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- Page 4

  • Patterns in Church History

    Yesterday I was doing a little bit of research using the BUGB directory (!) to find out a bit more about the predecessor of mine who died last Thursday.  It transpired that he was a 'Bristol Man' and that Dibley was his first pastorate.  I checked out the other, still living ministrers of DBC and it emerged that it was either their first or last pastorate, and that in recent time the church has oscillated between ministers approaching retirement (safe hands) and ministers fresh out of college (as I was once told, "we can't afford anything better").  Of those still living at the the time the directory was published, two of the 'fresh' ministers had trained at Bristol and the 'pre-retirement' one was an ex-Methodist who trained at Didsbury (which of course by then was not in Didsbury but Bristol).

    All of this inevitably impacts the church's character - fresh faced twenty-something men from Bristol could be (s)mothered, whilst 60+ experienced ministers weren't likely to rock the boat.  Small wonder a forty-year-old woman from Northern caused such ripples!!

    There are other patterns too - some incredibly long pastorates in the early years (heading towards forty years) and some very short ones - a year or less - but mostly in the 4-7 year range (something I was already aware of having previously looked at the durations and wondered what, if anything, that meant).  This also gives a 'feel' to the character of the place.

    I wonder how much churches ever notice their own characteristics (actually I don't really wonder, I have some views!) never mind reflect on how it shapes their lives.

    So, what are the implications of being a 'firsts and lasts' church? I have some views, but what might others think?  And what are the patterns in other churches...?

  • Clustering

    Well, tonight's service ended up feeling pretty special one way and another and I thought, yes, if this is Baptist clustering then it's pretty good!

    We are an unusual cluster, of our notional seven churches, four are actively involved, two won't talk to us because three of us have women ministers and the other one does stubborn Baptist autonomy to perfection.  Having three women ministers in such a small area is incredibly unusual for Baptists, and we are as diverse a set of girlies as you could wish for (given that actually we're all middle-aged) which makes it all the more fun.  I think we really do enjoy watching and learning with and from each other, celebrating the differences in our respective callings and yet at the same time feeling a strong sense of unity.  It is good to have others with whom one can be oneself - and not have to worry what Uncle Paul might think if you sign off your emails with the word 'love'.

    What was also unusual was that our guest speaker was a woman, a minister who had been to Angola with BMS and came to share something of her experiences with us.  With tremendous grace, humility and insight she shared information in a way that enabled everyone to learn more and feel a sense of connectedness to our sisters and brothers in that far off land - there were folk in our churches whose grandparents contributions to BMS would have paid for the early Angola missionaries for which the Christians in Angola wished to thank us.

    As part of the service intercessions centred on the various churches and their diverse needs - all in times of challenge and change.  We also shared some news and it is certainly exciting that three out of four churches have baptismal services coming up in October!

    Around 70 folk shared together in worship, which may be less than some readers' Sunday congregations, but for most of us it felt like a big gathering.  It was also a comfortable gathering in which folk from very different backgrounds and communities were able to be together worshipping, communing and communicating some of what it means to be "the bestest cluster there is."

    I should note for the record that the congregation included a male retired Baptist minister, a male Baptist minister in training and a male retired Anglican priest. But it must be unusual in any setting for female ministers to be the majority!

  • The Perils of Sunday Shopping!

    For anyone who think the LORD ought to smite people who shop on Sundays, well, you can interpret this as you see fit.

    After the GB parade service this morning, I nipped to the local supermarket (for which there are evidently more reasons to shop at that any other) to pick up some food for this evening's bring and share pre-service tea - a large box of salad and some sausage rolls.  I also filled a salad box for myself for lunch, chose a fruit flan for the tea and headed off for the checkouts - disaster I dropped the smaller box of salad.  As cherry tomatoes rolled across the aisles, mayonnaise spread in sticky puddle littered with cucumber, pasta shells and the exactly three chunks of feta cheese I'd managed to find in the relevant salad, I asked a staff member to call for a cleaner, and wondered why this had to happen to day when I really did not have time to start all over again with another box...

    Amazingly, the person literally inches from the box did not end up wearing salad, and I settled for a salad-less lunch, while chapel folk well get their large box fully intact.  But maybe next time I'll make sure I'm not racing around after a Sunday service doing food shopping for church!

  • One step forward...

    ... and a few back?

    Tomorrw's cluster service is preceded by a bring and share tea, an opportunity for folk from four churches to get to know each other better.  So why have a few of my folk said "do we have to go for tea"?  Well, no, but it would really be a shame if you didn't.

    Why are Baptists so flipping independent?!

  • Liturgy for a Graveside (only) Funeral?

    Today I've received (very partial!) details of a request to conduct a 'graveside only' funeral next week.  I have agreed to take this on, largely because there is a major shortage of ministers in our area at the moment, and assuming that I can find a suitable liturgy from somewhere.  As yet I do not know the age, circumstances or background of the deceased, but know that in this area such requests often come where there are few or no mourners, little overt faith connection and cremation is not desired.

    So, a trawl through the obvious published candidates - including the green (current) edition of Funeral Services - which has turned up absolutely nothing for this precise circumstance.  A web trawl found no liturgies, only a few examples of mass services (as in large numbers of burials at once, not RC communion services).  Does anyone have any ideas?

    My current plan is to do a fairly standard funeral but with no hymns (I'm not about to sing solo in the rain on a hillside!) and no address, though allowing a few moments for silent reflection/recollection.  In other words something along the lines of:


    Scripture sentences

    Gathering Prayer


    Silent reflection

    Prayers of thanksgiving & commendation




    If there are family members, I will meet them to see if they want anything special to occur and/or any poems etc read, but I can't see it being a long drawn out affair.

    But if anyone out there has done this kind of service and has some ideas or liturgies I can use, please let me know.

    Thank you.