#NZCMS

I’m a Kiwi too! (Issue 23)

Posted on

Where am I from? It’s a not a straightforward answer. I’m Sri Lankan, born in Bahrain, and have lived in New Zealand since I was two – I’m quite a mix of different cultures. This gets interesting when I meet new people here. I often get called Indian or Fijian Indian. When I explain to people that I was born in Bahrain, I receive confused looks – it’s in the Middle East folks. My cultural heritage and ethnicity is important to me, but I’m also very much Kiwi. Is it therefore fair that I’m often treated as different just because I look different?

Last year I decided that once a month I’d go out from my home church to experience different churches and how they do ministry. On one such visit, the vicar introduced themselves and then went on to introduce me to the gentlemen that physically resembled me the most – the only Indian guy in the congregation, a man as old as my dad. I guess this probably felt like a welcoming thing to do, but I just felt treated like someone different. It struck me that, even though there were other young adults present, I was introduced to this guy because he looked like me. This is just one example of how it can be so hard to feel like I belong or am welcomed as a Kiwi – my exterior appearance seems to always outweigh who I actually am.

The verse from Leviticus 19, “Treat the stranger among you as if they were one of you, loving them as you love yourself,” means it doesn’t matter what we look like or where we come from. That’s not our primary source of identity. In fact, these days our identity is not found so much in our looks as in our place of belonging. Just ‘cos someone looks a certain way doesn’t mean we are ‘from somewhere else’ anymore. I belong here. New Zealand is home.

What does this mean for churches and communities? What does it look like for anyone to walk through our doors and feel as welcomed as we do? What will it look like when we have people of different cultures or social status coming in? Our gatherings are an opportunity to express welcome and love to one another, united under one God. Or shall we just divide our churches into groups based on demographic or ethnicity? Please, no!

It’s hard to look past physical differences and think of ‘strangers’ as one of us. It asks a lot from us as the people of God. But it is precisely because we are people of God – a God who loves all people, created all races and knows and welcomes us all – that we need to strive to be loving and inclusive. We’re all learning together and growing together but we have to understand that the look of our ‘backyard’ has changed. Let’s learn afresh how to respond to God’s call to love everyone as we love ourselves.

For discussion:

Is there anything in your attitude to ‘strangers’ that needs changing? How will this affect how you treat people that look different to you?

 

Exploring today’s missional issues from a variety of angles, each edition of Intermission will equip you and your group to engage with God in your community and beyond. Why not take up the challenge and start using Intermission in your community? For more information or to order copies click here.

Your life is too full

Posted on

Picking up from the theme of last week, where I talked about my failure to reach out to someone in suffering, here’s a video from Ash Barker that was sent to me by Timothy London from Servants.

What a challenge to our consumer culture: that we need to empty our lives to make space for the good things God wants for us. I’ve met so many young people who want more from God yet who feel God is distant. I’ve also met many who want to see God work through them more, but nothing seems to be happening and life is rather hum-drum.

Well, maybe part of the problem is that our lives are too full?!

 

 

THE MUSE

Jesus said that we’ll find our life by losing it. What does that paradox of finding life by losing it mean for us today?

 

THE MOVE

Is your life too busy? What can you give up to make more space for what God wants to do in and through you?

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Making me uncomfortable

Posted on

Yesterday was quite a chilly day in Christchurch. It was cold enough for me to need my thick, woollen pac-man scarf. My wife and I were on a drive with out 8 week old boy to pick up some baby clothes and we needed to stop to get cash out. As we parked outside a Chinese dairy on Colombo I couldn’t help notice two things. 1) They were selling bananas for an amazing 99c a kg and 2) a guy was standing just a little to the left of the large 99c sign.

My job was to run across the street to the ATM, but I kept getting distracted, first by the cardboard sign’s offer of cheap bananas and then by the chunk of cardboard the guy was holding. I was able to make out the word “Homeless,” followed by fine print I couldn’t read from my safe distance.

I didn’t want to be rude and stare, so I tried going about my duties while glancing from time to time to assess the situation. He was wearing a jacket and standing just out of the rain, but lacking a pac-mac scarf he relied on the jacket’s collar to keep his neck warm. And along with his cardboard sign, he was holding out a small plastic bucket.

Wait… he was begging. In my city! I’ve lived in Christchurch most of my life and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone begging like that.

As I continued to watch out the corner of my eye I noticed a good number of people collecting their 99c bananas, but they didn’t know how to respond to the guy. I’m sure they all noticed him – it was impossible not to. But everyone acted as if he wasn’t there. I’m not quite sure why no one acknowledged him or stopped to put something in his bucket. I guess acknowledging him meant you actually had to act, and that would be inconvenient and awkward. So what did I do?

Nothing.

I didn’t know what to do either! I’m well aware that Jesus calls me to respond to the needs of the least of these, but its not often I’m confronted like this in my city. I’ve been in other contexts, societies that don’t care much for their poor and needy, and it’s easier to know what to do there. But here there’s shelters, there’s benefits, there’s organisations that care for the poor. So why was he on the street?

I felt a bit paralysed. I couldn’t just harden my heart and completely ignore him as an inconvenience. But on the other hand, I didn’t know how to act. Giving money isn’t the solution. Maybe he just needed someone to advocate for him at WINZ? Maybe he just needed someone to advise him where to look for help? Maybe he just needed a friend to validate him as a loved human being?

I felt a strange combination of awkward, uncomfortable, loving and hard-hearted. After stalling a moment, I jumped back in the car. After all, I had my wife and soon-to-be grumpy boy in there, and we were under time pressure to get to our destination. Jesus would prioritise a trademe seller over a human being freezing on the street, right?

Asides from the internal wrestling this incident caused, it raises another important question for me as a new dad. Just like with any discipleship relationship, my boy is going to grow up watching what I do. The way he views and interacts with the poor is going to be influenced by what he sees me doing. Do I want to raise a boy who instinctively  takes the time for people in need, even if it’s as simple as asking someone begging how they’re doing? Or do I want to teach him how to ignore people like that?

I never did get close enough to read the fine print.

 

 

THE MUSE

What should I have done differently? How would you respond if you were in my shoes? Would you have been distracted by the 99c bananas? And importantly, is the life you’re living a life you’d want others to emulate?

 

THE MOVE

Now that we’ve looked at what I could have done, watch out for an opportunity where you’re tempted to walk away. Instead do something.

 

#NZCMS is all about exploring what it means to be God’s missional people in today’s world. Sign up for the emailer by filling in your email at the top of the page or join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group (and turn on ‘all notifications’ to stay in the loop!) 

Finding God in Hawaii

Posted on

A week ago today I had just arrived home to New Zealand after spending some time overseas. I had come from a warm, humid Hawaiian summer. The air coated with the sweet, scent of coconut oil, tropical flowers and fruit. And many a day spent on a white sand beach with colourful fish swimming playfully in the turquoise water before me. So it was quite a shock to step out of the airport to an icy, cool breeze and winter in all it’s glory. And apparently it was a warm day in Christchurch!

My time in Hawaii was spent at a University of the Nations campus where I was a nanny for a family who were doing some missionary training. Even though I wasn’t attending the classes and was simply looking after their beautiful three year old child, I felt like God wanted me to learn a new aspect of his mission.

When I think about mission, I think about doing things. We are taught how to evangelise and share our faith with others. We will go and serve a community by building or cleaning and supplying their needs. We might preach a sermon or teach a class or play sports with kids. But one thing I feel like we aren’t taught or practice well is how to stop ‘doing’ and just ‘be’. To rest. To Sabbath.

God has ingrained rest in the rhythms of creation. Genesis 2:3 says that “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

God created the seventh day to rest, but these days it is hard to find rest at all. We fill our weekends up with activities and don’t take that Sabbath that God provided us with. It makes me wonder how much more healthy we would be spiritually if we took one day a week to actually rest. But the problem is, I don’t think we even know how to any more.

While I was in Hawaii I had a lot of free time. I had a lot of time by myself and when I was with people there was a lot of time of doing nothing. At the start I found this really hard. Sometimes I would be sitting with others who would be doing their own thing. And as I sat there in the silence of my thoughts my mind would tell me, “this is awkward, you need to be doing something, you need to say something.” Just something to fill in the nothing. But I felt like God taught me to appreciate the nothing. And in those moments of silence, of not even trying to hear God, somehow I grew closer to him. It’s like that feeling of being so comfortable with someone that you can sit in silence with them and it doesn’t feel awkward. I learnt to have that with God. There was nothing super spiritual about it. It was just taking time for mind, body and spirit to have time out and be energised again.

To rest is not to give up on those ‘doing’ things. To rest is to acknowledge that those things are still important but to take time out to ‘be’ with God before going back to those things.

I like to think of Sabbath as us dethroning ourselves and trusting God to breathe life into us again.

And now the challenge I have is how I will incorporate this Sabbath back into my life at home. A life that is filled with study, church and other commitments. How am I going to make sure that I take time out for God to breathe life into me again? This is where that trust comes in. I need to trust that when I take time out of the craziness, when I have pressing assignments and deadlines, that God will revive me. That when there is lots to be done, taking time to ‘be’ with God will be worth it.

 

THE MUSE

Do you ever (or often) feel disconnected from God? Might it be because you don’t you how to slow down and rest?

 

THE MOVE

Take some time this week to rest before God, with no agenda and expectations. Be sure to slow right down – and put away that phone!

Halloween, Pets and God’s mission

Posted on

I’ll cut straight to the chase: I’m not convinced we Christians take global mission very seriously. Which is another way of saying, I’m not sure we take Jesus’ Great Commission particularly seriously. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations. I think we’re starting to learn about the “make disciples” part, but perhaps we have a ways to go with that other bit.

Whenever you talk about global mission, it’s pretty likely someone will raise the point: “How can we worry about people over there when there is enough need here?” I totally agree and I totally disagree with the sentiment behind that question. Yes, of course we need to be actively engaged in our area. Of course we need to be fulfilling Jesus’ task of building the Kingdom, of preaching the Gospel, of caring for the poor, of making disciples. But care for the local needs to be balanced with care for the global. If there are people somewhere in the world who have never heard about Jesus, then we have work to do there as well!

Watch the video and let me know what you think. My prayer is that God will call (or that people will respond to God’s call for) many Christians in New Zealand to find better ways of engaging their community for the Gospel and the Kingdom. My prayer is also that God will call (or people would respond to God’s call for) Kiwi Christians to lay down their lives and go to some of the parts of the world that have no Church, no Bible, no access to the Gospel.

Oh, and look out for the comment about pets!

 

THE MUSE

What is the ‘right’ balance between global and local? And why do you think the global church focuses so little on “world A” from the video?

 

THE MOVE

Ask God to speak to you about your role in his global work.

 

Why Most Missionaries Are Liars

Posted on

The following blog by Mike Pettengill has been reposted with permission. The original can be found on his site here.

No job description I have ever seen for a missionary includes the words “fast and loose with the truth.” It is not my belief missions attracts the kind of people who are predisposed to being insincere. Unfortunately, I have seldom encountered a missionary who will tell the entire truth when asked important personal questions.

The questions which would cause a typical missionary to light up a lie detector include: “How are you doing?” “How is your family?” “How is your marriage?” “How is your spiritual health?” These personal questions are frequently asked by friends, family, and supporting churches. What gives a typical missionary emotional fits is juxtaposing an honest desire to receive help with the concern he or she may be perceived as a ministry failure.

The Truth

The truth is most missionaries are suffering. They just don’t want their supporters to know it. A typical missionary has an unspoken adversarial relationship with their supporters. It has to do with financial support. We missionaries think, at some level, if our supporters discover we are suffering, struggling or having a hard time while on the mission field, we will be viewed as a bad investment and our supporters will go find a better missionary who has his act together.

Two of the most discussed topics in the Bible are sin & money. It should come as no surprise that money is at the core of much of our sin. Many missionaries are willing to suffer in silence for fear someone may discover we are ineffective servants. If the truth of a missionary’s suffering was revealed someone may pull their financial support or a missionary may be called home for a season, or permanently. In a missionary’s mind, what could be more painful than to be revealed as incapable of doing that which God has called and prepared them to do?

To The Missionary

Missions is hard. Humans are weak. God is sufficient. What could be more unnatural than to leave a culture where you know the language, you are succeeding at life and are surrounded by people who support you, to live in a culture where you speak like a child, have no support group and fail daily? Missionaries leave for the mission field with visions of Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd and Jim Elliot in their heads. The reality is many missionaries spend some part of a typical day in emotional and spiritual anguish. Struggle and failure are typical items on a missionary’s “to do” list. Missionaries, you must remember what Hudson Taylor said, “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.”

Tell your supporters and friends the truth. Get people to pray for you often. Let those who love you know you are in pain. When missionaries are honest, supporters don’t run from you, they run to you. When you left for the mission field you asked individuals and churches to partner with you in ministry. Give others the opportunity to glorify God by serving you. You may be surprised how your honesty results in a deluge of compassion.

To The Church

You agreed to partner with missionaries. Now do it. This is not simply a financial relationship. John Piper said, “All the money needed to send and support an army of self-sacrificing, joy-spreading ambassadors is already in the church.” It is not about the money. Care for your missionaries at least as well as you care for your stateside congregants. Ask them frequently how they are doing. Assume they are struggling and lying to you. Probe deeper. Ask them hard questions. Remind them frequently you are praying for them. They know you are praying, but they love to be reminded. Remember their family. Don’t forget anniversaries and birthdays. One short e-mail or phone call will provide energy for months. You may not be called to go, but you are certainly called to pray for or support God’s Great Commission. Every Christian is a participant.

Visit your missionaries on the field. Counsel them. Dive into their lives and invest in their spiritual health. Send them personal Christian resources. Conferences, books and CDs aren’t as prevalent outside the U.S. Loving on a missionary isn’t hard, but you’d be shocked at how few churches and supporters do it. Be the one to make a difference.

Focus On The Big Things

I have explained to dozens of churches I would rather see them invest sacrificially in two missionaries than superficially in two dozen missionaries. Instead of giving $100/month to two dozen missionaries and ignoring their personal needs, give $1000/month to two missionaries and pour your time, effort and soul into their personal wellbeing. Invest deeper into fewer missionaries instead of going a mile wide and an inch deep.

Missionaries, quit being so prideful. It is better for you to be spiritually healthy and able to serve for decades, than burning out after a couple of years. Be willing to be vulnerable so you can recover.

Sorry to break the bad news to you. Most of your missionaries are lying to you. As they see it, they are sacrificing their personal wellbeing for the advancement of God’s work. It is this type of self-sacrifice that makes them good missionaries. Let your missionaries know you love them and want to provide a safe place where they can heal their wounds.

 

THE MUSE

Why do you think we struggle being open and vulnerable with one another?

 

THE MOVE

Do you or your Church support a missionary? Why not send them an encouragement this week letting them know you’re thinking about them. And perhaps there’s something you can do to support them like this on an ongoing basis.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

God and Skydiving

Posted on

I spend the majority of my time in what we would consider ‘Christian’ circles, and have realised two things.

1) I need a wider circle of friends, and

2) I’m more uncomfortable than I want to be about sharing faith-stuff with people I don’t know very well. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about missions, evangelism and courage, and how to become a more courageous person.

Usually when I think about courage, my first instinct is to think of big, bold and decisive acts… but I think that’s a very narrow view of courage. Sometimes it takes more courage to follow Jesus day in and day out than we recognise. Courage doesn’t just have to be about extreme acts of bravery – sometimes courage might be simply inviting someone out for coffee who you notice doesn’t have many friends to talk to. Courage might be volunteering at an afterschool programme, even though kids terrify you. It takes courage for me to be open about faith and God when I’m hanging out with friends who I know think differently from me.

There are a few things that can freak me out, most of which are pretty run of the mill: spiders, mice, and snakes (which luckily we don’t have in NZ!) My biggest, and most extreme fear, is heights. When I plan a tramping trip with friends, I have to check the route beforehand and make sure that we aren’t going to spend four days wandering along exposed ridgelines, because I won’t make it if we do. My fear of heights is pretty bad… so last year, my friends were somewhat confused at my decision to jump out of a plane at 13 500 feet. I’m the girl who will sit down and wait while everyone else climbs the summit, so I can’t really blame them for being surprised.

When you go tandem skydiving, you have to empty your pockets, and then put on a jumpsuit and a cap, before posing for selfies in front of the plane. You and your instructor then walk to the plane, where you then basically have to sit on their lap for the next twenty minutes while you fly to the jump height. The instructor straps you together on the way up – and you hope they do it right, because you can’t help at all. Once you’re in the plane, there is no way out. The door opens, and you shuffle to the edge and swing your legs out… hang there for a moment… and then suddenly you’re falling. The actual act of falling out of a plane is the instructor’s job, and not yours, since their the one who pushes you out. Oddly enough, when I found myself falling towards the ground at 200 kilometres per hour, I wasn’t afraid, and thought it was great.

This skydiving analogy, although cheesy, is the best I’ve come up with so far in my current ponderings about courage. Courage isn’t listed as a gift or fruit of the Spirit, but I still think that it’s something that God is actively at work shaping in us. I think that the way God causes us to become more courageous is similar to skydiving – we find ourselves in situations that are more uncomfortable, or harder than we would like them to be… but as we continue to follow God in those moments, courage is formed deep within us. We become more courageous people.

 

THE MUSE

What would you like to be less afraid of, and more courageous about?

 

THE MOVE

If you’re scared of heights, try skydiving. For the rest of us, remember that being courageous starts with small steps, and try to do something that makes you nervous this week.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

Making Social Change a Joke

Posted on

I like comedians. But I never really linked comedians with social change, until recently.

In an earlier post Kirstin shared about how she discovered she was the ’employer’ of 36 slaves. For a long time we’ve known about sweat-shops and the ‘modern day slave trade.’ And events like the 2013 Bangladesh garment factory collapse remind us about these relatives, but it seems we’re quick to forget. Thankfully, I’ve seen a growing number of solid Christians making decisive efforts to do our part and change the way we shop, which is absolutely fantastic. But how can we bring about mass social change, like Wilberforce and his buddies did years ago?

Perhaps through comedy..?

I’ve become a fan of John Oliver, not just because he’s funny, but also because he’s been able to tackle some difficult issues head on: the death penalty, America’s nuclear arsenal, the struggles of chicken farmers to name a few. And what’s impressed me is that he seems to be making real change (or at least call people to account) all while making us laugh. Which raises the question: if he can do this, presumably because it’s a niche in the entertainment space that he’s filled, then how much more should we be engaging these issues as people motivate by the Gospel?

(Note: Not everything John says is… as polite as we might find in Christian circles. It goes without saying that NZCMS does not endorse everything he says!)

 

THE MUSE

Should we seek to bring about change the way John Oliver is? What difference should the Gospel make to the way we approach these sorts of things?

THE MOVE

Watch the video. Share this with some friends and ask yourself whether you should make changes to the way you shop.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao

Posted on

Talofa lava. This week Kiwis around the country will be celebrating Samoan Language Week. The theme this year is “Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeao” which means “Serve now for a better tomorrow.”

My parents came to NZ and didn’t understand or speak any English so naturally at home we spoke Samoan. But at school I spoke broken English – a mixture of Samoan and English. At church we spoke, read the Bible, sat exams and sang hyms in Samoan. Speaking the Samoan language was imbedded in every aspect of life.  I could read it, write it and speak it.

It helped me cross between two cultures: the Kiwi way and the Samoan way. It was useful when I needed to interpret the “white man’s” thinking and translate this to my mother and siblings. Speaking Samoan with a Kiwi accent meant that I was part of a generation breaking new ground. It meant that I could use this gift from God to serve in my family, in my community, in my workplace and in God’s church.

Where does language come from? It comes from God. It is a gift of God to us.  It reflects and reveals him. The first time we see God speaking in the history of the world is at creation. Our Father is the one that speaks, Jesus is the Word and the Spirit is associated with the effects of the words spoken. God invented language, whether it be in English, Samoan or any other language. And God is part of every conversation because he’s our Creator, the giver of our language-ness – no matter what language we speak. Isn’t that amazing!

The Samoan language, like other languages from small Pacific nations, is under threat. If we lose the uniqueness of any language we will lose the gift from God to help share the Good News that brings transformation to indiviuals, families, communities and nations. And we’ll miss out on what God wants to reveal to the world through the Samoan language and culture.

Tautua nei mo sou manuia a taeo – Serve now for a better tomorrow.  To my beloved Samoan community I pray that we continue to embrace the Samoan language as God’s gift, using this to advance his Kingdom and to bring him glory. To serve for a better tomorrow means for us to make the Samoan language a gift to our children.

Fa’afetai tele lava le Atua mo le meaalofa o le Gagana Samoa ma isi gagana esese i le lalolagi (Thank you Lord for the Samoan language and other different languages around the world).

 

THE MUSE

If you speak another language, what are some of the ways you utalise this gift in everyday life? Or have you been tempted to ‘bury the gift’ because of the dominance of English in New Zealand?

 

THE MOVE

If you don’t speak another language and are willing to learn, why not find someone bilingual in your workplace, community or church and ask them to teach you some new words.

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.

Being Human. Being Present.

Posted on

A priest in a pub discussing work conditions with steel workers. A monk who pitched his tent in the Sahara. A bohemian who started a  community where Christians could be honest with each other.

Real stories.

Maybe I am getting older (please disagree) but I find myself increasingly fascinated by history and chasing down the stories behind the stories, the entrepreneurs who inspired the reports, the missionaries who dared to do church different whether they were noticed or not.

Real stories. Stories that made a difference.

I’ve noticed that behind the commitment to new mission strategies (and catchy terms) lie numerous examples of creative risk-takers and innovators who tried something different to reach people untouched by existing mission efforts. These creative ventures were usually launched by pioneers, discovered by scouts, analysed by geeks, and articulated by church leaders who affirmed both the validity of the experiments and a daring ‘unorthodox’ way forward for all.

At the Nicholas Sessions last month in Prague, a gathering for mission innovators at which I had the honour of participating, Bob and Mary Hopkins shared about the beginnings of what would later be named Fresh Expressions.

In their retelling of the story, I recognised the same players – the pioneers who created the stories, the number-crunchers who analysed the data (Lings, Wasdell, etc), and the permission-givers (Archbishops Carey and Williams) who put new phrases into currency and pointed ahead to a preferable future.

Another equally influential individual, in my experience, was a missionary statesmen who foresaw and recommended the shifts we now see on the ecclesiastic landscape. Canon Max Warren, General Secretary of CMS (then based in London), gave a deeply prophetic speech in Washington DC at the invitation of Overseas Mission Society of the Episcopal Church. The series of lectures was delivered in 1958 and appear in his book called Challenge and Response.

“The crucial question for the church is whether it is willing to take the risks of life on the frontier. If it does not do so, the time may come when it has nowhere else to live. For the fountains of the great deep are being broken up. We live in a world which is changing so rapidly that the demands on our adaptability, on our capacity for adjustment, are threatening not only to the ecclesiastical structures but also to the very stability of faith itself.” (Max Warren, Lecture 4, “Re-minting of the world ‘Missionary’”, Challenge and Response, 1960.)

 

Warren argued that the “home base is now one of the neediest fields calling for missionary work” and insisted that the inherited church structures were inadequate for ministry in a complex, modern, industrial world. We needed to allow new expressions of church to arise, new models that rise above territorial and diocesan limitations.

“The church anywhere and at every time is a mixed multitude. … The church cannot be the organ of its own Mission. It must have organs of Mission. I would be ready to argue that a variety of organs are in fact indispensable, and under whatever different names they bear, do in fact exist wherever the Church is taking Mission seriously.”

 

Canon Warren didn’t live to see the current movement of ‘fresh expressions’ or ‘mixed economy’ that’s now taken for granted in the Anglican world, but his words form a deep well of thought and permission-giving that has allowed his ‘mixed multitude’ of church to become a reality, even in this age of post-modern, post-industrial challenges.

But even Warren needed concrete examples of church done differently. And here I want to point out three creative individuals who inspired Max Warren’s amazing challenge.

 

The Blue-Collar Priest who took church to the people.

“It is precisely this [pre-industrial church] structure that has come down to us almost without change, that has been left so woefully inadequate by industrialisation … Here, wholly new structures of engagement must be devised if there is to be dialog, influence and impact.” (E.R. Wickham, Church and People in an Industrial City, 1957.)

He dressed shabbily and hung out with factory workers at the pubs – which was unusual for a priest back in the 1940’s. He might have been ignored if he didn’t later become Bishop. But he did. And the book that Bishop E.R.Wickham wrote, Church and People in an Industrial City, was probably the most influential source for Warren’s Lecture Number 4, not to mention its impact on Lambeth 1958. In his book, Wickham outlines the devastating chasm between the worker-class and those who dress up for Sunday worship and the resulting founding of the Industrial Mission in Sheffield in 1942 as an effort to break that barrier.

Wickham’s concrete examples of “supplementary non-pariochial structures” and social group thinking found a well-respected echo in Max Warren.

 

The Creative who started a community.

“Religion to me really is a song” (Florence Allshorn).

Also in 1942, an artist named Florence Allshorn launched a revolutionary community in Sussex called St Julian’s. St Julian’s was a place for all God’s children: a multi-national, ecumenical space for honest dialogue and integral living.

She had already served a difficult term of mission service in Uganda with CMS in which she saw the danger of unaddressed, dysfunctional relationships among leadership on the field. She returned home bruised and, according to Eleanor Brown, “after a year in a curious little colony of ‘dropouts’ in the Sussex countryside” Florence was ready to work again under CMS in England. She directed a small missionary training centre for women where she effected a “quiet revolution in the whole concept of missionary training,” focusing on in-depth honest relationships, love, and spiritual growth.

“She saw further than most into the meaning of missionary task” noted missionary statesman J.H. Oldham who wrote a book on Florence and the community at St Julian’s. Canon Max Warren saw in this community the potential for a new way of doing church that went beyond idealism and conformity to the inherited models.

 

The Monk who pitched a tent in the Sahara.

“Father de Foucault became a Touareg, to the depths of his soul. I mean that he completely gave himself to these people, not only spiritually but humanly; for he well knew how intimately the Christian life is bound up with the whole context of human life.” (Voillaume, Seeds of the Desert.)

The desert monk named Charles de Foucauld who went to the Sahara to found a monastic order died alone in 1916 – his desert home is pictured above. No one joined him. But the spiritual journals he wrote had a profound effect on people as diverse as Dorothy Day (Catholic Workers), Thomas Merton (new monasticism), and even James Baxter (Jerusalem) in New Zealand. Some time after his death, The Little Brothers of Jesus came into being. Even today there are a dozen monastic orders named after him. At the time of Warren’s lecture, a book called Seeds of the Desert: the Legacy of Charles de Foucauld by R. Voillaume had been recently published and brought to the attention of clergy everywhere. Warren describes The Little Brothers of Jesus as a “daring new pattern of missionary service,” a way of interacting that was thoughtful, respectful (we might say post-colonial), open to dialogue, a strategy, according to Voillaume, of “being present amongst people, with a presence willed and intended as a witness of the love of Christ.”

Warren sums up, “What was so refreshing about [de Foucauld’s] plans, and what was so refreshing about Florence Allshorn, was that in their preoccupation with being present with God they were always so human. There was nothing stereotyped in the lives of either of these missionaries. Because they knew how to live ‘being present’ with God, they were able to live ‘being present’ quite spontaneously with people of every kind and in every circumstance.”

Here we see the heart of Max Warren’s lecture that takes the challenge beyond the start-up of new church forms and beyond mere strategies into where it all starts: the challenge to live differently. To live more dangerously. To truly live among people, unprivileged people. To be open to openness. To allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the full human experience and to participate fully in it.

This is incarnational missions the way Jesus showed us. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

Being human. Being present.

 

THE MUSE

Which of these three stories stands out the most? Why? How can we learn to be ‘more present’?

 

THE MOVE

What initiatives have you felt God leading you into that you’ve not yet started? Why not take the first small step this week?

 

Join the discussion at the #NZCMS Facebook Group.