30 December 2008
Sometimes you run out of words
Rachel at Velveteen Rabbi is a 'Mensch', a writer and a woman of G-d and she found the words when she wrote There is Nothing More Beautiful Than Peace.
There is nothing I can add.
24 December 2008
Trinity is the 'mother church' of our Circuit and everyone is in a state of shock. However, the congregation have been encouraged by the amount of support that they have received from our wider community as well as words of encouragement from Methodists around the country.
The congregation held its first service in the church hall this past Sunday and Christmas services will also be in the church hall. The Christmas lunch which the church puts on for people in the community who would otherwise spend Christmas alone will also take place as normal. Community groups have been able to meet as normal since the rest of the church apart from the worship area was not damaged.
The congregation could use prayers for wisdom and discernment as they move forward into the future.
12 December 2008
Advent - What is God Like?
If you like this:
Advent brings the question of what God is like into sharp focus. Advent is about waiting for God. The underlying supposition is that we will be waiting eagerly and anxiously - that God’s advent will be a good thing; that it’s something we’d obviously want. Yet if we could persuade people that God was genuinely just in the wings, about to appear, most people would regard that as thoroughly Bad News. In fact, it would absolutely ruin their Christmas! And why? Because the God they anticipate arriving is to be feared or disliked or appeased or grovelled to. Nobody wants to see the person who dislikes them the most appear - especially when that person has absolute power over them! If God doesn’t like you, and God has the power to consign you to hell, or do whatever other sorts of things God might do to express disapproval, disappointment and dislike of you, you will not be anxious to see God!You'll like this
And for goodness’ sake, let’s not shake our heads regretfully, or tut at people’s capacity to get things so wrong: the reason they think like that about God is because that’s the message they’ve got from the Church! And if not actively, they’ve at least heard nothing to act as any strong counter or corrective.
And for all of you who are reading this thinking: 'But people need to know that God is angry with them' - No, they don't.
06 December 2008
Archbishop Sentamu: Mugabe must go
Writing in the Observer newspaper, Dr John Sentamu called for Mr Mugabe and his allies to be overthrown so they can stand trial in The Hague.
Dr Semantu added: "The time to remove them from power has come."
Earlier, Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the world to tell Mr Mugabe that "enough is enough" amid growing concern over the country's cholera outbreak.
05 December 2008
Has anyone out there noticed their heating bills going down?
03 December 2008
Don't protect gays from discrimination
Gay rights groups and newspaper editorials on Tuesday condemned the Vatican for its decision to oppose a proposed U.N. resolution calling on governments worldwide to de-criminalize homosexuality....Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican opposed the resolution because it would "add new categories of those protected from discrimination" and could lead to reverse discrimination against traditional heterosexual marriage.
For the life of me, I do not understand this argument that many Christians, including the Vatican, are using that gay rights undermines heterosexual family life. But lets look at the practical outcome of this: We are saying that we are ready to deprive gay people of their civil rights and that we are even willing to deliberately place them in situations where their lives are at risk, for the sake of 'family values'? Doesn't anyone see anything wrong with this? (If you're a Girardian, this is a great example of the scapegoating mechanism.)
Hat tip to Sebastian for the Reuters article.
01 December 2008
World AIDS Day
30 November 2008
Naming the Name
One of the points that captured my imagination was the idea of 'Naming the Name'. Stephen didn't elaborate a lot on what he meant by that - although it was clear that he meant 'not being afraid to speak the name of Jesus' - so the following reflections are my own views and not his. (In other words, if you don't like what this post is saying, blame me and not him!)
As I understood Stephen, he was saying two things: 1) That Christians (and Methodists) have become shy about speaking the name of Jesus in their everyday conversations and that we have to regain the confidence to be able to do this; 2) That this doesn't mean that we engage in what he called 'bible-bashing' or constantly trying to cajole unwilling listeners to become Christian converts.
How can we confidently speak the 'name of Jesus' in an authentic way without either being shy or overbearing? I think that probably we first need to start learning how to talk to other Christians about these things. I know that the more I learned to talk to other Christians about my faith and God's working in my life, the easier it became to talk to non-Christians. And there really is only one solution for it: practice. I'm not sure it can just be done in Sunday services, either. I expect it requires more small-group involvement that encourages everyone to share what God is doing in their lives.
The other aspect, though, is that I think we also really have to get rid of the idea that The Church makes converts rather than the Holy Spirit makes converts. If I'm brutally honest with myself, I know that I'm guilty of sometimes hoping this or that person who I've been speaking to will come to church. And I think that whenever we have this 'side' when we Name the Name, we won't be sharing good news as much as we will be trying to 'market' Christianity.
A Morning with The President
Stephen brought to us ten points for discussion. These are observations from his travels around Methodism since July and were meant to provoke discussion, which they did. I list them here with the caution that I did not have the impression that these are meant to be 'hard and fast recommendations' but rather conversation starters.
1) Listening to different voices. Listening to voices outside the Church, listening to voices from different geographical areas. Listening to God.
2) Rediscovering the grace of a God who gives unconditionally. Let there be no 'side' to our giving - e.g. no expectation of conversion.
3) Time to renew our confidence in God's workings.
4) Celebrating that we are the world church in Britain. E.g. there are more 'ethnic minority' congregations in the London District than 'white British' congregations. This will have implications for theology and practice.
5) Time for the Church to engage with wider society.
6) Learn what it means to be a Christian in a multifaith culture. Neither apologetic for our Christianity nor aggressively proselytising of people of other faiths. 'Name the Name'
7) Learn a different way to be Ecumenical. 'Ecumenism' no longer means 'joining together in one Church'.
8) What are we doing about discipleship in our churches? Do we ask enough of our members by way of discipleship?
9) Leadership of churches, not management of churches. Sometimes 'leadership' requires a willingness to step into the chaos and take risks.
10) Call to a life of holiness - especially from the 'missing generations'. Stephen noted that pursuing a life of holiness is a 'Methodist distinctive'.
Sunday 16 November 2008 - No Buried Treasure
Sunday 23 November 2008 - Sharing our Gospel
I didn't have to preach today as I got to hear the new Bishop of Worcester, John Inge preach at St. Peter's Church Birchen Coppice. when Foley Park Methodist Church joined with all the churches in the Kidderminster West Parish for a united 'Fifth Sunday Worship' service. Hopefully, more about the Bishop's sermon later in another blog post.
28 November 2008
A Different Sort of Thanksgiving
My friend, C, was a wonderful role model for many people, myself included, and sadly died at the age of 53. Her 'testimony' was given both by her husband and by the minister. They both noted that, in the face of her illness, she was content either to continue to live and serve the Lord or to die and to accept and the place that God had prepared to her. She said that she was in a 'win / win' situation whatever happened.
Do all the good you can,These are not just shallow words because C put them into action. Surely that must be the best testimony to a Christian life well lived?
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
26 November 2008
What I Did on my Silent, Ignatian Retreat
So I thought I would post here a bit about 'What I did on my silent retreat'.
There are many different places around the country that give silent retreats but I went to Loyola Hall Jesuit Spirituality Centre in Rainhill near Liverpool.
I arrived at about 4:00 pm on Monday and was greeted by three staff members and then shown to my room. I was told that Mass would be celebrated at 6:00 pm if I wanted to attend and that dinner would be at 6:45 pm. (None of the activities are compulsory) At dinner, I met the people in my group and, as we were still allowed to talk at this stage, we were able to chat and get to know each other.
At 8:00 pm we met with the two women who would be our 'Prayer Companions' and we were each assigned to a Prayer Companion as well as given a few housekeeping notices as to what would happen when. A few bible passages were suggested for us to choose to meditate upon and the silence began.
The basic pattern of my week was:
1) Meditate on a bible story. I tend to use either Ignatian prayer or Lectio Divina mainly because these ways of 'praying the bible' work well for me.
2) Listen to God in prayer in order to hear and discern where he is leading me.
3) Share the above with my Prayer Companion and agree on the next bible passage, if any.
So, did I spend 16 hours a day on my knees praying? No. Although I did spend several hours praying in either 1-hour or 30-minute chunks. Loyola House has quite a number of different rooms and chapels specifically designed for prayer and there are also extensive grounds for walking. I also walked around Rainhall as well as the Loyola grounds. A lot of my listening to God takes place whilst walking. Did I mention that one is not supposed to read during a silent retreat, either? The silence is actually a way of tuning in to your own mind as well as to what God might have to say.
Silent prayer is not supposed to be about contemplating your navel, either. Ignatian prayer is supposed to have what is termed 'an apostolic mission': i.e. the pray-er is meant to discern what God wants them to do as a Christian disciple.
One last thing. I expect that this way of praying is not for everyone nor is a silent retreat for everyone. God made us all differently and we don't all have to pray in one manner any more than we all have to worship in one manner. One of the most important tenets of prayer is 'Pray as you can, not as you can't'.
21 November 2008
Views from a Retreat
Why Does a Methodist Need to be a(n) [Add Modifier]?
I admit that I'm rather fascinated by the fact that Dave and I often seem to agree on most topics theological but Dave calls himself 'an Evangelical' and I don't. For my own part, I'm pretty sure that this comes from my own personal background and baggage. The kind of theology that 'the other Warnock' is spouting is stuff that I grew up with and I don't really want to have any part of it.
Now, I'm perfectly capable of believing that there are lots of different 'sorts' of Evangelicals around and that they hold a wide range of different views. In fact, I know this from my own background and upbringing.
Aren't these labels that come from outside Methodism in order to set oneself over and against others who are not liberals or not Evangelicals or whatever? The problem with all these labels, it seems to me, is that when someone says 'I'm a liberal', they seem to want to communicate 'I'm not an Evangelical'. And when they say 'I'm an Evangelical', they seem to want to communicate 'I'm not a liberal.'
I'm a Methodist because Methodism believes that God offers his love to everyone (i.e. it is 'catholic'). I'm a Methodist because Methodism believes that the Gospel is such good news, that we are just bursting to tell others (i.e. it is 'evangelical'). I'm a Methodist because Methodism has historically been inclusive (i.e. it is 'liberal'). I want to be all these things. I want to be a Methodist.
I really like the subtitle of Brian D. McLaren's book, A Generous Orthodoxy: 'Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, anabaptist/anglican, methodist, catholic, green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian'.
With due apologies to Dave, who has a great sense of humour and who will, I'm sure, engage this post with the goodwill with which it is intended.
16 November 2008
Protesting for Gay Marriage
Andrew Sullivan's blog captures a number of photos and comments from events around the country.
Meanwhile LutheranChik records: Live Blogging on the 15th: Our Normal, Boring Gay Lives.
13 November 2008
Fit for Purpose
Martyn asked the question whether the Methodist Church is currently 'fit for purpose' and he believes that we are. One of our main purposes is the purpose for which the Methodist Church was born: mission and evangelism.
During his Presidential year, Martyn asked Methodists all over the country what they think characterises the Methodist Church. They answered:
* Inclusive and inviting
* Connected and committed
* Engaged and involved
* Often with the marginalized
Martyn asked the question: 'Do any of these things suggest a group of people who cannot cope with today's culture?' He thinks that all of the above values are ones that are in tune with society today.
But one of the things that Martyn wants to change is Methodism's 'narrative'. We've been telling ourselves for the last 30 years that we are a dying denomination and Martyn would like this to stop and he would like to change our narrative to a more visionary one. However, he also believes that we will need some radical change.
For me, there was one interesting point that came out in our question-and-answer session. Martyn asked the question 'Why do I meet in my travels many people ministering in movements like New Frontiers, in 'fresh expressions of church' and even in the Baptist Union who came to faith in the Methodist Church but who didn't want to remain in Methodism?'
His answer was an interesting one: that most of our services are 'lead from the front' but that, generally speaking, people under 40 don't have a sense of belonging unless they are active participants in worship. He reckons that movements like New Frontiers, etc., are structured so as to use the talents of the people who join. Martyn also observed that many people over 50 will normally expect to be passive participants in church and that many of them will not want to participate in worship, unlike the under 40s.
He reckons that we can't try to force people who want non-participative worship into a participative model and that we need to have a 'multiplex' mode of operation if we are going to attract young people. He suggested that the circuit system could be used to accommodate different communities with divergent narratives. Lots of food for thought and a thoroughly exciting ministerial synod!
07 November 2008
Witnessing as Human 'SPAM'
(Hat tip to Sam Norton at Elizaphanian)
The article makes one really important observation, I think. I've never thought about traditional techniques of witnessing as 'human SPAM', but I think that's exactly what they are and why I object to them so much. Joe, the author of the article, uses the more technical term of 'interruption marketing'.
Again, try to put yourself outside of your own perspective and into the shoes of your intended audience. You're interrupting their time and space to bring them a message you feel is important. And sure, you have the right to choose your faith and the right to free speech, but as GK Chesteron said, to have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it. And ultimately, "You need to hear this because I need to say it" is the ultimate in self-serving causes... And if you're serving yourself, you certainly aren't serving God.Well worth a read. And, by the way, Joe's suggestion to Christians for how to witness to him is 'Be the Prototype'.
06 November 2008
Love has not been served
Both the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and the Roman Catholic Church funded a rigourous campaign in favour of the Proposition. Whatever you think about 'mixing religion and politics' this basically means that tax-exempt dollars have been thrown at a proposition designed to make sure that gay couples don't have the same legal rights as straight couples. Wouldn't it be interesting if, in order to fund these campaigns, Churches had to ask specifically for donations earmarked for them? And wouldn't it be interesting if only money collected within a State were allowed to be spent on passing propositions designed to change State laws?
For those who doubt the power of Advertising and Public Relations the campaign in favour of Proposition 8 didn't mention denying rights to gay people. The whole slant was 'Vote for Proposition 8 in order to protect marriage and family.'
The funny thing is that this Proposition wasn't actually about giving or even maintaining anyone's rights. It was about making sure that the same people who have been discriminated against in law continue to be discriminated against.
Cecilia made a good point in her blog: How has love been served by the passing of Proposition 8? How as love been made to grow?
The 4-variable IQ Test
Your result for The 4-Variable IQ Test...
30% interpersonal, 25% visual, 20% verbal and 25% mathematical!
Your strongest type of intelligence is Interpersonal. You thrive when thinking about people, social situations, and human interaction. That's very touching. You are very likely to be empathetic, sympathetic, and in general, less pathetic, than most other test takers.
Your specific scores follow. On any axis, a score above 25% means you use that kind of thinking more than average, and a score below 25% means you use it less. It says nothing about cognitive skills, just your interest.
Your brain is roughly:
Matching Summary: Each of us has different tastes. Still, I offer the following advice to the world.
1. Don't date someone if your interpersonal percentages differ by more than 20%.
2. Don't be friends with someone if your verbal percentages differ by more than 25%.
3. Don't have sex with someone if their math percentage is over 50%.
05 November 2008
20 October 2008
Persecution of Christians in India
Below is my sermon from Sunday 12th of October which was all about Orissa. The text was Luke 12:1-12
This week's edition of The Church Times carries an article about the persecution of Christians in Orissa State in India. The Church Times is one of the weekly papers published for the benefit of members of The Church of England: it's their Methodist Recorder, if you will.
The persecution began this past August when Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was murdered along with four of his associates. Swami Laxmanananda was a leader in the VHP, a Hindu organisation that believes that the Christian and Muslim world are both dedicated to the persecution of Hindus.
The thing is that the Swami wasn't murdered by Christians. A Maoist group has twice taken credit for the Swami's murder and defended it's actions They stated that the reason for the murder was that 'Laxmanananda was not fighting for Hindus. He was heading the VHP and implementing an agenda targeted against the minorities. No one speaks for minorities. They are exploited.'
The article in The Church Times tells of horrific violence against Christians in Orissa, describing the situation as 'The sort of horror that dulls the senses or excites overstimulation'. Witness in refugee camps had horrible stories to tell. At least 50,000 Christians have been forced out of their homes and a number have suffered torturous deaths.
What has happened in this area, according to those familiar with the situation, has been a long propaganda campaign against Christians and Muslims that seemed to me to be quite similar to Hitler's propaganda against the Jews. The VHP's message that Christians (and Muslims) are dedicated to the eradication of the Hindu people has been taken on board by many individuals in the area.
The Importance of Truth
This morning's Gospel reading is actually all about the persecution of the early Christian Church although it might not sound like it at first hearing.
Remember that Luke was writing after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple by the Romans and the knowledge of these events must have inevitably have had an effect on the way he told the story of Jesus' life. In this section of Luke's Gospel, Jesus is warning his disciples about the coming persecution of his followers - something about which Luke had firsthand knowledge.
The reading is an exhortation to Christian disciples to be bold in proclaiming the truth of Christ when persecution comes and to draw on the strength and the witness of the Holy Spirit for their boldness.
Truth is something that is important for good functioning of human society and it's absolutely vital in the life of the Church.
Luke 12:3 says 'Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops'
As Christians, of course, it's easy for us to sympathise with our Christian brothers and sisters in Orissa.
It's easy for us to see in the VHP an example of how an organisation with good intentions turned to evil. Because the VHP arose out of a Hindu movement in the 1950s and 1960s to ban cow slaughter in India and speak up for the Hindu people and for Hindu culture. For a number of decades, it engaged in it's work through peaceful demonstration, petitions and challenging laws it felt to be unjust.
And it opened schools and hospitals for poor Hindus.
The truth is important and so with the story of Christians in Orissa. Because the mainstream Hindu organisations have been joining with the Christian Church in India to condemn the violence against Christians. But many ordinary Hindus have gone further than mere condemnation: risking their own lives in order to protect Christian neighbours.
We can see that the truth is a complicated business but that's why it's important to tell the truth.
It's even more important in situations where we are tempted to turn some group or another into a scapegoat. When the truth of a situation is not told, then it becomes easier to scap-goat individuals according to some category: all Hindus are evil, all Muslims are evil, all teenagers are thugs, all men are bastards. Whenever we hear these kinds of simplistic statements, the alarm bells should ring and we should suspect that the whole truth of the situation is not being told.
This morning's Gospel reading tells us that, in the face of persecution, disciples of Christ are not to be hypocrites. In this case, 'hypocrites' doesn't mean people pretending to be better than they are: it means people who don't stand up for what they say they believe.
For us hypocrisy might mean not speaking up to challenge the current mood of anti-Muslim sentiment. Speaking up against anti-Islamic sentiment doesn't mean that we affirm and profess the tenets of the Muslim religion. It simply means speaking the truth that the situation is much more complicated that than a simple story of 'we are good and they are bad'. It is not Muslims who are terrorists, but terrorists who who are hiding behind the name of God to further their own ends.
Of course, acting in truth or speaking up for the truth can be dangerous. Jesus knew that. That's why he promised the Holy Spirit to us as his disciples: to help us to do what is right, even in the face of danger or persecution.
That includes, of course, speaking up for the truth of the Gospel and of the Christian faith. But I believe it certainly also includes speaking the truth in all situations and unmasking any lies told in secret.
It's possible that this sermon was not as 'spiritual' as you would have liked.
I wonder if some of you might even have thought it was too 'political'.
However, today's Gospel reading does talk about standing up for truth in the face of persecution. It reminds us that when we do have the courage to defend the truth, that the Holy Spirit will be with us.
When we hear Jesus say that he is the way, the truth and the life, I believe this statement means that Jesus is the Truth. But I also believe it means that God cares deeply that the truth is told.
Sometimes our faith is not just about what we call 'spiritual' things, but it must also be about what we do: About having the courage to speak the truth on the one hand but also about putting in the work to seek the truth in complicated situations. We should not settle for answers that are easy but rather seek for answers that reflect the truth of the situation.
My prayer this morning is that we will all witness to the truth of Christ as our Saviour and also speak the truth in all situations, even when it is dangerous and unpopular.
And may we each be given the guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit as we seek to be beacons of the light of truth. Amen
http://in.ibtimes.com/articles/20081007/orissa-persecutiono-attack-maoist-vhp-leader-laxmananda-saraswati-india-christian-manmohan-singh.htm, Accessed 11 October 2008.
14 October 2008
Just thought I'd share some autumn photos. The building is one of my chapels and was built as a Wesleyan Chapel in 1795. We recently found out that it's apparently one of the older chapel buildings in the country. The entire centre of town where the chapel is located is that age, so no one in the congregation ever gave it a second thought!
11 October 2008
Interview with Martyn Atkins
This is a good article and an interesting one although I usually don't agree with Methodist Preacher's general approach to blogging.
02 October 2008
Tired of Blogging
27 September 2008
Appeal for Zimbabwe
This is an appeal for Zimbabwe as the aid ban is lifted and nearly 4 million people will go hungry in October if no action is taken
As the ban on aid agencies operating in Zimbabwe is lifted, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is supporting an appeal by ACT International that will deliver food and agricultural support to some of the country’s most vulnerable people.
Over 2 million people were in need of urgent food supplies when the Zimbabwean government ordered all aid agencies to suspend their humanitarian and development work on June 4. The ban only worsened an already desperate situation in a country with growing political instability, 85% of the population out of work and inflation levels that were spiralling out of control.
Amanda Norman, MRDF Supporter Relations Director, said: ‘We might think that the financial situation in Britain is grim, but the economic disaster faced by those in Zimbabwe puts things well and truly into perspective. Millions of Zimbabweans have been caught up in this complex humanitarian crisis and it’s hard to know how to even begin to make a difference. This appeal enables us to work with others to alleviate some of the suffering in the short term, and empower people to begin rebuilding their lives.’
It is estimated that nearly 4 million people could go hungry in October, with this number peaking at 5 million between January and March 2009. Now that the ban has been lifted, many will now be able to access much-needed food supplies.
The appeal through Action by Churches Together (ACT) will distribute monthly food rations of maize, cooking oil and beans to over 26,000 people in some of the most vulnerable communities. Farmers will be able to rebuild their livelihoods thanks to the provision of seeds, fertilisers and training in conservation farming that will help them to guard against the impact of drought.
Donations to MRDF’s appeal for Zimbabwe can be made by debit or credit card on 020 7224 4814, or by cheque, payable to “MRDF (Zimbabwe emergency)”, posted to MRDF, Methodist Church House, 25 Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5JR.
Taxpayers are encouraged to gift aid their donations where possible, adding a value of 28p to every pound they give, at no extra personal cost.
MRDF makes small miracles possible for people living in the world’s poorest communities. For more information, visit www.mrdf.org.uk
Source: Methodist Church News Release 26/09/08
18 September 2008
I am an opinionated catholic
What's wrong with this picture? First of all, I don't actually consider myself to be a theological 'liberal'. I don't hold the view that a person can call themself a Christian and believe just anything. For instance, I do not believe that it is orthodox Christianity to deny the divinity of Christ nor orthodox Christianity to deny the Trinity. Of course, an individual may struggle with these concepts, but - in my opinion - the church community may not deny them.
I do not consider myself a 'liberal', I consider myself a 'catholic'. A catholic Christian believes in the universal offer of God's salvation to all of creation. We believe that there is no person to whom God omits to offer his salvation: 'All shall be invited to the feast of life! Good news!' I do not know who is damned - if anyone - and I'm glad it's not my decision to make; that decision belongs to God.
I can see where some people might think my view is 'liberal', but it's not about 'anything goes'. It's about 'all are invited'.
This is actually a strongly-held conviction. I don't believe that all opinions are valid. When someone tells me that God excludes some people from his offer of salvation and that human beings can identify these individuals by their wrong ideas, I will disagree strenuously. Because I don't believe that all opinions are valid.
I am an opinionated catholic and I will disagree with you if I think you are wrong. And I'll try to do so in a civil and cordial manner.
12 September 2008
He has tried to write for the general public so that even people like me will understand the article. And I think I pretty much did understand.
As he says in his post, my friend is upset by the news coverage suggesting that the LHC will destroy the world. He says that there is as much chance of that happening as of falling off the edge of the world if you sail to the horizon.
And for those of you who keep lists of Methodist bloggers, my friend is a Local Preacher although I suspect that most of his posts won't be theological.
The site gives advice as to what to do in the event of earth-destruction, aka 'geocide'.
25 August 2008
The most intriguing comment was by my blog-friend Tim Chesterton who suggested that when people say that other religions worship 'different Gods', that they are saying that they believe different things about the God they worship than people of other religions.
The problem I have with Tim's suggestion is that I often feel I'm worshipping a 'different God' from many people who call themselves Christians. And I sometimes feel that my concept of God has more similarity with people of other religions - particularly progressive Jews, Sikhs and Baha'i.
What I specifically mean is that there are many Christians who seem to worship a hard God who is eagerly waiting for human beings to slip up so that he can punish them. These individuals wouldn't say that this is their official doctrine, but they act that way. They also voice objections to my brand of 'soft and fluffy' Christianity that really believes that Jesus meant 'forgive your enemies' when he uttered these words. On the other hand, many progressive Jews, Sikhs and Baha'i would say that a merciful God who calls us to forgiveness is at the centre of their beliefs. I often feel that I have more in common with some of these individuals than with other Christians, yet I feel it is my duty not to reject my Christian brothers and sisters.
As Sally noted, this is a very complicated question and I'm not claiming to have all the answers to it. I thought it was an interesting discussion, though.
20 August 2008
Durham Cathedral Bookshop
Once there are 50 signatories, Phil is going to forward the petition to the Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral.
You may be interested in signing the petition and passing the word along.
Yikes! How did that happen?
Today, I've just received an invitation to our 30th reunion.
Yikes! Where did those 15 years go? It doesn't seem that long ago. The 30 years since graduation does seem 'long ago', but it seems more like 20 years than 30.
19 August 2008
Challenge and Comfort
I'm also currently reading Ken Costa's book God at Work. On page 43, he uses slightly different words to a phrase I've heard before. Costa writes:
As we engage with society's issues, we are called to confront anything that draws people away from God, but at the same time to comfort those who are struggling. But how often does our society end up confronting those who need comforting and comforting those who need confronting?I've head this saying before as 'afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted' but I think I prefer Costa's 'confront the comfortable and comfort those who need comforting', even if the phrase doesn't have the same word-play. I think Costa is absolutely right that there is something about human nature that makes us want to 'get in good' with those who are in power rather than to confront them with their wrong-doing. Similarly, the sinful part of human nature means that we are often tempted to hurt those who need help: be it on a macro-scale (e.g. rich countries exploiting poor countries) or at a one-to-one level (e.g. taking out our frustrations on someone who we perceive can't hurt us).
When we say that 'the church is too nice' do we mean that we are not challenging those who are comfortable in their wrongdoing? If so, then we need to think and pray about how we can have the courage to speak God's truth in a challenging but constructive way. By the same token, there will always be people in society and in the church who need comforting and we are most certainly called to comfort those who need it.
It's not just 'the world' that is tempted to confront those who need comforting: the Church has also fallen into this temptation and succumbing to it is probably an excellent way to serve The Enemy and to be a bad witness for Christ.
15 August 2008
We rented the car at Cleveland Hopkins Airport which is about 40 miles from where my parents live in Hudson, Ohio. Most of the driving from the airport to Hudson is on the freeway (motorway).
On Tuesday morning, the front right tyre had a blow-out and we rang for roadside assistance. No problem. Someone showed up in about 45 minutes and put the spare tyre on the car. So far, so good.
But, of course we don't want to drive around with the spare tyre and we would want to have a standard tyre fitted. This is where the problems started.
Well, the company said, you can swap your car for another. Except none of the concessions - other than the one at the airport - have any extra cars. OK, no problem, the company says. Here's the name of a garage; you can go there and they will fit a new tyre. Good job we rang the garage. No, we won't fit the new tyre unless you pay for it because The Famous Car Rental Company don't pay their bills.
We are not happy bunnies. We have left the rental car in my parents' driveway and we're using their car for the duration of our visit. We'll still have to drive the 40 miles to the airport tomorrow on the motorway at 50 miles an hour. Going this slow on the motorway is a terrifying experience if you've never tried it.
07 August 2008
Heard on the Television
The bible has nothing to say about selling beer to minors!Have a nice day! ;-)
03 August 2008
Who did Jesus most criticise?We're all different and I'd not use precisely the same language as Sam.
I used to think that it was the people who were sure of their own salvation.
I now see that as misleading.
I think Jesus most criticised those who were sure of somebody else's damnation.
Those were the people whom Jesus damned.
I think I'd say 'I used to think that the people Jesus was criticising was those who were sure of their own salvation. I now think that he was criticising those who were sure of the damnation of others.'
I'm not sure that Jesus 'damns' those who think that they know who is damned. But I do think that we are enjoined many times in the New Testament not to make these judgements.
02 August 2008
Steve Colbert on The Lambeth Conference
'This year's Lambeth Conference has been steeped in controversy. And, unlike the good old days, it can't be settled by beheading your wife.'
01 August 2008
These are short videos (in French!) produced by The Diocese of Besancon. They follow the pattern of the television show Star Academy presenting the every-day lives and activities of priests in short videos. Fascinating.
25 July 2008
1993 Resolutions on Human Sexuality
'...the need to transcend the common habit of discussing the 1993 Resolutions as if they were solely about homosexuality.'This got me wondering how many Methodists have actually read the resolutions? Because homosexuality isn't really their main focus. They are - as the title suggests - about human sexuality.
Here is a link to the resolutions on the official Methodist Website: Human Sexuality The page also includes a bit of further discussion and some links.
As I understand the 'debate' about reviewing these resolutions within our denomination, there are people on 'both sides' of the homosexuality issue who want the possibility of individual interpretation closed on the matter of homosexual acts. Some want a clear condemnation of all homosexual acts. Others want a clear permission to bless Civil Partnerships in church.
Why were these resolutions not reviewed? I was present at Conference when the possible review of the resolutions was discussed. Conference had asked for written responses from the Methodist people and the response was huge by normal standards. I don't remember the exact number, but David Gamble said that on most consultations if they received 5 responses from churches or Methodist members, this could be considered 'a deluge of opinion'. There were apparently hundreds of responses to the consultation request on Human Sexuality ('Pilgrimage of Faith') and the results indicated that views were about equally divided on both sides of the homosexuality issue. Results also indicated that most respondents did not want to review the Resolutions.
24 July 2008
Why am I doing this? Well the post that Dave links to, Will Positive Examples be Taken Seriously? throws out the thought that Christians don't offer many 'positive' thoughts on 'how to have a good marriage'.
So, as an egalitarian - someone who believes men and women are equal - I have a few simple but related thoughts:
1) Never take your spouse for granted.
What's my theological basis for this? Agape love. A love that looks first outside oneself and asks the question 'How can I serve another'? Or as the old-fashioned language used to say 'Self-sacrificial love'. This is not only the basis for marriage, it's the basis for Christian discipleship.
Many Christians say that these ideas are unbiblical and that husbands have authority over wives. I'm still trying to understand how agape love is unbiblical. I know from experience that this sort of attitude does work as a path to a loving marriage. I also know that I'd be very wary of marrying any man who insisted on retaining the option of always having 'final authority' over me.
23 July 2008
Quote of the day
Jesus took a little child in his arms and said [to the disciples], in effect, "Here's your ministry. Give yourselves to those who can bring you no status or clout. Just help people. You need this little child. You need to help this little child, not just for her sake, but more for you sake. For if you don't, your whole life will be thrown away on an idiotic contest to see who is the greatest. But if you serve her - often and well and cheerfully and out of the limelight - then the day may come when you do it without thinking, 'What a wonderful thing I've done.' Then you will begin serving naturally, effortlessly, for the joy of it. Then you will begin to understand how life in the kingdom works."Aren't most of the values of 'the world' centred around 'An idiotic contest to see who is the greatest' in one way or another? This is the big way that I think The Church of Christ can be 'counter cultural'.
Those Christian Bookshops
A number of Methodist bloggers have already reported about the silencing of Dave Walker on the subject of the decimation of the former 'SPCK' bookshops. The blog 'Connexions' provides a number of links here. Dave Walkers's posts on this subject have been characteristic of his style: factual, humorous and gentle.
The anonymous blog Asingleblog's Weblog provides further information as well as a a prayer for Stephen Jeynes, the manager of the Worcester shop who took his own life. My husband and I talked to Stephen in the shop about a month before he died. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
Further words fail me in the face of what has been a terrible tragedy for many people.
18 July 2008
She's Her Own Blogger Now
17 July 2008
The President Blogs
I'm under the impression that Stephen and Vice President David Walton are new to blogging, so howz about going and encouraging them with a comment?
12 July 2008
How to Comment / Blogging Policy
There are two ways to comment on my blog if you don't have a 'Blogger' account and don't want to have one.
1) The simplest way is to go to the bottom of a post and look for the link to 'Post a Comment'. You will be given a comment box where you can write your comment. Choosing 'Anonymous' is the most straightforward way to comment but you will need to type the letters of the 'Word Verification' in the box. This to to prevent automated SPAM commenting. I'd appreciate it if you felt able to use either your first name (e.g. 'Howard') or give yourself a pseudonym (e.g. 'Good Girl'); however, this is not mandatory.
2) Another way to comment without having a 'Blogger' account is to choose to post using a name or URL. Here you can give yourself a name: either a real name or a pseudonym.
My Policy on Commenting
1) First of all, I reserve the right to be the supreme judge and Grand Poobah when it comes to making decisions about removing posts. No point arguing with me. This is my blog and I reserve editorial rights.
2) That said, I will normally allow all comments that address the substance of an issue and which do not attack a person or persons.
3) I will not normally remove posts that disagree with my views but I reserve the right to decide what is and what is not a personal attack. I also reserve the right to make a judgement call about repetitive posts if a conversation is not advancing; there is a point beyond which I will lose patience with fisking and repetition.
4) I will normally not enable the comment approval function unless I plan on being away from my computer. Because I'm not particularly organised, I reserve the right to initiate the comment approval function without notice. Again, no point arguing with me; it's my blog.
5) All posts of an explicitly sexual or violent nature will be removed immediately and legal steps taken, where indicated.
11 July 2008
A Testimony of Hope
Read for yourself an inspiring testimony in the face of death.
I never met Delle in person although I spoke to her on the phone once. We met on a Christian discussion group: Delle, a gifted writer and an inspiring preacher. A Roman-Catholic, African-American lay-woman whose priest allowed her to exercise her God-given gift in the pulpit despite a proscription against lay preachers.
Back in 2003, I worked on a preaching journal and I thought that Delle would make an inspiring contributor. She did. This publication paid a small honorarium to its contributors and I decided to write Delle a personal cheque in American dollars. Sadly, that's how I found out about her death: she'd never cashed the cheque and it was returned to me by post by her executor.
Delle's PS in the face of death: "Remember, brothers and sisters, either we believe in eternal life or we don't." Knowing her from her writing, I feel that this was not a strident demand for orthodoxy but rather a gracious and joyful expression of hope.
09 July 2008
Along with four other ordinands who were trained at Wesley House, I was ordained as a Presbyter '..of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ' at 4:30 on Sunday the 6th of July 2008 at Toll Gavel United Church in Beverley. Past President of Conference Ian White presided and past President of Conference Inderjit Bhogal preached. For those who know Inderjit Bhogal, it was hardly surprising that he preached on justice, inclusivity and interfaith dialogue: a message that my non-church going husband appreciated very much.
One of the scariest bits of the ordination service for the ordinands comes early in the service when the congregation is told to declare 'they are worthy'. This is something that is hard to hear because, of course, no individual is 'worthy' of any kind of ministry in and of themselves, but only through the grace of Christ. This sounds overly-pious as I write it, but one thing that came home to me on the retreat is my own inadequacy for this office and how much I genuinely need to rely on the grace and power of God in order to serve God and my neighbour.
The laying on of hands happened after the sermon and the recitation of the Nicene Creed and before the prayers of intercession and communion. We were asked to declare our lifelong commitment to ordained ministry, to affirm scripture as revealing all things necessary for salvation through Jesus Christ, to affirm that we believe in the doctrines of the Christian Church, that we accept the discipline of 'this church' and that we will be faithful in worship, prayer and in receiving Holy Communion.
I was officially ordained by past President of Conference Ian White - who represents the entire Connexion in this service. I had hands laid on me by a Bolivian bishop and my assisting minister and friend, Mark. Hands were laid on the five of us whilst we knelt and it was done carefully and thoughtfully - not a rushed job! I had my eyes closed, but it was a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Perhaps the most special bit was the fact that, after having hands laid upon me, Ian White put his hand on my shoulder and said 'Bless you' as a father might have done to a beloved daughter; it felt very personal and warm.
Following the laying on of hands, close friends and family of each ordinand came up to the communion rail and took communion with 'their' ordinand; this was also very special.
As you might expect at a Methodist service, there was lots of rousing hymn-singing. The traditional ordination hymns as laid out in The Methodist Worship Book were sung as well as a number of more contemporary hymns and songs during the distribution of communion. My two Roman Catholic friends who attended the ordination had not heard of the Methodist reputation for hymn-singing and were somewhat surprised - albeit pleasantly, I think.
Just like the service of Reception into Full Connexion, this was a very special service. The whole day felt joyful and perfect and, personally, I enjoyed having the two very different sorts of services.
(I have posted photographs of both the Reception into Full Connexion and the Ordination on the 'web but I don't want to give a link here. Please email me and I will send you the URL for the photos.)
Reception into Full Connexion
Getting right to the point, the service of Reception into Full Connexion on Sunday the 6th of July was wonderful and joyous.
Someone said to me about a week earlier that they had not thought about the impact of 'Reception into Full Connexion' on their ordination day and that the service had come as something of a surprise emotionally. I think for that reason I was assuming that it would be an important service and it was.
Conference attendees, along with family and friends of the ordinands, assembled in the main hall at Scarborough Spa before the service whilst those being accepted into full connexion gathered upstairs for prayers and last minute instructions. In addition to the presbyteral and diaconal ordinands, there were a number of ministers from other Christian churches (mainly but not always Methodist Churches abroad) who had already been ordained and were being accepted as ministers in full connexion with the British Methodist Church.
The reception was done in the context of a Service of the Word which was also the official Opening Service of Conference. The new Vice President of Conference, David Walton, gave the sermon on the topic of 'Choose Life'. It was a grace-filled sermon covering many aspects of what 'life' means to different individuals in different contexts and also dealt with the themes of grace and inclusivity.
I wish I had the text of the promises we made, but the general gist was that we accept the doctrines and disciplines of the Methodist Church and that we promise to be faithful disciples and servants of Christ and of his Church.
02 July 2008
Durham Retreat 2
Today we had a morning of silence from about 10:00 am until lunch time at 12:30. I went out for a walk on my own and took some nice photos of the countryside. It was supposed to rain today but it didn't and the weather was - to my mind - perfect for walking.
Then I accidentally went to Mass at 12:00 in St. Cuthbert's Chapel (second picture above). I thought I'd go pray there for a bit and I arrived just as the priest was walking in. It seemed like the best course of action to join in! I didn't take communion as the centre obviously knows that they have a bunch of Methodist ministers this week and I didn't want to put the priest in an awkward position. There were only three other people there besides the priest: two sisters from the resident community and a deacon. A sister and the deacon greeted me warmly afterwards and we talked a bit.
Otherwise, the day held some surprises/challenges, particularly in the evening when I was put out of my comfort zone three times. I went up for anointing at our communion service. Something I'm uncomfortable with because I don't like going up to bare my feelings to people I don't know well and then get prayed at for two minutes; somehow it seems contrived to me. I felt that God told me 'Just say you've come up because you're out of your comfort zone and just receive what I have to give you.' So I did. (Please note that this paragraph is a personal reflection about my feelings and not a theological reflection on how anyone 'should' or 'must' think or feel.)
01 July 2008
Durham Retreat 1
Thought I'd post two photos and a few thoughts. (I know I don't usually post personal stuff, but hey, it's my blog! *grin*)
Along with a number of other ordinands, I'm here at Ushaw College for a retreat before our ordination in Scarborough on Sunday. Above are some photos of Durham Cathedral from the outside (no photography allowed inside) and of Ushaw College where we are staying.
A recurring theme for me during this retreat seems to be Psalm 139. My prayer group has been praying through this psalm for about the last month. I and another woman have sometimes found it challenging because, for those of us who grew up in authoritarian church structures, this psalm is often used as a threat, rather like George Orwell's 1984 television screen that spies into people's homes to make sure that they are thinking and behaving properly.
I have, however, been finding both consolation and challenge in this Psalm and it was used again today by one of our retreat leaders. I prayed through the psalm again on my own this evening using the 'Common Worship' translation. I was hit by the first part of verse 2: 'You mark out my journeys and my resting places'.