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  • Mysterious Ways

    So, after yesterday's rant, God gave me kind of an answer, along with a hint at a Bible reading for next Tuesday morning.

    I was at a meeting of a committee I serve on, and enjoy being part of.  The chairperson - who I know doesn't read this blog because he didn't know what a blog was and couldn't imagine why he'd want to read one - read some theology to us from a big book he is enjoying.  He spoke of the great gift of people who can write this kind of stuff which the 'jobbing pastor' to use his phrase can then employ.  As he is a Revd Dr, the title 'jobbing pastor' seemed a bit incongruous, but he shared of the intra-university arguments over whether or not to allow his thesis - which was evidently pastoral theology - to be passed.  For those of us with good brains who choose to use them in God's service there is a tension between academy and church which can lead to either or both of them being awkward to appease.  But somewhere in it all, I felt God was affirming me in my own walk and service.

    After these thoughts, he read part of Psalm 139, saying these were words he often used at funerals where he wasn't sure about the deceased's beliefs or character - that heaven or hell (Sheol/depths) God is present.  These may well be the words I will use next week for someone who believed in God but is described by those who knew them best as 'a lost soul.'

    Thank you God, for your mysterious presence.

  • Given a good brain Christians should...

    ... please fill in the blank.  This is a minor rant having just encountered what feels like another example of Christian anti-intellectualism.  May not be what was intended, but it is how it felt.

    So here's my train of thought...  God calls people with good brains to train as ministers... said people recognising this gift find the exercise of it energises their ministry... and as a result are told their passion is not 'x' or 'y' even when they believe it is.

    I find myself left in a quandry: in ten years or so of preaching and leading church groups in study and reflection I have never been accused of being incomprehensible, too academic, aloof or detatched.  Indeed, to the contrary, I have often had people tell me that when I explained something it became clear for the first time (head swells), that I talk sense, am practical in what I say and so on.

    Yet, in contexts where I feel that a desire to think and reflect ought to be valued, I find the opposite to be the case: because clearly Peter et al were unschooled, the Bible says so, it must be better not to read or think.  So, I'm feeling annoyed! I'm annoyed because the employment of gifts of music or art or medicine or valued and celebrated whilst the gift of intelligence, it often feels, is required to be denied, dumbed down or restricted to academia. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

    I feel better now.

  • Stuff

    A lot of stuff happening in the next little while which will necessitate a fair amount of time 'on the road' and a fair amount of that ministerial art of 'mood switching.'  When they teach you pastoral care skills they talk a lot about 'immediacy' and 'congruence' but far less about the need to adapt to the context  'chameleonism.'

    This week is relentless meetings of one sort or another - a couple of local ones, a couple of Association ones and a national one, each very different and with equally diverse expectations; it promises to be a fun and busy week.  Next week is a first - I will conducting the funeral for one of my cousins who was younger than me.  I have always been a bit wary of 'intra-familial' undertaking, not least after attending the funeral of an atheist uncle around 25 years ago (which was just embarrassing, it was so bad; I was left feeling very sad for my dad whose brother it was) and when my sister took my grandmother's funeral a decade or so back and was left really drained with nowhere to grieve.  But this feels right somehow - I don't want to entrust my cousin, even though not someone I'd met very often, to a 'duty vicar' who will know nothing about the life they led or the dreams that are now forever lost.  It's not an objection to other ministers - goodness knows I do enough 'duty vicaring' myself - it's just a concern that it be done well, and in a way that the surviving siblings (along with my aunt & uncle) can own.  I realise that the stakes are so much higher for me than a 'duty vicar' who can simply walk away and be grumbled about ever after, and maybe there is a sense of this being the only thing I can do for someone who 'there but for the grace of God' go any of us.  It will be a little odd to swoop in to another county, picking up my mother en route, to an unfamiliar crematorium to conduct a funeral, not least as I can name a good four or five local minsters (Baptist and otherwise) who I know would do a fantastic job, but it feels right on this occasion that it be so.  SBJ 1967-2009 RIP.


  • The Lure of Divine er... Bacon

    This morning it was my turn to host our monthly prayer breakfast.  About half a dozen of us are committed to this event, with typcially four or five coming along.  It is always a good morning - never runs to "time" because often we don't start formally praying until an hour after we begin, instead we enjoy each other's company and share news and views over a leisurely breakfast.  Usually we have croissants, bagels or brioches with assorted conserves.  Given the weather and the likelihood that some folk would opt out, I offered bacon butties as a bribe!  It seemed to work as we had a full house.

    Today, for a change we used the Celtic Daily Prayer morning prayer as the framework for our prayer time.  It seemed to work quite well, creating a still atmosphere for our intercessions.  We prayed over some massive decisions we need to make this week and a couple of big issues impacting our mission, for our own folk and more widely for nation and world.  It was good.

    Amazingly, we managed to get the dates fixed for the next three months - by which time we should have got past the need to lure people out with promises of bacon.

  • Bovver Baptists doing Theology

    So, last night five of us put on our hiking boots or wellies and trogged off to 'Thing in a Pub.'  As we munched our butties and supped our coke/wine/guiness/lager we talked over various pastoral things, the fact that the bat-inspector has been unable to come put because of snow (holy cow, Robin, it's the wrong kind of snow - the bat mobile is stranded...(or words to that effect anyway)) and then moved on the the nonsensical legend of how Dibley got its name.  This last one was interesting as someone then asked how we could be confident of Biblical reliability - they said OT but I added NT - the transition from oral tradition to written record, the challenges of translation and so on.  I couldn't say it was a deep discussion but it was a start.  So, we noted the Elhoist and Yahwist strands in the early part of Genesis (which creation story is "right"?!  Look at Genesis 1 and 2 for anyone who's never compared), the parenthesis at the start of John 8 (woman caught in adultery) the various endings of Mark and so on.  One person seemed mildly perturbed that I have a book of gnostic scriptures on my shelf, others were fascinated by the idea of (essentially) redaction.  Good fun!

    It is intriguing to see how we have moved and changed as a group of people, and how these sitting around food/drink initiatives somehow free us to talk more openly and honestly about faith issues as compared with the twee right-answers of a house group of Bible study.  I think we must have made an odd sight sitting there in our boots and discussing elementary biblical studies, but it was well worth it.