Where to Europe?

The final four days we spent in the UK was with 20 other people from England, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Germany, France and Sweden to consider how to pray into the future of Europe with the ‘Brexit’ somewhat as a background. A very good and trusted prophetic friend had emailed most of those in the above group with a vision that she had very soon after there was an announcement that there would be a referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU. The summary of that vision was that the UK would be removed and in that time light and colour would drain out of the European continent, but at a later stage there would be a re-connection and a corresponding shift in the continent. An obvious, and possible, interpretation to the former part was that the referendum would be a vote ‘out’. And given that this vision preceded any referendum we have given it a lot of weight. The context though that our friend said was that this next season was more about the future of Europe than of the future of the UK.

Our days were less focused on the Brexit than on where to Europe. However, it was interesting that although the dates were set months ago the context of the debate and total lack of clarity was the context for our gathering.

(Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor)

We met in Ashburnham Place, a most remarkable centre, given the geography of an event that shaped England with the Norman Invasion of 1066. An event that only left the city of London free – and the origins to this day of its status that allows it to be one of the ‘treasure islands’ that can defy taxation laws. Ashburnham Place as a land is also most interesting in that it was originally part of land that was apportioned by William’s conquest but had been given away freely. The sense of the land being free was tangible and gave a real leverage point.

With reference to the loss of light and colour for some time we have considered that this loss is embodied in the rise of xeno- and other phobias, the demonisation of ‘immigrants’, the rise of fascism and the like in almost all European nations. This suggests that there has to be a shift in the UK if there is to any level of re-plugging to bring about a change in Europe. Prior to meeting I would have been very negative about any such change being possible, but having been in England for these past two weeks. But I am convinced that there is a real (and maybe still hidden) shift taking place as I sensed the biggest spiritual change in England in the 10 years we have been in Spain.

Whether the Brexit is abandoned or not is not the key issue. The EU has evolved and has many flaws for sure, though with the vision of being together to avoid the horrors of war, my strong preference would be to see it reformed from the inside. The primary aspect of the future is not reversing the Brexit but for something to rise that is inclusive of the ‘alien, widow and orphan’ so that a new Europe can arise.

Rather than prolonging this post I will post again tomorrow…

Where, how and what

A historic election took place last night in the Southern comunidad of mainland Spain in Andalucia. Historic as there was the breaking of a 36 year hold by a particular party, but more historic in the level of vote a new ultra-right party received. At one level a resurgence of Francoism, using the language of, for example, ReConquista, but positioned within the rise of the popularist and nationalistic ultra-right across Europe. Two further provocative aspects for us… the entry in the South, and the birth of the new party leader in Bilbao (the north). Some 4 years ago we went the first time to Bilbao to make a declaration that from there new thinking will come forth into Spain. We left though to pray for the richness of diversity within unity.

I had an email recently from someone who in passing asked a question about the EU, stating that I was ‘for the EU’. Maybe I am… maybe I am not. It is far from perfect, and not being a fan of bureaucracy and red tape it is not too difficult to see why anyone could find one or two reasons to resist the ‘beast’ (small ‘b’ as this applies to all power bases that control). With the EU there seems to be two choices – get out for the above reasons or try to stay in and see change. Pulling back, strengthening national sovereignty and seeing the breakup of the EU is more likely, in my opinion, to further strengthen what we saw last night in Spain. And it is the future that could spring from last night that is the concern. Living in mainland Europe it is probably not surprising that I am ever hopeful if we can hang in together that there will be change, particularly as the EU, in measure, acts as a lever to weaken the sovereignty expressed in nationhood.

I am not a political animal as I have so little understanding of how it works and what really ‘left’ or ‘right’ means, but I have many concerns about what is rising. When we pull back, when we have language that seeks to exclude all others of a different opinion, parties that seek to shut the freedom of the press then there is great concern for the future. The election in Andalucia last night certainly was an earthquake and a strong sign that the past can come back around.

We live at a point in history when the unthinkable could bite. Whatever the future of the EU, whatever finally (!!) outworks with respect to the Brexit, we will continue to pull for friendship across the borders, co-operation, a weakening of sovereignty so that borders are not shut inhumanely. One has to be optimistic when we know that we have access to prayer. Prayer to go deeper – yes we will have to go deeper – and pull up roots, and to connect with imagination for the future.

An earthquake last night? Maybe. A wake up call? Certainly. A provocation? Indeed.

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Optimism is the first option!!

Half full or half empty? There is a lot to be pessimistic about such as climate change and seemingly endless conflict across the world. No person in their right mind can be naively optimistic given the unbelievable human capacity for stupidity. Yet on some issues and situations I am optimistic. The EU with all its failings has one of its major sources in the vision of Robert Schuman, who pulling on his Christian take believed that we had to find a way of being together across the continent where the (world) wars had ravaged, in order to avoid such conflicts again.

Since moving to Spain our focus has been on the healing of the land. (So glad that there are things that are not main stream for us and those things are down to others to pick up. We all have whatever focus is given to us.) We have touched on the civil war and on some of the prayers could pinpoint newspaper headlines where a straight line could be drawn from what we have prayed to what they have printed. This past year has been very profound for us with the Muslim rule and subsequent ReConquista and expulsion being the focus. Few things have impacted us so much as giving ourselves to that. Now there is a serious conflict not simply brewing but bubbling up with hard to predict consequences. The Catalonian situation (and even what spelling to use is a challenge – Spanish, Catalan or Anglicised spelling?).

How do we read this? Well I am opting for an optimistic response, and not simply because it is easier and less painful but I do believe somehow that these conflicts are the consequences of prayer. By that I do not mean ‘we’ (how important are we!!!) have prayed and now look at how powerful our prayers are(!!), but that the Lord is way ahead of the game and there has been much prayer focused to bring the nation to this point.

Prayer into history does not lead to our straight line of answer. Wounds that are there are to be healed but the first step is that of exposing what is there. Seems to me there is a pattern – a handful pray, probably naively expecting everything to be sorted, then what they have prayed into surfaces (in the land and in them too). What happens at that stage is important. If it surfaces in them – or in the wider community of faith – how they deal with the issues will be very important. Every big issue has a leverage point in the community of faith. The leverage point is not at the same scale as what is manifesting in the land, but is of the same spirit (cf. Jesus words on adultery and lust; murder and anger). In the current situation it is a ‘Spain / Madrid’ is correct; or ‘Catalonia / Barcelona are in the right’. In other words it is a taking of sides. However both with Joshua at Jericho and his ‘are you for us or for them?’ kind of question, or our core prayer instruction from our Teacher – ‘let your kingdom come’ there really is no ‘Madrid is right’ or ‘Barcelona is right’. Of course there might be a ‘I lean this way because it is more redemptive’ but the idea it is right is a myth. This is the fault line that is being exposed in the West at this time. I see many appointments not being the answer to prayer in the sense of we now have our ‘person in the WH / #10 / Moncloa’ or wherever. Where did we get that idea from? However I can accept them as appointments to expose the lies the faith community that owns the name of Jesus has bought into – that faith community that has been claiming a kingdom vision for years!!

What is manifesting now in Catalonia is a divisive spirit. What is manifesting from central is a divisive spirit. One manifests as separation, the other as control but they are one and the same. We have focused on the Muslim expulsion – this was Spain controlling Spain (excuse the anachronistic nature of those words), Spain evicting Spain… we began our journey praying into the first Christian martyred by fellow Christians pulling on Imperial power, the death of Priscillian. One could be pessimistic. After all that prayer now what has changed?

What has changed is what was simmering below the surface and therefore would never yield to healing is above the surface. I referred to a pattern above. Something begins with believers who pray. Then things seem to get worse – NO they become very visible. In the current generation the issues get flushed right to the surface there being nowhere to hide. There are no political solutions, but there is a solution which begins with a pathway of humility. The humility leads to dialogue and through the dialogue solutions are found.

I have no doubt that Spain has a calling now to lead the way to find a path of humility for the sake of Europe. Maybe the EU has had its day? But Schuman’s vision of being together has definitely not had its day. That is a vision of convivencia, of co-habiting / co-stewarding the same space.

There is so much more I could write on the current situation, suffice it to say that the struggles will not go away quickly – and for there to be healing they really cannot. Conflict will be here in Spain for the next years. We have to engage with it, calling for the third way of the cross.

A few years ago we had a very helpful dream sent to us. Gayle and I were standing at our table looking at invites and situations from across Europe. We did not know how to respond to the person standing there waiting for our response. Eventually I looked up and said to him ‘We will go and talk with the man of Spain and he will help us make our response’. This past year we have met the man of Spain – Al Azraq, Al Avez, Priscillian and many others we could name. People of the land – and from that era the majority were men. We are now needing to open space for a new manifestation of the ‘man of Spain’ to rise. This will not be one person, nor male, but a new humanity occupying space, regardless of faith, with the humility and grace that will be recognisable as containing heavenly qualities.

Amidst all the conflicts, Spain and Europe is such a wonderful place to live. Conflicted space, at the small level we have here, is a creative space.

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Referendums

Just before we left Spain on Friday the result was in. It was always going to be a close result. I have made no secret of which was I voted – not because it was the right way to vote – and knew many (maybe more) who were voting out. So first, a big respect to those of you who voted by conviction ‘out’. I am aware that it was possible to vote ‘out’ for selfish, xenophobic reasons but that not every ‘out’ vote was for those reasons. One of the challenges with respect to voting, which can be increased on a simple in / out referendum such as we have just had, is that all the issues are subsumed under that binary.

Normally we have to acknowledge that our vote is not the right one. We can and should make the one we consider is the most redemptive one. The one that can help facilitate the best future for society, and making that choice is not an easy one. My view of what is redemptive and the best future might well not align with someone else’s call on that.

Today Spain goes to the election box again and hopefully before we go to bed tonight we will have some idea of where that result is going to land. We cannot vote in a national Spanish election but if we could we would put our cross in the box we think is the most redemptive one. Challenging… some of those in that party were in their youth members of the communist party, and the party has formed an alliance with another party (IU) that was a catch-me-all party for the left, so had pulled in what was the communist party of Spain.

Politics, and in particular, political parties are never going to bring in the kingdom of God. We might never be able to cast the right vote, but we can always think redemptively. The jury is out on the Brexit from a redemptive point of view – and it would also be out should the vote had gone the other way. What remains (no pun intended) is the positioning of the body of Christ within the UK in relation to Europe, and the response to the Gospel mandate of openness to the alien, orphan and widow.

If the Brexit marks the end of an era for wider European co-operation under the EU umbrella that will be sad, unless in the messy aftermath it provokes a new way of co-operating together and serving one another. It will probably be difficult for that new way to surface in the immediate future, but the trans-national, alien present body of Christ holds the keys to that. It will have to begin, as always, with a response to neighbours, and the embrace too of the ‘other’ that is close to hand.

Now, of course, back on the table comes the Scottish possibility of a ‘leave / remain’ referendum. Maybe Scotland needs to lay down her rights to serve in the current instability? However, the parallels are remarkable.

In all of this at a family of God level we have to go to a much higher level. If we bow at the foot of nationalism as our identity, or in signing up to make our nation great again then I do not think we have considered at any depth the new identity that we have in Christ. I would love to see a new style of politics arise, not a putting down of the ‘opposition’ but a journeying together for the common good. A new media that does not shut down the minority voices but speaks from and for the margins.

So still with hope for Europe, still looking to the first century seed in the ground to spring up. If it does we know that there is healing for the nations.

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Fear masquerading as a warning

I have just been scribbling some replies to people who kindly dropped us emails after our latest newsletter. In replying to one I began to write about the encouraging signs when things that have previously been untouched begin to enter the conversation and even headlines in a land. With the forthcoming election in Spain in mind I wrote to this person:

Such unbelievable fear of the unknown – all couched in language of avoiding the dangers of the past.

As I wrote that I thought – now that is an insight worth getting hold of. I wonder how often we seek to control the unknown and to do so we pull back holding on to the wisdom we have learnt and the dangers that were so present but we managed to avoid them (or so we claim!). I consider this is very true at this time in Spain, and probably across many other lands where the old way of callibrating things has gone, but the new proposals are not being welcomed or even considered. The real reason being a fear of the unknown, but the reason given for the pull back being that the proposals are the past radical ideas simply re-surfacing that we managed to avoid.

Seems to be the situation as we listen to the ‘sensible’ voices in Spain in the run up to this election. Paint something as extreme, make it implicitly reference civil war type language (1936-39) and an appeal to avoid the dangers that Spain managed to escape then and we can pull things in the sensible direction. Of course those sensible voices might well have much more insight than I have, but I do think the issue remains.

The people called to ‘boldly go’ is the church, the people whose orientation is not shaped from what is, nor what has been, but from what is not and what has not yet been. For them the fear of the unknown is a snare that has to be avoided. Thank God for the wisdom voices that can reflect on the past, but now is the time for the voices of those who are dreaming of a future that has not been.

If we lay aside the fear of the unknown we might have to embrace the resulting very real dangers to be encountered on the new path. If we hide the fear of the unknown we might appear wise and avoid repeating the dangers of the past… however, we will repeat the past but now in a different context.

A strange PS: In this final week in Spain opinion polls are not legitimate to publish. So? Andorra (an independent principality in the north) can publish opinion polls which are then released in Spain, but released as emoticons reflecting the weight of various fruits, but in the colours of the various parties!! A smart and amusing way round the legalities. So who knows what kind of fruit we are gong to get elected to parliament this time round?

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