Tag Archives: Changing the World

The Challenge

25 km mountain biking

10 km cross country run

1 km kayak

And the odd army assault course thrown in for good measure.

Also known as the 2010 Innovista Challenge.

All on a cold November morning in exactly 2 months time.

Why oh why would I inflict such pain on myself? A question especially those of you who know my current exercise levels might be asking, and a mere 5 weeks after I return from honeymoon.

The answer really is about changing the world. I’m setting up Innovista in Ireland at the moment. At a time when the population has lost faith in the politicians, the bankers, and the church, now, more than ever is the time when Ireland (north and south) needs young leaders of integrity who will have the character and skills to bring hope and lasting change to their communities, churches and society as a whole. That is what we are about. Already we are working with young leaders who are working in the inner city of Dublin, helping kids at risk of dropping out of school with homework, providing friendship, and sharing Jesus. We are also providing training and support for young people giving a year to work and serve in (some struggling) churches across Ireland, who are helping those churches to engage with their local communities.

In order to develop, support and train these young leaders to bring hope and transformation to the communities they are working in, we need the resources to make that possible.

We are looking for people to help provide those resources  by:

1. Taking part in the challenge and raising sponsorship – find out how here

2. Sponsoring me through my Justgiving page

(Should you wish you can also give regularly and tax efficiently in € by clicking here or in £ by clicking here)

The internet as a force for change?

I’ve been reading ‘Here Comes Everybody’ by Clay Shirky. It’s a fascinating analysis of how change can happen when people come together, and how the internet can remove the obstacles to collective action. It’s full of fascinating stories examples from the formation and growth of Voice of the Faithfulflash mobbing as political action in Belarus and the campaigns against airlines and banks. It made me wonder how many of us engage in action on the internet – so here’s a poll and we’ll see how engaged my 4 readers are:

Developing young Christian leaders in Ireland

I have dreams of God’s kingdom coming here in Ireland, dreams of that kingdom breaking through in every sphere if Irish life and society that ripples around the globe. In those dreams it is young people, listening to the Spirit who make those dreams a reality. Young people from the inner city, young people with African and Eastern European roots, and young middle class Irish people all working together. All the colours bleeding into one as an Irish prophet once said…

So how can we make that a reality?

What would it look like to invest in and develop young Christian leaders in Ireland who allow the kingdom to break in? Who will lead God’s mission in 21st century Ireland in innovative ways, who aren’t afraid to take risks?

This is where I would like your help.  Helping make this a reality is a part of my job. What are the key areas these young leaders need to develop if this is to become a reality? What are the experiences they need to have? What do they need to learn, not just in theory but in practice? What sort of foundations do they need to have?

What do you think?

‘Our Father’ – faith as communal more than individual

It’s blindingly obvious but yet something I’ve failed to take much note of the number of times I’ve said the Lord’s prayer.

The fact that when the disciples ask Jesus how to pray and he tells them not to say ‘my Father’ but ‘our Father’ reinforces that we are called to join a community, the family of God. When we address our Father, the use of the phrase ‘our’ reminds us that we cannot exist in our own selfish little bubble demanding our own rights and wants, but the father that we address isn’t just mine but the father of all his children, of all the Christian community. In this small simple word profound truth is expressed that realigns my view on the world and those around me in the church.

No matter how different they are, no matter how much they may disagree with me, or have hurt me, we share the same Father. We receive the same relentless love, the same undeserved grace. It would be so much easier if he was just ‘my father’ but the our calls me to a more difficult road, a road walked by our elder brother, one that is redemptive, that embraces the difficulty of forgiveness. A road that can bring the joy of true reconciliation instead of the bitterness of avoidance or a pretend forgiveness. A road down which if we all had the courage to walk could change the world…

Vocational Neighbouring

A phrase and concept voiced at an ‘in conversation with…’ event hosted by the excellent EBM/skainos yesterday. Bob Lupton was the conversationalist in question, sharing his experiences of mission in an urban context in Atlanta, Georgia. Wish I’d known about him when I had an enforced stay there. Bob works in inner city Atlanta, and after a decade travelling in, moved there with his family.

The concept of vocational neighbouring grabbed me – its something I have discussed, argued about and pondered, and that something others are trying to have a lash at.

Bob has some great turns of phrase – especially the question – does God have an opinin on where he deploys his saints? When we are making decisions about buying houses and where to live the common elements to are  shops, schools, safety etc, but how much does our desire to see the kingdom of God break in influence those decisions? How much do we think about the areas of the city that need our gifts and skills and abilities? It is true that often the communities in which we exist are more than just the geographical one in which we reside but that doesn’t mean we ignore our location. I think it can be true that where we live, or perhaps how we live where we live can have significant influence on our ability to be redemptive influences. In terms of redemptive influence I guess when it comes to vocational neighbouring it is a long slow patient, incarnational process.

In the block of flats where I live this is pretty difficult – no-one seems prepared to engage in conversation, or too willing to engage in relationship. It is a block of anonymous people who don’t interact. That’s why I prefer houses, at least then you are more likely to see and be able to chat to your neighbours. Bob also talked about how caring, achieving neighbours can dramatically influence people. It is an interesting thought that about making possibility visible. He told a story of his son applying for a part-time job, coming back and telling his neighbourhood friends that this company were looking part-time workers. Subsequently 5 of them ended up working there. Perhaps being a neighbour is about bringing hope by demonstrating that change is possible in our lives, and using the connections we have to be neighbours to those around us.

There was also some intriguing discussion on whether churches ‘compete’ with communities –  how the ‘best’ Christians are often ‘un’ neighbours as their time is consumed by serving the programmes of their church. This raises the question – is the work of the church (or the institution) sometimes in opposition to the work of the kingdom in a particular place? Do churches ‘consume’ our time and talent instead of releasing us to serve in the community?



Integrated Education – time to take it seriously?

I remember reading Brian Mawhinney’s book and being fascinated and appalled by the vitriol that came his way for his part in bringing in integrated education.  I’ve long thought that part of our problem of a divided society begins with education. When children from differing religious backgrounds don’t get the opportunity to mix, no wonder suspicions and caricatures grow. I grew up in a loyalist part of Belfast where we were told you could tell Catholics because their eyes were closer together.  Zoomtard (although growing up in the Republic of Ireland) was told the same thing about Protestants. My attitudes began to change through school – not that we were an integrated school – it was mostly protestant but was mixed. In fact I think it is one of the only secondary schools in Northern Ireland which has a school motto in Gaelic – it certainly was back then. As I grew up with friends from differing religious backgrounds, the other ‘side’ became people who were my friends who I loved and laughed with. The integrated education debate has stirred again with Johann Hari’s comment piece in today’s Independent, although to say:

But here’s the good news: there is a proven way out. There is a policy that has been shown to erode these hatreds. They are called integrated schools – and the parents of Northern Ireland are calling for them. Today, only five per cent of children in Northern Ireland go to a mixed school. The other 95 per cent are segregated in sectarian enclaves where they project feverish fantasies on to the other side. Violence is an inevitable bedsore where two uncomprehending tribes rub past each other in a small space.

But that 5 per cent hold the key. A six-year study by Queen’s University, Belfast has looked at the long-term consequences of being schooled alongside The Enemy. They interviewed adults who attended these schools – and found that whatever their parents’ attitudes, they were “significantly more likely” to oppose sectarianism. They had “far” more friends across the divide,

Is perhaps a little overly optimistic.

The issue is certainly raising hackles within the hierarchy of the Catholic church. Although more related to the issue of  school management reform, Cardinal Brady is using the argument of protecting religious freedom for maintaining the status quo and safeguarding the “right of parents to have their children educated at Catholic schools”. In the broader picture of division and sectarianism how should the church respond?  Is playing the religious freedom card an appropriate resonse? One does have to ask the question – are the Catholic Bishops who called academic selction at 11 an ‘injustice’ willing to bring the same biblical understanding to ending their grip on schools? Are the Protestant churches prepared to stand with the Catholic Church and call for an end to segregated education? No matter what we teach children in citizenship classes, it is only when friendships can be built that prove the divide is one constructed for the sectarian means of some is a hollow one…

It’s not the quick fix, but it certainly would be an important step…

A Just Life

justlifeJustLife is an initiative set up by a group of us  based around a Tearfund  event last Saturday called ‘Invest for Life’.  JustLife is a space dedicated to exploring the connections between faith, money, justice and lifestyle.

‘Invest for Life’ was about  money – the theology and practice of giving, budgeting, investing and using our money for the good of ourselves and the world around us.

JustLife is designed to help us go deeper on some of the issues that are raised at the event. Every Wednesday until the 25 March, a group of us involved in Invest for Life will be posting short pieces discussing topics like fair-trade, ethical banking, giving and sustainable living. We hope you’ll feel free to join in the conversation.

I’ve just posted my contribution on giving


the period of expectant waiting and preparation for the nativity, the incarnation of Jesus..

It’s not something that the church tradition I grew up really made much of but something I’ve been discovering much more of in the last few years.

The onset of advent means the return of the marvellous mockingbird’s leap – a blog with the intention of helping develop the habit of being there to the world and noticing the grace that is present in each day.

Other advent delights include Divine’s dark chocolate advent calendar. And if you are sickend by the materialism, but growing weary of buying goats check out:

Long live the storytellers and prophets

Last night i was at a gig by Martyn Joseph – a Welsh singer songwiter, who has been plying his trade for a couple of decades. He’s no chart topper, but then he’s still around unlike a lot of today’s manufactured pop. How old do I sound? Over the course of 3 hours (with a break in the middle), he played songs and answered questions about his music and life. At times he was a stand up comedian, a master storyteller gripping us with his stories, at times he was the angry prophet railing against closure of welsh mines, of senseless loss of life, celebrity and politicians, at times he had us singing along to Elvis, and at other times the beauty and tenderness of his songs brought tears to our eyes. His songs are in many ways simple – about life and what he sees, whether in the news or an old lady in the post-office. He has that gift of involving us in the songs, of bringing melody and lyrics to express that which often we find difficult to express. I long for more musicians like him – the storytellers and prophets not afraid to write raw honest songs, who aren’t at the mercy of the record company or swayed by the whims of the buying public..

biofuels and the real credit crisis

The ‘global credit crunch’ is dominating our news stories, economy, spending and even making it into church sermons. People are worried about the drop in value of the property market – which well certainly in parts of East Belfast was artificially inflated by greedy property investors. Economic growth is slowing, the exchange rate with the euro is not good (for my cross border forays, good for those coming to the pound-zone). In this worry and obsession with the good times slowing, I am grateful for papers like the Independant who can remind us of the real crisis in the global economy. I’ve been reading snippets of this over the last months, but few news outlets are prepared to make it front page news. Maybe partly because it puts our issues in perspective and gives the Daily Mail less to be alarmist about – although I’m sure they’ll find a way to blame immigrants.

It seems we have got ourselves (globally) in trouble with environmental alternatives. Biofuels the great answer to rising fossil fuel transportation costs are causing a real crisis among the poorest countries in the world. Crops that are used for biofuels are also used by milions for food. So when the increasing demand for fuel drives prices up, that means the cost of basic staple foods rises too, and who does it affect the most? The poorest. Those with no voice. This isn’t a little problem. There have been protests in Haiti, the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Tortilla Riots in Mexico and protests in Italy. Western farmers are enjoying the bumper profits but at what cost? Newspapers have been reporting this and warning that we may be sleepwalking towards a food crisis. Ordinary punters like us can change the minds of the powerful, but with this one its so huge – where do we start – any suggestions?

[I’m off to suggest to Tearfund this may be a badger – who to badger is the question though..]