I dunno, in the last two weeks I've had to replace my radio alarm clock (estimated at 30 years old, I've had it 26 years having swapped my trannie for it (with my Dad) when I went to university in 1981; I think my Mum still has the trannie somewhere...) and my kettle (19.5 years old). They just don't make stuff to last anymore! How can high street spending be down when I have bought not one but two consumer items in under a month?!
I have a couple of Google alerts (and a couple of Zetoc ones which are undoutbedly more scholarly) set up to let me know when things appear that ostensibly might just relate to my research work.
Today one popped up that says this....
"Every evil that Spurgeon saw came to pass. Toleration of error eventually put error in control. Today the British Baptist Union has virtually no positive spiritual impact."
The Baptist Story David Potter, PhD, online
Setting aside that the writer clearly doesn't even know the correct title of our august body, let alone that Connexion is spelled with an 'x' in relation to the New Connexion, it is a pretty swingeing indictment of a fairly large tranche of 21st century British Christianity. It would seem that our lack of fundamentalism is what makes us so mad, bad and dangerous to know. At least now I know we're all heretics, I feel so much happier.
I'm sure Dr Potter is a very nice man, sincere and devout, and his opinions of us are, of course, for him to form, but "virtually no positive spiritual input"? I don't think so.
Another year over already. How scary. How inevitable. How relevant? What stands out? What is best forgotten? (And how many times will I rewrite this post before publishing it?!)
I think it's safe to say that I end the year feeling a lot more positive than I have done during it. I know that at times I've been very grumpy and aggressive and that the wrong people have borne the brunt of that. They know who they are, and whilst I thank you for being good friends, I'm sorry.
The talks with D+1 and the mashinations of the local council's planning department absorbed a lot of time and energy with little or nothing to show for it. As I type, I have the latest set of architects drawings on my desk and we hope for another submission in January/Febrary 2008... Whilst we continue to have a closer friendship with D+1, it is already clear that the joint services are becoming less well attended than they were during the 'courtship' phase. For church folk all this has proved quite demoralising and frustrating, and it is continually clear that many of them just do not 'get' the financial side of any of this.
More positively - much more positively - our outreach activities have continued to grow and flourish. My rough estimate is that during 2007 we have had contact with at least 500 people through different endeavours. It has been hard work pushing things along, and at times has felt that it would be so much easier just to do everything myself, but I think that almost everyone in our church has been involved in at least one outreach event as a 'helper.' No one now thinks it odd to do 'church' in school, pub or public park. Result!
Pastorally it has been the usual mix, though this year quite a few 'massive' things to deal with - the sort that cannot be shared and a few that have to go with me to my grave. Folk have been good at accepting that I can't tell them things, but if only they'd tell each other they would be surprised at how much common ground they'd find. On the 'up side' were the two weddings, an older couple in January and a young cross-cultural couple in August. Each of these was a wonderful occasion.
Some of my non-minister friends think I do nothing but church - and reading this back I undertsand why! Life beyond church is, hmm, theology! Well, part time doctoral work anyway. To be honest this hasn't had the time it deserves, and I am suitably pleased just to have 'passed' the first year. I think I've probably learned a lot about how not to approach this kind of work, and am grateful to all those who have kept me sane and roughly on track. Technically half way through year two - oh dear, still not working enough, but at least I've blocked two four hour slots a week in my diary until Easter - we'll see if it happens!!
And beyond theology is.... GB?! It has been a good year really, watching the girls grow in confidence, helping them learn some country dances, thinking about wildlife conservation, producing a nativity show... We began the year with about a dozen girls and end with over 30 on the books (though if half attend we're doing well). It has been fun - now I have to sort some games for next week's party!
So, do I have a life? Yes! I enjoyed walking Hadrian's Wall, I have had some good times with friends in Warrington/Manchester/Derbyshire and even found half an hour last week to play the piano (boy, I'm rusty!).
I am looking forward to 2008 and the challenges it will bring - already I am looking forward to another long distance footpath (probably Offas Dyke) and a couple of theology conferences in Prague and Manchester (is that sublime and ridiculous enough?!)
Over the last week things have been said to me that show me that the last year (or the last four maybe) has been worthwhile...
- one of the Methodists collared me after the joint morning service on 23rd. He said, 'you always send us encouraging thank you emails after the events, but we never thank you. We need someone to rattle our cages, and you do that. Thank you.'
- one of my folk, after the Christmas Eve communion said, 'thank you for making this Christmas so special'
- another of my folk, as I dropped them off after an event on Boxing Day, knowing I was off to see family the next day said 'make sure you come back'
- an email from one of my folk regarding someone who has been taken into hospital this week advising me of visiting times and saying 'but don't disrupt your holiday to visit.'
To my loyal friends and readers, thank you for being yourselves, for your patience, gentleness, grace and encouragement. Wherever you are, whoever you are, whether I know you in life or not, as you approach 2008 may I wish you God's peace in your hearts and homes?