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  • Good Question!

    So, my reading has now reached the halfway through the book stage and I have landed at a whole series of questions to ponder - they are good, thoughtful and thought provoking, though most I have seen and thought about before.  But this one made me slow down considerably:

    Is there a difference for me between the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" and the "God of my fathers"?

    Yes, no, maybe, perhaps, probably, possibly... all, some or none of the above... but why do we answer as we do?

    This is why it is always worth reading new books on old topics (and slogging through yet another attempt to explain the trinitarian concept of person with its Greek and relational origins) - there are always a few gems to be discovered.

    We all know how easily we make God in our own image, or at least in the image we want, but hoe often do we critically ponder that image?

    A good question for a Friday afternoon methinks.

  • Mentoring - Reading

    Today I am doing one of those things that all good ministers should do, but which so readily get squeezed out, that is, I am reading; tending to my own nurture, allowing myself in some sense to be mentored by a book about mentoring.

    The book, The Potter's Rib, arrived yesterday and I began to read it last night (but only until 9p.m. when Silent Witness began cos ministers need R&R too).  So far I can't say it has told me anything I hadn't heard before, but it has helped me to pause and reflect on my own experiences of being mentored and of mentoring and supervising others.

    I won't bore you with the details, but I have been well served through the years by the men and women who were charged with acting as supervisors, tutors, advisers and mentors, as well as a range of informal networks for mutual support, sharing and honing.  I have also found great reward in sharing with others as they have been supervised or mentored.

    Good, official mentoring seems to me to be vital to the formation of ministers - and other roles for that matter - and good systems, training and accountability are vital in that endeavour.  But there is also lots of scope for informal mentoring and for being open to being mentored in surprising ways.  I am grateful to various folk who through the years both encouraged and chastised me (even if I resented the latter at the time!) who affirmed my gifts and identifed my gaps.  And I am grateful to this book, which so far has simply said to me 'yes, I know you know this, but maybe you need to think about it once again?'

    Formation, as the book rightly observes, is never finished, it goes on always.  It is not merely the accumulation of knowledge or even experience but the transformation that arises: reflection leads to insights, and insights (hopefully) to wisdom.  So, I will read, learn and inwardly digest - in the hope of growing along the way.


  • You are Witnesses of These Things

    An exercise for the student - or those who won't hear my 'reflection' at the WPCU service on Sunday evening.

    Who is/are 'you' - check through Luke 24 and decide who the people were who were told they were witnesses.  How many were there?  What were their names?  Yes!  It's a bit of a trick question, but do it anyway.

    What are 'these things' - again read the chapter and decide what they witnessed (saw/heard/experienced).

    Now think what it means about diversity and unity, difference and similarity, authenticity and acceptability.

    The 'you' is a diverse group, the 'what' is as diverse as they are, the command is as true today as it was then.

    So what?  You work it out!

  • Pause for Thought

    oran more halo.jpgEach morning as I walk to work this sight greets my eyes (photo pinched from Flickr, original can be seen here apologies for any inadvertnet copyright breaches)

    A church with a slipped halo?

    Some kind of over-sized hoopla-game played by a giant using church spires as pins?  If so, what score for this one?

    The light pollution is such that the night sky always has an orange glow to it, and the stark electric blue of the halo stands in sharp contrast to all around it.

    This building was once a church, then a Bible college, and now is a restaurnat/pub/club type thing.

    Lots of people have lots of views about the building's role, and about the halo.  It always strikes me as a supreme irony that the mainstream churches have covenants precluding sale of premises for pubs, clubs, entertainment venues or carpet warehouses but that Bible colleges and some newer Christian groups have no such hesitation.  I have recollections of a Methodist church that was sold to Pentecostal church who sold it to become a bingo hall and of an Anglican parish church sold to a 'new church' who sold it to holiday company and I think it is now a tanning parlour...  Questions about religious buildings and their status and use abound.

    But, rightly or wrongly, the slipped halo makes me smile every time I see it.  I love the humour of it, the self-deprecating mickey-taking idea of a church whose halo has slipped now that it is what it is.  And what of our invisible halos?  Churches are full of complex and flawed people, whose own halos would be very skew-whiffy I'm sure; well mine would be.

    This halo is of course in once sense a ruthlessly commerical emblem, a talking point, something designed to make this club/pub/restaurant stand out from all the others.  And it succeeds, as this post testifies.  However, for us to be one of the churches near the halo... well that makes directions easier!

    Love it, loathe it; delight in the building being employed and enjoyed or grieve the loss of a beautiful church; smile, scowl; approve, tut... whatever else it does, it makes you think.  And that can't be a bad thing, can it?

  • Rocks and Hard Places

    Today I have been reading through, and responding to, the consultation on the Baptist Ministers' Pension Fund.  This is not the right place to discuss any details of that document or what I said but I am struck by the human impossibility of the task they face...

    A fund that began in 1875 as non-contributory honorarium has survived and adapted to a very different world where charitable and financial legal constraints massively impact its work.

    Enshrined in the ethos of the fund are sound theological principles of justice and equality, and a thoroughly Baptist aim at 'fellowship' or 'connexionalism' (sadly lost on so many these days)

    Most of the people involved are Baptist ministers so, yes, they have a vested interest but, yes, they know the reality for churches and ministers of any decision they are forced to take.

    There are few - made no - employers who face the challenges the Baptist Pension Fund faces, as a multi-employer scheme where all the employers are independent churches.

    Please pray for the team who carry out the review, that they will be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

    If you are a minister try to step into the moccasins of the people you serve; if you are people, try on your minister's.

    Between the rock and the hard place may we find glimmers of hope and buds of new life...