Monday, 28 September 2009
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Stephen Cottreell, the Anglican Bishop of Reading, is someone I have a lot of time for – especially having just received a copy of his delightful little book ‘Hit the Ground Kneeling’. He’s been quoted in the press this week as suggesting the Church must shed its M&S image to attract the Asda and Aldi generations. Well, I’m siting in Morrisons in Weston-super-Mare trying to prepare some stuff in between meetings and the folk sitting around me wouldn’t look out of place in many of our Baptist Churches. What does that say?
Ironically, I think the M&S image has consciously been appealing to a variety of generations in recent years - do I think that because I'm now 50, or because they use particularly attractive women in the adverts – and I’m old enough to remember Twiggy first time around (albeit very young)!? On a slightly more serious note ‘your M&S’ is a good slogan which keys nicely into the mindset of movement. Also, has anyone done any research on colour and supermarkets - their green works for me in a way the Aldi orange and blue doesn't? But then, we're more Lidl than Aldi in our house.... 'as for me and my house'....On an even more serious note we do need to re-address the overwhelming middle class tone in the Church in generally - on this point we agree.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
O my word, two blog entries in one day, whatever next! Today I dropped my car off to my mechanic. Sounds grand, but Martin doesn’t work solely for me – it’s just I’ve stuck with him even though his garage is in Bathampton and not round the corner and a garage you can trust is worth a bit of inconvenience I reckon. Anyway it meant I’ve been rooted in Bath for the day so visited one of our new Ministers, Mark and did some work whilst supping coffee elsewhere.
The interesting thing was listening to the phone-in on five-live about whether the UK is increasingly liberal (politically) in terms of the mind-set of its people. This reflects the comments of a few significant Liberal political figures recently, which certainly suggests this is what they believe. Now there is an interesting discussion to be had as to whether this is the time for the Liberal Democrats to make more serious in-roads into our political landscape, but that is not what interests me primarily. My interest was grabbed by the extent to which people were saying, from a wide political spectrum that our neighbours and colleagues have, in general, become increasingly ‘liberal’ in their thinking since the 1960’s in terms of the growing importance placed upon individual freedoms and responsibility. I tend to believe this is true. Now, the problem the Liberal Democratic party have is combining their appeal to individualism with corporate responsibility for government – you can please all of the people some of the time, but…..
Churches have the same dilemma, however, and the fact larger churches tend to grow at a slower rate than smaller churches (it takes more church members per baptism in a larger church on average, etc.) tends to support this. If we pay too much attention to words such as ‘leadership’, or ‘ministry’ as church leaders and not enough to words like ‘maturity’, ‘growth’, ‘development’ as they apply to individuals, we end up with a ‘system’ designed to support an organisation, which we call our local church. Too much attention seems to be paid to developing individuals in ‘ministries’ which support the organisation called church and insufficient on becoming individuals which are enabled by being called together as a church – and there’s more than a subtle difference. (NB - i know, I've made the errors myself). If, however, we are living through a transition – and most ‘post-modernity’ talk will support this claim, churches and their leaders need to key into how the landscape of individuals has changed and provide an environment, which supports their growth.
Must go now as I need to collect the car – good news this time!
Well, we’ve dropped off our youngest, Emily, to start University in Southampton and wondering if that makes us empty nesters? I realise there’s three years to go and even then the nest may not be entirely empty, but yesterday was a significant milestone in the Coles family. In pc world I’m probably not supposed to state the obvious, but it was different, as dad, saying goodbye to a daughter, as opposed to two previous sons. Why? Certainly not, in our case at least, anything about worrying Emily wouldn’t cope as well as a girl, or fearful of her abilities to live more independently than her brothers. Certainly, being the youngest was a factor for Maggie and I and what this symbolises, not simply for her development, but also for ours. However, for me, the difference boils down to one of relationship and the differences between male and female and how we actually relate with one another – not better, or worse, but different. Ben will be around, before he returns to Liverpool, for another week so it wasn’t quite registering all the other rooms were empty when I woke this morning, so that realisation will dawn next week, but we’re on the way.
Now of course, this will eventually get me on to how church systems allow, encourage, or stunt growth of their members into mature, individual followers of Jesus, but for now I just need to register and process how it all feels.
Friday, 18 September 2009
I tend to use the seasons as a means of measuring aspects of churches health - partly because we love talking about the weather as Brits and everyone can readily associate with the ideas. If we talk about being in winter when it comes to our relationships with those beyond the church in our community everyone quickly gets the idea, for example, but people are also encouraged by the fact we have to pass through winter to get to spring if we're in the autumn of nostalgia - looking back on a previously good summer (here the memory has to kick in).
Thursday, 17 September 2009
My first Anfield trip of the season last night, so I'm not sure why I'm so bright and breezy this morning - late night and a poor match, although we won 1-0. However, all the papers and websites will say, exactly what we said in our car on the way home - it's three points and, at this stage, 'that's all that matters'. 'All' that matters? Yes, it's part of the culture these days when winning is more important than playing the game in the minds and hearts of many football fans. When I talk with supporters of teams, however, where winning a trophy at the end of the season is not on the agenda, it becomes a different focus, which many would applaud - more about playing the game, like any good englishman, or woman.
Sunday, 13 September 2009
It’s a brave person in today’s PC world to venture into the realms of comment on child care and parenting, but comment is what Aric Sigman is doing. I’ll be interested to hear what the reaction is to his latest book, ‘The Spoilt Generation.’ Apparently, (I haven’t read it yet) he’s focusing upon the inability of parents to provide clear boundaries for young children and then deals with the consequences, I would add for society as a whole. My gut feeling is I’m going to end up agreeing with what reads, in the review in today’s paper at least, like common sense and a reasonable applications of biblical teaching.
So what of the role of the local pastor of typical Baptist Church? Many Churches stress the word ‘family’ in their presentation, in terms of community style, to the outside world, but are we any less dysfunctional than any other group of families? Sadly, our values are rather more influenced by our wider society than we’d care to admit and pastors can easily be intimidated by the reactions to perceived criticism of parenting skills – a veritable minefield. However, another hunch is we’re about to see a swinging of the pendulum towards a more recognised need for clear boundaries. The massive underlying issue – can we believe in such things as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ - is not, we’re told, very post-modern, but it is a sought after commodity in today’s rising generations bred on materialistic insecurity.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
So, would Jesus have an i-Phone?
I have to admit I’m delighted with my new toy (sorry, essential ministry aid) and it’s already making my life a little easier and more manageable. For the first time ever I have a seamless synch between my pocket diary and my laptop – I know people still use paper, but I run out of space and I prefer the delete button to a rubber. I always remember Tony Campolo’s answer to ‘would Jesus own a Mercedes?’ = it’s a status symbol and Jesus doesn’t play that game. I tend to agree, so I had to get over those accusations (at least in my own mind), but decided (eventually) an iPhone was the best thing for the job I needed and, therefore, worth it. Of course, Luke 10 comes to mind when Jesus sends his disciples out without purse, sandels etc – so no look in for an iPhone there! Can I use it? – ah now, that’s a different thing!
It does raise questions as to how Churches and Christian organisations determine what is, or is not, appropriate equipment for their staff. What place do cost, need, affordability, appropriateness, stewardship, and a whole host of other issues, play? What would Jesus do?
Another useful thing is the microphone – I was able to record an interview on Bristol community radio this lunch-time with Emily and her friend Faye, about heir gap-year trips abroad – hardly justification, but very handy!
Monday, 7 September 2009
Well, it’s sunny here in Manchester, which is more than the forecast for Bristol. Got here fine on about three gallons of coffee. So, Philip Pullman has decided Jesus wasn’t the Son of God. Now, far be it from me to suggest a qualified children’s fiction writer is not necessarily the best qualified to handle such theological concepts with depth and integrity….What does interest me more, however, is the regularity with which stories concerning Christian faith are popping up in the news. There’s also fairly non-event story about an atheist attending Greenbelt in the Guardian. This one interested me precisely because the whole response of the article is based upon impressions, feelings and emotional re-actions to perceived evangelical Christianity. Other stories, such as Richard Dawkins’ sponsored summer camps are finding a place in the radio discussion programmes. Whatever else, it promotes ‘God talk’ in the wider community, which helps create an environment for people to explore faith in Jesus.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
I finally made it to the Banksy v Bristol Museum last week. It’s the last week and I’ve been intending to get there ever since it opened. I thought I’d let the initial surge of interest, and consequent queues, die down before, but they have just got longer. We waited for three hours yesterday (having tried a try late after noon when no one will be going strategy and not getting in the day before). It was worth the wait – I thought some of the exhibits were brilliant and pretty much all of them thought provoking. What is staggering is the amount of interest – some people waited for six hours yesterday and every day, to be sure of getting in at opening, the queues are starting at 7am, which is a three hour wait. Yesterday we heard they opened early at 8.30 just to get more folk through. Whilst all ages are represented there is loads of young people waiting for hours to see an art exhibition – I realise for some people that will be a controversial claim, but frankly this guy is a terrifically talented artist. I say guy and use it in the generic sense, of course, no one knows who Banksy actually is. Inspiring, brilliant, funny, wonderful, ingenious, were all words used yesterday – just by me. One thing for sure is whilst I spoke to people in the queue who’d travelled some distances, Bristolians are proud of their street artist. How come on sabbatical it took till a few days before the end? … don’t ask.