Saturday, 30 May 2015

Trinity - beyond words

Inside Barcelona's Cathedral of The Sacred Family on Wednesday
I think Celtic Christianity calls them ‘Thin Places’ – either actual locations or probably, more often, experiences when heaven seems to touch earth and we sense God.

Like waiting for a bus – you can go months without such an encounter and then, like it was for me this week, two come along all at once.

The first moment was attending Choral Evensong last Sunday at St Martin in The Fields and hearing the choir open the service with an unaccompanied introit by Tallis.  The closeness of the harmonies sung by these young musicians went straight to my heart and brought tears to my eyes – for the right reasons!

A few days later in Barcelona we went to the Cathedral of the Sacred Family.  It’s Gaudi’s bazaar masterpiece and is a riot of architectural styles on the outside.  But inside it has a unity and beauty that I found just overwhelmingly breathtaking.  The walls of stained glass create a great sense of warmth and life making this Spanish Roman Catholic Cathedral one of the most inspirational sacred space buildings I’ve ever experienced – jaw droppingly beautiful.

Even though I’ve tried to describe those two rather personal moments for me this week – they were, in fact, simply beyond words.  And often our deepest experiences are.

This weekend we celebrate Trinity Sunday.  The whole concept of Trinity is really beyond words and many of us preachers will find our sermons difficult to prepare!

Yet the experience of Trinity can be very real.

We worship God the Creator
We are inspired by the love and life of Jesus the Christ
We live each day in the strength of the Holy Spirit.


As a mathmatical formula Trinity doesn't really work - but as life lived in faith - it can.

Best wishes,


Ian


Thursday, 21 May 2015

Eric's Concert

Last Sunday afternoon we held one of those occasions which really brought people together.  We celebrated the life of our late organist, Mr Eric Williams.

This concert was quite a time in the planning as various singers and instrumentalists came together and compiled a programme of music which Eric would have enjoyed.

Around one hundred and eighty folk attended - representing many of the chapters of his life - some even telling me they went to primary school together.

We heard stirring anthems and majestic organ solos and somehow through it all we were reminded of just how much this faithful servant of God enhanced our worship at AFC for twenty five years.

Music and worship have always gone together in my book!  Indeed I'm not really sure I could envisage corporate worship without a hymn or two.

At the end we assembled in the hall to share our memories of Eric and I was struck by how much kind hearted laughter filled the atmosphere.  We really were remembering a true gentleman whose contribution to our worshipping life has simply been enormous and greatly appreciated.

I think he would have loved Sunday!

Best wishes,

Ian

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Listening to fellow Seekers after Truth

Last week at AFC one of our neighbouring ministers and a good friend of our church, The Revd Dr John Parry, organised a meeting in one of our rooms at which a young Muslim lawyer, Irfan Arif spoke.

Irfan's family are leaders at the Chesham Mosque and he describes himself as a 'man of faith'. His theme that evening was 'Terrorism'.  He spoke of it from a Muslim perspective with great eloquence and grace - defining it, analysing it and condemning it.  His conclusion was not of pat answers but a genuine attempt to explore the theme and do so with insight, compassion and understanding.

After presenting his paper Irfan took questions which kept coming and coming - as an audience made up of Muslim and Christians - and possibly those with no named faith - engaged with him on some of the burning issues of the day.  Time and again this young Cambridge graduate answered with a wisdom above his years and with exemplary grace.

I suspect we all came away grateful to John for organising the evening and to Irfan for being such a splendid speaker.  We had listened to each other, struggled with deep questions and glimpsed new insights into each others understanding of faith.

I think the evening was one of those seminal moments for me when I realised afresh how vital it is for seekers after truth to dialogue with one another - for out of these encounters and conversations so much good can flow built upon a foundation of mutual respect and friendship.

Thank you Irfan for sharing your journey with us.

Ian

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Marks of Civilization

What makes us civilized?  It must be more than eating with the right knife and folk!

On Bank Holiday Monday we spent some time in the British Museum.  I love looking at the vases and jewellery in the display cabinets charting the history of Ancient Greece – a place we often associate with the birthplace of civilization.  It’s breathtaking to contemplate that some of these exquisite pots and beautiful golden broaches were being used and worn 1400 years before the birth of Jesus – and here they are on display in central London. I’d love to touch them!

Maybe the voting we are engaged in today is also a mark of being a reasonable and civilized people belonging to an old and well established democracy.

Here are some random reflections of some marks of civilization that have come my way over recent weeks.

*  My church community launches an appeal for Christian Aid supporting Mother and Baby Care in Kenya – a project that will receive joint funding with the EU.  We aim for £5,000 over two years and through the generosity of AFC we reach £10,000 in one year.

* Two hundred folk attended a Hustings in Amersham last week put on by Churches Together and in actually listening to the candidates we learnt something!

* We are preparing to celebrate the life of a much loved friend of our church, our late organist, with a concert full of inspirational music that Eric would have loved – musicians and singers all working hard to make this a splendid occasion.

* Our Tuesdays at our church LunchBreak welcomes a big group of mentally handicapped friends every week and together, with other friends from church and community, over ninety of us enjoy food and company.

* At the farewell meal for our local vicar on Sunday I sat at the same table as some Iranian Christians and we talked of our different church traditions and concluded Jesus’ command to love God and neighbour was the motivational force in our faith.

* In the sermons I hope to preach and the hymns I want to sing we proclaim our belief in the God who loves us, constantly gives us a second chance and welcomes us ‘home’. So if God treats us like that shouldn’t we be generous and forgiving to each other as well?

All of these, I feel, are marks of civilization as precious as any of the stunning Greek vases I saw in the British Museum on Monday!

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...