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- Page 5

  • The Beginning of the End?

    How long does it take to erect scaffolding round a Victorian Baptist church?  Four days evidently - one lorry load a day.HBCscaffold1.jpg

    The photo is not exactly clear - taken on my phone (I really must get around to buying a digital camera) - but it gives a hint of the next phase in the end of the old barn.  I got home from an all day meeting yesterday to a plethora of phone messages including one from the builder wanting to borrow a key to get into the building.  All very honourable but given the number of smashed windows the vandals used hardly essential!

    It will be interesting to track the demise of the old place over the coming weeks/months: my guess is that once completion is through and the bats have left home it will soon be demolished.

    My wonderful late Regional Minister, Revd Peter Grange, longed to drive the JCB or swing the demolition ball to bring it down.  It's a shame he won't get to do it - and I guess none of us will either - but at least once it's done the land can do God's work again providing homes for people who can't afford the nutty prices of big developers.

  • Mothering Sunday Prayer

    I was looking back over some past services to see if I could adapt one I did four years ago for a visiting preach I am doing on Mothering Sunday.  Alas it won't readily translate (which is a shame cos it was a good one!) but I liked this prayer that I wrote and which may be of use to someone else.

    God who is love, how can we express our love for you?

    You love us even before we are born, as a tiny embryo hidden away in our mother’s womb.

    You love us as we are born, eyes squinting in the light, lungs filling with air, and a midwife’s hands holding us securely.

    You love us when we are toddlers, waddling clumsily, chubby fists clinging to a sister’s hand, and as we place a sloppy kiss on a brother’s cheek.

    You love us when we are children, playing for hours with friends, making dens, dressing up or going on secret expeditions, discovering the joy of being alive.

    You love us when we are teens, bodies rapidly changing and ideas whirling around our minds, trying to answer the question “who am I?”

    You love us when we are adults, juggling work and play, forming relationships, shaping our own future.

    You love us when we are parents, striving to nurture our own children.

    You love us when we are childless, sharing the bittersweet searching, the freedom or the pain.

    You love us when we are elderly, grandparents or not, feeling with us the advance of years, the contentedness to be, the release from the need to achieve.

    You love us as life ends. As lungs still and eyes close for the last time, you are there.

    God who is love, who loves us through the whole of life, we praise you for the wonder of that love.

  • Hymnbook Politics

    I am being naughty this week.  Not massively, but knowingly doing something that will annoy some of the good people at D+1.  It is cluster pulpit exchange Sunday (or preacher exchange as someone who is very literal pointed out) and it is my turn to go to the last vestige of "Green Hymnbook is the only true hymnal" in this area.  They have a nice little set of Mission Praise which used to be used by the morning congregation but the evening folk hated it with a passion (I think it's that way round anyway).  Now they have combined into one service and the order I've been sent says quite clearly BHB.  So here's my bit of mischief - sing the three (out of four) hymns that are in the green book from Mission Praise.

    I do love my little congregation who, since we moved over to service sheets, sing from any source I come up with and are none the wiser.  This means they've sung loads of things they'd otherwise have objected to and enjoyed them.  Nowt so queer as folk, as the saying goes.

  • Bananas

    So the end of Fairtrade Fortnight and we marked it in our service this morning thinking of some of the complex issues of the freedom and responsibility we have as stewards of God's creation.  Everyone had a Fairtrade banana - one of which is counted in the Going Bananas total to which our local Co-op were contributing numbers from sales -  and some leaflets; badges were optional - several went.  We used Genesis 1 and Luke 4 (Nazareth manifesto) to inspire us to think about the creation that God declared 'bloomin' marvellous' (in my vernacular translation of Genesis) and what it means for us to 'rule over it' justly.

    There are of course some glib, easy answers - but the issues are actually very complex.  What about British farmers and growers?  Shop assistants on zero hours contracts and paid just over minimum wage?  The hidden costs of items sold at 3 for 2 or B.O.G.O.F.?  The balance of ethical priorities - Fairtrade, Rain Forest Alliance, organic, farm assured, free range, dolphin friendly etc etc?  Is it right to fly in roses from Kenya even if they are Fairtrade when the carbon footprint is huge?  Is it right that children in Pakistan have to work to support their families?

    We can't solve it all in one day but we can do something.  Me?  I will fill in the postcard asking a shop to stock more (in this case, any) Fairtrade products and hand it in at my corner shop.  I will encourage my church to (finally) register itself as a Fairtrade Church.  I will continue to wrestle with the complex issues and to wonder what happens to those employed in unfair-trade when I shift brand to one that is certified Fairtrade.

  • Lesser Spotted Baptist History

    Tribe of Dan.jpgThere is an awful lot of Baptist history to be found in books and a lot of the overviews - at least so far as English Baptist history is concerned - tell a consistent tale of the effective triumph of Particular Baptists.  Lesser known but vital to the story are the New Connexion General Baptists, of which Dibley is one of the earliest.  It gives me a mixture of odd pride and strange bewilderment to think that the new Connexion held some of their Assemblies, most probably, in the pub (then a farmhouse) opposite my front door and may well have worshipped in the wooden chapel that stood on what is now our graveyard.

    The Tribe of Dan is a lovingly written work by Revd Dr Frank Rinaldi who tells the story of the emergence of this strand of Baptist Christianity alongside and amongst the framework knitting industry that spread across this area at the same time.  Sadly due to ill health, Frank needed editorial health in turning his PhD thesis into a book.  I count myself privileged to have been loaned the original manuscript a few years back when I was trying to uncover something of this story.  So big thanks to Graham Doel and others who did the editorial work - and if you want a few tiny glimpses of the glory days of Dibley Baptist Church when it was part of an exciting new movement spawned by Dan Taylor (Dan of the title) and centred on the delightfully named Barton-in-the-Beans have a read.

    Sadly Barton is no longer a Baptist church (FIEC we think) but there is a tiny Barton and Dibley Trust which pays my folk the princely sum of £6 a year - when the interest rate exists!  I just wish I knew what it's original purpose was and what it's founders might make of it all...