Thursday, October 24, 2019

Thursday thoughts

1. This is a depressing piece entitled 'What state is the C of E in?'  Why is it that when free fall sets in the solution is often to appoint more people in senior management? Did I mention that I wrote a piece called 'Why plant churches?'. If I was seeking to turn a few of those graphs upwards I might look to appointing people to lead churches who were either a. Apostles b. Evangelists. Just a thought. (Acts 15:18-25)

2. I passed on to Senior management a question that a few on my PCC have asked me recently. What do we need to do to be considered worthy of any support or resourcing from head office? After seven years, after some growth and grace, a more than doubling of our parish share and sending out resources for mission outside our context we have much that's been so encouraging. We aren't a 'resource church' that received money from the Commissioners, we are simply a local church planted out of another local church to keep a closing one open, doing some mission and evangelism. seeking to love and support the poor, making a few disciples and having some fun. If I was looking at graphs like those above, I'd take more of an interest in what God's been up to here but honestly what do I know.....

3. I've been working on a small project for nearly a year that I hear news on today. It will either make me hopeful about the prospects for the C of E graphs or more depressed. I'll let you know.

4. I have returned to using 'Seeking God's Face' as my daily devotional.

5. I've been pondering why one might 'pray to Cardinal Newman'.

6. Christian Smith's phrase 'adultesence' is one I'm chewing on which I heard referred to in a sermon.

7. I've been getting Ryan Holidays reading email for ages and I've recently signed up for 'The Daily Dad'. It's jolly good.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

A thought on infant baptism

Thomas Cranmer had a good day at the office when he said baptism is 'an outward sign of an inward grace'. Indeed it is.

I was birthed into my infant baptism and others, I know, were birthed and then baptised. It's the inward grace that truly matters whichever way around you land on the order. Giles Fraser has some interesting things for you to ponder on infant baptism, particularly as I know many of my readers are 'believer baptism' folk. I really enjoyed Giles on this one:
'On Friday, I baptised my six month old baby boy in the River Jordan. What greater joy than for a priest to christen his own child in the place where Jesus himself was baptised? 
Amongst many warm and witty responses on Twittter, there were also quite a few from those who obviously find infant baptism terribly offensive. For atheists of the Richard Dawkins variety, infant baptism is a form of child abuse, a way of imposing beliefs upon a defenceless child far too young to make up their own mind. Interestingly, there is also a Christian version that is the flip side of this very same objection: that it is only proper believers, those who have made the decision for themselves, who should be baptised.
Both objections share the same basic premise: that the essence of religious commitment is religious belief. The idea here is that faith is all about the intellectual assent to a series of basic propositions about the nature of reality. On this model, to be baptised is to be accepted within the community of the Church on the basis of one’s assent to these propositions. And if you can’t properly assent, you can’t properly join.
Theologically speaking, the problem with this model is that it pictures the choosing individual as being at the centre of the baptismal drama, that baptism happens at the initiative of the chooser. But in theological terms, the initiative isn’t ours. The initiative is God’s love, into which we all are invited to be immersed. Being loved and included within a human family is not something we wait for the child’s assent to — now that really would be child abuse. Likewise, with God’s family.
But there is also a decidedly modern, and highly problematic, notion of choosing that is behind both objections — that choice is the first move in our proper formation as human beings. We might call this the liberal objection, given how liberalism makes choice the founding move in human identity.
But this is philosophically bonkers when we come to think about it. We do not choose how to be brought up; rather, how we are brought up is how we learn to choose. We do not choose the language we have been taught — it would take a certain sort of crazy to decide not to teach a child a language until they are old enough to decide for themselves which language they preferred. If, heaven forbid, someone did that to a child, on what basis would a dumb wordless teenager possibly be able make such a decision? Choices make sense only against the background of a pre-existing horizon of significance. In other words, there are some things that necessarily precede choice and, on the basis of which, choosing is made possible.
My problem is much more with adult baptism. Because with adult baptism it is too easy to succumb to the fantasy that Christianity is all about me; my choice, my decision, my orthodoxy. But the whole point about faith is that the initiative isn’t ours to take. Faith is more basic, more fundamental, than a simple one-off act of choice. Which is why what you choose to believe, your doctrinal orthodoxy, isn’t anywhere near as important to faith as is so often assumed. God’s love is not triaged out on the basis of our score in some theology test.
Much better to think of faith as the appreciation that the world doesn’t revolve around me or you. And thank God for that.'

Monday, October 21, 2019

10 Tips on Prayer


Image result for prayer
I've seen afresh that a prayer-less life is a less fruitful one. This post gave my prayer life a gentle shot in the arm today and it might do the same for yours.

Church Wedding

'We love each other because he first loved us'
1 John 4:19

Yesterday, we had our first 'church wedding'. Now, of course, we have had weddings, but we've never done one on a Sunday morning as part of our service. Mrs C said that she thought it was the best day we've ever had at H T Barnes. We had fantastic worship, the gospel was preached, a lunch of Coronation Chicken and their was a sense of joy and family in the air.

A number of our folk said to me: 'Why on earth haven't we done this before?'

I don't know. To be fair, I had to ring up the Diocesan Registrar to check we were 'allowed' to do wedding on a Sunday and the answer came back yes.  We cooked food, someone drove a car, the bride got dressed in the Vicarage, someone from church did her hair, photos were taken on phones and someone did the flowers. Also , much to our sons joy and a great leap of faith on the part of the couple, they were asked to carry the rings up the aisle. Amazingly, the rings and the boys made it!

It struck many of us that this is a fantastic way to do mission and bring blessing. So many couples are not married because either they are 'saving up' or don't think church is for them. And the un-churched are no longer (at least to us) bringing their children for baptism.
Image result for million dollar wedding iplayer
As it happens,  Mrs C and I watched the most compelling and awful documentary called 'The Million Dollar Wedding Planner'. You'll be mesmerized and disturbed by it in equal measure.The truth is a kingdom wedding is way better than a million dollar one and it costs rather less! Let's do some more of these church.....

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Take care of yourself

I found the words of the Bishop of Peterborough in this post on clergy work and rest interesting:

In a number of dioceses, bishops have started instructing clergy to take two consecutive days off once a month, as well as a full day off in the other weeks. This is in addition to the normal annual leave allowance. I have been asked if I intend to do the same. My answer may seem a strange one, and I’m very happy to discuss or explain it, but it represents a firmly held position.
I have no intention of telling clergy how many days off to take, or how to configure their days off or their annual leave. To do so would make me a manager, and would make the clergy employees. (I am referring to parish clergy; chaplains and some diocesan staff are employees and come under different arrangements.) During my 26 years in parish ministry, and now 17 as archdeacon or bishop, I have rejoiced in the freedom we have to organise our own lives: to have lunch at home sometimes, to share in children’s bedtime or the school run or see children in a school play during the daytime, to go out for a walk or to the cinema or read a novel on a “working” day when I feel the need to do that. I have never counted my working hours in a week, or even my days of leave per year, and I have never felt the need to do so. I know that I work hard at my ministerial calling. I am a priest and bishop 24/7, and I am also a husband, father, brother, friend – and a person with my own needs – in the same way. (I tried to be a 24/7 son too, when my parents were still alive). I rejoice in holding these duties, joys, responsibilities and privileges together. I delight in our strange and somewhat unusual status, as neither employed nor self-employed, but “office holders”. I am perplexed and a little saddened when parish clergy want to be employed and line managed, or see their calling as in some way analogous to a job. To the parish clergy I would say, Give yourself wholly and joyfully to the various callings, responsibilities and privileges the Lord has laid on you; Look after yourself as well as others, taking the time you need for refreshment, recreation, and rest; Work hard, pray hard, love well, care for those in your charge including yourself.

Years ago, I met a Bishop whilst exploring a Curacy opportunity and he told me half his clergy 'had issues with stress, addiction, depression' etc. I am not sure if it's any different today?

A Vicar pal who was signed off a while ago recommended a book called 'Take care of yourself'. Indeed we must.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Almost invisible

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

I found this post an encouragement in the midst of the challenge of what it means to makes disciples in a post-Christian culture. If you are the pastor of a small local church embedded in a community and seeking to be a prayerful presence you do periodically ask:

'Lord, how will they be saved?'

I do this as I walk behind a mum pushing her pram past the local school on the estate or as I see the young couple hurrying their way to work in an office in the West end. Now, I know it's God's job to turn the heart but I'm often mulling on what's God's part in that and what's down to my/our activity (spiritual or otherwise).
A life passage for me is Romans 10 where Paul pours out his heart for the lost. It's the passage that both called me and planted me. Is God, in my frustration and I admit feeling a little overwhelmed by the seeming size of the task, telling me to revisit 'my feet' once again and get them moving. I have also been dipping into Fresh wind Fresh Fire which was such a seminal book for me.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursdays thoughts

1. Mrs C's talk is now up and I think it's brilliant but I am biased. It's her first at HT Barnes.

2. Mrs C was blown away by Keller's talk on Esther and the Silent Sovereignty of God.

3. We are reading through Mark's gospel on Monday evenings with a gathering of saints using this resource. Some food, some study, some stories and prayer.

4. I have picked up Mary's book and it's moved me again. What a life of following the Spirit. A good one to recommend to anyone married to a Vicar as Mrs C now finds herself to be.

5. Our evening service started well. John Mumford of the Vineyard Movement came to visit us weeks after I planted here and I asked him for some advice and he said:

 'Don't count the numbers and have fun'. 

The longer I do this the more I learn that numbers don's tell you very much about the effectiveness of your discipleship. Thank goodness for that.
Image result for kissell before dawn sets in  mary book

6.  'Raising a child is like building a house' an Old Albanian Proverb quoted in 'Raising passionate Jesus Followers'

Image result for all i want millar

7. I am spending the afternoon sitting at the feet of Sandy Millar. Over 30 years ago, my sister turned to me in her car as we parked in Chiswick and said:  'I've become a born again Christian' and I thought she'd lost the plot. She invited me to HTB and Sandy spoke for 40 minutes on 'Revival'. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. I left that night wondering what on earth all those people were on and the only thing I knew was I wasn't on it. By grace, I now am.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Thursday thoughts

1.  A few members of one of our day time groups wanted a recommendation of a book on Biblical meditation.  'The lost art of mediation' was the one that came to mind.

2. Listening to 'Getting to the bottom of your joy' greatly impacted my heart when I listened to it a few years ago. I am quoting some of it on Sunday.

3.  Danielle Strickland's description of leading someone to Jesus has stayed with me (starts 10.09).

4. I watched a promotional clip of a pal's church and they had someone dressed up as bear to welcome people. Perhaps that's where my church growth strategy has been going wrong?

5. Mrs C gave a great talk at our monthly prayer meeting last night.

6. A growing number of churches in the C of E are failing to cover the costs of their Vicar. Should nothing change, this is not destined to end well.

7.  I am someone's 'Spiritual director', at least that's what they call m,e and I've been pondering what this means. I am reading Soul friend to find out more which been sitting on my shelf unread for some years.