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  • Thin Places and Kairos Moments

    People, especially Celts, speak of 'thin places', places where the gap between earth and heaven is palpably less than elsewhere.  I'm never sure that this is a geographical thing so much as an inner, spiritual or even dare I say emotional one, but I kind of get what they mean.  (If there are thin places there are also dense places - those places of forboding where birds don't sing and death or agony hangs heavy.  But that's another story).

    Theologians speak of kairos moments, of points in history where God pierces human history in startling and wonderful ways.  Again, I'm not always sure this so much a surge in divine activity as a greater human openness to the ever-active work of God.

    Whether they are thin places or kairos moments or just a sense of being caught up in 'something significant that is happening' they do happen.  Just sometimes there is a sense of being in tune with God in a more significant way - what people sometimes call mountain top moments - not because you feel deliriously happy (though you may) but you sense something more is, hmm, what is the word?  Abounding maybe?  The only word I have is mystery, mysterion, the wonder that saucer-eyed children express so wonderfully.

    Christians get a bit funny about the word 'coincidence' suggesting it means random chance when actually, etymologically and in risk assessment language, it simply means happening at the same time (or for risk assessors within a specified, short time window).  God-incidence is a kind of twee Christianised version to make it ok to spot them.  But they happen.  And this week they've been happening.

    On Saturday 18th June 2005 the final service took place in Dibley Baptist Church before we closed it.  On Friday 19th June 2009 the final bricks were razed as demolition was completed.  Co/God-incidence?  Kairos?  Thinness?  Maybe.

    On Saturday 18th June 2005 a journey of ministry in the 'wilderness' of being a church without any walls began.  On Saturday 20th June 2009 the call to leave that ministry and go to a new place came.  A kairos point?  A thin place?  God breaking through?  I think so.

    On Friday 19th June 2009 a task reached completion.  On Saturday 20th June 2009 a new one began.  How's that for timing?

    Is it all too tidy, this near exactness of four years?  Or is it God's humour for a woman who loves order and symmetry?

    Is this a mountain top moment, a hill head experience, as one friend has wittily pointed out?

    After the rising and sleeping, rising and sleeping of meantime ministry these last five and a half years has the plant grown to harvest?

    This is an odd post because this is an odd day.  A good day.  A God day.  But odd no less.

    At 3p.m. my congregation will told that I have accepted a call to another church, far away.  It is the end of a process we have shared because it has been an odd process: Dibley Baptist Church is small and elderly and even with maximum HMF support can no longer afford to employ me.  I am almost halfway through a period of notice to terminate the pastorate on financial grounds, and so have sought a new pastorate with the full knowledge of my folk.  They have faced their decision with courage and humility: I am proud of them.  I am excited about my new call - it is far, far away from Dibley (and if you read closely a clue as to where is in this post!) to a very different groups of disciples on a very different journey (even if it does include another building project!) and will bring new opportunities and new challenges (as well as new readers!)

    This post will appear online at 15:05 BST, just after I tell my folk.  The folk far, far away will know at 11:00 BST.

    Some of you already know some of this, for others it is new news.  Some have shared the journey so far, others will share the next stages.

    I have no idea if this is a kairos moment or just more chronos into which I'm reading things, no clue if the razing of the chapel rendered nextdoor a thin place or just a dusty one.  But I do feel as if something significant, something of God, some mystery is abroad and for now I am content to dwell within it.

  • Baptist History

    The New Connexion of General Baptists began life not far from where I live, in Barton in the Beans.  According to what little of their history is readily available, they used to hold at least some of their Assemblies in "Dibley."  Yesterday it struck me that these probably took place literally opposite my house in the farmhouse-cum-inn I have looked out on (except when looking out on the chapel) these last five and a half years.

    So if this is where Baptist Assembly once was...






    Then maybe people should come on pilgrimages to see it!

    Trouble is it's hardly ever open and has changed hands umpteen times in my time.

    Rather than seaside venues maybe "back to our roots" in either Nottinghamshire (for the original General Baptists (Particulars probably came later out of some sort of primeval stew)) or Leicestershire (New Connexion) would be appropriate.

  • This bugged me!

    Thinking back over the NAM conference there was one part of one presentation that really bugged me - that is, annoyed me - it was too simplistic and triumphalist and missed some big questions about how the churhc fials to care for its own.  You can find the story that was read to us here.  It makes for good reading if you want to take a certain stance on what Christian life is about, but not if you you ask any question of it.

    No, I'd never heard of Chuck Templeton, but I wonder what it was that cost him his 'orthodox faith' and drove him from the church.  What honest questions was he forced to face alone and unresourced?  What issues challenged his beliefs?  Where were the people who would love and support him?  Presumably still on some happy cloud counting decision cards.

    And I've never heard of Bron Clifford but who looked out for him?  Who said 'you're drinking too much?' Who said 'are you struggling financially?'  Who offered help to him, his wife or his two downs syndrome children?  What pushed him over the edge into self-destruct mode?  Some pastors had a collection to buy him a coffin - where were they when he needed them in life?

    Maybe these men were arrogant and deluded, I don't know.  Maybe they fouled up big time.  But even so, who was there for them?  I may have moaned about the long list of 'thou shalt nots' that the NAMs had to sit through, but at least someone cares enough to tell them.  I hope also we all care enough to walk with rather than merely censure those who struggle and fall.

  • Not one single stone left standing...

    From this:







    To this:







    To this:






    To this:








    As Jesus was leaving the temple one of his disicples said to him, "Look teacher!  What massive stones!  What magnificent buildings!"

    "Do you see all these great buildings?" he replied.  "Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."


    The LORD gives, the LORD takes away, blessed be the name of the LORD.

  • More light...

    Demolition next door is nearly complete and already the footings are in place for the first of the new houses - by close of play today the intention is to have footings in place for five out of nine...

    What struck me yesterday when I got home after four days away was how much more light there was without the great Victorian barn next to my humble abode.  Is there a parable in there somewhere?  I wonder!