Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

Papal Shortlist

Having attended the grand total of 1 meeting to choose a new Bishop, here's some insider tips on who might be the next man in the Vatican

Justin Welby: makes his fast tracking from Durham to Canterbury look leisurely.

Rowan Williams: has the right beard for world Christian unity.

Alex Ferguson: would be the first Pope to consider himself infallible prior to actually getting the job.

The Archdeacon from Rev: planning to conduct his papacy from the back seat of a private jet, interviews with failing priests are concluded with the fateful words 'I think I'll just drop you here'.

Mo Farah: in a shock interview, Mo explains that the 'Mobot' was a secret sign to Pope Benedict to let him have a go with the funny hat.

David Attenborough: having devoted most of his life to the study of Primates, knows more about the role than anyone else.

Chris Huhne: favoured candidate amongst those fearing more damaging revelations, as he's proven he can deny the blindingly obvious for 10 years in public whilst still keeping a straight face.

Nigel Farage: it'll be easier to keep an eye on all those awful Romanians from Rome. Romanians are from Rome aren't they? Anyway, they're foreign, and that's what counts.

Tony Blair: "This is no time for soundbites, but I feel the hand of Cherie on my shoulder. I mean, history. Y'know."

Jesus: apparently he'd quite like to have a crack at running the church one day, not sure we're ready for that yet.

Valentines Day: some helpful tips.

if only forgetting a present was this easy..... ;-)

from Skitguys

Sunday, February 10, 2013

1 Peter series

During Jan-Feb we had a sermon series on 1 Peter, here are the links to the audio recordings.

1 Peter 1  Chris Harris

1 Peter 2  Caryl Plewes & Tony Perris

1 Peter 3  Mike Chapman & David Keen

1 Peter 4  Tony Gray & Tony Perris

1 Peter 5 Tony Perris

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Church Checklists: Is Everybody Welcome? Are You Sure?

How welcoming is your church? How welcoming is the building? How good is your publicity? Nice, general, impossible to answer questions, guaranteed to induce guilt and impede action.

Help is at hand. The excellent Everybody Welcome course has a series of checklists, full of specific questions on the quality of publicity, buildings, people and integration/nurture, which are really easy to use. Get a group together from your church, score yourself against each question, and work out what you're going to do about it.

Our Deanery (local group of Anglican churches) is going to start using them, highlighting one a term, asking churches to go away and fill them in, then feed back to the next meeting what they discovered and what they're going to do about it. It'll be interesting to see if building in the accountability works.

We've a recent history of Deanery meetings where we hear speakers on various important topics, but not a great deal happens as a result, so we're trying to gear the meetings up more to resource mission and ministry on the ground. Speaking personally, my goal would be that at every CofE church in the Yeovil area, any visitor will find a high quality of care and welcome, and have a positive experience of the people and the building.

There are even some resources on having your own Mystery Worshipper, including an introduction on how to set up the visit, and a very user-friendly questionnaire for the MW to use. If you'd like to have a go at being a Mystery Worshipper, and live somewhere near Yeovil (but not in it, everyone will know who you are), then please get in touch, would love to see (I think) how our churches came out of it!

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Bonhoeffer on Marriage: is marriage a 'given'?

By some odd irony, I was starting a marriage prep group at roughly the moment the gay marriage vote happened in the House of Commons. We use the excellent (if slightly posh) Marriage Preparation Course from Holy Trinity Brompton, and it includes part of this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

God is guiding your marriage. Marriage is more than your love for each other. It has a higher dignity and power, for it is God’s holy ordinance, through which He wills to perpetuate the human race till the end of time. In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to His glory, and calls into His kingdom. 

In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more that something personal – it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. As you first gave the ring to one another and have now received it a second time from the hand of the pastor, so love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God. As high as God is above man, so high are the sanctity the rights, and the promise of marriage above the sanctity, the rights, and the promise of love.

It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love. God makes your marriage indissoluble. ‘What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder’ (Matthew 19:6). God joins you together in marriage; it is His act, not yours.

Beautiful stuff. And it's this idea of marriage as an office which is at the core of my struggle with the commons vote. Ultimately, is there something 'given' about marriage, as with a vocation, or is it something we construct entirely ourselves whether as a society or as two individuals? Pragmatic post-modern society doesn't have much time for 'givens', things don't have intrinsic value, they must be justified, reasoned for, have cost/benefit analyses done upon them. And if there are no givens then we can redefine and recast whatever we want. 

So the fundamental question is; is this the way the world is? Do we live in a world with certain human and creation 'givens', or not?  There are two discussions to be had here (and often they go on at once without us disconnecting them). One is between the Christian and the atheist/agnostic over whether there is a God at all from whom God-given things can be said to come. The other is between Christians over what is and isn't God-given. 

Final thought: the definition of marriage above is something that can't be encapsulated in a secular marriage ceremony. Two committed Christians who are getting married are doing something that is both identical, but at the same time very different, to the marriage of two non-believers. So how a secular state define marriage can never be sufficient to satisfy a Christian. 

and if you haven't already had enough of this, there's a good piece on God and Politics reflecting on the vote.

Skit Guys: excellent video clip resource

Thanks to local church leader Matt who pointed me in the direction of Skit Guys, lots of good and thought provoking videos, like the starter for 10 on prayer below (and no, I don't pray about my mum like that).

there's a bit of translating from the American to do for us Brits, but I like their style

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Restorative Justice

This is powerful:

A good example (of Restorative Justice) is the work that one London borough (Enfield) is doing with young people who are getting into trouble and are on the periphery of the gang culture. Sessions are held by the community (ex-gang members, parents or friends of people who’ve lost their lives, and older people living on estates). These sessions are held in the austere surrounding of a Crown Court, out of hours, where the community members talks about the impact that gangs have had on their lives. 

These tough youngsters are asked to explain why they behave like they do; you can hear a pin drop. Most of these young people are not bad or evil; they’ve walked down the wrong path, made poor choices, and are quietly grateful for being given a helping hand to recover their lives. And believe me when I say that there is nothing more impactive than a Grandmother explaining the horror of losing her grandson to a knife, and the daily pain she is living through, and then opening the door of her house to these kids and committing to be there for them, no matter what the time of day or night. These are the quiet leaders in our communities.

from an interview between Matt Bird of the Cinnamon Network, and Commander Tony Eastaugh of the Met.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Choosing a Bishop

Our first meeting of the Bath and Wells 'Vacancy in See' (you've got to love the names) committee is this weekend, the start of a 7 month process to discern/choose the next Bishop of Bath and Wells.

There's a good explanation of the process here, and this gives you some idea of the composition: a blend of General Synod reps, ex officio places, elected clergy and lay reps (including me), and people appointed by Bishops staff for 'balance'. I fear that, at 43 and 364 days come Saturday, I'll be the youngest person on the committee,  but hopefully I'm wrong about that.

Stage 1 is drawing up a 'Statement of Needs' for the Diocese, we then team up with the Crown Nominations Commission to canvas opinion, before going on to consider specific names.

It's all a bit of a new experience, if you're the praying type please pray for us (and the various other ViS groups also going through the same process, such as Durham). A lot of it will be confidential, but I'm hoping to blog a bit about the process just in case that opens a few helpful windows for people wondering how on earth it all works.

Having taken a few soundings already, it's interesting to hear a cross section of folks saying largely the same thing about the kind of Bishop we need. I then ran into someone this evening who recalled a Cafe Service planning meeting where we debated whether to play 'Pin the Fish on the Bish' with our visiting suffragan (2nd in command) bishop to illustrate a Bible story. I think we decided not to, but it was close. Puts it all in perspective......

New Boss: #pray4justin

Justin Welby has been sworn in today as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He'll need our prayers, but when anyone talks of something being an 'impossible job' it's good to remember that 'impossible' is not in God's dictionary.

(Justin Welby) made one priority in the diocese sorting out its finances, giving up his personal chaplain as part of the programme, and the other reversing the drift away from Church membership.
"I think we are called - and it is possible - to turn round the decline in numbers, influence and effect of God's Church that has happened over the last 80 years. We can do that in this diocese, and region, over the next generation or so."
Yes we can.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

So Long and Thanks for All the Retweets

One of those days where you wonder whether you're seeing straws in the wind:

Backstage, the BBC tech correspondent on the mass hacking of Twitter accounts.

Frontstage, the Church Mouse, one of the most influential Christian tweeters and commenters in the UK, has hung up his cheese:

Mouse has found of late that Twitter has become a bit too much like hard work. It is more reminiscent of Monty Python's Room For An Argument than the joy filled nirvana of open social networking that it was in 2008-9. And so, Mouse is off in search of fun elsewhere.