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  • Proposal for IBTS to Move to Amsterdam

    It has just been announced that it is proposed that the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) is to move from Prague to Amsterdam.  It's not all that long since it moved to Prague from Rushlikon in Switzerland.  The logic makes sense, and we trust God's guiding in the decision making, but, if approved, there will pain and loss for many who have lived and worked there, including many Czech nationals who have been employed as domestic staff, and those who have been part of the little church based there.

    There is a nice circularity, I think, in the proposed move to Amsterdam, to birthplace of the Baptist 'cause' but there will be implications for the many eastern European students who have found an affordable, and culturally copable, home in Prague.  If praying be your thing, then please hold the IBTS 'family' in your prayers.

    See IBTS community blog here

  • Short Sermon (Longish Blog Post)

    This Sunday is our first communion service in our new, experimental, pattern.  The logisitics dictate that the sermon has to be no more than ten minutes, rather than the usual twenty.  It has been a good challenge, but has also made me reflect a bit on what happens in preaching.

    Way back when, in my first year as a ministerial student, I was invited to preach at a black Pentecostal church as an 'away fixture' for what was termed 'United in the City' a regular pulpit exchange programme of churches on the borders of Manchetser city (when the Manchester City stadium was in Maine Road) and Trafford (where Manchester United's Old Trafford ground is still).  I was warned in advance that the sermon had to last at least forty minutes, as otherwise the resident pastor would offer a second exposition of the passage extempore - quantity it seemed triumphed over quality.  I seemed to get away with it - with quite a few 'amen, preach it sister' responses along the way!

    At the time it seemed a real challenge to find something to speak about for so long.  Now, as an epxerienced preacher, I know roughly how many words will take me to my usual twenty minutes, and how many edits I need to sharpen up my argument.  I know not to include too many different ideas (the curse of novice preachers) and am comfortable in my style which is usually sans jokes, sans anecdotes, and fully scripted, contra all the 'how to' books.  I have also become a more critical (as in critique, not cristicise) hearer of other preachers and conference speakers.  I have learned that the longer a sermon/talk lasts the greater the proprotion of asides, anecdotes and bad jokes; and, sadly, the longer the perosn speaks, the less significant material there is upon which to reflect.  This makes me quite self critical when I write sermons - are the sentences unecessarily long and adjective laden?  Is there actually some 'nugget' in there worth sharing or am I just waffling?  Is this just a glorified mind-dump, albeit one I trust to be God-inspired?  Any sermon worth preaching needs at least one edit, and, because of the way my mind works, ideas are honed in the editting.

    And so ten minutes.  Barebones preaching.  No anecdotes - I even removed the comments about the fact that it is a mini sermon.  I think it is probably around 12 minutes, based on word count, so still everso slightly long and I might have to paraphrase a few sentences as I go.  But it has been good disicpline to sit down and say, OK, in one sentence, what do I want to say (maybe everyone else does that always, but I don't) and then add some justification for that.

    So, if you like long sermons, jokey sermons, anecdotal sermons, best stay away this week.  If, on the other hand you like a slightly long homily, maybe you'd enjoy what's on offer!

  • The word for today is...

    ... 'backbiteth'

    What a fab word!  I was looking at Psalm 15 in various translations ahead of using it on Sunday, and the word most modern translations render 'slander' is 'backbiteth' or more specifically 'backbiteth not' which is a wonderful phrase.  And actually, I have a feeling that 'does not backbite' is more apposite than 'does not slander' in a culture where the former is rife (and I'm sure I'm as guilty as the next person) and the latter has become associated with what the media might do to public figures.

    So here it is on all its KJV glory...

    Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

    He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

    He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

    In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

    He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.

    I'll not tell you which translation/paraphrase I'm using on Sunday; neither the word 'slander' or 'backbiteth' feature, though the psalmists intent, I think, does.

  • Praying Nicely Together

    This evening I had intended to watch the opening ceremony of the Paralympics.  I them remembered that I'd forgotten I was meant to be at the Glasgow Baptist Prayer Gathering.  I have to confess to groaning as I knew the right thing to do was go and pray, because I'd looked forward to watching the ceremony.

    Still, off I went, and I'm glad I did.  It was nice to have a musical lead who could not only sing but direct singing, and who knew a wide variety of 'world church' stuff as well as contemporary stuff, and although I baulked at a song that required me to refer to myself as 'a sinful man' on the whole the music was good.

    The organisation was such that each church was allocated a table where someone had to sit to guide the prayers being offered and after five minutes or so, the people moved on to another table.  It was quite humbling to lead prayer with people I don't know (or don't know well) and to hear them pray for our church.

    In one of the groups who came to 'my' table was a man who was quite excited by what he was experiencing.  In his prayer he observed that he'd never been to such an event before but it was lovely to find out what all the churches were doing and how it was like pebbles being dropped into a pond and the ripples spreading out and overlapping in a beautiful pattern.  I liked that.  It was, for me the most profound moment of the evening.

    Yummy cakes and tea afterwards, and a lift home rather than standing on a lonely train platform late at night.  Would still have liked to watch the Paralympic ceremony, but I'm glad I went to the Prayer Gathering to experience some people praying nicely together.

    A long first day back at work... but a good one.

  • New Season Begins

    So today I am back at work after a lovely, leisurely week off during which I visited and re-visited many great places in and around Glasgow; I also discovered some were closed for refurbishment, and that googling 'Hunterian' can lead you to the wrong place if you aren't careful.  Anyway, from military bands to Nardini's ice-cream, sailing on the Waverly to a 3D IMAX dinosaur docu-drama film, and finally doing the open-top bus tour, it was fun.

    Now, as the ubiquitous saying goes, it's old clothes and porridge, aka back to work.

    This morning's PAYG was the story of the beheading of John the Baptist, on which I preached just a few weeks back.  One of the slants they took was about the challenge of trying to 'do the right thing' when under pressure to 'give people what they want'.  Whilst Herod directly contributed to his dilemma, and we may not always be so obviously complicit, it was a good question to ponder at the start of the new season.  We have several new initiatives that we have deemed 'the right thing' but not everyone is going to like all of them, maybe any of them, so how do I respond?

    Tricky, as by nature I'm a 'people pleaser' but know fine well 'you can't please all of the people'.  So my plan of action?

    Firstly, I intend to enjoy the new things!  They are opportunities to grow in faith and in grace, to meet new people, to unlock hidden talents, to play our part in God's Mission.

    Secondly, these are the decisions of the church, not of me, and therefore we are together equally responsible for the changes and their management.

    Lastly, I need to do my best to be caring, pastoral, supportive to those who find it difficult, whilst encouraging people to engage with things that are new and maybe challenging.




    Back to John the Baptist and Herod

    No-one is going to ask me for someone's head on a plate - but I am still challenged to reflect on those areas where, ultimately, I will go with the flow for a quiet life even when I have a sense of disquiet.  Maybe sometimes I do well to be disturbed by glimpsing myself in the 'villains' of the stories.




    Now then - first job of the new season - go to Coffee Club!  How brilliant is that?!