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  • A Teeny Bit Radical?

    At the Church AGM last week we agreed to scrap deacons meetings - at least for the time being - as we are down to three deacons and it seems totally silly to hold a meeting with just these people, especially at a time when we need to increase the frequency of general Church Meetings.

    What this means is that in the last five years we have increased from four to six and now to eight the number Members' Meetings (I'd like to open them up but that's a whole minefield of its own) and decreased the number of Deacons' Meetings from eight to five to zero.  On some ways I'll miss the Deacs' meetings - they has become quite open and frank with a balance of humour and careful thought, whilst the Members' meetings, although infinitely different from the first one or two I experienced remain much harder work.

    Still, having cut down my number of meetings of this kind from 12 to 11 to 8 I think I've done something constructive!!

  • "Make it Stop"

    Life - or more precisely, death - goes on in Dibley and instead of slowing down for spring it seems to be increasingly impacting my little church.  (As I type that I suddenly feel self-conscious, I recently heard another minister saying it annoyed them for other ministers to refer to churches as 'mine'.  I think I get his drift but what other word should I say?  'Our' perhaps).  Yesterday I had two visits to a Leicester hospital where one of my folk is spending their final days/weeks because the professionals thought that yesterday might be 'it' (as it happened it wasn't) fitted around two services (D+1 (cluster pulpit swap) and the local Penties), today I am interring the ashes of another and on Friday conduct the funeral for the brother of yet another.  Updating some my folk yesterday, one of them said 'make it stop, I'm bored of death now.'

    This made me think.  Why is it we become like little children wanting nasty (as we perceive it) things to stop or go away?  Why is it that despite our oft quoted Christian hope we still find death so difficult?  And is it OK to get 'bored' with it?

    One day last week a few of us were talking about the requests for last week's funeral (ashes today) that everyone wear something red, and got onto the mechanics of funerals at crematoria.  I commented that I quite often have to deal with mis-concpetions such as 'the coffin goes through' i.e. straight into the cremator, the moment the curtains close or people who think they can collect the ashes on their way out as well as all the myths about district heating, reused coffins and mixed up remains.  One person stated very strongly 'I'd rather not know.'  And I found myself wondering 'why?'

    It seems to me that in 21st century Britain (and most of 20th century Britain) we have got too far removed from death - it mainly happens in hospital, the last offices are carried out by a nurse, the undertaker does all the work of preparation and, for the most part, we arrive at a clinical crematorium to greet a shiny wooden box adorned with several hundred pounds worth of hot house flowers.  Add to this the general decline in a sense of hope beyond the grave - how many people actually have a clue what I mean when I speak of 'sure and certain hope' - and the incredible efforts to extend/prolong life at all costs (or so it seems) and it is no wonder people want it all to go away.

    What a marked shift from the wonderful description of death in the hymn 'All creatures of our God and King':


    And thou, most kind and gentle death

    Waiting to hush our latest breath

    O praise him, alleluia

    Thou leadest home the child of God

    And Christ, the Lord, the way hath trod

    O praise him, alleluia


    One of my favourite explorations (no, I don't mean explanations) of death is in the children's bereavement book 'Waterbugs and Dragonflys' which sees it as absolutely natural and a mere, but inevitable, transition from one form of life to another.

    Make it stop?  Sorry, no can do.  And on reflection why would I want to anyway?  As the 'teacher' in Ecclesiastes says "there is a time to be born and a time to die."  I wouldn't mind a few less two-part funerals all at once, and I wouldn't mind it all being shared a little more widely than this shrinking little church, but I think what is really needed is a change in our thinking not a change in in the natural order of things.

  • Minister as Crimebuster?

    For those still counting, I have just learned another a skill they don't teach at college - catching criminals in the act in the redundant church nextdoor!  Finally!  After months of mindless vandalism they got too cocky and sauntered down the side of my house whilst I was in my office working, with the stupidity to bounce a football high enough for me to see from the window.  Assuming younger children enticed by scaffolding to explore I walked round just in time to hear the sound of smashing glass.  A three nines call and ten minutes later three teenagers were apprehended by the long arm of the law and admitted criminal damage.

    Now I certainly don't want to throw the book at them and we do, after all preach a gospel of forgiveness, but I kind of hope they've been rattled enough not to do it again.  Sentence - hmm, twenty sessions of Micky Slimeball evangelism should do it I think!  Well that or, more constructively perhaps, come one Sunday and apologise to all my old folks for disrespecting their memories.

    Secretly, I'm pleased we caught them before they injured themselves and while they are young enough to learn better ways.

  • A Good Demise...

    Today I recieved a letter from Joppa, the Baptist interfaith network (see sidebar for link under Baptist stuff) informing of its intended demise - it's work is now complete, it's prophetic challenge has been heard and interfaith issues are entering the mainstream (small 'm') of Baptist thinking.  This is definitely a good demise.  But as a network it will contiue in a new form - free, gratis and for nothing via its website which will pass on news and information and act as a medium for hsaring questions, struggles and joys.  Take a look and maybe even sign-up it's a good, Baptist thing to do and it won't compromise your beliefs!!

  • Things I never thought I'd hear...

    I was chatting to someone at church the other day about all that is going on at the moment - I seem to average three hospital visits a week and at least one funeral a fortnight.  Add to that the other things that I am involved with (and which provide colour and interest) and time gets very tight sometimes.  In the course of conversation I said something along the lines of  'one of these weeks I'll turn up on a Sunday and say "sorry, no sermon today."'  Her reply amazed and touched me - 'that's alright, we'd find something to do.'

    Wow!  What a distance we have travelled together these last five years.