Tuesday, 29 December 2009
You may not know this, but we have pretty much re-built our house over the last 15 years. But we are about to purchase a stair carpet - and that will be the moment we declare it finished! (Of course, it never will be finished, there will always be repairs and improvements... we need a new boiler and the shower room needs re-decorating, but you know what I mean).
So, if the bricks, slates & timber I've been hoarding, not to mention half-full tins of paint have not 'come in handy,' by now, then it is likely they never will.
So, it's out with the old.
Which is a good summary of 2009, really. We finally rid ourselves of Mersey Street, and the last vestiges of traditional church. Now we begin the task of constructing a new model of Christian presence which fits the new Openshaw.
And after a couple of days rest after a good Christmas with family and friends, that feels a pretty exciting prospect. So, a very Happy New Year to you all.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
This afternoon I finally found time to go out with the church camera and take some photographs of the estate. You can view them by clicking the title of this post.
It was a strange and rather melancholic experience. We have been waiting for so long for this process to start, but somehow I can't find much to celebrate.
This advent we have been following the Roots material (well, sort of, anyway) which began by looking at the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. We spent time looking at walls and barriers which divide the world today and Clare put together a slideshow.
Ironic then, to go out into my own community, where I have lived for 16 years now, to take photographs of the homes of friends and neighbours, to capture images of the church in which I have ministered for 18 years and to be greeted by fences, barriers and signs telling me to KEEP OUT.
I wanted to scream at the yellow jacket hard hats, "But I live here. This is where I belong. You can't keep me out of my own home."
But, of course, they can. In many ways, they should. Health and safety isn't all daft! But it did worry me to walk onto the new build roads for the first time and to discover that they are all full of gates and barriers as well. Gated communities built to protect the inhabitants from the indigenous community. Built to protect them from me.
Why are you all frightened of me?
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
We had written a reflection based upon the demolitions which have now started behind my home - and as we drove round the block to get back to the overshot car park, there we found demolitions which had started behind the church.
We began the service with our prayer "Grumpy Old Church" - a reflection on the fact that we do get cross sometimes - even cross with God when we believe that we have been faithful, but don't seem to receive any reward.
And the good folk of Birkenhead seemed to respond with a very loud "Amen!"
We moved into an all-age activity, based upon the idea that we - and God - have many, sometimes contradictory faces. As we were doing it, one older member of the congregation approached me, "We don't do this sort of thing in church," she said, apparently disapprovingly, before adding with a grin, "You've moved us on twenty years in five minutes!"
We came away with the feeling that the minister had invited us because he is frustrated at how worship does not reflect the reality of the context in which they are worshipping - and that the church welcomed us because they desperately wanted the opportunity to worship in a way which reflects the - very tough - reality of the context in which they are worshipping!
Perhaps there is a god after all?
Monday, 5 October 2009
The original idea for Dancing Scarecrow was as a home for our Godly Play resources. Then we realised that what we do isn't strictly speaking "Godly Play" - which has a very strict methodology. Then we got caught up with trying to get all the new prayers up onto the site - which we have still failed to do!
However, as we have started travelling around the country for worship, we do realise that there is a need for imaginative resources for storytelling for all ages.
So we have now got round to photographing - and putting online the first few of our story scripts strongly influenced by, but not limited to the Godly Play methodology! Not surprisingly, we are not calling them that. We've adopted the term "Dancing Stories" instead.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
We are now well into our travelling wandering race act, and this Sunday will be taking a godly play to Cragg Hill in Leeds. I really need to get the Godly Play scripts page up and running. Maybe tomorrow?
Monday, 27 July 2009
Between us, we have worked out, that Clare and I have no fewer than 20 years of university education - the vast majority of it in theology.
And yet, as we sat in the car park at Mersey Street, waiting for the final skip to arrive, we couldn't help but muse upon the fact that nothing in our academic backgrounds had prepared us for the events of closing the church.
On my first Sunday at Mersey Street - when still a student - St Ida, the then church treasurer - accosted me and told me that I was going to break into one of the congregation's house and help to break up her marriage!
There was a back story of violence and abuse, but I prefer to leave the story as it is for dramatic effect.
A couple of weeks later, I was sent up onto the church roof to try and waterproof the neon cross which was showing signs of leaking. Narrowly avoiding electrocution, I mused on the fact that ministry in Openshaw was not something that Northern Baptist College had really prepared me for.
Fifteen years on, I think I was right.
Incidentally, in the photo, Clare is reading the papers for her NHS board meeting this week.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
7:5 Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in?
7:6 I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle.
Now, how on earth do we make that relevant to our situation?
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Friday, 26 June 2009
Having been told that our oak pulpit was slotted together, we arranged for Jonathon Hemingray to come and dismantle it. The plan being that he would use the wood to create crosses which we could take with us and/ or sell to raise funds. Sadly, he discovered that the pulpit was actually made of pine and far from being slotted together, it was largely nailed.
Many thanks to Jonathon for persevering - about 4pm, he disappeared into the sunset with a car full of what wood he could salvage, and will contact us again over the summer when he has worked out what he can do with it.
On my way home from church this morning, I noticed a workman in a de-contamination suit outside one row of boarded up houses. Whilst I cannot, in any way, blame him for wearing a de-contamination suit given the state of the houses, I am left rather saddened that the view the outside world has of Openshaw is that you need to wear a de-contamination suit to come here!
It feels all the more important that we continue to proclaim that God loves Openshaw.
Monday, 22 June 2009
Over the next few weeks, we have so much to do! We have to de-register for weddings and get rid of the registers before we can sell the safe. We have to get the water/ electricity/ gas etc cut off. We have to sell all our furniture. Get the pulpit dismantled and turned into art...
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Sunday, 31 May 2009
If life were filled with bubbles,
they’d glisten and they’d burst;
if life were filled with jewels,
they’d line the rich one’s purse;
but life is filled with water
that flows from depths of love,
it flows to fill your weariness
with blessings from above.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Friday, 22 May 2009
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Monday, 11 May 2009
Friday, 8 May 2009
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Dancing Scarecrow is part of Openshaw Connection, a community networked with the tiny Baptist chapel in Openshaw, Manchester. This is one of the most deprived inner city communities in the UK.
When the worship materials we then used suggested that we take the congregation on a walk through the lych gate to admire the beauty of God's creation, we looked out across our rubbish-strewn carpark at the vandalised empty houses and the broken-bottled debris of another urban Saturday night and decided it was time to start writing our own worship resources.
The firstfruits of this was Crumbs of Hope: Prayers from the City. The book was well received, but the whole process of editing all our prayers and getting them printed and published took up almost two years.
Since Crumbs of Hope was published, we have written over 350 new prayers. Electronic publishing seems to be a faster way of getting our very contextual resources into the public domain. It also means that via this blog and the supporting website others can share their resources with us.
We have discovered that there is a small but growing band of reflective practitioners who, like us, are attempting to connect their worship with the Real Lives of their community.