Tag Archives: Community

It’s happening y’all. Just as I feared when I embarked on this not so exotic unadventure back to Suburbia.

Suburb values are starting to win me over. I think I’m being brainwashed by Waitrose, olive oil & balsamic vinegar and M&S Food. Don’t laugh. This is serious business.

The distinction between want and need grows ever hazier and harder to decipher. Don’t we all need an en suite, loft conversion, double driveway and two weeks lying on a beach somewhere with guaranteed sun? Surely that’s on the UN Convention of Human Rights. And if not I'm starting a petition - who's with me?

Life without a garden is unimaginable. I mean, a summer without The Washing vs. Rain Struggle is no summer at all (Is it gonna rain? Shall I put my washing out? It’s a bit cloudy but I’ll chance it...)

The Song of Suburbia wakes me up each morning and sings me to sleep with a Hymn to a Safe Life - Build a bigger barn, store more stuff, send your children to private school, go on nice holidays. For then you shall be safe. You shall be secure. Harm will not visit your doorstep.Build a bigger barn.

Not having a car or even being able to drive is quite a novelty - #world’smostboringpartytrick

And can you imagine – the council are doing such a shoddy job of maintaining the grass verges that if we actually want it to look decent we have to do it ourselves. One of my neighbours was so distressed that he even spent a Saturday afternoon, on one of the hottest days of the year so far, having to tackle the overgrown grass. What do we even pay council tax for?

Lowering the tone (and houseprices) of the neighbourhood
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Acceptable.

The Kingdom of Comfort is alive and flourishing.

Not that the suburbs is without pain – lost family members, lost jobs, lost health, lost life - but its just less obvious when everyone builds higher fences and bigger hedges.

But never fear – I’m fighting back. Starting with re-reading the Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claibourne (Holla at me all you other Ordinary Radicals. Read it if you have no idea what I'm talking about). Though I have to remember that I’m not Shane. And that’s ok. We can’t all be Shane. Because who would be Beyonce? Or McBusted? Or me?

So, it’s been six months of Exile already. Time to stop collaborate and listen pause and reflect.

There is much to be learned in Exile.

I’m learning new ways to block out that annoying thing called light when you’re on your way to work.

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Using time wisely

I’m learning that celebrating International Womens' day by choosing to spring clean my bedroom and buying myself flowers is just as revolutionary as not shaving your legs (or armpits if you're Madonna) – because I am privileged enough to make my own decisions about how I live my life (thank you Destiny's Child and the Spice Girls for lessons in being an Independent Woman). But there are millions of women and girls who do not have that privilege, here's why its important...

I’m learning that one of the purposes of Exile is to show God’s provision. There can be new life, new meaning, new dreams, new routines and new community in Exile. There is life in the seemingly barren places.

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I’m learning that not everyone has a problem with clipping their nails on the DLR whilst on the way to work.

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Eww

I’m learning that in the same way that faith produces good works, Love Does. Love doesn't stop at thoughts and feelings. Love takes action. Love enriches others' lives. Love Does. Bob Goff has this down to a T.

I’m learning that life without risks where you have no option but to depend on God, is boring, stagnant and uncomfortably comfortable.

Shout out to Jessica Hagy for this creation.

I’m learning that revolution in the suburbs isn’t always that subtle – don’t like the fact that they’re digging up half the street to change the electrics or something? Simply don’t move your car.

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I’m learning that though the love of money can be the root of all kinds of evil, the joy of generosity can overcome it.

I'm learning that dancing in the hailstorm is so much easier after you've praised Jesus first.

I’m learning that streams in the desert and ways in the wasteland can be hard to find, but once found, following the path and drinking from the stream brings Life, in abundance. Hallelujah.

That’s it. No more school. No more spending most of my day surrounded by 30 kids, no more pretending to know something about science/Victorians/what an adjective is/what a verb is/what 7x8 is, no more suffering through 30 kids playing the Ukulele for an hour every week, no more yelling at kids to line up and stop crying over Yu Gi Oh cards or Moshi Monsters, no more killing time in assembly by imagining what life is like as a tree, no more despairing over why they've forgotten to use capital letters and full stops, no more having to call parents to tell them that their child just threw up (or worse - don't ask) all over the classroom, no more school.  No more school holidays either. Sad times – I will miss my life of organised chaos.

The last couple of weeks have been filled with lots of goodbyes - some easy, some hard, some accompanied with lots of of cake, some accompanied with lots of alcohol, some tear-filled and some just painfully awkward.

When you leave a job/church/place with a view to not return people will generally mention something about you that they like/have appreciated/won’t forget. You know “Thank you for always helping with...” or maybe “You’re not actually that quiet are you?” Sometimes it's something really nice. Other times you don't know which side of the compliment-insult line it sits on.

Apparently a killer death stare and my earring collection are my most noteworthy characteristics. Talk about a lasting legacy. Or maybe my well dressed evil genius alter-ego is harder to hide than I thought.

What I have realised is that how you act and treat people now is what they will remember- we're all known for something right?

If you want people to remember you as generous and compassionate then you have to actually be generous and compassionate.

If you want people to remember you as understanding and encouraging then you actually have to be understanding and encouraging.

If you want people to remember you as sarcastic and bitter then all you have to do is be sarcastic and bitter.

If you want people to remember you as angry and hostile then all you have to do is be angry and hostile.

It’s not rocket science people. Be kind.

People often ask me how I'm doing now that I'm exiled in Zone 6.

I tell them "it’s ok, I’m ok." And I am.

But I am also scared.

I am scared that before I know it I will slip into a living coma of a comfortable & complacent suburban life.

I am scared that I’ll begin to confuse the lines between want and need.

I am scared that I won't even notice when I begin to think that neighbours parking outside the wrong house is a crime punishable by getting lost in IKEA for an eternity.

I am scared that I’ll have a 9-5 office job that I don’t really like but am too afraid to leave – because without that I wouldn't know who I was?

I am scared that living in anything but a house with a garden will become unimaginable.

I am scared that I'll start reading the Daily Mail.

I am scared that as I get lulled into a false sense of security my dreams will start to shrink, as will my reliance on the God I love and try to serve.

I am scared that Waitrose will become the norm not a luxury.

I am scared of a life of  No Adventure

I am scared I will get Stuck.

I am scared that one day Jesus will put me in a group with my fellow goats – Matthew 25 y’all, I don’t actually think I’ll turn into a goat, bah!

I am scared that I’ll become a goat and not even care.

I am scared that one day I will realise how comfortable I have become and be too afraid to change it.

I am scared that I will no longer believe that Jesus is enough.

I am scared that I will trivialise the concerns and worries of my fellow suburbanites.

I am scared that I will blame the suburbs for my own laziness.

I am scared that I don't really understand the meaning of perfect love casting out fear (1 John 4 v18).

I am scared that I over dramatise everything.

BUT I do know that God is with me always, even until the end of the age (not infact a LOTR quote but Matthew 28 v 20). So really what is there to be scared of?

What about you, are you scared of anything?

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So I wouldn't say I live in the 'hood exactly. I wouldn't say that I lived in a dodgy area. And if you knew how much our rent was you'd probably think that we lived in a 'gated-community' with a butler, en suite rooms, private gym, walk in wardrobes a la Princess Diaries (a girl can dream), roof-top garden, actual garden, and view of the Thames/Buckingham Palace/Eiffel Tower.
But we don't.

What we do have is a bunch (gang?) of guys who like to hang around in the courtyard  between the building where I live and the one opposite - and they do lower the tone rather. Here's us trendy hipsters trying (well not really trying because that wouldn't be ironic) to raise standards to oversized glasses frames, good coffee and creative alternatives but our efforts seem to be in vain - they do not care for such things. *sigh*

One or two will usually surface around lunchtime and by 8/9pm there's at least ten guys smoking, eating chicken, dropping litter and riding around on Boris Bikes until the early hours of the morning. I'm not sure of half of what they do, but the half I am sure of fo' sure ain't legal. Sometimes leaving the flat or coming home can be stressful when you know that you might have to walk past them, which is kinda ridiculous because they rarely say anything to you. And sometimes they do share useful security facts about how they watched some guy stealing bikes from the building - but didn't bother to stop him.

Whether I like it or not they are part of my community. They are literally on my doorstep, quite often blocking the way to the door - but when they realise you want to get into the building they generally move out the way without you even having to ask - see, they're nice boys really I'm sure.

Which poses the question of how to solve the problem of the dealers at your door? We've (flatmates and I) been wondering about this alot lately. Do we:

A. Ignore them? Fix your eyes on the floor/anywhere but them and purposefully walk past as if they're not there? Which is just ridiculous because it's obvious that you've seen them. 

B. Befriend them? I'm not even sure if this is possible.

C. Report them? The Police come every now and again, sometimes they search them and other times they don't. Not gonna lie - it can actually be quite entertaining, especially when they start complaining to the police about other people who 'lower the tone' but other times it's hard to watch.

D. Make them a cake - my standard solution to everything.

>E. Other. Suggestions on a postcard please.

So far we've gone for a mixture or A and B, depending on how brave we're feeling and how much weed we can smell. Not gonna lie I mostly go for A - ignore them. But braver flatmates than me have got them to carry heavy suitcases of groceries up two flights of stairs to the flat. And another one has had a long enough chat to discover that one of them really loves his girlfriend and would do anything for her but because their families are from different countries no-one wants them to be together or get married - you see, I'm sure they're nice boys really.

Apart from the noise they don't give us much trouble (although remind me to tell you about the Great Litter and Chicken Wing Debates) but it would be nice if any guest who arrives or leaves after 7pm didn't have to pass some Iron-man Bravery Contest just to get to our door.

Any ideas?

Today was the church AGM (social highlight of the year obvs). Maybe not the easiest of things of follow (accounts completely baffle me) but important all the same. During the Q & A section a friend turned to me and said “What do you want to see Rach?”
I gave my standard answer when my head is empty but full of wondering what exactly the implications are of  the restricted and unrestricted funds section of the accounts – “Good question. I’m not sure, haven't thought about it that much.” Which to be honest isn't the whole truth. I know what I want to see in the Church as a whole, but I’d never really thought about what I wanted to see in my local church. 
Which is kinda lazy and crazy (check tha’ rhymes) given that one of the reasons I chose to attend St Peter’s was because I believe in the vision of the church. But I guess part of that was me signing on to someone else’s vision. Which is strange because I have a million and five opinions on what I think the Church should look like, and yes, some of these opinions definitely contradict (keeping track of a million and five opinions is hard work).
So what do I want to see?

It’s simple really - Love. 

I want to see a community of people who Love.

Love God, love each other & love those in our community.

Love that is patient and kind. Love that is not jealous, or boastful or proud or rude. Love that does not demand its own way. Love that is not irritable or counts when it has been wronged. Love that rejoices in truth and justice. Love that never gives up or loses faith. Love that endures through every circumstance.  

An all encompassing love that is good news to the poor, comforts the broken hearted and sets captives free. 

I want to see a people who give freely, serve joyfully and worship faithfully.

A family where all are welcomed and no-one is left out. 
A family who rejoices with you in times of celebration. 
A family who helps carry you when you’re in a valley and all is dark.
A family who is right beside you through all seasons of life.

In other words I want to see a church that looks more like Jesus and less like the rest of us. 
So the challenge to myself is am I one of those people? Am I contributing to the Church I want to see?
Not always.
But the great thing is that there’s always an opportunity to start.
Shoutout to one of the YWAM crew for the photo.

So a couple of weeks ago I spent the day down at Tearfund HQ in deepest darkest South West London (Teddington) with the Tearfund communications team and a bunch of other people who love Jesus and write and blog and draw things.


It was a really interesting day despite a bad start (getting up late, running for the train, getting off two stops too early, waiting half an hour for the next train and then walking in the completely wrong direction from the train station – a good sense of direction is not my spiritual gift).


We spent the day talking with various Tearfund staff about their work and about digital communication. To which I concluded:
  1.   Tearfund are doing a great job
  2.   I should probs join twitter (follow me @rachsherlyh)

One of the things I learned was that Tearfund is all about resourcing the local church. The majority of their work is carried out in conjunction with local partners and churches. As someone who works for a charity that resources churches to start and run foodbanks, and as someone who believes that local community is more important and powerful than we realise, quite why I have never thought about church and community and international development is beyond me. But now that I have thought about it, I realise it's probs the way forward.


So for the last few months I’ve been saying that I need to get a new phone (the one I have is slowly falling apart) but haven’t been able to work out what phone I wanted, until recently...


It seems like everyone has an iphone. Everywhere I go I see people elegantly and silently typing out text messages on their touch screen while I’m still having to press the ‘9’ key four times just to write the letter z, and don’t get me started on having to be patient when using a word with too many m, n or o’s in it (first world problem or what?!). “There’s an App for that” is a phrase I’m beginning to hear all too often. It began to seem that all my problems would be fixed if I had an iphone. Now, I’ve never been concerned about having the latest technology (I got an ipod for Christmas a few years ago and had to be told what it was) and tend to avoid anything with a ridiculous amount of buttons or settings, but for some reason I decided that an iphone was the way to go.


So over lunch at Tearfund we were chatting about various things when the conversation landed on technology. I tried to keep up, I really did, but I didn’t understand half of what was said. My confusion must have been obvious because one of the guys turned to me and asked if I was a techie (I presumed he meant was I into technology not was I a Star Trek fan – but maybe that’s trekkie instead? Anyone know?). To which I replied “No, I only use what I have to and avoid the rest.” 

And just like that I realised that I didn’t need an iphone. I think I had begun to believe the lie that because nearly everyone (it seems) has one I probably needed one too or that it would make my life easier (because my life is so hard as it is!). And that realisation completely cured me of wanting an iphone. I am now content to use my current phone until it completely gives up on me. Thank you Tearfund. 

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I've been asked quite a lot lately about what living ‘as a community’ actually means. My father thinks I live in a commune – I’m not that much of a hippy just yet (but I have started wearing more tye-dye clothes whenever I go home, just to freak him out a bit you know).
Each week living as a community means something different.
Last week was definitely about choices & being intentional.
Sometimes it’s just carrying out decisions that you’ve already made as a group:
  • Choosing to share incomes and contribute to living expenses on the basis of what you earn and can afford
  • Choosing to buy food as a household and cook together (one simple rule avoids confusion and the crushing disappointment of opening the fridge to discover the food you were dreaming about all day has gone - if you wan’ it then you gotta put ya name on it)

Or decisions that you need to make together:
  • Choosing to spend time together (you know your lives have gotten too busy when you have to schedule 8am breakfast meetings with your flatmates so that you can all get your diaries out and book in time to spend together over the next two months)
  • Choosing to pray with each other
  • Choosing to pray for each other
  • Choosing whether or nor to invest in a tumble drier ( with four girls a tumble drier is definitely for the win!)

And then there are the daily decisions:
  • Choosing to not throw a book/table/chair at you roommate when she sings that one line from that really annoying song for the millionth time that day
  • Choosing not to throw your roommate out the window when she tries to have a conversation with you before you've had breakfast, even though she knows you can’t deal with it (for those of you wondering - I had breakfast half an hour before our breakfast meeting)
  • Choosing to forgive your flatmates when they don’t even realise you feel wronged
  • Choosing to say sorry when you don’t understand what you did wrong/knowingly did something wrong
  • Choosing to invite people into your home when you really need a night off to watch Gypsy Weddings
  • Choosing to clean more often than you think necessary because you know that in the same way you can't deal with mornings, your flatmate can't deal with mess
  • Choosing to share your burdens with others and help others carry theirs'
  • Choosing to sing along to Bryan Adams at the top of your voice while you cook dinner with your flatmate (Bryan Adams – For shame! Minus 5 points to Rachel)

But then there are the days when the sun is shining, life is perfect (enough) and the harder choices, that require more courage and greater love, are o so easy to make. 
And then community is less about making choices and more about just living your life, with maybe a bit more grace and depth and love then you might otherwise have done. 

Disturb us, O Lord,
When we are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, O Lord,
When with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, O Lord,
To dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas,
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Francis Drake, 1577