Now is the time to laugh…

I think the somber tone of this blog needs a little poke with a stick.

As a continuation of my Ecclesiastes 3 project, here is a rather lighter subject!


A time to laugh

There is a time for all things under heaven

There is a time for friends to linger with one another
And tell tales of the absurdity of life
A time to watch the night in with wine
And hot curries
And the odd well timed
Noxious gaseous emission

For, in good company
A pan-gag
A trip on a crease in the carpet
Or even a terrible pun-
These things can be holy

So in the warm hollow of the hands of fellowship
We sat and soaked in the goodness that comes only
When old friends come together
And exchanged gentle familiar insults-
The sort that are like badges of belonging
We avoid some things because it might darken our gathering
And others because some things are better
Left unsaid

And should the conversation turn too serious
Someone will find a crack in the buttock of pomposity
And insert a cold spoon of humour

For now is the time
To laugh

That familiar question- what is emerging?


Like many others, I have been participating in the emerging church ‘conversation’ for a few years now.

It has been wonderful.

It has transformed the way I think about and understand faith, and brought me again to a deep love of Jesus and all he calls us to.

It has brought me into contact with wonderful people who are traveling in the same direction.

It has given me a genuine hope that things are changing- that something NEW is happening.

The Lion of Judah is circling again…

But it has also brought me into conflict with others- whose core beliefs lead them to adopting different positions in relation to some of the building blocks of faith. And within me, after these years of discussing and blogging and reading- I also wonder where we are up to with this thing.

I particularly wonder where we are up to in Scotland, 2009.

So- some questions!

Where are new forms of church emerging and in what ways are they different?

Where are the agitators, the innovators, the people who pioneer new (emerging) forms of church?

The term seems to be used too as a way for traditional churches to seek renewal. Is this genuine change, or is it merely an attempt to do the same things, but be a bit more trendy?

Where is leadership coming from? Do we need it, or is there still a reaction against centralisation and control?

How do we find mentoring and companionship? Do we still need sympathetic and skillful people who will hold us accountable? Where are these people?

These seems to me to be a difficult, but very important questions. Our reaction to them will no doubt very much depend on where we start from.

I am part of a small group of people outside established church. We meet in houses and celebrate in non-religious environments. We form partnerships where we can, and have many friends, and some folk who view us with at best considerable suspicion! Groups like ours have many advantages- freedom, mobility, passion and excitement. But they are also fragile and ephemeral. They tend to depend on a small group of innovators, and are held together by friendship. When the storms begin (as the surely will) many things can simply destroy such gatherings.

This may be the natural order of things. Perhaps what survives is what is of worth. But perhaps too, like me, you are hungry for connection and for ways to seek and to provide support. Perhaps you are facing a difficult situation, and just need to speak to someone who has been there before.

Perhaps too you are, or have been, part of church situations where you no longer feel at home, New ideas and ways of doing things are in your mind, but the leadership of the place where you are is not open to such things. Perhaps what you need is to find others who have adventured still within such a situation.

There is a discussion thread that digs into some of these things on the Emerging Scotland site.

A time for war…

I started a new poetry thing the other day as part of a collection called ‘lists’. A result of chewing on passages in the Bible- the beatitudes, the fruit of the Spirit etc. The list I am working on at the moment is Ecclesiastes chapter 3-

There is a time for everything- and a season for all things under heaven…


A time for war

There is a time for all things under heaven

A time to dig trenches and put up barbed wire
Then run to our deaths into withering fire
A time for mass graves, for mothers to wear black
Time to kill and to maim, a time to attack

A time to dehumanise, a time to breed hate
A time to decide the whole nations fate
A time when all truth is wrapped up in lies
For secret policemen and neighbourhood spies

A time to manipulate the news and the media
A time of unassailable powerful leaders
A time of expedient centralised power
Cometh the man in this our dark hour

A time for Guantanamo, a time for Auschwitz
A time of gas chambers and motherless kids
A time to throw rocks and let loose the rockets
A time for dead eyes fixed in dead sockets

A time for insurgents, a time to suppress
To disappear dissidents, and people oppress
Of brave freedom fighters and terrorist cells
A time for Robin Hoods and William Tells

In some foreign field or in our back yard
In red sucking mud or ground frozen hard
Lie the bones of our children who answered the call
Now glorious dead with their names on a wall

A time to break up and time to destroy
A time to make men of every small boy
Over by Christmas or just a bit more
Now is the time for us to make war

Baby P research- can anyone help?

I was contacted by Faye Saville, a student at my former place of education, University of Central Lancashire, asking if I would give a plug to a piece of research she is conducting into the use of the internet to communicate in crisis situations- particularly the way that the whole Baby P thing unfolded.

If you are a blogger, or accessed information about the Baby P situation, and can spare a few minutes to fill in her questionnaire, then your help would be appreciated.

Here are the details…

My name is Faye Saville and I am in my final year studying for a BA (Hons) Public Relations Sandwich Degree at the University of Central Lancashire. I am currently conducting a piece of academic research for my dissertation. My research is focused around the area of crisis communication and online public relations.

This study aims to discover how and why various Internet methods (e.g. blogs and social networking sites etc) are used by individuals to communicate with online during a crisis. My research specifically focuses on the crisis and case of Baby P. Therefore, this study requests to hear from individuals who have an interest (professional or otherwise) in the social work/social services and welfare sector and the case of Baby P.

If you have accessed the Baby P case online and have followed the case I would very much appreciate if you could fill in this questionnaire and return it to myself. The questionnaire also aims to discover how and why individuals who have an interest in the social work/social services and welfare sector have found using the Internet in the Baby P crisis useful.

The questionnaire should take approximately 15 minutes to complete and your responses will be a very valuable contribution to my research.

All questionnaires filled in and returned to my email: will remain completely confidential and anonymous. If you wish to share your comments with other bloggers, please send your responses to:

If you have any questions please do contact me.

Kind regards,

Faye Saville.

So we begin lent…

Giving it up for lent?

Giving it up for lent?

Last night we celebrated the start of the lent season by getting together in The Crown in Dunoon. There were a few of us from Aoradh, along with some friends and others who had read about the event in the paper.

Brian from The Crown put on some pancakes, and we performed ’40’- Si Smith’s images, along with script, sound and music. We used this first last year in Kilmun village hall, also on shrove Tuesday, and it has since been part of a lent resources pack produced by the Church Mission Society. We also used a shortened version at Greenbelt festival last year. Powerful stuff.

Lent has had little significance in my Christian background, but like many others, I find myself increasingly drawn towards the rhythms given to the year by Christian festivals.

I am not sure if I will mark lent in giving up something specific. Last year, as a family we used an information pack produced by Christian Aid-  they have done something else this year here. Need to discuss tonight with the kids!

Photo’s  from last night below! (Click to enlarge.)

On-line social networking and children…

Following on from my previous post, a little more on social networking via the internet…

This morning, there was a discussion about the potential impact of the impact of Bebo, Twitter and Facebook on the minds of kids, led by Professor (Lady) Greenfield.

It echoes themes that I have heard discussed in several other places- including (oh the irony) lots of blogs and social networking platforms. The implications of these discussions for people of faith is what is of interest to me. There are threads of discussion on both the Missional Tribe platform and on Emerging Scotland.

So what does Lady Greenfield have to say?

Here are some quotes taken from a Guardian newspaper interview- the full article is here.


She told the House of Lords that children’s experiences on social networking sites “are devoid of cohesive narrative and long-term significance. As a consequence, the mid-21st century mind might almost be infantilised, characterised by short attention spans, sensationalism, inability to empathise and a shaky sense of identity”.

Arguing that social network sites are putting attention span in jeopardy, she said: “If the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales. Perhaps when in the real world such responses are not immediately forthcoming, we will see such behaviours and call them attention-deficit disorder.

“It might be helpful to investigate whether the near total submersion of our culture in screen technologies over the last decade might in some way be linked to the threefold increase over this period in prescriptions for methylphenidate, the drug prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.”

She also warned against “a much more marked preference for the here-and-now, where the immediacy of an experience trumps any regard for the consequences. After all, whenever you play a computer game, you can always just play it again; everything you do is reversible. The emphasis is on the thrill of the moment, the buzz of rescuing the princess in the game. No care is given for the princess herself, for the content or for any long-term significance, because there is none. This type of activity, a disregard for consequence, can be compared with the thrill of compulsive gambling or compulsive eating.

Greenfield also warned there was a risk of loss of empathy as children read novels less. “Unlike the game to rescue the princess, where the goal is to feel rewarded, the aim of reading a book is, after all, to find out more about the princess herself.”

She said she found it strange we are “enthusiastically embracing” the possible erosion of our identity through social networking sites, since those that use such sites can lose a sense of where they themselves “finish and the outside world begins”.

She claimed that sense of identity can be eroded by “fast-paced, instant screen reactions, perhaps the next generation will define themselves by the responses of others”.

Social networking sites can provide a “constant reassurance – that you are listened to, recognised, and important”. Greenfield continued. This was coupled with a distancing from the stress of face-to-face, real-life conversation, which were “far more perilous … occur in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses” and “require a sensitivity to voice tone, body language and perhaps even to pheromones, those sneaky molecules that we release and which others smell subconsciously”.

She said she feared “real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitised and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf. Perhaps future generations will recoil with similar horror at the messiness, unpredictability and immediate personal involvement of a three-dimensional, real-time interaction.”

Greenfield warned: “It is hard to see how living this way on a daily basis will not result in brains, or rather minds, different from those of previous generations. We know that the human brain is exquisitely sensitive to the outside world.

Lady Greenfield may well be in a position to comment, and have some very valid points about the changing nature of childhood.

The first comment on the Guardian site under the article is worthy of reproduction though- some wag wrote That’s exactly what my mum said about reading the Beano.

The article does not list the research that fuelled Greenfields strongly expressed opinions- but it may well be that quoted in my earlier post.

But the main issue for me remains how we build real, deep, meaningful human relationships and community.

Friendship and the internet…


Friendship- it just might save your life.

Not just in the obvious roped-together-climbing-up-the-Matterhorn kind of way, but in a thousand more subtle ways.

I have benefited enormously from all this on-line networking and blogging. But have long been concerned that online friendships lacked something vital to human experience. For us, they were expedient- given our somewhat isolated geographical location, but in my mind can never fully replace flesh on flesh contact.

I would go a little further (although I am hesitant to be categorical) and wonder if the real community that Jesus called us to (and modeled for us with his traveling companions) can only be experienced in close contact. I say this with some trepidation, as this kind of community is rarely comfortable, tidy or easy. I liked what Mark Berry had to say here about this.

On-line communication seems to have something of the autistic spectrum about it. It allows for the sharing of lots of informational data, but for the most part lacks the nuanced, multi-layered complexity that characterises human face to face exchanges. to extend the analogy, people who have autistic spectrum difficulties can find techniques that might help manage some of the contradictions and complications life brings to them. They might also have real strengths that are revealed in a capacity to perform some non-social tasks extremely well.

In the same way, on-line networking (such a recent phenomenon) does some things very well, and might yet develop techniques that make the interface more human. Before we rush to condemn, we should bear in mind that each step-change in communication technology has been greeted with much suspicion- the printing press, the railroads, television. These things result in change and adaption as they penetrate deeper into the human experience.

But I remain convinced that communication at a distance will never be enough. At present, I think the autistic analogy remains a good one.


I came across an article from the journal ‘Biologist’ the other day, which was quoted by the Dranes on their 2churchmice’s blog. It makes some startling statements.

Britons now spend approximately 50
minutes a day interacting socially with
other people (ONS, 2003). Couples now
spend less time in one another’s company
and more time at work, commuting, or in
the same house but in separate rooms using
different electronic media devices. Parents
spend less time with their children
than they did only a decade ago. Britain
has the lowest proportion of children in
all of Europe who eat with their parents
at the table. The proportion of people who
work on their own at home continues to

Britain’s disinclination for togetherness
is only equalled by her veneration of communicating
through new technologies. The
rapid proliferation of electronic media is
now making private space available in
almost every sphere of the individual’s
life. Yet this is now the most significant
contributing factor to society’s growing
physical estrangement
. Whether in or out
of the home, more people of all ages in the
UK are physically and socially disengaged
from the people around them because they
are wearing earphones, talking or texting
on a mobile telephone, or using a laptop
or Blackberry.

Does this matter?

Well the study goes on to list the benefits of close human contact and friendship. Here are some highlights;

  • Measurable genetic and immunological benefits.
  • Biological changes as a result of physical contact- hugs for example.
  • Increased incidence of cardiovascular problems in people with lower amounts of social connections.
  • Lower general morbidity associated with higher amounts of social contact.
  • A study finding lower incidences of strokes on women
  • Lower blood pressure in men, and a faster return to normal blood pressure after stress.
  • Measured differences in the narrowing of arteries.
  • The unexpected fact that if you have contact with more people, you are LESS likely to have colds.
  • Memory loss in old age declines at twice the rate in those poorly integrated.
  • General links between enhanced cognitive performance and social interaction.
  • A reduction in mortality for those who attend regular religious services! (But not just to ‘warm the pew’.)

The review ends with a description of an old study (10 years ago) which may or may not have been prescient.

While the precise mechanisms underlying
the association between social connection,
morbidity and mortality continue to be investigated,
it is clear that this is a growing
public health issue for all industrialised
countries. A decade ago, a detailed classic
study of 73 families who used the internet
for communication, The Internet Paradox,
concluded that greater use of the internet
was associated with declines in communication
between family members in the
house, declines in the size of their social
circle, and increases in their levels of depression
and loneliness. They went on to
report “both social disengagement and
worsening of mood…and limited face-toface
social interaction … poor quality of life
and diminished physical and psychological
health” (Kraut et al, 1998).

So, what can we make of all of this? The study clearly takes the view that on-line contact is not enough, and indeed may be problematic.

I still hope however, that when used well and purposefully, on-line connections might facilitate community building. This is where I still place my energy, and why I started out trying to establish this ‘Emerging Scotland’ thing…

It is almost as if we humans were made to find our highest expression in community. As if we were wired and plumbed for this.

So for now, my own conclusion is like this;

The internet is great. It gives me access to loads of great stuff (and lots of rubbish too I suppose!) It also allows me to connect with others. But it does not allow me to commune with others in the way that I think Jesus intended. In order for this to happen, the whole of me has to be engaged in this process, in all of my contorted brokenness, aware that in the joys of serving and loving will also be pain and suffering.

There is no other way.




Words are such wonderful things.

Some of them bite. They are hard and brittle, snapping at the heels of postmen.

But others pour on you like oil, and when applied to the sore bits at just the right time, they are miraculous in their restorative power

Even the simplest of words carry within them Trojan horses of layered and hidden meaning.

In combination, they can contain all that we are. All we are for the good, but also all that we are for the bad.

Our lechery

And our lust

Our hatred

And narrow prejudice

Our grasping

And our empire building

Our war mongering

And our hard unyielding doctrines

Tears falling

Hearts breaking.

Woven from the same vowels and consonants as these things-

The tender glances of a girl who found love

The arms of a father encircling a child, growing all too fast

The crisp cotton of a woman lingering at the bedside of a dying man

Hope stoked by kindness

And creativity nurtured by praise

Life fully lived

And shared

The ancient Hebrews, in their attempt to understand God, looked for a word that might describe the presence that they half knew. God must have chuckled, because he gave them the name YHVH or YHWH, written with four consonants only; the holy unpronounceable Tetragramaton. By the time the Hebrew language evolved to include vowels, the early pronunciation of this word had been forgotten, as people had been forbidden from using this most holy precious name.

This name for God, this word for God, it was so precious, so full of unfathomable mystery, so unreachable, uncontainable, so fearful and awe inspiring- that it could not be allowed to pass the lips, but rather should rest on the soul.

I have sometimes wondered if we Christians, in becoming people of the book, have lost what it means to be people of the word.

We talk about ‘The Word of God’ as if it can be contained, categorised and shackled to our particular denomination.

But the words of the Bible, they are not easily classified. They tend to escape the butterfly net we swipe at them with. I think that was the intention behind the inspiration- not to confuse, but to draw us on into the adventure.

Emerging Scotland Ning site…


I have posted before about Emerging Scotland.

This began as a network on Facebook, which led to a number of meetings planned into this year.

Stewart has now set up a Ning site, here.

This seems to be a great way of taking things forward.

I started the facebook group, and have put a lot of time and thought and discussion into the possibilities of a network. A recent discussion has focussed my mind again on what my own hopes are for such a thing.

I have participated in a few on-line ventures already- the most notable being Missional Tribe, where I cross post some of my blog entries. Most of these sites start well, and things tail away as interest wanes and people move onto the next big thing- there seems to be something about the net that promotes and elevates the ephemeral, and this is both a strength and weakness. Things do not tend to last long.

Through some of these web based portals I have conversed with some interesting folk, and had some interesting discussions. One of those recurring discussions has centred around the value of all this on line blogging, twittering, facebooking and networking. Why do we do it? What purpose does it serve? Might these things really facilitate significant human and spiritual development?

Well for me, the verdict is mixed. Thomas posted a really interesting take on this here.

I think the way of the cross is finds it’s real meaning in community. And measured by the quality of that community.

And I am also well aware of the research about how the strength of our societies can be measured by the degree to which we are connected with one another. The degree to which we love and share and do the things that Jesus talked about in the sermon on the mount.

Check out this stuff on happiness

Social networking may or may not contribute to the way our society learns again the need to connect, but it is unlikely to be the complete answer.

Whatever its limitations, it also offers real possibilities. I have met people who I believe I will continue to share life with online.

Which brings me back to Emerging Scotland.

My motivation for starting the thing arose from the circumstances we found ourselves in in Dunoon. Part of a group that was mostly outside organised church, and increasingly (particularly me) feeling that the way I understood my faith was different from the mainstream faith groups in Scotland.

I began to read and read and and read- and dream of other ways of doing things.

But at the back of my mind, there has always been this need for connection- people who will hold me accountable and be accountable in return- people whose power will add to mine, and mine to theirs.

Hence, Emerging Scotland.

But I am old now- 42 after all, and so now have the answer to the meaning of life the universe and everything. So I am well aware that the formation of new things can be messy! There has been a bit of storming in the forming this week.

But I am convinced that in this new context, we need to make active decisions to walk together, not just wave at one another from across the the world wide web…

Some info and dates, Emerging Scotland and Aoradh…


I thought it was worth posting some bits and pieces of information about some stuff in the pipeline… If you want to know more, then drop me a line…

Emerging Scotland stuff-

(For earlier posts relating to this group- see here and here.)

The next event planned is an open house weekend in Dunoon. For facebookers, the details are here.

Here’s the low down;

The next of the years meetings will be at Chris and Michaela’s house in Dunoon.

They live in a big old house with great views over the Clyde, lots of corners to chat/be quiet/pray/debate, and open fire, good company and a warm welcome… Posh it ain’t, but it is at it’s best when full of people.

Hopefully this will be a chance to meet up with new and old friends, share some ideas and to find out some specific stuff about what has been happening in Dunoon.

We will also use some of this time for prayer and retreat- setting up some prayer and worship stuff.

Depending on how things go, we might watch a film about new church stuff in Canada, do some music- who knows?

You are invited to come for as long as you like- an afternoon, a day or stay over for the weekend- we have quite a bit of space, and other members of Aoradh have more…

Personally, we believe that time spent sharing and making community is beautiful, and we hope you will not rush away.

Perhaps as we celebrate the Kingdom, we also build it.

Later in the year, we plan to have a family camping weekend, and other meets in an area near you! Further information to follow.

If you want to go on the e-mail circulation list, then let me know.

Aoradh events-

Wilderness weekend. We are heading to Scarba, Saturday the 2nd May till Monday the 4th- for a weekend on a desert island, exploring and pondering. This is one of a few trips planned- details here.

Local stuff in Dunoon. Our next evening at the Crown court cafe bar is Shrove Tuesday(Feb the 24th), when we will reprise ’40’- a Lent presentation around Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.

This is based around 40 images by Si Smith, and a script by me- which you can get hold of from Proost, if you want to use it, feel free to get in touch- we have soundscapes etc that we can let you have…


After a time, the desert seemed so big, and he, so small.

A panic rose in him. It clutched him like a hand at his throat

Who am I?

What am I?

What terrible road lies before me?

Father- my body is weak

I am a drop of water

On a rock

Under the hot desert sun

Soon I will be gone.