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  • The Second Date!

    Today was the second 'date' of our church and the other little one a mile away.  This time they came to us.

    It was great to have such a full hall - altogether there were 47 of us.  I know this because our communion trays each hold 24 glasses and there was only one glass left over!  There was a happy atmosphere, and a sense that the two congregations had mingled together quite well too.

    The data projector projected, the portable loop looped and the heating heated.  This was good, because there's nothing like being cold or technology failing to cause frayed tempers and disastrous ecclesiastical dates.

    On the whole people joined in well - the blend of old and new hymns was appreciated and the involvement of people from each congregation in reading the Bible passages seemd to go down well.  Most people even learned how to make a cross from a sheet of paper using only one tear (or cut) - we got some confetti in the process, but on the whole it worked.  If you need to learn how to do this then I suggest you buy the Across the World pack, as if I tried to explain it here who knows what might happen!

    This was the last of our series on mission and took us back to the heart of our faith - the cross of Christ and the imperative to all would-be disicples to take up their crosses.  It's challenging stuff, but allowed us to be reminded that a cross-centred world view is as foreign in our culture as it was in Corinth (a scandal to Jews, a folly to Greeks) as well as recognising that the lives to be 'lost' in order to be found can be corporate as well as individual.

    The after service tea and biscuits went well, and now feels like 'part of what we do here.'  Indeed the relief caretaker was pacing the corridors waiting for us to hurry up and finish so he could lock up!  (He was 15 minutes early)

    I think it was a good experience and hope that a few more links were grown between our two congregations.  Still a long way to go to discover what God is calling us to, but an enjoyable stopping off point on the way.

  • Fairtrade Fortnight Thoughts

    This logo is now a common sight.  Wandering around Leicester city centre yesterday it was to be found in coffee shops (which I don't visit in Lent!) and M&S as well in the newly refurbished Just fairtrade shop; almost every supermarket was plugging fairtrade fortnight with a wide range of products.  What a long way things have come in the last few years as fairtrade has moved from the margins to being a major player in the UK marketplace.

    In the evening I went with a couple of church folk to a Paul Field concert to mark the end of Fairtrade Fortnight (he is the writer of 'Lord make me a mountain', 'With all my heart I thank you Lord' and 'One of us, flesh and blood').  The audience was not large - perhaps fifty or so, sat cafe style in the Leicester Y theatre for an evening of thoughtful and thought-provoking music, first from support group Imaginary Friend (who had an interesting array of skeleton electronic stringed instruments!) and then Paul - who I now realise I first heard about 25 years ago when he was part of Network 3, the support act at a Cliff Richard concert, a trip arranged by my, then, RE teacher!

    I found in some of what Paul said, and sang, echoes of much I hear in singer-songwriters of his age group, and which resonate with my own thoughts and feelings.  He is, he says, no longer concerned to please people, it matters not if the audience is 10 or 10,000, he has things to say about which he feels passionate (and that 'passion' has replaced 'energy' as he's got older) and he's going to say them, right or wrong, popular or not.

    And he does!  One of his songs, exploring the relationship between 'church' (worhsip) and the 'real world' actually included a line that went something like 'do they give a sh*t?' (and, for the nice polite folk among us, the vowel was not 'a', 'e', 'o' or 'u').  How far Christian music has moved in 25 years!  And how much more real we have started to become.  OK, so I wouldn't choose to use that expression myself (and would not dare play that song to my congregation!) but they are sentiments I gladly echo.

    It would be good for Fairtrade Fortnight to become redundant.  It would also be good if we could all do just a little bit to start giving a thought (much tamer word!) to relating our faith to our lives and our world.  Long live James 2: 26!

  • Liturgical Insensitivity?

    Well, I'm obviously in waffle mode this week as this is the third post!

    Yesterday I went along to the local Rally of Women's Meetings, which my lot were hosting.  Essentially this is a service followed by tea, which they produce and deliver themselves.  In the coming months they then tour each other's churches for more rallies and more teas and generally have a jolly time.

    The speaker was excellent, if a little too anecdotal for my preferences, but the service structure itself drove me to the brink of despair!  I begin to wonder whether people actually have a clue what they are doing when they structure a service, or if they just think 'oh yes, we'll have that bit now.'

    The order was: hymn, Bible reading, praise songs, prayers of thanks and intercession, hymn, sermon, hymn, blessing.  (Not a million miles from the induction service I was at the other week really).  By the time we got to the sermon I was struggling to remember what the reading was!

    For many years I expressed a dislike of 'liturgy' which I wrongly understood as 'pre-printed forms' as our Baptist forebears would say.  I still dislike too much dependence on forms of words- though do use them now and then - but have learned a better understanding of what 'liturgy' really is.  During the year of my training spent working with an Anglican priest, I was described as 'liturgically sensitive,' a label I am happy with.  If liturgical sensivitivity means understanding about the 'shape' or 'flow' of a service, creating something that makes some kind of theological sense, then that's something I aim to do.

    Why then so much liturgical insensitivity from people who have been leading services since before I was born?  I am often amazed when people on the reader's rota ask me where the reading will come when, liturgically, it's always in the same place.  Am I really so odd in noticing the patterns and appreciating the rhythm? 

    Some of the newer lay preacher training does cover this aspect of worship leading but I do wonder what might have happened in the past that we end up with such muddled and confusing services led by highly gifted and experienced people.  What do others think?

  • Volf for Lent

    I am currently reading Mirosalv Volf's latest offering Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace (published by Zondervan, 2005) You can check out the blurb on Amazon (click on the picture below) if, like me, you don't hapen to be on first name terms with Rowan Williams, who recommends it for Lent!

    Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace

    Fellow Volf fans will not be disappointed - in what I have read so far (about two and half chapters) I find myself, as ever, captivated by the gentle, accessible and yet incredibly profound ideas of this writer.  The first part of the book explores the idea of giving and, as any Volf-lover would expect, does so in the light of a relational concept of trinity.  Our own giving is then critically examined in a way that is neither cynical or sentimental; it challenges our selfishness without inducing guilt in the reader - a gift I wish I had when preaching!

    I don't intend to commit to write about this book - things have a habit of scuppering our best laid plans, and in any case my own Lent programme is decidedly hectic (think I might abstain from Lent events next year!) - but if you like Volf you'll probably enjoy this, and if you don't yet know him, it seems to me a good place to start.

  • Good News for 'somewhere in the Nuneaton area'

    Today I had an email from a colleague who is the student minister at Dibley + 1 mile telling me that he had received a unanimous call to a church as outlined above.  This was indeed good news, he hasn't had the easiest settlement process and as far as I can ascertain has that dubious honour of being last in his year group to settle (though still manged to do it 6 months quicker than I did!).

    It is good news not just because he has settled, but because, based on what I know of him and what he has said about the church, it has that 'God's at work' feeling.

    The Baptist settlement process is a funny old thing, yet depsite its flaws it is always good to hear of a church and minister coming together.  Amidst all the demoralising national and international news, it is refreshing to get something good right on the doorstep.

    Now I need to get back to the 'cunning plan' for Dibley-area domination!!!