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  • The Fizz That Gives You Whiz..

    Giving my age away here!  Trebor Refreshers in the 1970's...  Could this be our way into Pentecost this year?

    Apathy and fatigue are endemic, it seems, at the moment, and getting anyone to do anything for our annual Pentecost outreach is a hard slog.  One of my very quiet people came up with an idea for the service based on the transience of parties - ballons go down, bubbles burst - but the Holy Spirit remains.  I liked the idea and am trying to work it up into something that is accessible and enjoyable without being either too naff or too fleeting.  I had images of flat lemonade and curled up sandwiches 'left over' from the day before as an antry point and am contemplating sourcing enough packets of Refreshers to give out as part of the Sunday service (we are going to give away bubbles and balloons on the Saturday anyway).

    Anyone got any other thoughts?

  • Engaging Contemporary Culture...

    Driving to Manchester listening to the radio I was struck by the possibility of using Neil Diamond's song 'Pretty Amazing Grace' as a link point when exploring ideas of grace - as we think we understand it - with people who don't speak Churchese.

    If you haven't heard it, listen here (thanks Julie for link)

  • Weekend Wonderings

    All in all an interesting weekend!  And I know that I met several people who will read this rubbish, so 'hello' one and all!

    Interesting or useful?  That's a question I'm pondering in relation to my residential at the university.  It was interesting to hear other people's presentations, but was it a useful exercise?  And how might that be measured? 

    What I observed was that many people did not fulfil the brief (20-25 mins presentation plus similar for questions), but that no one addressed this, so some people spoke for 55 minutes leaving 5 for questions and comments.  At one level, I guess, that was their loss - they didn't gain valuable experience in handling questions, and they also failed to learn how to deliver the essence of their work in the allotted time. 

    So why is it that I am probably more annoyed about it than they are?!  I think maybe because it makes me wonder what the 'learning' element of the exercise was. 

    I have tried to reflect on what I gained from my own presentation - apart from treating it as a 'dry run' to reveal to me the holes, lumps and bumps before it goes 'live' in a couple of months.  I think the one thing I could say is that I am starting to feel just a teeny bit more confident and less defensive in handling questions.  This is a field where I am very conscious of my limitations and the fear of being 'found out' is always very real.  This time I felt I could defend my viewpoint better, as in with a bit more confidence, so I guess I am making progress of a sort. 

    I think I am conscious that this cohort of students functions very well as a support group - we are all good at being nice to each other, at being encouraging etc - but it is a bit Christian bookshop like - too nice, never challenging, never critiquing, never actually being quite 'real.'  What I also find frustrating is that rather than engaging with the papers, responding to arguments, offering insights or critiques, people just have lovely chats about what they'd do or how this reminds them of something in their own lives.  Is it impossible to be a practical theologian and think in concepts?!!  I had a good time, don't misunderstand me, and for some reason I seem to be seen as a 'safe' person to ask about things that concern people from word counts, to Endnote, to library cards... I am just left wondering to what extent this helps me to grow as a researcher or a theologian.

    Interesting and inspiring!  This morning I went with some friends to hear Tim Hyde  preach at St Helens.  Tim preached on 1 Thessalonians 4 in a way that was profound yet accessible, challenging yet not threatening and it was great to hear someone actcually explore the text in a theologically competent way from the pulpit.  The focus was in resurrection in relation to a new creation and emphatically not a rapture model.  Drawing on N T Wright's ideas I am sure it was new stuff for at least some of his congregation.  Having a minister in your congregation is pretty unnerving, so well done Tim for a superb service.

    It was great to spend some time with friends, especially as they fed me plenty of chocolate!  Having a place to relax and unwind at the end of a day of study is a real gift.  So thanks muchly one and all.  Hope T & D enjoy the books and E & P the edibles!!

    So, back to normal - heaps of mail, email and phone messages and work starts again tomorrrow.  Overall an interesting weekend with lots to ponder.

  • Off on my travels... again!

    Off to Manchester tomorrow.  Am I really nearly one third of the way through this research degree?  That's well scary!

    So, it is presentations time - published or publishable articles and conference papers to be shared with our peers.  Not feeling overly confident about mine - it has moved around quite a lot in the drafting and still needs a lot of work to be something I'm happy with.  So... an early drive up the road so that I can get some library time in ahead of kickoff... including another foray into the wonder that is BQ,

    I'm looking forward to hearing what other people have been doing, to catching up with colleagues and seeing some friends whilst I'm up there.  Plus a rare and precious non-preaching Sunday...

    Back all too soon!!

  • Theory & Practice, Dreams & Reality

    A week on Sunday my congregation has our 'Vision Day Part Deux' or something to that general effect anyway.  So this morning I am trying to put together the outline for the day and becoming all too conscious of the gap between nice 'Church Health' or 'Congregational Studies' theory and how-to books and the reality of trying to do this stuff on the ground with people who don't always get it anyway.  I think this is is a good realisation as I continue the somewhat esoteric process of doctoral research in this general area, because if it isn't ultimately going to be useful then its a waste of everyone's time and energy.  Although maybe you can only determine usefulness retrospectively (discuss!).  In the end what we get will have to be tailored to our needs, our context, our time frame, our reality - and I hope it works effectively.

    One of the challenges is the reality check this congregation needs to face and grasp.  We are super duper at creative visioning but also have several honorary doctorates in ostrich impersonations.  One of my challenges is to help people to grasp some very uncomfortable truths and to realise that the answer is not 'the Lord will provide' announced in a pious voice accompanied by a face that says 'begone thou faithless minister thou.' 

    My aim - and it's a pretty impressive one - is to get some concrete actions, some 'SMART' objectives with names, dates and deliverables identified by the end of the day.  We don't have the time - and I don't have the energy - for yet another round of 'someone needs to think about something' whilst we all grow a year older, a lot more tired and our ability, irrespective of our desire, to fulfil our dreams evaporates.

    I am, to say the least, apprehensive about the event.  The reality check is not pleasant to face, and the consequences, whichever path we opt for, demanding all round.  Sometimes I understand the appeal of being an ostrich.  At times like this God has an irritating habit of once more pointing out to me the prophetic challenge of ministry... reminding me I don't have to be liked, and may not be heard, but I do have to speak.  It's so much nicer keeping it all theoretical!!!