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Stebbing, Great Dunmow, Essex, United Kingdom
The occasional blog of an Anglican priest in rural Essex

Thursday, 14 August 2008

I heard it through the grapevine ...

Lots of debate going on about what evangelical means, on Fulcrum and the Ugley Vicar. It is good to think about stuff we have in common (say between open evangelicals and conservative ones).

I just spent 3 days on and off trying to write a post examining the conservative approach to stuff like bishops, (male and female) ordination (ditto) and the Bible.

Trouble was I either found their arguments too painful to accept or I just plain didn't know how they got to their conclusion. If I was their maths teacher I'd write "show your working" in the margin.

So no great words of wisdom, just disappointment and frustration that my own vine is trying to cut me off

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Do you really want to hurt me?


cat - pigeons, pigeons - cat, as Tommy Cooper might have said.

lots of kerfuffle on the Ugley Vicar Blog after I tipped off Fulcrum about John's recent post about NEAC. Had to eat humble pie and edit a post on Fulcrum. Fair play I guess - should watch my mouth (or my cursor)

Still, no point in writing stuff if you don't stand by it. Better try to get to NEAC on 15 Nov now. I'm sure that most times people get upset by posts, those posts were written in anger. No one intends to hurt, do they?

Went to a good meeting today to begin our deanery tourist trail project - something good can come from Deanery Synod! (no I do really like Synod actually, no sarcasm). Was good to actually be planning something together for the benefit of 24 or more churches, and for the extension of God's kingdom in this corner of West Essex.

What do you call a herd of cows in the fog?

Udderly lost!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Tell me are you a Christian child, and I said "ma'am I am tonight!"

Watched "Make me a Christian" on channel 4 last night. It was quite good viewing but raised a number of concerns too.

It's like a cross between "the Monastery", Big Brother, supernanny and life laundry. The idea is that a motley selection of people of all ages and social backgrounds are mentored by a group of ministers (all capable of landing modelling contracts, in passing) as they attempt to live a Christian life for three weeks.

All the Biblical input was fine; the starting point was "God loves you, no matter what you've done".

The thing was, they started with a formal Eucharist at York minster - hardly the most user friendly service for unchurched or ex-church people.

The mentors were then shown visiting some of the group in their homes to get to know them. This looked fairly innocuous to start with, but then the alarms went off because there was some pretty heavy insistence on change - removal of books and other items from houses and flats, and an enforced change in behaviour (in the case of a sexually promiscuous man).

Now here's the rub; in real life, when discipling a new convert, you might want them to change certain things but (in my book) you wouldn't wade in quite so heavily, being instead a little more patient and reliant on the power of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the church, to transform the life of the disciple.

In this show, though, the starting point is not a conversion to a living faith, but a TV camera driven decision to live by a set of rules; this is not the same thing. I don't think prayer got much of a mention last night, although Bible reading was high on the agenda.

I guess the time constraints have meant that things are hurried up, but in real life if I did that sort of thing to someone I wouldn't see them for dust! It may well be that this would be the case on the show were it not for the 15 minutes of fame that having cameras along will bring.

What worries me most is that people like the participants - say "seekers" or whatever you want to call them, will watch this show and think that all ministers behave in this way towards their flocks. Nothing could be further from the truth from my perspective.

Yet it wasn't that I disagreed with the aim - it was just the means that made me cross. In a way this is like the thing about Rowan Williams and his two opinions about gays. If he only had 3 weeks to sort it out, he might be a little more forthright in his leading, but as he is a patient, prayerful and humble leader, he is listening to other voices and allowing his theology to be shaped by the place he finds himself in. So he keeps his personal theology in the background.

By contrast in "Make me a Christian", what would be many church leaders' underlying personal beliefs and practices are dragged to the surface and put into practice jackboot style, for reasons of brevity and "to make good TV". We all wish things would move along faster, but it would be disastrous if we pushed them this hard in real life.

In our churches here our outreach and pastoral care is founded on the principle of "belong, believe, behave", i.e. get people to feel they belong, give them the opportunity to find out what they do or don't believe (giving them the chance to encounter and respond to Christ through the Holy Spirit along the way), and thereby with God's help enabling the transformation of their behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, I do believe in the power of God to transform lives overnight (hence the title of this post which by the way refers to Marc Cohn's original not the Cher cover version), I just think that "Make me a Christian" is doing it the wrong way round and seems therefore to have shut God out of the process.

According to the taster clips though, this rather extreme pastoral method bears some fruit in the next episode. We shall see.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Through the Rain like an English summer ...

The last couple of days have seen some serious downpours here - real modem-busting thunderstorms - we are over cautious when it comes to unplugging stuff, in a case of once bitten (or rather struck) twice shy.

The church roof seems to be holding up, but our neighbour's garage was flooded. So this weekend I've been walking the dogs in the gaps between showers which are always quite muggy, and because the grass is wet they (being flat-coated retrievers) get soaked.

Still, they love it.

I'm supposed to pray when I walk, and it is easy to launch off into praise in this beautiful place, but my time with God is frequently interrupted because I have to stop the oldest dog from rolling in horse muck - yuck!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Adventure Island Ahoy

Cracking day yesterday for my son's birthday, at Adventure Island in Southend.

we rocked up at 10.30 for an 11am opening expecting a queue and there was eventually one but we were at the front.

Lots of rides including the most ridiculously scary and therefore entirely addictive roller coaster called the rage. See http://http://www.adventureisland.co.uk/rides/rage.html for details, but let me say it was the scariest ride ever experienced by this author! Straight vertical takeoff followed by same distance in a drop that was (dunno proper geometric term) beyond 90- degrees so you go back under yourself and are convinced you will fall out!

Southend was looking a bit dog-eared, in spite of our enjoyment. The pier and the Adventure Island complex have obviously had some investment (2 new rides, new tower lift access for pier) but when the pier won the 2007 pier of the year the judges obviously weren't shown the eastern facade from within the adventure island park, which featured seriously worn out paintwork and rust on a grand scale.

For a Friday in August it was pretty empty too -I couldn't believe we got a parking space in the street right across from the entrance to the park, and in the evening there weren't even very many young people out and about. Not great news for the region's economy I fear.

Not great news for the Times either with 18 bishops leaping to the defence of Rowan's right to change his mind and/or have evolving theological opinions. This is good news for us though as it shows that the Church is capable of accepting a leader changing - or indeed anyone changing, and unless some people do change their minds, the debates about gays and women are just going to get nastier.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Baby don't change your mind

Papers and blogs full today of the "revelation" that Rowan Williams has two opinions about homosexuality, one private (theological) and another public (leader's).

He's certainly getting it in the neck but I think we probably knew throughout Lambeth and all that came before that he had either changed his mind or had decided to go with his perception of the right flow as leader of the church.

I still rate the bloke as a first class leader. In fact any (OK any mainstream Anglican) church leader who lets all their own theological convictions rule the way they lead a church would probably have to:-

  • sack the Sunday school teachers for teaching fundamentalist approaches to Genesis 1-11

  • sack the organist because they don't have the same approach to music in worship

  • have a radically different baptism policy to the one currently in place.

  • find a new job!

Now of course you'd have to be mad to go through those bullet points as a to do list for the week, but that's the kind of thing Rowan's critics seem to be asking of him. We all have to make compromises because (IMHO) church leadership is not a solo craft; we sail as a team and we have to take the approaches and opinions and feelings of other team members into account, even when we are the captain. That's why I say, don't knock teh bloke, pray for him - go on, right now

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

retrospective clergy leadership programme journal II

Just been to see someone who could be my new spiritual director. It was an excellent time with a lovely person who can probably be very good for me as a spiritual mentor, as well as being able to take in my inevitable splurges of unloading( a bit like a blog then, really).

Of course I have to get a spiritual director as part of CLP, so in a way although this person (no you are not going to find out who it is) is great, I am finding myself thinking "am I just ticking the box?"

So much of what I intended after clp in May still remains undone, at the bottom of a deep filled cheesy crust in tray.
I hate paperwork and my heart sinks just thinking about how far behind I am. Doing this doesn't actually advance me in that direction but it does help to clear the mind!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Back home

We're back, after an exhausting but also uplifting and refreshing week at New Wine. Great worship, enjoyable and informative seminars and profound teaching and prayer ministry. It is great to be in a church where the stuff we bring home from New Wine is welcomed!

It was also excellent to do a bit of networking with old friends and new, though the highlight has to be being recognised by the worship leader, Vicky Beeching, who hadn't seen us for about a decade.

Back to the grind now, combining school holidays with parish work is always a joy and a challenge.

Lambeth seems to have gone pretty well in the end - prayer probably has more to do with it than politics, but that's not what the papers will say