Writing

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This page provides links (some are not yet active) to, what I hope, are some of my more substantial writings

Chronic illness

Writing and thinking about chronic illness has become increasingly important to me in recent years particularly because of my involvement in a number of pieces of work which address this issue. My thinking particularly focuses on the phenomenology of chronic illness -- that is what it is actually like to experience chronic illness rather than how to fix it or how it addresses theological issues such as the so-called problem of suffering. I'm interested in the resources of people with chronic illness need in order to live their lives, accepting that illness and suffering is part of life, yet still seeking healing and meaning in the midst of the pain.

Community work

If I have a profession it is as a community development worker. I have, however, always felt that the role of a community development worker is to challenge and, at times, subvert the power and pretensions of the professions. And this certainly means questioning and challenging the role of professional community workers themselves! In my writing this has meant a constant questioning of received notions and language such as the increasing desire to control impacts and produce predictable outcomes. Yet at the same time I am concerned for good quality grassroots community work which is accountable and orientated towards justice and freedom for all.

History

I have any interest in church history after spending quite a lot of time studying it during my undergraduate degree in Bristol University. I am particularly interested in the history of Nonconformity in Britain and have the hope of writing more extensively on my story of Growing Up Nonconformist, incorporating the story of my grandfather, Lloyd Ashdown, who was a Brethren preacher in Surrey in the mid-20th century. In the meantime a few pieces on nonconformity in Hackney and the Welsh Puritan martyr John Penry

Social analysis and contextual theology

I am interested in understanding the world as it is rather than as I would like it to be. This is obviously a tricky and deceptive business but I have found the insights of complexity theory helpful in this regard and find myself drawn to people who think in terms of living systems rather than the crudities of linear and positivist thinking. This provides the undergirding for much of my writing and theological thought -- although it is also my theological thinking which encourages me to understand the world as a living system! These writings explore complexity thinking but also touch into history and my lived experience.

Spirituality and religion

Christianity has always been the underlying context for my life and thought. The Bible is my daily companion, although I find positivist and literalist interpretations a sour perversion of its true purpose. I also love the desert fathers and their anarchic wisdom and find myself more drawn to the mystical theology of Eastern orthodoxy than the rigidities of much Western theological tradition. I find my spiritual writings increasingly drawn towards poetry mixed with prose. Although I dislike religion which is authoritarian and controlling, I still find immense value in religious traditions and the lived experience of church and I'm skeptical about spiritualities which seek to evade the disciplines of religion.

Theology

Here I gather together some of my theological musings. They are not rooted in social analysis in the same way as my writings in contextual theology and social analysis, nor are they so obviously geared to practical spirituality as those in spirituality and religion. Rather they reflect a recent emphasis in my thinking on re-examining the foundations of Christian belief.

Urban (and rural) mission

Although I now live in the depths of mid Wales and as I write this am looking out on sheep, green hills and mountains, I have lived in London for the vast majority of my adult life and urban mission has been my bread and butter. These papers draw on this experience. Hopefully as time goes on I will be able to develop my thinking on the interesting connections that I have already been discerning between the urban and marginal rural communities. I have been seeking to reflect on my rural experience through my journal focused on the Irfon river system 'In the Valley of the Dipper'.

Stories and poetry

As the name of my website indicates I am interested in the fundamental importance of stories to human life and understanding. I also have a flourishing love of poetry and here draw together some of my explorations in these genres.