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  • Nice Carols Grommit

    Evidently this year's Christmas stamps are Wallace and Grommit... and despite it being 'secular' year the pair can clearly be seen singing carols on one of the stamps.  Check out Ekklesia website here for more details in a humourous vein.  Altogether now, 'While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all eating toasted cheese..."

    Royal Mail press release here

  • Happy Birthday

    This morning I popped into the coffee shop opposite church for a quick latte and a sneaky piece of carrot cake (it's healthy, it has one of my five a day...) and as usual had a chat with the owners.  One of them told me that they have now been here exactly a year - it transpires we travelled from the midlands to Glasgow to begin work within days of each other, so each had assumed the other was the more 'established'.

    I like the coffee shop for lots of reasons, it echoes some of what I think church is about.  The owners, John and Wayne, yes those are their names, always greet you with a smile, always make you feel you matter and give you the time you need to choose what you want.  If you are a regular, they know your name, what you prefer to drink and even what your interests are (well they know mine anyway).  Recently I was in there and an older woman was meeting a friend of hers for coffee, I overheard her telling the friend why she liked the coffee shop - 'they are my friends' she said of the owners.  Valuing people, making them feel they matter, making them feel safe, listening to their news, these are things that churches ought to do instinctively but so often we fail.  Of course sometimes things go wrong in the coffee shop, it's not perfect, but the guys work very hard to make sure it is always clean, well stocked and service reasonably quick.

    Next weekend is our 'birthday' too.  Traditionally it is the church anniverary Sunday (also Dibley's as it happens) but more pertinently for me, the anniversary of my Induction.  It has been a fabulous year with lots to celebrate.

    So, Happy Birthday Atrium Cafe and every blessing for the year ahead.

  • 'One Size, Fits Most'?

    Should you ever be bored and in need of light entertainment, start searching Ebay or some such for wig accessories... I decided it made sense to purchase a wig-stand in anticipation of 'hanging up my hair on the wall'* so set out to find something inexpensive and suitable from said site.  Whilst I was at it, I checked out a few of the other accessories the coming months may necessitate, to discover that almost all of them said "one size, fits most."  I think that is really shorthand for 'probably fits 90th percentile male'.

    All of which serves as a reminder that there is a balance to be struck between affirming and celebrating individuals within a wider framework that is 'good enough' for 'most people, most of the time' without assuming that 'one size fits all.'  It is one of the ongoing challenges faced by all churches, recognising that there is no one universal 'shape' or 'size' or 'style' that will 'fit' all, that we are not some kind of amorphous blob that'll 'do' but that our uniqueness is as significant as our universality.

    Many years ago when I was being taught theory around pastoral care, one of the writers made a series of statements that is blatantly obvious but encapsulates something of this tension.  Each person is

    • in some ways like every other person
    • in some ways like some other people
    • in some ways like no other person

    I think the same is true of churches, and that it is in finding a healthy balance of these attributes that we become what we are called to be.  I don't think it's true that 'one size fits most', more that perhaps many people can find an adequate fit if their uniqueness is affirmed within a wider uniformity.  What makes a church 'fit' different people will be a unique blend of things,it may be size or sttyle or doctrine, but it may not - I have felt 'adequate fit' in churches of all sorts and szies over the years, and to be honest it has been more about authenticity than theology, more about welcome than wow-factor.  Folk who come into the Gathering Place usually comment that they feel that they matter for who they are, and that we neither assume nor demand 'fit' with who what we are.  I think we're getting something about right.


    * Among the more bizarre claims of my family is that our Jewish side includes someone who was a music hall entertainer in East London, to whom family legend attributes the creation of some of the dafter ditties of that time, including the following:

    After the ball was over, she took out her glass eye

    Put her false teeth in the basin, opened her bottle of dye,

    Stuck her false leg in the corner, hung up her hair on the wall,

    All that was left of her, went to bed, after the ball.

    Don't know if it's true, but it lends suitable levity to the situation.

  • The Answer is 'Padgate' but what's the Question?

    Just a little teaser for the reader.

    Today was our usual Coffee Club day, and as ever, a goodly number of us took over the settees of the local hostelry to sup lattes, capuccinos or teas and share in some good 'crack'.  It is a special point in our week.  A time and place of deeper sharing, where memories are recalled and life-stories begin to be shared in an atmosphere of open trust and mutual support.  From the wonderful influx of students over the weekend to the state of someone's back step; from our concerns and frustrations about reactions of the wealthy nations to the Commonwealth Games to concerns for folk on the edge of our church, conversation flowed far and wide and was genuine.

    It is the deeper sharing that strikes me - the people telling their stories, discovering overlaps in their pasts, saying 'I never knew that...' which builds and stengthens the bonds that unite us.

    So to Padgate.  Area of Warrington and former barracks where endless national servicemen began their training.  It transpired someone from church had spent some time there... Over the years countless people have told me this, which makes me wonder just how many poeple passed through that place over the years.  Padgate is the home of DJ Chris Evans, of several of 'my' former GB girls and a place that is part of my past too.  A nowhere place, full of nowhere people... a lot like every other place on earth.  And a place where lives are shaped, stories formed and memories made.

    Telling out stories, finding our connections, it seems to me to be a good thing to do... for we are, afterall, part of the one Body.

  • Common Wealth?

    Now I know this is a naive post, that issues are complex and I don't really know what I'm talking about but...

    The Commonwealth Games venue in Delhi is not ready, there are big problems to be overcome in not a lot of time and so what happens... nations that are relatively rich huff and puff and threaten to walk away.  So where is the 'common' in 'commonwealth'?  Rather than mud-slinging why can't we as a group of nations pull together and show the world something different?

    I'm sure India has worked hard to get ready, the last thing they need is a kick in the teeth from other nations.  A bit of 'common' sharing of the 'wealth' would seem good to me.  But as I said, that's just naive.