Sunday, 31 August 2008


Today we celebrated my parents ruby wedding anniversary in Nottingham. Most of the family was there, although Sally and co obviously couldn't make it from New Zealand.

It was good to see so many members of the Norwood family that we haven't seen in a long time. We had a great party with dancing, food and speeches - which I have on video.

We finally left at 9:00pm and managed to get home so that the girls could get to bed before 11:00! All good fun!

Many congratulations to my mum and dad - and may they have many more adventures in the years to come!


Today I did services at All Saints (8:00am) St Giles (9:30am) and St Mary's (11:00am). It was good to see people again.
The reading was from Matthew's Gospel and was the account of Jesus announcing that his plan was to go to Jerusalem where he would face the cross. Peter responded by suggesting that this was probably less than wise - to which Jesus then uttered the immortal lines, "Get behind me Satan".
From this I drew out a number of points which I emphasised in different locations:
a) Priest-focussed religion is an attempt to keep God/chaos under control - keeping God in a box and allowing ordinary people to get on with their lives. Peter stands in this tradition and (for the best of reasons) is trying to get Jesus to temper his dangerous ideas. But Jesus is now incarnate so we need to let God be God and allow him into the centre of our lives.
b) In this story the cross represents the truths that need to be proclaimed/confronted/acted upon and Jerusalem represents the heart of human society. The church is called to deal with issues of truth where people are - not in safe corners where there are no risks. If Jesus had listened to Peter would he also have begun to temper his message to avoid antagonising the crowds/Pharisees/etc...?
c) Since this is the end of August and the beginning of a new school year this is a time for thinking about new beginnings. This story tells us about how Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem and (with courage and determination) set out on a new road. God promises to be with us and help us as we carry our own crosses and journey toward our own Jerusalems.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Nick Adlem's Induction

After a break of two whole years, Christ the Sower School has a chaplain again!

This afternoon there was a service of welcome and induction for Nick. It was a very URC service - which meant there were some fairly long prayers - but it also included that wonderful URC tradition of "telling the story". Alison told us (very briefly) the story of the appointment process from the Watling Valley perspective and Nick then responded by telling us about his own decisions.

When she spoke, Alison looked very relieved that this journey had reached its conclusion. She did very well to compress all the things we had to do into a very brief account.

Nick then told us about his dreams in Egypt last year where he felt the need to change horses. He also spoke about the "sign" that God gave him when he wanted to know if this was the right job for him. Apparently he and Heather-Anne saw a group of workmen raking some ground near Furzton Lake and then sowing seeds. It spoke to him of the sower imagery so central to the vision of the school. Isla found this particularly moving since she passes this field every day on her way to work.

At the end of the service they were presented with a (Sheila Wilson) cake to cut, which Nick compared to the sacrificial bulls used to make covenants in ancient times - and so with the stab of a knife, the deal was made...

...we're now in this together!
Many congratulations to Nick and Heather Anne and best wishes for the next few years!

Wedding: Debra and Michael

I took a wedding at St Giles this afternoon for a lovely couple called Debra and Michael. Debra turned up in a huge pink limousine which probably had more seating capacity than the church! I wish them well.

Friday, 29 August 2008

The Last Friday

Our last proper day of the summer holidays. Izzy did her ballet summer show and did very well. We celebrated by using up Tesco vouchers at Bella Italia - which was nice. Isla and I had squid and butterflied king prawns for a starter. I had duck pasta and Isla had salmon.

All in all it was a struggle today. We're all feeling tired and a bit down. I'm feeling ill. The summer, the sabatical and a time of peace is at an end... We did look back over the high points of the summer and began to plan future holidays - you've got to have something to live for...

Thursday, 28 August 2008

An all to familiar day

I didn't sleep well so got up at 5:30 and did some emails, etc...
In the morning I met with Liz Baker for our first monthly supervision for three months - partly to discuss the letter I need to write recommending her for ordination.
At lunch time I took Ross Northing out for lunch for a chance to catch up on what's been going on.
In the afternoon I had a similar session with Mary Cotes.
In the evening I had a wedding rehearsal.
Between these events, I attempted to squeeze in some of the jobs that needed doing, i.e. planing three services for Sunday, checking out rules about weddings with the diocese, etc, etc... while attempting to give my family the impression that I'm still there for them.
It was an all to familiar day filled with valuable and important activities - but leaving me feeling drained and tired with rising stress levels as I deal with a dozen or so emails and phone calls asking me why I haven't done x - overlaid with a general feeling that there are many things that people would have wanted me to have done - and even more that I should have done - I love my job!
Having returned from sabbatical I'm looking at the same unrealistic responsibility-load I had when I left. What fun!
Some people have asked me if it's good to be back. My answer is - yes, it's good to see people again but I could do without the stress...
Do I want to do this forever - not on your life!

New Socks

These socks were a present from the girls who went shopping today. Aren't I lucky!

The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that this picture is a weather forecast for Milton Keynes. Apparently there will be sunshine in Bletchley but cloud in Water Eaton...

Emerging Priesthood

One of the things I decided to do while at Greenbelt was to start a new blog which focusses on priesthood. I thought this would be a good way of helping me to focus some of my thoughts about priesthood in a more coherent way. In can be found at Emerging Priesthood and currently has only two posts. My plan is to put all posts about priesthood on that site rather than on the main blog and to develop it as a separate project. It will be interesting to see if I actually do this...

NOTE: These blog entries have now been absorbed into my main blog and the separate space has been deleted.

Dignity at Work

Bishops, Archdeacons and Area Deans have just received a very helpful document, Dignity at Work, which attempts to address the issue of bullying in the Church. It's available from Church House Publishing and provides some very helpful suggestions for diocese in terms of setting out a policy against bullying. On first read-through I found the following helpful:
  • The suggestion that each diocese have a formal policy - it also provides a draft outline
  • The suggestion that each diocese appoint volunteer Harassment Advisers to advise and support those who feel themselves to be targets of bullying
  • The reminder that those who feel harassed often assume "perhaps this is normal behaviour here" - in fact my observation is that bullying often does become "normal behaviour" in dysfunctional parishes...
  • The reminder that "unacceptable behaviour" is cumulative, in that it's not any one incident that crosses the line, but it may be a relative minor incident that causes a person to reach a "tipping point"
  • A list of examples of bullying behaviour which includes a range of minor acts of harassment
  • The statement that conciliation or restorative justice may be a preferred outcome for targets - rather than the removal of "the bully"
While these elements were helpful, I would also like to make the following points:
  • The booklet suggests that bullying and harassment are "rare within the Church". My own experience would tend to suggest that it is often endemic and a major cause of clergy stress. In most parishes there are individuals or groups who operate in a particular way toward clergy, other members or the general public. This behaviour can seem "normal" or "minor" but can have a cumulative effect becoming damaging and hurtful. Once such behaviour becomes the accepted norm it can become a cultural issue which is then hard to address quickly.
  • The booklet points out that it can be difficult to distinguish between bullying and supervision- particularly if a firm line is taken to address long term issues after a long period when no supervision is provided. This is probably a common issue since the dominant culture amongst clergy is one of rugged individualism where clergy consider themselves "kings of their own castles". We have allowed such a culture to develop and it can be hard to persuade "old dogs to learn new tricks".
  • This can be a particular issue for curates in training and team vicars, since many incumbents can act in a hierarchical way, treating their juniors as "underlings" - "my incumbent did it to me, so I'm going to do it to you!" Most of the stories of clerical harassment that I've heard in the past few years would fit into this category.
  • The booklet also has a lot to say about clergy discipline and what to do if an ordained or licensed person is accused of bullying. While I agree that this is important and we need to have such measures in place, I note that it has very little to say about bullying by lay people. In fact, there are several sections which are noticeably blank or vague: "When the perpetrator is a layperson, and the target is either ordained or lay, complaints of bullying and harassment may, with the target's consent, be dealt with in one of a number of ways according to the circumstances. [Set out any diocesan policy here]"
Overall I think this is a useful document and I hope diocese will take it on board, adopt policies and provide training. The key issue, however, is how to address the culture of harassment that exists in many churches and to slowly establish a different way of doing church. When I encounter such a culture, I often feel impotent, although I can see how much damage it is producing. Harassing behaviour can seem, to lay people, an effective way of "persuading" their minister to"change his ways". Bullying can appear to incumbents as an effective way of supervising their charges. Building a more positive culture of mutual accountability, trust, communication and collaboration can take a long time, but is ultimately more productive and is more true to the theology we claim to hold.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Priesthood of All Believers Part One: The Incarnation

The key problem that priesthood is attempting to solve is the separation between God and humanity which is expressed nicely in the concept of the fall. How do human beings deal with the God who can seem distant yet all powerful; who sets out seemingly arbitrary rules that you cross at your own peril; who rules your life, yet doesn't allow you to make your case? These were the concerns which encouraged ancient societies to identify individuals who would stand between them and divinity - occupying the numinous zone of chaos and fear; bridging the gap and interceding with the all-powerful on behalf of ordinary folk.

If God is distant that heroes are needed who will set out to find him. In ancient mythology the hero must journey through great perils on a quest to acquire something that will set people free. This is a neat metaphor for the journey that priests needed to make to engage with divine power, attempting to gain from God something that will make people's lives more secure and give them hope. Hence priests spent a great deal of time in isolation or in separation from ordinary people as they journeyed inward hoping to make connection with the almighty. They also developed rituals and sacramental actions which were aimed at appeasing divine wrath or making restitution for sins committed (knowingly or unknowingly) against the gods.

This mindset of clerical separation and ritual appeasement is still present in our popular understanding of priesthood. Priests are those who are set aside to deal with God on our behalf. They take time to meditate or pray, developing their own holiness so that they are able to commune with God. They then provide opportunities for ritual actions which enable us to fulfil our own obligations or intercede with God on our behalf.

This ancient and popular view of priesthood is totally blown out of the water by the concept of incarnation. Into our fallen and broken world, the Christ child is born. In this moment, the barrier between God and humanity is brought down because God is now present and is human. We are therefore no-longer able to claim that God is distant or unsympathetic, since in this moment he takes upon himself all the weaknesses and the suffering of ordinary humanity. He lives for many years as a perfectly normal person from first century Nazareth and then steps into the public arena with a mission to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God is already present.

What does the incarnation say about priesthood? It says that if you want to bridge the gap between God and humanity you don't need another human being to act as a intermediary on your behalf, you merely need to look to Jesus. If Christ is present at all times through the Spirit then every word, thought or action is a prayer. You don't need someone else to intercede for you or bridge the gap between you and God, because the gap is only there until you yourself choose to reach out to him. You are your own priest.

The incarnation makes us all priests. We are all called to make our own decision about Christ. No-one else can make it for us. He is either our Lord, or he is not.

There is no barrier between us an God, except the barriers we erect ourselves. We are therefore called to be priests to one another, helping each other to find wholeness and integration. Every act can be sacramental. Every word can bring healing. Every thought can be prayer.

In short, the incarnation has profound implications on priesthood. Into the gap between God and humanity, God himself steps; becoming in Christ the Great High Priest; making us a kingdom of priests who are able to relate to God directly as we seek the good of all.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sunday Communion

The person who came up with this year's theme - Rising Sun - made a big mistake, and this year's afternoon service proved it. Every time someone mentioned sun, it rained!

In spite of the rain we had a great time at the service with some good friends.

Westcott at Greenbelt

Greenbelt is always a good place to meet old friends and this year was no different. There were a number of old Westcott students around the place and here are four of us gathered for the communion service: James, myself, Jeremy and Greg.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Perpetual Dawn

I attended an evening alt.worship event organised by Moot on the theme of perpetual dawn - dawn/night/new day...

This was a phenomenally high quality event - too high for the average congregation to attain: ten projectors with rolling animations, original poems and a work of art created as we watched. Having said this, it did work very effectively, demonstrating what can be done with multi-media and some careful thought. I was particularly impressed with the way they had produced a piece of quality reflective worship without depending on familiar clichés or asking for two much audience participation. It was possible to be present and to allow the event to wash over me.

I also liked the way each member had brought something to contribute; be it art, words or a song. This put me in mind of quaker worship or Paul's advice in 1 Corinthians. This was clearly alt.worship created through a collective process and it worked very well.

Multi Sensory Evensong

I went to a multi sensory evensong put on by Visions. They had decided to put on a 1662 evensong with contemporary alt.worship music. It was a bit of a curates egg - good in parts. At its best it was very interesting - if not moving.

The best bits were the psalms, canticles and responses set to ambient or trance backing tracks - this (very nearly) worked very well... but could have done with a bit more punch when it came to delivery. I was quite taken by the way anglican chant seemed to fit with contemporary dance music. This could be worth exploring...

Overall this was a good try and I very much liked what they were trying to do, but I think this service suffered from a lack of confidence and overall slickness. Greenbelt can be a different venue for alternative worship so it would be unfair to be too critical.

I think this service could have been improved by a few more videos and visuals and a bit more thought about how to use Cramner's text. It would also have been good to see a bit more thought about space and movement. I was left wanting more...

Simon and Kathy

I bumped into Simon and Kathy Ruddiger at GB. Kath and and Simon are off to Filey in Yorkshire to be Childrens/Youth workers for a church there. They've already moved house and will be starting work soon...

Greenbelt Day Two

As a parent of primary school age children Greenbelt is usually dominated by queueing. Today was one of those days. I had to in down to the childrens area at 8 am to collect tokens for the 9:45 session - and so on until the childrens sessions finished. The problem is that seminars tend to overlap with collection times so it's hard to actually in to anything yourself. Nevertheless, Isla heard Simon Parke and Michael Morpurgo. We both went to see Juliet Turner again, and I went to a couple of alt.worship sessions.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Juliet Turner

We are all big Juliet Turner fans - particularly the kids who love her song Dr Fell and know all the words off by heart. Since she was singing at the Performance Cafe - at 10pm - we needed to stay up for the show. Izzy, unfortunately for her, slept through the whole thing and was therefore very cross in the morning.

She sang a number of old favourites and some of the songs from her new album, People have Names. It's always good to hear her talk about the songs and explain why she wrote them and what they may be about. We particularly enjoyed her introduction to the song, Pick a Story, since the little girl she wrote it for was in the audience.

This was classic Juliet Turner. The new album might seem a little same-y to some, but it's growing on us.

What kind of Church is emerging?

I went to a panel session about emerging church. The panel consisted of "leaders" from a range of communities and collectives from London to Seattle. They all said a little bit about themselves and what characteristics they thought emerging churches might have. So we had reference to collective leadership, acceptance, cultural relevance, need orientated mission, and so on... At one point they asked who would consider themselves to be members of emerging churches. I didn't put my hand up since I always feel I don't quite fit in with the "cool" people who usually run these things, but I'm not sure this was particularly honest. I am part of a range of communities which could be considered "emergent". The signs of an emerging church can be found in a wide range of places including some of the apparently more traditional communities...

Emerging Church - is the collective name for a family of new communities
Emerging Church - is the continual process of renewal and reformation which enables the Church to engage with each new era
Emerging Church - is what we are all becoming as Christ leads us on...

More Fondue Pictures


Isla and I have been Greenbelters for a few years now. I first went in 1987 making this my 21st year! Isla came with me in 1992. We've got a number of friends who have been going for even longer. Our firend Dave was wearing his 1985 Tshirt this year!

We arrived at Cheltenham Racecourse (where GB has been based since 1999 - Iona's first year). Rozi and John arrived yesterday with the "yoof" who put up our tent - hooray! Rozi is driving electric taxis and John is deputy-managing a venue - Foxhunter.

During the first evening I managed to bump into Andrew Gear (our PDA) and then we bumped into Karen (our archdeacon) - it`s a small world!

The happy campers from Milton Keynes had burgers for tea followed by Mars bar fondue.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Vision Raising

I spotted this on Pastor Steve's Blog:

Vision Raising is a way of helping individual Christian believers use their time and energy in ways that are effective and joyful. I'm thinking about preaching on the concept of "Call" and then, soon after, have three vision raising events, one focused on Discipleship (making disciples and living as disciples of Jesus), the second on Outreach (world & local) and a third on Leadership & Support (to help give success to the activities, projects and events that people are called to do).
At each vision raising event we will gather for scriptural teaching on the designated focus, prayers, an offering of ideas (such as in a brainstorming session) and finally, the asking of an important question "How would you like to be involved in making one or more of these ideas a reality." Those attending the event would then indicate their own specific desires and those desires would then be recorded. Some people will want to continue in the ways they are currently involved. Others will want to switch to another existing activity or to something new.

At a vision raising event (quoting Wendy's book The Custom Designed Church):
What is done or not done is based upon people's calls and desire to make something happen. It is critical that no pressure be applied for people to do something. If no one feels inspired to do a certain thing, then an idea is dropped and not pursued now. If one idea becomes a real vision, then the process has been a success.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

The Clone Wars

While Isla was at work I took Iona and Izzy to see Star Wars: The Clone Wars. It was surprisingly good, once you got used to the stylised animation.

Hymn Choosing

I had another valuable session with Margaret and Veronica to choose hymns for St Mary's today. We picked hymns for all St Mary's services right up to Advent Sunday. I note (having done this) that I'm not going to be at any of these services! - oh well...

These sessions are hard work, but they are also a great example of productive collaborative ministry. There are various advantages. By working together:
  • we can think of the "season" as a whole, rather than as a series of one off events.
  • we become more courageous and pick more challenging hymns
  • there is more variety and less repetition, but...
  • we can choose to reinforce a new hymn
  • everyone has the information in good time
  • we can use a broader range of knowledge and experience
In other words, its a good example of the kind of thing I've been talking about on this blog...
Looking to the future, its effectiveness could probably be improved by widening the circle of participants. Who else would be a valuable contributor? Could the wider team become more involved? Is there a more appropriate process? - would anything in "Wisdom of Crowds" be helpful?

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Back to the evenings...

Tonight was a fairly familiar (pre-sabbatical) evening: two meetings on one night! I met with the Archdeacon and Will and Heather from Woughton to talk about the new appointment there. I then popped in on the All Saints Worship Team. As part of this meeting they discussed my sabbatical report. They raised the issue of collective leadership and gave themselves a big (deserved) pat on the back for being quite good at it. I pointed out that the problem with collective leadership and collaborative ministry is that those in authority can quickly take them away if they choose to. The LSM group has reflected on a number of stories about churches who had been doing well until a change of "leader" produced rapid (and undesirable) change. The challenge for ASL and the Watling Valley will be to find ways of maintaining collaboration through future changes of clergy... This issue is the central motivation for finding a more structural way of supporting collaborative ministry through LSM or another appropriate "scheme".

The Joy of Teams

Today included two sessions with teams. I joined the Watling Valley Ministry Team for coffee at Asda this morning (Nick's first Team Space) and then had lunch with the Deanery Leadership Team. It was good to see people and I'm slowly discovering what I missed while on sabbatical.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Thorpe Park

For the second part of Isla's birthday treat, we went to Thorpe Park and spent a wonderful day dodging showers and trying out rides. Izzy loved the Flying Fish which was a small powered roller-coaster. Iona preferred Colossus - a beast of a ride with no-less than ten inversions (technical speak for "going upside down"). Isla tried out the incredibly tall Stealth which drops you down vertically from 205 feet!

Unfortunately Isla and Iona had a two hour wait in the queue for Colossus. While they were standing around - in the rain - Izzy and I went down to the "beach" where some entertainers were struggling to find people to amuse. Izzy entered the sand castle competition - and won - which would have been an even greater achievement had anyone else entered...

The only real disapointment was that the huge water shute Tidal Wave didn't start running until after 6:00pm. The queue was over an hour long within minutes! The girls were dispapointed to leave without trying it out, but you can't do everything. Maybe next time!

A fabulous day out!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Off and Away...

After the morning service I took the girls away for an extended treat to celebrate Isla's birthday. We went the Cliveden which was amazing, and then drove down to see some old friends from Slough: Elaine and Darren who now have three children, including Charlie who was one of Iona's friends when she was very little. It was great to see them all again - particularly since they fed us rather well...

What do we want?

I preached at Holy Cross today. The reading for the day was Matthew 15:21-28 - the Canaanite Woman. This gave me an opportunity to speak about marathon running - having sat up during the night to watch the women's marathon at the Beijing Olympics. Paula Radcliffe did her best to finish even though she clearly wasn't fit enough. The winner was a Rumanian who took off and kept going even though everyone else thought she would grind to a halt... This provided a great link to the reading, picking up themes of persistence and constant re-thinking in the pursuit of an important goal.

In the second part of the service I decided to experiment and ask the congregation what they thought they might need from Church in order to pursue their own calling to be disciples. I pointed out that Church is a "school for disciples" rather than a "club for saints". If this is really true, what do we need? What should preachers talk about? What themes would be worth exploring?

I collected the results and would like to say that the most common suggestions were:

a. Sharing the Gospel
b. Being a Disciple
c. Being Christians in our local community
d. The Communion Service
e. The Background to the Bible

I was suprised to see evangelism at the top of the list, but there were refrences to "getting more people to come to church" so there may be questions about motivation to unpack. I would be interesting to know if other churches would produce a similar list...

The question for me know is to think about how I follow this up in my preparation for worship.

Friday, 15 August 2008


Isla and I popped in to see Nick and Heather-Anne Adlem this afternoon who have now arrived in the Watling Valley and are living in Pauline's former house in Emerson Valley. It was good to see them again and they seem reasonably pleased to be here. Nick will be welcomed as SCM minister and Chaplain of CtS on the 30th August.

Also - had a phone call from Nigel, Archdeacon of Newark, to follow up a conversation from 18 months ago. It was good to hear from him again and very interesting to note that the Diocese of Southall is restructuring. They're going from 14 to 9 deaneries (I think) and appointing half-time area deans in each - which mirrors our thoughts here and what I know is also happening in Canterbury. All very interesting...

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Sabbatical Report

I've been writing up my sabbatical in a brief report this morning for those who need to know - and need it brief. For those who are regular blog readers, I include it here for you:

Tim Norwood
Brief Summary of Sabbatical Outcomes

This sabbatical ran from May to July 2008 and involved a combination of visits, reading, writing and continuing project work. A more full account is available through my blog which I can make available in printed form by request.

A. Fresh Expressions
One major theme of the sabbatical surrounded the issue of ‘fresh expressions, emerging Christian communities and pioneer ministry. There were two main outcomes in this area:
1. Fresh Expressions Oversight Group: I continued to attend this group which has produced a set of guidelines for those considering a pioneer ministry appointment, and is also planning a major vision event for deaneries in 2009.
2. Fresh Expressions in Milton Keynes: Following conversations at the MK Local Shared Ministry Project Group, Tim Clapton, Peter Ballantine, Keith Beech-Gruneberg, and I have began working on a plan to encourage and support fresh expressions and pioneer ministry in MK. This will include the following elements:
a. Deanery Planning: Milton Keynes Deanery will launch a new strategic planning process in September. This is likely to involve further thinking about fresh expressions in MK and there is already a commitment to deploy some form of pioneer ministry on the western edge of the city.
b. Vision Day: Tim Clapton is trying to arrange a Vision Day in the autumn which will involve the national team. This will be an ecumenical event and will be supported by MK Development Chaplain funds.
c. Mission Shaped Intro: Tim Norwood and Peter Ballantine will be organising two introductory courses in spring and summer 2009. Scripture Union have already agreed to host one of them. We are also hoping to involve the Bridgebuilder Trust and World Vision.
d. Mission Shaped Ministry: We are aiming to host a year long regional course for ‘practitioners’ which will begin in September 2009.

B. Collaborative Ministry
The second major theme of the sabbatical focussed on collaborative, mutual, total, or local shared ministry. This has taken the majority of the time, but has been very rewarding. I particularly enjoyed a visit with Bev Hollins to Gill Calver in Kent, and to Bristol where I met Alister Palmer and a number of others.
1. Local Shared Ministry Project Group: The LSM group continued to meet throughout my sabbatical. We clarified our vision and spent some time thinking through how the group will support, encourage and develop mutual ministry in Milton Keynes. These thoughts are available in separate documents. Future developments will include:
a. Communities, Companions and Partners: We are hoping to develop a network of communities who are ‘working towards’ Local Shared Ministry. Each community will be supported by a companion who will encourage theological reflection following a ‘mentoring’ model. We are also hoping to establish a network of partners – who are ‘critical friends’ from beyond Milton Keynes who will continue to support, encourage and learn with us as the project develops.
b. Water Eaton: St Frideswide’s is our first active ‘pilot’. Following an abortive attempt to appoint a house-for-duty minister, a proposal was constructed to create an LSM team which would include two retired clergy. The Area Dean (me) will act as incumbent. This will be reviewed in the Autumn and a ‘companion’ will probably be appointed.
c. Communications: We have already set up a web site:
d. Gathering in MK: I am hoping to gather together some of the people I’ve met during the sabbatical for a mini-gathering at some point in the autumn. Many of the practitioners and theorists that I’ve met often feel isolated and would love to get together. This should be quite an exciting event.
e. Envisioning: A number of people have pointed out that very few parishes are really doing collaborative ministry, but are really engaged in a process of consultation and delegation. If we are to see a major increase in collaboration we need a big push. Beren Hartless and I have begun to think about this more strategically and are hoping to work with the Door to produce a series of articles which focus on a number of necessary ‘shifts’.
f. Introductory Course: The group from Bristol encouraged me to think about how people are nurtured into mutual ministry. In NZ there is an introductory course called AMEND. I’ve been working on a more MK focussed short course which I’ve entitled Touching the Rainbow. The Project Group will be looking at this in September.
2. Conclusions: Having spent three months thinking, I feel there are some key principles that I would like to promote:
a. Collective Leadership: Rolland Allen calls us to “tell it to the church!” Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger speak of “leading as a body”. In a recent email David Robertson pointed out that the key issue in CM is not acting together but making decisions together. I am increasingly convinced that the key to further development of collaborative/mutual/total ministry is a greater emphasis on collective/corporate leadership. This is an area that I intend to put further thought into in the nest few months. (There are various articles about this in my blog.)
b. Withdrawal: Another key Rolland Allen principle is what he calls “retirement” – in other words it is crucial that ‘professional’ ministers take a step back so that people can grow. We need to stop trying to provide churches with what they think they need and begin a more strategic process of ‘space creation’.
c. Supervision: During the past few years I have become increasingly convinced that good quality supervision (following the diocesan model of management, support, education and mediation) is absolutely crucial to the development of people as disciples. Unfortunately this requires a greater time commitment from ‘supervisors’ but this is an area we need to prioritise.
3. Writing: I’ve produced a number of documents which explore this whole area in further detail:
a. Tim’s Blog: There are many entries on about collaborative/total/mutual/local shared ministry.
b. Touching the Rainbow: A draft four session short course about why collaborative ministry is important.
c. Joining the Rainbow: A fairly substantial “book” (160 pages) which includes my thoughts and reflections about “emerging ministry”.

C. Space to Live and Think
The sabbatical provided me with a considerable amount of time (from my point of view) just to live a bit and reflect on my life and work. The following themes were particularly significant and are explored in more detail in my blog:

1. Spirituality
2. Ministry in Life
3. Mutual Ministry Methods
4. Plant and Grow
5. Running for Life
6. Collective Leadership
7. Fresh Expressions
8. Local Ministry
9. Blog on
10. What next?

In conclusion, I have both enjoyed the sabbatical and found it extremely valuable. I hope to continue and develop some of the key themes and explore some issues in more detail in future. I am particularly keen to continue to enjoy a bit more ‘balance’ in my working life which I do think is essential for effective ministry.
I would particularly like to thank those who have made the sabbatical possible by giving up their own time and sharing their thoughts with me. I hope I can do them justice.

Tim Norwood
14th August 2008

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A Great Evening!

We had a wonderful evening tonight with Jane and Duncan Solloway. As always, Jane cooked the most wonderful food - yum! It was a late night but a good one.

Webjammer T Shirts

I finally picked up my free Webjammer T Shirts yesterday and wore one today. They are quite effective as advertising. When I was out at Borders for coffee with Mike a man stopped me to ask what it was all about. I'm a walking billboard!


One of the big themes that I still need to wrestle with after the sabbatical is priesthood. I've been thinking hard about it, but still feel there's a journey ahead on this one. I've been reading Terry Pratchett's book "A hat full of sky" which could be read as a metaphor of traditional priestly ministry - if witches can be used as a metaphor for Christian ministry... He develops quite a good image of servant ministry in which those who have "power" choose not to use it but to immerse themselves in the stuff of ordinary life so that they can retain a sensible balance - and avoid the whole "cackling" thing with gingerbread houses and the like. This is an image of a tradition pastorally focussed (and separate) priesthood which seeks to meet the needs of ordinary people - particularly those who have no-one else to look after them.

I found myself being drawn in by this comfortable and strangley familiar world, but there are issues here. One problem is that no Christian can claim special "power" since we all have access to the same Spirit. None of us, however holy we may seek to be, can really claim a unique status. We are all wonderful treasure in jars of clay and therefore all need to humble ourselves with the awareness that we can be both very good and very bad. The wisdom in Pratchett's book needs to be taken on board by all of us - since we are all priests - we are all able to stand between earth and heaven...

So what of those "special" priests who are set aside (ordained) for the task? In Terry Pratchett's sequal, Wintersmith, which I also read on holiday. We are introduced to the incredible 116 year old witch, Miss Treason, who uses trinkets from a joke shop ("Boffo") to create an illusion of mystery and menace - which enables her to do her job more effectively. There are, of course, a range of clerical "Boffo" - from collars and robes, to crosses, hats and interiour decorations. The stuff we wear and surround ourselves with can create the impression that we clerical professionals are somehow more special - and irronically this also allows us to do our jobs more effectively...

Is ordination just a form of "Boffo" designed to set particular individuals appart so that they can not just function as priests, but be seen to be priests as well? Is the reason for competitiveness and hierarchical urges really about creating an aura of visible status which allow us to function as priests? Are we more effective the more holy, special and set appart we appear?

These are quite significan questions but I'm not going to rush to give an answer. Pratchett shows us how "Boffo" works, but when should we use it? He reminds us of the need to emerse ourselves in the ordinary so that the extra-ordinary can flourish. What do we do about this vexing issue of prioesthood?

I'm also re-reading Robin Greenwoods, Transforming Priesthood - lots of good stuff in there but he seems obsessed with the concept of a "parish priest". Do I believe in the "priest shaped hole" that apparently exists in every church, or is there a way of releasing the people of God to be priests in every place where they live, work, worship and play?

I'll be back to the theme of priesthood again soon, I'm sure...

On the second day...

Second day back. I went for an early morning run to start the long process of working off the large ammount of cheese, wine, meat and pasta I've eaten on holiday. France is great, but a real killer when it comes to my eating habits... Bumped into Geoff Colmer, (our Baptist Regional Minister and Team Leader) who was out on his bike. He's been to the Lambeth Conference as an ecumenical observer and seems to have had a valuable time. (Do have a look at his blog, Wonder and Wondering, to see more...)

I had coffee with Mike Morris in the morning and we had a good chat about Watling Valley and its future. The theme of space was at top of our agenda - how do we create space for people to be? Particualraly in a world where so many people are so frazzled with over-work both in and out of church... Finding a way to do this will be crucial if we're to become a more mutaully supportive partnership with time and space for some of our long term dreams - like midweek worship and small groups. If growing disciples really is our top priorty then some things will have to change...

I've spent the rest of the day at my desk. Most of this time has been used to finish off a few projects. My desk is slowly clearing for what is ahead... Fortunatley August is a good time to ease in gently...

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

On the first day...

And so I'm back at "work" after three months of sabbatical. It's a fairly surreal experience, since in many ways nothing has changed. I get up in the same house, go down stairs and get on with things, but I'm now less free to decide what I do... This may take a while to get used to...
Having dealt with most of my emails last night I was free for other activities today. I spent the morning with the Watling Valley Team at their weekly Team Space - which was at the McIntyre tea rooms today. It was good to catch up a bit and get a feel for what has been going on while I've been away. In the afternoon I spent most of my time constructing a new to-do list: working out what jobs I need to get on with, and what meetings I need to arrange. There were also a few phone calls - largely to achieve the same thing.
And so it all begins again. The sabbatical was good and I'm now looking forward to the next one. How many years was it again?...

Monday, 11 August 2008


We just got back from holiday today. (I'll post some pictures soon)
This marks the end of our holiday and the end of my sabbatical...
Only ten years till the next one - sabbatical that is, not holiday!
Back to work tomorrow. 1500 emails to filter tonight...

Sunday, 10 August 2008

10. What next?

Sabbaticals are funny times, as this one comes to an end I have a lot to think about...

I've learnt a lot and have had a chance to think about my own sense of identity and direction. What next? It's fairly traditional to leave for pastures new after a sabbatical, but do I really want to?

There's a lot to do in Milton Keynes and I want to be part of it. There are new communities for us to reach out to; we have an LSM project which is really exciting and now we have to potential to push forward a Fresh Expressions agenda. Is this the time to walk away? The deanery is on an interesting journey with the possibility of proper strategic planning on the horizon - and a ten year financial plan under way. Is this the time to give it up?

It's largely up to other people what role I will find myself in, but I do want to be part of the continuing MK story - I want to know what happens next...

Personally I do want a certain amount of change. I don't want to go back to over-work, unrealistic responsibilities, stress and guilt. The more I think about ministry, the more I feel this is unnecessary and unhelpful - so change is on the agenda... but not running away. We all need to be part of a better way of being church - for the sake of the whole. I'm up for some serious change. I wonder what we can achieve?

What next? Let's just see...

Saturday, 9 August 2008

9. Blog on

I started blogging in 2006 as an experiment in diary keeping. I was encouraged by my experiences on Iona and thought it was worth giving it a go. I lasted a month. I enjoyed the process of writing a blog but didn't have the motivation to keep it up. It was part of a push to run and write which didn't stand up to the pressures of everyday life... but some of my 2006 posts are still available on this blog.

I thought about it again in June 2007 and registered with Google's blogger - but didn't post many entries.

Later in 2007 I started blogging in a more systematic way. The motivation for this arose from a need to manage time more accurately and gain a greater sense of accountability. I was aware that fulfilling multiple roles was an issue but was also feeling stressed with too much to do. People asked me to write down a list of what I did in an average week so they could help, but I had a sense that an "average" week would be a rare occurrence. It struck me that blogging would provide a mechanism for achieving something more realistic. And so during November 2007 I kept a fairly detailed record of how my time was used and let people know where to find it should they want to find out.

Fairly rapidly the blog took off. I enjoyed the process of collecting my thoughts at the end of each day and reviewing what I was up to. Other people began to respond and comment. It wasn't long before I started adding photos and longer comments. (See To blog or not to blog for my thoughts about why blogging was a valuable thing to do, and Church for the Facebook Generation for more about online church.)

Since then, the blog has grown, and has proven extremely useful. It's provided an amazing mechanism for communiction and networking, and has helped build a sense of community. Thanks to people like Margaret and Barry, even those without computer access have been involved. Sermons have been written collaboratively, ideas shared, and some interesting people have made contact with with me...

Is it worth doing? I think so, even for the occassional nugget of value. In terms of statistics, there have been 92 visits in the past six days, so someone must be reading it - if only cyber stalkers...

I have every intention of continuing the blog since it's been so useful, but what about the future?

I think all clergy should blog - especially those who work with multiple churches. It's a great way of building community and becoming part of a wider network - sometimes it feels a bit like being a traditional vicar.

But blogging could also have value as a tool for all church members - to stimulate growth and nurture community. Some people have said that they don't think their thoughts would be of any interest to other people, but I beg to differ. Imagine an intentional community of people who write blogs and agree to read each other's. This would be a fascinating experiment. There are already groups of people who do this out of interest, but what if members of a church decided to do so? It would be a bit like facebook updates, only with more depth. (For an example of another Watling Valley blog, see Peter Leeson's - are there any more? Anyone else want to join the party?)

In conclussion, I think blogs are great tools and I think we should use them. I fully intend to.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

8. Local Ministry

The theme of Local Ministry was always going to be a key element of my sabbatical. I won't bother to list all the blog entries that mention it...

At the end of my sabbatical I simply want to reflect that local / mutual / shared / total / collaborative forms of ministry are absolutely key for the future of the church and that I will continue to prioritise this area of work over the years ahead.

7. Fresh Expressions

The term "fresh expressions" has become very trendy at the moment, but there is still a great deal of confusion about what the term actually means. It can also become entangled with other themes and movements in contemporary church life (see Some Definitions).

The basic issue is how the church in England connects with the culture of England (see Sunday Scouts). This is not a question of style or content but of form: how should church life be arranged so that it connects with people where they are?

Part of the problem is that much of church life happens behind real and metaphorical walls. Rigid structures prevent us from sharing the hope we find in Christ. We need approaches to church which are more liquid; in which questions of in or out become irrelevant.

This was the challenge Tim Clapton raised with the LSM Project Group. It is not enough to speak about getting "out there"; we need to remodel church so that there is no "out there" to reach out to. The Christian community needs to be immersed in the community around it so that it can be incarnate salt and light...

The issue of faith in the workplace is crucial here - and in the home and in the sphere of entertainment and culture. God's people are already present in the world, although they may not realise it... This is a challenge for preachers and church leaders, but there are also structural and strategic issues...

We do need more fresh expressions in Milton Keynes - new forms of Christian community that connect with the culture of the city - alongside inherited models of church in a mixed economy church. The question is how?

The next steps undoubtedly involve the slow development of a shared vision, but there will also need to be some education and training (see Fresh Expressions in MK). We may also need to find ways of setting aside some people and resources for the task. I wonder if we may need some form of fund or advisery group to encourage the development of emergent Christian communities?

The whole issue has particular relevance and urgency in MK because of the high number of "new communities" which have been built over the years and will continue to be developed in the years ahead...

This will be an interesting area of growth in the next couple of years. It will be interesting to see how it all pans out...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

6. Collective Leadership

During my sabbatical I've been looking back at my experiences of leadership and ministry. The theme of collective leadership has been a significant one:

I was deeply influenced by Derek Hanscombe and Peter Price as an 18 year old Root Group member. Derek's commitment to community was powerful and his use of group organisation tools was inspiring. Peter's demonstration of Liberation Theology in biblical studies was life-changing and I was fascinated to discover when I went to Bristol (see Mutual Ministry in Bristol) that they were still working together a few years later and founded New Way of Being Church. As I pointed out to Alister Palmer, It's fascinating how my journey has taken me back to my early mentors and influences... I am amazed, looking back over the past twenty years, how often I have used the lessons I learnt with USPG.

The second key infuence was my time with SCM in Aberdeen. I was convener of the local university group for three years, on the scottish and national exec - briefly - and represented SCM at the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland in 1992 - where I first met Bev Hollins. This was a time for radical thinking about community, political action and theology. We dreamed about networks and collective action. It was here that I began to develop my interest in alternative worship - which had sadly been neglected during my time with the C of E. One of the more significant elements of that journey was the input Trish gave about anarchistic organisational methods (see Leadership Under Development). I have used and developed these in practice in Milton Keynes.

The concept of Cell has been a key part of my thinking since 1986. Although Richard Davis discovered it in 2004 and got very excited, I've been thinking in terms of small communities for a much longer period. I first noticed it in the writings of Paul Yongi-Cho from Korea. Even in the nineteen eighties I was beginning to wonder how it might be adopted and developed for a more traditional western context. I looked at our local anglo-catholic church and began to see how each group within the church provided some form of micro-community within the body. I wondered about cells as a strategy for SCM in Aberdeen - although it didn't go further than that... The concept of small, intimate, active communities was part of the inspiration for joining Root Groups, where I learnt an enormous amount. In Watling Valley, we have done little more than hint at the possibilities of cell - or small self-managed micro-churches. I have tried to introduce the term "cellularisation" to indicate that this is a process rather than a structural goal, but with little success. Steven Crofts, Transforming Communities, is a good example of fresh thinking on small groups. I am also encouraged by my experience of small churches (see Mursley).

In Slough and Watling Valley I was able to try out some of my ideas about collective leadership and develop some processes. Finnishing my MA gave me an excuse to raid libraries and give myself a mini-course on management and strategic planning. SHIFT was the main play ground for experimentation and I wrote this up in my MA dissertation. Since then I have been able to reflect on experiences and refine my thinking. Each new tool gets added to the collection. I am grateful for the opportunity this has provided.

As I said in Leadership under Development, collective leadership has alway been a key element in my thinking. It was neccesary in the Watling Valley. In my vision leadership does not rest with Ministers or even the Ministry Team but with the people, and should be expressed through councils, congregational meetings and discernment processes. Three months of reflection and study have given me a chance to develop my thinking about collective leadership (See The Wisdom of Crowds, Wikinomics and the Folly of Teams.) As I return to work I hope to develop this further in practice.

When I put forward a suggested theology for Local Shared Ministry, James Cassidy agreed with most of the things I was trying to say, but challenged me on the concept of collective or circular leadership. I am very grateful to him for doing this since he has encouraged me to really give this issue some proper thought and get reading! I finish my sabbatical convinced that collective leadership is both possible and necessary. I also have a whole new set of theological and practical tools to play with. What fun!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

5. Running for Life

Exercise has been a key element of this sabbatical. I joined a gym (see Fresh Expressions of Gym) and ran a half marathon (see Half Marathon). I have really enjoyed stretching myself a bit more than usual and getting into a regular pattern of exercise.

But this shouldn't be a once in ten year event. We are all told that we should exercise four or five times a week. Having done this I must say I feel fitter and more positive. I'm sure I function better if I have regular exercise.

The question is, as I return to "full-time" work, do we want vicars to put in 80 hours a week because there's so much to do? Or do we want them to be functional? This is a real choice which clergy need to take responsibility for themselves and their congregations need to support...

When I look back at these notes in a few months time, will I have managed to put this into practice? Only time will tell...

And it's not just vicars who need to exercise, we could all do with a bit more physical activity. What could you do?

Monday, 4 August 2008

4. Plant and Grow

We have tended to avoid further church planting in MK, since it has been seen as a way of weakening already fragile congregations, but the figures would tend to suggest that planting might be a useful strategy.

Firstly, the areas of the country that have lowest church attendances actually have the largest churches - but fewer of them. We have relatively few churches per population in MK. Is there a connection?

Secondly, churches have a glass ceiling. Once they are more than 60-80% full it becomes more difficult to increase congregation size. Some of our churches are relatively small. In Watling Valley, I suspect that most congregations (with the possible exception of Servant King) have already crossed it. Do we need more congregations in order to grow more Christians?

Thirdly, planting new congregations does produce new members. According to MA Bing (who analysed 90 church plants) the original team usually make up 20% of the new community, 16% transfer in from other churches but a staggering 64% are converts, reconnections and fringe. In other words, planting a new congregation increases the overall number of members.

Fourthly, you don' actually need a huge planting team in order to generate an effective Church plant. According to Bob Jackson a team of 5-9 generally produce around 600% growth; a team of 10-19 produce around 300% growth; 20-34 around 150% growth; 35 onwards 'only' around 100%. Planting teams between 1 and 4 produce an average growth of 3,000%! In other words, the smaller the team, the more significant the growth.

I know that some people will respond to this by saying that the concept of 'church' planting represents a fairly traditional approach to mission. Shouldn't we be more creative: what about getting 'out there' or developing new forms of Christian community? My answer to this is 'yes' - that's precisely what I mean. Planting 'churches' doesn't mean creating new fourteenth century churches with inherited patterns of ministry, worship or buildings - although there's no reason why we should completely reject the past. This is about fresh expressions of church which are relevant to the communities in which they are set. It's about Christian communities serving together in collaborative ways. Just because I use the word 'church' don't assume I mean a clone of inherited church.

I would love to put forward the phrase 'a church in every grid square' as an expression of a radical church planting agenda for Milton Keynes. I see no reason why such a vision should not be possible and every reason to assume it would be fruitful!

(Figures from Hope for the Church by Bob Jackson)

Sunday, 3 August 2008

3. Mutual Ministry Methods

I've spent a lot of time investigating the way people do Mutual / Total or Local Shared Ministry. It is probably impossible, if not unwise to import and adopt such methods wholesale, but there are a number of tools worth borrowing:
  • Discernment Processes: Why not use some of the collaborative discernment processes used in Mutual Ministry? Calver Calver has been experimenting by giving out lists of members and asking which individuals would make good church wardens. She thinks this was reasonably successful. Why not extend this further and do an annual ministry discernment process? (See The Wisdom of Crowds for my reflections)
  • Deploy Enablers: I met Alister Palmer who served as an enabler in Tazmania - in fact he set up the system there! He sees himself as an Enabler in his work in Bristol and is doing interesting things. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't employ clergy as enablers and give them appropriate job descriptions. David Robertson tells us a lot about how to do Collaborative Ministry in a traditional setting, but it is possible within Anglican structures to appoint clergy in creative ways...
  • Do Collaborative Ministry: Likewise it is possible to go for a fully collaborative model within existing frameworks, as long as everyone has a shared understanding. Experiments at Water Eaton, Loughton and elsewhere are already proving this in practice...
  • Practice Withdrawl: Clergy need to avoid the tempatation of dependency. It is possible (and extremely wise) to back off and try not to be there all the time. This is the only way that congregations can grow towards maturity. Once again, it is possible. Why aren't we doing it more?
In summary, we can achieve quite a bit by borrowing from the Mutual Ministry tool-kit without neccessarily adopting the whole model.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

2. Ministry in Life

One of the big criticisms against collaborative or mutual ministry is that they tend to draw attention on "churchy" ministry - in an effort to maintain the institutions of the Church, we end up turning lay people into mini vicars.

As an antidote to this some speak about ministry in the church, vs. ministry in the world - the clergy exist to enable lay people to serve God in their work places... It's all about equipping the people of God for mission...

I've got a couple of problems with this. Firstly, I'm not sure that collaborative ministry is ultimately about sustaining the church, so much as recognising the ministry of all God's people, whether it be in church or in the World. All ministry needs to be given equal status as a fulfilment of God's call - this is surely what the mutual ministry movement is trying to achieve!

And yes, there is a distinction between an enabling ministry which equips God's people for service and the service of God in creation that such ministry enables... I'm less sure that this is a clergy/laity divide. We are all members of the "laos" - the "people" of God - whether we are ordained or not. Many NSMs and OLMs carry out most of their diaconal/priestly ministry in the workplace - not the church.

Against this backdrop, there is a real need to change the way we relate to the world of work. I am concerned about the way we focus so much attention on new ordained ministers when they start work, but don't acknowledge our members when they begin a new job. This is a form of clericalism and dualism which we probably should try to avoid. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Liturgy of New Beginnings: We could do with a simple liturgy which we could use during Sunday services to bless, pray for and commission those who are beginning new jobs - or voluntary appointments. We could, for instance, use oil and the laying on of hands. We could also present people with a pocket cross and a bible as symbols of their call the take the Word of God into the World of Work.

2. Celebration of Work: We could have an annual celebration of working people - not sure of an appropriate date - on which we celebrate the work that people do. This could also include some theological input about the relationship between faith and work.

3. Living in the Workplace: We could put together a short course which equips people for the task of being a disciple in the workplace. This could deal with spirituality, ethics, mission and relationships.

4. Supporting Working People: There are networks which attempt to help people in their working lives. We could draw attention to these, or create our own...

I think this is a really important issue if we are to move forward as a missionary organisation. What do you think?

See After Sunday

Friday, 1 August 2008

1. Spirituality

Spending three months without the burden of the Vicar persona has been liberating. I had forgotten in many ways how life changing it was to put on the collar for the first time - eleven years ago.

For most of the past twenty years I have lived alongside people who have tried to indoctrinate me into their favourite forms of spirituality - on the basis that their approach to prayer was somehow more authentic, helpful, Anglican, ecumenical, intelligent, contemporary or ancient. As an open minded person, I have generally gone along with everything I've been introduced to and often learnt a lot from it, but I am increasingly aware that my own sense of spirituality must remain my own. I can't borrow other people's.

Of course, I've had to do so to convince the Church of England that I am Anglican enough to be employed. So I've sat through interminable celebrations of morning and evening prayers which were little more than poetry readings. I've also endured the more informal "thought for the day" approach which doesn't do anything for me. As a clerical professional I've even delivered such things for other people - but were they authentically me? or was I just providing a service to someone else?

My sense of spirituality was nurtured within the charismatic and pentecostal movements. My childhood pattern of prayer is not based on written prayers, liturgies or books, but on an informal relationship with God, often expressed through simple songs. This basic spirituality remains core to my prayer life, although it has been marginalised by the need to demonstrate a broad-church Anglican Vicar Persona.

As a teenager I discovered ecumenism and began to work with Anglicans, Baptists, Methodists and Catholics. Before long, I didn't feel so welcome in my native tradition. It wasn't until I moved to Edinburgh and then Aberdeen that I began to delve into the Charismatic tradition in more depth; absorbing the key texts and histories of the movement. An encounter with Quakerism was profoundly influential. The concept of the inner-light and the need to listen for the authentic voice of the Spirit in community provided an important counterpoint for me to the more individualistic exuberance of Pentecostalism.

Deep in the bowls of the Queen Mother Library in Aberdeen I slowly constructed my own Charismatic theology based on the concept of faithful human action, creating space for divine engagement. It is not that we act and God must respond - or that the Spirit takes control - it is that we agree to work with God and he decides to work with us. The two strands of human and divine activity are mutually dependent on each other because that's how God wills it to be. I believe in partnership - a collaboration with God in ordinary life.

Praying in the Spirit is therefore mutually empowering. As we begin to speak, not knowing what to pray for, the Spirit provides the words, and it is as if God were praying through us... At the same time, God will not act unless it is in partnership with human beings. The same goes when we step out in faith, trusting God to guide our feet... Actions and words; God and humanity, interwoven in an incarnate mission...

I'm not asking other people to share my spirituality, because I recognise that everyone is different, but I would probably like a bit more space to live out my own spirituality during the next ten years, rather than other peoples...