Posted by: fshoesmith | June 7, 2011

In case you were wondering…

…why it’s been so quiet on here….

St Luke’s is taking a break from blogging, but you can find out what we’re up to, and where and when, by heading over to our Facebook page: St Luke’s in the High Street, or to the St Luke’s page on the Parish of Walthamstow website.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our gatherings…

And one day, we might start blogging again…

Posted by: Postordinandy | December 24, 2010

And after the silence… an update

There has been a distinct lack of input on this blog for a while now, and for that I can only apologise.

Life has been busy here at St Luke’s, and time for updates limited. I have been with the Moot community – picking up some hours and experience with them as part of a project for my studies, and shortly there should be an entry here about some of the key similarities and differences about our two communities.

The most significant piece of news is that I am writing this blog entry from a different location. You may remember that we have been looking towards running some form of community house, and this is something we are now experimenting with in 3 (or possibly 4) -D.

The sale of the ‘old church’ building has not been as quick as we hoped, and so we are not in a position to move forwards with buying anywhere, and might not be for some time yet.. With this reality in mind, my wife and I suggested to the rest of the community that we might consider seeing if there was somewhere to rent in the short-term instead – so we could further discern what shape such an expression of our church life might take. The church members unanimously agreed, and to our huge encouragement, we discovered that there were the funds to bridge the gap between the actual rent costs of any likely property and the amount we as a family could offer.

And then we started to look for something…

A few houses came up, but all were either too far from the High Street (our identified centre of mission), too small, and/or too expensive for our perceived needs.

In a twist that has some resonance with our personal histories, the sensible deadline for anything to happen had all but passed when I received a phone call from a local Estate Agency, asking if we were still looking for somewhere. With no real hope or expectation, I viewed the house, and took a ream of photos to show my wife and others in the church. I have to be honest and say I wasn’t entirely convinced, even after seeing the house, but my wife was sufficiently encouraged by the photos to arrange a viewing herself the next day – taking one of the other church members along with her. The day after that, it was the church treasurer who was taken along, and two days after that we had put the deposit down. Within three days of that, we had found a family interested in renting our house, and it was all systems go…

Two weeks, one day and four hours after my initial viewing, we had moved in. The house has a large through-room, a decent kitchen, and a great garden. There is even storage space for the Farmers’ Market Stall (or will be, once I clear the allocated space of random junk). We as a family have a couple of bedrooms and and office space to use: the adults’ bedroom is big enough to use as ‘breakout space’ for us all when downstairs is being used and we are not needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The vision is deceptively simple for the house: we will spend the next six months or so trying things out. The church community has ideas aplenty, some are more practical and/or immediately achievable than others, and others but this is a time principally for testing the relationship between these ideas and our capacity to invest in them significantly enough for them to thrive.

We have already hosted our first event – the monthly community meal was morphed into a pre-Christmas / house-warming gathering – which was marvellous.

Watch this space for more regular updates!

Posted by: Postordinandy | November 4, 2010

Listening to the silence of God

We have started a new monthly pattern of meeting together recently. We have a monthly meal, two or three weeks of more structured teaching and reflection, and we have put aside the remaining Wednesday evening as a time of more intentional and deliberate listening to God together.

This intentional listening is a new thing for many of us, and like all new things brings with it an element of discomfort and awkwardness. We are having to learn, together, how we might together learn to listen to God. Most of us have been involved in and around communities of faith for long enough to have had some kind of experience of hearing God’s voice; but these experiences are diverse in their form, frequency and disclosed meaning. Hearing God’s voice, we have already discovered, can be experienced significantly differently within a community than for individuals.

Because we acknowledge the multitudinous ways in which God may choose to speak to His people, we are not seeking to pre-define how He might speak to us as a community. We have experimented with times of collected silence; we have prayed for each other in turn; we have read the scriptures and reflected on themes and principles that seem to emerge; we have let our conversations roam apparently free, and peppered the same with questions, pauses and repetition; we have signalled and sign-posted previous thoughts and stories for further reflection.

Hearing God’s voice is one of the challenges we face as Christian communities on a regular basis, and a journey that we still have a long way to travel on. Individually, there are those in our community who feel they have heard God speak to them very clearly in the past – in a variety of ways; but together?

In many ways it feels like we are still feeling in the dark here. Being still enough – physically or otherwise – to filter out all of the distractions and other background noise, in order to notice and discern God and what He is (or has been) saying to us, is in no way easy or straightforward.

Actually, it feels like we often haven’t even got to that stage. We are stuck, perhaps even helpfully, at the stage of still asking God to reveal Himself and His will. “Where are you God?”, “what are you saying here?”

“What is God saying here” is actually a key question for us as a community at this time. So much of our recent history is that of action, and then reflecting on what God has done through that action; rather than perhaps action as a response to a clear call from God. For the most part, this (again feels) like the way that God is working with us, and we presently have no clear desire or compulsion to change how we are or function. But it does throw up some interesting challenges to us – how do we ensure that we are walking in the right path.

What are you saying to us here God? You have compelled us to action; action we do not always understand, or do well; action we cannot always explain, even to ourselves; action that does not always clearly produce fruit. What are you doing through us here God? You have led us to a new land, full of strangeness and apparent danger, distractions and focus, plenty and little. What are you saying to us, God? You are silent, yet shouting through the people we meet, their stories and ours. What are you saying to us God? What would you have us do? Who would you have us be?

Posted by: Postordinandy | October 26, 2010

Pioneer Vicar needed

Ordained? Fancy A Pioneering post in E17?

Know someone who might?

For more details click here or leave a comment & I’ll get back to you.

Posted by: Postordinandy | October 19, 2010

The Pit Of Despair, and other issues…

We looked at a couple of Psalms the other week, and noticed a potential problem. Psalm 30 speaks of God sparing the writer from ‘the pit’ (verse3); yet in Psalm 40 the writer has to be rescued from ‘the pit’ (verse 2)…

What are we to make of these pits, and how do they speak to our own lives and situations? A reader who is only aware of Psalm 30 might expect God to save his people from all trials and tribulations – or at least protect them from anything truly significant and lasting. One who only reads Psalm 40 will expect God to rescue them from disaster, albeit that they may have to wait patiently for him to do so (verse 1).

So, do we get to avoid slimy pits, or not? A brief look at the reality of life would seem to indicate that Christians are no less likely to be tripped and trapped by the troubles of this life. Enemies taunt, situations get tricky, problems arise, projects fail or falter – and where is God?

Individually and corporately, few of us experience trouble-free lives; many would be able to share instances that they would consider to be testimony to some form of divine intervention, yet many others will tell of long-term hardship of some kind, with no obvious sign of rescue or reprieve.

We are a young, and fragile church here at St Luke’s. We have ventured onto the mission-field on the unsure legs of a newborn foal, and have learned to hold the hand of our heavenly Father as we walk with him. Some of the things we have wondered about doing have got nowhere; others have shown signs of growth only to splutter to a stop; still others appear to be going healthily in the direction we expected them to. We have felt stuck, liberated and are aware of pitfalls we have avoided – occasionally at the same time.

Looking at the two Psalms, it appears we can expect all of the above to be our experience of walking together, with God. We can expect to be saved, spared and/or comforted in trouble; we must expect God’s presence with us, but we may not always feel it tangibly; we trust that He guides us, but we cannot always hear His voice clearly; we wait patiently for the Lord to hear our cry – just as He waits patiently for us to respond to His call.

Posted by: Postordinandy | October 9, 2010

The Race

The stadium is full to overflowing for the big race, the crowd shout, whistle and clap their encouragements as the bright lights throw luminous shadows over the athletes taking up their positions at the start.

The camera pans over each contestant in turn, their bodies tense, their minds focussed, their eyes fixed on the finish line – so close, so far away. Name, country of origin, age – each has journeyed so far already to get here, each has put so much in, worked so hard.

Panning from left to right then, we first see the bookies favourite: a fantastic track record, a true professional, a class act. This one is brimming with confidence, she knows that she’ll cross the finish line fast and well, leaping each hurdle gracefully, a textbook example of how to run the race.

Next to her we have? Well Brian, we don’t know much about this one, although if he’s been selected to run he must have some promise. Looks a little overawed by it all if I’m honest.

Next we have the crowd’s favourite: on his day a sure winner, wobbles occasionally though, always keeps you guessing, always seems to take success or failure in good humour. There’s the trademark grin at the camera!

Then it’s the wild-card, never had a top three finish, but always gives her all. Probably thinking about the last race – a disaster where she completely mistimed her first jump and cracked her shins painfully on the hurdle, felling the runner in the next lane in the process. It will be interesting to see if she has the psychological focus for this one.

Next to her is the oldest contestant left in the competition, a medal winner on this track in previous events, but the big question has to be: should he have retired at the end of last season? We’ll have an idea within the next 2 minutes.

Finally, we have the easiest athlete to commentate on – if past form is anything to go for anyway… fourth place in her last 12 races, knocking over 3 hurdles in each – she always crosses the finish line at least.

Hebrews 12:1-3

Posted by: Postordinandy | October 5, 2010

Wanted: New Team Vicar

The post for new Team Vicar of St Luke’s is now up for grabs – see here if you or anyone you know might be interested!

Posted by: Postordinandy | September 27, 2010

Awake my soul…

We are dipping into the ‘Big Six’ (see here for more on these) apparently randomly at the moment, and kicked off with questions about Purpose.

Each of us has struggled with these kind of questions every now and again. Why am I here? What have I done with my life? What will make me complete, or at least happy? Who does God think I am, and what does He want me to do?

The caricature suggests we wrestle with these questions at times of significant change – puberty, first job, marriage, significant illness, kids arriving, approaching 40… but in reality any of us can be struck by any of these at any time.

For Christians, questions of purpose are unavoidably linked with our relationship with God, and consequently our answers are often shaped significantly by who we believe God to be. If we believe that God wants the best for us, then we will be full of hope about any purpose we think he may have for us; this will not mean that our path towards achieving this purpose is clear, or easy – but it will give us some courage as we take each step on that path.

There is often a dissonance between what we want to believe, and what we actually do; between what we say we believe and how we actually live our lives. There are many Christians who have somehow come to the conclusion that God has plans and purpose for us that will take us in directions that we don’t want to go, cannot deal with, and that will cause us much grief and anguish. Now, some of these may indeed happen – God has not promised us that life with Him will somehow be easy and pain or complication free – but when we can only see these as the likely outcome of giving ourselves over to God’s will, then we will understandably have some hesitancy of exploring the same with any real gusto.

I wonder if one of the problems for us as we struggle to find purpose and meaning is that we usually do so within a limited scope of relationships. Finding my purpose is about me, sometimes about me and God, all too rarely about me, God and others, (other than perhaps my immediate family). This is why and how we can be hamstrung with doubt about the relationship our lives have with our purpose, and do so with no reference to anyone else’s struggles.

The “Westminster Shorter Catechism” – written to help Christians get their heads around the deep theological issues of life – states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever”. Even this could be interpreted and exercised selfishly, to a point. Some of us may be tempted to glorify and enjoy God in ways that are exclusively expressed between ‘just the two of us’ – although this could easily jettison any theology which embraces God’s saving plans for the whole of creation, and the quest justice and mercy for and in the lives of others.

But to fully embrace the catechism in this respect is to give yourself over to the pursuit of God, and of His ways, in all aspects of your life. Our purpose is then straightforwardly understood, if not always straightforwardly articulated: we are to pursue the will of God in our own lives, and in the lives of others. This will can only be grasped as a response to some form of relationship with the living God – how ever weak, confused, poorly understood or even owned. This relationship is always best nurtured when we are sharing it with others – both the joys and struggles of it.

“Where you invest your love, you invest your life… awake my soul – you were made to meet your maker” (Mumford and Sons – Awake My Soul)

Posted by: Postordinandy | September 9, 2010

Space, and time

For as long as I can remember, the idea of some form of community house has been part of the medium to long term vision of St Luke’s in the High Street.

We have been out of the original church building for almost 3 years now, and in that time have continued to gently experiment with community values and ways of connecting with those who would not usually have much or anything to do with the church community.

Last night we spent some time talking about what kind of thing we imagine such a property would look like, who it would be for, and why we might still want to pursue the idea anyway.

It’s a little of a ‘chicken/egg’ thing to an extent. Often, churches and community groups start with some form of centre, and ask themselves what they coud use it for. We have consciously tried to order the questions the other way: what kind of thing do we want (ideally feel called) to do or get involved in? What kind of place would we need in order to do these things. It’s surprisingly hard to stay true to this order, but productive.

As we spoke about I was struck by the word ‘space’, and how useful it is as a one-word summary of our collated plans.

We would like a space that is welcoming, safe, and available for people to use.
We would like a space that people can be drawn to, and sent out from.
We would like a space that offers prayer, peace and friendship.
We would like a space where people can come as they are, and not have to wear any mask, or pretend that they are something they are not.
We would like a space that is a home from home, where laughter echoes around the halls, but tears can flow freely if needed.
We would like a space where people eat together, dream together, challenge and encourage each other, and meet God in.

Sounds a lot like the idea of church to me.

We would greatly appreciate it if those you who pray could remember us in all of this. We are presently exploring how we as a community can move forward into this, including the possibility of some of us renting a house near the High Street to see if we actually have the desire, capacity and discernment to do this stuff.

Watch this space.

Posted by: Postordinandy | September 1, 2010

So long, and thanks for all the fish, fruit, flowers…

Last Wednesday, at our monthly communal meal (Kedgeree incidentally, adapted slightly from this fine recipe and cooked for 18), we said our goodbyes to Tony and Zoe Cant.

Tony has been the vicar of St Luke’s since September 2007, and it was he who spotted the potential for us to engage somehow with the weekly Farmers’ Market that has become so crucial for us. He has been appointed as Chaplain to the Chelmsford site of Anglia Ruskin University, and starts this new phase of life and ministry in September.

Tony leaves us in reasonable shape. We are few in number, but have managed to grow in both quantity and (we believe) in quality over the past year in particular. We are clear about the shape and movement of the mission to which, and the people to whom, we feel particularly called. We value our place within the ongoing work of the wider parish, and in the fairly unique role we play on the High Street itself. It is also encouraging to know that our story is becoming known and respected within the ‘emerging church’ / ‘Fresh Expressions’ community.

So, while we’ll miss Tony and Zoe, and are very grateful for the time they spent with us, we will cope without them. Our church meets for worship and theological reflection mid week, and we are used to sharing responsibility for leading this, (we count a Reader, the Parish Evangelist, and a trainee Pioneer Minister in our midst – alongside others who are experienced in leadership roles); the weekly meetings in a local café pretty much run themselves; the work with younger and older people is coordinated by others than the clergy; and the Market Stall…?

For those unfamiliar with the work of the stall, it is pretty simple. We turn up and sell drinks and cakes. We offer hospitality to the other stall holders in the form of free drinks. We pray for those who request it. We help people in need where we can. We answer questions about issues of faith, spirituality and life in general. We know that we have dispelled misconceptions about the Christian faith, and have encouraged some to take significant steps closer to a relationship with God.

The stall at the Farmers’ Market is our principle ‘public face’ on Sundays, and it is also the area of our ministry most likely to be impacted by the Cant’s departure. Zoe has been one of the most regular volunteers on the stall, and I will take over the management of the Market as a whole from Tony – so in effect we’ll be down 2 people most weeks. We’ll need some more people to step up and help us out.

The fact that we are part of a wider parish will help us here. It is the usual practice for Anglican churches to help those experiencing an ‘interregnum’ (with no minister) as needed. Mostly, this will take the form of clergy visiting to administer Communion, and various individuals preaching, etc. as necessary. We will certainly benefit from clergy visits on Wednesdays, but we have also asked the other churches we work with to help us with the weekly stall, since it is so fundamental to what we do, and are known for.

There has been a call from God to Tony & Zoe to leave, and they have faithfully responded; but He also calls us to remain faithful to stay, and continue the work He has started in us here.

In due time, we expect a replacement for Tony to arrive. These things can take time, sometimes much of it. We are in an advantageous position in that we are probably as equally unattractive to the ‘wrong’ person as (hopefully) attractive to the ‘right’ one. As someone commented recently: “we have a nut, and we need a bolt – not a screw”.

Watch this space for further developments, and – as ever – feel free to contact me if you think you might be able to help us in Walthamstow (or even if you are wondering if you might be getting a nudge from God about our recent vacancy!)

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