Joining the dots…

It has been instructive during the last few days to walk, to sit, to listen, (and to try to keep up with!) Rev Lord Andrew Mawson,  They have been full days, challenging, affirming, questioning days and, above all, interesting days.  It has taken me until now to know roughly what I wanted/needed to say about this experience…I’ve spoken previously about our day with Andrew, Liz, and others at St Paul’s Way.

Our second day with them, now at Bromley by Bow (BbB), began to join some dots.  A lot fell into place as we saw for ourselves how the project grew out of a church community and its stories, out of the conviction that the “Word made flesh” story was being lived out here.

The Bromley by Bow Centre






Andrew shared how his appointment was as a ‘neighbourhood pastor’ rather than parish priest, and the freedom this gave to be and do according to his vocation.  As I listened, I thought of the Ministry of Deacon in the UCA, of how we have yet to honour in reality what is a vitally important ministry beyond ‘Sunday morning church’, important as that is as well.

We heard of Andrew’s conviction that everything else he does arises out of the liturgy and the rhythms of life it draws together.  Some of this finds expression in the words of liturgies spoken together on Sundays, and the table around which people literally sit to share in Holy Communion.  Some finds expression in the physical elements of the BbB centre around the worship space: things like the bell which chimes on the hour to give the community a sense of structure and rhythm, the café for ‘visiting with’, the pottery class, the artwork, and the space for stillness.

I love the sense of well-being in this sculpture in the garden. it reminds me of myself after a massage!


The centre's bell gives a sense of rhythm and structure to the day.







As I absorbed a sense of the life and rhythm of this place amongst the stories of its people, my thoughts turned to home, and the life of my/our church in Hobart.

I wasn’t only thinking of what I wanted to take home to implement there, or planning  how to make us a BbB franchise.  I began to be really grabbed afresh by the things that are already there, by the richness of our stories and the life of G.O.D. amongst us.

I was thinking again of a liturgical and sacramental rhythm that goes beyond Sunday morning, that invites the community into a sense of sacramentality in each day.  This is something that has occupied thought in the days since, and grows as a conviction of need, along with a renewed belief that Henri Nouwen was right when he described ‘hospitality’ as making space for sacred transformation in relationship.  Worship, and life lived sacramentally are ALL about this. Holy Communion, is the space of divine hospitality by which the community is nurtured, but it doesn’t only occur when we ‘do’ it on Sundays.

Our experience here reminded me that the blessing of truly holy communion is made real and new each day.

One truly important learning/reminder for me in this experience is that I am not Andrew Mawson, nor am I called to be.  If I am to work as an entrepreneur, it is with what I bring to the task, and how I grow within it…  I’m not one of the ones in my family with more front than Myer (Dear family, don’t hit me, I mean this in a positive way).  I hate asking people for little things, let alone a lazy $5 000 000!

But I believe that I do have an entrepreneurial calling, and an entrepreneurial imagination and passion.  And I believe that, as church, we have an entrepreneurial calling.

As we all sat together this morning (Sat) sharing our stories of the week, my colleague and new friend Nalin reminded us that the issue is not that churches need to start new things from scratch, for whatever reason. The issue is our need to attend to the spirit of G.O.D. in our midst, to ask what is going on, and how might we be part of that?

This is, in large part, is exactly the calling of the entrepreneur, and the entrepreneurial community. It starts with theology, “the Word made flesh”, and unfolds according to the grace that flows from there.  It is a commitment to critical theological reflection as an ongoing discipline, as the ‘being’ alongside the ‘doing’.

This was made real for me in a different context on Friday, as we enjoyed what was for me an incredible treat: a tour, with Andrew, of the Palace of Westminster and Parliament.  Like the other walks we had done with Andrew, this one had a purpose.

It was intended to be for us a powerful example of large and small stories connecting as a life changing force, and it was.

It was intended to demonstrate how church and state can and do interweave in very significant ways in the ‘big story’ of a nation, its history and its future, and it did so.  It was actually quite a theological exercise.

I hope it was intended to be damn good fun, because for me it was that as well!

I am concluding this part of the “Weaving Connections” experience with the clear knowledge that this is an unfolding and long term journey.  I have loved the experience thus far, and delight in the presence of my travelling companions.  There are many stories yet to be told, and to be experienced, or as the hymn puts it: “The Lord has yet more light and truth…!”


3 thoughts on “Joining the dots…

  1. Glad that you are enjoying yourself as well as learning ‘stuff’, Rod. I often wonder whether there is a different relationship between ‘Church’ and ‘state’ in a country loke England where the Queen is the head of the Anglican Church. Does it make much difference ‘on the ground’. so to speak? (Maybe not Holy Ground.)

    • Hi Heather,
      Yes I think it depends a bit on who you ask. My impression is that the church is viewed pretty much as it is in Australia. Perhaps a slight difference here with the Anglican Church in particular is the social role that it has played AS the church of state; maintaining something of the identity of the people. It’s a part of their ‘Britishness’. It could be a really interesting conversation, as part of a bigger one: how British is Britain these days? I have nothing with which to compare, but there’s quite a strong felling about the place that Britain’s openness to Europe in the last 20 years has transformed it dramatically. John Cleese was in the paper the other day saying that London is no longer English, he now lives in Bath because it’s more so. Whether he’d include religion as part of that equation, I don’t know Interstingly Cambridge, where we arrived yesterday, is at first glance quite monocultural: don’t know if that means anything or not, but it was something I quickly noticed. It certainly has lots of church buildings!

  2. From my (now distant!) experience of Australia, I think that there are some differences in the Church/State relationship. Whilst for many people in England (and remember that England is not the same as the UK – eg the Established Church in Scotland is Presbyterian) the CofE is fairly irrelevant, that’s not true overall by any means. For example, the parish church is for many people still the place where they expect to be married, buried and have their children baptised. This is subtly different to just finding a local church. Grace Davie wrote about ‘vicarious religion’, people expecting the church to be there, doing its thing on behalf of them whether or not they are part of it. I think that this is different to Australia, although I don’t build too much hope on it!

    Another example would be the place of the CofE in education. For all sorts of historical reasons (not least that they existed before state education) 25-30% of primary schools are state funded but church controlled, and these tend to be very popular schools. There’s not yet a constitutional challenge to state funding of schools, not least because we don’t have a written constitution! that’s not to say that there aren’t those who would oppose it but it’s a very different issue to the one you have in Australia.

    My last example is the Order of Precedence (at official functions/events etc) where the Archbishop of Canterbury is first in order of precedence after the Royal Family (and even the Archbishop of York comes before the Prime Minister!) I know that people don’t lay awake at night worrying about or celebrating this, but it is there nonetheless and means that attention is paid to the Archbishop because of his role not just because of celebrity status (!). A number of years ago I took great delight in the fact that the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time (George Carey) left school at 15 with no qualifications, and the Prime Minister (John Major) left at 16 with minimal qualifications!

    As for Cambridge, I don’t think that it’s quite as mono-cultural as you may have experienced Rod. The centre/university area is a bit different and other parts of Cambridge reflect some of the diversity of other parts of the UK.

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