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  • All or Nothing?

    Yesterday's post in response to the Amos reading was an honest attempt to reflect on the fact that, if we take scripture seriously, sometimes it unsettles us.  Sometimes it seems to be very much an 'all or nothing' response that is required.  Sometimes we are reminded of our duty to serve the 'least of these' and we feel guilty for a few days before normality overtakes us once more.  Or maybe it's just me - but I don't think so.

    In preparing for Sunday's service, I have been pondering some of Jesus parables of tiny things packed full of potential for good, as found in Mark 4.  Seeds that are little more than specks, yet packed with all that is needful to become a huge shrub or a tree, if the conditions are right.

    Holding these two in tension - the 'give it all away', and the 'do something small but full of potential' has been interesting to say the least.  I can't say I've got it tidily reconciled in my mind.  But the 'do something small' does seem to have at least two provisos... it must be something jam packed with potential, and it must be nurtured, whether by me or others, if that potential is to be fulfilled.

    This is not simply 'acts of random kindness' nor 'paying it forward' (pace Roots), it has a distinct intentionality about it.  It is about small things that have significant potential; small things that can, given long enough, grow and blossom into something far more wide-reaching than I/we will ever know.  I can bore for Britain on the analogy of the National Forest in the English midlands, but it works for me... The planting of trees that will reach maturity only after everyone involved in planting them is long dead and buried.  A vision that begins small, with vulnerable saplings and tiny seeds, but, given the right conditions will grow into a haven for wildlife and a recreational space for humans.

    So, not all or nothing, but always something, and always the best it can be... is that a viable middle course consistent with the Kingdom of God?  I hope it might be.

  • Pause for Thought

    Today's PAYG centred on familiar words from Amos 5:14-15, 21-24

    Seek good and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, just as you have said.  Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

    I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon.  Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps.  But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

    I think what struck me afresh was the challenge to our religious institutions, our preoccupation with structures and buildings, the relentless publishing of new song book (SOF 5 has joined my bookshelf), the programmes for this, that and the next thing and so on and so forth.  Many of these things are good.  But just suppose God is saying

    I hate, I despise your Assemblies, Synods, Conferences, whatever you call them.  Even though you write beautiful liturgies and preach eloquent sermons I'm not interested.  Even if you tithe to the last farthing on pay day, so what?  Away with your worship groups, your PowerPoint, your Nooma videos, your Bible study guides, your debates, your rotas.  Stop all this religiosity and get your hands dirty...

    And those troublesome words of Jesus to the rich young man... sell all you have and give the money to the poor.

    Sell your church buildings, realise your assests, and give it all away.  Spend yourselves on justice, on relieving the suffering of the poorest of the poor, the people on the margins of the margins...

    Ooh er missus!  You don't mean me, God, do you?  Not us?  I mean to say, we need our premises, our savings, our structures, our rhythms, our piety, our comfortable religion.  You don't mean me, do you?

    What would happen if the churches took God seriously?  What would happen if we stood back, identified the ridiculous surpluses we have (of property, of savings, of talent, of hierarchy, of bloody-mindedness) and released even a fraction of that for the purposes of justice? (yes, I think some bloody-mindedness could be useful in the cause of justice!)

    I am forced to accept that I live a very domesticated kind of Christianity, that allows me to live in a lovely flat, serve a loving church and live a rather charmed life.  But do my choices please God?  Do yours?  Do ours?

    How long will I be rattled by this?  How soon will I settle back to my cozy routines?  If I am honest, not long enough and far too quickly.

  • Hair Today

    You can't please all the people all the time, and when it comes to hair, well I reckon I can't please anyone much of the time!  Since it began to make its reappearance roughly eighteen months ago, I have lost count of the number of times I've been told to grow it/cut it/leave it curly/make it straight/ dye it/don't dye it and goodness knows what else.  Eighteen months in, it still reverts to curly at the first hint of damp, and even after its two previous serious chops, the curls fought back quickly.  Today, a few weeks later than intended, it finally got chopped again.  Some people will think it's to short.  Some people will think it's too straight.  Some people will think it's too long.  No-one can think it's too curly (though despite the severe chopping, it is already fighting back :-) ).  Anyway, I like it - though will like it even more when it's grown a bit longer (I did NOT like the use of clippers to tidy up the hairline on my neck, not one iota).
















  • All Age Communion Liturgy

    Here are the words I used on Sunday, feel free to borrow them if you find them useful/helpful.  You may need a few tweaks for local custom and practice on serving, but this reflects typical Baptist experience.



    We gather round a table, set for a meal

    Clean linen and sparkling silver, fresh baked bread and outpoured wine

    We gather round a table, having come ill-prepared

    Our hands unwashed, the dust of the day clinging to our clothes


    We gather round a table, as members of one family

    Brothers and sisters of heavenly parentage,

    Children of God

    Siblings in Christ.


    The Story & Distribution

    Why are we here? 

    Why do we take tiny crumbs of bread and teeny sips of wine?

    Why do we pretend this is a feast when everything is a token?


    Here is why.


    Late one spring evening, at the time when everyone was celebrating God’s goodness a very long time ago, Jesus and his friends had one last meal together.  They borrowed a room and enjoyed a good meal as they sang old psalms and prayed lovely prayers.

    Then Jesus did something odd

    As he picked up some bread, he said a prayer, then he broke it and said ‘when you eat bread think about me, because just as this bread is broken, my body will be broken.’


    They didn’t understand.

    But no-one dared ask what he meant.

    So they took the bread and ate it.

    And so will we!


    Prayer over bread

    Thank you God for bread, even this tiny little taste reminds us of the food you give us each day.

    Thank you God for Jesus, help us to think about him whenever we eat bread.



    [Bread served and eaten]


    After everyone had eaten their tea and was feeling pleasantly full, Jesus did something else odd.

    He picked up a goblet of wine and said ‘when you drink wine, think about me, because just as this wine has been poured out, so my life blood will be poured out, and there will be a new bond between people and God.’

    They didn’t understand

    But no-one dared ask what he meant

    So they took the cup of wine and drank from it.

    And so will we!


    [wine distributed]

    Prayer over wine

    Thank you God for wine, even this tiny little sip reminds us of the joy you give us each day.

    Thank you God for Jesus, who calls us his brothers and sisters if we follow his way

    Help us to think about him whenever we drink wine.



    [wine drunk]


    After the meal was over, Jesus and his friends sang a song together before they went out, and so will we.


    (c) Catriona Gorton 2012

  • Thus are new traditions born...

    I should say, right at the start, because I know lots of my lovely people read this, that my tongue is planted firmly in my cheek as I type this, because I know you are all wonderfully accommodating of my crazy ideas and I love you all for that (and many other reasons) and there is absolutely no suggestion that you are resistant to change.


    We don't very often use a data projector at church - this may surprise some who know I am quite a fan of their use.  The reason is basically that our premises are far from ideally suited to their use - too light and bright even on on dull days.  Nevertheless, now and then I use film clips or PowerPoint in worship, and yesterday I wanted to show some of the photos from the sea Baptism  as part of the reception into membership of the person concerned.  Recently we have been experimenting with a 'less bad' set up for projection which means using a centrally located screen and the projector in the middle of the floor space.  On an 'ordinary' Sunday this is fine, but yesterday was communion, and I really did not want the projector becoming de facto the visual focus by its location.




    Shock, horror...


    (are you sitting down...?)


    The Communion Table







    Yes, I moved the Communion Table to a place in front of the projector stand and turned it through ninety degrees so it was longways (i.e. narrow end forward).  It was actually easier to arrange the various plates and trays so that everything was visible.




    It meant there was no room for the servers to sit behind the table, so they had to occupy seats on the front row




    the FRONT row!


    It all went really well, and as it was an all age service my liturgy was very child-friendly in its language (I will post it when I am back at church as it's on the church computer not my laptop)


    So far I have had no negative comments and several positive ones, notably that people felt it was more 'friendly' and less sense of 'them and us' (servers and congregation)


    So who knows, just maybe a new tradition will be born...

    Only time will tell!