Spring Clean

baseball hitter.gif I know it’s not Spring, but ‘Winter clean’ just didn’t work as a title.
It’s time to tidy up the side bar of the blog a bit and hence have an annual cull of bloggers who fail to actually post anything. All very humane of course, I’ll just creep up and hit the html very hard with the delete button (you shouldn’t feel a thing). But under Standardised European blogging rules I have to give you 5 working days notice of your potential deletion …..
Have a nice day

Somebody Save me

I found this brilliant ‘paper’ by kenda Creasy Dean entitled, Somebody Save me: Passion, Salvation, and the Smallville effect …. It’s along the lines of the talks she gave in the UK last year but if you didn’t see her then I highly recommend this reflection on Smallville, Thirteen and the ensuing theological reflection on the search for a saviour. Awesome!
BTW, I still haven’t managed to see the film, Thirteen! Should I?

Splurgtastic Manic Monday

So it’s just another Manic Monday! (did I ever tell you I had a big time CRUSH on Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles at one time?) But Monday’s are good and probably less Manic than the weekend for many of us, here’s the splurge to make sure your Monday is a well informed one ………
The Church attendance figures are available and despite an overall decline there are some encouragements to be found such as in work with young people. I’m not sure that the figures for the number of “fresh expressions” is accurate as responses from Churches that I encountered recently could mainly be classified as (and this is still good) innovative outreach.
Social Networking sites will be sweating A LOT and also re-looking at access and security as MySpace have several law suits against them in the U.S of A.
Tax Issues for Youth Ministers may become a BIG issue in the next few months. Up until now the tax office have (largely) allowed Youth Ministers to be provided accommodation without it being a taxable benefit. This has been allowed on the basis as it’s for the ‘better performance of duty’ and in keeping with similar appointments (i.e vicars).
I have recently heard of a challenge made to this by a tax office on the basis that the Youth minister was neither a qualified youthworker or an ordained minister and hence not eligible for this type of housing provision. This could potentially affect a lot of workers and jobs. (If you’ve picked anything up on this let me know).
Some dates:
* Soul Survivor are taking the road to big up the HOPE 2008 initiative.
* Pete Rollins speaking at Bristol CYM on march 15th (I think I’ll be going). Download file
* Walk of Witness are organising a BIG march in London on March 24th to celebrate the end of slavery
And finally ….
I’ve just upgraded to an i-pad and am delighted at how intuitive the user interface is

Youthgroup activity?

This has cropped up quite a bit around the blogosphere in the last few days but its too mind blowingly scary to pass up. I defy you not to take a sharp intake of breath when you see how far they stretch the bungee and a second one when you see how fast the girl accelerates on release. Mad! weird! cool?

Don’t try this at home folks! Pulling several G while hooked to a rubber band between two washing line posts has death written all over it! All credit to the lass involved though for getting a years worth of adrenaelin kicks in less than a second!

The world is a strange place!

Someone has just shown me their customised Google desk top, admittedly it was great and readily presented updated relevent data/stories that were useful (and amusing) to the person involved. The weird thing is that one of the reasons Google took the net by storm is that the existing browsers (Yahoo et al) were so cluttered and full of ‘useful’ stuff that they were messy and inefficient, not to mention slow. So Google now allow you to customise your desk top to reproduce the kind of browsers they replaced in order to conquer the market! Weird!
I’ve also had a conversation with someone who was worn out after playing on a Wii. This also amused me in that gaming was now a cardio-vascular exercise and not just a cerebral one. This is great but does this revolution mean that if Gyms are going to last they are going to have to change their approach and deliver entertainment that makes no physical demands.
(BTW, here’s the data from someone who’s lost weight via Nintendo!)
I’m not saying either of these developments aren’t great, they just amused me!

Mr Bruce Cockburn

bc.jpg Last night saw me venturing into the federal republic of Milton Keynes to catch a great concert by Mr Bruce Cockburn at the Stables (a great venue). Top top night, Bruce was on good form delivering a powerful combo of breathtakingly brilliant guitar and lyrics that stir the soul, whack the conscience and inspire the heart. Fab!
Cockburn’s lyrics have a deep spirituality to them, exploring themes of life, justice, wonder and exquisitely observed snapshots of different cultures and places. Someone once said that Cockburn was too radical for the christians and too christian for the radicals, this is a great description of the artistic path he walks. Last nights gig was a fine example of his ability to address issues and struggles with his work. Songs such as If a tree falls (the environment), This is Baghdad (self explanatory), Beautiful creatures (extinction) and Indian wars (the oppression of indigenous peoples) were poignant and powerful. He also played some great sing-along crowd pleasers like Wondering where the lions are and nothingbutaburninglight.gif All the Diamonds as well as elegantly show casing his newer work including a sublime rendition of Mystery off the new Album
Cockburn’s music and especially his lyrics have had a great deal of influence on me, and his music contributes massively to the soundtrack of my life. This may account for this blisteringly positive review OR it may just be that he is a truly remarkable musician and lyricist! (You’ll have to listen to him and decide, eh!)
There’s a great Cockburn page here

Gospel of reconcilliation

bible_light_above_md_wht.gif “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 13:35

Thought this quote from John Perkins was a great spiritual ‘kick up the backside’ that applies equally to us in the UK.
“The only purpose of the gospel is to reconcile people to God and to each other. A gospel that doesn’t reconcile is not a Christian gospel at all. But in America, it seems as if we don’t believe that. We don’t really believe that the proof of our discipleship is that we love one another (see John 13:35). No, we think the proof is in numbers…. Even if our “converts” continue to hate each other, even if they will not worship with their brothers and sisters in Christ, we point to their “conversation” as evidence of the gospel’s success. We have substituted a gospel of church growth for a gospel of reconciliation”
John Perkins From “With Justice for All” Sojourners Mailing

Why men hate going to Church 2

why men h8 chrch.jpg
When I flagged up this book a couple of weeks ago it sparked quite a bit of debate. My review is now published in The Door so I can post the full piece. Here it is …
(the published piece had to be trimmed for space reasons so this is the rare Directors Cut, lol)
One of the services, at a Church I attend, closes with everyone being encouraged to hold hands as the Grace is said. This ritual puts me so far out of my comfort zone that I would rather be anywhere else at this point (and as a result, quite often am). Is it me? I mean, just me? Or is this something that any average bloke would be uncomfortable with?
This feels like an important question, you see I’m a Bible believing, Christ following Christian who feels called to a Ministry through the Church and I’m a man. So should my faith over-ride my masculine discomfort at holding hands with other blokes, or is Church inappropriately subjugating my masculinity? This issue obviously goes wider than one particular example and it interests me to look at whether church is a place that men are comfortable with and welcomed into.
The Times (Sept 2004) published statistics for the Church in the UK which reckoned a 45%-55% Male Female Split 10 years previously had by then become a 37% to 63% split. It would be difficult to argue, either from statistics or from observation, that Church is not more popular with women than men (even when hand holding is not mandatory!)
I therefore jumped at the chance to read and review, “Why men hate going to Church” by David Murrow
David introduces the book with the quote from W.Edwards Deming, “Your system is perfectly designed for the results you’re getting” and develops this into a look at the church being less attended by men and what he sees as the feminisation that it has undergone. He contrasts Masculine and Feminine attributes and builds a picture of a Church that doesn’t meet men’s needs and then, in the gifts that it needs, doesn’t need men.
It seemed to me that the American culture (as described) has a much great gender division and more distinct gender stereotyping than the UK but the observations and questions raised, remain valid and important.
The thrust of the book is that it’s not so much that men have turned away from the church but that church has turned away from men. Murrow argues very much for Church to be balanced in the involvement of both men and women but argues what has happened is an over-feminisation of the church, the result is a place that makes men uncomfortable.
He gives examples of aspects of church with which a lot of men are not comfortable. For example, singing, being singled out, experiencing passivity rather than risk taking, processing a torrent of words, touch-feely community and ministers who adopt a ‘preaching voice!’ (to name a few). It’s not an easy book to review as doesn’t follow a neat line of argument, Murrow just continues to explore his central argument. What it does do well though, is explore masculinity and explore church practice, holding the two along side each other. There are some important insights about the sociological needs of men and women that bring some of these issues into sharp focus. You will not necessarily agree with all of the comparisons or conclusions but they do open up a vital area of debate, posing questions to us about the way we ‘do’ church and what the implications might be.
This is a very easy book to read, it’s written for anyone rather than just clergy. It does suffer a little from over use of metaphor, but it’s written with humour and passion. It is critiquing a North American model but is well worth reading nevertheless if you long to see men engaged with church and living a risk-taking radical faith.