‘Stone Altars’ (Part 2)

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

I think the drive to be as irreligious as possible is in reaction to the deep sense of calling to serve within the church. I have been baptised and confirmed in the Catholic church, Baptised in the sea by an evangelical charismatic pentecostal church, and now am about to be confirmed in the Church of England. Stone altars eh?

PS: My Journey is a funny one. At times I feel like the Isrealites with Moses in the desert, knowing where Canaan is but feeling compelled to follow the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night. My experiences in the various churches are a result of a distinct tug within the heart which my head and person knew not to dissobey. There has always been an overwhelming sense of direction which following has yielded a deep – identity forming – lesson. My father is a Catholic, my mother is an Anglican, and only recently understood my faith after spending what in hindsight seem to be malting seasons in the various churches.

So, the journey of selection for ordination training requires that I be confirmed in the Church of England by the Bishop. This meant that I will be confirmed by the Bishop of Kensington at St Paul’s Cathedral. This is due to happen this saturday at a service from 7pm.

Now… I hope the thoughts that follow make sense.

At the back of my mind was the idea of confirming your baptismal vows on easter saturday, which traditionally is a day of mourning as Jesus was in the grave that day. I didn’t dwell much on it though, recognising it as an other that I could ignore for the time being: life was proceeding, it was just another ceremony in another ‘stone altar’.

One of the requirements was that I hand wrote a testimony (Short blurb of my Journey to faith). Being efficient at missing details I didn’t see the instructions to do this until last friday: the letter was due on tuesday morning. After a weekend of procrastination and other responsibilities I found myself on monday night, having written what was neccesary, driving to St Paul’s. The sun was in the west, its light still keeping the sky a dark shade of blue. I’ve never enjoyed going into London – if anything was a ‘stone altar’, the city was. I am in love with open expanses and find busy streets and traffic jams really annoying. This night however, there was no traffic. The lights seemed to give way and so did the buses and taxi’s. It was as if the universe needed me to get to my destination on time.

Having left the Great Western Road, I turned onto Southampton Row, then onto Kingsway, and finally left onto Fleet street past the strand, totally oblivious of where I was and completely depending on google maps to guide me there. As I crept along something caught my attention at the road side. There was a man waiting by the zebra crossing, but none of the drivers were stopping to give him way. He distracted me enough that when I turned back to see the road ahead, there it was.

I recall reading William Wordworth’s account of Crossing the Alps in The Prelude where he speaks of the actual mountains being different from the ones in his imagination: they had ‘usurped upon a living thought’. Nowhere had this sentiment carried than here. Towering over the buildings infront of me was the iconic dome. I felt a deep sense of awe as I continued my approach. It was as though the breath within me had left. Slowly she skirted her way, separating herself from the buildings around her until ‘there’ she stood, bold and commanding: the Edifice.

After parking walking around it twice (trying to be Joshua like) I delivered the envelop and quickly left: I was due at a meeting within the next half hour.

Giles Fraiser, former canon chancellor of St Pauls, in a radio 4 program – which I listened to on my way home that night – spoke about the place of the Cathedral in today’s society. He said (or the sense I got from what he said was) that it gave the church and Christianity both presence and platform to become.

We are not the religious wing of the National trust

Jesus died on the cross and was buried, and rose from the dead because we couldn’t attain righteousness through religiosity. But why let history happen, why show us how to be religious. Far from just being a very effective way of understanding faith and the Divine, religion serves the same purpose: to give presence and platform for Christianity and the Church (the cloud of witnesses) to become.

Confirmation and Baptism are all about declaring faith to the world. So too are these buildings.

Yes! These ‘stone altars’ were for us. That doesn’t negate the call of God to the heart, neither does it negate the place and purpose of the platform. The quiet space that the building provides is important. The church can thrive and survive without it,however, that these edifices exist is – in a way – a good thing (and this is the thought I’m currently grappling with.)

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

I’m still dissatisfied with where the statement has left me but will continue to follow the pillar of smoke and fire, when it rises or rests.

Talitha Koum!

‘Stone Altars’ (Part 1)

My beautiful wife to be had a dress fitting on a day that was inconvenient for her bridesmaids (our journey to getting married was littered with moments like these where all we had was each other and the love we shared to call on, and fight for). I accompanied her to Chichester where the dress shop was but owing to the role I had in her life – bridegroom – the forcefield around the shop wouldn’t let me near. I decided to spend the hour or so in Chichester Cathedral speaking to the only man I was certain – at the time – understood what I was going through.

If you’ve never been to Chichester Cathedral, I suggest you take the trip. In fact, I recommend a trip to any such Cathedral. The collision of art, religion, culture, power, wealth, and politics is both fascinating and awe inspiring. This however, wasn’t my reason for going. It was the closest church to the dress shop and I wasn’t in the mood for a coffee. That said, the magnitude of the edifice wasn’t lost on me. I wondered around it toward the front door, overwhelmed by the sense that if God did come to earth, he was certain to fit in a building so big and wouldn’t feel out of place (Glory and all) in a place so adorned and revered.

Quietly and slowly I walked up the small steps, forgetting the feeling of difference that had earlier occupied me as I walked through the town center (I get these bouts of insecurity whenever I feel like a minority – which happens a lot especially in the countryside). God had to be here, and he would give me reprieve from the worries of un-approving parents and friends.

Four pews in I turned, any further and I’d be within speaking distance of the priest – not what I was here for. I sat facing the altar, which seemed almost a mile away, and focused in on the silence; hoping for that ‘still small voice’. After a few minutes within which I failed to concentrate, distracted by the whispers carried down the great hall, and the silent footsteps I could feel around me, my thoughts cleared. It was as though I had been running through thick forest and suddenly had come upon a treeless landscape, just green grass as far as the eye could see. In the bliss of the moment, a sentence emerged.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

Then… silence again. Then the whispers. Then the footprints. Then the priest turned and began to walk towards my pew. Stereotypically, I put my hood on: it was time to leave.

Almost two years later, I haven’t fully understood – and graple with – the significance and meaning of that sentence. As I left the church I felt fairly convinced that it was a clear message to rebuke the sentiment I had that God lived in buildings such as the one I had been in. It was an open rebuke and, excited as I was, I was equally disturbed. The contradiction being that I had to walk into the building to hear/ see/ sense/ think the words I believed were relevant.

The connotations carried in the ‘for yourselves’ made me feel as though I should never set foot in a cathedral again. It convinced me that – and this may be true – the place for a Christian isn’t inside the building but outside it. Continually being a part of the Church (collective of Christians) while living and serving within the community. The building was unnecessary as love dwelt and poured out of the heart. The buildings felt unnecessary, almost tower of Babel-ish; a distraction from the deeper sense of conviction and relationship that meeting with a dynamic, living, kinetic God would bring.

I asked for your hearts, but you built these stone altars for yourselves

For the good that that line of thought did me, I had missed one crucial lesson which I only began to gather this week.

God is frustrating. As creatures in his image we yearn for control thus making trust – or faith rather – difficult. The absurdity of prayer, its necessity, the frustration of unwanted responses – silence included – add to this difficulty. All we have is the hope that within the eternal scope, the completely wise allpowerful will be true to his promises of unconditional ans unflinching love.

Calling people to him, we musnt hide from the difficulty while marketing the hope. Keeping aware of our own pain makes us sensitive to the pai mm of others. Only then can we draw near to the cross together in gracious hope.

I celebrate muamba’s recovery but likewise mourn with the many whose pain has been rekindled and highlighted in its wake.

Good reflection.

Thanks

astoryoffailure

It’s been quite a while since I wrote on here. I have surprised myself with my silence. The truth is – the quiet has been a combination of two facts-of-life: 1. Busyness 2. Complete dearth of inspiration.

Work has been busy – for which I am deeply grateful. Life as a freelancer is constantly unpredictable and I am very happy to have an influx of work, which will keep me busy and out of trouble for a few weeks.

Mostly – and this I suspect is the “real” reason – I just haven’t felt inspired. Haven’t known what to write about. Haven’t felt that I had anything to say. Fleeting thoughts have crossed my mind but nothing has taken root.

Until today.

This morning, I went to church. It was a lovely service. On the whole. A guest speaker and lots of happy faces. All was going swimmingly. And then…

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Poetry 026: Fruit Picking

They were the hot summer days,
The ones we favored for picking.

She smiled whenever the idea came up,
It was possibly the only thing that I saw
Would light up her demeanor.
Excited she would dance, almost glide
Her way to the car and wait beside
The passenger door.
Her strides small and quick,
Making her hips swing and hair float.
She’d never gloat but it seemed
It was gentleness she gleaned from me
As I slowly, as was my pace,
Walked toward the door and
With a smile, opened it for her.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

Radio four would carry us there,
Away from the care of a crumbling exhaust
Or the sticky clutch.
She’d sat in silence as the seconds flew
Alongside the cascading landscape.
For she had said and knew,
That in those moments the roots
She dug and tended would –
After winter had come and gone
And spring had rained
and sun had shone – bear fruit.
She watched the world without a care
Staring through opposite windows.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

The warning light flashed and the gate
To the farm, a local favorite,
Slowly swung open as the heat
poured in through my window.
She fanned her face with paper,
One of the ‘just in case cards’
She usually stashed in her glove-box.
We exchanged smiles,
Her hand resting on my thigh
I quickly pulled my trouser legs
Down over my socks and steered.
The car – a present from her dad –
Obeyed.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking

Her hands, whose touch I often feel
Even her absence, softly caressed
The rose red cherries that hung
From the upper branches of the tree.
With her small feet pointed
She tiptoed and stole for me
The fruits she thought were sweet.
Her lips, watered with desire,
Wrapped around a raspberry
Soft pink blushes washing
Across her happy face as she ate
Free from, work and worry,
And almost free from me.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking

Her eyes spoke of days without end
Fires without ash
Or burning heat: just warmth.
Her smile spoke of receding pain,
Eroded by the warm soft rain
That fell upon our faces and hands
As we stood entwined: and sold.
Her heart, like mine, sang of hope;
Our hymn of a happiness bespoke,
Spread upon the grasses,
Glistening as the evening sun
Sat in and glowed.
I couldn’t have loved her more.

Those were the hot summer days
The ones we favored for picking.

© Denis Adide 2011

 

Broken to be shared

 

The sun beat thorough the windscreen keeping me awake while I waited in the parked car for the school bell to ring. I work with Children and had to supervise this particular child’s contact with his brother. On the radio, the last minutes of the Radio play ended followed by the news. Most of what was being reported was innocuous and breezed from ear to ear without registering. This until the story I will focus on for this rant-ish.

Two clergymen were arrested for allegedly assaulting a series of young men. I turned the radio off. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Context

I had just come back from a weekend away ‘Exploring the call of God’. There had been teaching on ‘calling’ – that deep sense of a specific direction within which to pour our passion. Mine felt like it was to be in the church, working towards healing and reconciliation by building gracious communities.

The tears fell because I knew that dysfunctionality wasn’t something that few suffered. Something only experienced by the impoverished. It is, in fact, something that everyone must deal with. The bible says that ‘all have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God’. There are no exemptions made for neither pope nor murderer. We all bear the scars of sin and sinfullness and are all in fact working out our salvation in attempting to lean on the Grace of God through Jesus.

The tears fell because I not only empathised with the young men who were allegedly assaulted, but also felt a deep sense of sorrow for the clergymen. We are all victims of sin. It wasn’t into a glowing beacon of perfection that I was being called to serve, it rather was, and is a collection of Fallible men whose hearts are directed toward good.

Depth

Jesus took the bread, and broke it. If he didn’t break it, it wouldn’t be shared. Here we see the Son of Man, who yielded himself to being broken: the bread of life, exemplifying the heart of God while teaching the solution to the human problem. None of us are whole. The more we attempt to deceive ourselves and others into believing that we are whole, the more we break them. When we do not accept out brokenness and share our pieces, we break others by taking from them. The opposite to service is abuse.

For a Christian, the core is Christ. So unless you break and share, you keep Christ hidden within and stifle light from shining, not only into your life, but into the life of others. It’s like putting a cup over a candle, with no oxygen to burn, the candle dies out. Do not harden your heart, be bold, be strong, be free and vulnerable, let Christ out and watch him pour in.

For the Church as an institution, accountability is key. What price is being paid for the lack of accountability between these two men and their fellows. Being called to serve is being called to break even further. To open your hands, and heart, and mind to those you serve. Knowing our weaknesses, and having them known, helps protect the vulnerable world we work with, but also us from temptations that the world presents. Acting out of fear, folds away the hands of love.

Confess your faults to one another, and pray for each other that you may be healed

James 5:16

I shed tears because I knew that the story would be told every half hour for the next day, portraying the church as an unsafe place and tarnishing the good work of many great friends: fathers, daughters, sons and sisters to whom the call to serve is received. It is for these, equally broken but diligent in love, servants that I wept, praying all the while that their work would not be stifled or undermined.

I wiped my cheeks with a growing determination and a prayer for continued humility within me. For that hope in Love to increase so that when the time did come – if God willed it – I wouldn’t shudder and hide.

Healing

The church is imperfect. It has imperfect people within it. It needs your accountability – so ask questions of it. It needs your input – so ask how you can help. Most of all it needs the same forgiveness it preaches. These three things will ensure it continues well in its work of healing, one person at a time.

 

Mission: As fast as the slowest person

So I joined The 2012 yesterday. It’s purpose as an organization is to help train people across the spectrum – within London – on how to live out an expressive, missional Faith. For a moment after I read the website I asked myself whether that wasn’t the purpose of the church. Then it struck me, I had limited Church to a Sunday evening, and even worse: a building. The emphatic Yes from my heart and mind in unison assured me of this as the church’s place. Rather than a palace for the holy, the Church was to be the hands and feet, hearts and ears, instruments of hope within a hopeless world. It encouraged me to see, and hear, the passion that Church has to reach out to a society whose default setting is one of suffering, hopelessness and an overall rejection of faith and the divine. It is a true reflection of the incarnate way in which God intervenes and reminded me that we all started there; at the point of despair.

My thought’s stumbled through my memory banks, marching past the devoted boy busy reading through the bible, to the angry and rebellious teenager struggling to discover himself, and finally to the young man affected by a touch to the heart from a Love he had worked hard to pretend didn’t exist. This journey back was signposted by many good people whose reaction to their faith in a missional vein allowed me to rediscover the deep longing I had for God as well as the deep longing God had for me to know Him. I recall those two young men (boys then) who took their time and were patient with me as I (drunk) tried to ridicule them for this choice that they had made: to be out in the cold sharing their faith.

I stumbled further into this sense of calling that I have felt to be involved in facilitating reconciliation between people and people but also with God. What would I, drawing from my own experience, as well as what Jesus said and did, put as the core of missional thinking. That was when this phrase emerged.

“As fast as the slowest person”

It stood as a call to never neglect the individual. This is a condensation of many things that I have been taught over the years like:

John Peters (St Marys London) said Church was a bi-product of discipleship (thoroughly paraphrased). The vision had to be people, and even more importantly, a person, in order for the edifice to stand. Looking at the bigger picture could at times make us forget the victim lying by the side of the road as we trudge on toward the temple (The good samaritan).

It made sense. The slowest person would ask the most questions, require the most patience and love. In actual fact, they would represent us, for even with the bible before us, God’s love demonstrated on the cross, his resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit we still have questions and the Father is ultimately patient.

I’ll stop here before this turns into a talk.

Be sure to check out the 2012website as well as adding @the_2012_ on twitter: join, share, and get involved.

 

Solitary Confinement

If the wicked didn’t flourish then the choice to do good would not be under such scrutiny and I wouldn’t understand the well within my conscience that Love eternally refills.

D. Adide

So it’s been a short while since my last post. If I’m to be honest, I have been witnessing a battle between my deflated ego, my heart and my mind. The three, swords drawn at each other, have been in unrest since the realisations that I alluded to in the last post: The Pangs of Desire. The result of this war is a sentiment that, until now, I have been unable to kernel.

Some call it the man cave, that space where we – from time to time – have to disappear to in order to recover (or rediscover) the senses of self necessary to rebuff the challenges the world sets. It is that desolate space where you see yourself in all your complexity. The space where good and evil feast together, morality and immorality grey, selfhood and external influence interplay  betraying yet portraying who you are to the seeing eye. (Worth a mention here the great difficulty in actually quantifying how the idea of selfhood arrises. The more I contemplated myself the more I realised that the self I was watching was a reflection, an apparition even, and not the ‘I’ that was watching. It’s an almost Hegelian multiplicity with the other constantly emerging.)

Deeper and deeper into the recesses of my own desires and thoughts I found myself treading. The abyss never ending: so much so that the distance back to the surface seemed closer and best of all more appealing. It was then that I came across the image below.

(Take a moment and scroll down, have a look, then scroll back up)

I am comfortable being confined in there because I know now that I cannot rescue myself. I lack the language to battle the sense of reticence, neither can I avoid the tug to silence. Worst of all, I do not yet fully understand what the man in there is trying to say and as his character is still an enigma to me, I fear setting him free. The reality though is that, it is I who is trapped and not he. The world is small in comparison to the grounds he Lords. This I know because when I shut my eyes and visit, he always takes me to a new place with immeasurable beauty, each surpassing the last.

NOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH

The desire that had been plaguing me, to unleash the deamon within and quench my conscience, first seeming bad, proved to be a very good lense on my character. Where I thought that my actions were governed by a fear of their consequence, I subsequently found that it is Love, and not fear that governs my choices – especially those that involve the welfare of others. The only person I am unable to properly serve is myself, and that is because I am broken and am unable to resist pandering to my own depravity. I am fully capable of resisting the selfish surges when the outcome is pain for others. Love – that complex diety – guides my hands but like Paul with the thorn in his side, keeps me grounded. If the wicked didn’t flourish then the choice to do good would not be under such scrutiny and I wouldn’t understand the well within my conscience that Love eternally refills.

 

Love Fearlessly, to whatever end!