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.



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



Estate Evangelism – Ministry

I am pleased to be able to share this important and helpful article by my good friend and comrade Joe Hasler.  The two diagrams have not come out well on this – there should be circles.  You will be able to view them properly very soon on the National Estate Churches Network website.

In the estate churches network executive meetings we can be quite agenda driven but often we break out into conversation. One conversation was about what NECN member would want from us, and consequently what were estate ministries seeking to achieve. Two possibilities were identified. One was the minister, lay or ordained, who wanted to give the what people traditionally expected from their role or office, and to do it well. Another was those who saw the cultural situation as demanding something different which might be a sign of something bigger to the church. A difference which involved modelling ‘new ways of being church’. The following ‘think piece’ is a bit rough and ready and intended to provoke conversation, refinement or debate. Do not hesitate to submit your thoughts.

                                                                  000

A parish priest in the Church of England is by definition almost obliged to see the institution as a bastion of ‘English culture’.  Of course, the notion of parish suggests that in reality there is a commitment to ‘locality’; and perhaps even of sub-culture.  (Yet even many parishes may be a mixture of sub-cultures.)   A parish priest, at least, is stretched between the myth of English culture as a singular entity on the one hand and the myth of a local reality of one or more sub-cultures on the other.  What those of us who minister on housing estates experience is the suburban ’professional and managerial culture’ on the one hand as the powerful representation of English culture, and the ‘working class’ and ‘ethnic’ cultures on the other.

When an Anglican vicar is instituted, the Bishop will say “receive this cure of souls, which is both yours and mine:…”  If the priest is stretched in the direction of English culture she may think she has been trained to operate anywhere in the Church of England.  The emphasis will be upon the Bishop giving a cure of souls of a particular parish that they can have back again if they want.

The Renewal and Reform programme of the Church of England is seeking to promote evangelism on Council built housing estates.  It cannot avoid the differences that exist or it If the priest is stretched in favour of a contextual theology she might be different.  Here the Bishop shares her cure of souls which is to remain shared.  The vicar has responsibility to the cure in ‘context’ and the Bishop’s responsibility to the cure of ‘contexts in togetherness’ and becomes the focus of unity.  Here the bishop has to work hard in making sure that contextual freedoms do not offend the freedoms of others by their particular practises.  Maintaining freedoms takes more than just inventing rules.  It demands being a guardian of the faith.  This finds clergy, and maybe in our own historical situation estate clergy especially, viewing their concerns differently and not only clergy but ordained and lay ministers together.  In fact licensed and unlicensed ministries within a parish ‘team’ are variously stretched between trying to reflect a national and/or contextual culture, will fail to help us break out of the current trap of replicating suburban models which currently represents the suburban English national church at the expense of subcultural and contextually defined descriptions of mission and evangelism.

If I were pressed to begin to be more precise on what the difference was I would look at the pastoral cycle, or the learning cycle from which it was derived, to see how it is acted upon on Estates.  I offer two pictures of the cycle below.

The first picture is of how we do ‘evangelising ministry’ and assumes ministry and evangelism is done by ‘outsiders’.  By this I am referring to cultural outsiders and this includes outsiders who have become residents.

The point of entry is easiest where you can familiarise yourself with what is going on.  In the diagrammatic representation below it is at the point of joining the action.  After all, the outsider has no other way of gaining or joining the necessary common experience.   (This suits trainers in particular.  You can finish the first cycle by asking students to write up the theological reflection which can be marked.)

 

Picture 1.  Outsiders theology project.

ACTION

 

 

ENTRY

 

Theological reflection

 

 

 

 

REFLECT                                                                                                            EXPERIENCE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXPLORE

 

If you are an ‘insider’ and you are trying to excite indigenous evangelistic ministry this approach makes little sense. In working class subculture, and among many others, the reason to learn is so that you can do something.   The sensible place at which to join the cycle is at sharing experience. (See picture 2 below.)   You then end the first cycle with action.  (Trainers find this difficult because they are left wondering how you tick the box called essay, or its equivalent.  Because of their own unfamiliarity with the subculture they are at a disadvantage in evaluating the action as evidence for learning.)

 

 

 

Picture 2.        Indigenous theology project.

 

 

 

ENTRY                                                EXPERIENCE

 

 

 

 

Practical Outcome

 

 

 

                                                                                                         EXPLORE

 

 

                                ACTION

 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTION

 

 

The evangelistic plus for indigenous evangelistic ministry is that we have people talking about a God they have seen through the eyes of their own culture.  This is harder and takes longer to achieve but a far more communicable evangelism results within a common culture.

 Why does this so rarely happen.  I would venture to suggest that ‘English culture’, a national culture, pulls so heavily in the direction of replicating suburban models.  Also, the church is not well endowed with people and resources to work with ‘inculturation’ methods of mission.  This not just a matter of money but also one of attitude.  Suburban sees itself as normal and those living on housing estates as representing deviancy.  (There are so many more studies of poverty as a problem than there are of wealth as a problem even though, in many ways, the latter is the cause of the former.

Furthermore, there have been bold attempts to free ministry with experimental initiatives.  However, it is not good enough to give people freedom to try new ways without setting up the support structures to facilitate them.  This demands being open to new ways of evangelisation and also at the same time new ways of being church.  The two issues are inseparable.  Otherwise it would be like inviting new people into a congregation, and every time they came up with a new idea telling them things cannot change.  It might be that this is too difficult.  If so we are in danger of further losing the engagement of those from working class culture and ethnic cultures in the multitude of housing estates the Church of England claims to serve.

The renewal and reform programme has to face up to the fact it has unwittingly stepped into the class divide of our social climate.  No doubt, being the Church of England, it will conduct itself with uttermost politeness.

 

Revd. Canon Joe Hasler.

 

P.S.  I have written this from the Church of England perspective that I know from experience.  This is not to exclude ecumenical partners from the conversation.  I am sure they will have different but equivalent experiences from within their own settings.

 

 

Essential bibliography

 

Laurie Green, Let’s do theology (Mowbray, 1990)       (Later edition available.)                                                     

Joe Hasler, Mind, Body and Estates (NECN, 2000)        (downloadable from joehasler.co.uk)

Joe Hasler, Crying out for a Polycentric Church (Church in Society, 2006)   (also from joehasler.co.uk)

Steven B Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (Orbis, 1994)

Steven B Bevans and Roger P Schroeder, Constants in Context (Orbis, 2004)

 

Important resources

 

www.nationalestatechurches.org

www.theologyforall.org

www.joehasler.co.uk



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



National Estate Churches Network Update
November 27, 2016, 6:26 pm
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I’m reprinting this update from the National Estate Churches Network here – if you are involved in an Estate Church, let me know and I will put you on the mailing list. It would be good to work together.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am writing to you to update you on a few things following our Conferences, and to let you know our news.

1. Conferences: Practical Spirituality with Gillian Ahlgren.
The two Conferences were excellent.  Thank you to everyone who managed to attend.
Gillian’s Powerpoint Slides are available to view here: http://gillianahlgren.com/practicalspirituality/

At the Conferences, there was a lot of good discussion about practical ways of transforming our lives and communities.  Please could you email me any ideas you have on this (andydelmege@nationalestatechurches.org)
We will start to assemble a toolbox of things that we have found that have worked that can go on our website.

2. Looking Forward
As you will know, there has been quite a bit of change with NECN.  Bishop Laurie and Jane Winter have decided that the time is right for them to step back after many years of steering the Network.  There will be time to pay tribute to this in due course.

Andy Delmege will become our Chair and Lynne Cullens our Vice-Chair.

This comes at a time of considerable change in respect of the attitude to the Churches in regards to estates.  The Church of England is responding to the needs of Estate Churches with energy; there is now a Reform and Renewal Committee headed up by Bishop Philip North on Estates and Evangelism.  This has come up with a considerable and good programme of work, which you can see on p.3 of Netlink here: http://www.nationalestatechurches.org/NetLink%20Autumn%202016.pdf

NECN will be working closely with the CofE Group, offering our experience and presence.  Bishop Philip has become part of our Exec and Andy Delmege will be part of the CofE Group.  NECN, of course, brings a lot to this, not least our ecumenical character and our independence.

The Programme of the CofE Group is developing and it is extremely helpful to have as much feedback as possible from people in Estate Churches.  If you have any comments or ideas, please send them to Bishop Philip (bishop.burnley@blackburn.anglican.org)
or Andy Delmege (andydelmege@nationalestatechurches.org)

It has also been wonderful to see the Methodist Church responding to Estates through Michael Hirst’s Poverty, Place and Presence Report:
https://www.dur.ac.uk/resources/theologyandministry/TheologyandMinistry4_4.pdf.

3. Consulting You
As well as asking your views on the CofE process, we are asking for your ideas and feedback on NECN as it moves forward.  This questionnaire is in the current NetLink, and it would be helpful to us to hear from as many of you as possible.

We would very much welcome your response to the following questions (please circle the relevant response and add any comments you wish).

1. To what extent does NECN currently support your work, ministry or mission to those living and worshipping on estates? (1 being ‘not at all’, 10 being ‘fully’)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. If you have attended an NECN conference how helpful did you find it in supporting your mission and ministry to those involved in estate based Churches or in urban ministry generally? (1 being ‘not helpful at all’, 10 being ‘exceptionally helpful’)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. What form of support, resource or network activity might NECN develop or provide that would assist you in your work, mission and ministry to those facing issues of urban disadvantage, particularly on estates?

Please respond to Lynne Cullens, 14 Dane Bank Avenue, Crewe CW2 8AA or email lynne.cullens@nationalestatechurches.org. For a chat about any of the issues raised above please call Lynne: 01270 569000 or 075 4435 0692.

4. News

Taunton Conference. Following on from the CofE Conference on Estates Evangelism in York last March, David Maggs is organizing a Conference aimed at people in the South and Wales in Taunton on February 22nd.  More information from David (david.maggs@bathwells.anglican.org)

If anyone has any other Conferences or publications which are relevant to NECN, please let us know.

Similarly, if you want to advertise any Estate Church jobs and vacancies. please let us know.

Finally, if you have any news and stories, issues and concerns about your estates work, we are always happy to consider these for publication in NetLink.  Please send them to Judith.wray@nationalestatechurches.org .

Thank You once again for all your support of NECN and its progress.

With love and prayers

Andy Delmege



voy contigo
November 26, 2016, 12:19 pm
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I sit with a soul full of Paul Nash today after a visit to London yesterday and the excellent show at The Tate.  So much in my mind about landscape, beauty, war, suffering, seeing and perceiving, dreaming.

I sit with a soul warmed by the ambition and enthusiasm of the Church of England for Estates Ministry and Churches that I saw yesterday in the first meeting of the Reform and Renewal Group on Estates Evangelism.  More on this soon.

I sit and reflect as deeply as I can on my Cistercian Way Pilgrimage.  I’m writing an article about it which I’ll post here soon.  Good to be retreading that journey.

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In the meantime, here is a good pilgrimage poem:

Voy contigo
con mi mochila
y mi sombrero
con mi silencio
y mi soledad .
Con mis pies
con mi cabeza
y con mi alma.
Voy conmigo
y mis pasos
me huelen
a libertad.

I’m going with you
With my backpack
And my hat
With my silence
And my loneliness.
With my feet
With my head
And with my soul.
I’m going with me
And my footsteps
I sense
Freedom to me.

Benjamin Garcia Crisostomo