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Infectious Inclusivity

I've just about managed to get nearly a week off work in between hospital visits and funerals!  I got away for a few days to see friends in Warrington and on Sunday worshipped at my 'sending' church - and as some of those good folk read this twaddle, I have to say nice things!

It's funny what you remember and what you forget as time passes by.  I forget how awful the time keeping is in that fellowship, who I dearly love - a scheduled 10:30 service might just about get going by 10:40.  Hurrah for my little lot down here who start promptly whatever the given time is, even if people are late and wander in during the start of the service.  My view is pretty simple - when we go to the cinema or theatre we expect the show to start on time, when we book a restaurant table we expect to sit down at the time we book: if we expect our pleasure activities to start to time, then surely it is not too much to show the same respect to God.  Rant over.  It was good to be back with these good folk, and to see two members being welcomed as part of the service.

The service was led by the moderator (the church is in interregnum) who was the Regional Minister who ordained me (or at least said the words, I think, theologically, it was the gathered church who did the ordaining) and it was good to see him again.  The sermon was based around the visit of the shepherds to Jesus and made some fairly brave use of video clips - 'Creature Comforts' and the Muppets 'Christmas Carol.'  I'm not sure it quite worked (for me anyway) but it was a bold experiment and to be encouraged.  There were three points to the sermon but I can only remember two, and they were good ones.  The Good News given to the shepherds was infectious and it was inclusive.  I like the feel of these descriptors.  

Infectious reminds me of bubbling humour (rather than nasty germs), of beaming smiles, of fun, laughter and gaiety in its proper meaning.  It is a positive, energetic word, implying a level of risk taking and openness - and something of the lightness of the 'Creature Comforts' humour.

Inclusive is a well worn word, but it is one that if heard properly is challenging and demanding.  It embraces outcasts and misfits - the smelly, unwashed, homeless person who kips in the church porch, the couple living together without a wedding ceremony, the person who struggles with drink, drugs or depression and so on and so on.  It is challenging because we all know what it means but struggle to be it, do it.

An infectious, inclusive faith - an impossible dream?  Or a great vision for 2007?  I like good order in worship (you noticed!) but it would be worth sacrificing a bit of comfort if it meant the Good News was more effectively shared because the experience of God's grace was sufficiently infectious and inclusive to be influential in the hearts and minds of those who not yet encountered it.  It'd be great if my congregation reached a point where (judicious) use of video clips was an acceptable part of worship and/or if my old church learned to start services at the advertised time; more than either of these, it'd be great if we could better share the Good News for all nations with those around us.

2007 will bring some new challenges for the good people of Dibley, and for me me as their minister, but I think I am looking forward to it - so long as I don't have to conduct any weddings with daleks as bridesmaids!!


  • I am devastated to learn that we were away the Sunday the Muppets finally came to church! And we missed seeing you too Catriona.

    We were in Scotland attending a service in my childhood Baptist church in the morning, and a ceilidh held in the hall of said church that evening - now there's a brave decision! (for those who don't know, in Scotland Baptists do not do fun things on Sundays, or if they do they certainly do not enjoy them. And as for doing them on church premises......) We did all of the above and have not been struck by lightining yet....! How times change, and change us with them.

    During our vacancy period in Dibley + 100 or so, we've had a questionnaire to fill in to gather views on where we should be heading and how to get there. Filling it in certainly gave me pause for thought about how we all may need to change in order to grow into something new.

    We are notoriously bad at timekeeping, (and I'm a big offender, I know) but for me the bigger issue is that we have lost any feel of 'solemnity' at the start of the service, as we all rush round doing the practical things required to use our various bits of technology etc. While I welcome almost all of these developments, part of me wonders at the significance of what we've lost in the process. It may only be temporary, and not irretrievable by any means - I find the weeks I manage to attend the 9.30 prayer meeting make a big difference to my state of mind at 10.30 - but I think this is the challenge we are all facing right now; which bits of our history and Baptist heritage should be conserved at all cost, and which bits should rightly be consigned to history?

    I am very glad that Dibley + 350ish managed to go ahead with their traditional New Year ceilidh despite it being on a Sunday, as I think that was a much more positive witness than the alternative. Perhaps that is the principle we should apply whenever we decide to do something differently?

  • Hi Elaine,
    Well done Dibley+350ish - wish I could have come to your Ceilidh; our watchnight service got cancelled because the hosts were, frankly, not committed to it happening.

    Here in darkest Dibley we have the notices before the service starts and then I usually ask everyone to be quiet for a minute or so (which can feel like ages after the noise!). It works for me.

    Hope to see you before 2007 is too old

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