On Sunday 30th October, All Saint’s Day, we shared a Service of the Word liturgy of “Thanksgiving for Moot” – looking back at where we’ve come from as well as ahead to the future. Tim Dendy (Moot veteran and churchwarden) shared his look back at Moot and how we’ve arrived where we are now. We hope you enjoy listening to an abbreviated version of the Moot story!
This Moot podcast includes a homily and then space to respond with a time of music. In this podcast Michael Radcliffe explores the theme of following Jesus in the complexity of our contemporary world. Drawing on the lectionary readings of Ephesians 1.3-14 and Mark 6.14-29, Mike explores how our baggage becomes a barrier to experiencing God and in particular Jesus which requires us to reach beyond are self-obsessions and self-preoccupations.
Michael L Radcliffe is one of the founding participants of the Moot Community, an artist who also works as a plumber. To see some of Michael’s art please see artbizness.com This podcast was recorded in the Eucharist Service on the 15th July 2012 at the home of the Moot Community at the Guild Church of St Mary Aldermary. Music was performed by Peter Thomas and Ciara Lowther.
For those who know me, I started my journey into Christian spirituality as a complete atheist who distrusted the church. Amongst the many great teachers that helped me to gain an understanding and language for faith, was the nineteenth century writer, Soren Kierkegaard. He was very much a man ahead of his time, a committed contemplative Christian, highly influenced by the thinking of Socrates, and was passionate about a mystical and God-led form of the faith and Church. If he was around now, I hope that he would feel quite at home in our little Moot Community. So why am I so encouraged by this guy?
Well firstly, Kieregaard really struggled with the Church as he experienced it in Denmark. For him there was far too much certainty and the language of ‘arriving’. For him Christianity had become too rational, too certain, almost like sitting back and not really living it. For Kierkegaard (and like the contemplatives, monastics, mendicants and mystics) you never arrive. In fact, he was very critical of forms of Christianity that were too intellectual, too wordy, where people didn’t live it. For him, Christianity is never about arriving, about not being certain, and about faith being an ongoing process as we seek to grow in our becoming. So rather than ‘being’ and the language of certainty, Kierkegaard is all about seeking, of transformation and ‘becoming’. For him dialogue was key, to open up what the Holy Spirit was seeking to reveal rather than dualistic debate about who is right and wrong. For Kierkegaard discipleship is about seeking, seeking God and revelation in the ordinary, getting beyond our self-deception and the ills of the false-self and the ego, to reach beyond the limitations of our own thinking and feeling (sound familiar?).
I really like this emphasis on not taking ourselves too seriously, and this call to humility and the discipline of really listening in prayer to the divine. I love his idea of God’s love unsettling us to find our true selves. I think many of us are not very happy at the moment. Many of us are feeling cornered and having to face up to parts of our personality we don’t like very much. Well if Kierkegaard was listening to this, he would argue that this is the Christian path of the open-endness of God, that demands a response. For him, all our thinking and explorations are utterly subjective and will never be objective. For him objectivity is a distorter – a deadly sin, something that takes the life out of us and takes us away from God.
Just by accident, I came across a BBC Radio 4 Podcast on Kierkegaard the other day, which unpacks all of these themes far more eloquently than I can. So to listen to this click here, and scroll down to number 18. You won’t regret it. I have suddenly realised, that a lot of the themes I explored in my book ‘God Unknown’ are inspired by this particular approach to Christianity. It is interesting how Rohr, Brueggemann, Moltmann and others of my teachers resonate with the writings of Kieregaard. What a hero!
The beautiful gift of his writing, is that the Christian spiritual path is open to anyone who is willing to listen and seek God, and realise that we can in ourselves be very blind and deaf to where the Spirit seeks to draw us. However, if we are able to face our false deceptions, let go of our need to be in control or right/certain, then we can reach beyond and encounter a God who never stands still.
So what is the challenge for Moot? I still think that we are massively over-rational even though we have focused on the contemplative. Many of us have relied on being bright or intelligent to get through difficult times in life. This then is like a coping strategy. It then becomes a great danger that we hold too tightly to this. This was demonstrated to me hugely when we did the Lectio Divina training the other day – we completely got stuck at the interpretation stage and ended up in a huge hermeneutical debate rather than anything to do with prayer and God speaking subjectively. It is this subjectivity we need to hold onto, to not take our selves sooo seriously. Letting go to listen to God, to quite literally get out of the way of God!!
Mini Moots are a vital part of our life in Moot as a new-monastic community. Moot is very much a network church, with people spread out all over London and beyond. Our time together then is very scarce, and mini-moots are an opportunity to meet with around 6 to 8 mooters for food, support, study, prayer and some form of spiritual practice coming from our shared rhythm of life.
A new mini moot is about to start on Saturday brunch times, which is seeking new participants whose work life and other commitments make tuesday attendance very difficult. This starts on 14 January at 11:00. Nic will be emailing those attending the saturday mini-moot shortly. If you are interested please get in touch with Ian or Nic, as this will be starting up soon. Please note that we are expecting people to be committed to turning up to these groups regularly once you start, and that you shouldn’t belong to more than one mini-moot. This new mini-moot will move around areas of central London.
Most other mini-moots meet up on Tuesday evenings timed to fit in with our usual moot programme of events and services, these are currently situated at Mansion House EC4M, Borough SE1, Tooting/Streatham SW16/17, Forest Hill SE23. With the new London overground services, these various mini-moots are accessible for those living in East, West and North London.
So if you are interested in joining a mini-moot, please do get in contact . To be able to join a mini-moot, we do expect people to have become participants in the community demonstrated by joining our electoral roll and attending some of our weekly events on a regular basis. Do speak to me Ian Mobsby if you are wanting to do this.
Well, it’s May 22nd. And as you may have noticed, despite the hopes and expectations of Harold Camping and his followers, the world did not end yesterday.
Yesterday, sceptics across the U.S. organised “Rapture parties”, and talk-show hosts joked about Judgment Day. At the restaurant where my sister and I had lunch, the end of the world was *the* topic of (lighthearted) conversation among our servers and fellow diners. Thousands of people even RSVPed to the facebook event “Post-Rapture Looting”. It’s easy to mock Harold Camping. After all, he already predicted the world would end once before, in 1994. This time, he calculated the date of the Apocalypse based on the belief that Noah’s flood began exactly 7,000 years ago, and that Christ died on 1 April 33CE. Hmmm.
But dig a little deeper into the media coverage, and Camping’s prophecy begins to hit closer to home. The New York Times reported yesterday that relationships are strained in families divided by belief. One teenager (whose parents stopped saving for university in light of the coming Apocalypse) states, “My mom has told me directly that I’m not getting into heaven.” Conversely, one believer who had just said goodbye to his unbelieving family expressed his deep sorrow that they wouldn’t be with him in heaven. Both of these sentiments are painfully familiar to those of us who have strayed from our childhood religion, or who have embraced new expressions of faith alone, later in life.
It’s also difficult to read about the man who spent his life’s savings on publicity materials to spread the word about the Apocalypse, the woman who fled an abusive relationship and found meaning through Camping’s teachings, or the man who said he planned to euthanize his beloved pets before the Rapture. Where are these people now? What are they thinking? Now that they’ve lost everything chasing a lie, will they lose their faith altogether? Will they be able to trust again?
Ultimately, I have to believe that Camping’s followers were driven by love—love of the divine and of humanity. Only this, I hope, could have empowered them to endure apathy and mockery as they bade farewell to family and friends and attempted to convert unbelievers before it was too late. Likewise, the only legitimate response to the “crazies” is love—by recognising that their extreme behaviour stems from the same profoundly human search for truth and significance that drives our own faith.
In October 2010, Ian Mobsby gave this recorded paper to the gathered Fresh Expressions Roundtable Number 5 for the promotion of Fresh Expressions of the Catholic and Contemplative Traditions at Lambeth Palace. This paper addresses the subject of the Challenge of Mission and Formation with Fresh Expressions of the Church.
Since Aaron’s post about how transformative he’s been finding the virtues postures and practices, and the discussion it started about anger, I’ve been doing a bit of research. I’m troubled by Old Testament wrath / New Testament mercy ‘flip-side of God’ theology. I don’t believe God changed, ‘like shifting shadows’ as James says, nor that God has moods or gets provoked and vindictive.
So I looked up some Hebrew words for ‘anger’ used in the bible last week, and found that physical imagery is inherent in many – aph depicts flaring nostrils; charah and chemah are about heated indignation. God is often described (about forty instances across the Old Testament) roused to wrath of the nostril-flaring variety. This troubles me.
But something that puts God’s wrathful moments in context for me is the as-frequent phrase ‘slow to anger’, also written as ‘long-suffering’, and to me that deliberately illustrates exactly how I’d aspire to see myself deal with anger when it flares in me, in my true, most whole or healthy self, just as with moments of gluttony, selfishness, pride or apathy. Hence ‘be still and know’, ‘wait on the Lord’, and ‘flee from anger and bitterness’.
I think Jesus was doing this when he crouched and drew in the dust, instead of reacting at once to the people ready to stone the woman they’d caught in the middle of adulterous sex. I think he was asserting space for momentary, flared-up anger to diffuse, both theirs and possibly his own.
Also, the very fact that these are physical words presents their illustrative quality to me. I am not massively into turning everything into metaphor, but I do think it’s safe to say God is not being described to us as a being with actual nostrils to flare, or blood pressure to rise. Nor, I want to suggest, is angry action innate to God’s being – God is love. God is not justice, – God holds and wields all justice. But he does not simply hold and wield love. He is love.
I happen to agree with Christopher Jamison and the Desert Fathers he cites, that anger isn’t really a good sign of anything. I don’t think getting angry is ever really just about the thing that we think, in the moment, that it’s about. I think I, and all of us to a greater or lesser degree, are sitting on a big old keg of old hurts and injustices. And when we get angry about things in a particular instant, I think that keg of anger comes into play.
A couple of mooters pointed out to me the danger here of getting into dualistic territory: ‘anger = bad’; ‘getting frustrated = bad’. I’m glad to have the community round me to navigate this territory.
And righteous energy for a cause is true and a good thing – I’m a bit of a cause-carrier sometimes – but when it’s provoked by anger, I have to take time to think and to still that, until it has aired and become something more calm and constructive.
To stay in my anger is to sit in the murkier bits of my psychology. To feel it, acknowledge it, but to be slow to it and patient with it when it comes – these I think reflect a God of love – healthy care of myself and exploration of all my feelings and their roots, but also therefore enabling my outward actions to be wholly love.
This is ‘slow to anger’ – taking the space to consider both my own reaction, and also to consider whoever has provoked me as a whole human being, with more going on than I can justifiably feel irritated with. Love is not only for some human beings, according to what they’ve done. “To know all is to forgive all”. Even love for one person, a victim, I don’t believe should ever provoke us to retribution towards another. And that pause to bring us back to a place of complete love, I think, is what Jesus was doing when he wrote in the sand for a while.
In the second of two events, Dave Tomlinson leads a Moot Wednesday evening gathering to discuss his new book Re-enchanting Christianity. Dave explored the idea of a ‘second innocence’ developed by a number theologians, to explore the reconstruction of a faith that can engage with the reality of the twenty first century. For more information on Dave’s book, click here. Dave has been a major support to the Moot Community. We hope to develop greater links between St Lukes Church Holloway and the Moot Community. Click here to listen to the podcast.
People are no less spiritual today than they were in the past, but they are a lot less religious – at least, in a formal sense. A disconnect has ocurred between religion and spirituality: people no longer see religion or Church as the natural setting in which to explore or express their spiritual aspirations. So they are drifting away from churches in droves. However, they are not doing so because they no longer believe in God, or because they have no hunger or interest in the spiritual aspect of life, but because, in their experience of Church, they are neither finding a faith they can believe in, not an existential spirituality that can sustain their souls in an age of anxiety and estrangement.