Thursday, 25 May 2017

'Circle the City' - we did it!!!

On Sunday a dozen of us from Amersham Free Church caught the tube after morning service and joined five hundred other sponsored walkers in circling the city for Christian Aid.  It was a wonderfully inspiring event and I was very proud of our group!

We walked from one city church to another – collecting ‘stamps’ on our programme en-route.  The fellowship and spirit of togetherness amongst us and the other walkers was tangible.

The thing that struck me time and time again was just how tiny these Wren churches appeared next to the towering sky scrapers like the Gurkin or Cheese Grater!  London is building higher and higher and it looks, at times, both intimidating and impersonal.  Yet these Wren churches stand their ground at the base of these huge financial tower blocks.  I liked their ‘smallness’ and humanity.  It felt comfortable and re-assuring walking into these places of worship and prayer and being enveloped by a deep sense of integrity and ‘connectedness’. 

In a world which at times seems so threatening – nowhere more so than in Manchester on Monday night – it’s good that small but vital beacons of love, community and hope, like these city churches in London, keep their doors open and try to welcome all who cross their threshold with the love and compassion of God.

Ian
ps I got it wrong – it’s Blog holiday next week!!

Friday, 19 May 2017

Nazareth Manifesto

This has been a week of manifestos.  The great unveiling of plans, ambitions and intentions by our political parties as they try to convince us that they deserve our vote.

Way back in 1983, when the wonderfully eccentric, yet deeply principled Michael Foot led the Labour Party, their manifesto for that election was called, by political commentators, ‘the longest suicide note in history’!  I suspect many essays have been written by students of politics as to why that may, or may not, have been true.

In Luke’s Gospel we have that pivotal moment in Jesus’ life as, one Saturday morning, he returns to his home synagogue and preaches.  Being handed the scroll he read words from Isaiah, all about: announcing good news, proclaiming release for the captives, recovery of sight for the blind and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favour.  Then Jesus says: Today in your hearing this text has come true.  It didn’t go down too well and I think he never got a preaching fee!!

I’m an incurable devotee of that one time American TV political drama ‘The West Wing’.  We’ve watched it right through, series after series, probably seven times now – I think we need therapy!!  The programme covers three Presidential elections and they always begin with the candidates usually returning to their home town where an inquisitive crowd has gathered outside the schoolhouse or town hall to hear the one time ‘local’ utter those wonderfully aspirational words: ‘And so today I declare my intention to run for the office of President of these United States’.

Luke, millennia before The West Wing, has Jesus do something similar! He places this ‘declaration of intent’ right at the start of Jesus’ ministry, just after The Temptations.  This was the moment in Nazareth, Luke is saying to us, when Jesus launched his manifesto and told us how he saw the future.

The next five years will reveal if the party given the keys to No.10 keep their manifesto promises.

Jesus gave his life keeping his.

(Blog holiday next week!)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Induction Dynamics

Montacute Baptist Church - scene of last Saturday's Induction
Churches usually welcome a new pastor/priest/minister with an Induction Service followed by a large tea!  Well, I not only attended one last Saturday down in Somerset, I also had the privilege of preaching at it.  I think in thirty years I’ve only done this a couple of times (preached at an Induction) so I’m still a bit of a novice in trying to pass on any ‘wisdom’ to a colleague about to start a new Pastorate.

However, I’ve had five Inductions myself and I remember every one with surprising clarity!

The strange, yet wonderful, thing about them is the opportunity to invite and greet people from different ‘phases’ of the past.  It’s odd seeing friends from Pastorate No.2 sitting alongside friends from Pastorate No.4! (I wouldn’t want to push this comparison too far but maybe it feels a bit like attending one’s own funeral!)

I have to say on Saturday we were all very much alive!  Just under a hundred of us gathered in this country chapel and the singing was inspirational!  Stories were told, vows made and partnerships re-affirmed.  It had all the ingredients of a good and blessed beginning.

Years ago I had to write a piece for College on the significance of Induction Services; so, I deconstructed the liturgy, analysed the vows and generally ‘pulled’ the service apart!

I’m sure it was a helpful experience and gave me a greater awareness of what was going on.  I was particularly struck when interviewing one lady about the forthcoming Induction of her minister.  As it was scheduled for early September (a popular Induction ‘season’!) she couldn’t attend, having already booked a holiday.  ‘He’ll keep’ she said!  And I suppose there was a lot of truth in that!

All I can say about Saturday’s Induction is that it just seemed so ‘right’.  It was a time of natural and unforced ‘joy’.  In short there was a sense that we were all standing on ‘holy ground’ and God was in this place.

So, my prayer for this new partnership between pastor and people is that something of the joy and hope-filled trust at the centre of Saturday’s service will characterise the days that lay ahead.

God bless you Pastor Heather and the good folk of Montacute Baptist Church.

Ian

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Puppy Sitting

I had a phone call this week from a friend who’d been called away on an overnight course desperately asking if we might ‘puppy sit’ for his Jack Russell, Jessie.

Now the closest the Green family have ever had to pets were hamsters and gold fish so having a puppy in the house for twenty-four hours was a novel, and as it turned out, very enjoyable experience!

There was a meeting – with fellow ministers – that I simply had to be at yesterday, and this took place before anyone in our house had returned home from work, so the puppy came too – a bit of a mistake!  It was all delightful until her excitement got the better of her and she left two damp patches on the Church Office floor!

After an evening of fun, taking her for a walk in the park and playing tug of war, I confess I was slightly relieved to hand her back this morning!

But the truth is in just that short period of time a certain bond of trust and loyalty grew up between us.  She was remarkably relaxed and happy to be around us all and seemed more than happy to trust me as her main ‘carer’ for twenty-four hours.

This reminded me of the film that our Lent Course group watched last week at an end of course ‘party’: A Street Cat named Bob.  This was all about the way an adopted cat helped a drug addict get his life back.

Someone in our group said afterwards as we were discussing the film that it always feels a great privilege whenever an animal willingly lets you into its life – be it a cat or dog, or that robin sitting watching you dig the garden in mid-winter!

Trust and loyalty are such wonderful qualities to encounter, whether between a dog and its owner or between two friends.  Trust and loyalty are at the centre of all relationships.  Trust and loyalty have a great deal to say in our journey of faith and our appreciation of God and concept of discipleship.

Oh, my friend has just phoned asking where Jessie’s lead is?  I promise I did take it back – but I now have a mental picture in my mind of him running after her in the park trying to keep up!  I think puppy sitting must be a little like being a grandparent – it’s nice to give them back!


Speaking of Sin

Tomorrow I’m attending a Ministers’ Book Discussion Group in Luton. We meet up three or four times a year over a packed lunch to discuss a...