Saturday, 9 January 2016

Peace Garden @ Muslim Burial Ground #Woking

The Peace Garden at the restored Muslim Burial Ground at Woodham Common, Woking as featured on BBC recently.  Read a description here 

This is the BBC documentary, featuring my good friend Zafar Iqbal, who is works for Woking Council.

It is a more extended version there (c 1 hour)  is also a shorter version here  (c 20 mins) 

You can watch also Woking Borough Councils short film about the site  
If you look carefully you can see a bloke sitting on the bench in the opening sequence - which is me!)

 It seems really important in our day to recognise the contribution Muslim troops made in WW1 in the defence of Britain. It offers a very different narrative to so much of the polarisation that we hear today.


Thursday, 7 January 2016


Here is our latest ‪#‎SimpsonSaga‬ 2015  ..... 
You can download the the rest from dropbox  here
As usual it is written between Western Christmas (25th December) and Orthodox Chirstmas (7th January)    we were all involved in adding to each others write-ups.  Therefore it is  very tongue-in-cheek,  a mixture of reality and humour.  At least you will get to see some of our family pics ....

Enjoy! And Happy (Orthodox) Christmas ...

Monday, 14 December 2015

In the bleak midwinter


I came across this song In the bleak midwinter sung by Cathy Burton, whilst preparing for a carol service. I thought it was beautiful and very appropriate, given the refugee crisis we are in. 
This reworked version of In the Bleak Midwinter, with new lyrics written by Krish and Miriam Kandiah and recorded by Cathy Burton, a singer/songwriter from Chichester, focuses on the needs of these refugee children and reminds us of an often overlooked aspect of the Christmas story: the Jesus was a child refugee.
It is part of Homeforgood's campaign to find home for Syrian refugee children.

We will be featuring the song as part of our International Carol Service at Christchurch Woking on Saturday 19th  December at 7pm. The theme is 'Jesus the refugee'  and we will be supporting a  programme in Lebanon working with Syrian Refugees (more on that another time).

 Do come and join us if you're in the area

Monday, 9 March 2015

HopeforMuslims - a Wind in the House of Islam

Celebrated Christian author to visit the UK

Dr David Garrison, author of the acclaimed book A Wind in the House of Islam will be taking part in a speaking tour of the UK in June. The ‘Hope for Muslims’ tour aims to be a catalyst for more prayer and more action on reaching out to our Muslim neighbours.

In his book, Dr David Garrison concludes that never in the history of Muslim/Christian interaction have we seen the response to the Gospel we are seeing today.  It is a story of how, in answer to prayer and in response to a religion that is becoming increasingly divided, thousands of Muslims are choosing to become followers of Jesus. Dr Garrison tells us that today, in more than 70 separate locations in 29 nations new movements of Muslim-background followers of Christ are taking place.

Dr Garrison defines a movement to Christ to be at least 100 new churches started or 1,000 baptisms that occur over a 20-year period in one people group. His research involved seeing many of the churches for himself and systematically interviewing more than 1,000 Muslim background believers from the groups he details.

Dr Garrison will speak at venues in Scotland, Northern Ireland, moving down through England, finishing in the London area on 21st June. The tour will end as the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World begins, coinciding as always with the Muslim fast of Ramadan. This prayer movement, which began in 1993, has been one of the keys to the move of God we are seeing. We want to see the wind of God's Spirit continue to blow right across the Muslim world, including right here in the UK.

Dr Garrison’s book, A Wind in the House of Islam will be available for sale during the tour and from selected Christian bookshops around the UK.

Hope for Muslims is an initiative of a wide range of mission agencies of the Global Connections network.
For more information contact:
T: 01926 487755

Further information

About the author
For nearly 30 years Dr David Garrison has been a missionary pioneer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. His faith journey has led him to study a dozen languages and travel through 100 countries.
Dr Garrison currently lives in Colorado with his wife of 35 years, Sonia, and two of their four children, where he serves as the Southern Baptist International Mission Board’s Global Strategist for Evangelical Advance.

About the book
There are nine rooms in the House of Islam. A wind is blowing through every one of them.

A Wind in the House of Islam explores the stories of more than 1,000 Muslim-background followers of Jesus Christ from each of the nine rooms in the House of Islam. Join Dr Garrison in this amazing journey of discovery, tracing the work of the Holy Spirit as He blows through the House of Islam.

Dr Garrison travelled a 250,000 miles into every corner of the Muslim world collecting interviews from more than a thousand former Muslims who have given their lives to Jesus Christ. These Muslim-background believers were interviewed because they were part of larger movements of Muslims to Christ in their communities. He asked them, “What is your story? What did God use to bring you to faith in Jesus Christ?” Along the way, Dr Garrison discovered that we are in the middle of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history. These historic movements are taking place all across the Muslim world, from West Africa to Indonesia.

Book review
A Wind in the House of Islam by David Garrison
This book is inspirational.  It contains all the serious research of an academic treatise, yet is easy reading and faith building. A Wind in the House of Islam tells the remarkable story of God's activity in drawing millions of Muslims to faith in Christ.  This mass movement of the 21st Century (just 12 years!) is set against the historical failure of the church's mission in the previous centuries.  Given that Islam is the last major people group to respond to the Gospel, these stories and events are highly significant. Each of nine major regions of Muslim-dominated countries is examined and while the response to Christ is proportionally higher in some than others, every region is telling the same basic story. Dr Garrison has given us a window into a world many of us knew little about, have been troubled by and have judged by the media's fear-ridden headlines. Behind those headlines we learn that God is powerfully at work!  I commend the book: it will illuminate your understanding, warm your heart, raise your spirits and encourage your prayers.
Reviewed by Andrew Kane - Teaching Pastor, Christ Church Woking

Supporting resource
30 days of Prayer for the Muslim World is a prayer guide for those wishing to pray for Muslims.  The 30 days of prayer coincide with the Muslim fast of Ramadan. 
For further information or to order a prayer guide, please visit

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The road is not finished yet

Week 2 of our holy::ground online Lent retreat, using Brian McLaren's book: ‘we make the road by walking. Chapter 28: A New Path to Aliveness, based on Matthew 5:17-48 about Jesus not abolishing but fulfilling the Law and prophetsI was struck by one image ....
If tradition could be compared to a road that began in the distant past and continues to the present, Jesus dares to propose that the road is not finished yet. To extend the road of tradition into the future – to fulfil its potential – we must first look back to discern its general direction. Then informed by the past, we must look forward and dare to step beyond where the road currently ends, venturing off the map, so to speak, into new territory. To stop where the road of tradition currently ends, Jesus realises, would actually end the adventure and bring the  tradition to a standstill. So faithfulness doesn’t simply allow us to extend the tradition and seek to fulfil its unexplored potential; it requires us to do so   (p163)
I have been on a fairly long journey this past week. Sunday Flight from London to Manila, via Singapore.  Then Monday a flight to Roxas in the north of Panay Island (Western Visayas) Then on Wednesday, a  6 hour journey in a van to Cataclan   the North West tip to catch a Catamarang to Boracay where we held our three day Tearfund workshop at the Eco Village Conference Centre near Puka Beach  in the north of the island.
On Saturday afternoon we went back to Tambisaan Jetty and a boat to Caticlan.   We then embarked on a 8 hour van journey to Iloilo City,  where we stayed overnight  and continued on Sunday morning to the Port to catch a FastBoat to Bacolod and then a van to Cadiz  in the North of Negros Occidental. (arriving about 4pm). I took a number of (instagram) pictures on the journey and have been meditating on them in relation to the passage.  

PICTURE ONE: St Catherine's Church, Mambusao  
 On the road from Cataclan to Iloilo, we stopped at a small town called  Mambusao and I had a brief reflective moment walking around the Town Square and standing outside St Catherine’s church. The cement was decomposing, the paintwork peeling, but the most heavenly music was coming from within, behind closed doors  …. elusive  hymns at twilight  
Maybe the church symbolises the traditional institutional approach to religion – outwardly strong, steadfast certain    but as you approach you realise it is crumbling and inaccessible. Moral certainly and a universalising theology looks initially attractive and clear, providing solid certainty in an unstable world. And it has an other worldly sound to it   But the walls are crumbling and the future uncertain….. and the doors are locked to strangers. Life seems to be happening in the Town square 

And the road goes on to new places and new experiences….. 

PICTURE TWO:  Boat on the Sibuyan Sea
I had another reflective moment on the fast boat to Bocalad. On the waters of the Sibuyan Sea  where everything was more fluid, unstable and fast-paced.  You can watch a clip on Facebook here  
Morality does seem to be changing so rapidly and feels unstable. My colleague was sitting inside the boat feeling nauseous in the choppy seas. Faith and certainly seem to be at sea in a postmodern world. Morality is more fluid, more liquid. Remember Don Cuppit’s  ‘Sea of Faith’ ?    or some would suggest that it’s more ‘faith at sea’ these days…. It's certainly more liquid...

PICTURE THREE: Motor Tricycles in Cadiz  
Traveling in a small Tricycle a colourful motorised motorcycle and sidecar in Cadiz.  They carry visible signs of faith   ‘God Is great’  Jesus is Lord, ‘Trust in God’  ‘God will provide’ …..  bumper sticker theology.
But I like these local, contextual, colourful forms of transport – each region has their own like the local Jeepneys…. Converted from jeeps after WW2, they make for an exhilarating ride.
I’ve been reading a book as I travel on Contextual Theology by Clemens Sedmak  Doing Local theology: a Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity (MaryKnoll, 2002) 
All good theology is contextual:   Theology is done locally. In order to be honest to the local circumstances theology has to be done as local theology, as theology that takes the particular situation seriously. Local theology can be done with basic theological means. It can be done by the people, and it is done with the people.’   (p3)
Very little theology is universal and good theology demands local application. It goes beyond book knowledge  and is based on real, every day experience.  
That makes theology local, colourful adventurous. It lives in the vernacular,  like  ‘treasures in earthen vessels’  always based on the somewhere we are living and embedded in the here and now.
PICTURE FOUR:  eating Balut in Cadiz
In holy::ground we do what we call kitchen table theology, where we discuss scripture around the table.  Anyone can contribute. This is part of  'extending the road of tradition into the future'.  Sedmak talks about the need for ‘little theologies’ (not just 'bumper sticker' theology) and describes a model of local theologian as 'village cook'.   Doing local theology is like cooking with local ingredients. In Cadiz we were invited to try the local delicacy in the market where the locals eat Balut - steamed Duck Embryo – I decided to give it a miss…….. not all local theology can be stomached by outsiders.  

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

a new kind of hero


Jesus ….turned our normal status ladder and social pyramids upside down. He advocates an identity characterised by solidarity, sensitivity and non-violence. He celebrates those who long for justice, embody compassion and manifest integrity and non-duplicity. He creates a new kind of hero, not warriors, corporate executives or politicians, but brave and determined activists for pre-emptive peace, willing to suffer within the prophetic tradition of justice (Brian McLaren  We make the road by walking p 158-159)   
Today I met some of these heroes as we been visiting the Tearfund team in Roxas, Philippines
The team was set up in the wake of  super Typhoon Haiyan (the local name is Yolanda)  which cut a path across eastern and central Philippines on Nov. 8, with some of fastest wind speeds on record. It killed or left missing more than 5,000 people and displaced an estimated four million. A major international relief mission helped survivors, many of whom would remain dependent on aid for months….
Now a year on we were meeting the team of Community Enablers, the ‘foot soldiers’ of Tearfund's disaster response team, who present the rebuilding  programme  to the community ,  and help identify the neediest. They do lots of technical project management stuff to do with base surveys and validation  and implementation and monitoring and evaluation. They keep an eye on the quality and quantity of the work.  
Mixing ‘professional excellence’ with ‘spiritual passion’, they are the hands of the Tearfund team, the relational bridge between ‘donor’ and ‘beneficiaries’.      
They listen to the stories of devastation and heartbreak and turn them into slow painful action to rebuild what has been broken. They are nearly all women. ‘We are good listeners’, says Ann one of the more experienced Community Enablers ….‘and sometime good advisers’
A team of 10 who go out in pairs as good news bringers to each sector or ‘Barongai’ where Tearfund has decided to work (a bit like the short term mission in Luke 10).  ‘Following Jesus where the need is greatest’ 
They are helping to reconstruct CORE housing  -   270 houses in total. We saw a half dozen buildings in various stages of construction and met some of the beneficiaries and their family members who were helping the construction.  It’s a team effort 
These community enablers, what Paulo Freire called ‘animateurs’ or informal educators and social activists,  are indeed ‘living boldly and freely in this new identity as salt and light’ (McLaren p159)
 photos by Patrick Goh

Monday, 22 December 2014

Advent 3 - slaughter of innocents

Having kept Herod in Christmas, I really want all this to go away.... it is too tragic and devastating for words ..... Having read about Herod and 'The Slaughter of the Innocents' Matt. 2:17-18: That same cry in now heard in Peshawar “A voice was heard in Peshawar, weeping and loud lamentation, weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
It was a massacre of the innocents. Every report must admit this – because it’s true. But it is not the whole truth.
I'm still in the darkness of the 'slaughter of the innocents' ... trying to move on. The International Carol Service was a glimmer of hope for me, esp with Padre Rana sharing from a Pakistani perspective about Mary's humility and wisdom that led to life and the wise men's folly that led to death (through involving Herod in the story) . Today we had a prayer vigil with the Pakistani community in Jubilee square and I shared a little of standing together against violence and how this can only be done one person at a time, heart to heart - diye se diya jelao - One light lights another. In the meantime a page from my journal.....