Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Greenbelt 2011: Dreams of Home

Dreams of Home was the theme of this year's GB and in the tent at night after the long walk to the site when it was pouring down and COLD then I must admit, I dreamed of HOME and a hot shower and a warm bed. But most of the time at Greenbelt I felt I was home.

The painting is the view from the flap of our tent on the final morning as we were ourselves packing up and Homeward Bound. So it captures for me something of the 2 homes. The temporary tented home that GB manages to create each year at Cheltenham Race Course and the anticipation of my own home, my place of being as part of family which maybe (hopefully) reflects a dream of a more eternal home...

Greenbelt represent a space which generates freedom to explore faith and belief, in the context of music, Art, creativity, Justice, variety, spontaneity, humour, food and drink, challenge, concern, It attracts all ages, all types, children, youth, families, elderly, monks and punks, laity and clergy, speakers and listeners, promoters and punters.

The CMS presence was much smaller than the usual CMS marquee , reflecting hard times. But we were there in G-Source and we had some great conversations with GB punters. We were featuring the Pioneer training, but we were able to also talk to lots of CMS members and supporters as well as ex-Misson personnel. Chuli Scarf, ex CMS Area Coordinator was there to lead Salsa dancing. She is off soon with CMS-Asia to teach cricket to girls in Nepal.

I also spent some time on the Musalaha stall. GB is currently focused on the Wall dividing Israelis and Palestinians and Musalaha represents a small action - taking people of conflicting backgrounds into the desert on camels to leave their baggage behind and to encounter each other. They have been a CMS partner for a number of years.
There are lots of other groups in G-Source: YWAM, Tearfund, Medair, Applecart's 12 Baskets, Mildmay; Retreat Centre, and lots more ....

For me the highlights this year included good wholesome food Nuts (with especially good deals for crew) Mushroom, Dhal, Veggie Berger, Falafel which could be consumed whilst listening to live music in the Performance Cafe; Foreign Slippers, the Ronaldos (a skittle Band) singing Ghost Riders in the Sky ; folk singing from Peter and the Wulf (Pete Ward was the ABC's youth Advisor and used to be a CMS Trustee). Their music 'Foolish Folk' is available for download from bandcamp

Soul space is a GB tradition for quiet creative meditation. There is lots more on offer Taize singalong in the Big Top: Ian Adams was doing a meditation/reading on his book Cave Refectory Road in Abide, next to a Christian Meditation Yurt 'Breathing Space'. And then there is the Worship Cooperative - I dropped in on an excellent session on Curating Worship but I unfortunately missed Pal Singh's Sanctuary (Asian Worship) although I did encounter his Sitar player tuning up on the stairs.
The GB communion is the only event that everyone is more or less expected to attend - vast crowd packed in front of the Main Stage. The collection at the communion service always goes to support Trust Greenbelt. For me there is no doubt that eating and drinking together as an act of worship does create a sense of community, a feeling of home coming.
I didn't get to any main talks this year. I just heard snippets of Rob Bell telling a story about a Jawbone of an Ass on MainStage and Paula Gooder wondering 'Do Angels have wings?' in Jerusalem. Talking of Angels, there was a big push this year for more supporters - Greenbelt Angels account for 15% of Greenbelts income. Do think about becoming an angel....
The Methodist Art Collection was stunning. it was my Greenbelt 11 high: 'Jesus in the Everyday'. Each year there is an art stream 'Art for All' and I have increasingly found a home there - which has maybe helped to ignite an inner passion for drawing/painting. They had 6 areas to visit with a free poster at the end (they ran out of posters but I did it anyway) Angels of the North; a Huge steel and enamel Bowl by Mel Howse (Christian Aid Cathedral Exhibition); an participative 'where the wild things are' mask making which caught people's imagination; a light show Lumina Domestica by Willie Williams; and the Scriptorium , where individuals hand scribed Matthew's Gospel from The Message, as well as the Bible Society's People's Bible project.

a pint of 'Jonah (and the Ale)' in the Jesus Arms, catching up with people I know well, Peter and Grace, Nigel, Katie, Colin - various friends. They used to serve Deliverance, Redemption and the best name in my opinion 'Absolution' There were lots of other ideas for names: He-brews. Ale-Mary, Holy GrAle. Ale-luyah. Unfortunately I missed Beer and Hymns.

I downloaded the #GB11 APP before Greenbelt, but it still didn't get me to things on time. There is far too much to do and to see. Everyone's Greenbelt is different, but then again everyone's home is different, reflecting something of who they are. Greenbelt gives you the space to be yourself .... safe in the 'Arms of Jesus'

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

'Worn to be wild'

Another painting inspired by some very large pieces I saw in a Restaurant in London. 'Worn to be Wild', is a mini A6 version in oil pastels - part of a series (2 other pics were featured in a previous blog). The originals I was copying, were painted by Paul Lemmon as part of an Exhibition: 'a Slice of Lemmon' put on by the Art Movement.

Again it represents being out with the Street Angels on a Friday night in Woking, when people are out for a good time ...

It was a quiet night. I can almost hear the bouncer at BED BAR touching wood and exclaiming 'never say the Q word' !

But it was Quiet - although I suppose it's all relative. The Police did arrest someone who was drunk outside the BAR for punching a policeman.

We were patrolling the street looking out for anyone vulnerable, particularly under-aged. Making sure people have a good night out, without getting into trouble.

Not a lot was happening, The place was packed the night before because it was A-level results night and Thursday is cheap booze for students with a prolonged happy hour. We are currently recruiting more angels so we can cover Saturdays as well as Fridays, and maybe even some of the 'specials'

Our pair was actually a four, since we had a new angel with us having a look-see. Four is an intimidating number, more like a flight or squadron of angels than the usual two-by two. So a lot of the time we keep a little distance, even walking on opposite sides of the road, so as not to crowd people out.

I followed a suspicious looking pair who were on the look out for coals for their shisha (but that turned out to be my son and friend, getting supplies for the party I had left back home!)

We did the usual and picked up lots of bottles, and spoke to a variety of people - punters and bouncers, taxi drivers, fast food sellers. We got into good conversations with a number of people - some who were initially aggressive. Some were curious. Others just liked the idea of Angels on the streets and wanted to chat.

One woman wanted to become a Street Angel herself. She was a community based carer, with children of her own who was having well-earned time off and a night out with a friend . But she loved the idea of giving out lollipops to one and all and flip flops to ladies struggling with high heels at the end of the evening.

The line between the punters and the angels is a thin one. Angels also like to party.

I suppose it comes down to what is written on the clothing. Designer dresses and labels, 'Diesel:Worn to be wild' on the one hand or a dark rain jacket with florescent yellow 'Woking Street Angels' emblazoned on it

In the Angels' case maybe we should have a label which reads: 'Worn to be Mild'

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cycle2Kenya ....... because we can

The cycle2kenya Blog why are we doing this captures some of the spirit of adventure behind this crazy venture.

Dan Martin, a fellow adventurer planning a simply ludicrous Global Triathlon, gave an answer to the ‘Why?’ question in a recent interview that chimes with our own reasons. He said:

"There’s a certain element of ‘if you have to ask, then you’ll never understand’ but I rationalise it down to two things. One, because I want to and two; because I can.”

As I was thinking back over the past 70 odd days from the farewell in Woking Town Square on Friday 3rd June (and follow up farewell in Brugges over the weekend) to the finish in Nairobi on Sun 14th August , and then meeting them at Terminal 3 Heathrow Airport......

...... Sir Francis Drake's prayer came to mind about true Glory "not the beginning but the continuing of the same" I remembered it having inspired me in my youth

O Lord, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour in any great matter,

grant us also to know that it is not the beginning but the continuing of the same

until it be thoroughly finished that yieldeth the true glory;

through Him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life,

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

cycle2kenya - it is finished

Congratulations to cycle2Kenya on completing their epic cycle ride from Woking UK to Nairobi Kenya. The sketch was done at the time of them leaving UK (and Brugges) at the time we waved goodbye in early June. Now they have arrived back at Heathrow Airport, and have officially finished.
They had a press conference in the Kibera slum Nairobi, organised by VISA one of their sponsors. It sounded a great events with Kids from Turning Point Mamas from the Farm, Press from The Nairobi Star and Nation, plus members of the Kenya Cycling Team

It has also been an example of the power of social media. A good number of people have been following the Blog, particularly the map, plus feeds from Twitter (599 followers) and Facebook group (246 followers) and community (193). And by the way, its not too late to support them with a donation to Turning Point Trust via JustGiving (currently at 67% of target)

They were featured in the local Woking paper, The Diocese of Guildford The Wey, and Kenyan National press The Nation and Star. Maybe some more in the future

Finally, as they have officially finished, let me finish off a few bicycle quotes

When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race. ~H.G. Wells

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~Ernest Hemingway

Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Cameron Highlands - Hospitali-Tea

We visited the Cameron Highlands in the Malaysian Peninsular. It is a well known Hill Station where people can escape the heat of the valleys. The picture is a drawing I did of the Boh Tea Estate. So restful, peaceful with various greens and patterns on the hills, like dollops of paint on a impressionist canvas - very heavily cultivated and fruitful.

It is a very British area - for example there are over 4000 land rovers - more land rovers per capita than anywhere else other than a British Army base. These are constant reminders, along with driving on the left and English plug system, all vestiges of the Colonial past.

This was after all a Hill station, where those who could afford it went to escape the heat of the Plains. The rest were left to sweat it out...

The tea plantations, strawberry fields and Butterfly farms are all part of the scene. A Little England - with the Old Smoke House maybe epitomising this quintessential Englishness. We had a Cream Tea in the Rose Garden, wondering for a moment just where we were. Real hospitali-tea!

We stayed at the OMF mission bungalow, which was like going back 20 years to another time and place. Wonderful hospitality,with 3 good meals a day and large bedroom with polished furniture. All set in a beautiful garden with a well mown lawn and cultivated orchids.

It was a great place to read and relax as well as a base for a jungle trek and great mountain views. And of course visits to the Tea Plantations and Strawberry Farms.

My Brother used to go to school in the Cameron Highlands - Slim School, named after the British General who fought the Japanese. So part of the idea was to find where he went. We lived in Penang but in the 3 years we stayed there in the 1960s, I never once visited Cameron Highlands. I was making up for it now....

We managed to find the school, now an Army Camp - 'Kem Slim' - now home of 'Kompeni Bravo, Batalion 165 Risik Tentera Darat' but were not allowed to go beyond the Camp Gate

We also looked around the Town of Tanah Rata, helped by an elderly local restaurant owner, who used to cut hair for the British soldiers garrisoned there. He told me about some of the buildings that had been around in the 1960s:

The Catholic S.K Convent School - now Heritage Hotel. Lutheran Bungalow and the Methodist centre that had taken over the old ‘Chechoo’ mission school.

Rev Simon Soh, a young vicar in training based at the All Souls Anglican Church, (Gereja Anglican), a converted Army Nissan Hut. It was situated just in front of and below the old Slim School. The diocese had plans to upgrade the Church and also build a retreat centre ont he land.

I went to his Bible study group later in the week . a dozen people in a nice apartment, who met as a regular House group. On this occasion they were studying the prophet 'Amos'

It was an interesting passage about 'destroying the summer houses as well as the winter houses' in the Mountains of Samaria, as the 'Cows of Bashan' sit and say 'bring us a drink'. It almost seemed relevant - particularly in the heydays of the Raj.

Now things have changed - the area is no longer British but Malaysian , though as I said vestiges of the past linger. It's as if the Malaysian Chinese have come back from Exile and 'reclaimed the land' ....

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman and the planter by the one treading grapes. New wine will drip from the mountains and flow from all the hills. I will bring back my exiled people Israel; they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit. I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the LORD your God. (Amos 9:13-15)

Maybe not vineyards but Tea plantations, and definately fruit gardens of strawberries. And it certainly looked like they settled well in the land the Lord had given them.........

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Twin Towers: Post-colonialism & Globalisation

The drawing of Malaysia's twin towers – in KL - otherwise known as Petronas towers - represent the emerging South and shifting centres of power, especially after the destruction of New York's Twin Towers 9/11 nearly 10 years ago.

Kuala Lumpur was the context for our CMS Interchange Network meetings in which we reflected on Post Colonialism and the search for a new mission.

We were using Jonathan Ingleby’s book: Beyond Empire: Post-colonialism & Mission in a Global Context (Author house 2010) There is a Facebook page if you're interested and an article on Redcliffe e-zine.

The issue is that although the church has expanded in the Global South, Mission is still very much controlled from the Global North (or the Western World) through traditional leadership structures that are hierarchical, patriarchal, territorial, legalistic, and membership-based.

The search is on for a post-colonial mission which expresses a more Radical orthodoxy

I felt it was appropriate to be meeting in Malaysia ("truly Asia"), a culture of fusion where India meets China, with expatriate Europeans, overlaying the native Malay culture and the deeper ‘orang Asli’ (aboriginal peoples). Malaysia has I feel, through its very context, many lessons to teach the wider mission world.

The book helpfully explores 5 main tactics for reversing this trend (see Tactics from Beyond Empire pgs 46-60) exploring the freedom to think otherwise. Post-colonial resistance involves emphasising the subaltern voices,hearing thevoice from the margins. It is a non-violent, confrontational approach.

(i) Interpolation: appropriating the colonial in order to dismantle it, and then reassembling by translating the message into another culture ie I play our game but by my rules

(ii) mimicry: using analogy and metaphor; being ‘like but not like’ more a copy not a clone; As an example I remember in Pakistan (the land where copyright meant 'my right to copy') cars were proudly ‘made as Japan’

(iii) archaeology: the idea of digging up the past - looking for the indigenous experiences that have been buried by colonial culture - hearing voices from the margins and thus subverting the prevailing modernist orthodoxy

(iv) Palimpsest: re-using a canvas or Papyrus/ manuscript. The idea was reusing them because they were so rare and valuable - re-writing the story, giving head to what had already been written. The idea that no inscription is indelible - the past can be re-written. Indeed an alternative version of events must be written.

(v) Representation: This is against ‘history written by the victors’, Other narratives must be explored as sites of resistance "Nothing that has happened should be regarded as lost for history" (Benjamin) Even something as well established as Remembrance Day also involves a forgetting of other conflicts (inc current ones)

So Post-Colonialism honours the 'subaltern voices', digs deeper in order to understand complexity and has a wholehearted tolerance of diversity.

Post Colonial Misison may well involve exploring a new form of partnership - maybe co-mission, companions, co-participants, or co-workers, which are more cross-cultural partnerships. I explored some of this in an earlier blog on East and West - see Two States of Marriage

Gillian Ross (pg 92) talks about the broken middle, and how in holding extremes in tension, a new level of trust emerges. Post-Colonial Mission may well involve exploring alternatives to the arrogance of power ("my grace is sufficient for my power is made perfect in weakness"), a weaker mission from the West, more subservient to the leadership of the East.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The undefended Leader

The painting is another copy of Sieger Koeder's, the catholic priest-painter. As you can tell I like his pictures. This time it is Jesus washing the feet of his disciple. The ultimate example of Servant leadership. I particularly like the idea of Jesus face reflected in the water of the bowl he is using. The story has inpsired many to go and do likewise....

The Undefended Life

I have been reading Simon Walkers book: ‘The Undefended Life: Recovering God’s Freedom to Live Beyond Fear’ (2011) whilst on holiday. Leant to me by a colleague, so I needed to finish it before I get back. I have ordered the trilogy from Amazon but they did not arrive on time. I’ll read them later: ‘Leading Out of Who You Are’ (2007); ‘Leading with Nothing to Lose’ (2007) and ‘Leading with Everything to Give’ (2009)

Simon Walker has developed the Personal ecology profile, based on his brief introduction to the theory of `Human Ecology’ (2009)

The Undefended Life book I’m reading, deals with the theology behind his undefended leader trilogy. He draws on people like Jurgen Moltmann: ‘The Crucified God’ (1974) and ‘Trinity and Kingdom’ (1981) and Paul Fiddes: ‘Creative suffering of God’ (1988) and ‘Participating in God’ (2000)

I like the 4 characteristics of the undefended life he has developed (p 101)

(i) ability to live life as Gift;

“Love is what we are born with, fear is what we learned here” (Anon)

(ii) living in the present moment;

Wherever you are, be all there (Jim Elliott)

(iii) relinquishing control but taking responsibility;

Maturity is the freedom to live an undefended life (Melanie Kline)

(iv) taking risks

‘If a man wishes to be sure of the road he treads on, he must close his eyes and walk in the dark’ (St John of the cross)

You can follow more through the web presences



I found myself agreeing strongly with lots of what he has written, so I quote a great chunk of one particular passage on leadership (page 100). It captures some very helpful insights into the type of servant leadership Jesus epitomised when he washed his disciples feet:

Leadership itself is an act of followership. There is no such thing as leadership in the sense of executive agency and decision-making that we often take it to mean. The leader is not in the business of taking decisions about the things that happen. Rather she should be in the business of responding to the leading of God’s Spirit.

The only kind of leadership possible is described in John 5:19, where the Son describes his following of the movements of the divine Father. The chief quality of the leader, then, should not be the capacity to make decisions or be visionary, but rather to listen and be attentive.

It is startling that we often seek to train our leaders to be better communicators (by which we mean ‘speakers’) believing that leadership is some act of persuasion. In fact, we should be looking for individuals who have cultivated a stillness of spirit such that they can attend to the movements of God. We should look for leaders who are sensitive to the tone of the room, to the unconscious voices in the discussion. We should be elevating women and men who have an awareness of the spiritual dimension to life, that runs in parallel to this world.

I am not in the slightest bit interested in following men and women who can depict some grand vision, or who have a confidence about ‘the way we should be doing things’. I want to follow and learn from the men and women who struggle with the pain in the world and who are generous, kind, self-effacing, seeking to learn, fragile, patient, still and free, those who have known failure and not been crushed. I want to follow the one who can laugh at him- or herself and who does not try to achieve mighty things.

As someone once said: ‘The immature man seeks to die heroically for a cause; the mature seeks to live humbly for one’


As an alternative to the WWJD wrist-band (what would Jesus do), I have often thought it should read DWYSTFD – which sounds like a place in Wales! ‘Doing what you see the Father doing’, which is, after all, just what Jesus did:

The son can only do what he sees the father doing because whatever the Father does the son does also. For the Father loves the son and shows him all that he does (John 5:19)