Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Friends and Heroes - the Bible on kids TV

I recieved the following this morning, which I've edited down a bit:

'Friends and Heroes', an animated series of Old and New Testament stories, went out on digital TV earlier this year and is now to be broadcast on BBC2.

The new broadcast schedule begins on September 11th and runs through till December 11th. The broadcast output is largely targeted at schools - the free lesson plans and pupil worksheets created in association with the Stapleford Centre will help teachers to use these programmes as part of the national syllabi for all the countries in the British Isles. A “Teachers’ Guide” to Friends and Heroes, and all the lesson plans are already available on http://uk.friendsandheroes.com/lessons.

The Friends and Heroes web site at www.friendsandheroes.com has lots more information – including the full BBC broadcast schedule. The web site also provides details of all the DVDs of the Series. These are fully accessible – with subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing and for community languages used in Britain, and with audio descriptions for those with visual impairment. Unlike the broadcasts, these can also be used by churches – and of course outreach workers who visit many centres.

There is a kids section of the website with lots of free video clips, activities, puzzles and games at www.friendsandheroes.tv

If this new broadcast is successful, the BBC might consider showing Series Two and Series Three when they are completed in 2008 and 2009.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What's wrong with this country

There were a lot of headlines and soul-searching editorials in the press yesterday following the tragic shooting of Rhys Jones in Liverpool. The Sun hoped that it would be a wake up call and tip us into changing as a nation, and quoted the Bishop of Liverpool. Today, alongside vital stories like 'vicious slug tried to eat my head', they are offering a £100,000 reward for help in catching Rhys's murderer, following the poor public response to appeals for help.

In a seemingly unconnected incident, a member of staff in a local jewellers yesterday encouraged me to lie in order to claim a free 'repair' under a warranty we had for a ring. It had gone in for resizing for the 2nd time, at a cost of £21, but the shop assistant advised me to say it had been damaged, so that it would be covered by the guarantee and be done for free. I wonder if, should someone break into the shop and steal a £21 watch, she'd think it no different? I said I'd rather not tell lies to save money, and paid up. She probably thought I was a fool.

But is there a connection? The Sun has to offer people money to get them to do what a decent citizen would do anyway. Why do we need to bribe people to be good? A shop assistant assumes that her average customer given the choice between
a) tell lies and save money
or b) tell the truth and pay what's owing.
would choose 'a'
In both cases, money overrides morality.

"I know, cause I've seen it, it was great, and I want it.... and I will stop at nothing just to get what I want... this is the modern way." The Kaiser Chiefs (The Modern Way) are spot on, we are not a moral nation, everything is about self interest. Shockingly, I was reading some popular Bible study notes this morning, trying to persuade me that a good reason to worship God was that it made God more likely to bless me. It's the same selfism wrapped in spiritual language.

Incidentally, £100,000 is the same as the Big Brother prize money. I don't know if that's significant.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

denominational weather

Someone emailed and asked me if all the rain made me feel like a baptist, to which I responded 'no, more like an Anglican, slightly wet and hard to ignite'. Not sure how fair that is to my fellow anglicans, I guess it depends what day of the week you catch us.

I know there are various forms of the Light Bulb Joke attributed to different denominations (e.g. 'how many (insert your own church) does it take to change a light bulb - what do you mean, change?/11 - 1 to change a light bulb and 10 to form the subcommittee/3 - one to change the bulb and 2 to cast out the spirit of darkness in the old one/I told you we should have stuck with candles/1 - just stand him on a chair underneath the bulb, start playing Kendrick songs and rotate the chair etc.). Wondered if there were meteorological equivalents, what kind of weather patterns do we associate with being Pentecostal, Methodist, Catholic, charismatic, liberal etc.


Excllent post on Peter Oulds blog about Learco Chindamo, the man convicted of killing Philip Lawrence, whose story (he won't be deported when he comes out of jail, even though he's not originally from here) has been all over the press and airwaves in recent days. Great example of not being blown back and forth by the winds of public opinion and silly-season scaremongering.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

New Wine thoughts

A couple of weeks after taking 2 day trips to New Wine, some thoughts on the conference. Fellow blogger Steve Tilley has already put up his thoughts, interesting reading!

Main talks - done by one of the several St. Aldates Oxford speakers, Simon Ponsonby. Hadn't come across him before - I liked the way he got into the Greek and wasn't afraid to dig deep into the text. Was a bit less sure about the fact that everything he said about the church was negative. Okay, it is appalling that during the whole of his selection process for ordination, nobody once asked him if he loved Jesus - something which for Jesus was a pretty vital qualification for leadership (see John 21). It was good to have a mixture of passion and scholarship, and to have one or two 'soundbites' - a quote from (surprisingly) Nietzche "a long obedience in the same direction" which is about as good a definition of discipleship as I've come across.

Seminars: I tended to pick out the ones on mission, and they were all very good. Lots about how things are changing and how to get the church ready, and John Dunnett from CPAS was especially good.

Went to one on 'community', which is something which keeps cropping up at the moment, led by a bloke who leads a community house in Bristol. Some good stuff on the kind of shared values and rules a community needs, and on the kind of things which lead people to live in community:
- defensive (to preserve a tradition)
- offensive (a sense of mission)
- spiritual (to create a place of prayer)
- vocational (a sense of calling)
- idealistic (seeking to create an alternative society)

and that the best and healthiest communities combine these qualities.

My struggle was that this was all about intentional community at the Premiership level - community houses, monasteries etc., and my quest at the moment is for an intermediate level - something which lies inbetween this and the common use of 'community' to mean people living in the same area or sharing one common factor (e.g. 'the online community'). How can the church, or a cell group, or any group of Christians, embody community in a deeper and more practical way? How can the mission cells in the new estates live as dispersed community in various households and workplaces, yet with common values, prayers and goals? I guess this would be something like the 3rd order Franciscans, or something like a 'rule of life' community which is bound together by the 'rule', even though they live separately.

Evening talks: Can't remember a thing about Monday apart from lots of knocking on a door with a big stick. It was about Revelation 3, but nothing specific has stuck. I was a bit tired by then anyway. Baroness Cox on Tuesday was excellent, talking about the persecuted church, obviously a woman of massive courage, but presented in such away that you forgot the speaker and put all your attention on the message. Frightening stories - Chrsitians in North Korea killed by having molten lead poured over them, Christians in Sudan being denied aid unless they convert to Islam (and then face the death penalty if they try to convert back), Christians in Nigeria being murdered and brutally assaulted by jihadist mobs. Hearing that a Dutch bishop wants us all to call God 'allah' alongside all of that just made me fume - the story is probably already being shoved in the faces of Christians in Muslim countries: 'look, one of your own bishops says we have the right name for God!'

General ambience: really good, liked the fact that coffee and cakes were served in all the venues, so you could grap a cappucino during a long anecdote, or munch through a chocolate doughnut during the soundcheck. The marketplace was full of interesting stuff, and found a company that does coffee machines, may be ordering one for our cafe service.

I always enjoy New Wine, though I find myself not getting as carried away in the worship as I once did, don't know if that's age or a bit of jadedness creeping in. (It may just be that the music isn't really my genre, if we had a lyricist who could rewrite Coldplay and U2 songs for worship that would be more my cup of coffee.) The festival doesn't seem to be getting 'stuck', there's been quite a bit of change at the leadership level, and a good variety of speakers and tweaks to the format. I also like the chance to get prayed for, which seems to be offered at New Wine at the slightest opportunity - the anonymity of a big festival is good, and it's a reminder that I need prayer just as much as the next man.

Monday, August 20, 2007

British Food Fortnight

There's a chance to stop eating curry for breakfast from 22nd September - 7th October. Our rural affairs chappy has sent some stuff on British Food Fortnight, which might make for some creative outreach uses of the Harvest season. Jesus seemed to like meeting people over food, and quite a lot of folk will be having their Alpha launch suppers around that time as well. Maybe I should do a sponsored eat, as there'll be so much food doing the rounds.

The blurb for BFF and churches includes this bit:
Among the possibilities you may consider:
· Link with other people who may be doing something in British Food Fortnight, e.g. local shops, pubs, farms, markets, restaurants, hotels & schools.
www.britishfoodfortnight.co.uk lists events and who is taking part.
· Get in touch with your local school and offer to help them celebrate British food and farming as well as harvest festival.
www.yearoffoodandfarming.org.uk has lots of ideas on how to do this.
· Offer space in church literature, parish magazines, community newsletters for mention of what others are planning or doing for British Food Fortnight and flag worship as being part of the event.
· Add elements to your harvest thanksgiving that will make it even more appealing to those who do not normally come – the young, shop workers, migrant workers, cooks/chefs, food processors, retailers, farmers.
· Explore how raw materials turn into the finished product – cooking utensils, shopping trolleys, tasting opportunities as well as a procession of raw materials and finished products.
· If others are holding events talk to them and offer a small additional worship element, even just an opening prayer and an easy to sing item.
· Arrange a Harvest Supper on a farm with local food and drink, a short act of worship in a barn and finish with a barn dance or similar.
· Ensure that any church catering, particularly during this fortnight, uses local food and drink and Fair Trade products.
· Contact local organisations that have a meal as part of their life e.g. Schools, Rotary, Lunch Clubs, Old People’s Homes and suggest they organise a special British Food Fortnight meal and offer someone from the church as a speaker.

I'm making contact with the local garden centre to see if we can do a Harvest/Pet blessing thing around then. Anyone else in Yeovil area feel inspired, or sufficiently hungry.....?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Rural Fresh Expressions Conference

I had a flier about this a few months back, but there were exasperatingly few details on the website. No longer....

The conference is 13-14th September, so less than a month away now, and is being held in Leicestershire. It costs £85, and the parent website www.ruralmissions.org.uk tells you more about the folk who are organising it.

The website itself is a good idea - I found it a bit busy, and it's rather frustrating that you can't find out what free goodies are available to subscribers until you become a subscriber. There are, apparently, articles and resources which you can get, but until you sign up for a tenner they won't tell you what they are. I'm with the Anglican Church Planting website on this one - just put it all up for free. Or maybe I'm just a stingy northerner.....

In the meantime, if you want to think about rural fresh expressions of church but can't make the conference, the very good Expressions 2 DVD from the Church of England has a 20 minute section on rural fresh expressions, with 4 different examples of new forms of church in rural areas. The good thing is that little of it is rocket science, and there are some discussion notes available too, along with a full transcript of the DVD.

Mill House Retreats, Devon

Free plug for a very nice place just over the Devon border, if you want a retreat but haven’t fixed to go anywhere yet. Good rooms, lovely home cooking, lots of comfy chairs, books galore, very peaceful setting, had a very restoring 3 days there earlier this week.
Website is http://www.millhouseretreats.co.uk/, and it’s very easy to get to by public transport – Tiverton Parkway train station is just a couple of miles away, longer if you take the scenic route by the Great Western Canal.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


Off on retreat for 4 days from Monday, so probably no new posts here till next weekend. This mornings reading was 2 Kings 20, on Hezekiah, and I drew from some of the good things we were taught on the Arrow Leadership course about 'finishing well'.

So many OT leaders seem to fall away towards the end of their lives. I can only think of Daniel, Moses and Elisha who don't go noticeably downhill. Most of them manage to achieve something great, and then fall apart. Hezekiah doesn't fall apart in any spectacular fashion, but having achieved a lot in his first 14 years as king, he becomes vain, complacent and self-indulgent in the second half of his reign.

I'm well aware of the drop in adrenaline and energy levels after climbing some major work-related mountain. It's hard to press on, easier to stop and enjoy the view, or to live off the self-congratulation for as long as you're able.

The Arrow folks talked about various ways of losing the plot:
burn out: speaks for itself
level out: plateauing spiritually, rather than carrying on growing in grace and Christlikeness
spread out: losing focus and dabbling in things which are of secondary importance
drop out: falling into sin, or just forgetting why you're doing it in the first place, often with loss of faith thrown in.

It's easy as a young Christian to think, 'that'll never happen to me', but at roughly the age when Hezekiah started going downhill (though hopefully I'll not develop life-threatening boils, as he seems to have done), I can easily see all of these as potential dangers. Which makes it all the more important to go on retreats. TTFN.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Just finishing off a leaflet with some prayer suggestions for our beach worship this Sunday afternoon at Charmouth. If you're from the Yeovil area and see this in time, you're welcome to join us! Here's an extract from the leaflet, to give a flavour of it. Everyone will get this as they arrive, and then has the rest of the day (and any subsequent visits to the seaside!) to use it as they want to. There are other prayer exercises based on Sand, Stones and Air.

With Jesus on the Beach

Find a few minutes during the afternoon, and pick one of the exercises below to do. Feel free to express yourself in sand, stone and water, and let God express himself to you through them.

At tea time, there’ll be a chance to share with others anything God has said. If you want to ‘redeem’ what you find on the beach to make something for our tea time worship, please do!

At around 4.30-5pm, we’ll eat together, share bread and wine to remember Jesus, and beyond that there’s no plan! Our worship will be what we bring to it, in words, shapes, silences, and ourselves.


1. Tides, waves, undercurrents.
Beach warning signs say beware of rising tides, large waves, and unseen undercurrents.
In your life, including your spiritual life, what are the rising tides, big waves, and undercurrents? What is Jesus saying to you about these things?

2. Sea tides
Let the love tide swelling
Surround me and my dwelling
Let the power of the mighty sea
Flow in, Lord, and strengthen me.
Tide of Christ covering my shore
That I may live for evermore.

3. Waves
There is always another wave of grace coming from God. “From his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)

4. Swimming
Get in the sea and begin swimming breaststroke. (you can do this standing too!) As you push away imagine giving things to God. Decide on some appropriate words to repeat in your mind. As you bring your arms and legs back towards you imagine gathering God towards you and use words linked to asking and finding.

Float in the sea and meditate on God’s love lifting you up and supporting you.

5. Scriptures
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the farthest side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.” (Psalm 139: 9-10)

“Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?” (Matthew 8:27)

“If you have faith, you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea’, and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” (Mt 21:21). If you have a problem, go and find a landslip or some signs of the sea eroding the land, and meditate on these words of Jesus.

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty.” (Psalm 93: 4)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Prayer Exercises

We're having a beach service next week, so I did a 'beach prayers' search on google, and ran across the following excellent link, which has lots of great ideas for prayer....

It's a section entitled '25 safe experiential prayer exercises' and is exactly what it says on the tin. We'll probably use some of these on the beach next Sunday (weather permitting). The site itself looks intriguing - seems to be a Christian community in Bristol which offers Jesus-centred life coaching as its model of evangelism/discipleship, worth a closer look.
The frustrating thing about the search was that most churches which have beach services just seem to transpose a normal service to a seaside venue, with deckchairs and mats instead of pews. This just seems barmy to me. When you've got sand, sea, rocks, shells, sky, all the smells and sounds and textures of the seaside, to then ignore all of that and incorporate none of it into your act of worship just feels wrong.

Vision for Mission evenings

Had an email flier through about some talks happening near Yeovil, which are worth publicising:

Vision for Mission: Resourcing leaders
(Three Wednesday Evenings)

September 12: Lucy Moore “Reflecting on Messy Church”

September 19: Martin Cavender “The Holy Spirit and Mission”

September 26: Steven Croft “Fresh Expressions and the Local Church: The National picture”

(a Fresh Expressions church plant)

at Fynamore School,
School Road, Calne, Wiltshire, SN11 9UG
Beginning at 7.30pm
Details and maps available from
John Keller Tel. 01249 816314 or
Rachel DickinsonTel.01249 817060 rm.dickinson@btinternet.com

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Pit Stops

A talk at New Wine North a couple of years ago cited a US leader who argued that to be fully effective he needed to spend 50% of his time on personal renewal - time to reflect, read, research, pray etc., so that in the time when he was engaged in ministry he could give of his best. Don't you love stats like that? August is normally the time when I try to do a bit of my own renewal time, as it's quieter in church life, evening meetings dry up, and people are away on hols.

Not sure how I'll cope next year, as we'll have to start keeping to school hols for our own holidays, rather than going away in June and then having the full summer break available for pit stops. In the meantime the month ahead includes a couple of days at New Wine, a 4-day retreat, a couple of reading days, and some time hosting and visiting family. There's always a danger of compressing this sort of stuff into 1 month, thus making it busier than all the other 12!

My aim over the year is to have a quiet day every 2-3 months, a reading day every month, a reading week in Jan-Feb time, between 5 and 10 days at conferences or training events, and inbetween a regular rhythm of just meeting up for coffee/food and prayer with other people. (Speaking of which, very nice lunch at the Bird In Hand, North Curry with Steve Tilley today.) Church leaders get encouraged to do this sort of stuff, and it would be great if as a whole church we had an ethos of renewal which promoted people spending time training and praying and finding their own sources of new energy and ideas.

The other thing buzzing around is that even blogging about this might get people saying 'lazy vicars, all they do is swan around eating and putting their feet up'. Eugene Peterson (who Richard Frank is blogging about at the moment) has pertinent things to say about the 'Unbusy Pastor' and how busyness is a sin in those called to spiritual leadership. Without time to reflect, pray, seek God, we end up doing a job rather than offering a ministry, but in a culture which prizes busyness and 'results' it's often hard to give ourselves permission to be unbusy.

Marriage is good for you

Every month I get an email bulletin from the Christian Research Association, this was the top story in the latest one:

Marriage is good for your health! A study funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services has looked into a wide range of well-being measures such as the economic status, mental and physical health of adults and their children, and found married people to be healthier. For example, marriage has been shown to reduce alcoholic intake and marijuana use by both men and women. Those who are in stable marriages report having less depressive symptoms than long-term single or divorced people. However, marriage has also been shown to contribute to weight gain for both genders, and a decrease in physical activity. More details can be found here:

I can personally vouch for the weight gain, though my marijuana intake hasn't dropped at all.