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  • Libraries and Things

    So, a day trip to Manchester to see a supervisor and use the library... and to fill in the paperwork so that I can use the library at Glasgow University.  I am a tad miffed that no one told me a year ago that I could do this... it would have made life far easier and I might actually have done some more work if I only had to walk 10 mins to a lovely real life library with boks in it rather than search an online catalogue then price things on Amazon to decide whether to buy or wait til then next trip south.  Ah well, better late than never... just have to take the magic card and my Manchester Uni card to Glasgow Uni when I get home and hope it all works...  (In fact, if I'm so minded I can also do Stirling, UWS, Caledonian, Strathclyde and dozens of others....)

    The library is strangely quiet with only post grads and staff in it, so maybe I'll get some work done before my 2 p.m. meeting (I've already read about half a dozen articles on the train journey and got a few more ideas for the bit I need to write, just how good is that!).

    Hassle free trains (even if the reservation tickets bore no ressemblance to who had booked from where to where) and no rain in either great rain city (though some overnight in each), so on balance life is good.

    Right a group of local school children have just arrived with a teacher trying to speak sotto voce.... to work methinks!

  • Ministry by Wandering Around

    Are you old enough to recall 'management by walking about'?  It was one of those late 1980s initiatives that ran along the lines that visible managers were better managers.  Whether visible ministers are better ministers probably depends on how you define 'better' but this week is a lot of ministry by wandering about.

    Today was a one-to-one in a coffee shop followed by the ladies' summer party; tomorrow is the Coffee Club (followed by sermon writing); Thursday I'm seeing my Manchester based research supervisor to explain my persistent lack of progress (train gives reading and blagging space... I actually do now have a germ of an idea for chapter 1; only two terms late...); Friday a couple of dozen of us have an outing 'doon the watter' before an evening with the new BUS Gen. Dir.; Saturday some work for next week as I'll be out for three of days; Sunday worship and West End Festival event 'lurking with intent.'  So I reckon that's a pretty 'wandering about' model of ministry one way and another.

  • Clouds of Witnesses

    This afternoon I have to speak at the ladies' summer party.  At least I think that's what it is, and I hope that's what it is because my level of preparation is pitifully little.  This morning I thought I'd probably go with Hebrews 11 (and I still will pretty much) and its thread of faith.  Then I happened across Nick Lear's post for today, which reminded me of a newspaper cartoon that appeared at the time of the Apollo 13 difficulties (that's the real thing, not the film - I'm just old enough to remember it) that showed the 'ghosts' of past astronauts willing on the stricken craft to return safely to earth.  The idea of the cloud of witnesses urging on the folk on earth (or orbiting it) is a good one, and one I hope will connect with the ladies before they munch too many cakes and other sugary treats.

    So, read Hebrews 11 and a bit of Hebrews 12, ask people who their heroes of faith are and imagine them as part of the great cloud doing the urging.  In the words of the meerkat, simples.

  • Mission Video with Advisory Age Restriction

    I don't think it ever crossed my mind that one day a mission film would be deemed unsuitable for under 16s; but then I don't think it ever crossed my mind that one like the BMS This Dark World DVD would ever be made.

    The focus is on a project working with women sex-workers in Bangkok, and it pushes a few boundaries on comfortable Christian film-making.  It voices the fact that among the sex-tourists in Bangkok are Christian men; it speaks openly of occult practices in parts of Thailand and of the work of deliverance ministry for those affected; it speaks honestly of causes of women entering the industry: poverty and trafficking being predominant; it acknowledges the factors that may drive lonely, disillusioned or broken men to seek escape or solace in the arms of a beautiful young woman, only to be rejected despite their willingness to pay.

    There are no quick fix solutions, and the BMS supported project operates at many levels, from befriending, to offering paid work, to sharing faith, and so on.  The accompanying resource material is challenging for western church-folk because it forces people to recognise their own brokenness and temptation as well as thinking about issues far away; it requires them to consider supernatural as well as human factors in our behaviours; it forces women to think about how men might feel as well as men to consider their attitudes to women.

    Rather than offering answers, we are left with questions.  Rather than sticking plasters solution and twee prayers, we are challenged to think deeply and pray earnestly. In some ways the over 16s label isn't just about the content but about the response... grown up issues need grown up thinking and if this is how it can be facilitated, then all to the good.

    I admire the risk BMS has taken here, finding a line that is appropriate in showing girls in bars waiting to be picked up without inadvertently leading astray those who may be especially vulnerable to temptation of this kind.  I admire the songs by Pete James that reflect his own western, male, perspective and the questions with which he is left.  And above all, I admire Emily Chalke and the others at Night Light Bangkok who live with grace and love the gospel they also share in words.

  • Singing Together

    Did other readers use that old BBC radio broadcast for singing classes in primary school?  Having moved on from Time and Tune in the infants, we had Singing Together in the juniors.  I can still recall the smell of the new song leaflets that arrived each term, and recall the headmaster playing the piano as we continued to sing after the 15 minute broadcast finished.  I can also recall the one time there was to be singing in the end of year 'play day', being told I couldn't sing because my voice wasn't good enough.  Fast forward thirty years, give or take, and on my placement at a Roman Catholic church the priest, bless his cotton socks, decreed that I had a good voice, and must sing the cantor part of the psalm on numerous occasions.  In between I had sung in other school choirs and a church singing group.  For all that's been good, it's the early negative that sticks...

    Anyway, yesterday I allowed myself to be persuaded to join in with the combined choirs for the evening service on the basis that there might otherwise only be one soprano, and having looked at the music decided that it was in my range (mezzo) and to give it a go.  In the end there were, I think, five sopranos and two altos as well as a lot of basses and a few tenors, all augmented by eight delightful child trebles.  It was fun to be singing with other people, and also encouraging to discover that I can still hold my part 'against' others - because of where I sat a one point I had the people either side of me singing something utterly different from each other and from me, and the tenors (I think!) behind me.  All of which gave me a confidence boost... and I did say to our one regular alto that I just *might* be persuaded to give it a go sometimes (there's no way I could hit the top notes on some of the soprano parts!).

    Singing together is good fun, and there needs to be room for 'growlers' as well as 'angel voices.'  I am sure my former headteacher, were he still alive, would be horrified to know the impact of his deicison not to allow me to sing in the end of term concert because he was a kind and gracious man, and it serves as a reminder to those of us who strive for perfection to recognise the impact that may have on others.