we cannot Be disciples? 
I love that hymn by William Rutherford:
Lord, can this really be?
Is this your church, the people that I see, 
who gather here and worship you with me?
And must I love them all,
shoulder their loads, and answer when they call,
forgive their faults and raise them when they fall?
With the coda:
Lord, could this really be?
Lord, let it really be.
That challenge extends beyond the walls of our congregations. We are constantly called back to love, whether trying to be disciples or to make disciples.
All the books and all the programmes, tried and tested, in the world will make no difference until, first, we learn to love and love and love again.
Perhaps a very basic but always helpful reminder as we seek to be authentic in our relationships and in following Jesus' command to Go - and make disciples.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Minecraft - more than a game

So, I've never dabbled much in adventure or fantasy computer games,preferring the safety of simple number or word games. But I was intrigued by this article about Minecraft to which a friend directed me recently.
And, as ever, I saw in it all sorts of parallels for church engagement and, in particular, for Path of Renewal. 
These are just some of the insights:
Participants are creating, on their own or with others, complex virtual worlds, populated with elements that have to be figured out by others to discover how they work. It seems there is no limit on creative possibilities.
It is intergenerational though largely populated by younger people who inform others.
It encourages creativity, thinking laterally, building blocks that are both functional and aesthetic.
It is often surprising.
The Mine craft community is self governed - wreckers (or griefers) will be censured by peers and those who want to interact negotiate the rules of engagement together.
There are no official cheat sheets - though you tube hosts how-to videos.
There is no predictable outcome
With no blueprint, it is necessary to write the programme and the codes needed to make things work.
Everyone contributes to community shared learning.
There are lots of small communities as well as access to larger places of interaction.
It runs contrary to the quick fix, idiot proof world that is the norm in so many digital worlds today.
Players learn by engaging with it - there is no manual.
People who play build up a resilience, encountering failure regularly and having to rethink their strategy.
Creativity, problem solving, resilience - much, much more than a game.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Culture of Experimentation

Acts 1:6-8
The Ascension of Jesus
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Whenever I speak to groups about Path of Renewal, I try to make it clear that this Pilot Project is just one of a number of experiments being supported by the church in Scotland:
In response to a changing culture, the national church is fostering a climate of permission giving, recognising that the Pilots being trialled may lead us into territory that we have long avoided exploring.
And, particularly when it is recognised at the outset that few of these experiments, if any, are likely to result in an increase in church membership, we begin to gauge something of the brave new era in which the church finds itself. Indeed, finding new ways of "being church" may, in fact, in some respects, undermine the institution.
Is it true, as some suggest, that 500 years on from the Reformation, we are on the brink of another major shake up?
Has the global, digital age of communication and the, almost universal, access to informed debate on religion and science (among other things) forced us to rethink kingdom priorities?
Has the war on terrorism and unprecedented migration provided a new urgency to live out the great commandment to love God and neighbour?
Is being welcoming, invitational or affirming simply not enough in the midst of the diversity encountered in many communities today?
So many variables demand a plethora of responses, some of which are probably still inconceivable.
But an openness to the winds of the Spirit heralding change alongside the willingness to embrace and learn from failure seems like a healthy place to be - the sort of environment in which God has space to surprise us with unfailing love and grace and draw us into the mission of God in the world.
"To the ends of the earth" may well begin right where we are!

Monday, 4 April 2016

Moving in

John 1:14
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

Recently, reading Samuel Well's: A Nazareth Manifesto and The Abundant Community by John McKnight and Peter Block, I have been drawn back to St John's prologue.
Although I've been involved in many conferences and conversations with church leaders and with civic leaders about Asset Based Community Development, what I've witnessed and experienced has largely been an attitude of "doing for" rather than "doing with" in community initiatives. More about enabling than empowering. More about filling gaps than encouraging growth. Sometimes considerable resources have gone into undertaking community research and then acting on findings, ploughing in further resources. And the reality is that resource rich intervention is hard to replicate.
Even when considerable assets have been identified within the community, it seems that the temptation to enhance the gifts present is still compelling. The question is: Whose needs are being met?
It's much more difficult to simply highlight potential and allow that potential to flourish without dictating direction.
Generosity calls not just for open hands but for open hearts and minds that allow natural growth and development as well as stumbles and falls. It involves the recognition that the gifts are there waiting to be released. It involves taking risks, gambling that the odds are stacked in favour of abundance rather than scarcity.
In the gospels, we see Jesus hanging out - in kitchens, in the temple, on the beach, by the lakeside, taking time to be with those around him. Not imposing an agenda. Not introducing a programme. But making friends, forming relationships, listening and entering into the story of those around him. "Moving into the neighbourhood" as The Message translates John 1:14.
As we discern where God is at work in our neighbourhoods today, it will always be tempting to plunge in, rolling up our sleeves as we go. But God invites us to find our place in the stories of our community by offering a generous presence - a presence that listens more than speaks, a presence that receives more than gives, a presence that connects stories rather than writes them, a presence that sticks around, becoming rooted, showing commitment to weaving stories together, to making connections simply by being present and open to the communities in which we live, in whom we are invested  and by whom we are changed. Our call is to be in our neighbourhood, practising those gifts of generosity. Not an easy call for those of us who are more comfortable doing rather than being and whose default is more ministering to than ministering with.
What might it be like to move into our neighbourhoods, practising the kind of generosity that releases the God given gifts of others?