The summer of outreach in festivals around the UK and in the Czech Republic is over, and Pastor Phil is back in the US. You can read more about the last week’s of this mission at the link below.
July 3-25, 2018
There are places, times, events, and even people where are hearts find comfort and feel at rest. These locations, times, events, and people represent hints of heaven. The Apostle Paul spoke of being “strangers and pilgrims” on this earth, and when we experience moments and places that feel more like home than home itself, we are also experiencing the transitory nature of human life. Our hearts seem to reach out toward that the places of possibility that are found with God. The heart that reaches out to God senses that these are the hints of heaven. This trip has been filled with festivals, friends, towns and moments that have been these kinds of hints of heaven.
A Cheltenham Home
I spent some days with Mark and Anthea Searle. Being with them is always like coming home. They always have “room at the inn”, there is a place I can leave extra gear when I need to travel lighter and quicker, and they are always as kind as can be. During this trip, I joined them at a Dyson family day (Mark works for Dyson, which is far larger and more impressive than I imagined.) I also was able to meet with Tony and Dwee Cooke, friends who are former Bridge Church Pastors, who are now doing a television show on Dream Interpretation.
Prepping for Eisteddfod in Cardiff
From Cheltenham I traveled to Cardiff, Wales in order to prepare for the Welsh National Eisteddfod. I stayed with Sera Owen and Robert Zyborski, who are great hosts and wonderful people. I spent an afternoon with Lois Adams (niece to Kevin Adams the Welsh Pastor from the Baptist Church in Lynn, MA) brainstorming outreach ideas, and I spent an evening with Dawn Wood and Andrew Thomas as well. This short jaunt to Cardiff was for dreaming up outreach ideas, specifically for the National Eisteddfod coming up in a little over two weeks.
A few days with Mike and Jules
Friends Mike and Jules have been a regular stop in almost every trip to the UK. This year, they are in a new larger house with a lot more land in Kent – south east of London. As always it was home away from home to be with them, and Mike acted as a tour guide showing me around Faversham, Canterbury, and the beaches nearby.
CMS sessions on Spiritual not Religious in Oxford
I arrived in Oxford minutes before 10am, when the one-day conference at CMS (Christian Missions Society) about “spirituality not religion” was happening. I was one of the plenary speakers for the event. A number of Christian ministry friends who similarly work in New Age and Neo-Pagan settings were there. As such, the gathering felt like coming home. People who understand living in and working in strange and wonderful settings were all together to share their wisdom with those who came to learn. Paul Cudby gave a primer on Neo-Paganism. Emma Moreton shared her beautiful and difficult story, which highlighted the tension of living this kind of life of ministry. Diana Dingles Greenfield shared on ministry in places like Glastonbury and festivals. Matt Arnold gave a well-balanced talk on the principles of reaching out to Neo-Pagan culture. I shared stories and corresponding truths connected the Father Who is waiting for us to join him in the places he has already preceded us – places like Burning Man, and Salem during the Halloween season. Glyn Moreton ended the day by leading us all in a time of worship and passing the horn in a celebratory drink to the Lord.
Homelessness in the Land of Higher Education
The great wall between the haves and the have-nots
I spent the evening in Oxford, and was profoundly moved by the incredible distinction between the haves and the have-nots. Oxford is a city of higher education with ancient walled schools everywhere one goes, and at the same time, as the evening falls, the streets are filled with homeless people sleeping in doorways, and begging for change. The contrast is perhaps more extreme than any place I have seen in America, and it caused me to wonder how the world of higher education imagines changing the world for the better without looking outside its own front door.
Prague and Meziprostor
After spending a night on the streets of Oxford, I caught a plane to Prague. This was the second year that I was speaking at a spirituality and punk/metal festival called Meziprostor. “Meziprostor” means something like “the in-between space” in Czech, and the festival is designed to navigate the space between God and the world, Christianity and society, and across the spaces that divide people. Obviously, since this was the thesis for my book Burning Religion, one can see how much I might enjoy Meziprostor. This little festival, at the famous Czech Underground location, Skalak Mill, goes on my list as the best festival I have ever attended that accomplishes the task of being an “in-between space.”
I met Trey McCain at the airport in Prague, and one of the festival coordinators, Alexandr (Sasha) Flek picked us up. Trey and I spent a night at a Rainbow Gathering inspired community in an old mill just outside Prague. It is the inspiration and hard work of Sandy and his family who have been there for 16 years – oftentimes helping young single mothers with children. The next day we were off to the next mill, and the Meziprostor festival.
At Meziprostor, I taught a morning devotion on Saturday, and held lecture about “Why We Can’t Find Ourselves: lessons on contemplation and community from the desert fathers and mothers.” I will be sending my notes out to people who have expressed interest in this particular topic, so please let me know if you would like to receive them as well. On Sunday, a spot opened up in the schedule, and Sasha asked Trey and I if we would like to fill the slot. So, we did a hands-on workshop of Lectio Divina (sacred reading) meditation, and meditation on nature as a dialogue. We gave examples of scripture meditation in dialogue, and searching for God in nature, and sent people out to do the work, then talked about it together afterwards. Trey made an incredible workshop partner, and people appeared to both enjoy it and get something beneficial from it.
After Meziprostor, Trey and I stayed in a Hobbit Hut designed for Tall Skinny Kiwi, Andrew Jones on the land of Mathias and Carrie. Cat Camissa, from Austin, who also came all the way for Meziprostor was there, and we spent a couple nights in Prague with Sasha and Katka and a host of friends in their circle. On Monday night, we went to a third mill, which is a pub on the river in Prague, and Tomos Sedlacek, the writer of the best-selling The Economics of Good and Evil was there. He joined the group, and there was a wonderful high-intensity debate over a pile of different topics between Sasha, Myself Tomos and a handful of others. I love a good hot debate with a hug and new-made friends at the end, and that was exactly what it was all about. We debated God, and science, and faith, and the state of Christianity, and a host of other topics late into the night, and rolled into bed around 2pm. These are the kind of things that regularly pop up in this traveling ministry.
Next Up: Cardiff and the Welsh National Eisteddfod
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Micro-Church Planting Mission, UK and Europe, Summer 2017
Mid-June through mid-July in the UK and mainland Europe were a whirlwind of activity. From the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge with Christopher Gaston and the Browns from Brownwood, TX, to sleepless same day travel to the 250,000 person Glastonbury Festival, to joining Andrew and Dawn and helping set up/run events/take down for Between the Trees, to flying to Prague for a 4 day heavy metal/punk/hardcore festival called Meziprostor it was a busy month.
This was the third year at the 4-day Solstice Festival and going to Stonehenge with nearly 15,000 people on the Summer Solstice. During the day, Sandi Chai Brown and Christopher Gaston interpreted dreams at the festival, and I occasionally joined them, but more frequently I might have been found discussing life and spirituality with people from around the UK and Ireland. There were a number of faces we have come to recognize, and people with whom we are developing deeper relationships. Many of those we have come to know are following a New Age spirituality filled with hopes of aliens and psychedelic drug use. Please keep these people and this outreach in your prayers.
When the Sun rose at Stonehenge, we traveled back to the camp, and after about an hour of shut eye, I said goodbye to Christopher and the Brown family, and grabbed the bus without air-conditioning, to the train without air-conditioning, to the next train without air-conditioning full of hippies and camping gear, to the hippie bus without air-conditioning to the Glastonbury Festival and a long walk with all my gear on the hottest day we had experienced in what has been a hot summer in the UK. Grabbing the first bus at 11am, I finally found a placed to hang my hammock tent around 8pm with the help of Diana Dingles Greenfield and the Iona Community. I spent the next four days at the largest, loudest rock festival I’ve ever experienced. We spent our days in the Iona Community camp talking to people about life and God, and sat around the fire at night doing more of the same. We hopped from concert to concert, and joined the hundreds of thousands moving from show to show. This was my first Glastonbury, and I am hoping to return and join the Iona Community in two years when the festival next occurs. They are in a season of developing some new plans for their outreach after 17 years of working in the festival.
I returned to the town of Glastonbury after the festival for a few days. It am hoping that this wonderful little place, which feels so much like being at home in Salem, Massachusetts becomes a wonderful new haunt of creative outreach. The doors appear open, and Diana has been working among the variety of New Spiritualities found there for some time now.
Early July, it was time to return to Cardiff and prepare for Between the Trees – a small music festival in the valleys just outside Caerphilly. Charlie and Becky were back again. After having spent time with them at Burning Nest, once again I helped set up lights for the festival. Charlie was busy moving out of his apartment, so Becky and I became the lighting masters for the festival. I taught a class on poetry writing, performed some music to fill a slot in which someone was unable to make it, and led a well-attended philosophy discussion in the evening.
After we worked to take down lights and do the clean up after the festival, I had a day to prepare for the next trip: a train to a bus to a train to the eastern edge of the UK to catch a flight to Prague. After a day in Prague, Sasha Flek took our small crew of Americans out of the city to a festival he has been helping organize for a few years now. Meziprostor is a hardcore/punk/metal festival with a Christian Spirituality edge. I taught on the subject of the changing dynamics of sexuality in our culture (under the title “Uncomfortable Sexual Positions”), played a little more music, led a morning devotional and got to know people as best I could through the often challenging language barriers. I discovered a wonderful set of new friends from Poland and the Czech Republic and hope to return to this event and perhaps to Poland as well next year. Please keep the team that is building Meziprostor in your prayers. This festival has created one of the best environments I have ever seen for Christians and their non-Christian friends to hang out together in a life affirming way.
After Meziprostor and spending a morning with Cathryn Camissa and some of the Jones family and friends, I caught a bus to a train to another 3 trains, and arrived late at night in Kaiserslautern, Germany. In Kaiserslautern, I spent the next few days with Jeff and Barbara Cox. And here life slowed down a bit, and I washed away a month of weariness. I also left Germany with an iPad Pro which the Cox’s donated to me. (Thank you, thank you, thank you! This will make traveling much easier in the future.) After spending a couple days with them, I sat in the airport in Cologne waiting about 5 hours for my late flight back to the UK.
I stayed with Ben and Joanna, my new friends from the Iona Community Outreach at the Glastonbury festival, and had a lovely time with lovely people in Manchester, which is an amazing city. I am back at Mark and Anthea Searle’s home in Cheltenham now, and will head back to North Wales in the next day or two to start prepping for the Eisteddfod.
I am in the last phase of travel, meeting people, and working in my final festival of this trip – the Welsh National Eisteddfod, where I anticipate a little over two weeks living and working in the Welsh language.
Micro-Church Planting, Summer 2017