Tuesday, 30 December 2008
Monday, 29 December 2008
Thursday, 25 December 2008
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Thursday, 4 December 2008
Sunday, 30 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Sunday, 16 November 2008
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.
Sunday, 9 November 2008
A couple of months ago, Richard posted a blog on the difficulty of using ‘the Grace’, or other spoken-together but unwritten words which are familiar to the congregation, but not to the visitor.
He went on to speak about the helpfulness of using a Benediction, or Blessing, spoken from the front. He mentioned biblical benedictions: the end of Jude, Ephesians 3, 2 Thessalonians. And in a later blog he included this benediction from Brian McLaren:
‘May the Spirit of Christ empower you to love and serve your neighbours, welcoming them into your lives and homes and schedules and hearts, so that through belonging they may discover the joys of believing and becoming. You are more ready for this than you realize. Go in God’s grace and peace!’
Benedictions are important to me. There is something about a benediction or blessing which marks not just the end of the service but a moment of deep significance as ‘the service ends and the worship begins’. For me the benediction is one of those special moments in a service.
From my experience of conducting the inductions of new ministers, although the service is led by others, normally the newly inducted minister concludes the occasion by pronouncing a blessing – it’s his or her first action as the minister of that church.
When we say a blessing we speak good and holy words over people. And there’s something about that which is powerful. We have the privilege of saying words through which we expect God, whose business is blessing, to do something, admittedly something mysterious and intangible, but something all the same. And so we become a part of the action of God, and through words spoken release God’s grace into people’s lives.
I collect benedictions, not in the obsessive way that I do other things. But I do sort of pick them up. I particularly like the Northumbria Community blessing, ‘May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you …’ And there are some gems from the Iona Community. But unoriginally, my favourite benediction remains Numbers 6, made more special because of the use at ordinations and inductions and other significant occasions where they don’t necessarily come at the end of a service, but can mark a moment of special grace within the service.
The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
Monday, 27 October 2008
Friday, 24 October 2008
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
Monday, 20 October 2008
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Holy Transfiguration Monastery is a center of renewal in Breakwater, a working-class neighborhood of Geelong, a city of 200,000 on the west of Port Phillip Bay, in the state of Victoria in Australia. A compelling adaptation of historic Christian monastic traditions to contemporary life, the community is unique in that it continues the life and witness of a 135-year old Baptist congregation while drawing on classic sources of Christian monasticism.
Friday, 17 October 2008
Thursday, 16 October 2008
Friday, 10 October 2008
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
Sunday, 5 October 2008
Friday, 3 October 2008
Monday, 29 September 2008
Sunday, 28 September 2008
Wednesday, 24 September 2008
Saturday, 13 September 2008
Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Sunday, 7 September 2008
Friday, 5 September 2008
Sunday, 31 August 2008
By contrast, today I was in Melton Mowbray to for the farewell service of Charles Jenkin. Charles has been the Rector of St Mary’s and while I was in Melton our relationship as colleagues in Churches Together became a valued friendship. This too was a special occasion, in the process meeting up with other friends we haven’t seen for a while.
Although I find myself regularly hearing the nice sort of things said over the weekend, on these two occasions, because of the nature of the relationship, I have been part of the story, and it caused me to pause and be grateful to God for those with whom I have shared and continue to share friendship. I came across a phrase several years ago, ‘There are friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for life.’ Colin and Charles fit firmly in the last category.
Monday, 25 August 2008
These are the rules for the nominees:
1. Add the logo of the award to your blog
2. Add a link to the person who awarded it to you
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog
5. Leave a message for your nominees on their blog
It's a bit daft nominating Catriona, but call me daft because I'm going to anyway - her blog is a favourite and it would be unjust not to! So, the seven are:
Bishop Alan's Blog
Sean the Baptist
Skinny Fairtrade Latte
I agree with Catriona that it feels 'a bit incestuous or narcissistic' but it's a bit of fun for a Bank Holiday Monday. And the spin-off is that it's got me into blog-mode again after a few weeks of being blog-lite.
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Initially I struggled with the fact that many of the competitors were unable to read music which is foundational. I managed to overcome this, just about, as it became increasingly clear that conducting was more than just waving a stick to keep time or not.
The first outing of the totally inexperienced ‘conductors’ was mostly painful in the extreme. The process of acquiring some basic skills through the involvement of personal mentors and group experience was fascinating and continued to provide entertainment. When it came to the first performance before an audience, it was at times hysterically funny, an experience shared by the judges, mentors, audience and orchestra alike.
If I keep with it, and I’ll certainly watch next week, it'll be interesting to see who wins. Goldie was the most convincing and showed some musicianship and authority. Jane Asher was pretty good. Sue Perkins delivered. Peter Snow was a total disaster in a thoroughly good-natured way and was dismissed, but it was a close contest with the Blur musician Alex James, whose intake of breath before the down-beat of his piece was probably the high point of the programme.
The BBC Concert Orchestra seemed to be having fun and did brilliantly under the circumstances.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
It was a very chilled two weeks which was just what we wanted. For the first time we went to a Lido and it exceeded expectations, swimming in the warm Adriatic and enjoying a welcome cool breeze. We visited Puglia’s equivalent of Cheddar Gorge, the Castellana Grottoes. And other trips included the neighbouring towns and the city of Lecce which was fantastic although you could suffer from Baroque overload.
As it happened the patronal festival took place in our town, Cisternino, which included a number of outdoor musical performances which were free. The highlight were the two town bands, one from Citta di Francavilla Fontana, and the other from Citta di Bracigliano. They didn’t just play but performed with a high level of accomplishment in their own inimitable style which was highly spirited though not always overly fussed about intonation. The programmes over three days consisted of condensed versions of Italian opera arranged for band with solo instrumentalists taking the part of the solo voices – the trombonist taking the part of the tenor used a valve trombone with a raised bell, which was something else. We were treated to Il Traviata, Turandot, La Boheme, Tosca, Rigoletto, and other excerpts as well. The sound ranged from very quiet to deafeningly loud with four Sousaphones, and a full complement of brass together with other wind. It was such a one-off glorious sound that you wanted to bottle it and bring it home, except that probably it wouldn’t sound the same in Milton Keynes – that’s the nature of holidays!
Wednesday, 23 July 2008
Life is full of surprises – yesterday evening I bumped into Sally who was one of the first people I met when I first went to Moortown Baptist Church in Leeds, when my Christian faith was being reawakened. Sally works in Geneva with the UN on their Aids programme and was speaking as part of the self-select programme. She and her husband Ian are terrific people.
Lots of memorable quotes – but just two to share and both from Archbishop Rowan:
the key task of the bishop is to be a linguist, learning the language of God;
and, God always creates a new situation when we listen and pray.
He’s got quite a job on his hands, but I have to say, I think he's a great guy!
Over another week to go, but after ‘The London Day’ that’s it for me.
The Bible Study was a spirited affair as we looked at the story of the woman taken in adultery and the following words of Jesus, ‘I am the light of the world’. In the exchange some fascinating insights emerged.
The Indaba group was a very different experience from yesterday and the concerns expressed had been taken on. We stayed within the group except for a few minutes in three’s or four’s following a DVD relating to the Millennium Development Goals. The two questions that were asked were, What is God calling us to do about justice and evangelism in our own context? And how can we work together to do that?
People spoke passionately and movingly and there was a sense of deep listening to the challenges that are faced in the different contexts. One bishop related how he had spoken to a bishop from Africa who commented that at Lambeth he eats three cooked meals a day, while at home some days he has no food at all. People shared their concerns, inevitably touching upon the sexuality issue, but although there was diversity, there was respect. One bishop from the Episcopal Church in the States spoke about his context in which there were a huge number of gay people, many who attended his church - there had been a time when the cathedral was burying fifty people a week because of the Aids epidemic. His diocese was actively committed to the relief of global suffering in core survival areas of the world.
At the end of the meeting the group needed to nominate three names from which one would be taken as the Listener for the group. The facilitator, or animateur, as he is called, did an excellent job of managing a process in which there were a number of views of how it should be done, and we got our three names. It feels as though it’s reached the point where things might really start to happen. And I’m about to leave. I have to say I feel some sadness. It’s been excellent to share this part of the journey.
When we as a Baptist family have a global gathering, different parts of the world are given an opportunity to share their culture within the worship. This can be extremely rich but the down side is that with a completely different menu each time you can feel a bit stuffed! I’ve only been here for a short while and if I was present for the full two weeks my experience might be different, but my sense is that the worship led by different provinces brings a distinctive flavour whilst remaining within a liturgy which remains essentially the same. So there is variety but within a given-ness.
The collect for today I particularly appreciated:
Almighty God and Father,
who breathed your life into humanity
and wrote our names in the dust:
help us to accept the transient nature
of our saintliness and sinfulness,
that enlightened by the witness of your Son,
we may ever hold fast
to the eternity of your love. Amen
During the Eucharist, the music was sublime, including a beautiful piece sung by Geraldine Latty. It was very special.
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
He began with the Choluteca Bridge, Honduras, which survived Hurrican Mitch in 1998. Amidst devastation and huge loss of life, the river got moved and now the bridge goes nowhere, standing as a monument to Japanese engineering. This was his way into explaining the shift from a modern to post-modern world. As I’ve already said, great quotes, but also he issued some basic but provocative questions: How do we create space for people to become authentic disciples of Jesus Christ? What if it were as simple as being an example?
I wish I’d got his definition of evangelism but I’ll have to listen again. To whet the appetite it began, ‘Evangelism is the gentle and respectful relational process of understanding and responding to people’s questions …’ He was deeply respectful and appreciative of Archbishop Rowan, and drew out those things that Anglican’s have going for them in this time of change. I loved his comment on the liturgy, ‘Liturgy which combines beauty, mystery, intelligence and clarity’.
On Tuesday he spoke at one of the many self-select sessions. It was billed as ‘Evangelism by Example’, and I guess that he addressed this in a roundabout way. But his approach was to continue with some of the questions that he didn’t have an opportunity to respond to on Monday evening. It became a conversation with many participating and no-one dominating, and looking especially at the questions that are asked by people not obviously part of the church.
The predictable question concerned why bad things happen to good people, and he explored the thinking behind the question, showing that people work with a model of the universe that is mechanistic, and one that needs challenging. Other questions that were striking included, How do you justify a book that reverences genocide and violence? And this one, though probably not often put so succinctly, In a multi-choice world, what do we choose and what’s worth choosing? This begs the question, what will happen if the multi-choice world begins to fragment, if consumerism should begin to crumble?
I liked the story he told about being distinctive. He was speaking with Seventh Day Adventists who asked him, ‘Can we really keep the Sabbath in this day and age?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, but you can’t think it makes you right.’
A question he asks often of people he meets who aren’t connected to a church goes like this, ‘I guess you don’t go to church. What do you think people like me need to hear?’ It’s a great question. He followed this with the lines of a song written by a friend, ‘An open hand is stronger than a fist, and listening is stronger than a shout.’ And his conclusion was the point that he made on Monday evening, biggest change requires example.
A surprising and pleasant point of connection for me is Geraldine Latty who has been a prominent presence in our own Baptist Assemblies and a familiar and friendly face.
Each day after Evening Prayer there’s a corporate rehearsal to learn some new material for use the next day which with a global constituency is not only a good idea but a necessary one.
A nice touch - in the Bible Study, with four Indian bishops we got into Mother Teresa stories which came from first hand experience and were moving.
And a ‘thought for the day’, emerging from talk about church decline and the pressure to be successful, ‘In the book of Revelation, the crown doesn’t go to the successful but the faithful.’
Monday, 21 July 2008
And the Indaba group? Well, so far, it’s what it said on the packing. We set some ground rules and then in quietness answered three questions. We then moved into two conversations in different pairs and then formed a group of five in which we explored in more detail the question, ‘Who am I as an Anglican bishop?’ At this point I might have felt left out, but not only was I was fully included but the group immediately offered to ordain me to the episcopacy there and then, and were already improvising for a bishop’s staff and Episcopal ring! Of course I resisted. What followed was not significantly different to the conversation I might have with my Team Leader colleagues, or indeed all Regional Ministers.
We then took our one sentence back and with the other small groups within the larger group, shared findings noting points of convergence and divergence.
Group dynamics are always fascinating, more so when you get a group of leaders together. And today was no exception, although everyone was very gracious and listened well. This was just the first meeting.
The second meeting followed later on in the afternoon. We took as the starting point, The Anglican Way: Signposts on a Common Journey. These are: Formed by Scripture; Shaped through Worship; Ordered for Communion; and Directed by God’s Mission. After a reading of each of these, we opted for one of these signposts for further discussion. I decided to join the group considering Formed by Scripture.
We were asked to engage with the statement which began, ‘we discern the voice of the living God in the Holy Scriptures, mediated by tradition and reason’. I was intrigued to hear the breadth of understanding, ranging from a ready acceptance of the tools of the historical-critical approach to simply taking God’s Word as it is, without allowing our culture to interfere with it in any way.
We face a similar breadth of understanding among our Baptist ministers and churches. But I return to our Baptist Declaration of Principle which begins in a different place in stating, ‘That our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, God manifest in the flesh, is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and that each Church has liberty, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to interpret and administer His laws.’ Interestingly, this went down extraordinarily well with my Anglican friends who seemed to be quite taken with it!
Each Indaba group - fifteen in all - will nominate one of their group to carry the views and the fruit of their discussion into the reflections process. Their ‘listener’ will join a Listening Group whose task will be to generate a common text which authentically reflects the Indaba. On four occasions the Listening Group will meet in open sessions where the bishops can comment on the developing text. The hope is that every bishop attending the conference will be given the opportunity to shape the reflections from what emerges.
I’m taken with this approach and find it helpfully expressed in this statement: ‘The thinking behind this is that in Indaba, we must be aware of these challenges (issues) without immediately trying to resolve them one way or the other. We meet and converse, ensuring that everyone has a voice, and contributes (in our case, praying that it might be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) and that the issues at hand are fully defined and understood by all.
The purpose of the discussion is to find out the deeper convergences that might hold people together in difference and come to a deeper understanding of the topic or issues discussed. This will be achieved by seeking to understand exactly the thinking behind positions other than our own.’
Bishop Alan makes these useful reflections:
Indaba demands full participation
Indaba is an emergent process
Indaba is driven by trust
Indaba requires working space
Indaba is an expression of respect
Indaba is an expression of faith
There’s a real world out there, far more important to God than Ecclesiastical navel gazing.
I’ve been inspired and influenced by the Mennonites, Bridge Builder approach to peace making and in particular conflict resolution, and the similarities are apparent. Bridge Builder’s premise is that conflict is natural. The challenge is how we handle it and learn to live with difference. And listening, deep listening, is crucial. And our Baptist ecclesiology, with its emphasis upon the gathered community discerning the mind of God through listening to one another in the presence of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, also finds resonance in the process.
Now for the experience.
Sunday, 20 July 2008
It was fascinating to hear more about the Conference Programme and especially the nature of Indaba – on which I intend to blog – as well as the Covenant Proposal and also the Windsor Report Process – this is the report on human sexuality. This last aspect began to address the issue which is never far from the surface. It seems to me to be many people’s concern that this shouldn’t be the overriding issue of the Conference, that there are other more important issues to discuss. However, the absence of 250 bishops is, as Bishop Clive Hanford, the Chair of the group responsible for the ongoing process of the report, said, ‘a symbol of division and pain’. I was impressed by his analysis of the current situation, in which he spoke of the severity of the situation; the complexity of the Anglican Communion, with competing value systems, and a lack of clarity about shared values; inconsistencies in applying the Windsor Report; the breakdown of trust which has a number of components; turmoil in The Episcopal Church; and diminishing Communion.
Concluding this session, before Evening Prayer, Archbishop Rowan gave the first Presidential Address, in which he acknowledged in his opening statement that the Conference was ‘very aware of people’s eyes upon us’. And that ‘our eyes are upon each other’. He was pointed. ‘God is asking more sharply than before, what do we want to do with the Anglican Communion?’ He made clear that the greatest need is for transformed relationships, and he provided some of the suggested options: a loose federation, a connection of national family churches, more centralisation. ‘Is there another option? There is, but it would take some change of what we take for granted.’ The option he offered as the one in which he believes the Anglican Communion is being directed consists of two elements: counsel and covenant. He’s a wise and godly man and this was good stuff – the question is how will the Conference proceed over the next two weeks? A helpful reminder was that the Conference doesn’t vote, but it does make resolutions.
I had tea with Phil Groves, who was a Team Vicar at Melton Mowbray during my ministry there. He’s the Facilitator of the Listening Process and he’s done an excellent job in editing, ‘The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality’. You can imagine what we talked about.
Canterbury Cathedral is an awesome place – majestic and beautiful. The music was wonderful and varied with the organ enhanced by a brass group, and the choir accompanied by African percussion for the setting for the Eucharist, the ‘Missa Luba’, a version of the Latin Mass based on traditional Congolese songs for the Eucharist. During the Giving of Communion, the Choir sang ‘O sacrum convivium!’ (O Sacred Banquet) with words by St Thomas Aquinas, and music by Gabriel Jackson (b.1962) which was exquisite. This was followed by ‘Loquebantur variis linguis apostolic, alleluia’ (The apostles spoke in many tongues, alleluia) by Thomas Tallis.
The liturgy used at least six languages apart from English. And a highpoint in the drama was the Gospel Procession accompanied by a dance by the Melanesian Brothers and Sisters.
The preacher was the Right Reverend Duleep de Chickera, the Bishop of Colombo, who spoke from 2 Corinthians 12.9, ‘my grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ Commenting on the Anglican Communion, he noted that, ‘The crisis is complex - it is not a crisis that can be resolved instantly. He called for self-scrutiny, for unity and diversity, and for articulating a prophetic voice. He spoke with a quiet authority and insight and I particularly appreciated his comment that inevitably the prophetic voice is boring, relentlessly boring, it has to be said again and again. And also it isn’t self-serving. A great opener – Sri Lanka has five major religions: - Bhuddism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and cricket!
We left at 9.00 a.m. and made it back for 2.00 p.m. so it was something of a marathon. And though it was nothing like my normal Sunday experience of worship (nor most people’s I guess), it was a deeply meaningful experience and one that I won’t forget.