I had a burst of creative energy before settling down last night, so I scribbled all my thoughts in a notebook and added to them (or amended them) several times before finally getting off to sleep. They were inspired by a number of negative things I had read or seen during the day. These are all things we can all do at any time to make the world a better place, read them below in a more coherent and better-organised list.
Build bridges, not walls.
Seek to understand others.
Talk to someone of faith, another faith, or no faith.
Visit a mosque, synagogue, or another place of worship.
Talk to someone of a different political persuasion.
Listen to children.
Don’t define others by race, colour, gender, sexuality, faith/no faith, or politics.
Visit a food bank or refugee charity.
Celebrate and embrace difference.
Challenge fake news.
Oppose all injustice, stand up for truth.
Be less judgemental.
Understand mental health better.
Say sorry easily.
Be generous in spirit.
Smile more and talk to strangers.
Make a difference where you are.
Please feel free to add suggestions to my list.
Commissioner Harry Read is a retired Salvation Army Officer who was my Training Principal while I was at the William Booth College in London between 1978-1980. Harry is also a D-Day veteran who parachuted into Normandy in 1944. At the age of 94, he made another parachute jump to raise funds for Salvation Army work to combat modern slavery and human trafficking. Amongst his many gifts, this fine Christian leader is also a poet, and I often use his insightful poetry while leading worship. Well done Harry!
Note: I’m grateful to Margaret Ord for the photo of Harry preparing for his jump.
The Salvation Army in the UK has it’s annual Big Collection during September, although many corps raise money for this throughout the year. This money is used to support our social and community work, and one way is supporting the emergency services. We watched this video in our worship yesterday, it shows the practical help offered and the motivation for it.
This morning I had the joy of taking part in an assembly at Carville Primary School, which is right next to The Salvation Army worship and community centre in Wallsend (in the background of the photo between the gates). We already have links with another nearby school, but as this one is so close it makes sense to explore how we can work together.
I already know some of the children as they attend or have attended our Friday evening JAM Club (Jesus And Me). I first met the headteacher before the summer holidays, and today we had another useful chat over a cuppa after the assembly.
I’ve been very impressed with the school on both my visits, and I look forward to working together in the future.
Last Sunday evening in worship we watched another video from the excellent NOOMA series by Rob Bell entitled Tomato. In the video he speaks about his wife making the most wonderful salsa, here’s the recipe from the notes:
Put ingredients in the blender in this order:
1 chopped jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
leave the seeds in if you like it hot
1 small to medium onion, cut into quarters
1 handful of coriander
8 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 squeeze of lime
1 generous pinch of sea salt
Blend just until the tomatoes start to get blended. You want the tomatoes to still be chunky and not pureed. Pour into a bowl and eat right away.
Obviously the salsa is merely an illustration of something deeper, and the description of the video is as follows: Do we try so hard to be something we are not, that we miss out on how to truly live? We all get consumed with ourselves; sometimes we’re not even aware of it. We learn from a young age that life is about winning and impressing. We pick up that our worth and value come from how good, how smart, and how skilled we are. So, we twist things in our favour, making us look like we have it all together. Every day we have the choice to prop up these false ideas about ourselves or to let go of them. Jesus invites these parts of us to die, the parts of us that tell us our worth comes from the things we say and do. Maybe it’s only when we let these things die, that we truly begin to live.
Update: Since writing this I’ve posted about his book ‘How To Be Here’ – click here.
My vocation as a Salvation Army Corps Officer centres on being a pastor and preacher, but (inevitably) there are other duties and roles I have to undertake and fulfil as a Minister of Religion responsible for a worship and community centre in Wallsend. One that doesn’t sit comfortably with me is that of administration and particularly accounting, but it’s a role I have to fulfil in the absence of a treasurer (although I have an excellent Corps Secretary who works with me as a volunteer).
The finance system the Salvation Army uses goes by the wonderful name of Agresso, and is soon to have an upgrade to SAASY (Salvation Army Accounting SYstem) at the start of the new financial year. Today I attended a training day for the new web-based system, with an excellent buffet lunch provided by my Divisional Headquarters. By the end of the excellent training day my eyes had well and truly glazed over, but only because I can only deal with finance in small doses.
So, what’s my initial verdict? Well, it’s a lot for everyone to get their heads around, but I think (ultimately) it will be an improvement all round. I just feel sorry for those who prefer to do their accounting in a ledger with a pen! What are the thoughts of my colleagues?