Pilgrimpace's Blog


the poor communities

“Montalgre: eleven monks.  Only eight, if the sick aren’t counted.  I was Procurator for seventeen years and have been Prior for two.

For a long time there has been talk of closing Montalgre.  There are no vocations.

This has created discouragement, anxiety and a certain guilt.  It is like a sword of Damocles.

We must try to get beyond this situation and give it some meaning.  In the Gospel I have found light.  I do not recall any place where Jesus assures us prosperity and success in this life.  Rather the reverse: the strait gate, the narrow way, contempt, the Cross.  The Gospel asks us to follow Jesus in his poverty.

So I thought about the poverty of our numbers and quality also, the lack of resources and our uncertain future.  And I discovered that our situation was almost ideal for living the Gospel, not in theory or asceticism, but quite simply in living from day to day.  Thus I came to confidence in God, but a confidence that for the most part is blind, without any light or sensible consolation, but accompanied by sorrow.

The words of Jesus have come alive for me: ‘The Father cares for you.’ ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and the rest will be added unto you.’ ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’  Above all the passage where the apostles’ boat is foundering in the storm.  A real tempest not an imaginary one.  Jesus is asleep.  And when he wakes he reproaches the apostles for their lack of faith.  Thus we have to have confidence and above all when everything apparent says we shouldn’t.  This is the paradox of the Gospel.

In reality, I am myself of this mind, disposed towards an absolute trust, almost to the point of absurdity, perhaps the absurdity of the Cross.

But can I lead the community in this direction? Perhaps I am trying to justify the situation, or ease my mind, or delude myself.  Anything is possible.  But, even so, I will have confidence in God and I believe this is right.  God deserves this blind trust, and, I repeat, it is almost always sorrowful.

Perhaps the danger for the poor communities is a deeper impoverishment at the level of aspiration (a little like the underdeveloped countries): a certain conformity or resignation in the face of reality; a regret for the past; obsession with vocations.

But we learn to simplify the life, better to seek what is essential: God and our neighbour; to prize fraternal charity more than rules or norms.  And finally, whatever happens, to accept the will of God.  Fiat!”

From The Wound of Love, A Carthusian Miscellany

I will be living out of this during Holy Week and Easter – and I expect beyond.

Prayers for your journey in the coming week.



netlink

The new edition of NetLink, the newsletter of the National Estate Churches Network is available to read here.  Please let me know if you would like to go on the mailing list.

If you are on facebook or twitter, you might want to follow the National Estate Churches Network for updates and fellowship.



blessed are – beatitudes litany

A Beatitudes Litany that was formed by Tim Watson listening to Birmingham Estate Church Practitioners talking at our recent residential

Blessed are the misunderstood

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who live with question marks over their existence

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those whose congregations swell by one fifth when a new family arrives

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who see new families arrive just as the service is beginning and leave just as coffee is being announced

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who are working at capacity

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those whose congregations are vulnerable and can do no more

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who find themselves fishing in a declining pool

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those facing tricky handover situations

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who ask, “where is my calling?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the people who put the bins out

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the people in need of a new roof

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who ask, “What is God’s heart for this area?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who come into church, bringing life, making nice banners, but not doing the core things

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who think, “It would just be nice to have a team”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the people feeling called to estates ministry

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the ministers who recognize that they are the “other” in their contexts

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who don’t have all the answers

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those whose churches are filled with more vulnerability than capacity

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who make a feature of the pipe work in the gent’s toilets and buy purple standard lamps

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who create beauty where not much beauty is seen – or –Blessed are those who uncover beauty where much beauty remains hidden

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who see generosity and abundance over scarcity

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the ministers who need reminding, “you’re not alone”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who look at the community for what gifts and skills are already present

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who earnestly ask, “how do we love this place?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those trying to work in a blurry way

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who will not keep reinventing the wheel

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the churches who decided to stay put when their 1960s building was burnt down

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who struggle to recognise their own gifts

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who ask “how can we do effective Christian presencing?”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who dance with their daughters at the civic hall

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who minister at the micro-breweries and snooker clubs

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the church members who leave their seats to go and sit with visitors

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the ministers who know that this act was the best thing about Sunday

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who deliver Fray Bentos pies to Food Banks

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those tired of hearing the word, “capacity”

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who long for Diocesan officials to come and wander around the parish for a day; visiting the local cafes, listening to the local community

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are the Diocesan officials who do just that

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who recognise the importance of humility

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who are a covenant to the people

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those who need to stop

For theirs is the kingdom of God

Blessed are those in need of refreshing

For theirs is the kingdom of God



being there

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back from a very good Birmingham Estate Clergy Residential with twenty colleagues who I completely respect.  The excellent Tim Watson listened to us carefully and led our worship.  He crafted this poem from our words.

Being There

Being there

Not just ticking the boxes

But asking,

“Will joy come in the morning?”

.

Owning the mission

Despite capacity

Knowing our communities

Are first to feel the effects

Of austerity policies

.

Embodying generosity

Willing to share skills

And live out extreme generosity



necn update

Dear Friends,

I would like to update you on some upcoming events which are of interest to estate ministry.

Mission and Evangelism in Priority Parishes

February 22nd Taunton, building on the Bishopsthorpe Conference last year.

Details here: http://www.bathandwells.org.uk/event/mission-evangelism-priority-parishes/

At the Heart – On the Edge

is a new network and community of practice based on St Martin in the Fields.  Information about it and its opening conference here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/at-the-heart-on-the-edge-the-heartedge-conference-2017-tickets-29792821130

The Incarnate Network

have a gathering on pioneering and a retreat coming up.  Details here: https://www.tickettailor.com/all-tickets/5697/e39c/

As you know, NECN is currently building its work and vision.  I hope you do not mind receiving occasional emails like this – we are working out the best ways to communicate with you.  If you have any events or publications which are relevant to estate churches, please send them in.  We are also happy to advertise jobs and vacancies in estate churches.

With prayers for you and your Church,

Andy Delmege

on behalf of the Steering Group



advent calendar – 1

I owe you another two or three parts of the article on walking The Cistercian Way.  I promise to post these over the next week or two.

I am also aware that we are now a week into Advent.  Finishing the Sabbatical and starting work again has meant life has been a bit full. But let’s begin a journey through Advent together – some posts that might help us to navigate through life, perhaps some arrows on the way.  Things that might cast some indirect light upon the big things that matter.  Some fun as well.  Are you up for it?

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Here’s our Advent Calendar at home.  The pieces are gradually added until, at the end of Christmas Eve, the picture is complete and things are clear.

Are you managing to give anything up for Advent, making space, helping others, reading or reflecting in particular ways.

I’ve picked up Henri Nouwen’s Genesee Diary – this account of a seven month sabbatical with the Cistercians in Upstate New York seems the right thing for me as I try not to lose myself and what I have gained these past months in the busyness of Advent and Christmas:

In the dark I found the chapel and prayed.  How much reason to say thanks, how much reason to pray that God will turn my heart to him and set me free by his love.

I keep all of you who read this blog, known to me and unknown, in my prayers.  If you pray, could you remember me in the time ahead – there is a lot of hard but creative ministry ahead as the task ahead with estate churches in my parish, my diocese and more widely unfolds.



housing estate ministry
November 21, 2016, 4:17 pm
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Proud to be interviewed in this excellent article by Madeleine Davies in The Church Times 11.11.16.  I hope this can be read widely by all engaged in Estate Churches.

PRIESTS working on housing estates have spoken about the realities of their ministry, after the Bishop of Burnley, the Rt Revd Philip North, issued an encouraging update on the work of the evangelism taskforce (News, 14 October).

Meetings of estates clergy, and those interested in the work, are taking place around the country, and priests have welcomed the focus.

The Revd Andy Delmege, who chairs the National Estates Church Network, believes that Bishop North’s speech to the Synod earlier this year, which warned of abandoning the poor (News, 19 February), was “almost one of those Kairos moments where we get a chance to act”.

Evangelism on estates often meant working with people that the Church has “never been particularly successful at reaching,” Mr Delmege said. “All of the stuff about getting people to come back to church has never worked because they have never really been in it. The Church has to very visibly show what it is in order to be attractive to people.” He spoke of serving the local community and building up those who are “going to be the best people at relating locally, as they are part of the culture”. Drawing a distinction between this work and evangelism “doesn’t make a huge amount of sense on estates,” he said. “We are showing God’s love in all the ways we can in order to welcome people into the Church.”

While, historically, council estates have housed white working-class people, there is now increasing diversity, he reports, and it is important that the Church doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the 1950s and ’60s, “in terms of how we welcome people of different cultures into our area”.

The Vicar of Mixenden and Illingworth, in North Halifax, the Revd Robb Sutherland, reports that meetings of estates clergy are important, to remind one another that “this isn’t Craggy Island: this is a wonderful opportunity to be ministering in a fantastic vibrant context that is challenging.”

Questions of faith are “not necessarily the questions that people are asking,” he said, which might include “why haven’t I get food today?”. But as a preacher, he found it “really easy” to expound the Bible, “as I keep finding that it is what Jesus is talking about”. There are challenges in preaching to the wealthy, he thinks, from a Bible that talks about dragging the rulers from their thrones and lifting up the poor.

“I have thought about our context in the context of the parable of the sower and think that estates ministry is a long-term game,” he said. “It is not just something where you turn up and suddenly transform things overnight.” He pays tributes to those who have gone before him, who “tilled the soil and dug out a lot of rocks”, including church wardens. “In terms of evangelism, every new person who comes through the door, it’s years of work.”

Another strand of estates ministry entails church planting, and partnerships. In 2013, the Vicar of St Peter’s, Brighton, the Revd Archie Coates, was asked to be Priest-in-Charge of St Cuthman, built to serve the new residents of the Whitehawk estate, in Brighton, in the 1930s. About 25 members of St Peter’s joined the congregation, including a small group that moved into the vicarage. In partnership with the existing members, they have established a foodbank, debt relief services, and they work with children on the estate. There has been some movement from this to people attending church, he said: “What we are finding is that trust takes quite a long time to build so it’s a kind of trickle at the moment.”

The Church can make a difference by making a long-term commitment, he said: “We are finding the greatest source of witness has been the people who have actually moved onto the estate and are renting houses and living there and sending children to local nurseries and schools.”

Church services needed a “different approach”, from the preaching, to the music and set-up. Many children come without a parent, and the team learned that giving them lunch or breakfast helped them to concentrate.

He advises others considering estates ministry to ask “how can the church be a blessing in the community?” rather than “how many of this population can be persuade to come to church?”

Admitting that, in planting, Holy Trinity, Brompton, hasn’t “always got it right”, he believes that it is better to have a model of partnership than planting, which recognises the need to “keep the identity of the church that we partner with”.