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- Page 5

  • BT on Buildings

    No, not British Telecom!  Baptist Times.

    Page 12, this week 'Buildings and the Statements they Make' - dare I photocopy this for my people?  Dare I send in my version of our experiences?  At least someone is thinking about this topic.  Have a gander at it, and remember those of us who camp out in schools, sports halls and community centres.

  • Congregations and Clergy - Typology and Questions

    A while back I read somewhere - I think in Theologcial Reflection: Methods  by Elaine Graham et al, that there has been a long term shift in how mnisters are trained and how they understand themselves.  In the first half of the twentieth century was the 'Minister as Expert', then came 'Minister as Therapist' and now we have something like 'Minister as Participant.'  At the time I found this recognition interesting and puzzling - what happens when you change minister and get different models, etc. etc.

    This week I am reading Congregations in Conflict by Penny Edgell Becker which identified four basic types of congregations, each of which experiences and handles conflict differently.  She come sup with four types of congregation - explanation my interpretation of her words...

    1. House of Worship - congregations (who may or may not have a permanent building) whose primary role is Sunday worship and Christian religious education
    2. Family - congregations who see themselves as a family, and whose life consists of Sunday worship, Christian religious education and lots of practical pastoral support for their folk.  Real issues don't get discussed 'we don't talk about that' and it can be hard to 'break in' from outside.  Apparently these are the type most likely to be emotionally attached to buildings!
    3. Community - congregations that centre on Sunday worship, religious education and 'living the life.'  Easier to get into than 'family' and much more prone to open conflict because issues do get raised and addressed.  Tend to be 'small c' congregational in governance.  Often it is more important that things are dealt with than the outcome.  People who don't like it will often leave.
    4. Leader - congregations that centre on Sunday worship, religious education and 'being leaders' in relation to issues.  Often have more hierarchical leadership structures, and strong engagement beyond the congregation in social issues, local and global.  Tend to be more in keeping with denominational traditions than community congregations.

    None of these types is 'better' or 'worse' and each has strengths and weaknesses; diversity is not wrong, just challenging! 

    I think Baptist churches can be any and all of these, though intuitively I feel that our 'tradition that we don't do' should make us more like Community (presumably why good old BUGB expressed Five Core Values as they did).  I think dear old Dibley is more of the Family model, and it is hardly unique.

    So now my little conundrum gets more complicated - how does a 'participant minister who believes in a community model' best serve a 'family congregation who seem to want a therapeutic minister'?  Understanding better who we each are and what we want/need is only a first step, but at least it is a step.

    Oh, and if you are wondering how any of this relates to historical stuff and congregational studies, this book gets footnoted extensively in the other stuff I've been reading.


  • Songs and Self-Understanding

    I have just been putting together the order of service for next Sunday, that's how it works in my little world, get organised early and it's easier to cope with the uncertainties that emerge later.

    Next week's service will be 'completely different,' and yet it won't!  Instead of Mothering Sunday/Mothers' Day we will be celebrating what it means to be a Gospel People, a Community of Faith.  With no less than 6 Bible readings, 7 songs and lots of interaction, we will be holding our first ever cafe style service.  Utterly traditional, yet pushing the boundaries a bit for these dieheard traditionalists.  The real challenge will getting them to share commnuion in small groups around little tables... but I'm praying.

    As part of this service, each group/organisation has chosen one of the hymns (apart from the communion hymn) and on the whole I am secretly chuffed with their choices.  One group has yet to let me know their choice - 'Oh Catriona, it's far too early to decide,' they claim.  The groups were asked to discuss and choose hymns/songs that said something about how they saw themselves, and this is what they opted for...


    All things bright and beautiful

    (... I did say, 'on the whole...!')


    Will you come and follow me

    Take my life and let it be

    Brother, sister, let me serve you

    Lord, for the years your love has kept and guided


    My guess is the missing song will be a children's action song, as it is the children's workers who have yet to choose.

    If we really are understanding ourselves as a community of servant-disciples, then I guess we're doing something right.

    I'll it you know how it goes...

  • Selling Stories

    Every now and then I peruse the 'best sellers' at real bookshops, rather than the virtual one named after a race of she-warriors, from which I buy most of my stuff.  Sometimes I even buy - especially when there is a 3 for 2 offer on.  What strikes me more and more, is how much autobiography there is written by unknown writers using pseudonymns to protect both guilty and innocent, and relating, often quite graphically, horrendous tales of abuse and suffering.  Yestersay I purchased and read two such offerings. One was by a British-Asian woman who wrote with incredible honesty about her experience of forced marriage and honour codes, and how she now works to provide specialist support for Asian women.  The other was by a foster carer telling the story of a child who had been systematically physically and sexually abused by a whole network of people and is now permanently injured.

    What is almost as scary as the stories themselves is (a) the quantity of them out there - despite our facade of being a civilised nation so many people suffer horrendously, often in silence (b) the fact that these stories become almost reduced to entertainment - something we read in our spare time.  There were moments when I felt 'I shouldn't be reading this, it is too voyeuristic' - can I justify reading about someone else's pain?  Is it even right that such stories are published and sold?  Yet what if they aren't?  What if the trauma of 15 year old girls packed off to Asia during school holidays to be married is never heard?  What if people never hear the voice of 'Jodie' whose personality has disintegrated  following her life of molestation?  What about the unheard voices of other characters in the story?  The Asian parents who honestly believe they are doing their best or the incompetent social worker who perhaps has a whole raft of her own issues that she cannot share?

    I find myself with loads of questions and no answers.  I realise just what a collossal social history is being generated by these authors, what a complex 'web of significance' is being generated for future generations to try to unravel when they try to understand anything about 'us.'  One of the serious books I read recently said something like 'it is less important that what people recall is accurate than why they recall it, what it says about their understanding of what has happened.'  The next step on from that though, is what then happens by the hearer/reader as he/she tries to make something of it.

    Just maybe the plethora of writing on such topics as have been described will break the taboos and enable cycles of violence to be broken.  Just maybe someone caught up in webs of destruction will be set free.  Just maybe in a hundred years' time someone will be able to look back and say 'these stories were awful and people who read them were forced to examine their own motives for so doing, but now, look how much good has been achieved because people both wrote and read them.'  I certainly hope they might. 

  • Barnabas and Batnabas

    Sons and (in my hamfisted attempt at a transliterated Hebrew feminine; you have to forgive me I never even tried to learn Hebrew) Daughters of Encouragement, who leave comments and who email or phone or are simply there offering quiet support, I thank you.  You know who who you are, and I am blessed by your words, thoughts and prayers.

    Dibley is never dull, and I am learning and, I hope, growing (apart from rounder) all the time.  Discipleship is a tough path, but God never calls us to it alone; one of my greatest gifts is the companionship of fellow disciples who also have bloody knees when they stumble and bruised hearts when they love. 

    Over the years I have come to value a mental image of Christ's hands, scarred by nails (even if it was really his wrists) which reach out to pick us up when we fall, to embrace us when we feel broken inside.  If I was an artist, I'd paint it, as I cannot find such a picture anywhere, but I'm not, so it remains in my mind.  Nonetheless, it is into those safe, battered hands that I commend you, encouragers in The Way.