Thursday, 17 December 2009

O dear - having logged on not being ready for Advent, things have gone from bad to worse in terms of having time for all those things I was going to do! Of course, this is also the story of my life, so to blame Advent, or Christmas, would be naive in the extreme. What it has done, however, is raise even more questions in my mind about how Churches and Christian organisations get things done (or of course, don"t). Since re-entering the real world after my sabbatical I've had some interesting meetings with a one or two Churches around this theme. Basically, with permission, I offer a very basic overview of the extent to which a Church to align its practice with whatever they believe to be their reason for being. It is, perhaps not surprisingly, rather scary. Now, of course, when something is as challenging as feeling everything must change, our default position is to retreat like a tortoise - we're OK underneath this shell from everything 'out there' which threatens us!
So, I'll be interested to look at this e-book offered free by Seth Godin with thoughts from 70 thinkers on what matters now -
Also, don't know if anyone else saw an article about the Met being a dysfunctional organisation in various newspapers? Well, this was apparently what Sir Paul Stephenson, the current Met chief, (does the knoghthood come with the job these days?) said was true about certain parts of it before he took over little over a year ago. Now, of course, we must always take care with our responses to such news, but it made me think if the Met, with all the organisational expertise at their fingertips, are dysfunctional, perhaps we're not so bad after all. Incidentally, I can hear many a new Minister saying the same thing about their Church, referring to the previous Minister. What was also intriguing, to me at least, was the reason given - 'in-fighting between senior officers'. Now, when I conducted my research into why people leave Christian Ministry some years ago now, conflict within the key leadership team was high on the list of significant factors.

Monday, 7 December 2009

In Northampton for three days this week for our Settlement Team along with the National and Regional Teams consultation, which is the only time during the year we get the key team members together across the board. Whilst here, I'm conscious the rest of the world keeps turning - two key events taking place with the Copenhagen conference on climate change and also, Kettering playing their FA Cup 2nd round replay away at Leeds tomorrow night! Come on the Poppies.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Despite what some people think when I speak, I am actually a very strong believer in weekly Sunday worship services. So much so that when the clock hits 6.30pm, on a Sunday, I feel I’m in the wrong place if, like now, I’m sitting at home – even if I’ve already been to two services already, as today.

Both events were great adverts for Sunday worship. Firstly, I was at Hillfields Park, Bristol, in the morning, which is always a good place to be. A few years ago they felt they were going nowhere fast, but what a difference a catalytic leader like Ian makes, although he still erans his money as a postman. The consistent feature of my visits there in recent years is the amazing people I meet after the service with the stories of what God is up to in their own lives. This time was no exception and I'll just mention something of Mark's story -

During the service. Mark had already shared how God had helped him at work last week. He was being bullied and this culminated last week with someone pushing him up against a cupboard, with their hands around his throat. They threatened him, demanding he let someone else get the benefits of the new deals he'd achieved. Somehow, he said, he found the strength to refuse. The other guy then forced him to the floor and at this point the boss came in – having been listening to the whole scene he sacked the other guy there and then. Mark is now praying for his persecutor.

After the service, Mark told me that five months ago he was homeless - having lost his property and job in Spain. He returned to Bristol, soon found himself placed into a hostel and feeling he was pretty much at rock bottom. He managed to get a job - door-to-door selling deals for The Bristol Post, which must be a pretty thankless task in today's climate. Anyway, he was on the brink of giving this up one very wet day and finding very few interested people. His boss encouraged him to keep trying and he picked another street by more or less closing his eyes and placing his finger on the map. In this street, he knocked on Anne's door (I met her too) who, describing Mark as looking like a drowned rat, asked him if he'd like cup of tea. Mark describes an overwhelming sense of love in that house, which was unexplainable, but very real. For a reason he can't explain, he asked her if she went to church and she began to talk about God with him as a result. Well one thing led to another and he ended up becoming a Christian.

From there I went to meet the Bristol Chinese Baptist Church to join them for a baptismal service. Four people were baptized and added into a steadily growing fellowship. I’m sure all the testimonies were powerful, but my Chinese is not up to scratch, so I’ll base it on the two who had some translation.

Yep, a good day at church.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

definitely not ready for advent....

Well, officially back to work after my final month of sabbatical (I remember fondly that nice feeling at the beginning of September after month 2 thinking 'I'm off again before the end of next month). My colleagues will say it's the longest running sabbatical ever and stretching it out by taking three separate months has certainly prolonged the sabbatical mode and mood. Anyway, I start back at the beginning of advent, which remains one of my favourite times of year and always productive in terms of my walk with God. Ironically, however, I'm not even prepared for advent has been the theme of my thoughts in the car today. Advent has something to do with preparation I know, but I've amused myself at least with thoughts of suggesting next November becomes an official prepare for advent month in the liturgical calendar! I'm using Stephen Cottrell's "Do nothing Christmas is coming' as a daily anchor and anyone who starts off with quoting Ogden Nash - 'Why is Christmas like a day at the office? You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.' can't be that bad in my opinion.
Last night I returned home with the cries of 'Nigel, Nigel' from the thousands who gathered in Portishead for the switching on of the Christmas lights ringing in my ears! No, not me this time - Nigel Parker was the local worker at Sainsbury's Homebase chosen to switch n their lights. Us Nigel's need to stick together and you tell by the 'meet nice Nigel' BBC headline -
maybe we need to campaign against Nigelism?!
Kicked myself whilst driving - didn't have the camera in the car today and a lovely buzzard was sitting on a fence post two metres from where I stopped.
Oh for advent thoughts check out for some worthy Baptist bloggers among others - I think i have 18th. for my date.
Today's world aids day and after my visit to SA last month is a whole load more poignant than previously. The picture is of Leon who is part of a Baptist congregation in one of the black township's outside Cape Town. he wont get any substantial funding, but, he and his wife, have given up their jobs to work with children and women who are hivaids affected. No glamourous ministry this one, but really impressive work in the kingdom of our God.