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  • Divine Learning and Christ's Car Wash!

    Back home after a busy, and generally productive, at least in word count if not quality, week.

    666bace1e8c59997bcde765b26346153.jpgSt Deiniol's was a great place to read, read some more, type, type lots more, delete it, retype it, eat, sleep... and discover that the the warden was my 'old' university chaplain from the 1980's!  A real Brian Howden moment.  Not too keen on the lukewarm showers or the absence of chocolate (plenty in corner shop though) but the Welsh cakes were good!  Had a chuckle to myself over the concept of 'divine learning' (in the inscription, left) - just what might that mean to different people?

    I'm not overly impressed with what I've written, but it will 'do' as work in progress for next week, and at least I have a fair idea what I think are its weaknesses.

    Met some great people (mostly Anglicans on 'post Easter breaks') including a Unitarian historian wondering about a theological approach to history, and realised I must have leanred something along the way when someone told me about the Level 3 undergraduate essay she was trying to write and I felt I could almost have dashed it off without reading anything.  Also a place of very vivid and personal encounter with God - so maybe that was the divine learning bit.

    Then driving home92ba2fae170e42a1d10cb1d5bdaf3aa6.gif I stopped off for diesel at a service stattion and had to do a double take at a sign that said Christ Car Wash.  Yup, it was for real, a German firm evidently.  Just made me smile - does it wash cleaner than others do?  If people with points in their licences go through it, do they come out without them (not that I need to find out, of course)?

    So now I have to write a sermon, prepare for a Home Mission visit, and wonder my my poor old PC has just started making horrid noises!  All that and tidy up my paper enough to send it for comment.

    Eeh, it's great to be home.

  • Even more things they don't teach you in college...

    Today I went with one of my folk to rescue her daughter's car which had been left in town in order that she could go clubbing (I think).  Having sustained a nasty arm injury, said daughter could not return to collect it, so enter one minister...!  I now know what it feels like to drive a car with a horrid Barbie pink, fluffy steering wheel cover and bubble gum scented air freshner.  It was nice to get back to my sobre dark blue diesel!

    Then I came home and trawled Ebay for funky foam, giant jenga and acrylic paint, as one does, in readiness ofr our Pentecost outreach fun day...

    So when is the BU redesigning ministerial training?!

  • You realise that maybe you're part of the furniture when...

    ... you look through the Baptist Assembly handbook and realise you know - as in have as a minimum spoken to, not just recognise the name - lots of the speakers, you recognise people in almost every photograph... and even find yourself in two of the photographs (p 10 (lhs, near top, cream 'hoodie') and p 20 (behind the guy shaking hands with Jonathan Edwards) for anyone sad enough to check it out).

    Looking forward to seeing a few more friends 'handshaked', getting to Prism, meeting old NBC-ers in the (appropriately named?!) Taylor Room, catching up with friends from EMBA, NWBA, YBA, CBA and generally being reminded who these lovely crazy people called Baptists are...

  • Random Ramblings

    Next week I'm off to North Wales to spend a week reading and writing - hurrah!  It will be good to be away from phones and even from the internet (the church laptop, which I'll be taking with me to type on, is configured so I can't access the internet on it).  I am hoping that the essay will happen!

    This morning all sorts of random thoughts are running through my mind, perhaps because a few things have happened this week that have given me pause for thought.

    Yesterday I was learning how to be a NAM mentor - I think I'm allowed to say this now I've done the training.  It was a good day, but in some ways a scary one.  My colleague and I, both mid forties, were by far the youngest people there, which troubles me a bit.  Not because there is anything wrong with wise, retired ministers mentoring inexperienced, younger ones, but because it suggests we are a pretty silver-haired denomination.  Who will mentor the young ministers (i.e. 20's and 30's) who is not old enough to be their grannie?  (Lucy, if you are reading this come and settle near me and you can rejuvenate me!)  I was also troubled that for so many ministers, never mind churches, minister = married man.  I wish I had half the grace of the Didcot folk who so gently handled all the 'he' and 'his wife' references; I'd have been removing heads after the first ten or so!  It's a good scheme, and it is a real privilege to be invited to be part of it, so thank you EMBA/BU for doing so.

    For some reason this morning I woke up thinking of the old joke about pigs and chickens in relation to commitment.  I'm sure you all know it, and many tell it better than I do.  When you consider the 'full British breakfast,' you discover the difference between pigs and chickens - whilst the chicken has an investment in the process, the pig is totally committed.  I think this emerged from my subconscious because I'd been pondering both the Luke 9 'follow me' implications, especially 'let the dead bury their own dead, you must proclaim the Kingdom of God,' and the John 'unless an ear of wheat falls to the ground and dies.'  In a couple of weeks we have Vision Day Part II at church, and somewhere in all the thinking and discerning these things will fit.  Tomorrow the estate agent comes to see me about selling our defunct building, a chapter is drawing to a close and my largely elderly congregation do need to get their heads around some big issues.  But whether we are pigs or chickens...

    Later on today I have to go to the optician for the annual regime of weird and wonderful tests to show whether the genetic glaucoma has hit me yet (it won't for at least 20 years based on the forbears who have/had it).  I don't enjoy these tests one bit, they leave my eyes sore and tired, but they are necessary to maintain my vision.  And I guess there is something similar about the process of church or minister self-examination: it isn't very pleasant, but it is necessary for health.  "Where there is no vision the people perish."  I recall a particularly poor sermon that used this text and got all muddled up with reference to spectacles and contact lenses, but it did have one useful message, namely that 'vision' is more than 'dream', it is actually about the ability to see clearly and accurately what the situation is.

    Writing this random stuff, I find an old prayer, that was used in primary school assemblies, returning to my mind.  The recollection may not be perfect - it is more than 35 years since I last recited it - but it seems appropriate...

    Oh Holy Jesus, most merciful redeemer, friend and brother

    May we see Thee more clearly

    Love Thee more dearly

    And follow Thee more nearly

    Day by day


    The Prayer of St Richard (?)

  • Not quite...

    Yesterday I learned a new to me worship song.  There were parts of it that were great but the end really grated.  It was the Noel and Tricia Richards song 'Filled with Compassion' the last verse of which says...


    From every nation we shall be gathered,
    Millions redeemed shall be Jesus' reward.
    Then He will turn and say to His Father:
    "Truly my suffering was worth it all!"


    Is it me, probably it is, but I don't recall anything about 'reward' in the reasons for the cross, there was no 'if I do this then my Father will reward me.'  As I came to this verse - of a hymn/song that has some great ideas expressed - I was dismayed, it contradicted, or so it felt, everything I understand about the cross, about Christ's kenosis, about atonement, about Christ's character.  Maybe it is me, but I really cannot envisage Jesus looking around heaven/eternity/new creation and saying 'yup, actually you know what all that pain, isolation and death was worth while because this is the outcome.'  Surely part of God's risk was that even despite all this we would choose the way that deals death rather than the way that deals life.  To me this last line feels too human, too mercenary almost - how many souls saved is enough to make it worthwhile?  My understanding has always been that one would have been enough justification.  I don't want to knock someone's heartfelt response to God, but when I got to the end of this hymn I was left thinking 'not quite...'