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  • Brilliant Afternoon!

    This afternoon we delivered our knitted sheep to their assorted homes for the next two weeks, but first we visited a nursery who had been invited to join in, so that we could meet the children and show them some of our sheep.  It was amazing!  Really enthusiastic staff who motivated and encouraged their charges, and were as excited as us about the sheep trail.  Around 30-40 children will complete the trail just through that one contact... not counting their older siblings and parents/carers.

    Then we began delivering the sheep to the shops.  The ever-so sophisticated young staff young people who worked there became as little children as they selected and fell in love with the sheep they were to host.  Names were chosen (some excellent names it has to be said), posters and trail guides supplied and smiles and laughter all round.  It was evident that they had been waiting all day for this moment!  Indeed, one venue had phoned me to ask when their sheep would arrive!!

    I really hope lots of people take part in the trail and have lots of fun.  I hope the shops find it worthwhile.  But this much I know for sure - we have broken down some barriers and built some bridges already.  Every venue participating is thrilled to have been invited to be part of this event, and I like to think that we have shown something of the love of Christ along the way.

    As we walked along, my colleague observed "who would have guessed the power of a little knitted sheep"... sentiments not so far removed from the mystery of a God who chose to be born as a peasant child in an outpost of the Roman Empire.

    There will be photos - we did get some of the flock before it dispersed (and I suspect will never be restored as a few venues are depserate to keep their sheep permanently!)

  • Let the Madness Begin!

    A slightly mad morning...

    I now have ten gorgeous knitted sheep waiting to be delivered to impatient venues!  Alas I forgot to bring my camera so I cannot record the flock before they leave for the big adventure.  Hopefully my partner-in-crime will remember to bring hers.

    I have prepared a nutty little quiz for Monday evening's Theological Reflection Group which has (the TRG meeting that is) that natty title of "Carols, Cards and Christ's Mass".  Between this and then I have some edible visual aids to sort out!!

    I have finally finished Sunday's service for Advent 1 and the Topsy Turvy Kingdom - Starting at the End (the title is way better than the sermon, trust me)

    I have printed off the leaflets for next Thursday's lunchtime reflection, whilst I remember to do it!!

    And I have collated all the material for tomorrow's Church Reflection Day - a very large stack of paper on my desk.

    Still to do... deliver sheep, buy flip chart paper, deliver some leaflets, entertain visiting speakers...

    I love Advent, it is unbridalled madness and hard work as we try to make it meaningful for other people, but I wouldn't really have it any other way.

  • Yes.... and No....

    This article appeared on the Baptist Times site today.  It is thoughtfully written and certainly presents a version of what one might term "truth", that is, it is factually accurate.  However, as well as being guilty of confusing 'England' with 'Britain' it paints a rather rosy picture of the British (or even English) Baptist world that does not entirely accord with my experience or that of my friends and colleagues.

    Definitely worth reading, but needs to be read recognising its partiality and (seemingly editorially enforced) parochiality (if there is such a word!)

  • Longing for Hope (1) - Augustus & Quirinius

    This year our weekly Advent reflections are based on the start of Luke's gospel, and focus on pairs of characters along the way.  Today we began with 'Rome'...


    Luke’s gospel sets the story of Jesus birth very firmly within human history, with a clearly identified time and place.  No serious scholar can ignore the fact that Luke’s chronology is suspect, since external sources differ.  This should not overly concern us, Luke’s purpose is not primarily chronology but to set his account firmly in the social, political and geographical context of the eastern extreme of the Roman Empire.  It has been noted by scholars that the two-volume Luke-Acts opens with an edict from Rome, and closes with the apostle Paul in Rome; they assert that this is no mere accident but a conscious editorial choice... though of course we can never prove this either way.

    And so it is that today we begin our journey through Advent with the two Romans who are named in the opening verses of Luke 2, Caesar Augustus, and Governor Quirinius.  The stories of each of these men are well recorded in ancient history.  Augustus was, at various times both a priest of the Roman state religion and a powerful soldier, under whose rule the Empire spread and who was responsible for the establishment of the Pax Romana, a period of comparative stability throughout this vast area.  It was under this powerful man that Quirinius was made governor of Syria and ordered to undertake an assessment for taxation purposes.

    As we ponder our theme of ‘Longing for Hope’ today, I want to invite you to join me as try to imagine ourselves into the shoes of Quirinius and how that may have been expressed in his life.  Some of what I am going to share is verifiable historical information but most of it is imagined.


    Thousands of them there are, thousands of peasants traipsing up and down the roads each one going back to the place of their ancestors in order to register themselves.  And all for the purpose of taxation.  Oh, it’s taxing alright.  You ought to try doing my job… 

    Sorry, I should introduce myself.  Quirinius, appointed by Caesar as legate to Syria.   I was born in a place called Lanuvium near to Rome andI worked very hard to better myself, rising through the ranks and leading a successful campaign in Galatia as a result of which I was appointed Governor of Syria.

    I felt as if I had arrived, here I was in charge of the eastern most part of the Empire, answerable directly to Rome.  And I had an important task to do, as you’ve guessed, organising this registration of everyone for tax purposes.  I assumed it would be simple enough, issue the command, and the people would do as they were told - that's how things work in Rome after all.  But I reckoned without the tenacity of the Jews.  Then there was that terrible trouble with the man from Galilee called Judas, claimed he was going to drive us out and restore an independent nation.  Well, we had to put a stop to that, but his influence lives after him, these so-called Zealots, nationalists, wanting independence and stirring up rebellion.  Thank the gods for their High Priest Joazar who has a bit of sense and has calmed things down again.  But is hard work, soul-destroying… Endless lines of people grumbling and mumbling and being recorded.  Squabbles and street fights.  Pax Romana it might be but you have to keep your eyes peeled if you go out alone after dark around here.

    I came here full of ideals!  I was going to make a difference.  My name was going to be recorded for all time.  People would remember me.  But now… well I just stand by and watch another line of bedraggled, grumbling, smelly peasants give their details and begin the weary journey back to the countryside and home.   Having said that, they intrigue me, these Jews.  They have such a sense of who they are, such conviction that anytime soon their only God will raise up a new leader for them and restore their independence.  Delusional, for sure, but I have to admire that tenacity, that steadfast, determined… I guess the word is hope.  Despite everything they seem convinced that one day their dream will come true.

    I wish I had hope like that.  Wish I had something that could not be worn down by the drudgery of daily routine.  Wish I still had dreams that extended beyond the next home leave…

    Well, I’d better get back to it, here’s another group coming….  Name?  Joseph ben David, wife Mary…


    I wonder how you are feeling as you begin the Advent journey.  Is life one endless round of drudgery?  Are there continual squabbles and quarrels to contend with?  Do you, feel utterly insignificant, that your life has been spent to no purpose?  Do you rail against oppressive regimes, perceived or real?  Is there some other question this story raises for you?  Take some time now to let your thoughts run free in God’s presence…

  • Twin lambs of the ewe...?