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Thin Places and Kairos Moments

People, especially Celts, speak of 'thin places', places where the gap between earth and heaven is palpably less than elsewhere.  I'm never sure that this is a geographical thing so much as an inner, spiritual or even dare I say emotional one, but I kind of get what they mean.  (If there are thin places there are also dense places - those places of forboding where birds don't sing and death or agony hangs heavy.  But that's another story).

Theologians speak of kairos moments, of points in history where God pierces human history in startling and wonderful ways.  Again, I'm not always sure this so much a surge in divine activity as a greater human openness to the ever-active work of God.

Whether they are thin places or kairos moments or just a sense of being caught up in 'something significant that is happening' they do happen.  Just sometimes there is a sense of being in tune with God in a more significant way - what people sometimes call mountain top moments - not because you feel deliriously happy (though you may) but you sense something more is, hmm, what is the word?  Abounding maybe?  The only word I have is mystery, mysterion, the wonder that saucer-eyed children express so wonderfully.

Christians get a bit funny about the word 'coincidence' suggesting it means random chance when actually, etymologically and in risk assessment language, it simply means happening at the same time (or for risk assessors within a specified, short time window).  God-incidence is a kind of twee Christianised version to make it ok to spot them.  But they happen.  And this week they've been happening.

On Saturday 18th June 2005 the final service took place in Dibley Baptist Church before we closed it.  On Friday 19th June 2009 the final bricks were razed as demolition was completed.  Co/God-incidence?  Kairos?  Thinness?  Maybe.

On Saturday 18th June 2005 a journey of ministry in the 'wilderness' of being a church without any walls began.  On Saturday 20th June 2009 the call to leave that ministry and go to a new place came.  A kairos point?  A thin place?  God breaking through?  I think so.

On Friday 19th June 2009 a task reached completion.  On Saturday 20th June 2009 a new one began.  How's that for timing?

Is it all too tidy, this near exactness of four years?  Or is it God's humour for a woman who loves order and symmetry?

Is this a mountain top moment, a hill head experience, as one friend has wittily pointed out?

After the rising and sleeping, rising and sleeping of meantime ministry these last five and a half years has the plant grown to harvest?

This is an odd post because this is an odd day.  A good day.  A God day.  But odd no less.

At 3p.m. my congregation will told that I have accepted a call to another church, far away.  It is the end of a process we have shared because it has been an odd process: Dibley Baptist Church is small and elderly and even with maximum HMF support can no longer afford to employ me.  I am almost halfway through a period of notice to terminate the pastorate on financial grounds, and so have sought a new pastorate with the full knowledge of my folk.  They have faced their decision with courage and humility: I am proud of them.  I am excited about my new call - it is far, far away from Dibley (and if you read closely a clue as to where is in this post!) to a very different groups of disciples on a very different journey (even if it does include another building project!) and will bring new opportunities and new challenges (as well as new readers!)

This post will appear online at 15:05 BST, just after I tell my folk.  The folk far, far away will know at 11:00 BST.

Some of you already know some of this, for others it is new news.  Some have shared the journey so far, others will share the next stages.

I have no idea if this is a kairos moment or just more chronos into which I'm reading things, no clue if the razing of the chapel rendered nextdoor a thin place or just a dusty one.  But I do feel as if something significant, something of God, some mystery is abroad and for now I am content to dwell within it.


  • I was all ready to talk about George MacLeod who coined the term 'thin place' when tallkign of Iona and who said that 'if you believe in coincidence then you deserve a dull life' but now i've had to go through the blog again hunting for hints of new destiantions. However that is to miss the point of what you said ... which is to wish you well in the next part of your journey ... (and that of the churches) ... no doubt the blog address will stay the same wherever!


  • I was all ready to talk about George MacLeod who coined the term 'thin place' when tallkign of Iona and who said that 'if you believe in coincidence then you deserve a dull life' but now i've had to go through the blog again hunting for hints of new destiantions. However that is to miss the point of what you said ... which is to wish you well in the next part of your journey ... (and that of the churches) ... no doubt the blog address will stay the same wherever!


    PS I think i cracked the code in which case cool (and its not really so far away)

  • PS I think I've worked the hint out in which case 'cool and its not sooo far away'

  • Wow, exciting news. Best wishes as you plan for the next step of your ministry, and to the folk at Dibley, and folk, too, at the church where you will be going to - and I think I've cracked the code as well!

  • LOL, now this post starts to sound like a Dan Brown novel: The Latte Code maybe?!

    I guess the degree of 'far-away-ness' is relative, yes it's UK but a long way from Dibley. And of course the www keeps it small enough to keep in contact...

  • With knights templar-like insight, I too believe I have cracked the Latte code. So best wishes and Godspeed as you prepare to minister with the goodfolk of the nicechurch at Oddpost, (which is, I believe, the only Scottish Baptist chapel to be founded in Dorset)...

    ... or it could be somewhere else.

    Congratulations again!

  • I think your ministry amongst the Dibley congregation has been in the purposes of a God whose prevenient grace often has a human face! I don't suppose you've ever been called prevenient before! You have accompanied them through hard places, as their friend and pastor and that's a special gift to give.

    All best wishes for God's blessing and more prevenient grace in your next place, the code of which I think I too might have cracked!

  • I hope that your new pastorate will provide many hill top experiences for you and that the language barrier will not be too great! I sense that Dibley will miss you loads but will always appreciate your ministry there as a highlight.

    Good Luck (or is that as bad as coincidence!) in the new job.

  • Ecclesiastes talks about seasons and a time for everything. As I type this, I feel quite emotional - which is barmy really as I have only met you once and never even visited Dibley! I feel both a sense of sadness for the folk you are leaving yet excitement for yourself and the church you are going to. Everything is for a season and I am sure your next 'season' will be as fruitful as the season you spent at Dibley.

  • Code is well and truly cracked here - but then Clare had already told me the answer. I am not only thrilled - and a little nervous? - for you, but can't help reflecting that there is a a wonderful circularity somewhere.
    As your wilderness wandering comes to an end (Promised Land... hmmm?) ours begins.
    May your god go with you


  • Not only God's humour, but also His perfect love to bring this about at a time and in a way that is particularly meangingful for you.

    now for the silly bits:

    Firstly, it should be unequivocably stated that anywhere north of Carlisle is by definition in the "promised land". It's really time the English just accepted this as fact.

    Secondly, how do we nominate blog names for the new church? Should it be Dibley-in-the-North? New Dibley? Dibley+300ish? Looking forward to following your adventures in whatever it's called!

  • Thanks everyone for your kind words. Name of the new place - hmm, I guess it will revleal itself to me in due course! Will keep ypu posted!!

  • Hi Catriona,

    Long time no...

    Anyway, thank you for your insights. I have often reflected on those places that we regard as being 'steeped in prayer' etc. and the fact that people claim they can 'feel it'; is the importance of place based on the place itself and from there to its importance, or on the importance itself and thence to the place to which we attach that importance... [realises that a sit down with a cup of tea may be in order].

    Congratulations on your news, and I'm glad that you have been handed the key so soon after appearing in it ;) (I'm well impressed that I worked it out!). Though it does seem far I pray God will bless every mile of the journey, physical and spiritual. Tek care!

  • Think I've just worked it out where it is too - with a little help- I do hope the next few months are a blessed time as you move on. I guess it must be sometime in September you take up your new ministry?

  • Hi Chris, long time no see indeed. Good to hear from you.

    Hi Lucy, thank you. We are looking at the start of October (just over three months from now) which is after the main ordination/induction season ends, just in time for a big Baptist gathering, and with enough time to get settled in by Christmas.

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