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  • Towards a Common Cup...?

    Yesterday D+1 joined us for worship, and we had a good turnout.  In fact, I know that there were 43 people present because we had 40 communion glasses!  Due to various mishaps over the last two years and the fact that it seems someone likes these things enough to pinch the odd one now and then (either that or they grow legs and walk), forty appears to be the sum total.

    Yesterday there was enough wine for 40 glasses, so I was offered some blackcurrant squash for the chalice - aside from any litrugical or theological preferences, I do NOT like blackcurrant drinks; indeed it is well known in certain circles that if I drink it, I must be VERY thirsty.  Still, I point blank refuse to lift an empty chalice, so blackcurrant squash it was.

    Just as well, as it turned out - the two servers and I had to share the common cup while eveyone else had their nice, almost sterile glass of sickly sweet communion wine.

    I think the absurdity was lost on most people, but my servers - who had taken a equal part to me in the communion liturgy anyway (apologies those who don't like 'con-celebration' or the like) - seemed to quite appreciate the greater intimacy it offered.

    One step nearer to a common cup?  Anyone got a sledge hammer for the remaining 40 glasses?!

  • I Like this Book!

    I have begun reading the Archbishop's lent book for 2007 and so far, it is great.  Challenging, thoughtful and original -at least compared to other stuff I've read, maybe less so if you read a lot of Ched Myers or Stanley Hauerwas.

    So far I have read a chapter that outlines the relationship of first century Judea to Rome and examines the gospel portraits of Pilate and another that looks at reform and revolution with Judaism before looking at Barabbas.  Each chapter ends with 'wonderings' that gently prompt the reader to repsond to themself and a prayer.

    Definitely a refreshing and thought provoking read.

    Power and Passion: Seven Characters in Search of Resurrection
  • Questions of Authority

    OK, so I've been a post-a-holic today, but I have written a few thousand words of my draft essay on historical methods and the place of historical resources in theological reflection.  Apologies to those who will have to read it, my 2-3k words now looks more like 7-8k, but it does do a bit more than simply describe various approaches.

    Two things went 'ping' in my brain today - that's pretty impressive for a Saturday.

    1)  Where does/should the 'God element fit in the histories that churches/denominations (or even faiths) write?  Seemingly, in ordinary history, this went out with Elizabeth I or thereabouts; it feels as if in Christian history it went out with the Gospel writers.  That is probably unfair, the sacred/secular divide is also probably an Enlightenment thing (but I haven't read about that (yet)).  Either way, the Baptist history I read never mentions God, and I find myself asking 'why not'? Is this good or bad?  If so, why? Or why not? (See, I'm learning to do this thing called 'problematising', either that or I've reached the 'why' phase forty years too late!)

    2) Assuming historical resources are a valid input to theological reflection - which I assert they are - what is their status?  If we assert the primacy of scripture (or Jesus Christ if you're a proper Baptist, but then he's 'as revealed in Scripture' so in practical terms it's roughly the same thing) over tradition, where do historical resources fit in the hierarchy?  I raise this question in my essay thus... higher or lower than creeds and doctrinal statements?  Above or below  the Anti-Nicene Fathers, Calvin and Charles Haddon Spurgeon?  OK, so I'm being a bit flippant, my speciality, but I think it's a fair question.  We all have some kind of unwritten hierarchy of authority, but who decides and how is it judged?  Methodism, so I understand, has a threefold set of Scripture-Tradition-Reason, presumably in that order; any form of theological reflection necessarily fits experience in somewhere.  But do we ever try to expand on what we mean by these things?  Is it a given that Tertullian must carry more weight than Doddridge, say?  Is Spurgeon more 'authoritative,' at least for Baptists, than Wesley or Clifford or Temple?  And who decides and how?

    Well, I don't have any answers, but I've had a fun day typing and pondering.  I have not a clue if what I've written is up to the required standard (and the format needs loads of work I'm sure, not least as I have't yet worked how to tell the software to do what I want it to) but I am enjoying myself and that, surely, is the key. 

  • 'Our God has No Favorites'

    medium_book.jpgWhen I was training to be a minister, I spent a year working with a Roman Catholic church.  It was a very bitter-sweet experience but one I chose and have no regrets about whatsoever.  This week, as I began to think more about the idea of being an 'Inclusive Community' for our Five Core Values revisit, the title of this little book I read during that time came back to me.

    Being present at Mass three times a Sunday for 40 weeks but not allowed to receive communion is a powerful symbol of exclusion, and one that significantly impacted on my thinking about this aspect of our corporate worship life.  This little book is an exploration of precisely the issue of interdenominational communion and asks some really tough questions.  Whilst I never quite got to embrace their conclusion - that maybe we should suspend the celebration of communion until we are united - I came pretty close!

    The book is now out of print - indeed, the copy I read was a not-quite-legal-but-don't-tell-anybody-photocopy - but now thanks to Amazon I've managed to get my very own copy and it seems there are a few more out there.  It's worth a read, if you haven't yet read it -buy now before they're all gone!!!

  • 'The Undoing of Death'

    This morning I finished working my way through Fleming Rutledge's book of sermons.  I remain 'not sure' about reading sermons over hearing them, but it has been a valuable exercise.

    She is certainly a skilled writer, and presumably orator, who manages to pack an awful lot into her sermons, skilfully weaving in things that are in the media, the Bible and some deep theology.  Do wonder, though, if most of the people who tried to teach me preaching would say that she has too many ideas going on in each one!

    I did need a bit of help from Google to translate some of the very specific North American references, and I did grow tired of openings along the lines of 'not many people come to church on this occasion, so you must be really special to be here' which could engender a kind of smuggness (though I am sure that is not what she is trying to do) but overall I was struck by the skill with which she could hold together seemingly disparate ideas and let them speak to each other and to her reader/hearer.

    A profound faith and deep theological knowledge ring out loud and clear; a commitment to a 'redemptive suffering' view of the cross is rooted in a thoroughgoing theology of the trinity that precludes the parody of 'God abandoned Jesus'... wish I could express it as eloquently as she does.

    For me, the most moving sermon was 'The Cross at Ground Zero' and the most original 'The Undoing of Death', which was the most honest and upfront exploration of death I have seen/heard.

    It has been a good experience to read these sermons which are stylistically so very different from my own and I am sure that in some way God has spoken to me through them.