Monday, January 31, 2005

I've Moved (Blog)

Following the trend, I've moved blog. I am now blogging at

See you there!

Friday, January 21, 2005

Wright on Addressing Empire

I'm babysitting with Hannah for our friends the Pughs, and I've cheekily got myself on their computer. Below is an extract from a long interview with Tom Wright found on Gower Street. As usual it's worth a read. I like what Tom says below, because it begins to outline the role of the church in the world. It calls us to a voice that confronts empire and challenges government.

I've been offline and so did not contribute to the Jerry Springer Oprea debate, but needless to say I didn't send an email to the BBC. (See Maggi Dawn for a good response). I'm not sure this is how we confront and challenge the world.

The thinking clearly about it you see is that so much of the New Testament is written against the backdrop of the Roman Empire, and it isn’t enough to say ‘Jesus is Lord and therefore Caesar isn’t.’ That’s part of the New Testament message, but if you just say that within a postenlightenment political framework, people think that you’re simply being a ‘60’s revolutionary: tune in, turn on, drop out, the system’s rotten, join the revolt. It really isn’t that easy. We need to find a mature way of addressing empire, recognizing that government is good, it is God-given, but God holds it to account. It’s very intereting that in the New Testament, in Jewish and Christian thought in the ancient world, they were much much more interested not in how people got into power, democracy or otherwise, but in what they did once they were there. We have reversed that. We think that as long as there’s been some kind of voting system which we can loosely call democracy, then this must mean that everything’s all right. Actually, it’s a matter of holding governments to account, which is the critical thing.

One week to go

One week and I'll be back online. I'll have plenty to write about. I've start my teacher training and learning loads, its just putting it into practice now. I'm hoping to blog some stuff on how we teach in the classroom should impact how we disciple young people and likewise how the way we practice youthwork should impact how we teach in the classroom. Lots of good stuff happening at Bunyan. I had a great time with our wednesday young people group. We used the 'christ we share' pack from CMS and had an interesting discussion on how we picture Jesus. (I highly recommend getting a hold of the pack, only £15 - something you can use with youthgroups, small groups and even in services.) I'm planning an easter experience for Good Friday called 'windows on the cross'. I'm hoping it will a whole church opportunity to reflect and engage, contemplate and question the easter story.

I will be catching up with all the blogs I read properly in a weeks time.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


I moved house on Monday - the chaos is subsiding and I'm looking forward to weekend to recover and get sorted. The only real problem is I will be without access to internet and email at home until the 31st Jan. So I will not get much time to blog and keep up to date with what's going on in blog world. So apologies and look forward to more regular contact in a few weeks time.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Notes from IASYM 2005

I have just finished a week of flitting forwards and backwards from the international IASYM conference inbetween teaching, GTP induction and preparing to move house on Monday. I gave a paper on Wednesday, which was a shortened version of my dissertation. It went ok, considering it was the first time I've ever given a paper and some good discussion. I should have shortened it more, but hey it's all a learning curve. Some (other) highlights from the conference were:

Nick Shepherd's paper: Soul in the City - Mission as Packaged Holiday: The potential implication of a 'tourist' paradigm in youth mission. Nick argued that Soul in the City was a package holiday for young people, where instead of being missionaries, they were more akin to being tourists; and instead of promised adventure, we had a staged mission, with all risk curtailed. (Think about being a tourist on a package holiday and the similiarities are strong). This is not to say that Nick believed Soul in the City to be all bad, it just wasn't mission and it's not the answer. I suggested that some in Soul Survivor think if they just do one really big mission, we'll turn the corner and Britian will be saved. A bad experience though at this kind of event can put young people off mission altogether, like, if or when young people grow out of Soul Survivor, there is a danger they will grow out of following Jesus as well.

Richard 'Taff' Davies' paper: Is Buying, Selling Out?: Freedom, Consumerism and the Gospel. This was a great paper which was a critique of Pete Ward's Liquid Church and Zgymunt Bauman's Liquid Modernity, on which Liquid Church is based. Where Ward promotes a bold vision of the future of the church without a 'central acot fo worship.' Davies argued that Bauman's book plots the demise of society and the rise of the inidividual. So Ward uses liquidity postively, while Bauman negatively. Davies argued that ultimately Liquid Church leads young people to depart from community, rather than build it. We should see Liquid Modernity as a warning to the church, not as something to embrace. A consumer relationship is inappropriate as a relationship of the Christian to the church. If church becomes about consuming it cannot be about connecting with the other. See my own similar criticism of Liquid Church here.

Russell Haitch's paper: Bored to Death: Entertainment, Violence and A Sacramental Approach to Teaching Peace. Russell argued that in a culture of boredom, a return to a proper understanding of sacrament and the sacraments is the way to go, with which I could not argue.

The last paper of the conference was from Kenda Creasy Dean: Numb and Numb-er: Youth and the Church of 'Benign Whatever-sim.' This paper summarized the primary findings of the National Study for Youth and Religion - the most ambitious study of the religious practices of American teenagers ever undertaken, following over 3000 youth with researchers from numerous universities - and proposed possible implications of these findings for the church's ministry with young people. Basically, 40% of American young people are religious (these are Mormons, Conservative Protestants and Black Protestants). All other young people have a whatever attitude towards religion which can be summed as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. This says:

1. A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on
2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible
and by most world religions.
3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is
needed to resolve a problem.
5. Good people go to heaven when they die.

This probably reflects a lot of what members of our congregations and young people believe and think, because, Dean argued, 'this is precisely what we have taught them in church.' Although, outside the church and other religions, in the UK there is aversion to belief in God's existence (well in my RE classes anyway!). Dean says we need to confront and challenge this Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. We need to offer young people the skills to resistence.

It was good to see Simon Hall, Pete Ward and meet Jeremy Thompson, David Horrell and others. I chatted to the two latter guys about why the youthworkers we're producing are not theologians and why we need theological youthworkers. They were both sympathetic and in agreement. Jeremy's paper was called 'Towards a Theological Understanding of the Role(s) of the Christian Youth Worker,' but I was giving mine, so couldn't go. Apparently he's got a book coming out. David is in charge of CYM. I picked up Pete's new book Selling Worship and also Ian Stackhouse's Gospel-Driven Church. See Jonny Baker for some more reflections.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Reflections on Tsunami

I've not blogged on this and unfortunately I am in a very very busy week, so let me draw your attention to these links, which I found help in my reflections and prayers:

Maggi Dawn on tsunami
The past week has hit the whole world with the trauma of natural disaster, and the questions - some asked, some left hanging unarticulated - are painful and jagged and defy answers, neat, incomplete or otherwise.

I am left thinking that the theological questions, interesting and possible though they are when there is the time and space to explore them, are not the immediate intent of such questioning at times like this. People might well ask for a rational account of how God can be loving and powerful and yet apparently not act either in prevention or healing in such circumstances. But in the immediate circumstances the qustions are not so much theological as pastoral - questions of emotion and personal need, such as, 'Am I allowed to be this angry?' and 'will God still be there later?' Yes, and Yes: Surely, God (if God is there, and is worth worshipping) would expect nothing less of us.

Archbishop on the Asian tsunami

Tom Wright on tsunami

Praying and Preaching in the Face of Tsunami

You came at night
To bring your dawn
But this past week
The night grew darker, not lighter
The night colder, not warmer
The night longer
For a million people
And for all of us who look on in anguish
An awful power sweeping across this world of yours
Making us afraid
Wondering about Christmas after all

Christmas us, O Christmas God . . .

Christmas us all
Christmas us against our fears
You who came at midnight
You came to us at our other midnights
When dawn seemed intolerably far away
And we felt so vulnerable
You came and worked when no one else could
You came hidden but mighty
Under the very noses of those awful powers
That want to keep it always night
And us always afraid

Come, Christmas God
Who overthrows the darkness even in its own abode
For this is again a frightful hour

Unpacking the Box within which we think we have confined God

Sunday, January 02, 2005

New Year Resolutions

A day late and perhaps rather unexciting some things I resolve to do in 2005

1. To read as much as possible (scripture, theology, fiction)
2. To become a better a teacher
3. To learn more about the major world religions (in order to fulfil 2.)
4. To visit friends on a regular basis
5. To spend proper time with Hannah
6. To learn some DIY and basis car mechanic skills
7. To continue to learn the art of preaching
8. To develop KONNECTED as a web community

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Self-prescribed worship?

There's a good post on worship by Chris Erdman here. Here writes:

Is it possible that the trend toward individualism and isolationism and tribalism creates the possibility that we think we can be our own guides and pastors? Is it really a good thing that if we are irritated with what passes for worship on any given Sunday we can choose to walk out, head to a quiet place or to Starbucks with our Bible and read and worship on our own?
And I certainly am no advocate for walking out and finding one's own, self-prescribed experience of worship (doctors may self-prescribe medication, but know it is a dangerous practice). Frankly, I don't know it nearly well-enough to avoid it entirely, but that path is the path of dangerous self-delusion. Bad Christian community and a liturgy that limps may well be more healthy in the long run (there certainly are exceptions).
Lastly, if Christmas teaches us anything at all, it challenges our presumption that we know what is really good worship, that we can evaluate with much success the mystery of the liturgy. Christmas is about God present incognito--when we didn't recognize God at all! Might we in our presuming that we know where God really is to be found, pass right by Bethlehem on our way to the Temple in Jerusalem where worship is quite obviously better.

In a church, where I find the worship very difficult to engage with or appreciate - this is a welcome thought. There is more to church than the songs we sing or the words we speak and the idea that we know best is not always entirely true.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas one and all!!!

Difficult Gospel

Over the Christmas period I am reading Difficult Gospel: The Theology of Rowan Williams by Mike Higton and Improvisation: The Drama of Christians Ethics by Sam Wells. Both books look good. Although, as one expects from Rowan Williams' work, Difficult Gospel is fairly dense. Here's a flavour:

"A passion for orthodoxy, then, for right teaching and right learning of the Gospel, will take the form not of soap-box shouting, but of ecumenism - of building serious conversations between Christians who differ, not settling for platitudes which cover up the differences between us, but challenging one another and learning from one another in the hope of discovering more of the riches of Christ in one another."

More later.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve Sermon 2004

Ps 96, Isaiah 52:7-10; Luke 2:1-20; Psalm 97:1, 6-9

We all live according to a script; a script that tells us how to live, how to speak, what’s important and who to trust. This script we learn from our parents, our peers, and from our culture. In our world, in our culture there is a big script, which governs and dominants how we act. This script is highly dependent upon technology: technology has become part of the very fabric of our life, that is, we would struggle to live without it. Likewise, this script exists through shopping – we are encouraged to buy, consume, acquire and purchase everything and anything. Our culture has rejected the 10 Commandments and replaced it with Tesco ergo sum (I shop, therefore I am). Happiness is found through consumption. Another aspect of this script is the overwhelming desire to find well-being – we’ll try anything to be happy, especially if it promises a quick-fix. A final aspect of this governing script is our reliance on military might to provide us with power and security – in our post-9/11 climate our economic stability and our domestic safety is dependent on the intelligence services and our show of military muscle. This is perhaps most explicit in the United States, where we witnessed presidential elections on the very issue of which candidate could be trusted more to keep America safe. 9/11 is the key date in this dominant script, it is the day the world changed and the point at which the script we’ve described became even more entrenched as the screenplay of life.

The story of Christmas is written from a different script. It reveals a different way of telling the world’s story. The Christmas story says there is one Lord and it is not Caesar, it is not Herod, it is not Bush, or Blair or the god of consumerism. The Christmas story says there is only one who should be worshipped, and it is not Caesar, or Herod, or the god of celebrity. The Lord who is worshipped is Jesus.

The story of Christmas is part of a much larger story – a script with a long prologue or back-story, that reaches back through the names of kings – good and bad – men and women, to the beginning of Israel and the story of Abraham. The opening to Matthew’s gospel has this long list of names, to say: hey, the script we’ve all been a part of, is reaching its climax, the point in the story we’ve all been waiting for has arrived, the king we’ve all been waiting for has arrived. The story of Christmas is the story of the king’s arrival. This is the first thing we must recognise – God’s script – his big story – has been playing for a lot longer than the militarist-consumerist one that surrounds us. Which story do you trust more?

The story of Christmas tells the story of the King coming to rule, the arrival of the promised Lord, who will govern with justice and mercy, not the iron rod or the sword. In our reading from the gospel of Luke the story is framed with a reference to Emperor Augustus, king of the world. Is this simply an example of Luke’s careful concern for history, or is the point he’s making somewhat different? The script that was followed at the time of these events, went something like this: Augustus had turned the great Roman republic into an empire, with himself at the head; he proclaimed that he had brought justice and peace to the whole world; and, declaring his dead adoptive father (Julius Caesar) to be divine, styled himself as 'son of god'. Poets wrote songs about the new era that had begun; historians told the long story of Rome's rise to greatness, reaching its climax (obviously) with Augustus himself. Augustus, people said, was the 'saviour' of the world. He was its king, its 'lord'. Increasingly, in the eastern part of his empire, people worshipped him, too, as a god. (Now read Romans 1:1-6!) In this light, Luke’s reference to the Emperor, finds new meaning. This man, this king, this absolute monarch, lifts his little finger in Rome, and fifteen hundred miles away, in an obscure province, a young couple undertakes a hazardous journey, resulting in the birth of a child in a little town that just happens to be the one mentioned in the ancient Hebrew prophecy about the coming of the Messiah (Micah 5:2: But you, O Bethlehem, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days). The birth of this little boy is the beginning of a confrontation between the kingdom of God - in all its apparent weakness, insignificance and vulnerability - and the kingdoms of the world.

Luke is writing a different script; likewise, our readings from the Psalms and Isaiah are from a different script. The Lord – YAHWEH – is king and the gods of the peoples are mere idols. The gospel – the good news – is that God is king, and that he has not abandoned his people or his world, but he ‘has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations; and all the end of the earths shall see the salvation of our God.’ And the miracle of Christmas, or the amazing truth of Christmas, is that the ‘arm’ of the Lord is a small bare arm, reaching out at random from the manger, or perhaps towards his mother. This is our Lord. This is the King. This is the love of God revealed. This is the arm that invites us to follow, that is stretched out wide with welcome, and will later be nailed upon a cross.

Our Christmas script is one of celebration that the King has arrived, the Lord is here and begins a new act in God’s story that began with creation, and now brings salvation, and looks to the coming of new creation. And the question on this night before Christmas, is which script are you listening to? Which script do you trust in? Which script are you living by? Are you surrendering yourself to god of consumerism, where Christmas is simply a matter of trees, lights, presents and watching Shrek? Is Christmas merely a matter of survival, where the only thing that matters is lasting through to New Year? Or is Christmas the opportunity to welcome in the world’s true King, like the shepherds from the hillside? You see, when the real king arrives, when the true king appears; when Jesus moves into the world, into our world: the pretence is up. It becomes quickly clear that our claim to the throne is a sham; it does not take long to see that the gospel of economic happiness or the gospel of peace and security are found wanting and hollow in the shadow of the good news of King Jesus’ arrival. The thing about the other scripts is they don’t know how they’re going to end – they might make wishful promises, or big claims that peace, happiness, freedom and safety are just around the corner – but the reality is they cannot be certain. God’s script knows its ending. The arrival of Jesus is the sign and the promise fulfilled that God is going to set the world to rights; he will triumph over evil and establish his rule. This is not a God of empty promises, or unfulfilled dreams, but Immanuel, that is, this is God with us, God for us.

Where the numbers 9/11 now signal so much for the dominant script, the way we celebrate 25/12 reveals and witnesses that we trust in and live by another story; a story which claims that the day the world changed was when the king arrived and moved into the neighbourhood (John 1:14). This story demands that we place our allegiance in Jesus, and not Caesar - whatever Caesar might represent for us. It reminds us that there is only one Lord and it's not me. It reminds us that we cannot save ourselves and neither can we be safe behind a rhetoric of military strength or a strong economy, but that salvation belongs to God, who is Immanuel. This is our Christmas story, this is the script we live by and the God in whom we trust.

(I must acknowledge Walter Brueggemann and Tom Wright as sources in this sermon's writing)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Now and Then

This is an absolutely brilliant christmas poem by someone called dave hitchcock, found via Si Johnston’s blog. Enjoy!

Now and Then

Angels visit with amazing news
My legs are killing me in the ‘to pay’ queues
Virgin wonders and ponders on it
The cheapest item will be an ideal fit
Two girl friends pregnant births mutual joy
Batteries are not included with this particular toy

Uncontained happiness is a cue for a song
Curious looking potpourri with a pungent pong
Pregnant fiancée! Perhaps I’ll dump her
Wrong size shirt and reindeer jumper
Caesar Augustus wants to do a count
More brandy butter and the calories mount
Tinsel and turkey, shepherds and wise men
Jesus and Christmas  – every now and then

Bethlehem and David demand a trip
Tape and paper that easily rip
Journey on a donkey girl about to burst
If you want pudding eat your Brussels first
Knocking on the door and looking for a place
Turkeys by the dozen, Sherry by the case

The pain of childbirth and bloody placenta
The ugly silence and the unwritten card he should have sent her
Wrapped and steaming and laid in a manger
Another mouthful adds to the cholesterol danger
Crying in the straw and the sight of cattle drool
As set of spanners and some weird DIY tool
Tinsel and turkey, shepherds and wise men
Jesus and Christmas  – every now and then

Shepherds minding their own watching their flocks
Aftershave and handkerchiefs and strange pattern stocks
Angels show off in the clear night sky
Go on have another mince pie
Shepherd fall down as the heavens let rip
Where do satsumas come from if there is no pip?

Glory to God and peace to men
Granddad has nodded off and is asleep again
Shepherds gather round looking aghast
Three o’clock, BBC and Queen’s broadcast
Mary, Joseph, Jesus is that really it
Bespectacled old lady prattles on for a bit
Tinsel and turkey, shepherds and wise men
Jesus and Christmas  – every now and then

Exit shepherds and enter Kings
Piles of rubbish and brand new things
Drawn to the place by a moving star
Is it time to get the olds back in the car?
Frankincense, myrrh and bright shining gold
Kids running round not doing what they’re told

Back on the camel via a different route
Who’s the white haired guy in the bright red suit?
Bethlehem’s been fun but its time to go
Global warming means there’s no more snow
Of to the land of pyramid and sphinx
Will I ever get through all that lynx?
Tinsel and turkey, shepherds and wise men
Jesus and Christmas  – every now and then

Herod’s pissed off and children scream
I’ll wake up in a minute it’s just a bad dream
News filters out and the families mourn
Angelic voices from choristers on the lawn
And so begins a vulnerable life
Thick Christmas icing bends and buckles the knife

People walking in darkness have seen a great light
Why does Monopoly always end in a fight?
For unto us a child is born
Time to call it a day as the kids begin to yawn
The whole of humanity has been given a son
Another Christmas Day has been done
Tinsel and turkey, shepherds and wise men
Jesus and Christmas  – every now and then

On his shoulders the government will be
Worth all the planning – we’ll wait and see
We shall call Him Almighty God
Children and grandparents in the land of nod
Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace
Maybe next year we’ll check out the church and the priest
And His righteousness, justice and peace will know no end
It’s good to remember Jesus every now and then

© Dave Hitchcock 2004

Review of the Year

2004 Highlights . . .

Brimham Rocks Trip with Hannah, Nick & Beth.
Surviving the Desert alternative service.
Cornerstone 10th Anniversary Celebration.
Starting Blog.
The Future of the People of God Conference with Tom Wright.
Lemmings / Soul in the City
Getting married to the beautiful Hannah.
Completing MA in Youthwork and Theological Education.
Becoming an RE teacher.
The start of the Lounge (11-16s wednesday group)
12-hour sponsored trampoline jump
Four Gospels, One Jesus alternative service