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  • For the Least of These

    This coming Sunday we have harvest festival, loosely based on the BMS material but with a collection of non-perishables for a local project supporting homeless people and the women's refuge.  It is also a communion service, for which I'll be employing the Iona words suggested in the BMS material.  Reading these words, watching the DVD clip (and also those from other harvest appeals) made we feel that a lot of what we do at Communion is actually (strong words I know) a theological obscenity - we become so preoccupied with making it look lovely (afterall, it is a very important aspect of worship) worrying about who will receive it and what it all means (as if it is for us to debar or understand) that we miss the point that millions of people will have neither bread not water.  This isn't the place for a big debate about communion theologies (though of course mine is right :o) ) nor am I saying that we shouldn't take it seriously and do it properly - just that I have been challenged.  So here is my response to my thoughts...

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    A table purchased for this precise purpose

    Expensive wood, ornately shaped and finished

    Dusted and polished

    Placed, just so, central, prominent – here

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    A snow-white cloth carefully selected

    Embroidered or plain, crocheted or linen

    Starched and pressed

    Placed, just so, even, equal – here

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    Gleaming silverware and thimble-sized glass

    Specially chosen plates, purpose-made trays

    Buffed and filled

    Placed, just so, here and here and here

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    Precise cubes of pre-sliced bread

    A small loaf, partially cut for fear of crumbs

    Tidy and purposeful

    Placed, just so, covered by doilies – here

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    Deep red specially purchased ‘wine’

    Poured with clinical precision

    Drips wiped away

    Placed, just so, stacked in trays – here

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    Ritualised remembering

    Where well fed westerners seek spiritual succour

    Whilst the two-third world seeks bread and water

    Untidy, uncomfortable – and not here

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    I was hungry and you did not feed me

    I was thirsty and you did not give we water

    When LORD, did we see you thus?

    Perhaps it is here.

     

    The table of the LORD is spread

    A gopak table in a borrowed room

    A pottery plate and a glass tumbler

    Yesterday’s bread roll and diluted squash

    Come one, come all

    Glimpses of grace and hopes of glory –

    Perhaps they’re here…

     

     

    For those lovely sacramental Baptist friends who are reading this, no, I haven't capitulated, I know what I mean by my words!!  The most profound experiences of communion I've had have been in unexpected places with ad hoc arrangements, which I can't help feeling are somehwat more authentic than the ritualised remembering and construction of liturgical channels encountered in dedicated buildings.

  • B2CS In Dibley and District

    It has been an interesting and busy day in my cluster, and especially in my little corner of it.

    Our 'holiday thankgiving' invitation service went well, with 8 visitors out of the 28 people present.  My 95-year-old brought her 90 year old neighbour, my lunch club coordinator brought her grandchildren, a deacon brought her mum, and someone managed to persuade one of our erstwhile members to come along.  It was good fun, and we enjoyed worship and fellowship.  Best of all, the deacon said she thought we should do it again soon - perhaps next February.

    Then it was off to D+2 where there was a Baptismal service.  As we will be borrowing their building for ours, I wanted to check out the logistics.  It was a rather loud, informal service with lots of people present who rarely enter a church.  The Baptismal candidates included two "daily dependent drinkers" and another with a fairly colourful past.  It was a great privilege to share in something so utterly unlike Dibley yet only a couple of miles away.

    I wonder how B2CS worked out nationally (we weren't registered so won't appear in any official statistics).  Certainly in our little corner of the world lots of people came into churches, found a welcome, acceptance, fellowship (and food!) which just may help them contemplate the possibility of exploring faith a little further.

    One thing, though, before we do our Baptism, we'll heat up some water using our urn, as there is no heater in D+2's baptistery!

  • Peter Grange: Farewell Good and Faithful Servant

    I have just picked up the news that Revd Peter Grange, former Regional Minister of East Midlands Baptist Association, died this evening.

    Peter was a very special person, and I for one am very grateful to have known him, albeit far too briefly.  He had a wonderful, mischievous sense of fun, incredible wisdom and endless patience.  He was a wonderful accompanier of newly accredited ministers, a skilled team leader and a good friend of my little church.  He will be much missed.

    Prayers are with his widow Janet and his daughters at this sad time, and also with members of the church to which he belonged, especially Pastor Bob who has to balance his own sense of loss with pastoral responsibilities.

     

    One lesser known aspect of Peter's ministerial story is that he was Senior Student at Northern in 1971, a time when the college, its principal and inevitably its students had an incredibly tough time from others in the Union.  As we compared notes, as two former Senior Students during times when there were tricky issues around (though the ones in my day were microscopic in comparison), I was struck both by the deep respect Peter had for Michael Taylor and the wisdom and grace that, even as a young man, marked his approach to a very difficult and painful situation.  I wonder how many in the other networks of which Peter was a part could have shown such profound grace and maturity.  Truly, in Peter we saw a 'man after the Lord's own heart.'