Honest Christianity – how to respond when bombs explode?

lilies

When I wrote last week’s blog on unexploded bombs, I had no idea of the tragedy of another type of bomb that would be exploded by a suicide bomber in Manchester the following day. How should we respond when someone decides to explode a real bomb with the intention of harming children and young people? Obviously we weep with those who weep, our empathetic hearts break with those bereaved and injured. Many rush to help, support, pray, and the very best of humanity is expressed when we see others hurting and distressed. One of the many voices of life suggested that the city of Manchester will choose love not hate as their response.

We also ask why?  Asking why is not a doubting question but a real one in the light of such sadness. It is also a brave question. It is brave because we do not always know what answers will be revealed or if there is even an answer at all that will answer our questions. This week questions of why and responsibility have been asked by the families, observers, helpers, local, national and international leaders. Was something missed that could have been picked up and the bomber stopped? Learning lessons is a universal helpful response to tragedies. But questions of why quickly move to accusations of blame.

Questions of responsibility are necessary and helpful but do not have to be motivated by finding or locating blame but bravely to learn and understand. Personally I hope we do learn how this happened so that lessons can be learnt and more people who wish to cause harm are stopped before it happens .

But I also hope in time and hopefully quickly, we will also ask the question of why, what causes one person or persons to feel this is an appropriate action or reaction?  Simple answers of ‘they are evil’ will only superficially serve us.  I wonder if lessons  learnt from conflict resolution processes in other places could stand us in good stead as we look to ways in which we might respond. More fundamental explorations are needed and deserved around the longer, wider, deeper narrative of why, and a greater desire for peace and justice than retribution.

Friday photo – Centre for Chaplaincy with Children and Young People

Chaplaincy cardChaplaincy launch

On Wednesday we launched a new project – with a very nice cake!  More seriously, we have observed a growing interest in chaplaincy in a wide range of settings and are finding that more students are interested in this area of work.  With the expertise of Paul in healthcare and our colleague Nigel Roberts in education we decided that the time was right to launch a Centre to build on that.  If you are interested in anything we offer then do look at the website and email cccyp@stjohns-nottm.ac.uk if you want to follow anything up.

https://stjohns-nottm.ac.uk/hmsec/youth-children-s-ministry/centre-for-chaplaincy-with-children-and-young-people/

Wondering Wednesdays – so they’re leaving


So yesterday we said goodbye to our third years. I counted up, that is the fifteenth group I have said goodbye to since the Midlands Institute for Children Youth and Mission started back in 1999. This year it was Nigel’s turn as year tutor to sit with each person and hear them reflect on their time on the course and reflect back some of what we saw too.

We next meet at the end of October when they graduate and it will be good to meet again and hear what God has done in the interim. There are moves, weddings, job applications and who knows what ahead for some of them between them and now.

I am particularly proud of this group as they have overcome so much and persevered and persevered and supported each other and cheered each other on so we could get to yesterday. Our leaving service involved each person playing their part and they took away wooden blocks with messages from each other and God on them.

On Friday night I was at the Quinton YFC fundraiser and watched Dani again organize a brilliant evening – another of our MCYM graduates who has done so much in fulfilling her calling and making life different, making life better for many young people. I am so encouraged seeing what our students go on to do, I do not underestimate what a privilege it is to be called to a job such as mine when I get to see people grow, develop, blossom and amaze me in how they make a unique contribution in their particular place in the world.

God bless the class of 2017.

Honest Christianity – unexploded bomb

bomb

This week here in Birmingham, during redevelopment an unexploded WWII bomb was found in Aston. Lives, homes and businesses were under threat, it was chaos, people moved out of their homes, roads closed, businesses made inaccessible while the bomb was made as safe as possible and a controlled explosion prepared for and carried out. We were only marginally inconvenienced, my journey,15 mins usually, was 2.5 hours on Tuesday morning.

It got me thinking and reflecting, what unexploded bombs do we have in our lives? Or even have we dropped into others lives? What harm and damage which has been done or said to us has or did lay dormant? Things just sit there and then suddenly something happens to bring it to the surface. Can we help people do a controlled explosion in pastoral or therapeutic care? What about the guy in the digger who first found it? How do you know when to stop digging?

Originally, the intentionality of the bomb was to harm and cause damage but then became indiscriminate as to where it actually was dropped. Systemic oppression still exists and can do physical and emotional harm. We may still be getting caught in the fallout – sometimes we are at the wrong place at the wrong time. There are individual, family, community, national, international, global bombs – there are bombs that will come back and impact us. we felt the blast a mile away .
Theologically, some things will not heal this side of eternity. Peter lived the rest of life knowing that he denied Jesus. The wounds of Jesus were still apparent in his risen body – wounds shouldn’t be vanished away. In our Christian hope – cross and crown are both significant.

Just because weapons of harm have been dormant for many years, does not mean they are not dangerous. Let’s be gracious with ourselves and others and be prepared for when the churning of life brings new things to the surface. They may need to explode, but let’s offer and help create a safe environment for them to be dealt with.

Friday photo – pilgrims’ steps


These pilgrims’ steps are not an easy walk, uphill, uneven… They are on St Michael’s Mount, one of my favourite places and I imagine the Benedictine monks who may have walked this way before me. To be a pilgrim is one of the hymns that is stuck in my mind from my primary school, each day I take pilgrim’s steps but not every day am I so mindful as when I see the sign and climb knowing that the end of the journey will bring joy and wonder.

Wondering Wednesdays – glimpses from home

Oxford vision

On Sunday I quoted a Billy Joel song in my sermon – not sure it was much appreciated! The song was you’re my home and the line was “whenever we’re together that’s my home”. I was talking about Jesus being the way being in part about relationship.

I have called this blog glimpses from home because I grew up in the Diocese of Oxford, I was baptized and confirmed there and there is still a sense of home. When yesterday I saw a tweet from the Bishop of Oxford with this vision I had that longing for home feeling – contemplative, compassionate and courageous are words that I have brought with me from my Christian upbringing, I can articulate how each of them have been formed in me. I don’t always do brilliantly at courageous but as a virtue it is one that I really admire in others and are challenged by choices, actions, words.  These words reflect the sort of home I find in relationship with Jesus, they shape and inspire me.

Honest Christianity – what a great slogan

pineapple

This picture could describe the mandate of being a Christian, a positive self image, because we are a child of the King and the fruit of the Holy Spirit should pour out of us, especially when cut. I saw this is in a shop in
Malvern. It is not quite the beatitudes, but it is a good stab at contextualizing. I encourage students that you can theologically reflect on anything so a pineapple is as good as anything.

Today we had our annual memorial service and the member of our team who was preaching, Margaret, stressed to the families that how they were an inspiration to us because of how they sought to find a hope and trust in God in the light of what had happened to them. Amen Margaret, well said. Over 300 of them representing 60 plus families came to remember, cry and celebrate the gift and love of their children and they’re still sweet in the middle. We honour them as they come to honour their children.