Finding Something Good in Synod...

This week has tried my "whatever is good" resolution to the limit... partly because I'm in pain, partly because I'm under pressure at the moment, and partly because of the joys of Methodist Synod.
Now, at this point I will get all sorts of people berating me for my studied cynicism and negativity re Synod/conference and the like, and telling me that the freedom to engage in such meetings is a blessing that many of my brothers and sisters around the world would be glad of... And I hear that... however, I believe that there is a serious problem with how we address church business currently... It has become mechanistic and administrative rather than spirit-filled and creative. I don't blame any one person for that... All participants (and deliberate non-participants) are complicit... We both waste time on agenda points that have no relevance, whilst squeezing out room for genuine informed discussion, debate and decisions that might actually make a difference to the direction of local churches... But this is neither the time nor the place for this discussion... 
One of the few rays of sunshine in any synod is the curiously named "Conversation on the Work of God" - which is usually a series of monologues rather than a conversation, where local ministers and (preferably) lay representatives tell of new ventures in faith.
Among Tuesday night's conversation pieces were thanksgiving for congregations rising to the challenge of ministry in the wake of one minister's serious illness, another stepping out in a new engagement with their local community, and my erstwhile circuit colleague Karen Spence, who is now ministering in my home congregation, telling of new developments in her chaplaincy to the new "Titanic Quarter" Development. For those interested, I think her colleague Chris Bennett can be heard speaking about this chaplaincy for a limited period on Songs of Praise on the iplayer together with music from my friends in New Irish Arts (I haven't seen it, yet, so I'd better get on the ball before it self-destructs).
Now, as I said on Tuesday night in another context, the word "Titanic" is one that in many ways, fills me with frustration... and I have questions about how we act as chaplains to such a development without becoming its "spiritual cheerleaders", but again this is not the time or place for that discussion (I will return to that anon... given that the fateful anniversary day is fast approaching)...
However, the opening of the Dock Cafe as part of the chaplaincy engagement in the area is a welcome move... particularly given the model being used... A pop-up cafe under a "meanwhile lease" offers something to the developers and to the local residents/students/staff, without fully buying into the whole shiny sheebang... A reminder of the fragility of this world, in the face of an economic development model which does not yet seem to have learned that "if you build it wealth will come" is not necessarily true, despite the events of the past few years... And the honesty box approach, which I scathingly suggested would never work over here when I read of it being used by Panera Bread, a few weeks ago, is one that thinks more highly of people than simply as consumers... It speaks of an inherent optimism in the hearts of Karen and her fellow chaplain Chris Bennett, and a perspective on people that isn't jaundiced or cynical. It speaks of the heart of Christ...
It is ventures like this that will truly put heart into the Titanic Quarter, and help to build real community... 
May God bless the Dock Cafe and all who sup coffee in her...

Shalom

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