A great day at Synod in Silsden, when there was a District vote both to approve the Touchstone future plans and to give full support to the fund raising process! It may have seemed a long way from Bradford, in a small Yorkshire town but the people of Silsden literally built their new church stone by stone from the old one! The plans for Touchstone now need to go for Connexional approval, so we don't have the green light yet, but we are certainly feeling supported and encouraged by the District - the wonderful woman in the row behind immediately offered to run a quiz to raise money ifor us and we sold ALL of our prototype 'curry in a bag'!
I got caught in a traffic jam as I drove back into the city, and the reason soon became apparent! What a good reminder of our incarnational ministry among the people of Bradford, Britain's first majority Muslim city. We need lots of support to stay here, to be authentically Christian and to listen and learn alongside people of other cultures and faiths. And that is a good thought to begin with on September 11th, the tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Centre. Like the people of Silsden and the people of New York, we need to build peace, stone by stone.
Ok, so this isn't the CHELC Conference, because I forgot to take any pictures, this is Chris Howson at Greenbelt sporting a pair of 'Liberation Pants'!
The CHELC Conference was for Higher Education Chaplains (hence the picture of Chris - Anglican chaplain at Bradford Uni - showing how mature and responsible chaplains have to be at all times!)
I travelled the full length of the M1 to get to High Leigh to give a talk on 'Sustaining Community'; in doing so I not only talked about Touchstone and Somewhere Else, but mused on the word 'host'. From the Latin root 'Hostere' meaning suffering, the English word 'host' can refer to both a 'gathering of people in a crowd' or 'hospitality'. I muse that these two meanings come together in 'the heavenly host' a gathering of the people of God in the hospitality of Christ.
Now that's not pants theology!
For a while now we have been investigating how we can have creative space that is flexible and mobile - then we discovered the pop up yurt man! By a natty piece of engineering he has designed a yurt that is both flexible and portable - and won't blow away in the wind! We are working with a fab artist to design how we can decorate and use this piece of kit to help Touchstone to offer listening venues and creative arts space in the community
Happy birthday to the man who has had at least 60 cakes made in his honour!
Greenbelt is really challenging for those of us that live life in very different settings. For many Christians it is a connection with an alternative sort of church, a chance to think radical thoughts. For us at Touchstone it feels more like a connection with the central ground, a coming into harbour but not what makes life real. So many white faces, so many middle class values .... it was good to be invited to speak and to share some thoughts from the edge, or is it the centre??
We wove a stole and Louise embroidered it, it was a bit ragged at the edges (who isn't?) but made from Bradford materials, Yorkshire wool, local cloth and dye .... a gift for our new District Chair, Roger Walton .... some might call it 'rustic' but we reckon it is 'real
lectures, countryside, kids stuff ...
... not just for the kids ...
... creative arts triumphs ....
... the Methodist School of Fellowship takes 130 people to Swanwick, all ages, all nationalities, and mixes them together for a week of relaxation and learning. I both spoke at and ran two afternoon workshops ... and had a lot of interesting conversations with all kinds of people.
The environment was an ongoing theme with both theological and practical reflection on how ordinary Methodists can make a difference. Bible Study reflections, led by Roger Walton, each morning encouraged a deep engagement with Scripture - not just the easy bits!
Quite a surprising gathering really.
Maya has just got back from Guatemala, having learned how to weave on sticks (amongs other things) This is a whole body activity which involves tying warp onto a door frame and then around the weaver's waist. We had a go ....!
A visit from the BBC, making a documentary for Radio4, brought five local Muslim women together at Touchstone to talk about how life had changed for them since 9/11. It was good that we could create a safe enough space for this to happen, and they chatted for over an hour about how they had needed to become more articulate about their faith since those events, so that they could inform their children that most Muslims sought peace and integration. An impressive gathering which provoked deep conversation and a lot of questions
Learn, discuss, reflect, worship, share hospitality ...... how liberating it is to be with a group of people of all ages and cultures, wrestling with the Bible, sharing open hearted and honest conversation, thinking about what it means in their lives, opening up spaces for worship and engaging with good conversation (and coffee!) This is the process that Liberation Theology engenders, and it is also possible .....