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  • A Church is NOT a Building!

    I am not sure if I should post this in blogland, where the whole world can read it, risking the possibility that the good people of Dibley and District will find it and misunderstand it.  I have debated deleting it or permanently saving it as a draft.  But then if we only post good stuff we become complicit in a culture that denies the reality of the negative, so, with apologies to any who find it and offended, here it is. 

    Last night our diaconate and the diaconate of D+1 met to talk about 'next steps' in our disucssions, following on from the meeting in September.  Our folk had worked hard, and even got our members to discuss and agree some proprosals for a way forward, which we tabled.  All D+1 wanted to talk about was buildings.  This for them is the most important, most urgent topic.  All our talk about mission, about vision, even about God's guiding and Christ's mind was of less important than the bricks and mortar.

    I'll be polite, I'll say I was disappointed.  I felt we were accused of rushing them to make impossible decisions (we asked that eachchurch formally commit to a merger process and, as part of that, for a commitment to agree to decide within the ~12 months that might take to work through, what they would do with their building as part of a merger).  I felt that there really was no common understanding of why we were engaged this process and that our friends really wanted to carry on as they are, knowing that within a matter of years they'll almost all be dead.  I came away discouraged and cynical - and unsettled and uncertain.  Indeed I was so wound up I literally bit a hole in my tongue while eating a chocolate biscuit by way of consolation!

    When, oh when, will people get their heads around the fact that a church is NOT a building. Grrrr!

    (Well, I feel marginally better now - blogging as catharthis?!)

  • Quiz Farm Theology Test

    It's been around for ages and most bloggers I know have done it, so I gave it a go!  You can try it here if you haven't already done so.  So here are my results - with which I am fairly happy I think!  The decider between being neo-orthodox or emergent/postmodern was a choice between the importance of Barth's theology and the intelligbility of older churches!  Barth won. I have never read any P T Forsyth by the way, not being an URC.

    You scored as Neo orthodox.

    You are neo-orthodox. You reject the human-centredness and scepticism of liberal theology, but neither do you go to the other extreme and make the Bible the central issue for faith. You believe that Christ is God's most important revelation to humanity, and the Trinity is hugely important in your theology. The Bible is also important because it points us to the revelation of Christ. You are influenced by Karl Barth and P T Forsyth.

    Neo orthodox




    Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan


    Classical Liberal


    Modern Liberal


    Reformed Evangelical


    Roman Catholic







  • Christmas Typos

    Tis the season to be silly, and the old favourite typos to be trotted out again...

    Like the church who were serving 'mice pies' after their carol service

    And the 'Christmas with the Salvation Army' CD I bought some friends many years ago which according to the sleeve notes featured 'Away in a Manager.'  I know that office Christmas does have a reputation but surely...

    Any others?

  • Favourite Carols

    Tonight I am leading a carol service for one of the residential homes near Dibley.  The link is tenuous - via Penties and the next Anglican Parish but I am the only available 'Rev' person it seems.  I am looking forward to it, not least because the residents have chosen the carols which means I don't get to feel guilty over choosing the ones I like or obliged to have the ones I cannot abide - although of course both feature in this service!

    I am happy, though, because someone called John has chosen my all time favourite, and this is going to be the centrepeice for my 'talk.'

    'In The Bleak Midwinter' gets a lot of stick for being Victorian pietist mush, which is a real shame because I think it has immense depth as well as plenty of 'nostalgia appeal'

    Verse 1 - is in part a Christmas card image - deep snow, rosy cheeked children etc, but also a reality that even in Victorian times for many winters were pretty bleak unless you were wealthy.  It does not say that Jesus was born in an English winter, though I guess you can imply that if you so choose, it just says that winters were pretty similar 'long ago' to what they experienced 'today'.

    Verse 2 - this is God's omni-everythingness, it is eschatological, it is powerful stuff: the God who cannot be contained by heaven, whose reign will see the end of all things that currently are.  And this God is the same God who, in Jesus, way back then, was satisified with a stable for shelter.

    Verse 3 - being rediscovered, and seen by some as 'too much information' with Mary breastfeeding Jesus, is utterly incarnational and speaks volumes on kenosis; the basics of life are sufficient for God incarnate.

    Verse 4 - mystery, which writers such as Mr Kendrick try to express in 'Meekness and Majesty' etc.  Never mind angels singing their socks off (if angels have socks of course) the true beauty and worship is seen in the kiss of a mother for her new-born son.  Wow!

    Verse 5 - forget the Sunday School nativity play and the layers of tradition and glitter, this verse is about a response.  OK, so now we've heard the story (again) what are we going to do?  Not as blatant as a Billy Graham altar call or Catriona banging on about mission but 'what are you going to do?'

    If I wanted to write a carol that said all that needs to be said, then this might be it.  It affirms the place of Christmas card nostalgia within a deep understanding of the nature of God, the coming of Christ and the demand for a response.

    Tonight I will endure 'O Come all ye Faithful' and 'Away in a Manger' but I will enjoy Christina Rossetti's finest! 

  • Laughter in Heaven

    Today was Baptist Head Count Sunday, that great festival of the first Sunday each December where we generate the statistics that the Baptist Union will use for some purpose or other in determining our health.

    I handed my treasurer a piece of paper on which I'd drawn a grid for him to record our demographics, omitting the boxes we definitely would not need.  I was not too optimisitic - at 2:59 there were no more people there than on a normal Sunday despite the fact that D+1 were joining us and one YFC volunteer had returned for a second visit.  At 3:02 we were listening to the notices as late comers ambled in and had to sit at the front.  At 3:05 I noticed two noses pressed up against the French windows and asked someone to let in the two lads looking in at us.

    All went well, but I had to smile when it got to the Communion and the two deacon-servers (is that tautology, it probably is) returned with trays each holding only one wine glass; I was glad I insist that they put some in the chalice (I have a thing about picking up empty chalices!).  Enough for all to share but none left over - that felt good.

    In conversation, it emerged that the lads had seen our banner on the school fence and come to investigate.  They were very polite and courteous only giggling quietly during the more wierd bits of our rituals, and I was glad that one of our members sat with them and explained things as we went along.  I was glad that they felt comfortable enough not to stand to sing just becuase most of us do and delighted when they stayed for a cuppa and several biscuits before they left.

    So, my head count data now reads

    Under 14    Males 2     Females 0

    14 - 21       Males 1     Females 0

    22 - 50       Males 1     Females 4

    51 - 65       Males 4     Females 6

    65+           Males 6     Females 17


    With a total of 41 attending rather than the usual ~30 it is artificially high, with three under 40's it is miraculous.

    The BU collects the data, Catriona preaches on 'my strength is made perfect in weakness' ... and in heaven is heard the hearty chuckle of divine laughter.