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  • Yes but...

    With the recognition that it is now only months until the next UK General Election, the various denominations and theological thinkers are giving guidance to churches on hosting hustings and who not to invite and why it is right so to do.  And intuitively I agree - the extremist parties are good at interpreting an invitation to be present as an endorsement of their views (bit like the rest of us really!) and it is important not to be naive.


    Having lived in an area with an extremist local councillor at both district and county levels I began to see it wasn't so simple.  If these are your democratically elected representatives then 'don't touch' is not the most helpful response as it leaves you with no voice, no one to speak for you on issues that matter... it almost plays into exactly the extreme we want to avoid.  I was fortunate, the local structures where I was meant we had plural representation and there were other councillors I could have approached, but once it becomes MPs the same is not the case.

    I know that BUGB and the C of E (and I am sure others) are quietly working at thinking creatively about what to do when it moves from hypothetical to real; about how to support churches in areas where extremist parties are in post.  I don't know what the answers are, I just know that as with most things the easy answers are usually the wrong answers.

    As Baptist with our oh so proud claims of a history of defending freedom of conscience we have the challenge of recognising the freedom of others to stand for things we find abhorrent whilst seeking how to be a prophetic voice into that context.  Keep it hypothetical and it's easy; when it's on your doorstep and when it's real, well then the challenge really begins.

  • Around Blogland

    A few bits worth a look see:

    Baptist Bookworm, an expert on the book of Revelation offers us some entertainment from QI here ... the video clip at least will not disappoint!

    Maggi Dawn alerts us to a new book by Brian McLaren here ... the purists can be a bit sniffy about McLaren's theology but for so many ministers it rings true.  This will be on my 'to buy' list when the bank balance has recovered from my latest round of biliophile indulgences!

    Craig reflects on the latest from the Pope here and recongises the tensions of liberty, justice and integrity.


  • Hyacinths and Legs and Toes!

    If it sounds like alternative lyrics to the children's action song, well, it possibly could be.

    Way back at the start of October, on my first Sunday at the Gathering Place we, or rather the children, planted some hyacinth bulbs and pondered the parable, from Mark, of the farmer who plants the seeds and then gets on with life whilst it grows.  And so we have got on with life for the last four months, and the Sunday school have loyally tended the bulbs as they grew, at first in a dark cupboard and then on a high shelf where they wouldn't get knocked over. Last Sunday the room where the children meet was filled with the heady scent of hyacinths in full bloom and three enormous purple heads of flowers were a delight to behold.  With further flowers on the way, the hyacinths were moved to the main room and now everyone can enjoy the sight and smell of these wonderful flowers.  Somewhere in there is a 1 Corinthians 3:6 moment: I bought the bulbs, the children tended them but it is God who gave the hyacinths their beauty and scent.

    Also in the main room is a corner known as the Snug where we display craft work produced by the children and young people.  As part of their work relating to TLM they had heard the story of the ten lepers cleansed by Jesus, of whom one returned to say thank you.  They had cut out and decorated giant letters to spell out THANK YOU and each letter was decorated with words and pictures of things they were grateful to God for.  Among the more obvious candidates I spotted 'toes', 'legs' and 'nervous system.'  I am pretty sure that some of the inspiration for this was their learning about leprosy which can damage these parts of the body.  Nevertheless, it was for me a moment of 'wow' as the little ones led my thoughts to gratitude for the tiniest and most overlooked/taken for granted aspects of my own body.  On Sunday we begin our stewardship series looking at our talents/gifts/skills and will be using my favourite 'body of Christ' passages from Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12.  In the past when I have preached on these passages I have commented on the importance of big toes and opposable thumbs as well as armpits, finger nails and diverse bodily orifices (always guaranteed to get a few quizzical looks!  But surely these are among the 'treat with special honour' bits?).

    It is always good to spot how things connect, how the belief that God is alive and active (about which we thought last week) is glimpsed in these odd moments of 'synchronicity' or 'God-incidence' or 'serendipity' or whatever language your prefer.

    So, altogether now.... 'hyacinths and legs and toes....'

  • Presbyterians, Porridge and Prayers

    A good, three-point alliterative post title.  Someone, somewhere would be pleased.

    Posting 'late' today because I have been busy doing stuff, notably eating porridge and praying with our local Presbyterians.

    The C of S church with whom we share our evening services has just started a once a month prayer breakfast and I was invited to go along.  For £1 you could have a big bowl of porridge (made by someone from Florida!!!) or a bacon buttie and as much tea or coffee as you wanted.  Then at 8:30 we shared in a simple act of guided prayer.  After that was the C of S "fraternal" (spit!) to which I am invited, and am beginning to discover more of the weird and wonderful nature of this tradition.  Oh, I am so glad I'm a Baptist!!!!!

    Eleven of us shared breakfast and prayers.  And we were a motley crew.  Mostly retired people or ministers, we included someone off to Berkshire to protest outside somewhere I have worked and with whom, despite her initial defensiveness, I had an interesting conversation.

    I was reminded of various things - such as the porridge/cornflakes graces:

    Lord, make us not like porridge:
    Sticky and hard to stir.
    Make us like cornflakes:
    Easy to stir and ready to serve.


    Lord, make us to be, not like cornflakes:

    Noisy, superficial, and cold;

    But like porridge:

    Sturdy, warm, and comforting.

    Well, in my own fence sitting fashion, "both/and" actually

    A good start to the day,and something I will look forward to again next 'First Tuesday' and will be encouraging others to consider attending.  But now I really must do what I'm paid for...



  • Counting Blessings

    Yesterday was, among other things, World Leprosy Day and we had been counting our blessings during the previous week using the TLM prayer sheet as guidance. The extent of our blessings is self evident in that we raised over £500 in response.  How great is the love and decadent generosity of our God that we should have so much, and how encouraging that we can respond with our own generosity of giving.  Blessings given from blessings received.

    I'm still mildly amused that TLM "charged" me £3 for not having any pets whilst those with pets "paid" £1 per animal (good job no-one keeps stick insects!) and to discover just who is the self-confessed 'Imelda' of our church (evidently owning about 18 pairs of shoes).  It was fun and it was thought-provoking, which seems a good balance to me.