My Top 20 – People who have influenced me

Seraphim

1) St Seraphim of Sarov – a Russian Orthodox Hermit – an amazing “staretz” who incarnated the “hesychast” tradition of prayer within himself and brought healing and conversion of life to many in 18th/19th century Russia.

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2) New Zealander, Barry Kissell – the Associate Minister at my first church, St Andrew’s Chorleywood. Barry included me in various mission and ministry teams so I was privileged to observe Barry’s gentle and prophetic ministry at close quarters. Barry showed me that being moved by Seraphim could go much further than mere admiration to re-shaping one’s own life and ministry

 

3)  The late Prince – (thank you Zook for introducing me!) because, with tireless nurturing of his talent, Prince was unashamed to embrace and build on the contributions of predecessors. We are going to miss mountains of potential if we are not willing to stand on others’ shoulders, inherit the mantles of others and carry on where others have left off. I admire a performance ethic that was all about giving to the people. Prince’s shaking off the shackles of corporate deals to go his own way, from hand to mouth – rather successfully – is a great encouragement to many whose call is to pioneer new patterns in a world where finances are tied up with inherited patterns.

Prince’s rejection of another behemoth that others took for granted – the Tiketek/Ticket Master monopoly – made his concerts accessible to ordinary and poorer people. He was genuinely about getting his music to the people. In his home town in 2015 tickets to his concerts were $10 each. I loved his art attacks, which again took music to the people. I was in London when it was announced one morning over the radio that that same evening at the Jazz Cafe in Camden Town Prince would be playing a set of his new songs – to whoever wanted to come along.

His championing of new generations of talent mirrors the others-orientation of apostolic ministry and gave us great new talents – such as Tamar and, on the link below, Sheila E. And he is an inspiration to so many simply because it is inspiring to see anyone passionately doing what they were wired by God to do!! Notably, Prince was also unafraid to speak publically from a heart and mind informed by his faith. Many of these themes and their connection with the Gospel of Jesus Christ are echoed in the spirit and words of this song. Intrigued? Click here for some funk!!

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4) Revd Bessie Pereira – through her leadership of OIKOS Australia, Bessie modelled for me true servant leadership, the work of a “mission companion” who journeys with and assists open-handedly, without coersion or taking over.

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5) Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh – who somehow seemed to incarnate the entire Russian Orthodox tradition within himself. His way of preaching, his approach to Scripture, and the real-ness of his ways of prayer inspired me. He introduced me to the Eastern tradition and many of the great teachers of the eastern tradition. And I am forever grateful to him for his making available to me his personal archive of materials on Seraphim of Sarov. (Click here for a taste of Metropolitan Anthony’s teaching.)

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6) Shelby Foote – hearing Dr. Shelby Foote talk about the American Civil War was like sitting at the feet of an eyewitness. He spoke of events as if he had seen them, and historic personalities as if he had known them personally. He made history so vivid you could hear the shells and smell the grapeshot. To bring something alive that could otherwise be just the dusty recital of abstract data; that is a skill worth aspiring to. I hope he has been an influence in my preaching and in my writing.

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7) John Wimber – his intersection with St Andrew’s Chorleywood (12 months before I came to faith through that church’s ministry) changed the course of the renewal among UK churches. His avoidance of hype and VIP culture, the reverence and intimacy of the Vineyard songs of worship, the theological thoughtfulness, the respect and gentleness of his approach, and his enormous generosity were a great gift to the churches. Through Vineyard, St Andrews, New Wine and Soul Survivor, the DNA of John WImber’s work has impacted the world and has shaped me from the very beginning. Eternally grateful!

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8) Tina Turner – no surprise to anyone who knows me. My generation encountered Tina Turner as a fully formed and authoritative performer, bursting onto the pop scene “from out of nowhere” in the early 1980s. I had only a dim recollection of the 25 years of prior career and hard yakka that had honed these skills. For me, as for many, Tina’s inspiration is in her longevity (the image above is of Tina at 70) her perpetual energy and her ability to continually develop and adapt – sufficiently to take her musical career from a first performance in 1957 at the age of 18 to a final farewell tour in 2009 at the age of 70.

Tina’s story, as much as anybody’s –  is really a story of teamwork – the collaboration of a brilliant manager in Roger Davies, among many other musical comrades. Aside from the fun and inspiration of her prodigious stage-skills, Tina’s story gives others of us courage to play the long game, to continue developing and adapting. And it spurs me to believe that even I might prove a later bloomer! Click here for Tina Turner performing Joni Mitchell’s “Edith & the Kingpin”with Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, 

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9) Bishop David Pytches – I owe so much to this wonderful man and to his courage. David very generous mentor to me in the early years of my faith. I will mention one of the many things that David modeled for me and for so many – being a non-anxious presence in the midst of all the unpredictability, conflict, mess, surprises and glories of renewal in the Church!

(Click here to hear David & Mary Pytches talk about the DNA of New Wine – and look out for me on the video!)

(Click here for a recent interview surveying David’s life and times.)

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10) Mary Portas – an amazing blend of intelligence, creativity, strength and dogged determination that finally wins the respect of others and transforms their businesses. A tough as nails model for transitional ministry, and an inspiration sometimes needed in situations that call for interventions that, by God’s grace, will help the church, but not the intentional interim’s popularity!

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11) Tony Benn – From 1994 to 2004 I was privileged to meet with and correspond with British MP Tony Benn. Tony was what we now call a “conviction politician”. As an MP for 47 years between 1950 to 2001 for the cities of Bristol south-east and Chesterfield, his steadfast principle was to represent the interests of the ordinary working people of his constituency – and of the country. I admire that he allowed himself to be defined and driven by conviction rather than career convenience – cost whatever it might. I was very blessed by his personal interest and encouragement.
We talked about Jesus and the Gospel. Deeply shaped by his father’s political engagement, and both his parents’careful Christian teaching, Tony gave his life to occupying the prophetic space that speaks truth to power. As a boy he was banned from his Sunday School for competing with the Sunday School in his earnest attempts to truthfully interpret Scripture! Tony told me that though what he called the “mysteries of religion” didn’t draw him he was fully persuaded that what he was doing was applying in the public sphere the social teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Prime-Ministers Wilson and Callaghan, in each of whose cabinets Tony served, both complained of his bringing “theological arguments” to policy positions!
Publicly he said, “I do regard the teachings of Jesus has having a very, very radical political importance…For me social justice is everything in politics; how I should see my fellow men and women is absolutely crucial in interpreting the responsibilities that I feel that Jesus has imposed upon me.”
Courage came naturally to Tony and he seemed to have no concept that this was not a universal trait. Without knowing how he did it he unfailingly strengthened the courage of all who came close to him. Tony’s investment into younger people in his later years was absolutely exemplary. I am so grateful for the personal encouragement he generously gave me over that ten-year period. Tony has, without a doubt, influenced my preaching, my politics and my parenting. Click here to hear to Tony Benn on Jesus.
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12) Paolo Freire – This inspirational Brazilian educator understood that the most world-changing, revolutionary gift to give to people is the gift of literacy. He is like a Caxton, Melancthon, and Wyclif all rolled into one. The monastic catalysts who carried the Scriptures into Amazonia, and sparked a seismic move of community transformation, and whose work redefined my understanding of mission and church in the 1980s – all understood their role in advancing the kingdom of God and emancipating those at the “base” of Brazilian society, in the light of Freire’s work.
Ruth and I have both seen the life changing power of literacy – and Biblical literacy – through our respective work. Paolo Freire spoke to us with a love for people and a holism of concern and vision that opens up a world of opportunity for meaningful service. My 12 years of Jesus Generation would never have happened without Paolo Freire’s influence.

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13) Revd Margaret Knight – whose courage I greatly admire in her pioneering work in the context of healing ministry and women’s leadership in the churches. Margaret helped to develop patterns of healing ministry and prayer ministry, embedding them within inherited patterns. She generously included me in these ministries when I was in my teens. A life-changing inclusion!

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14) Captain Kirk
– It may seem strange to count a fictitious space captain as an influence! But as a young boy and a teenager, James T.Kirk was significant for me in the sense of helping to form my internal concept of adult masculinity. He had an untameable boyish sense of fun and ego, which somehow enabled him to maintain some kind of posture and equilibrium in the most unlikely and impossible-seeming of scenarios. A quality worth aspiring to. Kirk’s ability to combine leadership with friendship made him an appealing model and in the interplay of Spock’s logic and insight, and McCoy’s morality and compassion, Kirk’s job was always to engage with both and out of that dialectic to chart a course of action. All church leaders need something of a mix of listening, filtering and chutzpah! So, though he’s a better boxer than me, I am not ashamed to count Kirk as an inspiration!

Phil Steer

15) Phil Steer – my longstanding friend, fellow journeyman and my spiritual “twin”. In many ways there wouldn’t be a Paul without a Phil. Through a great many gifts, beers and conversations, Phil introduced me to the great cloud of witnesses. He passed on to me a passion for learning from the testimony of church history, the simple pleasrue a fine Port and the power of a deep, deep enthusiasm for life.

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16) Prof Gary R Collins – One of the most influential books in my life is Gary’s “The 60 Second Christian”. My friend Phil Steer bought me a copy from a Christian book shop in Bristol UK in 1986. His aspiration to simplicity in thought, communication and understanding of the Gospel has been a perpetual force in shaping my own faith. For the academic to be able to communicate at a child’s level is a wonderful gift and a personal challenge! I hope I can say Gary has been a powerful influence in my preaching from that day to this.

Father Gregory

17) Edward Dudding, another New Zealander, A.K.A. Father Gregory of the Community of the Servants of the Will of God – who through many years of quiet conversations taught me to embrace dissatisfaction and pursue ways of community that support deeper conversion of life. Fr Gregory introduced me many of the great teachers of the Hesychast tradition. A great  spiritual director and an inspirational supporter of Jesus Generation.

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18)  Bishop Trevor Huddleston (above, top). I met and talked with Trevor Huddleston at the offices of the African National Congress. My parish in King’s Cross was part of a sub-culture of churches with spiritual roots in the East End of London. Common heritage with Fr Trevor. But just as significant for me was that Fr Trevor is the person responsible for giving the pioneering jazz trumpeter, Hugh Masakela (above, below), his first trumpet. My encounter with Fr Trevor and my sense of his legacy forever challenges me to minister to people’s potential and invest in their beginnings. His involvement in South African (and therefore world) politics perpetually challenges me to promote democratisation and engage prophetically with issues of social justice in my own country. His testimony constantly asks me how holistic and wholehearted is my engagement with the networks and places in which I live and move.

(Click here for a tribute to Trevor Huddleston)

Gramp

19) My Gramp – In 1926 the General Strike closed the pit in Brynmaw, Wales. The whole town depended on its economy. Gramp and all his siblings were employed there. Gramp walked 250 kilometers to High Wycombe, England, looking for work. My political convictions are probably rooted in my grandparents’ story – a belief in social costs, a concern for regions, for those forced to leave their homelands, and for the interests of ordinary working people to be democratically represented.

Phyllis as we remember her

20) Phyllis Tickle – a woman whose joyful, intelligent and prophetic ministry is never about self but always about recognising, serving, supporting and promoting what others are doing. I relate to that call and am inspired by Phyllis insightful and progressive example and am grateful for her great generosity to one such as me!

 

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