Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Virtual Church - a good idea?

I’ve recently been introduced to a really good development from Baptist House!  It’s called Daily News Sweep and it comes from the editorial team of the old Baptist Times (to get it simply go on the Baptist Times pages of The Baptist Union website).  This news roundup lands in the ‘in-box’ of my computer every day and is packed with interesting stories, basically of a ‘faith’ nature, gleaned from the press.  Today, for example, I read about the reluctance of many Anglicans in Africa, South America and Australasia to continue recognising The Archbishop of Canterbury as the head of their Communion – seems like Rowan Williams’ successor is in for a choppy time.

Another story from today’s Sweep caught my eye and is entitled: The Deep Limitations of Digital Church.  It was written by the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr Albert Mohler.  In it he basically lamented a growing trend in the United States (and perhaps here in Britain too?) of people staying away from ‘live’ church in favour of simply tuning in to a webcast of the service at their convenience; sermons ‘on tap’ (with the ability to fast forward no doubt!) and fellowship at a safe distance....but is it really church?  Dr Mohler gives an emphatic ‘no’!

Now I have to admit to doing a bit of this myself.  I regularly tune in to the webcast of Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto most Mondays – I just love the minister’s sermons and the fine music.  This church also puts its order of service and notice sheet on their site – so (with a bit of detective work) I’ve even worked out the names of some of the choir members who sit on the front row and found myself saying the other week – ‘oh, Rosemary isn’t there today’!  Hang on – I’m three and a half thousand miles from Toronto – what am I doing noticing a missing choir member!! It’s fun but it’s not real fellowship.

Real fellowship is about that regular weekly commitment to come together as the People of God around His Word and Table.  Real fellowship is singing, praying, listening and serving together.  Real fellowship is sharing our joys and sorrows together in this journey of faith.  Real fellowship isn’t always easy but it always holds the potential for that touch of the Holy Spirit that turns a routine gathering into a service of worship.

So although I’m not going to give up on my webcast viewing – I recognise that the real thing for me doesn’t happen thousands of miles away in Toronto but here in Yeovil, at a church on South Street.

With best wishes,


Ian

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Meeting Sincerity

Yesterday evening our Boys’ Brigade entertained a superb guest of honour at their annual Awards Evening.  Trevor Peacock – who played Jim Trott in BBC's Vicar of Dibley (the one who always said ‘no, no, no’ when he meant ‘yes’!) – came along to give a talk and present the awards.  Around these parts Trevor is a much loved ‘celebrity’ famed for his support of Yeovil Town Football Club.

I think all of us present last night were struck by his gentle warmth and obvious sincerity.  He spoke with such humour and his timing was evidence of his Shakespearean acting – he is so much more than the stumbling Jim in The Revd Geraldine’s parish.  What’s more he instantly engaged the boys with his anecdotes and kept their attention.  Yet more than that it was the way he gave out the awards that made the most impression – he made every boy feel special and willingly and graciously posed for a photo with each succeeding recipient.  He was a charming guest, full of fun and warmth – and his gentle, yet persuasive Christian faith shone through.

You know ‘sincerity’ when you bump into it - and last night we met it in Trevor.

Our prayer must surely be that all we do as a church will ring out with integrity and speak of sincerity.  The way we treat friends and strangers, our concern for the marginalised, our expression of heartfelt belief, even if questions and doubts also form part of our journey – all of this will say something very deep about the people we are and the Christ we serve.

My thanks to The Revd Tudor Botwood for taking last Sunday's service - this Saturday I’m looking forward to taking part in the Commissioning Service for new Street Pastors at St James’ Church.

With best wishes,

Ian

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Doing Easter Together

Good Friday Workshop
Last weekend was fizzing with activity because a lot of our Easter at South Street was done together!

A week on from Maundy Thursday I’ve been revisiting some of the services and events we crammed into those few days and it strikes me just how much had to be organised behind the scenes to make it all work.

Maundy Thursday: I walk into the Chapel Lounge to lead communion and everything has been set out thoughtfully with bread and wine provided and placed on the table.

Good Friday: A bustling craft workshop with six activities was provided – all the materials carefully laid out and ready for use so folks could express their individual creativity!  Alongside that copious amounts of tea, coffee and hot cross buns were provided by an enthusiastic team. Later that morning we held a walk of witness and open air service – and this meant service leaflets needed to be printed, amplification and musicians organised and even police permission and public liability insurance for the walk obtained!

Easter Day: An 8am service on Ham Hill – would anyone turn up?  Yes – 30 wonderful people!! And everyone had a printed service sheet.  Back at church we returned for a delicious full English breakfast served with some style.  At 10.30am we held our ‘big’ service of the day supported by musicians, singers, flower arrangers, welcomers, refreshment providers – done by all those people who regularly ‘grace’ our church every Sunday with their offering of Christian service.  At 6.30pm it was a quiet service of communion and once again everything was beautiful set up and ready.  But it wasn’t over yet...!

Easter Monday:  A walk through the Somerset countryside organised by the Social Committee – it had been thoroughly planned and was led with quiet skill.

Phew! 

I believe that part of the message of the resurrection is the new community God is building – a Community of The Resurrection centred around Christ and celebrating his life, death and rising again.  I hope, like me, you felt that in some small measure we experienced something of that community last weekend – and the biggest of ‘thank yous’ to everyone who made it happen!

This weekend The Revd Tudor Botwood, Naval Chaplain at RNAS Yeovilton, will be leading Morning Worship and Mrs Linda Lovell will be presiding at Evening Worship.

With best wishes,

Ian

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Christ's Light - brighter than any darkness

I remember flying out of Birmingham Airport, en route to Australia, on a low cloud August afternoon.  It was dreary.  Then came the moment, just minutes after take-off, when we broke through the cloud and entered a sparkling sun drenched blue sky!  The sun was out all the time – even though in Birmingham it had been obscured by thick layers of grey Cumulonimbus!

At Easter Jesus Christ won for us a great victory – the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of heaven.  Yet, all too often our pressing circumstances make it feel as if there are great clouds over us. Clouds of ‘struggle’, ‘uncertainty’, ‘fear’ or simply ‘monotony’. 

Part of our spiritual discipline, because I think it needs to be an act of the will, is to lift up our eyes and see the sunrise of Easter for what it is – a reality that we can depend on and rejoice in. 

Christ has risen and light has overcome darkness.  We can be a people whose lives have been touched and changed by the sunshine of God’s grace and love. 

That doesn’t mean we won’t get days when the ‘cloud’ comes down – but even at such times we need to hold on to the truth that above them God’s light is shining – that Easter is a truth that changes everything, even on the cloudiest of days.

I hope the commemorations and celebrations of the next few days will provide sacred space and spiritual encounter for us all.

With best wishes,

Ian



Who is up there?!

We were in Lisbon over half term and enjoyed glorious sunny days throughout our visit. The city has many squares, almost all with statue...