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  • This 'n' That

    This week I seem to have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about 'Sabbath' and what it might mean in a 21st century post-you-name-it-it's-post-it society.  I had to lead session 1 of the Churches Together Lent Study from Life Balance, which was called 'time to pause;' then our Sunday service had almost identical readings as we pondered how understanding Sabbath affects our own lives and our approach to mission.  At a personal level, it prompted me to start planning in my time off more!  Not just the 'day off except when there's a funeral or special event' but clear blocks of free time almost every day.  Hardly earth shattering or rocket science, but with my workaholic tendencies something I need to do.  Having managed a near perfect score on the BBC Get Smart in a Week quiz before I start this, I can only anticipate that if I succeed I'll be a genius!  (And modest with it).  Seriously though, it has been good to make time to plan time out and I know I will benefit from time for relaxation and receation.  Sorry if you were expecting any stunning new insights - just a reminder that Sabbath is a gift and should be enjoyed not endured or left unopened.

    Today was the grand launch of the data projector - and we discovered that 'Fn-F12' is the new 'F5' with the laptop we are now using.  It is so much easier with my PC where I just disconnect the monitor and hey presto, but we got there with 40 mins to spare.  It seemed to go OK - as did the new portable loop thingy (despite someone assuring me he had to switch his hearing aid away from the T setting for it to work, but as long as I used the mike he could hear everything despite there being no PA.  Hmm.  Wires crossed somewhere methinks!).  So Dibley is now in C21 and discovering it isn't quite so scary after all.  Well done Dibley residents!

    Last Thursday was our AGM, followed by a business meeting.  It all went far better than I'd dared hope and we made some significant strides in our thinking and doing.  For the first time ever, so far as I can tell, we agreed a budget for mission - a sizeable sum that should allow us to do some creative and exciting projects - and were actually encouraged by the external 'powers that be' to apply for an increased Home Mission grant for 2007 (unheard of!) to enable us to do this.  The Pentecost Party is now officially 'on' and work can begin and, even more exciting and amazing, we have agreed to explore the possibility of growing a new 'congregation' on broadly 'emerging church' lines.  That's pretty radical for anywhere, never mind Dibley.  Obviously nowhere near everyone is enthused by this, and I've had a few suggestions of 'what you mean is Alpha' (no, thrice no!  Nor Emmaus nor any other similar thing) but the kernel of enthusiasm is infectious and I like creative worship anyway!

    So, on balance lots to be glad about - perhaps when we get our new emerged congregation we can have chill out sessions so I can get some Sabbath space there!

  • An Amazing Prayer of Praise

    Last Friday I was leading the (Women's) World Day of Prayer at the local sheltered housing.  Here it is still very much a women's event and rather unsurprisingly it is assumed that the women ministers will take part.

    The material was produced by women in South Africa and was an interesting blend of styles.  However I was stunned, in the most positive sense possible, by the prayer of praise - it is truly amazing: profound, beautiful, funny, simple, complex, sincere.  I cannot find a copyright statement for it, but if you do use it, please acknowledge it as being from the Signs of the Times 2006 service.  Enjoy!


    All you BIG things, praise the Lord!

    Drackensberg and Table Mountains, Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Yellow-wood, Oak and Baobab trees


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you TINY things, praise the Lord!

    Busy red ants and lurking ticks, wriggling tadpoles and pestering mosquitoes.


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you SHARP things praise the Lord!

    Cactus thorns and prickly pears, aloe leaves and high-heeled shoes


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you SOFT things praise the Lord!

    Golden ripe mangoes, sponges and moss, babies’ skin, cuddly toys and porridge


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you SWEET things, praise the Lord!

    Apples, peaches, and blueberry jam, young people’s dreams and old peoples’ good wishes


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you SWIFT things, praise the Lord!

    Lightning and swallows flitting through the sky, traffic on motorways and speeding ambulances


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you SLOW things, praise the Lord!

    Huge big elephants and bony old cows, tortoises, snails and patients on crutches


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you loud things, praise the Lord!

    Thunder, midnight drums and taxis, hail and rain on aluminium roofs


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you QUIET things, praise the Lord!

    A gentle breeze in the midday heat, sleeping babies and fish in the sea, women who care and suffer and weep.


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you SPIRITUAL things, praise the Lord!

    Uplifting music and singing psalms, Bible studies and gospel praise, preaching the Word and receiving God’s gifts


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    All you CREATED things, praise the Lord!

    Our planet earth and its orbiting moon, our galaxy with its systems of suns, all the universe – both known and unknown


    Praise the Lord and bless his name!


    O Lord, we worship You with out voice and with our silence for You are worthy of praise and adoration!

  • A Minimalist Induction Service

    Yesterday I went to the induction service for the new minister at one of the churches I'd met and been turned down by (at least on that occasion quite painlessly) during the long, winding journey that led to Dibley.  I went partly out of curiosity - just who was it that finally, after their 3-4 year search had been able to fill the shoes of their predecessor - partly out of a desire to celebrate with them and partly because this was also the start of a new era with two congregations coming together with a single minister on their way to becoming a single church in the not too distant future.

    I was, quite frankly, disappointed, apart from the fact that the service was barely an hour long and the order was, well, a bit wierd,  there was absolutely no 'story telling' at all.  Maybe I'm just nosey, but I love hearing how  church/churches and minister/ministers have come together and usually have a real sense of 'yes, this is of God.'

    It made me wonder just what an 'induction' service is meant to do.  Is the story telling part necessary or is it just a tradition I have accepted and enjoyed?  Is there a 'better' or 'right' place for the act of induction relative to the sermon?  In this service, the act of induction was almost at the start of the service (but strangely sandwiched in the middle of two readings and two hymns) with the sermon at the end.  I guess, arguably, it reflects a more 'Baptist' view, with the 'breaking of the word' as the culmination of the service, but I'm more accustomed to seeing the act of induction as part of the 'response to the sermon.'  What do others think?

    There was nothing actually 'wrong' with the service but I did come away feeling short changed.  I am sure, from what I saw, that their new minister will be ideal for them (I would not have been) and it was a joy to celebrate with them - even a special moment when one of the deacons made a point of coming to say hello, which, almost 3 years after we last met was very unexpected.  I do wish them God's blessing for their future together and will watch to see how their united church emerges (definitely divine sense of humour that there are parallels with life in Dibley).  In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy hearing testimonies/stories and enjoying what I believe to be one of our finer traditions!

  • Prayer Vigil

    Tonight we held our prayer vigil for Norman Kember and the other CPT hostages in Iraq.  I'm not sure how many people I hoped would come - but to be honest more than the three who did come.  Even so, it was a worthwhile exercise, allowing us to focus our minds, hearts and prayers in a way that perhaps we would not have done otherwise.  There was nothing ground-breaking in what we did - we sat around in my living room while some 'Christian muzak,' as one of the local vicars puts it, played quietly in the background and used some of the downloadable liturgies to guide our prayers.  I had produced some large photos of the four men and we had a lit candle by each one of them.

    We were fortunate - or blessed if you prefer - the room was warm and comfortable and we could walk out any time we wanted to.  We were together for about an hour before two left to return home, and after two hours it was all over.  The candles were snuffed out and I found myself saying 'goodnight' to each of the men in the photos.  I gathered the papers ready for recycling, put away the CD and became keenly aware of the transcience of what we had shared.

    Four people met in a room in England to pray for four men in an unknown place in Iraq.  Perhaps it was good to be so few, to focus on the similarities and differences of our situations.  I don't think any one of us would claim to be a pacificist (well I certainly wouldn't) but each had been inspired to pray for these men who are.  Being a disciple of Jesus is costly, these men are willing to pay the ultimate price: surely for us to spend a couple of hours praying for them and those they love was no big deal?


  • Just in case...(safety instructions gone mad)

    I have just purchased a secondhand data projector in an attempt to edge Dibley a little closer to the 21st century.  I am very happy with my purchase and looking forward to using it in worship (but NOT for bullet point sermons, oh no).

    Anyway, I was reading the manual (it's a girl thing) and flicking through the safety instructions when I came across this one: -

    "Do not use the projector in a bath or shower - fire or electric shocks can result"

    Well, I'm glad to discover that and assume that using it in a Baptistry is also probably not a good idea, though of course not specifically excluded...

    Looks like no underwater Powerpoint projections this week then!