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  • Normal for ....

    There is a really horrid expression 'normal for Norfolk' which is used derogatively to describe people who are not exactly over-endowed with intellect.  The was a similar expression in Dibley and I recall preaching an alternative interpretation as part of a challenge to a general underlying negativity I experienced in my early days.  But, there are underlying norms everywhere, and it can take a while to discover them, as I am beginning to realise when my assumptions/presuppositions don't match those of others.

    One big difference in this corner of River City is that most church people have email (about 75% according to the directory) whereas in Dibley most did not (about 25%).  Inevitably each of these impacts how information is communicated and what people expect.  In each each case, it also raises questions about inclusion and exclusion and about what is communicated by what medium.  At one church I worked with (neither of the above) one Deacon had information sent to her son's email address, about which I was always unhappy, but it was the only way she could be kept in the loop as everything was done by email.  When I first went to Dibley I used to hand deliver copies of any emails to the two non-email deacons, and everything for general consumption was done on paper.

    I guess what I am being reminded is that "Normal for Anytown Baptist Church" is not the same as normal for any Baptist church in any aspect, whether administrative, worship or whatever.  It keeps me on my toes anyway!


  • As Others See Us...

    This from ASBO Jesus made me laugh out loud (and think a bit too!)

    ASBO strangeways.jpg

  • Men and Church

    Quite a well worn topic, but picked up here by Ruth Gledhill, and maybe worth a look

    My biggest gripe with 'men don't like singing love songs to Jesus' is that the songs to which they object are invariably written by men...

    Oh, and if you read to the end of the article you will spot this:

    Instead of having to queue for coffee, why not ask some of the women to go round with trays of coffee and biscuits or chocky bars? Coupled with a charming smile, many men would find that very attractive! (Of course, the men may like to take turns and serve coffee in return.)

    This is one girl/woman who is not about to spend her time serving mugs of coffee and chunky chocolate bars to males, so don't anyone start getting ideas.  I am very happy to serve refreshments to anyone of either gender - but not to 'fish for men' in the process; I am sure flirting with the parishioners must be bordering on conduct unbecoming...

    See what you make of it!

  • Baptists Gathering

    Yesterday saw me at two gatherings of Baptists, one small in a pub, one large in a church.  One explicitly an act of worship, one specifically an act of friendship.  For me they reflect two equally important aspects of being the church.

    The first was initiated by one of my church folk who has a real heart for pastoral work.  Half a dozen of us met in a pub to drink coffee or tea (though at 11 o'clock for some the second round involved "purely medicinal" alcohol!) and have a chat.  It was a good way to spend a couple of hours, and does seem to me to be the way forward for a lot of pastoral work - the Dibley Lunch Club was born of exactly this kind of idea.  Maybe there is the potential here for a regular (monthly? fortnightly?) intentional gathering of folk in a place like this simply to share friendship over coffee.  It could, potentially grow into a mini lunch club, if folk were interested enough and willing to pay pub prices for their meals (Wetherspoons, where we were yesterday does some great deals!).  All that is needed in the short term though, is a core of folk who are willing to commit to be there once a month, maybe one or two willing to act as chauffeurs, and one or two suitable venues.  What I like about this possibility is the fact that the seed is already there, I have not had to 'invent' the idea, simply to see what's there and wonder how to nurture it.  No idea if this will go anywhere yet - have not even spoken to anyone but it seems hopeful...

    The second gathering was the city-wide Baptist prayer gathering.  This happens twice a year, and as we are due to host next time (in August) I felt it was important to go along and see what it was like.  With roughly 20 Baptist churches in Glasgow, it isn't too surprising that there were around a hundred people there.  And I am starting to grow used to meeting people who know people I know wherever I go.  When I was in Dibley people thought I knew everyone in the Baptist world - maybe they were nearer right than I realised!  Anyway, I met some friends of one of my friends who has just moved to take up a new pastorate in Kent (J, they say hello btw).  The Baptist world is small, and for the most part it is very friendly.  I recall one of my college friends observing in her final year that although some of her colleagues drove her mad, and although their theologies and preferred styles of worship were poles apart, ultimately she loved these people and they loved her.  She was right.  Last night I found myself bemused and amused by a room full of Baptists singing 'good old redemption hymns' in almost drunken tones - never have I encountered such a thing in England - whilst being simultaneously touched by the sincerity of the singers.  We also sang songs I love - and not even a tiny hint of that song - so all was well.  There were prayers from Tozer and Columba, a couple of Bible readings (which did seem a little random) and a lot of time devoted to praying in small groups for the various churches the Union and the city.  Afterwards, of course, refreshments, though I was by then ready for home as it was getting late.  It was good to be there, interesting to notice the response when I was introduced as one of the new ministers to the area (simultaneously a loud "Hallelujah!" and a few sharp intakes of breath!), helpful to see how the thing works and how it might be adapted to our context and our quieter, more traditional style.  Above all it was good to be out among other Baptists, to be reminded of the diversity of who we are, to sing songs that need a guitar rather than a choir, to step out of routine, and then to come back to the familiar and loved with renewed appreciation.

    Where two or three gather... in the pub over coffee or Guinness, in the sanctuary with organ or guitar, in agreement and even in quarrel (check what Matt 18 is actually talking about!) there Christ is present, amidst those funny folk called Baptist.

  • Life in River City

    BBC Scotland has its very own soap opera.  I know it isn't aired in England because whenever I mention it to my friends down south they say 'what?'  I'm not a soap fan, but every now and then I watch the odd episode of something to remind myself what I am not missing.

    River City is set in a 'close knit community in Glasgow' and after watching about four episodes, Shieldinch seems as dysfunctional as Walford, Weatherfield or any other soapy place.  But it's fun spotting the accents which reveal the odd interloper from 'Riversaid' where coal is delivered in secks, a few for whom subtitles are almost needed and even the odd stray Sassenach!  Some actors are household names, others are not.  There is a self-deprecating humour that only cities can manage, and although it tackles some issues, it doens't take itself too seriously.

    It is good that Scotland has its own soap opera - just a shame no-one south of Carlisle is likely to see it.

    Of course here, just off Sheepfold Street in the Summit area of River City, life is nothing like soap-land, but is every bit as diverse and far more fun.