Saturday, 31 May 2008

'not everyone who wanders is lost'

saw this Tolkien quote today on a Craghoppers t-shirt. Didn't buy it, but maybe I should. It certainly fits the kind of adventurous spirit we need to recapture in today's Church.

Friday, 30 May 2008

is the Church too normal?

Two interesting incidents (at least to me) within 12 hours! 
Incident 1: Last night I took my mother-in-law (yes really!) to the Brislington Conservation and Historical Society. I was buying some ice cream in Tarrs (one of the joys of living here is our independent ice cream manufacturer) and saw their notice advertising 'A Tale of Two Cities - Bristol & Bath' and thought Joyce would love this as they were coming to stay for a few days. Well she did - and I thought Mike, who spoke and showed slides, was really interesting. What was more interesting to me was how we were received/not received as obvious (very) strangers to the group. If I could guarantee the next talk would be as good, I'd return, but little in the welcome would help (one person took initiative and spoke to me), 'did you see the advert in the paper?' (clearly didn't actually expect anyone to come along as a result), too much knowledge assumed, didn't understand what the notices were referring to, etc. - very like many Churches, just not geared up for outsiders, or newcomers. Oh dear, how do we come across! 
Incident 2: went for a run this morning and at the bottom of Talbot Hill a white van driver actually stopped and signaled me to cross the road. I was nearly too stunned to politely thank him. You need to know I've been involved in 4 accidents since working regionally (and therefore driving much) - 3 involved white van drivers. So when the deeply philosophical conversation in the pub turns to white van drivers and how they can make a real difference ....... 'white **** van drivers .....' is my response. I am prejudiced, irrational, anti, but one guy has blown my attitudes apart - maybe they're not all two-headed monsters out to get other drivers. 
Why go back to the historical society? Without that one little old lady who smiled and tried to be friendly, no chance. I'm back to it's who we are that counts for others.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

no room for pastor-teachers?

I don't think we need any more pastor-teachers. There I've said it, so how does it sound? The thing is I'm hearing Churches send a mixed message on this one - on the one hand they generally say, during a Pastoral Vacancy, we don't want someone who'll do everything for us, but my observations suggest something quite different in practice. Our Colleges are caught in the same dilemma  - do we try and develop what we think Churches need, or what they want? My hunch is, after sitting through our recent Home Mission Grants Group meeting (one after the other someone said 'what this Church really needs is .... but what they want is....') we need more people who are able Biblical teachers, sensitive pastorally, but primarily focused on something else. I think the missionary context is crying out for it and the continual shrinkage of the Church demands it, but the present mindset of many Churches suggests otherwise. It would be good to be able to talk openly about this one, but I recognise it's a scary one for many because we identify so much of who we are with the roles we've inherited. I'd welcome comments so we can glean where we go next with this one.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

another Minister bites the dust....

'he never really had a real chance following 'the special one';        

'his congregation were always comparing him to their previous Minister'; 'it's not what he said, it was how he said it'; 'the content of his sermons was OK, but they didn't relate to real life'; 'second in the league and champions league runners-up is no mean achievement'; 'the trouble is the only people we've baptised have been all-ready Christians'; 'he might have been the manager, but he didn't have the money/power'; 'he never smiled'; 'he might have been the Minister, but he didn't have the money/power' - I could go on, but really need to get some work done.

Monday, 26 May 2008

football and grace.

Bristol City could have been in the Premiership next season 'if only' .... there was just the one goal in it. I've lived in Bristol for 17 years and I think I love the place more than anywhere else I've lived now. I'm always glad when City do well - and they have had a good season despite losing to Hull in the play off final. The trouble is, I'm always glad when Rovers do well too. As you can imagine, this does nothing to endear me to either set of supporters, but neither does it mean I get upset when either doesn't win. Try as I might, I can't shed any tears for City not winning at Wembley last Saturday. I can sympathise and empathise, but for real tears ... Liverpool have to be involved. So what makes a football supporter? I wasn't born a Liverpool fan, it's difficult to explain satisfactorily  'why' to unbelievers, ilfe would be much easier without bothering (or I could just pop along the road to Ashton Gate if I could support City), Maggie would think I was far more mature if I could avoid those irrational Saturday afternoon moments: - it is actually so much like how as Christians we describe grace! 
Maybe we overlook how much emotion has to do with people's response to pretty much anything they think is important. Jesus always seems to appeal to both head and heart. I'm not saying thanks to City for losing, but it's worth thinking about.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

theology versus pragmatism

I've just come back from a sunday evening with our own Church and Mark, who was preaching from 1 Sam. 13, talked about principle v practicality. He was good, I thought, speaking about Saul who let go of principle in favour of practicality. It got me thinking about the wedge which some people seem to be driving between 'theology' and 'pragmatism' at present. Pragmatism devoid of principle is bound to be hollow and, like a cul de sac, going nowhere fast. However, a theology which is lacking in any genuine practical outworking is not worthy of the name. Unfortunately, it's those of us with theology degrees who are doing the talking and maybe we need to listen to what those who have to listen to us think and feel a little more. Some of our gatherings are so detached from my life monday through to saturday (and I spend most of it with the Church!) I dread to think how others might respond. Ask them? Scary! Maybe blogging will help - maybe I'll discover I'm on a different planet, or perhaps someone will tell me how we can connect more beyond the walls of the Church without interviewing the teacher every week.