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  • "Rightly Dividing" - or dangerous twaddle?

    We never got the talk on 'rightly handling the word of truth' as the speaker felt led to concentrate on other aspects of what he had prepared.  This is a shame, because I'd like to have known how he understood this term given some of what he said.  It all started so well, affirming the need for ongoing study and reflection on the part of preachers - but only so long as they read the right stuff, it seems.  After denouncing liberalism and feminism as 'dangerous' he pronounced vegetarianism as demonic based on his reading of 1 Timothy 4:1 - 3.  You need a KJV to be able to reach this conclusion - although I reckon you could argue that it is actually unmarried vegetarians who would demon-inspired.

    What utter twaddle!  The Greek word means (in contemporary parlance) 'foodstuffs' - which the KJV translates as 'meat' because 'meat' meant food in those days.  What saddens me almost as much as this dangerous mishandling of scripture is that the same speaker was happy to throw in Greek words willy nilly when they suited his purposes.  Given that elsewhere in the Bible, we are called to respect other people's views on what they can and cannot eat (e.g. Paul on food offered to idols) and that many have argued that the pre-fall people were vegetarian, taking one English translation of one verse as a basis for denouncing a whole group of people seems contrary to his (correct) statement that we need to see the bigger picture of scripture.

    It is really easy to criticise someone else, and I know I have been as guilty as any of dodgey exegesis and partial (in every sense) preaching.  I just hope I have the commonsense not to make pronouncements that are so easily knocked down.

    The speaker obviously had a deep love of the letters to Timothy - something I share (perhaps surprisingly as a female of the species!); I just wish some of the encouragements that Paul gives to young preachers/ministers/evangelists could have been drawn out to balance the warnings.

  • The Parable of the Manse Bathroom

    A couple of weeks ago the loo at Dibley manse began to leak - not a pleasant experience, but after four days we finally got a plumber who fixed it.  The carpet (who in their right mind puts carpet in bathrooms?) was not exactly pleasant by this time, so the good people agreed to pay for it to be replaced with vinyl, and that I could redecorate the room (which was last done for my predecessor's predecessor).  The ceiling in said room was papered and in several places the paper was hanging down rather unattractively.  Before I opted to rip it off (which took under 2 minutes) I checked with the person who last decorated the room why he had papered it - evidently to hide some staining where the damp "used" to come in; the ceiling itself was, he assured me, sound.  Well, sound in so far as it didn't cave in on top of me, but it looks like a map of a drought parched river, with great cracks and an uneven surface, to say nothing of patches of copydex, superglue and goodness knows what where someone had tried to stick the paper back up.  The corner where the 'damp used to come in' was palpably wet...  Another call to the property team, I'll be so popular, I don't think!

    But isn't it a parable of church life?  Or even personal discipleship?  The 'papering over the cracks' metaphor is widely used in many walks of life, and I guess Jesus' comment about whitewashed tombs is, in some ways, broadly similar.  I also wonder how much patching up we do with the wrong kind of glue, how much we cover up stains without dealing with what causes them, how easily our carefully constructed facades could be ripped down?

    I have the paint etc all lined up to refresh this room, but first it needs the rot to be addressed.  All this takes time and is costly.  The quick fix is simply to re-paper the ceiling, and leave the problem for someone else to discover, something I concede may be the option we go for - I wonder how often we fall into the same trap in dicipleship and mission?  Building on sand or rock?

    Tomorrow's plans to do some painting have now gone out of the window, but hopefully in the longer term it will prove worth the wait...

  • Eddie Askew RIP

    At our minister's conference we were told the news that Eddie Askew had died in hospital in Nottingham (one of our number is a hospital chaplain there).  His role in The Leprosy Mission and his paintings and meditations were recalled, then we prayed for his family.

    The good people of Dibley, like many other Baptist churches, have faithfully supported TLM for many years, and will be saddened by this news.

    Well done, good and faithful servant; rest in peace.

  • "So busy shaking hands with all your friends you won't have time to worry..."

    I'm sure you know the old, corny, joke about 'worry' which ends up with the line - and if you go to hell you'll be so busy shaking hands with your friends you won't have time to worry. It's a lousy theology of hell, but it came in handy over the last couple of days!  Not because they were hell or even hellish, but because, from some of what was said, it could be deduced many of us are booked in there...

    Being on a conference planning team is a big responsiblilty, and I know how much thought and time people put into making it happen.  It is also quite tiring as you have to, at least to an extent, 'work' while you're there.  And, inevitably people share with you how they have found it.

    Just before I left today, someone came to chat to me.  He told me he had found the event difficult, one speaker had been difficult to engage with, the other patronising.  Yet, he observed, 'this is my family' in a way that church is not - this disparate group of ministers formed for him a community where he felt loved and supported, and that was worth the struggle.

    My own reflection is that many people found it a bruising event; whilst a few lapped up everything, each guest speaker managed to alienate and wound at least some of the delegates.  These wounded folk were incredibly gracious as they shared their feelings with me, assuring me that they did not blame or hold responsible those who had booked these speakers.  Yet, I know that some of them went home nursing bruises that will take some time to heal.

    There were some good moments in the event - largely those led by our own folk.  Our retiring Regional Minister spoke with his customary humour and wisdom - a real reminder why he is so deeply loved and respected.  Our Missioner, approaching his own retirement spoke of the importance of mission - OK, his style is a tad prosaic, and I might see mission a bit more widely than he does, but he was 'bang on' in what he said.  Our BMS rep showed us some material on the Israel/Lebanon situation which was humbling and challenging as well as informative.  The only frustration was that the discussion groups he used only lasted 5 minutes.

    The Quiet Room seems to have been well appreciated - and we had some helpful suggestions for ideas to enhance it further.  One of the things that struck me, as I was packing it up and bringing it home, was how the threads we had chosen for the 'foci' seemed to engage some of the needs of some those who used the room - a place to take their pain to God, to use psalms of lament or 'Prayers for Impossible Days' or to annoint themselves for healing or service.  Often I wonder about the depth of my spirituality (i.e. do I have any at all!) - that some people found a need met by this room, offered me some reassurance too.

    The closing communion service was a very special part of the event - a tad sacramental for my taste, granted, but a space to make peace, find release and be encouraged to go out again.  The closing song of blessing was one of my favourites - and the words are below; I am uncertain of origin or copyright, apologies.  I first encountered this song on a CD I have of Dartmoor Prison Worship group/choir.  There is something incredibly profound about accepting this blessing, prayed over you by a lifer who after the recording will return to his cell...


    Dartmoor Prison Worship Band

    © Daybreak Music Ltd


    May your life in this world be a happy one

    May the sun be warm and may the skies be blue

    May the storm that comes your way

    Clear the air for a brighter day

    May the saints and the saviour watch over you.


    As you make your way through this old world of ours

    As you see the beauty of the morning dew

    As you smell the summer flowers; as you pass away the hours

    May the saints and the saviour watch over you.


    May your life in this world be a happy one…


    (Instrumental bridge)


    As you spend your life with friends and family

    As you feel the warmth of love they have for you

    As you see the wars and hate that others radiate

    May the saints and the saviour watch over you.


    So, may your life in this world be a happy one

    May the sun be warm and may the skies be blue

    May the storm that comes your way

    Clear the air for a brighter day

    May the saints and the saviour watch over you.


    May your life in this world be a happy one…


  • Many a true word...

    ... spoken in jest.  As stolen from the ASBO Jesus site...  Enjoy!  And thanks to Jon Birch for posting it in the first place -check out his site for more great cartoons, see sidebar.