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  • Theological Reflection

    Yesterday I was doing some work on the notes for a session I'm leading in September.  I don't want to give away all that's planned, but this little quotation (the seeming missing word is as per the original) seemed worth sharing more widely and earlier.  It is about the corporate nature of TR (or why we shouldn't leave The Minister to do all the thinking) and seems to fit well with Baptist ecclesiology and Church Meetings at their best...

    … theological reflection is characteristically a corporate activity.  It is the meeting of minds in common dependence on the tradition and enlivened by the Spirit in searching truth, which yields the insights.  A larger group provides the checks and challenges, the insights and lateral thinking, the unexpected questions and the realism necessary to resist the temptations of fantasy.  With this important safeguard it can be said with confidence that theological reflection on practice is one of the indispensable tools of ministry.  With it we will learn from experience and grow in ministerial maturity. Without it we run the risk either of pastoral ineffectiveness or of great error.

    Paul Ballard and John Prichard, Practical Theology in Action, London , SPCK, 2006 (second edition) p. 144

  • Turn of Seasons

    Autumn comes a little bit earlier in Scotland than in England.  Today the schools are back and we start our 'new year' (just as I clear off on my hols of course).

    Around this time last year - a week or two later to be precise - I recall noticing that the trees were just starting to change colour, that golds and yellows and reds were appearing amidst the green.  Here and there a few early fallen leaves graced the pavements.  As I drank in the beauty of the moment, I was also filled with fear (that's why I know it was later) - would I live to see this happen again?

    Last evening I went out for a walk, five miles of training for my half marathon in September.  Once again I noticed the leaves starting to turn from summer to autumn hues.  This time, I was remembering, and seeing from a very different 'place' what the year has wrought.

    So much has changed in that time and I can bore for Britain on the topic, but I can honestly say, as I look back and look forward, I have no regrets about how that time has been spent.  This time I am fortunate enough not to be wondering whether there will be a 'next time' (though if you get me in a dark moment I might wonder how many 'next times'), at least two of the friends I've made along the way are not so lucky. Like leaves, our lives are fragile and fleeting.

    I think autumn will now always have a special place in my heart, as the leaves turn from green to gold, and as one season turns to another.  I think it will always give me pause to see the trees change.  I think I will always remember those I met this year.  I think that's good.

  • Bits 'n' Pieces

    A bit of a bitty week - no service to prepare as I'm about to be off for two weeks (but will need to prepare one during the second week which is my 'study' week; train journeys are very useful things).

    This morning I took the copies of my thesis to be bound at the nice bindery where the Gathering Place mission church once stood.  I will be so glad on Thursday when I post it off and am finally free of it (of course I spotted a few more typos reading through it this morning but it was too late to change them).

    I have just ordered bits of junk ready for our student welcome tea in the autumn.  This time last year I was excitedly anticipating the first one, not knowing what lay around the corner.  I was so pleased that everyone just pulled together to make it happen.  This year we have students coming back early to help make it happen.  Woo hoo!  So glad that this year I won't be feeling 'floppy' at the end of it!

    Later this week I will be starting work on preparing for a theological reflection group meeting I am leading in September, entitled 'So what is theological reflection'.  I could, of course write this off the top of my head, but I want to ground it in some re-reading of well regarded texts on the topic.  Should be fun, I enjoy the 'Christian education' aspects of ministry as well as the 'preaching' - the two are very different.

    Also I have what promises to be an exciting meeting with a couple of healthcare chaplains and a lay person as part of some work the BUS are considering as part of their public issues focus.  Can't say more yet, but everyone is really positive about it (and I kind of act as the BUGB mole I think!  Not to be confused with Millie, my puppet, the Gathering Place Mole.  Mole to see what BUGB is up to not the other way around).

    Lots to look forward this autumn - a NAM-by-any-other-name to mentor, a BUGB student to meet up with now and then for cupcakes, some new (BUS) initiatives to get going and some (G.P.) established ones to build on.  Fun!

    This time last year I was excited at the propsects of what lay ahead, and found myself taking a massive detour, yet it has been a great year in which, with God's help, a lot has been achieved and it has, in my view, been a good year.  As I move into the next year, having been told at my check-up this morning that 'all is well' (huzzah! as the saying evidently goes) I am perhaps a little more chastened but no less optimistic that another good year lies ahead.

    This corner of blogworld will be quieter as I'm off to Arran on Saturday with my bestest walking friend and then, with a convoluted route to see relies on the way, to Oxford for my 'study week' doing theology with other Baptists.  It will be fun.  Oh, and if burglar Bill is reading and plans on visiting my house whilst I'm away, just be aware that Holly the killer-cat is on guard ;-)

  • Creating Acts of Worship

    An interesting conversation yeserday, but one I seem to have had many times in the last decade, about the fact that many Baptists lack any sense of what they are doing when they create an act of worship.  Songs and hymns are picked because they are well-known, well-liked and often upbeat.  Prayers are not just extempore they are extremely awful (OK, I'm a Pharisee a la Luke 18) and shoved in wily nily without thought to why they are where they are.  Scripture reading is minimal and sometimes not even alluded to in the sermon.  There is no 'journey' no 'call and response'.  Intercession, if present, is little more than 'me, myself and I'.

    Most of the Baptists I know who read this share the same frustration that so many of our churches have lost their way in creating worship, so that it becomes, in extremis, high tech, high energy, very creative, Christian entertainment.  There are quite a lot of us (or at least it seems that way to me) who bang on a lot about the need for 'better' - for acts of worship that take people on a 'journey' that lead them through different feelings and thoughts, that expect our encounter with God to lead us to do something.

    Back in the days when I was a student, the text we used was Susan White's Groundwork of Christian Worship.  Nowadays, there is an excellent Baptist authored book by Chris Ellis, Approaching God, which was reviwed by Andy Goodliff who also interviewed the author a couple of years ago.  The collection of worship material produced by BUGB, Gathering for Worship, has some guidelines on what worship is too, as well as a CD ROM so you can quickly copy parts for use in church.

    There is a lot of misunderstanding about worship, it is easy to confuse 'what I like' with 'what is authentic'.  The other week we made bread during the service.  Of itself, that could have just been a gimic, it could have been a meaningless attempt at something creative.  It was only because the same bread was used in communion, only because our intercessions included prayer for people who are hungry, only because we gave thought to metaphors and symbolism of bread that it became authentic.

    I think it is fine to be a bit experimental in worship, to try out new things, to push a few boundaries now and then.  It is even OK to fail.  But in order for it to be worship, and for the congregation to feel safe enough to take risks, it needs to be carefully crafted and skillfully managed.  Gathering, praising, confessing, listening, responding, scattering - simple elements, stages on a journey of worship.  Get the basics right and freedom and creativity will follow.

    In many larger churches - and even some not so large - more and more of the service is led by people who aren't the minister, aren't the preacher... people who have had zero training in what it means to create or lead worship.  They cannot be blamed for not knowing or understanding - but those of us who do know have a responsibility to educate them, and to work with them, so that our worship becomes richer and more meaningful.  Thankfully God's Spirit is not constrained by our stumbling and fumbling, but it does seem as if we might try a bit harder to keep in step with her as she dances the dance of worship...

  • Things They Don't Teach You in College No. 12094857646362

    Or some equally large number.

    Don't go off script in your sermon and try to tell a joke just as Tam O'Xifen decides it's time to treat you a quick visit to the tropics.

    Just as well my people are lovely and long-suffering.

    Bet no-one ever gave a class on leading worship for 'women of a certain age/stage' and how to stay cool when you become the embodiment of "shine, preacher, shine" along with "flow river flow, flood my teeshirt with perspiration..."  Ah the joys of side effects!

    Hmm, a whole new (flippant/heretical) take on Moses' shiny face...

    (and apologies to Graham Kendrick)