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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.'

  • Work, Rest & Play

    So, here I am, back home after the Ministers' Conference which was good fun on the whole, and also a privilege to be part of organising.

    I enjoyed listening to two very different speakers, each of whom made me think about different things in very different ways and to different extents.  It was pleasure and privilege to take responsibility for the quiet room, which proved to be a haven for people who needed to hide away at various times; some left behind art work which expressed profound emotions and struggles, and the depth and breadth of theological understandings and spiritual yearnings which for them, made parts of the conference difficult or uncomfortable.  I am glad they felt safe enough to express and then to leave behind these items.  My task is not to agree or disagree with the sentiments expressed but to offer the creators needs to the Creator of us all.

    We shared in some profound acts of worship, we shared some struggles and tensions of ministry, we laughed with each other and at some of the ridiculous aspects of church life.  There were 'moments' of course, because we are human and finite, we did not all agree on everything (as Baptists don't) but I do believe that for all our diversity, and all our struggles with come issues and some people, we all care about each other and long to serve Christ where we are located.  And for that I'm truly grateful.

    A few things that made me smile...

    • Someone mistaking my glass of apple & blueberry J2O for half a pint of red wine and being rather shocked (... as if; it'd have to be a pint (not))
    • Someone commenting on the use of scripture to close down arguments and then alluding to comments on specks and logs with the words "I seem to recall Jesus saying something about that" (... albeit with a slight twinkle in his eye at the time)
    • The very concept of mouth to mouth resuscitation on a frog!

    There were a few deeply privileged moments too, moments when the nature of ministry is clearer and I am reminded that this is not what I do, it is who I am.

  • Focus on Ministers

    This coming week definitely has a focus on ministers.  Most of my peers from college will be attending their five year refresher course, those of us who settled 'late' have to wait another year, such are the vagaries of any system based on dates so that a 2003 ordination doesn't automatically make one a 2003 minister as it is induction dates that count.  I am no longer annoyed about this (though can feign a fine sulk!), but still a little sad that these people with whom I shared the highs and lows of college life, and with whom I was 'handshaked' are now perceived as a year 'older' than I, and that I will perforce refresh with relative strangers a year out of sync.  Perhaps I should have made a fuss about it, but that would not have been to be 'me.'  I hope to catch up with them albeit briefly as I arrive at the same venue for our Association ministers' conference just as they finish.

    Our ministers' conference - like others I'm sure - is a special place for ministers where, as diverse in theology and personality as we are (and we ARE diverse, trust me), we can share time together.  It isn't a totally 'safe' space but it is 'safe enough' and manages never to descend into little huddles of fundies in one corner and liberals in another.  This year I am again responsible for the quiet room, which is an interesting blend of fun and freedom and responsibility and restraint all at once.  Trying to create something will stretch but not offend, will engage and not alienate, will connect with but not duplicate the main sessions is something I both relish and fear.  I am looking forward to hearing what our speakers have to say, and I'm also looking forward to praying with and for other ministers, some I know well, some I meet once a year.  I am less looking forward to being called 'dear' and getting demands for extra towels, alterations to name badges or being expected to know and understand everything there is to know and understand about The Hayes, Swanwick, Alfreton and north east Derbyshire in general.  One of my most profound memories - and I share this tentatively - was the year I led the closing communion service - when a lay pastor, whose theology frankly terrifies me, came to me and asked, quietly if were using grape juice or wine because he is a recovering alcoholic.  I was deeply humbled by the honesty and vulnerability of this person, and felt it was indicative of the depth of security that he felt safe enough to ask rather than opting out.  For the record, we use grape juice (usually with a common cup).  If you happen to know the person, please don't embarrass him, if you don't please don't try to guess who he is; as for me, I was challenged and changed by this experience (in a good way!).  So, I am looking forward to Wednesday to Friday.

    A minister's funeral.  Tuesday is an early morning drive almost to Heathrow airport to be a vicar - in the true sense of the word - a vicarious representative of my little church at the funeral of one of my predecessors.  I don't think I ever met him, he'd been and gone from here whilst I was still a school girl, and he only ever held two pastorates, a six year one here and a lifetime one there.  It is intriguing pondering the role I am taking, its necessity (at least in my mind) and its implications for me, for them, for us.  I suspect ministers are always a little intrigued by other minister's funerals, knowing the funny mixture of flawed disciples and public figures that we all are. As with the annual In Memoriam at Baptist Assembly, I find myself drawn to imagining the hours spent writing sermons, the times when meetings drove him nutty (and when they were great!) the God-moments, the dark days, the highs and lows, joys and sorrows.  It feels right to be there, to say that in Dibley he is not forgotten, and to thank God for what he did with and for us.

    Refreshment and rest seem to be the words for the next week, then.  Refreshment of skills and knowledge for some, the refeshment of time away for others, rest to be be strengthened to go back to work or rest for eternity after a lifetime of service.  The week will be blog light (no bad thing) and thought 'heavy.'  I hope to see some of you gentle readers at some point during the week - just please don't ask me what time the bar at the Hayes closes cos I don't know!