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

Thursday, 28 May 2009

You're the only one that I could live for

Awesome week this week, Under the Sea Holiday Club at Stebbing. Around 45 kids for four mornings. Your basic crafts games gunge jokes type set up, but, led by the team from Pulse Ministries, with the added extra of some serious prayer, worship, preaching, evangelism and fun!
I counted all the holiday clubs I'd ever done the other day, and reflected back on some of the ones I'd led. We'd be rushing around at the last minute sorting things out, whereas Pulse have us all praying and sharing and reading the Bible together for an hour every morning before we start. It's amazing; people are actually getting there early!

I know its sometimes a touchy subject but I cannot think of a better way to get children interested in Jesus than to actually give them the opportunity to spend time with him. Today we had a church full of kids lying on the floor, with quiet music playing, listening to God. It wasn't just for a few seconds, but for like 5 or 10 minutes there was a peaceful and holy atmosphere. Never seen that before, but want to see it again!

If you're thinking of running a holiday club, I highly recommend Pulse. They are consummate professionals (even though technically they are amateurs as they are not salaried but live by faith) with immense insight and wisdom, yet a gracious way of including what is already on the ground. Their aim is to grow the faith of the whole church, not just the kids, and that is happening here this week. I'm most impressed though that they do not see their role as a hit and run thing, but are committed to relationship with us for the future, and to seeing good follow up from the contacts made this week in the future.

I'm sure I'll be posting about them again!
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Saturday, 23 May 2009

aww, go on ...

Posted by Picasa A marvellous Friday night camp out in a secret location near Stebbing led to a wonderful encounter with these swans this morning. The cygnets don't look to be much more than a couple of days old. When we first met this family the pastoral idyll was somewhat undermined by the arrival of a family of geese with goslings, leading to a turf war which the geese lost.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

You search much deeper within, through the way things appear...

Have you ever been to Disneyland or Euro Disney (Disneyland Paris or whatever) or any theme park?

has it ever reminded you of a church?

I used to teach English at a University in Paris where many of my students (because they could speak English) got vacation jobs at the then brand new Disney Park at the opposite end of our RER Train line. It was interesting for me to reflect with them about the role playing and the fakery, the play acting that effectively encompassed the whole place; nothing is real.

The characters are being played by people who are not really Mickey or Minnie or Stitch or whoever. They are just doing a job, playing a role. The streets and castles and restaurants and venues are all pretending to be something they are not. They are in the business of entertaining us by deceiving us (though not maliciously) into an experience which though fun is ultimately like the food you get there; very expensive and not sufficient to sustain healthy life.

I'm beginning to see that church (not my church or your church but just generic church) can sometimes stray over into this kind of territory. We are so desperate to attract and welcome people, that we effectively put on a show that is not a true reflection of who we are as a Christian community. We want to welcome people, but to what? We over promise, then we under deliver. I suspect people see through that kind of thing pretty quick and don't come back. Church in that sense then is fake; we are not real; either because we only do God for an hour on Sundays, or because we are afraid that is the case, even if it is not.

If only we could be more honest about who we really are - a broken people, the walking wounded. Church should be a place where we don't wear masks - whether that's individually - "I'm OK really" or corporately " we don't mind what you think or do" (that's more a head in the sand than a mask.)

If people join our church just because they are welcome, but never move on into the transformed life of the Kingdom, then we are Disneyland, because we are only showing the surface, not the depth of our Faith and love. The lunch isn't free, it comes with a price, and no one should say its easy. Disney church will only show the niece bits, not the hurting, the resentment or the depression.

And if we spend all our time and effort making church services look cool and trendy, we have no time or energy left for the business of getting out there to invite others in (or indeed getting out there to listen to where others are at).

Rant over.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Problems? Problems? Don't give me your problems ...

I've recently begun following the blog of Michael Wenham, at which I discovered the following video, so thank you Michael for this inspirational person.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Stebbing Sporting Calendar 09: 1

Stebbing Scramble today (actually that shot is from the archives,) the annual grass track motorcycle race. I was invited to go down and say a prayer and a blessing upon the event before practice started. It's hard to choose the right words, especially when praying for safety, as people do get hurt, so I concentrated on thanksgiving for fine weather and a prayer for fair play in the competitions.

In the event, virtually the first thing that happened was a crash during practice, and I wish I'd prayed for a light sprinkle of rain to keep the dust down; we got covered in it from head to toe watching jsut 4 races. It brings awhole new meaning to the term "messy Church!"

PS how do you know there were motorbikes in the Bible?

"David's Triumph was heard throughout Israel"!

Friday, 1 May 2009

And the meek shall inherit the earth ...

This is a long post so only watch the videos if you have 20 odd minutes to spare (and like 1970's Rock music). If you're in a hurry just read the lyrics. If you are already familiar with 2112 by Rush, please proceed directly to the next paragraph.

OK, so this is a reflection on the current economic circumstances we find ourselves in. I just like the theme of the underdog, the little guy with the right answer, and can't help thinking, with a bit of help from Let us Be Human, that the values of the Kingdom of God are like unto the guitar found by the man in the story/song.

In spite of the opening line, I don't think this is the intended meaning of the song, it just appeals to me as a metaphor for those who are trying to say (and live a life that says) "Enough growth already!"

There was a quotation in the paper the other day - can't find reference aargh - along the lines of "if stimulating the economy means lending people money they don't want to borrow to buy things they neither want nor need, then what's the point?"

I once preached on 2112 on Maundy Thursday, reflecting that "We have assumed control, we have assumed control" is what appears to be happening when Jesus is arrested tried and crucified. 2112 ends with the Priests being ousted and replaced by an alien culture, with the anonymous protester in despair. Of course, through Good Friday and Holy Saturday, that's where we are, until the resurrection changes everything.

I'm mixing metaphors a bit really. There's just a big niggle in my gut that the G20, the politicians/economists who are saying "we've got it covered" are like the Priests of the Temple. Both insist their way is the only way to do it, and reject any attempt to do something more human, more beautiful, more just or more ecological. 2112 ends with a hostile takeover of a whole system.

If we don't do something to stop the juggernaut of greed, is that where we'll end up?

I'm more into music than economics, so you can probably pick holes in this, but that's what it's here for.