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  • Stability? And Change?

    For those who are interested but may not find out through the obvious channels, here are a couple of bits of Baptist news.

    The EMBA has now appointed its new, second Regional Minister.  The Revd David Rogers will move from the south of England to join the team as Regional Minister with repsonsibility for the northern half of the Association.  According to the powers that be this will bring stability after a long perioid of flux.  Hmm, they said that before!  Seriously, I think that this appointment will bring some new ideas and new energy to the Association and I wish David and his family every blessing as they prepare for their move 'north' (pah!  since when was the midlands north?!).

    By way of change, Northern Baptist College has changed its logo from the old red triangle thingie (based on the shape of the building's roof) to a dove and the letters NBLC which stands for 'Northern Baptist Learning Community.'  More radical is its move to appoint Co-Principals (Revd Dr Richard Kidd and Revd almost-Dr Anne Phillips) reflecting a more overt expression of community rather than hierarchy.  How different it will feel in practice and from outside is not yet obvious, but it is interesting.  More interesting will be to see who is appointed as the new Biblical studies tutor - but I think that's still some way off happening.

  • Reflecting with Lazarus

    Today I was at the EMBA ministers’ quiet day with the BUGB president, Revd Dr John Weaver, which was centred on the seven predicative I AM sayings of Jesus and the accompanying signs as found in the gospel of John. We were invited to explore the texts in different ways at different times during the day, including with the seven signs to try to see it through the eyes of one of the participants. I opted for Lazarus (as did the person sitting next to me!) and tried to do this not as him reflecting back afterwards but to try to be him experiencing what happened – not easy as I’ve never been dead!  I found it a compelling exercise and whilst what I scrawled – and have transcribed and extended - is not especially original or profound it has challenged me to think more.

    I feel so weak, so ill – I ache all over and I so long to be well again.

    I feel so powerless –

    No strength to eat or drink, yet my mouth is dry

    I am uncomfortable but I cannot summon the energy to move

    When will I be well?

    I long to be well again, to find my strength renewed, to be made whole and clean and free like all those others…

    I call out for help… and nothing happens

    I cry for healing… and there is silence

    I wait for his coming… and no one comes

    No reply…

    Nothing.


    I am weaker still, and weaker…

    Those around grow pale and anxious

    Helpless and fearful

    The light dims

    The effort to breath ceases

    Release comes as I slip into death’s embrace.


    All is still

    No pain

    No thoughts

    No pressures

    Rest

     

    The tomb is still and quiet

     

    Days pass – or is it eternity?

    Time is no more


    Silence

     

    Stillness

     

    Silence and stillness

     

    A voice breaks the silence

    Crashes through the stillness

    ‘Lazarus, come out!’

     

    Not a request.

    A command to be obeyed cuts through the stillness

    Shatters the silence

    Breaks through the peace

    And ends the rest.

     

    I am compelled to action

     

    Nerve and sinew quicken

    Lungs fill with the stale, dank air of the tomb

    Forced to my feet

     

    I stand

     

    Following the voice I cannot see –

    My face veiled -

    My body bound in cloths

    Stumbles towards the sound,

    Feels the heat of the living world,

    Smells the scent of life,

    Inhales clean, vibrant air.

     

    Voices, deafeningly loud, fill my ears

    Hands reach to tug away the cloth from my face

    Arms steady my unsteadiness

     

    My eyes, dazzled by the brightness

    Open

    And see

    His face

     

    Amidst the noise,

    The frenetic activity,

    The smells

    Is stillness.

     

     

    They guide me home

    To the place where I died

    And there everything is reversed

     

    Unwrapped

    Washed

    Clothed

    Embraced

    Clung to

    Kissed

    Spoken over and about

     

    Confused

    Bemused

    Bewildered

     

     

    Death must be faced again

     

    But first,

    Life must be resumed

     

    Is now the time to live differently?

    To do those things I didn’t do before?

    To be more spiritual? More holy?

    Is it a ‘second chance’?

     

    And must I die again?

    And must I live again?

    And must I pass though the gateway to life

    That is the pathway of death?

     

    Must I do?

    Must I be?

     

     

    Don’t cling to me!

    I am not who or what I was –

    I am not yet what I shall become

     

    This new life…

    This old life restarted…

    This new expectation…

    This new knowledge of what lies beyond now…

    This status as object of curiosity…

    This being a miracle, no of being a sign

    Is scary, confusing, bewildering

     

    I had adapted -

    Well almost -

    To death;

    And now I must live

    Give me space and time to adjust

     

    [time passes]

     

    It is good to be here tonight with those I love best

    Martha’s cooking tastes so good –

    Did I ever appreciate the subtle flavours and textures she labours over each day?

    Mary’s perfume fills the air –

    Had I ever grasped the depth of love she has for Jesus, the risks she takes to express it?

    And Jesus, eating, talking, enjoying, challenging

    Does he know how lost, alone and abandoned I felt when I called and he never came?

    Can I ever comprehend why having seemingly left me to die he drew me back to life?

     

    I must face death again –

    Not today, but one day

     

    I have no way of knowing how it feel

    How it will come

    Who will care for me

    Wash me

    Wrap me

    Bury me

     

    But now I no longer fear

    For death is as birth

    A transition point in life

     

    Beyond that final grave a voice will call

    ‘Lazarus, come out!’

    And I will stand and walk

    Not back to this life

    But, finally free, into the life of eternity…

     

    Don't read too much into my choice of Lazarus - I was merely curious to discover where my thoughts went

     

  • GB Anniversary

    A real joy, I think that's how I'd describe the GB anniversary weekend.  The Saturday reunion was great fun - although quite a few people I'd have loved to have caught up with weren't there - with  a lovely buffet supper and superb display of photos and memorabilia going back to 1934 (when it was Girls' Life Brigade of course).  We spotted several photos of my sister but none of me, though I did have my name recorded in various places.  Most people we knew were instantly recognisable and the cries of 'you haven't changed a bit' rang out loud and long.

    Today we were incredibly grateful for warm sunshine for the parade.  Due to a late change of plans, which meant the leader due to 'fall in' and lead the parade was moved to the colour party and I was given the task - honour, privilege - of doing this.  The years rolled back as I mustered my best parade ground voice and for the first time ever headed up a GB parade!  I was amazed how many people- a lot older then me - said 'thank you' when we got to the church commenting that it was forty years since they'd last paraded and how much fun to do it now.  The service itself had a lovely feel to it - and ended up decidedly ecumenical!  The service was held at the URC to which the company is affiliated and District chaplain, Revd Dr Jennifer Smith, a wonderful American-born Methodist minister, drew everyone into worship with energy and grace.  My reading added a further dimension of ecumenism (though confused a few folk who assumed I must be a URC minister with that heritage).

    The main thrust of the service was the way that the 'amen' of public worship is the link between past, present and future: amen isn't a word, it's a worldview, a mindset, a commitment to live what we pray, to be what we say, to do what we claim.  With two of the original girls present, one now aged 85 and quite frail (and who taught us intricate club swinging routines and complex skipping steps) and some little five-year old Explorers who might be there in another 75 years time, as well as some fifty or so old girls in between, something of the interconnectedness and continuity of gopsel as shared through GB was evident.

    We closed with GLB/GB vesper Captain Divine (sung to Finlandia).  I loved it when I learned it and I still love it.  Indeed, I commented to my sister that if she outlives me, I want it sung at my funeral when the day comes:

     

    Captain Divine!  Our work is now complete

    And, ere we part, we gather at Thy feet,

    To give our labours and ourselves to Thee

    Without reserve, Thy cause to serve;

    O Captain, hear us as we pledge to be

    True to our creed, in thought and deed

     

    I doubt anyone much sings it in the UK in 2009 (though many overseas companies still do) which is a shame, because it expresses a level of commitment to which so many in Brigade surely aspire.