We are being persecuted!

I think that this poster was produced by a group who want marriage equality. Arguing whether that is or is not a position that Christians should advocate for is not something that I want to enter into here.

I just like the message of the poster. I want nothing to do with the idea that Christians in the developed west are being ‘persecuted’ and despair of leading figures who try and whip up paranoia around this issue (there is one organisation that I receive emails from that I groan inwardly to open). There are many countries around the globe where Christians are being persecuted for their faith: tortures, arrests, deaths…. but not here.

What may be happening is ‘Christendom’ is breaking down: no longer do ‘we’ have the dominant rights in society. But reading the Bible and Christian history, having dominant rights seems to be a bad place to be for a group who follow the upside down teachings of someone who always worked on the margins.

So…read the poster…

Friday Music

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OK, the lead singer died 2 weeks ago and I am late on this one, but this track reminds me of my callow youth.

I remember this track coming out when I was at VIth form and moving along that uncertain path from childhood to adulthood. I was profoundly shy and awkward. A few friends persuaded me to join them and try and do this track in the style of the Flying Pickets for a VIth form concert.

And I did: complete with a white bathing cap so I could mimic the tall bald one. It was the first time I had ever appeared on a stage. Happy days. Returning to this track after 29 years, I realise just how fine it was and how the sparseness of the video works with the song.

Too cool

I was walking through central London last week on my way to a meeting with a GCSE board. I stopped to buy a ‘Big Issue’ and had a chat with the effusive seller (I have mostly found that ‘Big Issue’ sellers in a city humanise the space around them. Those outside regular society sometimes seem more human than the rest of us, pushing past one another trying to make a deadline).

We swapped names and then he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was a Methodist minister but was in London doing a bit of part time work as a GCSE examiner.

‘You? A minister! No way man! You don’t look like one. You are way too cool!’

I tell you; that made my day….

I used this on Sunday…

I found this story somewhere (in red) and I used it on Sunday. After it is what I think I said.

One of the thirteenth century Popes was showing the great Catholic thinker Thomas Aquinas around the Vatican. Having shown him many of the beautiful works of art, the ornate architecture and the lavish fittings, the Pope turned to Thomas and said, “No longer can the church say like Peter, ‘Silver and gold have I none’.”

“No,” retorted Thomas, “and neither can she say any more, ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk’.”

‘I am not rich- success for me is getting through a quarter with less than £50 bank charges, but I think I am sorted with my pc opinions and leftfield views…… and neither can I say anymore ‘In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, rise up and walk’.

Faced with the way of Jesus and as followers of Jesus, we are all painfully flawed. Stories like this make me think that arrogant certainty, name calling, looking down on other people/groups as we have the truth are not the way. If anything, our response is a little more humility and the prayer ‘God have mercy’.’

…at least that is where I am now…

We want you, but…..

I don’t normally feature articles like this; not because I don’t appreciate them- I do. But because it is easy to knock (although this article is gracefully written). What he says is meant to apply to Generation Y, although it could apply to Gen X and above.
 
I have been part of a particular meeting where 1-3 were the default mode and I felt like I was dying inside. The article was entitled ‘8 ways to keep young adults out of church’.
 
 

  1. Don’t be tempted to offer variety. Young adults value freedom and freedom of choice, so beware of their calls for a range of worship styles and gatherings and opportunities. They are trying to trick you into consumerism.
 2.Value your tradition above all else. After all it has been round for a long time and has never changed, and young adults are always wanting to customise things and make them their own. Look at the way they mess with their ‘smart phones’.
 
  1. Preach and teach for all you are worth, but don’t encourage disagreement or questioning. You are not there to have a chat. You are there to pass on the undiluted word of God. But if you are not careful young adults will be demanding collaboration, because they enjoy conversations not lectures.
 4.Make sure you stay tight-lipped about the inner workings of your church. They don’t need to know what goes on behind the scenes. They are probably not going to be that interested. The trouble is they are always banging on about scrutiny and its importance at work, in politics and, before you know it, in church.
 
  1. Say one thing in church, do another out of church. OK, we know this may not always be the ideal way to behave, but it’s often for the best. The annoying thing is that young adults value integrity. They smell double standards a mile off and won’t hesitate to point them out to you. You don’t need this.
 6.Take church life very seriously. Goes with out saying really. Young adults who desire fun, at work, school and in their private life, can’t expect to have that in church too.
 
  1. Take your time. The church has been here for 2000 years and isn’t disappearing tomorrow. Don’t be rushed into making decisions. Make sure you have complex command and control structures that only you understand. They will have to get used to it, even if young adults value speed as normative.
 8.Avoid experimentation at all costs. You know this makes sense. It always leads to trouble. Young adults see innovation as a normal part of life. They have grown up with it. Beware this snare of the devil.
 
But sometimes, the only response to reading this is not ‘Grrr’ but the stock prayer I seem to be using a lot recently: ‘Lord have mercy’….Oh and defy number 6: don’t take yourself too seriously- laugh a lot.
 

So sad

A rare chance to watch my son at cricket. Our village actually won. That in itself is incredible.

A friend was doing the scoring. He looked incredulous to see me: ‘You here, then?!’

‘Yes but I have to go soon: meeting.’

‘Another one? You must be the hardest working man in Britain!’

I am not- not by a long stretch. But I felt so sad. He is right in what he is trying to say: I am often out at night. I am often at meetings. I work in a culture where this is normal and I limit what I do compared to many. But it has struck me as I get older: I am out too often and this is not usual. The pull of hearth, home and friends is getting stronger.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to see the Kingdom come. I do not want to be idle. But I am coming to the point of view that constantly being out may not acheive that. I am becoming more and more aware that this may not in fact be a healthy way of being or even acheiving this goal. Yet in the culture I work in, this is normal, perhaps even subtly desirable.

And just hearing that from someone I often spar with about faith made me so sad. Is that the impression he has about faith? And this week is already looking too full….

Nothing new really

 

I often talk about this here. In fact that is one reason why I started a blog: a space to reflect and stop- I have never thought that the unreflected life is worth living.

Even though I often talk about this here, I have got into a rut these last few weeks- for the first time in 13 years I have got to the stage of intoning ‘I need a holiday’- so I needed to read this from a voice that I respect:-

‘So I wonder (and not for the first time why we allow the tyranny of busyness to grip us so tightly), why do we applaud the busy, and see busyness as a sign of worthiness….

Perhaps we need to learn to sing a new song!’

Full article over at http://bigbible.org.uk/2012/06/busyness-sallysjourney/

 

 

Friday Music

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Something happened last week that has never happened: a record company sent me a download of a new album. It wasn’t a corporate missive: it was personal.

It was for the new ‘Welcome Wagon’ album. I have blogged on them before: New York minister and his wife and friends with the legendary Sufjan Stevens hovvering in the background. Intent on producing music that speaks and isn’t twee whilst at the same time pursuing their primary calling as pastors.

I picked up this review on Amazon by a customer of an earlier CD that says it all for me:-

‘I am also a pastor of a local church. I have always been almost ashamed of the lack of apparent creativity coming from most mainstream Christian musicians. I listen to virtually no Christian radio, believing that if Christian musicians were using their God-given talents in His service, we (the church) would be making the most creative and compelling music in the world. Sadly, that has not been the case in my humble opinion…..There is a definite focus on song arrangement, instrumentation, and balanced true-to-life production techniques. A very welcome break from the smarmy, over-produced, breathy vocals of most mainstream “christian” music. ‘

And it is: musically itself and not pandering to any CCM slush, good songs about life and faith, rereadings of some old hymns (why do they speak more?) and just lovely. I have been playing it for the last week.

You can buy at Amazon and preview (and later buy) at http://thewelcomewagon.bandcamp.com/

A bit of light relief…

 

On Sunday, I saw the Olympic Torch. Not in the streets, but in someone’s house. One of the people who had carried it that day called around to the house where I was.

Ever the opportunist, I asked if she would come to Beaver Scouts the next day and she did. A room of 6-8 year old boys who were unbelievably noisy, worse than they had ever been, were suddenly transformed into an uncanny silence and an almost religious devotion as they each got a chance to touch it.

Rebecca, 14, let me take her picture with the torch and her dad said I could post it to the 95th most popular Christian blog. So here it is!