Church: a place, a people and a purpose

Warsaw church candles

Every Sunday afternoon I cross the Thames, usually over Millennium Bridge and walk into a conference centre. Some weeks I’m away, but I can’t remember the last time I missed a Sunday I could make.

I go to church.

I walk into a crowd of a few hundred people, more than I can ever know, even their names. And yet, it is the place that I am known. There are people who know my fears, who know my doubts, have seen my failings, have heard my anger. And those who’ve seen me kind, watched me excel, encouraged me to grow, pushed me outwards, upwards, and delved into the places I would choose to keep to myself.

Church is home.

It’s not always easy, it’s frequently hard, painful, annoying, boring, it exhibits all those dreadful traits, the ones we have ourselves but expect the church to be above. For the first eighteen months I went to this church I would arrive as the worship team struck the first chords and slip out as the ministry team offered prayer at the front. I was leading a small group for most of this time, I had responsibility, I welcomed people into a place and into a community that I didn’t feel welcomed in.

Some essential caveats to begin with. I know the church is not about buildings. I grew up in a charismatic congregation began by students in the 1970s, and which my parents joined soon after, it met in schools, colleges, graduated to a lecture hall in Southampton University before buying the old Methodist Central Hall in the city centre. We held a church picnic when the purchase was completed, all I remember was playing hide and seek and finding a nook to hide in the huge organ soon to be ripped from its setting. Continue reading

It’s a bubble wrap life: thoughts on modesty

Heart of Tuscany July 2013 054 ModestyLast night I ate at Nando’s. I went for a half chicken marinated in mango and lime dressing and it tasted good. I could have gone for it naked (or plain as they prefer to put it), but we all know that chicken tastes better when dressed. It made a good thing great. And it’s the same with people and clothes.

No it’s not.

I can’t do it. I can’t write an important piece about modesty, attraction, responsibility and liberty premised on an extremely tenuous food metaphor. I’m not going to suggest it’s like putting meat on the BBQ and then telling someone they can’t eat it, or anything about chocolate cake, sweets, or any other edible. I’m not going to say it’s like taking an alcoholic into a bar.

I’m not going to use any of those examples because they are about consumption. We eat food, we drink beer, we do not consume another person. And too often that is the problem when we talk about modesty and attraction: we do so from the mindset of a consumer. We think of other people as an it, as something that we either consumer or do not consume. And in doing so we deprive other people of agency. Continue reading

Beauty, attraction and modesty – a five act thought process


A couple of weeks ago I went to Scotland and it was beautiful.

It is as easy and natural as that. The description of beauty was done without any further thought or consideration.

Last night I went out and met a beautiful girl.

Well actually I didn’t, I stayed in on my own and watched a couple of episodes of The Pacific. If I had used a real life scenario it would have suddenly become awkward. And that’s my point. When we talk about beauty and it relates to some feature of nature or a work of art it does not provoke the same array of inquiries as to its meaning or subtle squinting of the eye to work out where the statement in question originated.

If I say a girl is beautiful it is taken to mean something more than just a factual observation. In short you’d probably assume I was interested in her romantically. And I might be: because I’m a guy and have been known to be interested in that sort of way.

But it’s also far too reductionist and it takes a whole swathe of compliments out of use. While I am sometimes attracted to a particular girl because of her beauty, that does not mean I am attracted and seeking to romantically pursue any girl I consider to be beautiful. Continue reading