Tuesday, 16 October 2012

All our Ministries...


This is something of a swansong blog – at least in my capacity as 20th Minister of Yeovil Baptist Church.

I was sitting in the vestry last week looking at the pictures of some of my predecessors – the further back the fiercer they look!  It struck me how often churches, quite understandably, divide up their history into chapters of ministry.  We talk about how we enjoyed Rev Shortsermons ‘ ministry but how grateful we were when Rev Longsermon felt the call to Africa!  Even the word we used to use for a Pastoral Vacancy, ‘Interregnum’ literally means ‘in between reigns’!

The truth is, however, for almost six years this has not been about ‘my’ ministry but ‘ours’.  We have travelled this path together – and I’m so grateful for the privilege of working alongside many wonderful and committed people.  There is no way I could have done it by myself – that’s why God gives us the gift of each other.

I love working with teams – whether it’s alongside the Deacons, Holiday at Home team or Junior Church leaders  - by myself the problems seem larger and the solutions more elusive – yet when the task is shared with others so much more becomes possible.  I’m convinced God has made us that way – we simply need to do ‘ministry’ together.  Don’t get me wrong – there is a solitary path of leadership that every minister has to tread because at times our work is ‘one to one’ – yet even at these times to know the support of people praying for you makes the task more possible.

So my heartfelt thanks to so many of you for coming on board that Induction Day in March 2007 and staying the course as we’ve seen the challenges through together and shared the joys collectively.

As I prepare to pack up the sermons I have the deepest of convictions that what we have done together over these last few years has been utterly worthwhile – and I give thanks to God for the privilege of serving amongst you and alongside you – for this has been about all our ministries.

With my prayers for Yeovil Baptist Church – may the Lord bless you and keep you all in the days ahead – and thank you for our partnership in the gospel.

In Christ,

 Ian

(Friends I’m going into Blog hibernation until after my Induction at Amersham – and the link to this blog will not appear on the Yeovil website after Sunday – if you want to access it after then it can be found at  http://revdiangreen.blogspot.co.uk/ )


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Children In The Way


‘Children in The Way’ was the title of a church report, published a few years ago now, exploring the place of youngsters in the life of a worshipping community.  It was a classy title because it contained a pun within a serious point.  When the children misbehave in the liturgy their parents can be made to feel their off-spring are ‘in the way’ of other people’s devotions.  On the other hand, taking ‘The Way’ as an ancient title for the Body of Christ, there is no better place to find a child than soaking up the influence of a loving and inspiring Christian Community.

All of these thoughts have come into focus for me the last two Sundays at South Street.

A fortnight ago the Junior Church leaders requested I had a ‘farewell’ photo taken with some of the younger members of our Fellowship.  I think of all the images I shall take away with me this one will remain a firm favourite.

And then this last Sunday we took a look in the evening service at the gospel reading for the day, Mark 10, in which Jesus says: Let the children come to me, and then goes on to talk about entering the Kingdom like a child.  In the prayer-time following, as we lit small candles together, a number of folks lit their night light whilst speaking  out a prayer for the youth work of our church.

Earlier in the day, at Morning Service, our worship concluded with Communion and on this occasion the older groups from Junior Church returned to join us.  Some sat next to their parents and took the bread and wine, the majority, however, occupied the front couple of rows and received a blessing.  For me, as the presiding minister, it was also a blessing – a blessing to pray for these youngsters and a blessing to sense their appreciation in being prayed for.  Every Communion is special – yet when the children join us it feels more complete somehow – the whole ‘family’ at prayer as the ‘blessed’ become a blessing for us all.

With best wishes,
 
Ian

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Church and Soccer – in any way the same?


Last night I was treated to a night at Huish Park, along with our youngest son, to watch Yeovil v Portsmouth.

It struck me that Football has a liturgy all its own yet in some ways remarkably similar to what we do in church. 

Warming: what follows shouldn’t be taken too seriously as I ponder the question: How similar is going to a soccer- match and attending a service? 


Well, last night as we approached the stadium I saw a man giving out the notice sheets but unlike ours these were glossy affairs full of pictures, match results and advertisements.

Once seated it was obvious that we were surrounded by regular members of this particular congregation as none of them bothered speaking to us yet seemed to know everyone else.  Just before kick off the deacons came out of the tunnel wearing yellow florescent jackets followed by those who were going to participate in the service, the players. Everyone seemed very excited to see them and stood up and cheered even though they hadn’t done anything yet – very strange.  I approved of Yeovil for they wore green – which, sure enough, is indeed the liturgical colour for this particular time of year – but Portsmouth really let the side down because their strip was blue – and that doesn’t figure in the liturgical calendar at all.
A man at the centre – he must have been the bishop because he was wearing a red shirt and trying to keep order and no one seemed to be paying a blind bit of notice – blew a whistle and the action began.  To my surprise the congregation did not receive the offering of the players in respectful silence but seemed to have an opinion on everything they saw going on.  One man in front of me must have been a charismatic because he was constantly jumping up and down and lifting up his arms – on these occasions he didn’t seem particularly happy and constantly  invoked the name of the Almighty in his prayerful outbursts.

Then something most unexpected occurred in the thirteenth minute – Pompey scored a goal.  At their end of the stadium this seemed to encourage the lusty unison singing of a hymn that no one needed the words for.  However, at our end everyone seemed to enter a three minute period of instant silence and personal meditation.

The game continued and eventually the charismatic in front of me was once again on his feet at one point shouting out ‘look up, look up’ – thinking this was either an announcement that the rapture had begun or this was tonight’s new song from Spring Harvest being announced I did look up – but apparently it was merely an offering of ‘encouragement’ to a Yeovil defender.

Where did the time go – before I knew it everyone was getting out of their seats and discussing the service.  It was forty-five minutes long with five minutes tacked on the end – refreshments were being served, not just tea, coffee and digestives but hot dogs and pasties.  But here’s the crafty bit – the second service of the day wasn’t held six hours after the first but tacked on as a second half – very clever – and something I might consider at the new place, means you don’t have to get the car out twice.

Ten minutes into part two – which as far as I could see was in exactly the same format as the earlier service of the day (no worship with a difference here)  - Yeovil scored.  Well, it was like Christmas and Easter combined in our stand – grown men were on their feet – everyone was now a charismatic – hands in the air and shouting all sorts of things in strange tongues.  That said I did feel an excellent opportunity was missed at this point – namely the Passing of the Peace – as everyone was in such a good mood I feel it would have gone down extremely well.

Alas things didn’t stay that way – there was an injury the other side of the field and the deacons (in their florescent coats) came on with a stretcher, gathered round and seemed to be offering prayers for healing.  The chap in front of me had, by now, lost his voice and was displaying worrying Quaker tendencies by sitting in silence just shaking his head.  Others beside me were saying things like: ‘They’ve run out of ideas’ – it was all beginning to feel far too much like a deacons’ meeting after all.

In the eightieth minute Portsmouth slipped in a second goal and another three minute period of silent prayer broke out our end.  People, who must have gone to Football School many years ago and played in games like this one, were saying this was an unnecessary goal.  In fact it was clear that what was really needed at this point of the service was a departure from the old fashion idea of a 11man ministry – we needed greater congregational participation and with so many experts around me I’m sure they could have ‘gotten out of their seats’, come down to the front and spruced up the liturgy a great deal.

At this point a Pompey player was brushed by a Yeovil one and lay prostrate on the floor in seeming agony.  Our stand didn’t seem at all sympathetic to his plight, many saying it was just a wicked ploy to obtain a penalty – but they didn’t use the language of the Authorised Version to express their concerns.  And then a miracle occurred, this player rose up and walked – to the accompaniment of jeers from my part of the crowd.

As the ninetieth minute approached I observed that many in the crowd had decided not to stay for the last hymn and blessing and were clearing off early – shaking their heads as they went.  And then the bishop with his whistle signalled it was all over.

Members of the congregation around me shrugged their shoulders but reassured their neighbours  they’d be back on Saturday to do it all over again!

Well – it was a great evening – not, you’ll understand my natural environment!  But I  really do think  some of what I experienced was rather liturgical, for there are traditions , expectations and modes of behaviour that bind any group together,  giving us a sense of security and meaning.  All the ingredients were there at Huish Park last night. 

More than that I totally applaud the enthusiasm, friendship and commitment I witnessed last night– which makes me think there really are some significant similarities worth appreciating between attending a game on Saturday and a service on Sunday.

With best wishes,


Ian



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