Tuesday, October 30, 2007

How to pray for....

There seem to be prayer resources all over the web, the latest ones to appear on radar are here at the rejesus site, and they're very good, hope they do some more in this series. 4 prayer worksheets for people who arent' used to praying, or who need some help praying in a more creative way.

Whilst we're on the subject of prayer, other links to prayer resources on the web include:
1. Prayer exercises: see previous post on this at http://davidkeen.blogspot.com/2007/08/prayer-exercises.html

Lost in Wonder is, believe it or not, an online labyrinth, so now you can walk round in circles without leaving your chair. Or if your chair spins round....

Small rituals is a good collection of meditations, prayer activities, poems etc.

2. Prayer ideas for all-age church, see http://www.barnabasinchurches.org.uk/pages/483s.htm#Prayer - the Barnabas trust site has literally hundreds of ideas on prayer, using the Bible in worship etc.

3. Liturgical resources
http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/ which has a library of Anglican liturgical stuff from various places, and is itself signposted from a new Anglican resource site, Transforming Worship, which seems to be a good place for bringing together liturgy, set readings, hymns, seasonal materials etc.

Linked from both of the above is the CofE's own worship site, which if you dig around enough you can find 'New Patterns for Worship' complete and online. This is effectively a small library of liturgical bits and pieces, which is a sight cheaper to view online than it is to buy hardback!

4. Prayer and worship
Jonny Bakers worship tricks is a cumulative library of interactive ideas for use in worship, very creative, lots of poems, videos, photos etc., and collected from sources all over the place.

5. Subscription Sites
There are various other sites which want you to subcribe, or register, such as
12 baskets
and of course, Sermonspice, home of the Christmas Linebacker, where you can get an online preview of stuff before you part with large numbers of dollars

all of these last 4 seem designed for churches which use multimedia, projectors, videos and visuals, and are only really worth getting into if this is a regular thing in your worship.

But the last word (on a day where it was revealed that Brits were the biggest shoplifters in Europe, it seems we can't see something with a price tag without wanting it for free), must go to
http://www.blog.freechristianresources.org/ which is a website linking to free christian resources on the net, on the principle that God's love is free, so what business do Christians have in charging one another for stuff.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Stuart Murray-Williams in Yeovil

It's all happening in November! Taster sessions next week for the 'Mission Shaped Ministry' course running in Taunton, and then a few days after that, at Yeovil Community Church......

Stuart Murray is a while known speaker and author particularly on the subject of church and church planting. He will be with us on Sunday Nov 18th and everyone is welcome to come along as appropriate.

10.00 - 12.00 Speaking (from about 11) at the GateWay on 'radical discipleship in post-christendom'

2.00 - 3.00 an informal coffee time with any church leaders that want to come along and chat to him

3.00 - 4.30 workshop on 'planting churches without buildings' open to all - especially those interested in the new estates

Please advertise this in your congregation - especially the workshop. If you want to come and chat to him at 2pm then you'd be very welcome.

great opportunity to learn from one of the top thinkers on church planting in todays UK culture, this is normally the kind of bloke you need to go to major national conferences to see. If you live anywhere near Yeovil, make the most of it.
The following appeared in my inbox during the week off, in a mailing from www.celluk.org.uk .

I want to be part of a community that I love and that loves me. A place where
we get past the polite niceness, beyond the pretence and the masks, and get
really irritated with each other. And then stick at it and stick together.

I want to be part of something that is marked by its welcome, its hospitality and
its inclusiveness. A place with fuzzy edges, where no one decides who belongs
and is ‘in’ or ‘out’. I want to be part of a group of people who are obsessed with
Jesus, rather than Christianity. A place that is passionately focussed on Jesus
and learning to live as followers of his way in real life today. A place where
we’re becoming more like Jesus as we learn the ancient spiritual disciplines and
work together to make them part of our lives.

I want to belong to a community where I can be myself, warts and all.
A place that, on the one hand will accept me as I am right now, but on the other
hand will provoke and inspire me to become more of what I could be. A place
where my brokenness, fears and habits are part of the process. A place where
we hold on to the ‘ideal’ but also celebrate the ‘real’.

I want to be part of something that treats people like adults. A place that values
everyone’s experience and perspective. A place where people are motivated by
love rather than guilt. I want to be part of a community that is both of our culture,
so that it connects with the language, images, music and experiences of
everyday life; but one that also goes against the grain of our culture because we
serve one another, live sacrificially and cross boundaries of class, age and colour.

A place that makes the difference in the things that feel too big for us as individuals.
Whether that’s the hassle my kids will get when they can’t wear designer
trainers or the impotence I feel in the face of ethical and environmental

A place that makes us yearn for justice and beauty. A place that equips us for
life in the worlds we live in, and gives us the fire we need to change them.

Of course my dream is impossibly idealistic, but I’ve decided that even if we
never get there, I want to give everything to trying. Dream has always sought to
be “an oasis in the desert”, and that’s precious. But at the same time, it needs to
be a desert in the oasis. A place that makes us more thirsty for Jesus and his

What a great vision. The trouble is, most of us will read this and think 'if I want to be part of this, I'd better leave my own church and find the one which is like this'. A consumerist rather than a community response. Or we could do the hard thing: pray that the Christian community we're part of becomes this way, and offer ourselves to God for Him to use us to answer our own prayer.

Eugene Peterson, again

Yet more stuff from 'Christ plays in 10,000 places', because it's worth quoting:

“For those of us who are interested in living the truth and not just acquiring information, it is necessary to discover the meaning of a word by looking it up in teh Sotry, not the dictionary.”

“The greatest temptation always crouching at the door of prayer is to use prayer as a way to avoid God: using God language to avoid God relationship; using the name of God as a screen behind which to hide from God. Cliches are the usual verbal giveaways of prayer that is, in fact, nonprayer.”

“The trials of Jesus force us, if we are to stay true to the story we are reading, to give up the notion that the Chrisitan community, rightly and obediently lived, can somehow, if we just put our minds to it, be tarted up sufficiently to catch the admiring eye of the world…..God’s revelation of himself is rejected far more often than it is accepted.....if we, as the continuing company of Jeuss, seem to have achieved an easy accommodation with our culture, how did we pull off what Jesus and the community of Jesus failed to accomplish?”

William Tell Mother

sorry, mum, what did you say?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

We'll be right back after this short break

School half term = all quiet on the blog front for a week or so. Or maybe it's just embarassment after the previous post.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Come on England!

Let's do it again, and come on Lewis Hamilton whilst we're at it, make it a great double for English sport this weekend.

Footbal? I don't even want to spell it correctly, let alone watch it. If England don't get through it will spare us the nauseating media hype and hero-worship. I wouldn't dare go on a rugby pitch, I'd be dead within 30 seconds, but these guys have plenty to teach footballers about respect for the referee and how to play competitive sport properly.

In case you missed it last time, here's the link to Jason Robinson's interview last week which reveals why he came out of retirement to play. Robinson is a committed Christian, so if you're looking for a Christmas present for someone, you could always try his autobiography
Update, Sunday evening: that's the last time I try my hand at encouraging our sportsmen. Kiss of death. 2nd is good though....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Rural Diocese, Not

I was at a meeting in Wells the other day where it was stated several times that Bath and Wells was a predominantly rural Diocese. Being a townie I mentally started totting up the populations of the urban centres around Somerset, and soon came to a figure which made me sceptical.

So here's the stats:
Bath and Wells Diocese population 859,000
Major Towns
Weston Super Mare 72,000 (2001 figure, this is much higher now)
Bath 90,000
Taunton 60,000
Yeovil 42,000
Bridgwater 36,500
Frome 24,500
Clevedon 23,000
Portishead 21,000
Other towns/centres with population over 10,000: Street, Minehead, Chard, Nailsea, Keynsham, Midsomer Norton, Wellington, Wells

Between them these centres have 450,000 residents, just over half the population of the Diocese, and with new housebuilding since a lot of the figures were collected, the population count is probably higher than this.

'Predominantly rural' is true of Bath and Wells Diocese for land use, not true for population.

Crook finds sanctuary in Abbey (Manor)

Got an emergency phone call yesterday evening to switch on Rogue Traders, which featured Abbey Manor Cars and their practice of selling and hiring out death traps to unsuspecting customers. Not surprisingly, I was interested, as this guy is about 1/2 a mile from where we live. I also wondered what my friends in Darlington made of it, as all we see of Abbey Manor in the programme is grey 6 foot railings, portacabins and a muddy parking lot full of rusty cars. Eee its grim down South. Alternatively, Abbey Manor has its own website, which shows that it's not just criminals down here. Anyway, if you're sitting in Darlington reading this and gloating, I have just 2 words to say: George Reynolds.
PS it's worth pointing out that Abbey Manor Cars are not the same as John Cornick Motors, who are on the Abbey Manor website and do car sales, and are pretty good from what I've heard.
Update June 2008: Abbey Manor Cars is now under new ownership, and has a brand new range of stock - mainly because there was a whopping great fire there a couple of weeks ago which destroyed large chunks of the site. So hopefully things are better now. And Cornicks did our car MOT earlier this year and were very good, helpful and pleasant.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

banal songs

Thanks to ASBO Jesus for this word of encouragement

I also like Dave Walkers take,

I nearly titled this post 'banal worship', but then realised that if it's banal it can't be worship...

Monday, October 15, 2007

Muslim-Christian dialogue

An open letter from a large number of prominent Muslim leaders and scholars has been sent to Christian leaders across the world. The full text is here, and there's an article here on Ruth Gledhills blog, with other links and quite a good discussion going. Cranmer also has a view - see posting on Fri 12th Oct.

It's encouraging to see signs of interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians, it's also good to see the letter recognising that oppression of people because of their religion, driving them out of their homes etc. is a bad thing. Perhaps Islamic leaders in Nigeria, Sudan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia who've signed the letter could encourage Muslims in their own countries to apply these precepts.

Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, an expert on Islam, is cautious - noting that the letter spends most of its time expounding the unity of God. This rings alarm bells to anyone who knows the Islamic critique of Christianity, that we've compromised the unity of God by worshipping Jesus and the Holy Spirit. A suspicious reading of the letter makes it a call to dialogue based on acceptance of the Muslim understanding of God. A charitable reading sees it as an acknowledgement by a significant section of the Ummah (the global Muslim community) of the validity of the testimony of the Bible (it quotes the gospels at various points) and of Christian understandings of God.

The thing missing for me though, is any mention of God's love for us. The tone of the letter is about our two main duties - to love God and love each other. This seems very Islamic, to see religous expression as principally about our duty to God. But if we love because He first loved us, then the starting point is the loving nature of God, and how He created us in love, saved us in love, and offers us the gift of His Spirit so that we can love the way Jesus did.

What would really stun me, is if all the church leaders the letter is addressed to (the Pope, various patriarchs, the AB of C, the secretary of the World Council of Churches 'and all church leaders everywhere') could agree on a Christian statement of faith to put in a reply.......!!!!!

I am rich

How rich are you? >>

I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 85,565,218 richest person on earth!

According to the Global Rich List , I'm the 85,565,218th richest person in the world, putting me in the top 1.42% of the global population. Without the child tax credits so generously supplied by the government, I slip to 229,659,131th but stay just inside the top 4% . To assuage my conscience, I split our family income between the 4 of us, but we're still all in the top 13%, and that's with only one wage-earner.

the scariest thing is how low your annual income has to drop to be the median global citizen. I needed about 6 goes before I guessed an income small enough. Sobering

Fishermen or Priests?

This morning we met at the local church primary school for ‘Start the Week’, a simple 10 minute prayer time before the Monday morning bell. A lovely mixture of staff, parents and children, all joining in on their own level, including one or two that, to my knowledge, weren’t part of a church.

Yesterday we had our monthly ‘Café service’ in the local community centre, again the congregation was a mix of committed Christians, and folk we’ve recently connected with through baptisms and other local work with families.

The church Alpha course, led by laypeople for the first time rather than clergy, has got 9 members on top of the folk who are running it, which is a pretty high number for us. On ‘Back to Church Sunday’ we counted 12 folk who were there for the first time.

What’s going on here? And what’s the best way to describe what local Christians are doing? The immediate image that comes to mind is of fishing: you know the story – Jesus calls the disciples away from their fishing boats and says ‘now I’ll teach you to catch people’. And here we are, a little fleet of fishing boats, each fishing in a slightly different part of the lake, with a different sort of net, and getting some sort of a ‘catch’.

But the trouble with the fishing metaphor is that once you’ve got the ‘catch’, that’s job done. Dead or alive, once the fish are in the boat, that’s ‘success’. It leads to a focus on numbers (which you might be able to detect in me!!), and the misconception that the end result is attendance at x or y. It can also mean that all our attention is taken with the fish, and not with God. In fact, in the fishing metaphor, who is God – the master boatman? The chef? The boss of the fish processing plant? The fact that it’s hard to be sure makes it easy to leave God out of ‘fishing’ evangelism, and overuse of this metaphor leaves us in danger of empire-building and a ‘bums on pews’ mentality.

How about a different biblical picture, that of the priest. The role of the priest in the Old Testament is to lead people in worship, to be the facilitator of people’s relationship with God and their encounter with God in his holiness and glory. Priests tended to work in groups, rather than alone, and their focus was on God, rather than on the people/fish.

Anglicanism, I guess, is more suited to this model, since most of what we do and invite people to is public worship. What we’ve stumbled into, in our church, is a buffet (to use another metaphor) of different worship styles, with access points at different times, places and forms, so that there’s more opportunities for people to be part of a worshipping community, and through that to connect with God. In the school prayers, we pass round a little model of the famous ‘praying hands’ picture, and everyone gets the chance to pray out loud or in silence. At the café service, there were prayer stations, for people to use playdough, art, prayer cards, and various other means to speak to God and allow God to speak to them. It feels more like being a priest than being a fisherman.

Another healthy feature of the priest model is that it’s an ongoing work. The priest is constantly before God, worshipping and helping others to worship. You don’t get to say ‘that’s it! Job done!’

The knotty bit in both models is discipleship. Fishing stops at the catch (conversion) – a weakness of classical ‘make a decision for Jesus’ forms of evangelism. But the priest model also lacks this – the OT priesthood was a separate caste, and if you weren’t born a Levite, you couldn’t join them. Many churches, including my own, still have a definite line between priest and not-priest, and the dynamic of that is that it turns worshippers into attendees at a show, or stage crew to keep the show on the road, rather than disciples.

Progression in faith is more than just more regular attendance at worship, or a more profound experience of God when you worship. Growth in grace, becoming more like Jesus, finding a way for the worshipping community to be just as much community as it is worshipping, this is the challenge. How do we help worshippers/fish to become lifelong learners with Jesus and with each other?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rugby and Bishops

Just 2 links today

In readiness for tonights rugby, http://www.eauk.org/publictheology/friday-night-theology/jesusandrugby.cfm on Christians in rugby, with a link to an article on Jason Robinson where he talks about his Christian faith (thanks to Richard Frank for this link)

Great article on Bishop Alan's Blog on why he's going to next years Lambeth confernce (10-yearly gathering of all the Anglican bishops, and current focus of lots of sabre rattling by various pressure groups). Thanks to Dave Walker for this link.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Messy Church

One of the holy grails of the emerging church/fresh expressions movement is the search for a new form of church that can be reproduced in many contexts. Yes, part of the ethos of having a mission-shaped church is that you don't predetermine the form that church will take, but allow it to emerge from the process of mission. However, given that we still have some cultural common ground as a nation, it shouldn't be a surprise to find that some things work in several places, not just one. Lets face it, its really hard work to come up with something brand new from scratch, so if there are models which work in other places, then why not try them?

'Cafe church' seems to be one of these - it even has a Wikepedia entry now, and there are now quite a few examples in England and elsewhere. Many other churches (like ours) have a 'cafe service' as part of the normal worship pattern - ours is monthly, and though I wouldn't ever call it 'cafe church' there is an increasing number for whom it's their main diet of Christian worship and teaching for the month.

'Messy Church' is another - it's the title of a book by Lucy Moore, and there's a decent-sized extract here to give you a flavour of it. There is also a clip on the first Fresh Expressions DVD and I'm aware of several churches who already do this, or are thinking about it. The model is based around a semi-structured craft/play time, followed by a 15-20m act of worship, then a meal together, so it can work in churches and in secular buildings. It also works better if done in an afternoon, either during the week or on Sat/Sun, which makes it ideal for reaching people who can't make church on a Sunday morning, or who need an entry point to faith that isn't Sunday-morning shaped.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

National Church Planting Conf - Talks Now Online

The talks and slides from the Church Planting Conference are now online:
http://www.acpi.org.uk/NACPC07.htm is the link you'll need. I missed the final talk, by Bishop Stephen Cotterell because we had to get a train, but just listened to it online now, and he opens with this great quote:

“Europe was not evangelised by the parish system, the parish system was a consequence of Europe having been evangelised. What the church is slowly waking up to… is that it won’t be the parish system that re-evangelises Europe, it will be something much more like what evangelised Europe first time round… monks and nuns, religious communities.”

All the talks are in the region of 15-20minutes, so they're pretty easy to listen to in 1 sitting. If you only pick one, have a listen to George Lings on the 'Jerusalem trap', really thought-provoking.

If you look carefully you'll also see yours truly in one of the pictures, thankfully they got my good side....

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

National Church Planting Conference

Excellent day in London last Thurs at the national church planting conference organised by ACPI and others.

(new expressions of church) “are growing in places where Christians have been humbled in various ways, and are humble enough to seek God, and be open to doing things differently. Every 'fresh expression' contains this element, of admitting you don’t quite know what to do. It’s a mark of authenticity.” (Steve Croft)

“this is a moment for learners, not for experts.” (Steve Croft)

“The church of God doesn’t choose to do mission, the God of mission chooses to have a church.” (J. John, quoted by Mark Russell from the Church Army)

“The climate for church planting, mission and evangelism has never been better.” (Mark Russell)

Progress Report
A lot has happened in a short time. Informal experimentation in church planting and fresh expressions of church (the Anglican/Methodist term - it's called 'emerging church' in other places) has been happening for years. Since the end of the Decade of Evangelism, it has suddenly shifted from a fringe activity to something central:
- the Mission Shaped Church report named what was happening as good, and gave the national church a way to enable and promote it (some useful resources on the report here, and the entire report is online here . )
- we've developed new language and concepts to help us understand what's happening (e.g. the Mixed Economy church: both the new and the old rather than the replacement of the old by the new)
- there's widespread ownership of the idea of 'fresh expressions', most dioceses now have funds and personnel actively dedicated to supporting and enabling them.
- new policies and structures: Diocesan mission funds, the Bishops Mission Orders (see below) - the church is reorganising itself more around mission.

What's Currently Happening
  • Training for pioneer missioners - now approved nationally, and courses running in various centres, over 40 candidates already accepted to train as 'Ordained Pioneer Ministers'
  • Lay Pioneer Ministry - guidelines for training currently being approved, various training courses being developed. The main one, Mission Shaped Ministry, will be running in 20 centres by the end of 2008 (including Taunton, if you're from these parts). Brochure is here.
  • Mission Funding: an average of £5m a year to pump-prime mission projects, and a further £6.5m possibly available on top of this. Anglicans are encouraged to press their Dioceses to make sure this money gets used on mission stuff, some are using it to top up clergy pay, and diverting it away from the intended use.
  • New Legal Framework: the Dioceses Pastoral and Mission Measure, which should be through Parliament (!) by the end of the year, allows for a new 'Bishops Mission Order', which allows for new inititatives outside the parish system, overseen directly by the Diocese.
Of several excellent presentations, the most thought provoking came from George Lings, and it will be posted on the encounters on the edge website very soon. The site promises by 5pm today, in fact.

And finally, a new website http://www.sharetheguide.org/ which is a hub for information, networking and wisdom in planting churches and fresh expressions, has lots of potential to bring people together who otherwise only connect at national conferences like the one last week. Michael Moynagh, one of the key thinkers on the future of the church, is one of the folk behind it. It's an evolving thing, but there are several major sections up already.

Monday, October 08, 2007

More wisdom of Eugene Peterson

Yet more quotes from the excellent 'Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places'

“It is the devil's own work to detach the language of salvation from the setting of salvation, to separate words from personal relationships, to make salvation a ‘cause’ or a ‘project’ that can be conducted as efficiently and impersonally as possilbe. But the gospel will not permit it.”

“For a people like us, trained in a culture of getting things done (pragmatism) and taking care of ourselves (individualism) sacrifice doesn’t seem at all obvious, neither does it seem attractive....(but) the way we share in Jesus work is to live a sacrificial life in his name. "

“I didn’t come to the conviction easily, but finally there was no getting around it: there can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion and embrace of community.”

“People can think correctly and behave rightly and worship politely and still live badly – live anaemic lives, individualistically self-enclosed lives, live bored and insipid and trivial lives.”

“Sectarianism is to community what heresy is to theology, a wilful removal of a part from ten whole. The part is, of course, good – a work of God. But apart from the whole it is out of context and therefore diminished, disengaged from what it needs from the whole and from what the whole needs from it… we wouldn’t put up with an art dealer cutting up Rembrandt into 2 inch squares and selling them off, so why do we so often positively delight and celebrate the dividing up of the Jesus community into contentious and competitive groups?”

“The impulse to sectarianism has its roots in selfism, the conceit that I don’t need others as they are but only for what they can do for me. Selfism reduces life to my appetites and needs and preferences.”

Peterson argues, in section 3 of the book (on 'Community') that our preferences for sects of the like-minded over communities (which are much messier) is just an expression of our individualism, and the idolatrous belief that we can organise community better than God can. If we gather with others in the name of Jesus, but restrict who we gather with in accordance with our own preferences and prejudices, then this is simply narcissism - self-love - worked out in relationships. It's not real community, and it's not real church.

The trouble is that the internet makes it easier than ever to join communities of the like-minded and find reinforcement for our own points of view (or prejudices, depending on how you name them!). As such, whilst facilitating debates between people who'd not otherwise have met, it also makes it a lot easier to organise partisan groupings. The Anglican church already seems to have more of these than it has members (Forward in Faith, Affirming Catholicism, Modern Churchpeoples Union, Reform, New Wine, Anglican Mainstream, Accepting Evangelicals, Church Society, to name just the ones I can think of off the top of my head). I accept that some of these have roots in other things than just espousing a particular point of view (e.g. New Wine, which I belong to), or predate the internet, but I can't help thinking that the Paul who wrote 1 Corinthians chapter 1, with it's stern rebuke of partisan groupings in the church, would be less than impressed.

Blog and Politics links

Following the party conference season, a couple of interesting links:

Cranmer, widely respected Christian/political blogger, has some thoughtful comments on the Conservatives, Islam, and the mixed morality of John Prescott

Peter Ould has got hold of a video shown at the Tory conference, very well put together.

I have to say I find what Cameron says about a 'broken society' and about the environment much more on the button than Labour, but against that is all the work Brown has done on poverty relief and debt cancellation for the developing world. I'm just sad there won't be an election, I just love opinion polls. Yes, I'm that sad.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Happy Birthday

Both to my Dad, and to a yearsworth of blogging here. According to the stats, there are 242 posts up here, and 2,444 folk have visited so far. Whoever you are, have a nice day and God bless you.

Dangerous dog collars

Several people had a word with me this morning after hearing the news item on clergy and how wearing dog collars makes us a target for attack. An organisation called 'National Churchwatch' is recommending that clergy don't wear collars unless necessary to minimise the risk of being attacked. There is the serious point of 5 clergy murdered in the last 10 years, and the high level of attacks on clergy in certain areas (a prominent vicarage - often the only sizeable home in a neighbourhood - can be an easy target. I knew a vicar in Nottingham who'd been burgled 70 times in 9 years, and a curate in the same parish had bricks thrown through the window, narrowly missing their newborn child).

I guess I'm fortunate in having a vicarage that is just a normal house in a normal (ish) street, nowhere near the church, so it can function pretty much like a normal family home. We're also in a good neighbourhood, so there isn't the sense of siege that I know some clergy families experience. But there's something else here, which is about a culture of fear and whether to succumb to it - I don't want to be walking round wondering who's got it in for me, it builds a barrier between me and other people, and sets me against the community I'm trying to serve. I won't be wearing my dog collar any less, but that might be because I don't experience any sense of threat. Also, there are Christians in other countries who face a much higher level of danger than I do for their faith. For example in Sudan, Christians are denied food aid unless they convert to Islam, and then they are victims of a punitive law which forbids Muslims converting to other faiths. In Burma, Christian villages are routinely raided by the gun squads, and thousands of Christians have ended up in refugee camps along the Thai border.

Meanwhile, I think bishops lifestyles put them in the high risk category...

cartoon originally posted at Dave Walkers blog

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Bear with me

It's been a pretty mad week, I've taken on far too much and am suffering for it, thankfully by this time tomorrow it will be over and things will be much quieter next week. Lots of stuff to blog about too - great church planting conference on Thurs, stuff about the Anglican church, various links etc.

Just for today, here's one I've been feasting on for visuals for tomorrows talk on creation. It's the Hubble Space Telescope site - the link is pix from 2006, but there's lots from every year, and some blurb to go with them. The cosmos is such an amazing place, and to think that God made it all then chose to focus his attention and love upon us is just mindblowing. It must be great for God too - here are views that only He has been able to see, for billions of years, and now he can share them with us. I love sharing the stuff I enjoy with my own children and seeing them enjoy it too (got them cheering the rugby today - England were fantastic). How much more fun must it be for God......?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

National Estate Churches Network

Just had a flier emailed about a conference on ministry in housing estates, organised the National Estate Churches Network. Not come across them before, but they seem to specialise in supporting work on council estates, urban ministry, and urban renewal. The conferences are coming up in the next few weeks in London, Bristol and somewhere else I can't remember.

Here's an extract from the blurb
This year the National Estate Churches Network is holding a conference with a difference. The event is being offered in three locations to make access easier for everyone. The unifying element will be the main speaker Rebecca Tunstall, London School of Economics, author of “25 years on 20 Estates: Turning the Tide?” Each event will illustrate Rebecca’s insights with local experience and stories. Our second speaker in Bristol is Sarah Turner from Birmingham who will speak from her experience of the churches’ role in acting as agents of renewal.

More details on the website, if this is your thing.

Musical Bumps

Cracking debate going on at the moment on Damian Thomsons blog about contemporary church music. It's from a Catholic perspective, but hearing some of the samples posted on his site might actually make traditional Anglicans glad that they only have to sing Bowater and Kendrick in the 'its time for a modern song' slot.

In the meantime, a Bristol choir has put itself up for auction, because they're upset at changes in church life aimed at attracting newcomers. The link takes you to a news clip from the 'points West' local news bulletin last night. Worth watching. The 2nd church featured in the site, Woodlands church, has an interesting website here. What struck me most was how young most of the staff are compared to many Anglican churches. It was hard to work out what sort of church it was, as they use a traditional church building but don't seem to be part of any particular denomination or network.

The other interesting thing is that they are one church with several congregations, each with its own congregational leader, all of which meet in different places. My local is facing the issue of how do we grow beyond the limitations of a building which can only seat 80-90 people. We had, it turns out, 12 extra people on 'Back to Church Sunday', but there literally isn't room for the whole congregation in the church. Doubling up on a Sunday (or, more radically, a 2nd congregation on a different day of the week), is one of the obvious options, though it also involves extra work. There's then the question of whether you have a particular leadership team for each congregations, and how that works alongside trying to remain a single church with a single vision.

Monday, October 01, 2007

They came back

Though I wasn't there, I gather we had several extra people at our 'Back to Church Sunday' service yesterday. One person I asked said she couldn't tell whether we had many new faces because she was in the side chapel - which is where our overspill seating is! It seems to have encouraged a few folk to come along, but will they be there next week......?

Bit of a mad week this week, lots of things which are a bit out of the ordinary, and involve extra thought and planning:
- this morning, 'start the week' prayers at our local primary school, which started up today, a mixture of parents, staff, governors and children, praying for the school community for 10m before the Monday morning bell.
- this evening: a 'vision evening' at a local village church which is trying to come to terms with life without their 'own vicar'.
- tomorrow evening: speaking to the church council of one of Yeovil's larger churches about our plans for mission in new housing areas, and encouraging them to think about whether folk from their church should be part of the mission teams.
- Saturday morning: harvest service at a local garden centre
- Saturday evening: our first church 'film night', using Al Gores 'An Inconvenient Truth', I'm hoping to lay hold of an easy-to use carbon footprint calculator, to help folk think about ways they can green their lifestyles.

So, a fairly quiet week.....