The first day of the rest of our life

Following another trip to Heathrow today, both our children (is that the right word?) are now overseas doing marine conservation work for the Summer. So Toni and I will have to adjust to not having children around, as after the Summer they will both be at university.

No doubt there will be a sense of loss here, but as I always seek to be optimistic we'll settle for a celebration meal with some Pimms on this warm, light, evening!

Logos Hope at Canary Wharf

Logos Hope is the latest ship in Operation Mobilisation's fleet. Renamed and commissioned at the end of last year, she replaces their ship Logos. A former car ferry from Scandinavia, she is the first of their ships to be refitted for purpose rather than used “as is.”

I spent a few hours in London seeing her, having an on-board tour, and viewing the extraordinary vast bookshop on board. Along with her sister ship Doulos she tours the world seeking to bring something of the Christian message through word and action at every port. Her schedule is such that it may be another ten or twenty years before she visits the UK again, and it is a strange sight to see her moored alongside modern office buildings in Canary Wharf.

She is crewed entirely by volunteers. The refit has been good: although the ship still feels like a car ferry in places, she is far more comfortable and homely.

A satisfying week of work

This last week I have been pleasantly busy with work through my coaching and consultancy business (Finding True North). Having set the business up at the end of 2007, I find that it is gently growing, as I seek to help individuals and businesses to be more creative and profitable by operating in a way that draws on their unique personality and strengths.

This week I have completed consultancy work for a charity to help them to review their needs for larger premises, facilitated a vision-building workshop for some Church of England parishes that want to work as a team, and continued to provide spiritual direction.

A couple of contacts are pending for providing coaching training for the management team of a Wiltshire firm, and individual coaching for a recently promoted company director. Leadership and Management funding from the government for coaching and training continues to be a way to help these things to get started in the present economic climate.

This is all satisfying, as I like to spend more time delivering the service than seeking clients!

Will Europe be Christian?

There are some interesting discussions going on about the development of faith in Europe. Grace Davie has pioneered research in this area and written books on the subject. She comments on the current discussion hosted by the Guardian.

Grace gives an overview there, but her comment that the church has an important role to play, but does not have control, seems central to me.

I write this because I have been pointed to a video on YouTube which draws attention to the changing demographics in Europe. It contends that Europe will be Muslim in a few years because of changes in birth rates. Clearly Europe, and Britain, are becoming increasingly multi-racial. According to the videobirth rates among “native Europeans” have dropped below a critical level which guarantees their extinction as a majority culture. It then predicts that Europe will become predominantly Muslim, as distinct from Christian and from the current trend towards secularism. This prediction seems fraught with hazardous assumptions, such as: immigrant communities will continue to have “higher birthrates,” and that they will want to overthrow the culture that they are surrounded by rather than value it or develop it.

The video finishes with a “call to action” for Christians, but it seems intended to scare and to evoke a racist response in order to protect (“Christian”) “civilisation as we know it.” For this reason I do not find the seven minute video easy to watch, but here's the link to it.

What do I think, from a Christian viewpoint?

Firstly, it's no good being protectionist about our Christian culture, we need to do better. It has a lot of holes in it, as is shown at present by the scandal over the expenses of some Members of Parliament. The good news is that the public does care about such abuses, and has a sense of ideal morality to which it aspires.

Secondly, it is clear that our culture is changing and not static, we need to have an idea of the way that we would like our culture to develop, and live in a way that will bring it about. We need to be intentional about our own way of life and the development of society, not just “let it happen.” As Gandhi put it, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”

Thirdly, the Bible does not set out a vision for a homogeneous Christian culture. On the contrary, it describes Christianity being lived out in different ways as it continues to spread through different cultures. It took courage and wisdom on the part of early church leaders to allow this. Healthy church growth has worked for its culture, and needs to be culturally and racially diverse.

So, finally, let's build a Godly society in which the teachings of Jesus are alive, expect it to be culturally (and racially) diverse and to benefit from those varied expressions, and don't expect to control the way it happens!

Words for Islam

I think Barack Obama deserves a reputation as an excellent wordsmith, helped as I understand it by at least one British speechwriter!

I was impressed by his inaugural speech, and now I'm impressed by the speech he gave at Cairo University yesterday. Although criticised by some Americans for not holding to account Muslims for the actions of extremists among them, he does tackle extremism and I am impressed by the way that he seeks to travel a conciliatory middle path on Israel and Palestine and on women's rights.

Full text here.