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  • Proclamation = Preaching?

    I am due to preach on Sunday night at one of my local Penty churches (the one in the old pub, for readers who know this area) as part of a series they are doing enigmatically titled 'The Word.'  With no guidance at all, and being asked about it just before Christmas, I said I'd do something on 'the Word became flesh,' John 1:14.

    Since then my subcionscious has been on a world tour, it seems, picking all manner of odd ideas and setting them alongside each other.  My erstwhile Biblical studies tutor has been approached to check out what turned out to be some Barth and I then made some connections to something attributed to Francis of Asissi!  Mind you, as I wanted to end up with something broadly incarnational and/or practical that was fairly useful.

    I love reading Barth (in English , I know no German) but it is like really good dark chocolate - a couple of squares is plenty to be going on with.  As a result I have never read the master on his model expressed below


    Revelatory action of God in Christ




     Proclamation (= preaching)

    I find it helpful in reflecting on my role as a preacher, but then there is the saying attributed to St Francis 'preach the gospel always, if necessary use words.'

    I don't know what Barth's view of 'preaching' is (and as churches today explore what we think it is, or how we do it, maybe my question is relevant) but St Francis (or whoever) suggest that life as whole can/should be a form of preaching, hence proclamation.  Brother Lawrence said he could worship God while making omelettes, could his employment of his culinary expertise also proclaim something of the WORD?

    Well, this is the line I am pursuing with my Penties anyway...

    If I put on my mathematical head for a few seconds, I guess what I am saying is that preaching is a subset of proclamation.

    Any thoughts before I show myself up as totally ignorant of Barth (which I am), a burnable heretic (or more so than usual) or anything else even more undesirable?

  • From the Mouths of Children...

    Last night's Girls' Brigade was one of those that makes me smile, that reminds me why I am mad enough to give up my 'free' (ha, ha, joke) time to work with other people's children for years on end.

    It could have been a disaster - we have four leaders but last night circumstances conspired that I was the only one able to be there.  Fortunately the Captain (names may soon change to be less 'military') had contacted someone to come along in her stead, but I had to run the whole evening at an hour's notice; good job I'm experienced and bossy!  Amazingly one of our district 'officers' chose to drop in unnanounced, so we ended up with three leaders... strange ways!

    We are making a banner for the church, but as our girls are aged between 5 and 10, a lot of careful guidance is needed to get something fit for purpose.  Last night I showed them the fabric we've bought and they finalised the designs for their butterflies (which will need a whole day for me to cut out and match up the sequins, beads etc) so that next week they can make them.  They haven't quite grasped the distinction between Easter (resurrection) and butterflies but they worked hard and we had a lot of fun.  'Wow, miss, this material is lovely' - praise indeed!

    Our devotions at the moment are 'children in the Old Testament' and after we recapped last week's story of Samuel, I was telling the story of Naaman's servant girl.  I mentioned that we don't know her name, no one thought to write it down.  'That's not fair,' piped up C aged 7, 'the boy's names get in.'   Feminist theologian in the making?  So they picked a name for her - Rosie being the suggestion they offered.  Not very Hebrew, but who's checking?

    As we got to prayer time, I asked them what they'd like to pray for the leaders who were absent - K who had been in a minor car shunt, and C whose partner is seriously ill.  I was impressed by their suggestions - that K would get over being frightened and that C would be strong to cope with her situation.  We were also asked to pray for a relative in prison and a big sister who'd just had a miscarriage - these girls have big issues in their young lives.  For once there was no fidgetting during prayers as we earnestly brought their concerns to God.

    I was once told that childrens/youth leaders needed to have an infinite capacity for disappointment, and I think that's true, but we also get some special moments when out of the mouths of children come pearls of widsom and insight to gladden the heart.

  • Dibley Blues

    I'm feeling a little sad this morning as I received a letter from D+1 saying that they cannot accept our proprosals regarding a merger.  They do not wish to close the door, and say that it may be possible to consider this again in the future, but for now the answer is, effectively, 'no.'

    I am sad, because it offered a lot of exciting opportunities to do something new that built on the heritage of these two congregations.  I am sad, because maybe I/we expected too much of them in what we asked.  I am sad, because, humanly speaking, the consequences of the decision are not positive.

    There is good news, the two congregations do now know each other better and have had a unique opportunity to think and pray about our futures.  On balance, hymnbooks aside, the shared services have been a positive experience.  It is good that a conclusion to the discussions has emerged, even if its content is disappointing.

    There are consequences.  D+1 want to continue to share services on a monthly basis, but I feel that sends out a confusing message.  The whole purpose of the shared services at this frequency was the potential for merging - with that purpose gone, the emphasis shifts to one of shared friendship, and my own view is that quarterly services would express that better.  Something has changed; we cannot simply carry on as if it hadn't.

    There are benefits!  A lot of time and energy has gone into the discussions, and sustaining this long term impacts on other ideas and opportunities.  At least if this pathway has reached its end, we are free to walk along others.

    At a personal level it is a little unsettling.  I have a fairly clear view of what I believe is the task God brought me here to do.  With these conversations seemingly over, part of that task is done and, effectively, I have the first 'sign' that time  here is limited.  I had already felt that this year I needed to devote a lot of energy to handing over repsonsibilities to others if initiatives were to be sustainable longer term; now there feels a greater imperative so to do.

    My memories of the settlement process may be tempered by time, and although I remain firmly committed to it, they are not pleasant - so I hope that God gives me enough time to get my head around it before I need to enter it again.

    Exciting things are happening in Dibley & District and lots of changes are afoot - my prayer is that I will have the nous to understand what God is saying in it all.

  • Free to be...

    Today I have been asked to take a 5 minute slot in a seminar at Baptist Assembly and I feel disproportionately honoured!  The seminar is the 'Small Churches' slot which is using a theme 'Being set free from/to ...' and I have been asked to share a few reflections on our experiences of leaving a building and the new opportunities that have emerged.

    I think we have been set free to be a misisonary community, to be pioneers in a new experience of church expression in Dibley & District, and, surprisingly and in a positive way, to be the church people don't go to!

    In our last church magazine I noted that we had been active in events and intitiatives that brought us into contact with around 500 people last year.  I do think that for some of them we are now 'the church they don't go to.'  Furthermore, I think this is actually positive!  Why?  Because prior to that many of them did not have a 'church they don't go to' but now they have us.  If the dear old BUGB recorded adult numbers on the same basis as it does children (i.e. all those who come to your midweek things) we'd be talking of about 50 more than our membership figures - so more than double our size.

    Yesterday the school caretaker came to me before the service and asked if we could mention in our prayers a friend of his who had died the day before at the age of 34.  It has taken two years of general chit chat and a genuine interest in him and his wife, but we have reached a level of trust where he felt it was alright to ask.  I was privileged that we were able to meet his need to do something for his friend, and that he felt we were safe to approach.

    During yesterday's service we covenanted together and received into membership our first new member for three years.

    After the service we hung around drinking tea/coffee and chatting in a way that would have been inconceiveable even 12 months ago.

    OK there's a long road ahead of us, and we don't know what it looks like, but by heck we've come a long way.

    Set free?  You betcha! 


    Oh, and my five minutes of fame will probably be around 4p.m. on the Sunday, in case you want to avoid it!!

  • Crude, Partial and Confined

    The old hymn by George Rawson is one of my life long favourites, and the line above came to mind as I was beavering away on an essay today (now taking a break after it's taken 4 hours to get to the point of having 2k words on 'paper' albeit including an hour's planning and a bit of debugging software problems).

    I have just finished a short section giving my working definitions for some of the terms in the essay - and deciding not to include a whole load more words that I will simply try to avoid using.

    'English as she is spoken' within different academic disciplines coupled with multitudinous variation in everyday English leaves me very aware of the (BIG WORD WARNING) particularity, partiality and contingency of it all.  These were words I opted not to define, since I am probably the only person reading my essay who has even a vague clue about how scientists understand 'particularity', that the meaning of 'partiality' as either 'incompleteness' or 'biased towards'  would be evident from the context and that 'contingent' seems only to have one dictionary defintion!

    Even so, the whole enterprise is crude (rough and ready, not rude or disrespectful) partial (incomplete and biased!) and confined (I may not have a word limit this time but the final version will).

    Linguistics, semantics and semiotics (BELATED BIG WORD WARNING!) may be important research fields but they don't really help interdisciplinary communication very much.  Word games can be fun, and lots of effort goes into pun-laden witty titles for books, sermons and reports: trouble is that unless you speak the language and know the rules, it goes over your head.

    The apostle Paul said he'd rather speak one word of plain speech than a whole lot of stuff in angelic languages (ace paraphrase don't you reckon?) - I wonder if academics and professionals need a 'go and do thou likewise' ?  Plain English crystal mark - I wish!

    Still, if you have understood any of this it means (a) you understand the insider language of this blog and/or (b) you are incredibly intelligent.

    Now 'let a new and better hope within our hearts be stirred: The Lord has yet more light and truth to break forth using words!' (Apologies to Rawson and others)