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- Page 4

  • An Ordinary Minister

    Until this week I had never heard of the Revd Paul Bennett, nor yet Trecynon where he served the local community. He was just an ordinary minister doing what all ordinary mnisters do - getting on with fulfilling their callings. Wyre Davis for the BBC spoke of how he was deeply committed to, and engaged with, his local community, how his door was open to all and sundry, how his faith and life were inseparable.

    It spoke volumes to and for other ordinary ministers.  Unusually, this is a place where few strangers knock the door, but the manse is open and available for any who do.  It is far from unusual for me - or any other ordinary minster - to be engaged in conversation with people who are disturbed, confused or aggressive.  Events in Wales serve to remind us of the inherent vulnerability of the role.  Yet, and this is important too, events in Wales remind us of the need to continue with our ordinary ministries.  Not to be naive or careless - I have a chain on my front door - but to recall that the one we serve was brutally murdered to bring us life, and whose call is 'to take your cross and follow me'

    I pray that Paul Bennett's family will find God's love embracing them at this time of shock and sorrow, I pray that the community will continue the work he began, and I pray, in so far as it is in my gift so to do, for the young man who murdered him that he will find forgiveness, hope and a future 'father, forgive him, he does not know what he does.'  I pray also that all ordinary ministers everywhere will go on doing what we do in the name of Christ and for his Kingdom.

  • Flow, River, Flow

    medium_river.jpgThe EMBA Roadshow is travelling to 16 venues - rather them than me - to share a message and a vision based on Ezekiel 47 and the river that flowed out from the Temple to the Dead Sea bringing life.  Tonight they came to our patch.

    It was a great evening but the turnout was very poor - no more than two dozen people from five churches, and around ten churches had been invited.

    The input was thoughtful and well delivered, and some of the small groups had great discussions.  Some did not.  One of my colleagues was in a group with three folk who sat, chins on the ground, and offered gloom and doom.  I sat with a group who were  reasonably cheerful but, as one of them said, 'did not want to answer silly questions' and had expected an in depth Bible study (i.e. sermon) on the passage.  The study that lay behind what we did passed her by.  I was glad that the one enthusiastic person from my congregation got into a good group and obviously had a whale of a time. 

    I don't regret my choice of group, part of being the minister is to get alongside the difficult folk or grumpy groups and to free up the more positive folk to enjoy themselves.  The trick is not to get dragged down in the process.

    I came away encouraged that what I am trying to do here is in keeping with what God is doing in this area, and glad that my ninth or tenth (I've lost count!) evening meeting in as many working days was such a good one.

    Thank you EMBA team for such a good evening, I do hope something will come out of it, I'm just not sure what.

  • Number 80

    I have just updated the membership list for our seniors' lunch club, and added the 80th name.  From zero in September 2005, with a dream of reaching 40, that's pretty good!

    Our current membership is 65 - a few have died, a few others have left or found better offers - and our present venue can cope with up to 90, so there is a little bit of potential to grow.  Perhaps as well as we are in negotiations to pick up folk from two other clubs that are closing.

    It is perhaps a shame that dear old BUGB don't let us count adults the way we count children - we'd look like a big church then!!!  But then I sometimes wonder if a more honest child count would give us a better wake up call than the current 'any child who comes to anything you do at all' method.

    Anyway, I thought the whole world should know we reached 80 not out!

  • Interpretting the Outcome

    Yesterday's government vote on Trident replacement raises the perennial questions of answers to prayer.  Loads of people of all theological convictions and many faiths were praying about it yesterday.  I assume most were praying for a 'no' vote (me included, depsite my past connections with defence and not being a pacifist) but there will have been some, I guess, who were praying for a 'yes' because their conscience dictated otherwise (let's face it, when it comes to the civil equivalent, I probably would be, if I wasn't open to the suggestion that for all my convictions may be worng, so will ask for wisdom instead).

    So, was the 'yes' actually God's will or was it a failure to hear or respond to God's will?  I remember the intense conviction I had that God had called me to a certain congregation in 2003, only for them to vote 'no.'  Countless people told me that it must have been God's will, but I felt at the time that it was a failure to hear/obey it.  Who was right?  Who decides?  How?  That church called a minister at almost the same time that I was called to Dibley; I believe God's 'plan B' is every bit as good as God's 'plan A', but it isn't the same, and there are consequences to be faced.  Too easily we assign things to being of God, when they are remote and, in some circles at least, to the devil when they directly affect us.  More rarely do we acknowledge our own finitude or sin.

    I am truly saddened that our government wasn't brave enough to make a decision that would have shown us to take seriously such things as non-proliferation, but I am encouraged that a substantial number of MPs were willing to stand up and be counted.  This, surely, is an answer to our prayers.  Maybe this is the start of something new, something good, something Godly.

    As Baptists we live with the tension of believing that we discern Christ's mind through the church meeting and recognising the potential for our own foolish, partial and sometimes downright sinful free will to prevent this.  Maybe we, or at least I, need to show some generosity to our political leaders who are no worse than the rest of us, and follow the lead of the apostle Paul in praying for, not about, them.

  • Priorities?

    I caught the BBC news at lunchtime (1 p.m.) and was left somewhat bemused by the priorities...

    Top headline - a messed up phone in competition on Blue Peter last November that had a faked winner, followed by a long interview with someone from children's broadcasting.

    Second item - the trident vote.

    I'm not excusing what happened with the Blue Peter thing (or any of the other dodgey premuim rate phone things) but frankly, which is more important in the grand scheme of things - little Johnny/Janey didn't get a toy he/she didn't need or Mr Blair does?