Six calls to community…

fellowship panorama2


Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.
James 3:16-18


“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
John 13:33-35


“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. This is my command: Love one another the way I loved you. This is the very best way to love. Put your life on the line for your friends. You are my friends when you do the things I command you. I’m no longer calling you servants because servants don’t understand what their master is thinking and planning. No, I’ve named you friends because I’ve let you in on everything I’ve heard from the Father.
John 15:10-12


And that’s about it, friends. Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure. Greet one another with a holy embrace. All the brothers and sisters here say hello.
2 Corinthians 13:10-12


It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?
Galatians 5:12-14 (The Message)


My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
1 John 4:10-12

Losing faith in the world wide web, a little rant…

Like many of my predilection and generation, I have become entirely dependent on ‘tinternet for all sorts of things.

It does some things very very well.

  • It plugs me into an international stream of humanity that is transforming the way we live and work and think.
  • It gives me access to endless (if sometimes dubious) amounts of information in relation to any subject.
  • It allows me to connect with individuals and groups at a huge distance in a meaningful way- without leaving my living room- particularly useful if your passions and interests are not of the mainstream, or if you live in the Scottish Highlands, or the middle of the Atacama desert…
  • It allows me to find any product I may wish to buy, compare it with others, and find the cheapest place to purchase it from.
  • It gives me instant access to entertainment of all sorts of kinds.

There is of course a downside to the changes that the internet is bringing to us. All the positives listed above have a much publicised and debated negative side-

(Time to bring in Some Grey Bloke again I think!)

  • The stream of humanity we plug into is unequal, full of contradictions, exploitations and does not include ALL of humanity- in short, it reflects the power and wealth differentials found in the physical world. Most would say that the early hopes for the democratisation and empowerment of the small over the large has simply not been realised- beyond little reshuffling and re-entrenchment of existing powerful corporations.
  • Information is rarely truly free, and always contextual and comes pre-loaded with values and assumptions. Some of it is simply wrong, wacky, or malign- and there is so much of it to filter through. The internet can be said to devalue information- which only has worth because of the amount of attention (hits) achieved. So the superficial, celebrity driven nature of our culture continues to feed itself…
  • Social networking- I’ll come back to this later- but in the meantime…
  • Shopping- like we do not do enough of this already! Has the internet just become the new means to maintain the unsustainable and unequal lifestyles dictated by capitalist imperialism? (Oh dear- the old class warrior in me just hiccupped!) There is also the problem of the further destruction of local networks of commerce, with yet more consequences for erosion of community and isolation and loneliness.
  • Entertainment- don’t get me started on that one! Bite sized, mind numbing, celebrity driven drivel- a million channels to fill. And the pressure that we all feel to participate in mass manufactured experiences, in order for life to have meaning.

I suspect you have all heard this before- and may even wonder if there is any point in worrying about these things- after all, the internet, in all its mixed glory, is here to stay. It is perhaps the defining characteristic of western (and increasingly of southern) cultures. It just IS, and we people of faith have to get with the programme, and carry Jesus out there with us, one server at a time…

And this is my feeling too, most of the time. But every so often, I lose faith in the medium. And I remind myself that we Christians are supposed to be ‘…in the world but not OF it’- that as well as looking for truth and beauty, and salting/lighting it, we are also called to bring to bear what Michael Frost calls ‘dangerous criticism’. (Decent summary of this stuff here.)

So my take on this is that we Christians, faced with the megalithic construct that is the world wide web, should participate, contribute and celebrate truth and beauty, but we should also be driven by a deeper radical alternative set of principles that are the cultural capital of the New Kingdom, arising from the teachings and very personality of Jesus.

I think these are some of the principles that seem relevant-

People before product, before project, before everything.

Community as the evidence of the beloved, the blessed ones, the agents of the Kingdom.

Community offered freely and looking outward to serve.

Real community- the dirty, messy hand-in-hand, painful kind- as school for life.

Learning to love, practicing grace and valuing simplicity and humility.

Justice- a skew towards the small people, the poor and the oppressed.


So what of all this social networking?

I participate in a few of these- I blog, I am part of Emerging Scotland Ning site, Missional tribe, and Facebook. All of them have been fun, and allowed me to connect with others.

I have discussed the relationship between real friendship and the internet before here. In this article, I shared some research about the some negative isolating effects of social networking, and suggested that it’s value for me was only the degree to which real flesh on flesh connection was facilitated and enhanced.

So, the question for me is whether or not this has been my experience?

I think the answer is mixed for me, and so the jury is still out…

I have connected with some wonderful people- but most of these connections have been transient and brief. We have hoped for the establishment of real networks of people who seek to mentor and support, but so far this has not happened. This may be that we have not yet found the right combination of people and processes that allow this, or in more negative moments, I fear that we are as addicted to those safe saccharine personalised spaces that the internet allows us to wrap ourselves up in as anyone else…

But of course, that is not the whole story. There are people who keep offering themselves as a place of hospitality and openness. God bless them- because my feeling is that we need them now more than ever.

Worshipping with wood…


I spent a few hours this afternoon cutting slices of wood to use as part of a worship installation that Aoradh are putting together for Greenbelt.

It occurred to me that this too was worship.

Each cut, all noise and spewing sawdust. Each tree-disc a little slice of branch, still holding the shape of years of growth.


I was suddenly aware that every one of these pieces of wood was intended to be held in someone’s hand. People I have never met will be asked to use these things as prayers and statements of hope for life.

And that what I was doing was holy.



Some Grey Bloke- you tube prophet for our times!

Came across Some Grey Bloke today and have been laughing and wincing along with him for a little while.

(WARNING- some sweary words, and perhaps just may offend the sensitive…)

So here is Some Grey Bloke on Christianity-

And just for contrast- and given our recent preoccupations in Dunoon, here is Some Grey Bloke on Swine Flu-

Time to update the blogroll…


I don’t know how you discover new websites/blogs/interesting organisations with a web presence?

I have kept my blogroll to a fairly small list up till now, as I have only included people who I visit regularly. I have avoided the obvious ‘celebrity’ linkage for the most part, and tried to stay with people with whom I have either a direct connection, or others who I think have something really interesting to say.

But I realised that I often tend to connect with new things via other people’s blogrolls. That is what they are there for after all. As this blog has had more visits, I suppose there is an increased responsibility to see it as part of a wider stream of thought, information and inspiration, and to be a deliberate signpost for people who might be dipping their toes into this stream…

There are some issues/dangers in choosing to do this I reckon…

  1. Linking can be seen to be endorsing. Which I may or may not be of course!
  2. There is also a tendency to go for ‘reflected glory’ of others who have made a bigger splash in the Christian blogging world. I am determined to avoid this if I can.
  3. Wider linking in this way will miss out some folk who should perhaps be there.
  4. This blog will then become defined by the nature of it’s links- guilt by association.

Anyway, here are a few new ones I am going to add…

By chance, it seems that I have connected to very few female bloggers/thinkers, so I am glad to be adding-

Christine Sine’s blog ‘Godspace’– Doctor, author, gardener, wife of Tom, spiritual thinker, USA based…

Cheryl Lawrie and ‘Hold::this space‘ in Tasmania. I connected with Cheryl as she edited the material I wrote for Proost that became ‘Listing’. The blog is full of stories of the adventures of their community, alternative worship ideas, lovely poetry…

Maggi Dawn has been a name I have known for a long time- since my earlier days leading worship in the C of E. She is a musician, author and blogger, as well as a regular speaker at Greenbelt festival.

I have also decided to add some other well known names, as I think they have become ‘people of influence’ whose thinking is shaping a wider direction of travel.

Pete Rollins- writer, philosopher, member of IKON, Irishman and another Greenbelt regular.

Brian McLaren. Writer, pastor, songwriter, encourager, speaker, and gentle agitator. Enough said.

Jim Wallis and Sojourners– protestor, agitator, activist for the poor and oppressed based in Washington DC.

The Iona Community– a gathering of activists, thinkers and contemplatives based on Columba’s island of Iona, with roots deep into inner city Glasgow.

Hope you enjoy these links!

Regina Spektor- laughing with God…

So, Glastonbury Festival is here again. Summer must descend into torrential rain…

And I will discover new music via the wonders of the BBC multi screen player, competing with my daughter for the remote control, lest she force me to endure any more Lady Ga Ga or Evanescence.

I enjoyed Regina Spektor this evening- interesting, creative and edgy, with a great voice. One song that caught my attention was this one-

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’re starving or freezing or so very poor

No one laughs at God
When the doctor calls after some routine tests
No one’s laughing at God
When it’s gotten real late
And their kid’s not back from the party yet

No one laughs at God
When their airplane start to uncontrollably shake
No one’s laughing at God
When they see the one they love, hand in hand with someone else
And they hope that they’re mistaken

No one laughs at God
When the cops knock on their door
And they say we got some bad news, sir
No one’s laughing at God
When there’s a famine or fire or flood

But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious
Ha ha
Ha ha

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God
When they’ve lost all they’ve got
And they don’t know what for

No one laughs at God on the day they realize
That the last sight they’ll ever see is a pair of hateful eyes
No one’s laughing at God when they’re saying their goodbyes
But God can be funny
At a cocktail party when listening to a good God-themed joke, or
Or when the crazies say He hates us
And they get so red in the head you think they’re ‘bout to choke
God can be funny,
When told he’ll give you money if you just pray the right way
And when presented like a genie who does magic like Houdini
Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus
God can be so hilarious

No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughs at God in a hospital
No one laughs at God in a war
No one laughing at God in hospital
No one’s laughing at God in a war
No one’s laughing at God when they’re starving or freezing or so very

No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
No one’s laughing at God
We’re all laughing with God

Happy 500th Birthday John Calvin!

So, this week marks the 500th birthday of John Calvin, something which, given the preoccupations of this blog, was something I did not think should pass unmarked.

Happy Birthday John.

You turned your world upside down, and we stand in your shadow.

Or at least we did. Some say it is time to walk out on our own adventure.

To make our own reformation.

Praying for patience and grace on our own modern versions of Michael Servetus.


You can listen to a radio programme called Beyond Belief here that reflects on the enduring legacy of Calvin- half an hour of theology and reflection- well worth a listen.

Turbo consumerism…


Interesting discussion on the radio this morning about turbo consumerism. Listen again here.

Neal Lawson, Political correspondent for the Guardian newspaper and chair of the left wing democratic pressure group Compass, spoke eloquently about his feelings that our society is increasingly addicted to shopping- the main leisure pursuit of the nation. Lawson suggested that our sense of identity, well being and status have become tied up in the getting of STUFF. We talk about ‘retail therapy’- where shopping serves a deep purpose in our lives in terms of attempting to define who and what we are.

It could be suggested that western industrial society has always been consumer orientated, but at some time in the 80’s and 90’s we changed from a consumer society to a TURBO consumer society according to Lawson- a product of a culture that increasingly became credit and debt driven, and an economy that required us to upgrade our gadgets every 6-12 months in order to remain viable.

Lawson suggeted that people at the bottom of the income scale, who are unlikely to achieve highly in terms of education or employment invest a huge amount in designer labels- and this becomes a source of large amounts of crime.

None of us are unaffected by turbo consumerism. The advertising industry in all it’s multi layered sophistication, is intent on creating dissatisfaction with what we have, and what we look like, what our life is about, so that we might be more ready consumers of produce, gadgets and lifestyle enhancements.

shop window

On my drive back from Bute today, some familiar questions were rattling around in my brain…

Is there a way back from this?

Is there a better way to live?

Do I need a new phone/car(scrappage allowance none withstanding!)/TV/MP3 player etc etc?

If I/we stop buying these products, then is recession not inevitable?

But who is paying the cost for this mad lifestyle now? Is it making us happy? What about the huge inequalities within our society, and the insatiable need for raw materials and cheap labour from the majority of the world?

Where do I start, and can I really make a difference?

I suppose the interesting thing is that these questions are being asked by many in the wake of the recent economic upheavals.

And some Christians are raising their voices to suggest alternative ways to live. Check out Generous.

Time to stop shopping, and start living…


Jesus shifts product…


Is this just not a little too near the truth?

Because we have seen enough of this stuff-

But then there is all of this-

I wonder what the modern day equivalent of tipping over tables in the temple forecourt would be? It might be uncomfortable for us all!

Because if we understand Jesus right, I think we have nothing to sell, but much to give.