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- Page 7

  • Life, the Universe and Year 4

    Wow, that was an interesting afternoon!  45 minutes of quick fire questions on anything from angelology to theodicy to vegetarianism to universalism and everywhere in between!  Not that any of it was expressed in those terms of course, eight year olds aren't able to to use that kind of language, but some good questions none the less.

    Are angels real?  How old are they?  How many are there? - So I talked about special messengers from God and that no one can ever be quite sure if they've seen one as they most probably look like people.  I never did read about the arguments over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, so I have no idea how many there are... ;-)

    How did we get here - creation or evolution (I tried to offer theistic evolution, without using that language, as a middle course rather than seeing the two as diametrically opposed).  Why did God make the universe?  Why are we here?

    Why do we grow old?  What happens when we die?  Do animals go to heaven?  Will we be near people we know in heaven?  How big is heaven and will it be a squash?  Are heaven and hell kingdoms of the dead?  Is there a devil?  What is heaven like... or hell?  I told them I have no idea what heaven (or hell) might be like but that the Bible promises something that is free from suffering, sorrow and death.  I talked about a God who wants everyone to experience that but who respects our freedom to choose otherwise, that I hope hell is empty but that it's not for me to know.  I talked about death as being a bit like birth - a transition from one form of living to another, and of a God of mercy and love.

    Who invented Christianity (no, I didn't say St Paul)? If Jesus was a Jew how come his followers are Christians?  How did God raise Jesus from the dead?

    Loads of great questions - including the ubiquitous "who made God" - and then right at the end the one that only someone has who has listened carefully to what you've said and who knows a few Bible stories can ask: "if God is merciful, how come Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden?"  I spoke about choices and consequences, of how God provided them with clothes and food, but that this was as much as anything a story about growing up: free will means we can choose our actions but that if we make bad choices we can't expect there to be no consequences.  Not quite a traditional 'fall' hermeneutic but one that I felt was appropriate and honest.

    I think I did more theological thinking in 45 minutes than I normally do in a year.  It was great fun - and I hope they found it helpful.  Quite what they'll go home and tell their parents I don't know, but hopefully I was an 'ok' ambassador for Christ.

  • Eight-year-old Existential Angst?

    This afternoon I am off to school to face a Q & A session with sixty Year 4 children (aged 8-9) who have thought up a whole load of questions to which they are seeking the answers of sa series of world faiths (albeit independently of each other, which is a shame because those of us invited in have been chosen as those who are tolerant and respectful of difference).  This is part of an attempt by their (Muslim as it happens) class teacher promote philosophy within the curriculum.  When he ranfg yesterday he said the chidlrne had come up wioth lots of questions - on green issues and ethics, but he hoped they'd go further to existential questions such as 'why are we here?' Help!  Don't think I ever studied the answer to that one and I couldn't honestly say its ever really troubled me.  So do I say "the chief end of man (sic) is to glory God and enjoy Him forever"? Or do I make something up!!  Hmm.  Will report back later.

  • Endlessly Distracted!

    Today has seen yet more demolition going on next door - the skyline is changing rapidly and I have been distracted several times by satisfying thuds as chunks of masonry have bitten the dust.  One of the things that always fascinates me is the seemingly gentleness of the heavy machinery as it nudges or tugs huge structures.  Apparently the developed hopes to start putting in footings within a forthight - a long way to go before then though.

    From this...


























  • Wheresoever it Listeth

    I think listeth is a great word - especially when applied to the breeze that kept blowing throughout our open air service yesterday afternoon.

    It was suitably amusing that just as I announced the song 'Spirit of God, unseen as the wind' the breeze whipped through the place in which we were gathered and caused papers to fly everywhere.

    It was a fun afternoon, well attended, and with participants from all three traditions.  All told, 53 people took part - or at least 53 people took a cake (as there were 7 left over at the end!) - and they seemed to enter into the spirit of what was being expressed.  Most stayed on for a cuppa and a chat and we even had to threaten to put a couple of Anglicans away with their chairs in order to get cleared away on time!

    IMG_0229.JPGAlmost everyone opted to join in with the interactive intercessions, drawing or symbolising their prayers on flames which where then added to the collage of 'fire'.  It transpired that a few people don't know which up a flame burns as they used their flames upside down (tip downwards) but the overall impression is pretty good.

    The balloons seemed to be well received - though a few of us spent a fair bit of time using balloon pumps to inflate those of older folk without enough puff to do it themselves.  Some of the faces drawn on balloons were quite funny - and several took their balloons home to show their grandchildren...

    At the end of the service, after the final prayer and blessing we let off our party poppers as the 'Amen' - causing a fair amount of holy hilarity and a few comments about disturbing the neighbours.

    One of my folk commenting to me at the end of the service said that when I arrived five and half years ago she wasn't too sure about all this 'new school' stuff that I introduced but that now she thought a return to the old ways would be very boring.  I accepted this as a compliment but also pondered whether what we do is really so 'new' - I have retained, and strengthened, the service structure as a movement of gathering - praising - hearing - reflecting- responding which I see as very traditional but have allowed us to try new ways of experiencing and expressing those elements.  Overall I reckon that things must be about right since our newest attender - a chap with early stage Alzheimer's who's just moved into a flat over the road - seems happy to join in with the activities and has opted to throw in his lot with us.  So wherever God's Pneuma, Ruach listeth, she seems to be touching folk here and enthusing them (theologically and popularly) in some measure.