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  • And now for something totally ridiculous!

    Yesterday the NBC Class of 2002/2003 EMBA-HEBA deeply serious theolgoical reflection (not) group met for our occasional 'retreat.'  In the ladies' loo those of us permitted to enter encountered the following sign on the door - as far as I know the gents' had no such sign, which may speak volumes, but about what I hesitate to contemplate. 

    Apologies for the poor quality image - combination of camera-phone, giggling photographer and a cold day!  It reads 'if you require toilet paper please ask at kiosk' - and they meant it - we had to ask for and then return the loo roll!!!

    Anyway, it caused us much mirth and of course we then had a very in depth discussion on Deuteronomy 23: 12-14 - I don't think.

  • Advent Adventures!

    This year Advent is an interesting experience.  With only one service rather than two, and the need to juggle a carol service, Churches Together Christingle, a Christmas Eve Communion and a first ever ecumenical village Christmas Day service, to say nothing of a 'non-preaching Sunday' with a desire to have an Advent journey has been interesting.

    My congregation has a long established tradition of supporting Christian Aid's Christmas appeal, so I have rehashed the 'Home for Christmas' material to fit into Advent 1 and 2 (hence yesterday we had Jose and Tabita, next week Evalina and Edouard).  I had hoped that Christmas Day might draw on the same theme since the church 'up the hill' from our defunct edifice also has this practice.  Alas the church 'down the hill' does not & will not, so it may not come to pass - this year anyway.

    Advent 4 will be our carol service and a totally new experience as we use the BBC local radio Real Christmas broadcast in the local community centre.  Lots of wonderful ideas are emerging and we are anticipating a hint of Narnia with twinkling lights, a free 'bran tub' for kiddies, a festive tea for pensioners, and lattes, luxury hot chocolate (both fairtade of course!)  and Jamie Oliver style mulled cranberry juice for adults (don't want the temperance league down on us like a ton of festive bricks).  The absence of nativity play, collection plate and notices will be a challlenge to some folk but many 'little people' are getting involved.  It feels good. 

    Christmas Eve Communion will be a gathering in a family home and I am looking forward to creating something a little different for this.  There is something quite fitting about gathering in a real home to share in this way, as we hopefully have to cram in to a living room rather than our normal 'home'.   

    The ecumenical services are a great source of hope for us clergy types - and many of the folk in the congregations too, just not all, not yet.  The vicar grins incessantly at the thought of the shared Christmas Day service he's wanted for ten years, and the Methodist minister is delighted to be part of a functioning ecumenical scene.

    So, with only one sermon left to write this year (plus the 'talk' for the christingle) I must be an unusual preacher.  Instead I am freed to help others create acts of worship that will allow us all to experience a fresh sense of wonder at the story of new beginnings in borrowed rooms - something that resonates with our own story.

    Enough waffle, back to preparing for my wonderfully rewarding Advent Lunchtime reflection & prayer meetings which necessitate the making of large vats of soup...

  • Getting Out of the Saltshaker

    In my student days (first time around in the early 1980's) one of the 'must read' books seemed to be Rebecca Manley Pippert's 'Out of the Salt Shaker.'  It sticks in my memory because of its frank comment on how we tend to feel about evangelism - along the lines of it being 'something you wouldn't do to a dog, let alone your best friend.'  Not sure what the RSPCA might make of that, but it does have a ring of truth and it's stuck with me for two decades.

    Recently the phrase 'out of the salt shaker' has featured regularly in emails from one of my deacons who feels we are now, finally, starting to engage with the community around us.  Bit drastic having to actually smash the salt pot first, but there you go.

    Of course 'salt' is a metaphor which is no longer entirely helpful in a British context since we are being advised to use less and less of it.  Indeed, along with sugar, it's one of those things I buy about once in ten years (literally).  We no longer salt meat to preserve it or use salt to cleanse wounds, instead it seems to be used to kill slugs and melt the ice on our paths or driveways.  A little bit of salt might enhance the flavour of food, but too much could kill you.

    So, can we still use the Matthew 5:13 'you are like salt for the whole human race' (GNB) text related to mission?  I think we can, because our contemporary understanding of salt and its risks if overdone provides a helpful check in our approach to mission and evangelism.  We need to judge how much 'salt' we add - too little and the distinctive flavour of Christian hope is absent, too much and our evangelistic zeal becomes poison.

    Without the safety of our salt pot, we find oursleves automatically sprinkled more liberally (and evangelically!)(pardon the puns) in our community.  We have to build relationships with the staff of the premsies we book for worship or the 'mobile lunch club.'  We have to go out to where people are rather than waiting for them to come to us (a very long wait).  At the moment we are trying to work through some of the challenges this brings - some folk are concerned that as I get more involved with community roles my 'proper' church work will suffer; others see that the distinction is a nonsense.

    As we are forced out of our saltshaker, touching dogs, people and anyone/thing else in our path with the love of God, I feel that the 'salt' image is still valid.  I guess the next challenge is work out whether the salt should dissolve into its context or remain in granular form.  Answers on a postcard to the usual address!