Tuesday, 30 April 2013

So many non-Atheistic Atheists

Interesting conversation with chap who notice that my book was concerned with the issue of atheism.

'I'm an Atheist,' said he and then went on to explain the reasons why he disagreed with my views (which he hadn't actually asked for or heard, he'd merely assumed the dogcollar meant what he assumed to be was what he assumed it to be!).

As is often the case, he threw in the fact that he believed in faeries and the like because that explained the odd happenings in his home. 'Could be Poltergeists,' said I (helpfully); and amazingly he agreed!! So I continued:

'So you're not really an Atheist at all! You can't be because you believe in the existence of the supernatural and in beings that have less credibility than Jesus, who is (after all) a person of historical substance.'

His response was that he could, 'Believe in the supernatural and maintain his belief that there is no God without conflict!'

So I asked him to define supernatural realms where mischievous spirits (of faeries) could exist and yet god, any god, couldn't (and explain the 'why,how, what' and the like to support it).

Taking up his coat he merely said, 'I don't choose to believe and that, for me is enough!' And with was vanished into Rugby!

Totally agree :-)

So farewell 'Agnostic of Rugby' (or should that be confused?) - thank you for the dialogue, distraction and company.

May God (who I'm sure does exist) bless you as you continue life's journey :-)

Church: A Vacancy has arisen . . .

Have you ever wished you could advertise for new church members?

Well perhaps you can:

Daily Office - Apr 30

Pandita Mary Ramabai, Translator of the Scriptures, 1922

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

One day pours out its song to another and one night unfolds knowledge to another.

They have neither speech nor language and their voices are not heard,

Yet their sound has gone out into all lands and their words to the ends of the world.

In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun, that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber and rejoices as a champion to run his course.

It goes forth from the end of the heavens and runs to the very end again, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever; the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey, dripping from the honeycomb.

By them also is your servant taught and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often they offend? O cleanse me from my secret faults!

Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins lest they get dominion over me; so shall I be undefiled, and innocent of great offence.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Psalm 147.1-12
How good it is to make music for our God, how joyful to honour him with praise.

The Lord builds up Jerusalem and gathers together the outcasts of Israel.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up all their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars and calls them all by their names.

Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his wisdom is beyond all telling.

The Lord lifts up the poor, but casts down the wicked to the ground.

Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make music to our God upon the lyre;

Who covers the heavens with clouds and prepares rain for the earth;

Who makes grass to grow upon the mountains and green plants to serve our needs.

He gives the beasts their food and the young ravens when they cry.

He takes no pleasure in the power of a horse, no delight in human strength;

But the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their trust in his steadfast love.

Deuteronomy 17.8-end
If a judicial decision is too difficult for you to make between one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another—any such matters of dispute in your towns—then you shall immediately go up to the place that the Lord your God will choose, where you shall consult with the levitical priests and the judge who is in office in those days; they shall announce to you the decision in the case. Carry out exactly the decision that they announce to you from the place that the Lord will choose, diligently observing everything they instruct you. You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left. As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the Lord your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.
When you have come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me’, you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. One of your own community you may set as king over you; you are not permitted to put a foreigner over you, who is not of your own community. Even so, he must not acquire many horses for himself, or return the people to Egypt in order to acquire more horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You must never return that way again.’ And he must not acquire many wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself. When he has taken the throne of his kingdom, he shall have a copy of this law written for him in the presence of the levitical priests. It shall remain with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, diligently observing all the words of this law and these statutes, neither exalting himself above other members of the community nor turning aside from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, so that he and his descendants may reign long over his kingdom in Israel.

1 Peter 1.13-end
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’

If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. For
‘All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’
That word is the good news that was announced to you.

The Collect
Almighty God,
who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
have overcome death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
grant that, as by your grace going before us  you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Daily Office - Apr 29

Catherine of Siena, Teacher of the Faith, 1380

Psalm 145
I will exalt you, O God my King, and bless your name for ever and ever.

Every day will I bless you and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and highly to be praised; his greatness is beyond all searching out.

One generation shall praise your works to another and declare your mighty acts.

They shall speak of the majesty of your glory, and I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.

They shall speak of the might of your marvellous acts, and I will also tell of your greatness.

They shall pour forth the story of your abundant kindness and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, long-suffering and of great goodness.

The Lord is loving to everyone and his mercy is over all his creatures.

All your works praise you, O Lord, and your faithful servants bless you.

They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your mighty power,

To make known to all peoples your mighty acts and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom; your dominion endures throughout all ages.

The Lord is sure in all his words and faithful in all his deeds.

The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all those who are bowed down.

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food in due season.

You open wide your hand and fill all things living with plenty.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving in all his works.

The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully.

He fulfils the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.

The Lord watches over those who love him, but all the wicked shall he destroy.

My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless his holy name for ever and ever.

Deuteronomy 16.1-20
Observe the month of Abib by keeping the passover to the Lord your God, for in the month of Abib the Lord your God brought you out of Egypt by night. You shall offer the passover sacrifice to the Lord your God, from the flock and the herd, at the place that the Lord will choose as a dwelling for his name. You must not eat with it anything leavened. For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread with it—the bread of affliction—because you came out of the land of Egypt in great haste, so that all the days of your life you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt. No leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory for seven days; and none of the meat of what you slaughter on the evening of the first day shall remain until morning. You are not permitted to offer the passover sacrifice within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you. But at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name, only there shall you offer the passover sacrifice, in the evening at sunset, the time of day when you departed from Egypt. You shall cook it and eat it at the place that the Lord your God will choose; the next morning you may go back to your tents. For six days you shall continue to eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a solemn assembly for the Lord your God, when you shall do no work.
You shall count seven weeks; begin to count the seven weeks from the time the sickle is first put to the standing grain. Then you shall keep the festival of weeks to the Lord your God, contributing a freewill-offering in proportion to the blessing that you have received from the Lord your God. Rejoice before the Lord your God—you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites resident in your towns, as well as the strangers, the orphans, and the widows who are among you—at the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name. Remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and diligently observe these statutes.
You shall keep the festival of booths for seven days, when you have gathered in the produce from your threshing-floor and your wine press. Rejoice during your festival, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, as well as the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows resident in your towns. For seven days you shall keep the festival to the Lord your God at the place that the Lord will choose; for the Lord your God will bless you in all your produce and in all your undertakings, and you shall surely celebrate.

Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed; all shall give as they are able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.
You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

1 Peter 1.1-12
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith—being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that was to be yours made careful search and inquiry, inquiring about the person or time that the Spirit of Christ within them indicated, when it testified in advance to the sufferings destined for Christ and the subsequent glory. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in regard to the things that have now been announced to you through those who brought you good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look!

The Collect
God of compassion,
who gave your servant Catherine of Siena
a wondrous love of the passion of Christ:
grant that your people may be united to him in his majesty
and rejoice for ever in the revelation of his glory;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

So many ideas - So few to take them up

Last night past conversations crowded in. One upon another they crashed together causing sparks and yet, despite the highly flammable material of life, there was not even a hint of smouldering!

I woke with a start as the memories of so many opportunities for engagement were identified, acknowledged and . . . Passed by!

People issued the cry, 'Why doesn't someone do something about [insert any need you might have identified]?' That done, they look at me to provide an endorsement of their perspicacity and well-honed Christian missional skills and agree that, 'There must be someone!' And of course there is. But who?

So far this year I've worked with people in various settings and circumstances and, between us, we have tried:

+ sign up' sheets - but no one signed them!

+ vision meetings - but myopia appeared to rule!

+ training courses - but Downturn Abbey provided a greater attraction!

Many years ago I read a book by Richard Bach (illusions) which contained the words, 'Argue for your limitations and, surely, they are yours!'

I have found this year to contain more people who have told me why they can't do anything (it wasn't even 'more'); more people who have bemoaned the lack of engagement from 'the church' and complained about those who, 'Need to do more!'

I have engaged with people who are full of promise and ability who have promised much and delivered so much less than nothing as their inactivity (always accompanied by a reason and often an accusation) also debilitated others and rendered them, and us, impotent and defeated too!

There are eight months left to us in this current year:

+ eight months to make the case for all-member engagement (collaborative church)

+ eight months to motivate and mobilise members (courses, sermons, vision meetings) with no quarter given

+ eight months to get the message across that being Christian is not a hobby

Those who come to church, those on PCC or DCC, Volunteers, Pew Warmers, Lay Ministers, Clergy (for no one is exempt) - the gauntlet has to be laid down (and taken up).

It's so hard to smile and nod when people tell you that they can see the needs but don't care (they don't use those words, they merely absent themselves or tell you about their hobby, family, whatever; that takes them away to other things).

It's galling when people tell you that they've been challenged by something they heard so went somewhere else to avoid the feeling again!

So here is a plea to all who read this:

Get involved, get praying, get engaging or get the estate agent in and get ready to close our doors. We can no longer exist as museums showing where 'God used to live'; architecturally magnificent holy shrines to a former age; holy huddles who exist to meet for themselves, not their communities and certainly not God.

So here’s another line drawn - another challenge issued.

Please hear it, pass it on and respond to the call.


Sunday, 28 April 2013

A church of two halves

The words of Ecclesiastes 1. 9, 'What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun,' ring true today as we turn our attention to Peter's encounter with a bunch of circumcised believers in Jerusalem.

Here we have a church of two halves: the circumcised (Jewish) believers and the uncircumcised (Gentile) believers.

We also have a great deal of righteous anger and loads of passion (funny how prejudice does that isn't it?) along with it.

Now considering that working back from the current Pope the line (albeit just a little fuzzy in places) tracks back to the man himself: Peter! So what we have here is 'the man' being taken on by the Jewish believers ( of course this won't be the last time the 'Judaizers' find themselves in the spotlight - Paul encounters them in Galatians); not the leaders but the influential, Jewish, believers are taking him to town. What is interesting it that it must have worked for, despite his own words in the Acts 11 account, we later find Paul giving him some real stick over his 'encouraging Gentile believers to not only follow Christ but adopt Jewish practices).

What today's readings teach us is that we have a new commandment to live up to - we make love our priority and our rule of life; we don't put stumbling blocks in the way of new believers, neither do we impose ritual or worship style, liturgical tastes or our own personal fads, habits and desires. What we do is bless that what God is already blessing and help those outside the kingdom to recognise the voice and hand of God in their lives.

What we must do is to seek to recognise the image of the invisible God made visible by the presence of the person before us and celebrate the fact that nothing (and no one?) God has made 'clean' is unclean. Regardless of where we have been, what we have seen or done - there are no definitive sins (outside that one 'unforgivable' sin against the Holy Spirit in Matt 12//mark 3) - all are equal and carry the same weight whether there's one or dozens of them.

High, low, charismatic, traditional - fundamental, liberal or confused: We need to celebrate the fact that people come to God through Christ and refrain from putting our yokes on them.

He whom the Son sets free is free indeed - so let's not put our burdens on they and break their backs with our personal likes, dislikes and arrogance, eh?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Church: finding the focus

 Yesterday was one of those amazingly varied ministry days which began with the daily office, moved on through funeral conversations and planning to an amazingly well organised and challenging St George's Day lunch, complete with politicians of all colours and complexion from local, national and European settings. There were senior members of the military, those who employ many and engage in commerce, industry, private and private sectors and more besides.

Following on from this I found myself engaged with young men and women delivering some of their basic training values and standards syllabus. After the lessons some of us stayed on to share communion and this was one of the most energising sources of blessing I have available to me.

A really good meal with challenging, informative and engaging people,


A simple meal of bread and wine with brothers-in-arms bringing into focus the love, acceptance and enabling of Jesus, the Christ.

As we read the word and affirmed our faith I was reminded of another man who was, like us, a soldier too. He served with distinction, rose up the ranks and was destined for preferment (sounds like Richard Dannatt doesn't it?). But then he found himself in relationship with God through Jesus and put aside rank, privilege and status and took up his cross and followed Jesus; a journey which cost him his life!

The man was, of course, St George, and in a time when our nation needs a hero we give  thanks for this soldier, servant and champion.

May we copy him and his faithfulness and make our stand against the dragons that threaten to corrupt, oppress and overpower us, our communities and our nation in the name of the risen Christ.

May we see life clearly and in true focus; celebrating the simple meal that speaks of sacrifice and resurrection power; family and Christian fellowship.


Daily Office Apr 27

Christina Rossetti, Poet, 1894

Psalm 34
I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

My soul shall glory in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad.

O magnify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.

I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Look upon him and be radiant and your faces shall not be ashamed.

This poor soul cried, and the Lord heard me and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.

O taste and see that the Lord is gracious; blessed is the one who trusts in him.

Fear the Lord, all you his holy ones, for those who fear him lack nothing.

Lions may lack and suffer hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.

Come, my children, and listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Who is there who delights in life and longs for days to enjoy good things?

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from lying words.

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous and his ears are open to their cry.

The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

The righteous cry and the Lord hears them and delivers them out of all their troubles.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and will save those who are crushed in spirit.

Many are the troubles of the righteous; from them all will the Lord deliver them.

He keeps all their bones, so that not one of them is broken.

But evil shall slay the wicked and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.

The Lord ransoms the life of his servants and will condemn none who seek refuge in him.

Deuteronomy 15.1-18
Every seventh year you shall grant a remission of debts. And this is the manner of the remission: every creditor shall remit the claim that is held against a neighbour, not exacting it from a neighbour who is a member of the community, because the Lord’s remission has been proclaimed. From a foreigner you may exact it, but you must remit your claim on whatever any member of your community owes you. There will, however, be no one in need among you, because the Lord is sure to bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession to occupy, if only you will obey the Lord your God by diligently observing this entire commandment that I command you today. When the Lord your God has blessed you, as he promised you, you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted towards your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be. Be careful that you do not entertain a mean thought, thinking, ‘The seventh year, the year of remission, is near’, and therefore view your needy neighbour with hostility and give nothing; your neighbour might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt. Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake. Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.’

If a member of your community, whether a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you and works for you for six years, in the seventh year you shall set that person free. And when you send a male slave out from you a free person, you shall not send him out empty-handed. Provide liberally out of your flock, your threshing-floor, and your wine press, thus giving to him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; for this reason I lay this command upon you today. But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you’, because he loves you and your household, since he is well off with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his earlobe into the door, and he shall be your slave for ever.

You shall do the same with regard to your female slave.

Do not consider it a hardship when you send them out from you free persons, because for six years they have given you services worth the wages of hired labourers; and the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do.

Ephesians 6.10-end
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus will tell you everything. He is a dear brother and a faithful minister in the Lord. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, to let you know how we are, and to encourage your hearts.

Peace be to the whole community, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who have an undying love for our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Selection: Not just the Candidate!

I have had a rather charming, and challenging,  conversation with someone who has supported their spouse along the road to selection and had to pick up the many fragments that scattered the route back after they received something other than a resounding 'yes' at conference.

They highlighted the pleasure and the pain as doors were opened and then, in one final and dramatic act, apparently slammed shut. The frustration at the time it took to reach the endpoint and the ways in which the news was communicated and them feeling abandoned and betrayed. The upset that having looked for a job near to the intended college the plans were not only dashed at the 'possibly going to' end but caused issues with the 'possibly leaving end' too (telling your head that you might well be leaving and then not and finding they have already tentatively found a replacement apparently goes down quite badly).

The preparing the children for a change of home and then having got them excited about going, having to tell them you're staying!

I don't know how we can do it better. Perhaps we need to ensure that successful candidates at selection are given a year's shadowing their home church clergy before college to provide a naturtal gap should selection fall apart. The fact that the candidate feels abandoned is something that we, the church, must get to grips with; the support for the spouse and family of a candidate who returns with altered timescales or direction is equally (perhaps more) important too!

I've started a new section on the cavedwellers forum (goes live tonight) for people to share, explore, discuss and bleed over the issue of discernment, calling and selection. If anyone would like to come and contribute please feel free to either go to the forum and join or mail me and I'll set them up with a login and password.

We need to discuss and learn from our mistakes so that we can provide a positive and supportive environment for those exploring ministry (in all its forms) and those whose direction has changed as the process progresses.

'No one get ordained alone if they are married and it's not just the candidate that feels the pain if it falls.'

Thank you to the person who gave me that thought - may God bless you and yours as the process to be in the right place continues.

Daily Office - Apr 26

Psalm 33
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, for it is good for the just to sing praises.

Praise the Lord with the lyre; on the ten-stringed harp sing his praise.

Sing for him a new song; play skilfully, with shouts of praise.

For the word of the Lord is true and all his works are sure.

He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the loving-kindness of the Lord.

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made and all their host by the breath of his mouth.

He gathers up the waters of the sea as in a waterskin and lays up the deep in his treasury.

Let all the earth fear the Lord; stand in awe of him, all who dwell in the world.

For he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to naught; he frustrates the designs of the peoples.

But the counsel of the Lord shall endure for ever and the designs of his heart from generation to generation.

Happy the nation whose God is the Lord and the people he has chosen for his own.

The Lord looks down from heaven and beholds all the children of earth.

From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze on all who dwell on the earth.

He fashions all the hearts of them and understands all their works.

No king is saved by the might of his host; no warrior delivered by his great strength.

A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; for all its strength it cannot save.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, on those who wait in hope for his steadfast love,

To deliver their soul from death and to feed them in time of famine.

Our soul waits longingly for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

Indeed, our heart rejoices in him; in his holy name have we put our trust.

Let your loving-kindness, O Lord, be upon us, as we have set our hope on you.

Deuteronomy 12.1-14
These are the statutes and ordinances that you must diligently observe in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to occupy all the days that you live on the earth.

You must demolish completely all the places where the nations whom you are about to dispossess served their gods, on the mountain heights, on the hills, and under every leafy tree. Break down their altars, smash their pillars, burn their sacred poles with fire, and hew down the idols of their gods, and thus blot out their name from their places. You shall not worship the Lord your God in such ways. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes as his habitation to put his name there. You shall go there, bringing there your burnt-offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, your votive gifts, your freewill-offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your households together, rejoicing in all the undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.

You shall not act as we are acting here today, all of us according to our own desires, for you have not yet come into the rest and the possession that the Lord your God is giving you. When you cross over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is allotting to you, and when he gives you rest from your enemies all around so that you live in safety, then you shall bring everything that I command you to the place that the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his name: your burnt-offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, and all your choice votive gifts that you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you together with your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites who reside in your towns (since they have no allotment or inheritance with you).
Take care that you do not offer your burnt-offerings at any place you happen to see. But only at the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribes—there you shall offer your burnt-offerings and there you shall do everything I command you.

Ephesians 6.1-9
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’—this is the first commandment with a promise: ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’

And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free.

And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him, 
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Gift Aid Changes - Is your church aware?

The way that charities claim Gift Aid is about to change and it appears that there is some five months left to get things in place before this happens (September 2013). Hopefully those of us Anglicans will have some sort of diocesan support and guidance regarding this but there is still work to be done to ensure that all is in place regardless.

One of the biggest changes will be the provision of an online facility for claiming Gift Aid (bringing an end to paper systems and to many of the HMRC staff who do the work with it too I assume) but as always with technological solutions there are changes and challenges of the paper and organisation kind to be engaged with and sorted out! The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) have issued the following advice:

• Ensure the right people in their charity know about the changes and when they will happen.

• Read HMRC's guidance on Charities Online available on the HMRC website.

• Make sure you support your Treasurer and involve IT literate members to support and help decide which of three new options they will use:
Online claim form,
Database generated claim, or
Paper claim.

• Check which of the following steps you should take:
Register with the Government Gateway
Download and start using the standard HMRC spreadsheets
Speak to software suppliers or internal software development teams
Order the new paper forms from HMRC Charities (0845 302 0203
Get your Gift Aid claims up to date and check that the Gift Aid declarations remain valid.

• Ensure you are collecting all of the required information for a valid Gift Aid claim including a donor's postcode.

• Make sure your Gift Aid processes are robust as HMRC will be better equipped to check the accuracy of all and any Gift Aid claims.

• Check if you can benefit from the Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme.

Not original information, but hopefully valid and useful for all those clergy, church councils and Treasurers out there.


Thursday, 25 April 2013

ANZAC Cove - 25th April 1915

ANZAC DAY commemorates the single most important, and tragedic, event of the First World War for Australia and New Zealand alike.

Important because it marks two young nations sending their men into a conflict which marked for them tragic loss (they were landed in the wrong location) and the coming of age of these two antipodean neighbours.

It speaks of sacrifice, folly and a pride that will never be eclipsed nor put aside and speaks also of the nobility that can come out of such conflict too.

Dare I really say 'nobility'? Yes, I think I do, for it is surely found in the words of Atatürk and in the song that you will find below:

Atatürk's words:

'Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... 
You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.
Therefore rest in peace. 

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets 
to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... 

you, the mothers,
who sent their sons from faraway countries 
wipe away your tears;

your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. 
After having lost their lives on this land. 
They have become our sons as well.'

dona eis requiem

Keep Calm - Go to Evensong

I guess this image says it all - Evensong is cool and relevant in today's society.

Why not give it a try?

351 years of hitting the spot - sorta says it all!

It ain't what you say . . .

It's the way that they hear it!

Last week, I had an opportunity to feel quite pleased with myself as one of the people who'd heard me preach on active remembrance in the Eucharist told me how much they'd learn and the difference that  'amniocentesis' had made to their communion experience!

I can honestly say that I have never, not once, mentioned the testing of amniotic fluids in conjunction with the Eucharist but realised that what they meant was 'anamnesis'.

One of the roles of the minister, especially those who wish to engage theologically at personal and congregational levels, is to take the difficult things and make them simple; take the simple things and make them commonplace and everyday realities. The problem is that we all too often simplify concepts and issues, scattering analogies and naff metaphors as we go, and leave our people with a weak and often impotent God and a flawed and failing Christianity,

God has three leaves and is green, or Mother, Wife and Daughter; the route to modalism or tritheistic stuff is now put on the spiritual GPS and and coherent understanding of the Trinity is lost (of course they could read 'The Shack I guess!). We struggle with the Vigin Birth and so we have adoptionism, Arianism or a 'normal' bloke who, 'Being filled with the Holy Spirit, is enable to be God because God resides in Him and make Him part of God!' (and I have heard that sermon on more than one occasion during my Christian life!

When I used to work with engineering apprentices,we had a large poster on the wall of one of the workshops which proclaimed:

“What I hear, I forget; 

What I see, I remember; 
What I do, I understand.”

And this was true for the apprentices (I was one, I know!) and was confirmed by the fact that out first attempts at thing often went awry but got better the more we did, and understood, the what, why and how; and is true for congregations too. The problem is this:

Many of us are not exposed to the Bible outside of the Sunday readings and sermon slot.

Many of us never get to discuss what the Bible says in an active way.

Many of us want to 'do' what the Bible says but have 'stuff' (work, hobbies, family, etc.) that get in the way and either prevent us from doing or water it down.

Many of us have a go but don't have the watchful, and corrective, eye and hand with us and so, if ut goes even a little wrong, we find ourselves withdrawing to a place of safety (ie. not doing anything or keeping to what we know we can do)!

Seems that even when we think we've said it well we find that later the people haven't perhaps heard it as well as we thought. There's more to preaching than:

Tell them what you're going to tell them

Tell them

Tell them what you've told them

We also need to show them (where possible) and then get them to explain, make, or do too!


Mind you, Parthenongenesis is the first book of the Bible that was found in the Parthenon, isn't it?

Daily Office - Apr 25

Mark the Evangelist

Psalm 37.23-41
When your steps are guided by the Lord and you delight in his way,

Though you stumble, you shall not fall headlong,for the Lord holds you fast by the hand.

I have been young and now am old, yet never have I seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging their bread.

All the day long they are generous in lending, and their children also shall be blest.

Depart from evil and do good and you shall abide for ever.

For the Lord loves the thing that is right and will not forsake his faithful ones.

The unjust shall be destroyed for ever, and the offspring of the wicked shall be rooted out.

The righteous shall possess the land and dwell in it for ever.

The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and their tongue speaks the thing that is right.

The law of their God is in their heart and their footsteps shall not slide.

The wicked spy on the righteous and seek occasion to slay them.

The Lord will not leave them in their hand, nor let them be condemned when they are judged.

Wait upon the Lord and keep his way;
he will raise you up to possess the land, and when the wicked are uprooted, you shall see it.

I myself have seen the wicked in great power and flourishing like a tree in full leaf.

I went by and lo, they were gone; I sought them, but they could nowhere be found.

Keep innocence and heed the thing that is right, for that will bring you peace at the last.

But the sinners shall perish together, and the posterity of the wicked shall be rooted out.

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.

The Lord shall stand by them and deliver them;
he shall deliver them from the wicked and shall save them, because they have put their trust in him.

Psalm 148
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.

Praise him, all you his angels; praise him, all his host.

Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you stars of light.

Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.

Let them praise the name of the Lord; for he commanded and they were created.

He made them fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps;

Fire and hail, snow and mist, tempestuous wind, fulfilling his word;

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars;

Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and birds on the wing;

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and women, old and young together; let them praise the name of the Lord.

For his name only is exalted, his splendour above earth and heaven.

He has raised up the horn of his people and praise for all his faithful servants,
the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Isaiah 62.6-10
Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have posted sentinels;
all day and all night they shall never be silent.
You who remind the Lord, take no rest,
and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it renowned throughout the earth.
The Lord has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm:
I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies,
and foreigners shall not drink the wine for which you have laboured;
but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the Lord,
and those who gather it shall drink it in my holy courts.
Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people;
build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples.

Acts 12.25 - 13.13
Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark.

Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.

So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen—the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

Then Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. John, however, left them and returned to Jerusalem;

The Collect
Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark:
grant that we, being firmly grounded in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Fat Fingers, Head and Typos

One of the best bits of this blog, for me at least, is the fact that I can use it as a scratchpad to dialogue with the many things that collide with me during the day. The problem is that this also means that there are typos to be found (fat fingers and small iphone screen - a demonic combination methinks), which I'm sure pass unoticed by mot of you!

Well, that's what I thought but today someone passed a comment that they enjoyed the fact that I could spell 'Schleiermacher' and yet (in the same sentence actually) also spell 'that' as 'tha'.

Seems I may have been mistaken - perhaps you do nottice afterall!

Happy Wednesday

Selection: Not 'No' but 'Not Yet'

Amazed at the amount of conversations I've had regarding the can of worms that is offering oneself for ministry and the selection process.

Stunned by those who have heard, 'No, now go away,' even though often this response was indeed tacit (and yet was supported by the actions and attitudes of those who should most assuredly know better).

Sure, that when the response has been 'No' or 'Not Yet' the response of sending churches ( and especially the incumbent), DDOs and others should be (in my best Michael Caine voice and sensitive to gender considerations):

'Hang on lads, I've got a great idea . . .'

Some of my greatest joys in my ministry life have come from having worked with people who have returned from a BAP or DAP (hereafter referred to as 'selection') with a 'Not yet' or 'Not this calling'.The reason for this is greater that the sum of the parts but contains these elements:

Wrong language: Where submission, sense of calling, collegiality, collaboration and humility are to be sought, selectors have heard the opposite or mixed messages.

I always seek to get those I work with to explain what ordination will enable them to be, do, or do differently. One person who had come after a 'Not Yet' took great pains to explain that the honest answer was 'Nothing!' A response that demanded the questions, 'So why have you applied?' and 'How did you end up at selection conference!'

The response showed someone who was already in what was, dog collar and label aside, a ministry role. The key wax to unlock the passion for that calling and provide the words that invited exploration and revealed the calling (already recognised but needing to be ratified ).

Wrong Ideas: Quite a few people think that they should be ordained because , 'I don't have enough time to do what I do in church and do my job outside!'

This could well be calling to ministry but I could also be the result of being someone who can't say no or possesses poor time management skills (or both). I tend to regard 'doing' as something that shows commitment to the body and evidence of discipleship, but there are some who see it as the establishing of a track record and supporting evidence, The ' why' is more important than the 'what' for me - it's often a clincher in discerning vocation!

Just wrong: the dog collar who sends someone because they are doing and this needs recognition and reward in ordination or a Lay Ministry role. Ordination and ministry roles are not rewards, they are who we are released to be!

Wrong; Not investing time and effort in those who come forward before and regardless of outcome if selection conference is met, afterwards too. As discernment process moves on, opportunities and avenues of ministry should be walked along with an eye for the right fruit for those who accompany you. It's not what the role is, but that it fulfils and mutually defines the person seeking and the role itself.

NOT YET indicates something that is both ongoing and being actively engaged with. If you are the proud possessor of o e of these then you are still very much engaged in the discerning of joy vocation and so should others be!

So get out there and be a blinking nuisance!

Chivvy your clergy ( remember the widow and the magistrate?).

Chase your vocations people and challenge them to help you find the right shaped hole for you (and worry if they eventually meet you late at night in the woods with a shovel).

Talk to the pointyhatted ones and explain where and what and why (absolutely serious step - not to be taken lightly and realising they are busy, but ultimately have the cure if your soul as their charge (and remember what happened to Thomas å Becket!!).

Carpe diem (which auto text corrects to 'carpet firm') - grab the opportunities, listen to the witness of God (internally and from others) and don't lose sight of that which you feel called to. Talk about it (but don't become a bore!), prayer about if(and don't forget to listen), read about it (the more you understand the clearer your conversation can be) and be tenacious (stubborn).

Seek out those who will listen, advise (critically) and live you on your journey - for we are family and brother-in-arms and must Luce as such.


Daily Office - Apr 24

Mellitus, Bishop of London, first Bishop at St Paul’s, 624
The Seven Martyrs of the Melanesian Brotherhood, Solomon Islands, 2003

Psalm 135.

Praise the name of the Lord; give praise, you servants of the Lord,

You that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God.

Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; make music to his name, for it is lovely.

For the Lord has chosen Jacob for himself and Israel for his own possession.

For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods.

The Lord does whatever he pleases in heaven and on earth, in the seas and in all the deeps.

He brings up the clouds from the ends of the earth; he makes lightning with the rain and brings the winds out of his treasuries.

He smote the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of man and beast.

He sent signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh and all his servants.

He smote many nations and slew mighty kings:

Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan.

He gave their land as a heritage, a heritage for Israel his people.

Your name, O Lord, endures for ever and shall be remembered through all generations.

For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants.

The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of human hands.

They have mouths, but cannot speak; eyes have they, but cannot see;

They have ears, but cannot hear; neither is there any breath in their mouths.

Those who make them shall become like them, and so will all who put their trust in them.

Bless the Lord, O house of Israel; O house of Aaron, bless the Lord.

Bless the Lord, O house of Levi; you who fear the Lord, bless the Lord.

Blessed be the Lord from Zion, who dwells in Jerusalem.

Deuteronomy 10.12-end
So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today. Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

Ephesians 5.1-14
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be associated with them. For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light—for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St George: cappuccino?

Last week, being asked about George, I mentioned that whilst he took up the job of England's Patron Saint in 1348, he's not English (or even British) but came from  Cappadocia (which is in Turkey these days)! 'You're having me on!' came the response, 'Cappuccino?' So here's what I told them (and they still didn't really believe me until they'd read some of the same in the notes in the commemorative menu!

A high ranking Roman soldier on a par with being a Major General and heading to the Senate for sure, George became a Christian (often a good career stopper now and it was then ;-)  ) and so found himself at odds with Diocletian, a bit of a nasty anti-Christian sort; but being a proven fighter, George took on Diocletian (and with him the Empire too) and this was the dragon he fought until on this day in 303 AD (at the age of thirty-three - bit like someone else I know) he was put to death. Not a cross like the other thirty-three year old but beheading brought George's end.

On the way though, and because of the way he lived subsequent to coming to faith and in the way that he died, Diocletian's missus also came to faith and so Diocletian had her killed too (no sense of humour some folk).

George's battle with Rome was depicted as him fighting a dragon and the tales grew out of this allegorical imagery (cf. Revelation where empires and power are depicted in similar vein) and came to our shores thanks to these stories which so inspired the Crusading forces. So much so that they took up his sign and fought in his and England's name (and let's not forget Harry either) and so we have a Saint!

Not a local lad but an inspiration:

A man's man - no namby pamby soft touch - having served and acquitted himself well.

A determined and resolute man - took on Diocletian and won even though he lost his head!

An example to us all (for this is what Saints are - examples as to attitude, belief, lifestyle and sometimes, death too!!

As that well known scribbler of soaps and other TV shows, Bill Shakespeare puts it in his soap: King Henry V:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;

Or close the wall up with our English dead. 
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man as modest stillness and humility: 
But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; 
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage; 
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; 
Let pry through the portage of the head Like the brass cannon; 
let the brow o'erwhelm it as fearfully as doth a galled rock 
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base, swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, 
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit to his full height. 

On, on, you noblest English. 
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof! 
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders, 
Have in these parts from morn till even fought 
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument: 
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest 
That those whom you call'd fathers did beget you. 
Be copy now to men of grosser blood, 
And teach them how to war. 

And you, good yeoman, 
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here 
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear 
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; 
For there is none of you so mean and base, 
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. 
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, 
Straining upon the start. 

The game's afoot: 
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge 

Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'

Daily Office - Apr 23

George, Martyr, Patron of England, c.304

Psalm 5
Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my lamentation.
Hearken to the voice of my crying, my King and my God, for to you I make my prayer.
In the morning, Lord, you will hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal to you, and look up.
For you are the God who takes no pleasure in wickedness; no evil can dwell with you.
The boastful cannot stand in your sight; you hate all those that work wickedness.
You destroy those who speak lies; the bloodthirsty and deceitful the Lord will abhor.
But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy,
I will come into your house; I will bow down towards your holy temple in awe of you.
Lead me, Lord, in your righteousness, because of my enemies; make your way straight before my face.
For there is no truth in their mouth,Min their heart is destruction, their throat is an open sepulchre, and they flatter with their tongue.
Punish them, O God; let them fall through their own devices.
Because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them sing out their joy for ever.
You will shelter them, so that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; and with your favour you will defend them as with a shield.

Psalm 146
Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God.
Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power,
for there is no help in them.
When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth;
on that day all their thoughts perish.
Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Joshua 1.1-9
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying, ‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory. No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’

Ephesians 6.10-20
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

The Collect
God of hosts,
who so kindled the flame of love
in the heart of your servant George
that he bore witness to the risen Lord
by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love
that we who rejoice in his triumphs
may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Selection, Rejection and proper responses

When I said that whilst some who had not been selected felt that they, 'Weren't wanted' and made the remark that, 'This is not what selection does, says or is,' I should have added, 'Or at least shouldn't be!'

One of those who has experienced the dark side of the Church of England's selection process writes:

'I'm sure the church believes this is true. But the system that is in place makes it very difficult to experience being turned down after a BAP as anything other than a rejection, and a violent one at that. If you spend up to two years carefully and often painfully working through a discernment process with your DDO, get recommended to the Bishop, go and see the Bishop and get recommended to a panel, and then are turned down (in my case) primarily on the basis of a single interview with a vocational advisor who you have never met before, it's difficult not to take it very hard. They say it's not rejection, but it sure feels like it.'

One of the things that has impressed me greatly is the support that our DDO has put in place for those who have received a 'No' (or perhaps 'Not Yet").

The other thing that we have is a process whereby potential candidates are met with by Vocations Advisors who help with the discernment and, being one I know this to be true, will say 'No' openly and honestly and work with that person to help them find the niche that exists for their particular form of ministry.

That said there are some whom, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, send people up the chain because they don't want to be the person who says 'No'; an act which is duplicitous and damaging to the person and the well-being of the church and its ministry. After all, as Matthew 5. 37 tells us, 'All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. I'd add to that the  'Not Yet' and tell them what they need to do to gain experience, prove abilities yet unseen and the like - anything outside these is fudge or side-stepping the reality and this will lead to more pain and lost ministries in the long run.

Rightly or wrongly, I do have a great deal of confidence in the selection process and whilst when I went through it I found myself in the company of some who knew everything that was coming (even the questions which they'd learnt answers to beforehand!) I have to say that I knew enough to know what to expect in terms of format but everything was pretty much a surprise, a real benefit, as the selectors saw me and not someone else's answers. There is much to discuss concerning preparation, and we will be looking at this (and the fact that no one gets selected, or not, alone - it is a journey and an outcome that affects more than the one who goes off for the conference).


Becoming a 'Vicar' - Crashed and burned at Selection Conference

I find myself having many conversations with people who tell me how they 'failed' or 'weren't selected' for ministry training in the Church of England. Stipendiary, Self-Supporting (SSM, the ministry formerly known as NSM) or Ordained Local Ministry (OLM) - they've been off and spent some time with assessors who have discerned that 'ordained ministry' is the calling presenting in the person before them (or at least not yet it isn't).

The problem is that what many hear is that, to use the words of one, 'Weren't wanted,' and this is not what selection does, says, or is. What it should be is an aid to help the person presenting themselves discern where they fit - after all, a square peg might well fit into a round hole but it takes lots of hitting with a hammer and damages the peg and the place you're trying to fit it. Better still to see and hear who they are and guide them gently into the right shaped receptacle for them. Less filing, banging, friction and pain all round.

So when someone I converse with on a fairly regular basis wrote, 'I offered for SSM and my offer was declined for perfectly good reasons. However, the report recommended me 'For Ministry in the Church of England' but with no caveat of which type of ministry?' I struggle a little!

I can understand the selectors writing, 'Not this one!' But when the response carries with it the additional words, 'But recommended for 'Ministry in the Church of England', ' I am a little at loss.

There are so many avenues for offering oneself as a worker in the Church of England, there are:

Ordained: Stipendiary Priests and Deacons (paid), Self-Supporting Ministers (unpaid Priests and Deacons), Ordained Local Ministers , Ordained Pioneer Ministers.

Lay:  Mission-Shaped Ministry, Pastoral Care Ministry, Pioneer Ministers, Prayer Ministers, Spiritual Growth Ministry, Readerships, Worship Leading and Youth Ministry (to name but a few).

Other: There are so many opportunities to offer ourselves for roles at church (and other levels) and these are as numerous and diverse and the numbers of churches, ministries and people that we have. The key is to look, feel the match and put oneself forward.

The issue with my friend quoted here is that there appears to be neither parish or diocesan level support for them and their quest to be used and useful in the right place.

They say that they feel a call to, 'Proclaim the Gospel in a public-facing ministry role,' and this can be done in a number of areas, not just ordained, but lay and not just pulpit-based but on the streets in evangelistic settings, teaching (sermons are not the only place for this) - but without support and prayerful guidance, discernment and care, we leave those 'feeling called' confused and, as time passes, impotent, frustrated and perhaps bitter too!

The warning to the Church of England is that I meet too many who echo the words of the person thus far quoted:

'Perhaps I just need to pack it all in and sit in the pews like the rest and be 'done to', or go somewhere else. Unfortunately, the call persists'

They say that cuts have removed Lay Training from the menu for 2013 - 14 (which is pathetic and destined to diminish the numbers coming forward for training and finish off those like our writer) and that there is no one outside of parish clergy - who should be the first port of call and then be supported a diocesan level - to engage with or find succour and guidance.

Shameful, sad, frustrating and unbelievable.

We need to support and encourage those who feel they have a calling - it's what we do:

Equip - Train - Release - Celebrate

Daily Office - Apr 22

Psalm 103
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits;

Who forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities;

Who redeems your life from the Pit and crowns you with faithful love and compassion;

Who satisfies you with good things, so that your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The Lord executes righteousness and judgement for all who are oppressed.

He made his ways known to Moses and his works to the children of Israel.

The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us, neither will he keep his anger for ever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his mercy upon those who fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he set our sins from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so is the Lord merciful towards those who fear him.

For he knows of what we are made; he remembers that we are but dust.

Our days are but as grass; we flourish as a flower of the field;

For as soon as the wind goes over it, it is gone, and its place shall know it no more.

But the merciful goodness of the Lord is from of old and endures for ever on those who fear him, and his righteousness on children’s children;

On those who keep his covenant and remember his commandments to do them.

The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom has dominion over all.

Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.

Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion; bless the Lord, O my soul.

Deuteronomy 9.1-21
Hear, O Israel! You are about to cross the Jordan today, to go in and dispossess nations larger and mightier than you, great cities, fortified to the heavens, a strong and tall people, the offspring of the Anakim, whom you know. You have heard it said of them, ‘Who can stand up to the Anakim?’ Know then today that the Lord your God is the one who crosses over before you as a devouring fire; he will defeat them and subdue them before you, so that you may dispossess and destroy them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.

When the Lord your God thrusts them out before you, do not say to yourself, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to occupy this land’; it is rather because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is dispossessing them before you. It is not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart that you are going in to occupy their land; but because of the wickedness of those nations that the Lord your God is dispossessing them before you, in order to fulfil the promise that the Lord made on oath to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness; you have been rebellious against the Lord from the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place.

Even at Horeb you provoked the Lord to wrath, and the Lord was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you. When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained on the mountain for forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water. And the Lord gave me the two stone tablets written with the finger of God; on them were all the words that the Lord had spoken to you at the mountain out of the fire on the day of the assembly. At the end of forty days and forty nights the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant. Then the Lord said to me, ‘Get up, go down quickly from here, for your people whom you have brought from Egypt have acted corruptly. They have been quick to turn from the way that I commanded them; they have cast an image for themselves.’ Furthermore, the Lord said to me, ‘I have seen that this people is indeed a stubborn people. Let me alone that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven; and I will make of you a nation mightier and more numerous than they.’

So I turned and went down from the mountain, while the mountain was ablaze; the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. Then I saw that you had indeed sinned against the Lord your God, by casting for yourselves an image of a calf; you had been quick to turn from the way that the Lord had commanded you. So I took hold of the two tablets and flung them from my two hands, smashing them before your eyes. Then I lay prostrate before the Lord as before, for forty days and forty nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all the sin you had committed, provoking the Lord by doing what was evil in his sight. For I was afraid that the anger that the Lord bore against you was so fierce that he would destroy you. But the Lord listened to me that time also. The Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him, but I interceded also on behalf of Aaron at that same time. Then I took the sinful thing you had made, the calf, and burned it with fire and crushed it, grinding it thoroughly, until it was reduced to dust; and I threw the dust of it into the stream that runs down the mountain.

Ephesians 4.1-16
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
   he gave gifts to his people.’
(When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

The Collect
Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life:
raise us, who trust in him,
from the death of sin to the life of righteousness,
that we may seek those things which are above,
where he reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Church - Arrivals and Departures

This week I was blessed by some people who were keen to see their church grow and one of the issues that caused some pain was the comings and goings, and oddly despite the pain of caused by loss, it was the gain that brought forth challenges and questions.

'How do we get new people in? . . . How do we get them to stay?' . . . How do we get them to become disciples? . . . How we make it so they don't feel uncomfortable when we stand, sit, kneel or do other stuff? . . . what does this mean for those who want to maintain a traditional church rather than all these 'seeker friendly' things?''

And on the questions went on, and the pain, frustration, fear and feelings of pressure was obvious and, to be honest, rather challenging (for me too!). Here are a few thoughts on the question which may (or perhaps not) be helpful:

Bringing them in
One of the problems is that so many churches, congregations and fellowships have this amazing idea that people will just come in because they are there. If only this was true; but at least some of those asking the questions were under the impression that they needed 'bringing in'.

Roll up, roll us, come and see the show
Another problem is that some put on 'Seeker Services' which have the very best in preaching, welcome, music, refreshments and the like; then having hooked them (or so they think) abysmal service is restored. Do this and you'll not only lose them the next week but you will have an almost impossible task to bring them back again (once bitten - twice shy). And regardless of the 'God will bring them in' words, God might but we can chase them away too!

Keep it honest
If your services are pants then change them! If you make them attractive, efficient, enjoyable, then the current members will be happier (well I know I would have been in some churches I have been in had they done this) and what's on offer will be winsome and appealing too (just don't ditch liturgy, theology or practice to do it ;-)  ).

Getting them to stay
Simple really, make them feel at home and engaged with. If you are someone who wants choir, organ and the like then you're probably not going to stay in a heavy metal church and vv. But, if you can endure the music and the preaching and service and people are not off-putting then you're 40% of the way in! (10% knowing of the church, 10% being invited to a service, 10% for finding you liked the people and what went on another 10% and the final 10% for not feeling:
i. pressured
ii. ignored
iii. conned

How do they becomes disciples
Here's a tough one (for many) because the answer is that we become disciples and model it for the new people. The real sadness is that so many want newcomers to become what the existing members aren't (and if by some chance they do, they often get jealous of the 'zealots') without being committed themselves. Well they often are committed, but to their roles, positions, opportunities and the like - and guard them fiercely. Bring them in - work with them - encourage them - show them what being part of the body is by being it!

But we're traditional
And that's not a problem, after all, that's what the church was for years. In fact some have a problem with the worship band, happy clappy, exuberant styles and feel more comfortable with 'proper church'. That said, King James Version and too much of the Thees, Thous and God knowest stuff and you'll queer the pitch somewhat!

And we're Rad man!
Great, you can bleed the air our of our radiators (you do have a rad' key don't you?).

Seriously - bleeding edge church can be great but dumbing down, amplifying up and the like doesn't make it  relevant, and that's the key. Meeting people where they are not where you want them to be. Contemporary worship and an end to liturgy isn't the answer, because at the end of the day there's still the sacred and sacramental to be dealt with (isn't there?)

Stand, Sit, Kneel (fetch?)
Not a problem - you say, 'We stand to . . .' or, 'We sit (or kneel) to  . . .'
If you tell people what you're doing then, generally, they do it.

This is something that clergy encounter all the time when they arrive at the crematorium or church for funerals, weddings and baptisms. Even if the rest of Christendom thinks it's weird, as long as the people in service are happy and know what they are doing (why helps as well!) - crack on and enjoy relaxed and informed people.

The key to it all is for us to put ourselves in the newcomer's place and engage in some critical questioning narrative  - here's a few for starters:

How would I feel about what's happening if I were a newcomer?
Why should I come in?
Why should I come back?
How do I fit in to the place, people and stuff?
What does it all mean?
Where do I sit?
When do I do stuff (and why)?
Who's here to help me?

(Make up your own)

Saturday, 20 April 2013

This Week - A retrospective

Well, here we are with another week gone and Sunday beckoning. I have been asked to give a brief review of the week that was for someone who wanted to consider various sorts of ministry (apparently we are an estate church!). So here goes:

Sunday: Couple of Common Worship communion services, Annual Church meeting
PM BCP Evensong.

Monday: Daily Office, Staff meeting, Drop-in session (free tea/coffee/cake and biscuits),
PM  funeral visit, administration, Kid's Club, paperwork, Men's meeting (yum!)

Tuesday: Daily Office, Church's Together meeting,
PM administration, home visits, Chaplaincy

Wednesday:  Daily Office, Missioner work
PM Missioner related (office), Funeral and interment, school visit, visits, Housegroup (new)

Thursday: Daily Office, Communion service, drop-in session (free tea/coffee/cake and biscuits),
PM Pastoral visit, School Assembly, paperwork, Missioner teaching session (an expert being anyone away from home!)
Friday: Daily Office, broken computer!!, funeral (Crem')
PM 3 hours off (Sarehole Mill), Kid's Club, office stuff,

Saturday: Daily Office, service planning, chaplaincy

And that's the week done and dusted and ready to go again.

Hope this helps!

A, very, brief look at my week (now you can see why I love this ministry lark!).