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  • Feeling like God?

    No, not delusions of grandeur, that'd be the other guy, just the thought that comes into my head now and again, 'is this how God feels?'

    You don't need a degree in detective skills to work out which church I was alluding to yesterday, or why it wound me up as it did.  But, having vented my spleen to a degree, I found myself wondering 'is this how God feels?'

    I've never bought the idea of an immutable God, that is, a God who is unaffected emotionally by what happens on planet earth.  It seems unbiblical to say the least, and it plainly is not a God I'd want to worship.  I once raised a few eyebrows by asking if worship might not put a smile on the face of God, not because God needed to be cheered up, but because God actually was capable of joy and pleasure.  I've a sneaking suspicion I might be right!

    Once I'd got over being annoyed and then sad, and then wondering if a lot of time and energy had been wasted (no they hadn't, that'd contradict my theology that nothing is wasted!) I ended up realising that this was about people not getting it: a problem Jesus seemed to have often, and which God must experience constantly.

    Maybe it does us no harm to find ourselves wondering how God feels about things.  Not the arrogant presupposition that X or Y must make God so angry those involved will burn forever.  But the patient putting up with our bumbling and stupidity as we mess up or fail to grasp what it is we are meant to be about.

    So, going back to mission in many modes, God gives us a wonderful planet to live on whether or not we ever respond in faith, gives us the creativity to paint and sing and dance and discover and invent.  Is that true mission?  Or is it just social activity?  Ah well, as I believe in a relational Trinity and will be preaching on Trinity as Divine Dance on 6th June maybe I'm just an incurable heretic!!

  • Unexpected!

    Notwithstanding the usual editorial disclaimers, I never thought the day would come when BUGB's daily e-news sweep would encourage us to read an online article thus:

    Scotland’s first openly gay church minister has defied his critics and boosted numbers in his congregation over the past 12 months, it has been revealed.

    Read more here Yes, it seems that even sassenachs in Didcot read the Herald!!

  • Mission in Many Modes

    This phrase, which I encountered in the writing of David Bosch, has been pivotal in my understanding of ministry and mission.

    This evening a friend of mine expressed their despair at a church profile that spoke of a desire to move from 'social and sociable action to true mission that will increase numbers attending church.' After a bit of calming down I decided I would post my reaction!

    It is hard to believe how many churches still see mission as about bums on seats (or, if I may be cynical, as about getting people to put money in their coffers to keep the show on the road) rather than what the Bible says about... oh yes, justice and healing and disicple making... and going.  Wasn't sure whether to be sad or angry by what I heard.

    True mission...

    That'd be the guy in my old lunch club who asked me what Easter was all about, said he finally understood it, and died a week later at peace.

    That'd be the elderly man who came to our pub carol service and said it'd made his Christmas.

    That'd be the woman (also from the lunch club) who emailed me recently to say she'd finally rediscovered her faith - five years after I first met her.

    That'd be the 90-something brought to a chapel tea by her 96 year-old neighbour.  (By the way, she stayed!)

    That'd be the child who asked me whose birthday party Pentecost was while I painted her face.

    That'd be the conversations with the staff in the coffee shop

    That'd be the guy who lives on the streets and has us on his mental list of 'safe churches' to attend when he's passing

    That'd be the election hustings where we served tea and someone said she'd really needed it.

    That'd be opening our premises to those on the margins of society so they can have parties on Saturday nights in a safe place.

    That'd be my friend who spent her Easter hols in India working with projects to alleviate poverty.

    That'd be the URC Lucy blogged about who installed showers.

    That'd be the wedding offered for free that Julie blogged about.

    That'd be... well too many things to list really

    Will any of these get bums on seats?  Dunno.  Does it matter?  I think not.

    Misison might be an evangelistic campaign, but then again it probably won't.  Jesus never said it had to be.

    Mission might well lead to people finding faith... but it doesn't demand it.

    OK rant over!  (And friend who emailed it's not your fault I'm annoyed by this)

  • Whys and Wherefores

    Why a BUGB women's event?  Why invite BUS and BUW women?  Why invite only ordained women and women ministerial students?  These are good questions, and among them questions we looked at briefly yesterday as we pondered the future of the event.

    The event was begun by women BUGB ministers (BUS ones didn't exist back then) around 20 years ago because many of them experienced isolation, prejudice and derision .  Convinced of their divine calling, ordained and accredited by BUGB for decades (since the late 1920s), they remained a tiny minority, mostly serving small, struggling churches in tough places or planting new churches in inner-cities.  The group was a much-needed safe space to whinge - it was and remains a 'grass roots' initiative, for which BUGB do the admin.  By the time I began attending, there were 88 women in pastorates in BUGB, far less than 5% of BUGB churches, plus students, retireds and chaplains.  The group had by then matured and whilst it still gave space for moans and groans this was no longer its purpose.  As it happens, the first gathering I attended was one of those disasters through which God is able to bring good! Rescued from disaster by some quick thinking, the event in its current format emerged and has existed for around a decade.

    The meeting has always included some multi-sensory or creative worship, pretty mainstream now, sure, but not the case even a decade ago.  How many of us have been chastised for using candles or symbols or colouring or movement or dance in services?!  There is also, almost always, some input on themes suggested by the past year's attenders... preaching or mission or accountability or safety or whatever.  Now, with around 250 women on BUGB's books (seemingly tripling in the last ten years) plus a few from BUW and BUS, the time was ripe for a bit of review.

    Among the things that emerged yesterday are these two.

    Firstly someone agreed to develop a questionnaire to be circulated to all BUGB women ministers (BUS and BUW are not being exlcuded but are there as welcomed guests) to ascertain their views on the future of the event.  We know some will never go to a single gender event, to something north of Watford, let alone Watford Gap, to something that is not explicitly required, to something that is not explicitly developmental or devotional or whatever.  But we acknowledge the need to sound people out, not simply assume.  If 'only' 25 people want it, are willing to pay for it and organise it, it will happen; even if it is a minority within a minority, it has value.  I don't evny those doing the work of canvassing views, but thank them for it.

    Secondly, we agreed that the time was right for us to begin to think what we could offer to the wider BUGB world (presumably indirectly to BUS and BUW and beyond) from our experiences.  For example, are there distinctives in the way we minister that offer alternatives to the 'received wisdom' and which might be helpful for men too?  I have a feeling that multi-sensory worship might be an unnamed case-in-point as I've been doing it, albeit originally in Girls' Brigade, for more than 30 years.  But other areas too - admin, meetings, preaching, mission etc. etc.  As part of the work for my mentoring module, I did some reading on cross-gender mentoring of and by women (I have to be careful otherwise I inadvertently say trans-gender mentoring which would be something quite different!!) as well as on same-gender mentoring for and by women.  Might there be some pointers here that would be helpfully considered by BUGB et al?  I would have to say, I think that to a degree this gathering serves as female-pattern mentoring (if there's such a thing).

    All the reading I do says that women don't like being stereotyped (so that's a stereotype too) and assert that personality is more significant than gender.  I'm not sure it's an avenue that I can be bothered to explore, but it is reasonable to say that some of what is true for many/some/most women may also be true for few/some/many men.  If this group can offer to the wider Baptist world some helpful insights that further God's work, which is what it's all about anyway, then that's a good thing.

    Some women will need or want a group like this for a reason, season or lifetime.  Some will never need or want it.  Any of these is fine.  None of them is reason for anyone to impose it upon, or deny it to, others.  That it remains an open network, welcoming those who choose to attend for whatever reason, is key to its purpose.

    Why do I go?  Because I can, because I enjoy it, because even at its worst it is a God-given space for people who happen to be women ministers simply to be.


    PS Why invite BUS and BUW women... does that really need an answer?  Because they're there of course!


  • An Official Monday

    I am hereby declaring today to be Monday.  I don't work on Mondays, but this week I did (for excellent reasons).  So today is now Monday.

    Got up late, cooked big brunch for a treat, now generally slobbing about.  Not sure if this constitutes a proper Sabbath approach, but it'll do for me.

    Normal service will resume tomorrow.