stewart cutler christian youth work development

Who else needs your space?

My churches hosting co-working revelation got me thinking…

Church halls have often been a hive of activity with anything from Boys’ Brigade to dance classes and slimming clubs.

That’s all good.

But who are you missing?

How can you help your community to engage with each other and make things better?  How could your church support community projects and create and nurture community at the same time?

Detroit SOUP – image by Dave Lewinski

 

 

Detroit SOUP inspires me.  Why? Because it’s easy and effective.

Here’s what SOUP say about SOUP:

SOUP is:

Detroit SOUP is a microgranting dinner celebrating and supporting creative projects in Detroit. For a donation $5 attendees receive soup, salad, bread and a vote and hear from four presentations ranging from art, urban agriculture, social justice, social entrepreneurs, education, technology and more. Each presenter has four minutes to share their idea and answer four questions from the audience. At the event, attendees eat, talk, share resources, enjoy art and vote on the project they think benefits the city the most. At the end of the night, we count the ballots and the winner goes home with all of the money raised to carry out their project. Winners come back to a future SOUP dinner to report their project’s progress.

Perhaps it’s easier to watch what happens:

So, could you do something like SOUP in your church hall?

I think you could.

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I came across an article about church as a space for co-working yesterday.

It was one of those moments when you think that something is so obvious you can’t believe everyone isn’t already doing it!

We know that working patterns have changed.  Loads of people work from home now.  That’s great.  You don’t have to commute.  You can work in your pjs, listen to whatever music you like as loud as you want, video conference, email, work hours to suit your life… Home working has lots of upside, but it can also be a lonely existence.

That’s why you see so many people camped out in coffee shops with their MacBooks.  They are looking for company.  The presence of other human beings.  And cake.

nomad worker http://www.travelandworkonline.com

But we also know that being with others is a creative way to work.  Those conversations where people ask what you’re working on and then add some insight or suggest a contact that could help, or suggest working together on something…

So, why doesn’t your church create a space for these nomadic workers?

You have a hall that probably doesn’t get used much during the day.

You have tables and chairs.

You have a kitchen and toilets.

All you need is some good, reliable wifi, power sockets, a wifi printer and someone to be around to welcome people and put the kettle on and make a decent cup of coffee.  Stick in some whiteboards and plants and you have just created co-working nirvana.

It’s like a constant coffee morning for people with jobs.  And they will pay to use your space.

I’m not suggesting you become a start up incubator, yet, just a nice friendly place with space and a welcome.

There are some great examples of churches who are already doing it…

St Lydia’s in Brooklyn is my favourite.  They do dinner church so they were already half way there.

Sy Lydia’s Co-working

So, what’s stopping your church from being a space for co-working?

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A sermon based on 1 Samuel 17:32-49 & Mark 4:35-41

Today we find ourselves with two of the most famous stories in the Bible. Ones we have heard over and over again. The Old Testament gives us David and Goliath, that epic tale of the shepherd boy who took on the mighty giant. It’s a story we have grown up with. A story we love. A story we tell to our children about the brave wee boy who faced up to the mighty giant.

The Gospel gives us Jesus calming a storm. Again, it’s a story we have heard often, although we mostly hear the versions where Jesus comes walking on the water in the middle of the night. Luke even has Peter getting out of the boat and joining in until he notices the waves and sinks.

So, what are we to make of these familiar stories? What does placing them together like this allow us to see? What can they offer up to us in our world so very different to that of kings and armies and boy shepherds and giant warriors? Our world seems so very far from the days of the miracles and wonders of Jesus.

Except our context isn’t so very different, is it?

Again and again we find ourselves at war, standing face-to-face with another giant, another group of people who are different from us, who for reasons we don’t really understand end up on the opposing side, there to be fought, to be defeated.

And that, for me at least, is one of the difficulties with this story of the shepherd boy and the giant. We take sides. God takes sides. The giant warrior Goliath and his Philistine army are bad. They are evil. They are the enemy. That kind of labelling sticks around for a long time. We still call uncultured people ‘Philistines’ today. How’s that for a bit of latent racism?

This was almost a sermon about armour that fits. That’s the easy sermon for today. We look at little David trying to wear the armour of the great king Saul and we see that it doesn’t fit. The armour weighs the little shepherd boy down. It restricts his movement and limits his reach. It’s a great sermon for a church which feels threatened and insecure, who look around and see a scary world where the enemy is all around and where the great secular giant stands taunting us to come out and fight.

We could talk about casting off the past, freeing ourselves from the traditions that bind us, hold us down and keep us from reaching beyond our walls. We could see our traditions and doctrines as the armour of the past that no longer fits us, but it’s all that we have. Without the armour we are exposed and open to attack.

We could see ourselves as the underdogs. Just one well placed stone fired from our slings and the giant will be vanquished and everything will be wonderful.

We could sing some more hymns of war-like triumph like Fight the Good Fight… How about Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war, with the cross of Jesus going on before? All too often that’s exactly where this story takes us… We watch with the Israelites as the shepherd boy walks out with his sling and some stones, we quake as the giant Goliath laughs at his puny opponent, we hold our breath as the pebble flies, time standing still as it strikes the mark, and we explode with joy as the giant falls to the ground. Victory is ours. Our God is greater than your god. We’re better than you.

And we hardly even notice that we are sucked into a never-ending cycle of violence.   This week this took the form of a white man walking into a prayer meeting in a black church in North Carolina and murdering nine people as they prayed for peace to God, the same God in whose name untold violence has been done across the centuries. There will be cries for the gunman to be executed, as though an eye for an eye is justice rather than revenge, but it seems that the most startling and most difficult thing to understand is a victim’s children expressing their forgiveness and love for the person who shot their mother. That’s what’s missing from the story of David and Goliath. We rationalise a violent story as being about overcoming adversity or winning against the odds. David stepping out and making peace with Goliath would be a story worth holding in such high esteem.

So, let’s step away from the murder of one larger man by another smaller one, as though it is some kind of example of faith. Let’s look instead at the contrast between that story and the example of God’s Son, Jesus, as we find it in our Gospel reading today.

This story of the storm comes at the end of a tumultuous day for Jesus. Earlier he had been brought news that his cousin John the Baptist had been murdered by Herod.

There’s a moment of temptation there. Remember when Jesus goes off into the wilderness after his baptism by John? After 40 days alone he is tempted, tested. Power and dominion are part of the test. Just say the word and all this can be yours. But Jesus doesn’t want it. Rely on God. That’s where real power lies. So there will be no armed rebellion with Jesus riding on a great white horse in shining armour at the head of the people’s liberation army. There will be no revenge. Herod will meet his maker at another time and in a different way but Jesus will not take up arms.

Instead Jesus tries to find somewhere peaceful to grieve for his cousin. Instead followed and surrounded by thousands of people. He feeds them all with a few loaves and some fish and heals the sick. He chooses to restore people to health and wholeness.

Again we read that Jesus tries to get some peace and heads out in a boat with the disciples as evening falls. He’s exhausted and is soon asleep in the back of the boat.

A gale blows up and soon the water is crashing over the sides, swamping the boat. The disciples are terrified and start to panic. They call on Jesus for help. “He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”

Peace! Be still.

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?

It’s interesting that in the face of the gale and swollen waves that Jesus chooses to speak peace. Peace. He rebuked the wind and waves in their violence and chaos and brought peace.

It happens again and again in the Gospels. Jesus never once harms someone. He heals hundreds and feeds thousands. He talks of service and humility. He speaks about forgiveness, not just the moving past a small hurt but the difficulty of facing pain and suffering and choosing peace and lasting justice built on the restoration of relationship and community.

And still we choose David, the warrior poet, rather than Jesus, the healer and peacemaker, as our preferred model. Perhaps it’s just easier to see ourselves in the flawed humanity of David than the perfection of Jesus. But to do that means we don’t take seriously the fully human Jesus. We make him into some kind of sterilised angelic being, gliding through the world in sparkling white robes that new improved Daz could only dream of. We don’t see Jesus wading through the mud and garbage of the world with the rest of us.

We see only the glory of Jesus on the cross and forget that it was humanity’s love of power and violence that put him there.

There are many giants to be slayed.

God’s word is not safe,

it is dangerous.

It’s not benign,

it is powerful.

It encourages action and dissent

and sounds an alarm for us

to take up its challenge

and fight the monsters of today.

 

And in that call to action there is a choice

Always the same choice

Do we strap on our ill-fitting armour

draw our swords

and march out to slay

our giants,

those ideas that scare us,

those people who are not like us

and don’t like us?

 

Or do we stand in the face of the storm

and confidently,

faithfully,

speak the words of Jesus:

 

Peace! Be still!

For God does not dwell in the past,

and these stories do not remain on the page.

 

Will we continue to stand in amazement and look with awe upon the Son of God who commands even the wind and the waves but we still fail to hear the words he speaks to us:

Why are you afraid? After all that we have seen. After all that He has done. Have you still no faith? Are you still afraid? Peace! Be still.

 

The Good News is a living word

that speaks in every age,

that calls on God’s people

to rise to new challenges,

to seek new ways,

to love and to serve

all God’s people,

not just some of them.

 

Amen

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Intergenerational church.013

Amy Peterson

I’m training to be a minister.

I have all kinds of issues with that statement, but for now it can just be a few words that give context to what follows.

Part of my training is to spend time with the Scottish Episcopal Institute studying a diploma in theology for ministry.  I had very little experience of the Episcopal Church prior to this so their use of written liturgy and the way they celebrate the Eucharist (communion) was odd to me.  I had never experienced a sung compline or evensong.  My experience up to now had been of  preaching box churches, cubes of Mother’s Pride and shot glasses with a varying quality of content, all ‘dispensed’ in a way which is often the antithesis of communal.  But that is my primary experience.  Most of the other times I’ve participated in communion have been in ‘informal’ gatherings with a common cup and a lump of bread which feel more communal but sometimes lack a sense of connectedness to much beyond the people we are with at that time.

I know that church is odd, but because of my previous experience with my brand of oddity I thought Episcopalian liturgical practice was just plain weird.  It sits a little uncomfortably with my view of ‘priesthood’ and what happens when we celebrate the eucharist, but there is also something about it that speaks to me.  There is great depth in the weirdness which seems perhaps to be missing in what I’m used to.

So, confronted with this ancient ritual and drama, I wonder a little more about what we think church is, and is not, and what we might have gained and lost in our rush to be ‘relevant’.

If you search back on this very blog I’m sure you’ll find me railing against a church that finds itself ‘irrelevant’, and I still believe that to be true.  The relevance I hope for is that what we do helps people to connect with God, each other and their communities.  That relevance is captured in what we do and say, not necessarily in adopting the latest cultural fad or style.

This would be the stage that you point at me and call me middle aged, expose my growing ‘conservatism’ and  wonder what happened to the rebellious youth…

He’s still here.  I hope.

I’m still passionate about people who lead worship being creative, engaging and taking risks, but all that happens within and around a central act where we gather around a table and break bread and share wine together.  We join in a great and mysterious act that binds us together with what was, what is and what is to come.

“I want a service that is not sensational, flashy, or particularly ‘‘relevant.’’ I can be entertained anywhere. At church, I do not want to be entertained. I do not want to be the target of anyone’s marketing. I want to be asked to participate in the life of an ancient-future community.”

That’s nothing less than radical.  That’s nothing less than transformative.  That’s nothing less than deeply relevant.

And it’s weird.  And I like that.

I’ve come to like the use of the same words at the same point.  The words of Compline have become dear to me and the appearance of some of those words in my mother’s funeral service struck a real chord, exposing that deep connectedness again.

It’s there that relevance lies for me.  In the depths, not the shallows.

It’s in the words of our rites and rituals.  It’s in the words of carefully crafted sermons.  It’s in the poetry of prayer.

Some of the mystery and life in those words is in the speaking of them.  Rob Bell told a story in a recent podcast of his preaching class at seminary where a student preached a very boring sermon.  The teacher picked up the script and started to read the same words…  The class were amazed.  It turned out that the words were great, it was the initial presentation that was lacking.

Church is weird.

I hope it stays that way.

But I also hope we can remember that the weird stuff we do and say needs to be done and said well.

 

 

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macmillan poster

 

My brother-in-law Scott and I have decided to run the Great Scottish Run Half Marathon on 4th October in Glasgow in memory of my mum, Annis.  We’re raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Care, a charity very close to my mum’s heart.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and secondary cancer in 2013.  Throughout her battle Macmillan provided amazing support and care for both her and my dad.

Neither Scott nor I have run 13.1 miles in a long time so your support would be greatly appreciated.

Text STEW68 £5 (or whatever amount you wish to donate) to 70070

or vist my Just Giving Page

Thanks for supporting us and helping to remember Annis.

mum

 

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loom

There are times when it’s ok to let something pass quietly.

There are other times when something has to be said.

I was charged with leading worship at the URC Youth Assembly last weekend and as we neared the end of our time together it grew more and more apparent that we should acknowledge the moving on of those aged 25, who would be old to return next year.

I saw a loom like this one on Twitter last week.  Someone created one for the Deep Impact conference in Aviemore.  It looked great, so I stole it.  I was going to use it for something else but as the young people wove their brightly coloured strands together it struck me that this could be something we could use to mark a rite of passage.

Here’s what was said between the singing of Guide me, O thou great Jehovah and I, the Lord of sea and sky:

“Could those for whom this is their last Youth Assembly please stand if you are able or raise your hand to let us know who you are.

You know that I like songs and that extends, perhaps surprisingly, beyond Abba’s greatest hits. There’s a song by Semisonic called ‘closing time’. Everyone thinks it’s about chucking out time at the pub. But it’s not. It’s actually about a man contemplating the birth of his child. It has one of my favourite lines in it, and I think it says something for us all, but especially for you at this time. It’s this:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Youth Assembly is one of those things that come into our lives and it can be a hugely significant part of both our journey of faith and our journey through life. For those who have come to the upper age limit today, passing the grand old age of 25, this time of worship marks the end of your time with this particular part of the church.

And that is how it should be. Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time and a season for everything under the sun. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. And that’s as it should be.

God needs you. The church needs you.

So we want to take the opportunity to thank you, for you’re the gifts you have shared with us, for your enthusiasm and most of all for your friendship. You have blessed this community. Your stories, just like the strips of cloth on the loom, are woven into the story of this church and have been an integral part of the fabric of our life together, bringing colour and beauty.

We would like to bless you as you step out from this place and set out on new journeys of faith.

We would encourage you to take all that this place has meant and still means to you with you, to take the best of us, to take your passion for God, and share it with those you meet along the way, wherever your journey takes you.

When we bless people and send them out we have a tradition of ‘laying on hands’. So, could those around the people who are moving on gather round them and just lay your hands on their shoulders as we pray a blessing on them.

 

A Commissioning (adapted from Spill the Beans)

The Gospel,

The Good News of Jesus Christ

is demanding,

and challenging,

and subversive.

It is nothing short of revolutionary.

 

This is the message we preach.

This is the story we live.

It’s not an easy life.

But is a life like no other.

 

The call to you

is to stand up and be counted,

exactly as Jesus did:

to go after the big fish,

to make disciples of all people

often leaving familiar things behind.

 

It’s time to step out

Time to embrace your calling

Time to break cover

Time to follow Jesus

into the world

 

But go with our friendship

go with the love of God almighty

go with the leading of Jesus, the Christ, your saviour

go with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit

to guard and keep you safe

this day and always.

Amen”

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saltire butterfly

I wrote this provocation paper a couple of days after the referendum for a conference called ‘Where Church and Kingdom Collide’.  I then presented a second version at the conference.  I’d love to hear your thoughts, not so much on the referendum, but on the lessons it might have for the church.

The Ripples of the Butterfly Revolution (Part 1)

The campaign for Scottish Independence has lessons for the church

On 18th September 2014 something remarkable happened. 84.15% of the people registered to vote in Scotland cast their vote in the referendum. I’m not about to rehearse the arguments for or against, or comment on the result. Rather, I will suggest that nothing will ever be the same again for UK politics. Things have changed, and this change has far reaching lessons, and perhaps consequences, for the church. This paper is a collection of thoughts and observations on what those lessons might be. They perhaps come too quick on the heels of a tumultuous event to be clear and in any way definitive so please take them in the spirit they are offered.

Big Beasts and Butterflies

As I made my way late in the afternoon on the day before the referendum from one meeting to another, I found myself in George Square in the heart of Glasgow among thousands of YES supporters who had gathered in an impromptu rally. I know it wasn’t planned because the person in charge of the PA system broadcast an appeal for someone to go for petrol as the generator was running out. Someone went on a bike. It felt a bit like it could be Tahir Square or the Brandenburg Gate. There was an excitement, an anticipation, a togetherness I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. Children and pensioners danced and people dared to dream. Something was happening. Something had changed.

Robin McAlpine described the campaign for Scottish Independence as a ‘butterfly rebellion’[1], a term which paints a colourful picture of a collective of over 350 campaign groups and thousands of individuals pitted against the might of the ‘British Empire’. 97% of those eligible to vote registered. Turn out was 84.5%, compared to 33.5% for the recent European Elections. I wonder if revolution is a more appropriate term than rebellion?

Politics has changed in Scotland. More than that, Scotland has changed politics in the UK. The referendum has engaged and energized people from across the political spectrum and way beyond it, to read, discuss, debate, protest, party, canvas and care. The debate has been painted as a battle between a top down dictate and a bottom up rebellion, between Westminster’s big beasts and the colourful indy butterflies and blasting canon-balls at butterflies just doesn’t work.

It seems that the beats of those butterfly wings from the 1.6 million people who voted Yes and, perhaps also from the 2 million people who were persuaded to vote No on the promise of more powers, are being felt as a whirlwind in Westminster. The political agenda has shifted.

 

The Power of ‘Yes’

It turns out that lots of people are innately hopeful. Especially those who have no business being optimistic. The poor voted ‘Yes’. The rich voted ‘No’.

The chance to frame the Scottish referendum question was crucial to the shape of the campaign. ‘Yes’ is positive, ‘No’ is negative. ‘Yes’ is for, ‘No’ is against.

When you start from the positive everything feels positive. The Yes campaign felt energetic, vibrant and most of all creatively subversive.

When you start from ‘No’ it’s so much harder to frame it as a positive choice. You have to find a different way to say it, like ‘Better Together’. The problem then is disassociation with the answer you want people to choose, so Better Together became ‘No, thanks’, a ‘polite but firm refusal’ made from an ‘informed position’ to choose the union instead.

It would be easy to dismiss a No vote as a vote for the status quo, but it wasn’t that at all, despite the hugely negative campaign from No, labelled ‘Project Fear’ by its own architects.

The simplistic view is that the electorate responded in two ways, to the hope of change and to fear of change. That misses the complex and nuanced motivations, but the fact remains, the poor voted Yes. What do we do with that? Who stands with them? Is it us?

It’s not a huge jump to suggest that we, the church, are often the ‘No’ people. The old mantra of ‘we are all sinners’ is of course true but it stops short of the Good News, the ‘Yes’, the part where we have been forgiven and restored and enter into a story which is a never ending cycle of re-creation. There is no ‘No’ for us, no matter how much we might want there to be.

 

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

It’s the perceived wisdom that the media wins elections. The Sunday Herald, with a circulation of just 24,000, was the sole media supporter of one side of the argument. Others, like the Guardian and The Herald had supportive content, but no other newspapers declared support for Yes. Most were openly hostile.

A couple of thousand people marched on the BBC last Sunday to protest about ‘biased coverage’ in favour of the No campaign. Poor old Auntie Beeb was caught trying to balance coverage of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband as well as between Yes and No. They chose the establishment… and the people noticed.

The polls showed the race too close to call. In the end it was a clear 55/45% win for No, but close enough from a no hope starting position for Yes. How does that happen? We’ve been told again and again that people are not interested in politics, voters are apathetic, and that politicians are disengaged from the people. Well, 84.5%% of those eligible to vote in Scotland proved that wrong.

Paul Mason wrote about the Arab Spring that “truth moves faster than lies, and propaganda becomes flammable”[2], especially true in our world of social media, and that “they all seem to know each other”. Networking, gathering, sharing information, challenging statements and lies are all at the heart of these networks.

Power was very quickly devolved. The Yes Campaign’s idea was to build a framework that supported grass-roots activism, the ground war, while the No Campaign focused on the media, the ‘air war’. It almost worked in terms of this campaign but the lasting legacy of thousands of politically engaged citizens might be the legacy of this campaign.

I wonder which campaign style the church adopts? I fear that often we choose the ‘air war’ even though our flat structure should be the very model of that ‘ground war’ organisation.

 

Shouting Louder Doesn’t Convince People. Being funny does.

Shouting, pointing, lecturing and bullying doesn’t convince people about anything other than they don’t like people shouting, pointing, lecturing and bullying, especially if they are on the receiving end.

People have not been convinced one way or the other by speeches and TV debates. They have been convinced by family members and friends in living rooms, coffee shops and bars, on buses and trains, in canteens and on shop floors. People, who have never engaged in any kind of political conversation, let alone campaign, have canvassed their neighbours. People have educated themselves, checked facts and formed opinions. When people have told them what to think they turn away and said we’ll make up our own mind, thanks.

The thing is, we, the church, know all that. But we still persist with a top down model which trains people to be ‘experts’ and who still too often stand at the front and dispense wisdom (and I do it too, but then I’m very wise and know more about theology than they do…). Theology is still a spectator sport for the church.

More information makes people more likely to vote but stories are just as important. Actually, stories are central. We have fallen into the trap of ignoring our stories; the stories of God and of our people and communities. Worse than that we divorce those stories and instead serve up platitudes. The Hebrew tradition is one of stories and criticism. The stories are there to wonder about, not to learn or explain, not to apply reason and logic to. They are fluid, living and accessible.

The real story of the referendum has been people’s stories, not the politics. The internet is awash with tales of people’s journeys from No to Yes and Yes to No, from Anarchist to registered voter, of 65 year old first time voters and 16 year olds given the chance to join their society.

The temptation to try to explain and rationalise these stories is far too great.

This whole independence debate has been one big meaning-making exercise. It has been a collective grappling, grasping, wrestle with the story of the land and it’s people and how that relates to us and our friends and our neighbours.

That’s what church should be.

And if it’s not that we should put off the lights and go home.

In fact, perhaps that’s what we should do anyway if we want to foster a ground-up movement rather than a top down institution. Perhaps that’s the real lesson here.

 

Standing on the Outside Looking In?

The churches in Scotland all decided not to take a position on independence, given the range of varying opinion across their membership. Instead they stood on the side-lines and spoke of the need for respect and reconciliation, a perfectly legitimate place to be. It was left to others to offer theological critique and insight and it feels as though that reticence to engage has made the debate poorer, robbing it of a crucial perspective.

Harry Burns, professor of Global Public Health, observed:

“The comfortable middle class voted to stay comfortable. So, who now speaks for the poor?”

It’s a fair question.

The polling analysis shows a direct correlation between poverty and voting Yes. It seems apparent then that the poor want change in the political system, but who stands with them? The church?

The ‘system’ is broken. Everyone knows it, but nobody has any idea how to start again. It may be ironic that one of the criticisms of the prospectus set out for independence was that ‘you can’t tell us what it will look like’.

For some, the opportunity of independence offered was a chance to press ‘reset’ on the political system, a chance just too good to pass up. As I have noted, the Yes vote was biggest in the poorest areas of Scotland. Perhaps when you have nothing to lose taking a chance might be easier?

For most of the last two years it feels like Scotland has been engaged in a great big church meeting. We know we need to change. We had two options before us but the thing the majority of people actually wanted, further devolution or a federalised settlement, wasn’t in the table because of some odd procedural quirk but it seems like constitutional change will be coming for the whole of the UK.

Where will the church stand in that conversation? On the side-lines, holding the jackets and murmuring about reconciliation when it’s all over? Or is there a more radical, creative place for the church right at the heart of this change?

Butterflies only live for a few days. They are caterpillars which changed into something with wings and flew. What’s the point of a few days as a butterfly? Without them plants and flowers would not be pollinated and nothing would grow.

So for us, does this mean that after a lot of work and struggle something beautiful might be born, but that this beautiful thing may not last long? Are we in a place where we, the church, could (and should) be ok with that kind of existence?

Could we put all our energy into collecting the sustenance we need and then allowing it to transform us, knowing that the outcome will be spectacular and beautiful, but short-lived, knowing that our transformation will transform the world?

Promises have been made. The Pandora’s box of constitutional reform has been opened on the steps of Downing Street and you can’t just put a lid back on something like that.

People across these islands are ready for change. The change people voted Yes for, and No for, was a fairer, more just society. A common weal. So questions now are asked, what next?

“What makes the difference between us keeping going and us drifting off? There are many things and you’ll have your own thoughts. But two factors are quite high up on the list. The first is the balance between the struggle to change our society and the struggle to keep going. We’re all pretty exhausted and campaigning and organising takes time. Even staying in contact and coordinating takes time and effort. And the importance of ‘the accidental’ is a well-known factor in successful social movements – the accidental meeting of people who came from different backgrounds and didn’t realise they had so much in common, the accidental realisation that two different campaigns are actually working in the same area, the accidental idea that comes from listening to someone not in your usual circle and so on.

So what we, The Common Weal, are trying to do is create infrastructure that makes keeping going as easy as possible. If there are places to meet, where accidental coming-together can be encouraged (and also somewhere attractive and pleasant to draw new people in), organising becomes easier.

This is about trying to provide infrastructure for others to use to make keeping going as easy as possible. We don’t want to control this – in fact, we couldn’t anyway. We are serious about providing infrastructure which supports others.”

Wow. Does that sound like anywhere we know?

But back to the butterflies…

The SNP now has 72,500 members (now over 80,000), up from 25,642 at 5pm on ‘Dependence Day’.

Butterflies only live for a few days. They are caterpillars which changed into something with wings, and flew. When it is time, the caterpillar creates a cocoon, a chrysalis, in which a metamorphosis happens. They change from one thing into something different, from a caterpillar into a butterfly. From something that eats plants into something without which plants and flowers would not be pollinated and could not grow.

So for us, the church, does this mean that after a lot of work and struggle something beautiful might be born, but that this beautiful thing may not last long?

Are we in a place where we, the church, could (and should) be ok with that kind of existence?

Is capturing the moment and institutionalising it not what we are warned about in the story of the transfiguration, that moment where the truth of Jesus is revealed and the disciples want to build places to keep it in and preserve it forever? How very like us.

An independent Scotland existed for a day. Between 7am and 10pm we held the destiny of our nation in our hands. It was short lived, and for the 45%, for the poor and the marginalised, it was beautiful. It felt like the last days of the Empire. There was a New Hope, but then the Empire Struck Back.

I wonder, could we put all our energy into collecting the sustenance we need and then allowing it to transform us completely, knowing that the outcome will be spectacular and beautiful, but short-lived. Knowing that our transformation will transform the world? On the morning after the riots in George Square in Glasgow people brought hundreds of bags of food for the city’s foodbanks.

Tackling the Empire is where I think we should be. A million butterflies spreading the pollen of hope and seeing what grows from it, because hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.

 

[1] http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2014/09/14/the-butterfly-rebellion/

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/legacy/newsnight/paulmason/2011/02/twenty_reasons_why_its_kicking.html

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