Thankfulness – One Hundred Reasons

Not that I hold any sway with these modern day foreign holidays but taking stock and working out things for which I’m thankful for seems like a worthwhile exercise, in addition to being a good excuse to write something here. So, without further ado – except to say that I got this from Laura Anne‘s Twitter feed, and she got it from her friend Fiona before that – I present my hundred reasons [to be thankful] (in ten handy bite-size chunks):
10 physical things
Hugs; riding my bike; five-a-side football (well, being in goal); walks in the countryside; walks along the coast; eating; cooking; sorting things out; really satisfying loo-breaks; laughing

10 material things
My car; my audio-visual stuff (all equipment and related media); all the art my friends have given me; the first edition of my book; the flat I live in; my own personal library; my laptop; my wedding ring; my coffee machine; my kitchen stuff (and a bonus item – my fancy fountain pen of much loveliness)

10 living people (I’ll be including some pretty broad groups here)
My wife; my family; my friends; my colleagues; creative people – especially musicians, comic book writers and artists, film directors, cast and crew (and the same for the telly); the clergy; doctors; teachers; my mentees (a sub-section of my friends, I admit); my mechanic; Gail from Cafe 120

10 deceased people
My grandparents; old school campaigners and reformers including (for half a point each) but not limited to Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther, and Ghandi; CS Lewis; JRR Tolkein; Winston Churchill; Lady Astor; Spike Milligan (and the rest of the Goons); pioneering engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stephenson; Steve Jobs; Christopher Wren (and all the great old architects)

10 things about today
That I feel better at the end than at the beginning; tasty dinner, prepared by my lovely wife; time spent with customers and colleagues; for getting on and writing something, even if it is a huge list; for the work I’ll be doing on some important forms later on; listening to cool music (currently old Slayer); the unexpected gift of a bag of coffee from my boss; cold tuna mac an cheese for lunch – very tasty; cups of tea; invitations for dinner next week

10 things about nature
Fire; English skies; beaches & coastlines; hummingbird moths; the moon and the night sky; the seasons; that life happens; that things like gold and diamonds occur; climable trees; healing

10 places
Lindisfarne; wherever my friends are; my bed; my office; my study; Cafe 120 (and other eateries); kitchens; beaches; parks (especially the Shoe Grove in Armstrong Park); Rome

10 modern inventions (may include discoveries of pre-existing stuff, and things from the post-modern era, but will exclude things from the early modern era such as the Book of Common Prayer or, indeed, Thanksgiving)
Smart-phones; lap-top computers; the internet; penicillin (and the modern pharmaceuticals following on from this); bicycles; detective fiction; George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Reducing Grilling Machines; Breville sandwich makers; cinematography; rock music

10 foods
Cake; coffee; beer; tea; bread; roast things; omlettes; Marmite; chocolate; bacon (and a bonus item or two: black pudding and other sausage)

10 spiritual things
Redemption; grace; forgiveness; hope; love; peace; liturgy; worship; joy; love.

So, that’s my hundred reasons. What would yours be?

Living in a post-ecumenical culture

A while ago, Robb asked me to write a post based around my idea of post-ecumenism, namely: that without people identifying themselves along traditional denominational lines, the focus and indeed very point of the ecumenical movement is nullified leaving the way open for communication and collaboration between Christians but also a void where before there had been structure and form.

Having procrastinated long enough, I find that Laura Everett at the New Media Project has, more or less, written it for me.

Of course, I was going to focus less on the social media elements but they make a good starting point and a valid point upon which to build the argument.

Given that many (a majority of?) people no-longer self-identify as denominational at all, what can be said for the old ways, what would a modern alternative look like, how can we provide for the people who fall between our current self-imposed gaps?

Forgiveness – choice or process?

Just a few thoughts following a brief conversation on Twitter:

original conversation

I think it’s case of forgiveness being both a process and a choice. Initially, we choose to forgive “I forgive you” and the end of the process “I have forgiven you” is often almost instantaneously reached with no awareness of anything between the two points.

Sometimes, often quite a while after the initial choice has been made and forgiveness apparently achieved, the pain will re-appear and the choice to forgive will need to be made again. This often repeats itself over time and with each iteration the effort of making the choice lessens.

Sometimes, despite the choice being made to forgive, it requires constant effort to maintain the choice and it doesn’t get easier.

Is it a cop out to look at it like this? Can we legitimately say to somebody “I forgive you” knowing that we’re a long way from being able to say “I have forgiven you”?

Worship: Come and Have a Go

On Tuesday night, I led my house-group for the evening. The previous week had been all about worship – what is was, what it looked like in our day to day lives, what we worship and how there’s a distinction to be made between the worship that should make up our daily lives and specific and chosen acts of worship (participating in a church service, for example).

I decided to run this session as a follow up, focusing specifically on the last of these.

In preparation, I filled a box with a variety of service books, lectionaries, prayer books, my i-pod, speakers, icons, candles, incense, some flash paper, a bottle of wine and a bread roll. Having driven to the venue, I put the bread and wine and two candles on the table in the front room and sought out a glass, a plate and a napkin – these having been found, I went and joined the rest of the group for coffee.

Post coffee and fig-rolls, we regathered in the front room and, once we were all sitting comfortably, we began by recapping last week’s session and followed that up with a discussion of what people thought were the important elements of a service of worship and why. In no particular order, we came up with the following:

  • Silence & a chance to focus
  • Singing Praise corporately
  • Prayer (responsive or otherwise)
    • thanksgiving
    • confession
    • intercession
    • supplication
  • Something that states truth about God / reveals or states his character – bible reading or creed
  • Honesty
  • Liturgical basis
  • Competency (especially in musical leadership)
  • Corporateness: unity of the body
  • Bible
  • Prayers that have been ‘thought about’
  • Communion

In pairs, we spent fifteen minutes or so preparing a section of a service: ‘prayers’; ‘reading and reflection’; ‘Creedal Statement and opening and closing songs’ and I worked out a draft order of service.

Then we ran through the service that we’d just prepared (including the flash-paper confessions) and it was good. There was a sense of God’s being with us, of being connected with what was happening and of the value of each part of the service.  We all left enriched by the experience.

So, question time:
What do you think is important in a service of worship?
Do you agree with the list we came up with and what would go on your list?
What’s essential for every service and what’s essential for inclusion sometimes?
How would you make services more engaging?
And how would this work with a larger congregation?

Liturgical Flash Paper

This is for @raquelita_e:

Explain, towards the beginning of a short group service, that “all have sinned”, that “the wages is death”, but that “if we confess our sins, God… will forgive us.”
Hand out pens, and strips of flash paper, asking group to write out something they’d like to confess and give them time to do so.
Whilst the writing is going on, light a votive candle for each member of the group (so the confession remains private).
Hand out the candles, explaining that Jesus is the Light of the World and the darkness hasn’t put out the darkness and that one image in the bible is of God being fire, eradicating sin.
Ask the group to hold the confession strip to the paper and watch the reactions as whatever was on the paper disappears in an orange flash.

Real Life Catches Up

So, last night I told the Church Meeting I was leaving.

I’d spoken to the minister previously and he suggested that it might be something I’d like to tell the whole church about. In essence and to cut a long story short (with apologies for the dramatics) as part of exploring the idea of being ‘called to ordination’* it makes sense for me to be involved in a denomination that I’m better suited to than the Baptist Church. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, henceforth I am going to be:

This has been brewing for a while and was complicated by the fact that Heaton Baptist Church had been my home church for fifteen years or so and I’d settled there like dirt into a carpet. From the start of this year, I’ve been slowly withdrawing from all the bits and pieces here and there that I was involved in and, last night, spoke to the church briefly about what was happening and why I was leaving, and that I’d not be disappearing entirely – especially since Ros is only just getting settled in there. Then they prayed for me.

It was good.

I’m excited about the state of the church I’m leaving behind – and very much looking forward to getting more involved with the congregation at St Peter’s. It’s a big but necessary step and, whether or not I end up ordained, the right one to be taking now.

Any thoughts, prayers or comments would be welcomed.

*the feeling at the back of my head that I’ve not been able to shift that I believe God would like me to be involved in full time ministry.

Guest Post at Changing Worship

My good friend, Robb asked me if I’d like to make a contribution to his blog.

Every once in a while, one of my church-going friends will move away from their current church and (probably) begin attending another somewhere else. And every time, every single time, I hear the same complaints from some of those left behind.

Apparently, anybody not completely satisfied with the way things are at their church…

The rest of the mini-article can be found over at the Changing Worship blog. Please have a look at the rest of Robb’s stuff whilst your there – he actually answers comments.