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  • "Are you holding hands yet?"

    When I mentioned at NAM reflection day that our two churches were having our fourth 'date' this Sunday, that's what I was asked.  It's a good question - how far has the relationship developed?  Will we remain as 'just good friends' or are things starting to move to the 'next level'?

    The service - at our end this time - was again well attended and there was a lovely warm atmosphere (even though the heating was definitely switched OFF!) with a lot more inter-congregational mixing both in seating patterns and in chatter.  One couple from Dibley + 1 even commented as they arrived 'we're always last, you can start now' - that felt positive.

    I enjoyed leading the service and had had a great time during the week playing around with the twin images of 'God as light' and 'God as father' found in 1 John (on which we are just starting a series).  A great excuse to sing the old classic 'Immortal, Invisible' and then 'God is our Father', complete with sound effects and 'dancing feet.'   Even singing these two songs shows the contrast between the two images.  The act of thinking about the God who is at once mysterious/accessible, transcendent/immanent, abstract/concrete seemed a good approach to sharing communion where common/sacred memorial/presence comprehensible/incomprehensible also co-exist (even somehow in the mind of this ordinance theologian!).

    So are we holding hands yet?  Modesty forbids disclosure, but let's just say it's looking more that way, although it's far too early to leap to any conclusions about the way things will develop (and the ecclesiastical equivalent to Joyce Hugget can rest easy knowing we are heeding their counsel ;o)).

  • All Quiet at 24/7

    This week has been the six monthly 24/7 Prayer Event in the town that embraces Dibley.  It is, I think, the fourth 24/7 we have done and it has been by far the quietest.  In 9 hours of hosting, I had 3 visitors, all of them in the same 1 hour slot.  Many hosts have seen no-one, and we have been wondering why this might be.

    In recent months one of the stalwart clergy has moved on, and there have been no visitors from that church.  Another minister has stepped aside from this initative due to other pressures and again, no one has attended from that church.  How much are these things linked to the minister?  It's a question I constantly ask myself in relation to Dibley initiatives and, as time goes on, try to adopt a more 'hands off' approach (difficult when you are a born organiser!)

    I do wonder about the frequency and necessary energy to sustain these 24/7 events.  I have been less involved in this one than in the past, as have other ministers, simply because we cannot sustain the time commitment, essentially an additional week's work (in previous events I've hosted for over 30 hours on top of my week's work - it's too much).  Maybe an annual event would be more sustainable, or shorter 24/2 or 24/1 events (since experience shows that most of the same visitors come whatever the overall duration).

    I guess having few visitors had its plus points - I did get to read a couple of books on 'Emerging Church' stuff and plan out a service uninterrupted.  Not sure that is quite the point though!

    Have any loyal or visiting readers any thoughts to share on similar intiatives?  If so, please comment!

     

  • Mosquito Bytes

    'If you think you are too small to be effective, you've never been to bed with a mosquito'

    This is a quotation used (at least) twice during the recent Baptist Assembly and probably the thing that stuck most firmly in my mind.  Perhaps because my church is small, perhaps because I went alone (big aah!) it is easy to feel insignificant and powerless at precisely the same time as valuing being part of something bigger, more diverse and more dynamic than the everyday experience of church life.

    What follows is not deeply theological, or even the product of deep reflection, but it is a few bytes from this particular mosquito!

    The theme of Centring the Margins was a powerful and challenging one, and many times we were asked to think about our own 'do not cross' boundary lines and comparing our ways with those of Jesus.  Sad irony then, that the timing of assembly had been carefully chosen because the character of Brighton on Bank Holiday Monday (when it actually poured with rain and there was not a soul to be seen) might offend the sensibilities of nice Christian folk and that the venue was so far south it effectively excluded any 'people in the pew' with neither the opportunity or finances to travel from the North or Midlands in time for a mid-Friday start.  The message was good; we have far to go in living out the words...

    As is the way of these things, the seminars varied in style and quality but did seem to be well attended.  Although I left most feeling rather disappointed by the input I'd received, being present among around 200 others from small churches and hearing just snatches of what they are doing was affirming.   Two hundred mosquitoes - now there IS a scary thought!

    The main meetings were pretty much as as expected but prompted two more flippant, even amusing trains of thought. 

    A friend who works in an adjacent Association bemoaned his failure to circulate 'Baptist Bingo' cards with names (or first lines) of the hymns and songs we were bound to sing.  From 'Be Thou my Vision' and 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross' to 'Light of the World' and 'King of Kings, Majesty', by Sunday night he reckoned he had a full house!

    Then there emerged among a group of us final year NAMs: 'what do you wear when you go for your handshake'?  Big stuff this, never mind theology of ministry!!  We found some enlightenment as we watched the "Mish Kids" climb on stage arrayed as princesses, fairies, spidermen and Willie Wonker.  The question now is, do I opt for 'Princess' or 'Cat Woman'?!

    It was good to meet up with friends, to catch up on news, to be part of the bigger Baptist family.  Although now I seem to be faced with a double dose of work to catch up on, although parts of it were disappointing, frustrating or downright annoying, it was well worth going and as a lesser mosquito in the mosquito that is the BUGB, it is good to be reminded that our bite matters!  Just need to avoid the Deet of lethargy and apathy...