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  • Planning for Christmas.... Already!

    This week it seems that Christian Aid held a meeting to work on their 2012 Christmas material, a meeting that was disrupted by adverse weather conditions which prevented people from reaching Scotland, where it was being held.  Like the greeting card designers and confectionery makers, we are already thinking at least one, if not more, festivals ahead.

    Among my post this week was a little book, just published, called Messy Nativity by Jane Leadbetter which includes three different, but potentially integrated, activities for Advent and Christmas.  Whilst I lament the 'branding' of Messy Church, which has the potential to reduce to a formula that which many have done for decades, the resources it is producing offer some new and creative outreach ideas.

    I am really taken with the knitted sheep trail idea, whereby you persuade local shops to host a hand-knitted sheep, which they can name, and then be part of a 'sheep trail' aimed at families who visit the shops to collect the names of all the sheep (good increase in footfall for participating shops) and maybe offer a prize for the 'grand draw' of completed trail sheets which coincides with the event to be held at church (e.g. crib service, christingle, etc.).

    Other ideas are the 'messy nativity set journey' and the 'messy street nativity' (the latter not too disimilar from 'Get In The Picture').

    Gatherers beware... I am enthused by these ideas, not least as we are so near to 'Sheepfold Street', whose shops attract loads of people during Advent... a sheep trail, getting in the picture, free gift wrapping and a few other ideas are all bubbling away in my mind!

  • BUGB Restructuring

    Today Baptist Times reports the agreement of Council to some significant restructuring of BUGB.  The decisions have been made carefully and prayerfully and the implications will be determined over many, many years into the future.  Reading the report is only one level of the story though.  Many people will lose their jobs.  One major challenge for all of us in Baptist churches affiliated to this union (or any other union or convention) is to play our part in making the process as God-honouring as possible.

    Behind the story are real people, with real lives and real feelings.  Some will be sad.  Some will be angry.  Some will feel guilty.  Some will feel relieved.  Some will be various combinations of these and other emotions.  Baptist House won't be a comfortable place to be in the coming months; people will work hard to keep the show on the road knowing that their own futures are uncertain.  It behoves us to pray for everyone who works there and to generous and gracious in our dealings with those with whom we have contact.


    Mysterious God,

    We thank you for the people called Baptist

    And specifically for those who covenasnt together within the BUGB


    In this time of pruning

    Comfort those who are sad

    Shelter those who who are afraid

    Be a safe space for those who need to vent rage


    In the tasks of restructuring

    Grant wisdom to decision makers

    Compassion to line managers

    And hope to those who see no way forward


    Hear our prayers...

    ... and show us how we may live the answers



  • Beside the Seaside

    Yesterday I was at the seaside with our Coffee Club folks.  It rained quite a lot, but most still had a walk along the front.

    Here are some hints of what else we got up to...


    ice cream.jpg


  • Being Jesus' Mother?

    This Sunday we will be starting a seven week series of all age services looking at aspects of discipleship viewed through the lens of Mark's gospel.  It is technically a lectionary-based series but for good reason we are starting it about 3 weeks late!  Anyways, this week's gospel reading is Mark 3: 25 - 35, which is not exactly easy reading.

    The thing that has really got me thinking is the call to be Jesus' 'brothers, sisters and mother.'  The sibling bit I get.  It's not an easy call, but it's one that makes sense.  But the mothering bit - now that's more tricky!  How can I - or anyone - be 'mother of Jesus' or 'mother to Jesus'?  What does it mean?  How do we bring Christ to birth in others maybe?  Or how do we nurture the child Christ glimpsed in every human child?  Or how do we fulfil the prophetic message of Magnificat?  What is/was the unique role of mother wihtin the (human) household of Jesus or the (spiritual) household of God? 

    Hmmm.  I really don't know.  But it's a challenge for sure.

  • Unhelpful Analogy...

    Or at least it is for me.  I am reading a little book called 'The Art of Pastoring' by David Hansen, and on the whole, so far, so good.  I like the style and find the content thoughtful and thought provoking.  But then came an analogy I found unhelpful... a comparison of sin to cancer.

    In the few days since I read that, and winced, and railed against it, I have tried quite hard to work with it - but ultimately it does not work, not least since the author asserts that 'we cherish our sin'.  I know of no-one who cherished his or her cancer.  I chose to love my tumour, to embrace the physical and emotional changes my treatment brought, but cherish cancer, delight it in, want to indulge it...?  I think not.

    No matter how hard I try, I cannot make this analogy OK.  I get what he's saying, understand what he's trying to do.  Cancer is pernicious and parasitic, I get that, I even get that cancer is about our own cells going awry in a way we are powerless to stop... but that doesn't make it a helpful analogy.  I mean, cancer cells achieve some kind of immortality, so we could take that in a whole other direction - but no-one would because it's plain nuts.

    The theologian John Hull, once his sight began to fail, devoted a lot of energy to revisiting Biblical use of blindness/sight as metaphors for unbelief/belief and reflected on how this impacts people with visual impairment.  Hansen's cancer analogy functions in a similar way for me.  I don't think I'm being overly sensitive, I can distinguish between analogy and attribution (is that the right word?), but I am really affronted by it. 

    Why is this? I think it is at least partially because everyone I know who has had a cancer diagnosis experiences at least some sense of guilt - that they did or did not do this or that, that they ate or did not eat such and such, that they made this or that choice.  To use cancer as an analogy for sin seems to me to compound that guilt and potentially further damage people who are already vulnerable.

    I'm not sure what might be a more helpful analogy - but I suspect not one that relates to any aspect of physical/mental health or wellbeing.  What do others think?