Response to the Consultation on Bishop’s Missionary Order for Plymouth Deanery

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There is a plan for certain churches to run roughshod over the rest of the deanery of the city of Plymouth. It’s an aggressive planting strategy and it worries the rest of us. They put out a consultation document and this is what I said…


Revd Dr Adrian Hough
Exeter Diocesan Mission and Pastoral Secretary
The Old Deanery
Exeter EX1 1HS

Wednesday, 09 May 2018

Dear Adrian

Re: Formal Consultation on a Proposed Mission Initiative in the City of Plymouth

I write with some comments on the Paper circulated on 1st May 2018 which I hope will add to the discussion on the initiative which will inevitably happen.

The circumstances in which this initiative arises is the result of the continued under-investment in the Deanery of Plymouth by the Diocese: the amount per capita spent on clergy resource within the deanery compared to other deaneries is directly correlatable with the level of church engagement in the areas in question. It is worth noting that all three areas are in parishes which are currently served by a single stipendiary incumbent with little clerical, administrative or lay support. Proper investment in supporting the existing parishes and their distinct tradition, with pastoral and youthworkers rather than resetting these areas in a new spiritual direction may have been more pastoral. That both of these parishes are under the oversight of the Bishop of Ebbsfleet also leaves the impression that there is a determination to undermine the spiritual authority of the parishes.

Of greatest concern to my parish, however, is in the cavalier approach to rapacious expansion that appears to be on the cards. The issuing of a BMO for the whole deanery, and the stated intention that “the plants are determined to create more plants” places the entire deanery in jeopardy of aggressive and frankly unwelcome takeover. When these plants seek to create more plants, they will obviously start to look at other areas where the Church of England is already present and active: S. Anne’s Glenholt feels especially vulnerable by this threat. It is an area where the Church is active and present, but attractive to the kind of Church plant that looks at an area of growth and gentrification as an opportunity for takeover. Under the provisions of this document, that Church feels it will be next, with little safeguard.

The wording of the fourth paragraph of your covering letter, the second para of the Explanatory Notes and most significantly sections 8.1 and 8.3 suggest that further planting WILL happen “without the permission of anyone who has the cure of souls”. The paragraph to “consult” with the local incumbent and the Initiative “informing” the Deanery Synod cuts across the legal and pastoral safeguards established within the Church of England and destabilises the parochial system. Consultation implies no expectation of agreement.

For this reason, I must object most strongly to these two clauses, not just for the way in which they are enacted in the three areas under current consideration, but in the way that they may be misused in future. These paragraphs do not safeguard my mission in the locality to which I have been licensed.

One needs to question whether a Church Plant is the most appropriate model of evangelism for these localities. The characteristics of a Church Plant is that it imports the charism of the parent church into a new area, without responding to local need. The charism of churches from other traditions to that of the parish, from more affluent areas no matter how earnest their enthusiasm may be can be analogised with African and Asian mission in the 19th Century. A more pioneering approach, which is organic, ground-up and based not on such imperialism would ensure that it truly brought the people of Ham, Whitleigh and Ernesettle into a lasting relationship with Christ.

This Mission Initiative has up to this point, not really been satisfactorily consulted and discussions at Deanery Synod and Chapter has been characterised by an attitude that “this is how it is going to be”.

I rather hope that my comments, and the comments of others to whom this particular consultation has been sent will enable a thorough rethinking of a process which in Ham, Whitleigh and Ernesettle are properly served and rebuilt as nurturing communities confident to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Yours sincerely,


Revd Simon Rundell
Priest-in-Charge


 

Animated Facebook Banners (How-to)

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If you can’t quite decide one what picture you want on the big banner across your facebook group, then the animated banner is for you. Personal pages (or at least mine) will only accept still images (no video, no animated gifs) . However, it is supported for companies and other interest FB pages, it means that a bit of film can be easily incorporated into Fan Pages and it can be made very simply.

I will use Sony Vegas Pro, but many other tools are available, some for free.

You will need to create an MP4 Video of a specialist custom size: 820 x 462 pixels (w x h)

 

  1. Under File / Properties I created a new template of the size (820×462) I wanted. As most of these are still images, I could set the frame rate quite low, 15fps but if you are using a video clip, you might have to stay in the 24/25fps range.
  2. You can import your images, and lay them out around this long yet short canvas. If you want to fill the frame rather than leave lots of black border, then there will be cropping and zooming involved. Once I had an 820×462 pixel zoom window, I set it as a preset so I could quickly reuse it.
  3. Make the video between 20 and 50 secs in length
  4. When ready, do FILE / RENDER AS… and create a new output template in the new size 820×462. I usually set this template to render just video, not audio as it will be silent on FB anyway.

You can then upload your video to the banner on your FB Group page. Note: FB will then render it in their own system so this bit takes ages. In fact, I wrote this whole post in the 10+ mins it took to rerender it into an FB format. However, when uploaded you will then have an animated banner of video/images at the top of your Facebook Business or Fan Page.

 

 

You’re welcome!

Digital Baptism (a work in progress)

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Notes on an essential sacrament, without which the church cannot fully be embodied in digital space. Please forgive incompleteness of this text and the lack of references but I am recording this here as a note for ruther study and reflection, as a result of attending a symposium on Sacraments in a Virtual World at S. John’s College in Durham.

Baptism is where the sacraments truly hit the road. The two primordial sacraments are already fully  established in digispace: Jesus Christ – the Word embedded across all creation is in both sacred and profane space. The church, the ekklesia exists wherever Christian community is to be found, but from these two spring the dominical sacraments and the sacraments of grace.

So, until we figure out how baptism works then we cannot envisage any of the sacraments in a digital culture. Unfortunately, all sacraments are mysteries of God, and the limitation of their grace, efficacy and means of work are limited by our imagination, language and technology rather than a limitation of the agency of God.

Some theologians (Paul Fiddes for example) argues that baptism is impossible because it is an instrument of the located church, is a once and once only sacrament although he accepts the possibility of renewal of baptismal vows online. His argument accepting a new economy of sacramental for digital Eucharist has, I believe similar currency in the new economy of baptism but as Eucharist is predicated on baptism his rejection of digital baptism kills digital Eucharist at the outset.

We therefore need to carefully consider the nature of baptism and its action to see how it might find true representation in digital space.

The key problem with most of the seven-sacramental perspective is that it is rooted in the Incarnational reality: we have always concentrated upon a visceral and corporeal faith which spoke primarily of oil and water, bread and wine, body and blood. When we move into the less concrete, everything that we once held onto becomes shaky and it is this lack of physicality that  Fiddes finds problematic despite the fact that he was quite willing to forego them in the case of Eucharist.

But what is baptism? Is it a series of physical acts or an initiation which happens most commonly to use physical acts to symbolise the work of the Spirit upon an individual, regardless of whether they actively participate in it (adult, believer’s baptism) or whether they are a (largely) passive participant as an infant. Are the physical acts the most important element here or are they a mere reflection in a concrete world of a more virtual action by God?

Indeed, are all the works of grace evidenced in the sacraments of the Church ‘virtual’ in the sense that they have no concrete form, and rely upon what Aquinas called the accidentals of physicality to embody them? In doing this, have I argued that oil and water, white robes and candles are merely external and therefore dispensable signs of a deeper function of baptism which is the working of the Holy Spirit and the welcome of a supportive Christian Community. That both of these things can be successfully represented digitally, my tentative conclusion is, at present, that baptism is indeed a sacrament that can be mediated digitally, in a digital setting for a digital community for the essential hallmarks of baptism are present and the externalised accidentals can be enacted (the liturgy of drama) within a purely (and not synthesised) digital form.

More thoughts will be posted shortly…

The Emperor’s New Church Plants…

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Plymouth is currently about to have a city-wide Bishops Missionary Order (BMO) imposed without proper consultation because although there has been letters of consultation written in a spirit of consultation, the decision has clearly been already made and these unashamed Church Plants are coming, with a remit to create more plants.
Both the HTB plant in the city and these BMOs are simple clones of the Mothership with little reflection on the needs of the communities they have been cuckooed into. Their model strips other Churches of people in a massive top-funded snowball. Oh, and a BMO get you excused paying quota, so they have Mothership funding, Church Commission funding and no quota pressures. Is it not any wonder that they look all shiny?
 
Resource Churches are another bait and switch to garner central funding from the Strategic Development Fund (SDF) without playing the game. The only resourcing they are interested in is spawning their way of doing things. Actual quote: “Our worship leader will teach yours how to worship properly”.
 
The takeover of Theological Education through S. Mellitus will embed this deep into the Church of England for a century.
 
Because it is sexy, numerically beguiling (few actual converts, but look! lots of people come to our church!) and backed by SDF funding, Church Plants are going to undermine the whole Church of England and the Bishops have been seduced into letting this happen. You have to subscribe to the doctrine of church planting, but I feel like its the emperor’s new clothes story, and I am at last compelled to call out this strategy’s nakedness.
 
Pioneering, however does not come with a set agenda. It does not have the solution ready to pull off the shelf and implement. That makes it harder, but makes it more authentic, embedded. Proper pioneering should come from the opposite direction, from the locality. Unfortunately, this is less sexy, less well-quantifiable and not really capable therefore of top down funding because you can’t just throw money at it.
 
Church Plants are taking over. And there is nothing we can do about them. Don’t say I didn’t warn you
 

Blame the Vicar

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by Sir John Betjeman

When things go wrong it’s rather tame
To find we are ourselves to blame,
It gets the trouble over quicker
To go and blame things on the Vicar.

The Vicar, after all, is paid
To keep us bright and undismayed.
The Vicar is more virtuous too
Than lay folks such as me and you.
He never swears, he never drinks,
He never should say what he thinks.
His collar is the wrong way round,
And that is why he’s simply bound
To be the sort of person who
Has nothing very much to do
But take the blame for what goes wrong
And sing in tune at Evensong.

For what’s a Vicar really for
Except to cheer us up? What’s more,
He shouldn’t ever, ever tell
If there is such a place as Hell,
For if there is it’s certain he
Will go to it as well as we.
The Vicar should be all pretence
And never, never give offence.
To preach on Sunday is his task
And lend his mower when we ask
And organize our village fetes
And sing at Christmas with the waits
And in his car to give us lifts
And when we quarrel, heal the rifts.

To keep his family alive
He should industriously strive
In that enormous house he gets,
And he should always pay his debts,
For he has quite six pounds a week,
And when we’re rude he should be meek
And always turn the other cheek.
He should be neat and nicely dressed
With polished shoes and trousers pressed,
For we look up to him as higher
Than anyone, except the Squire.

Dear People, who have read so far,
I know how really kind you are,
I hope that you are always seeing
Your Vicar as a human being,
Making allowances when he
Does things with which you don’t agree.
But there are lots of people who
Are not so kind to him as you.
So in conclusion you shall hear
About a parish somewhat near,
Perhaps your own or maybe not,
And of the Vicars that it got.

One parson came and people said,
Alas! Our former Vicar’s dead!
And this new man is far more ‘Low’
Than dear old Reverend so-and-so,
And far too earnest in his preaching,
We do not really like his teaching,
He seems to think we’re simply fools
Who’ve never been to Sunday Schools.”
That Vicar left, and by and by

A new one came, “He’s much too ‘High’,”
The people said, “too like a saint,
His incense makes our Mavis faint.”
So now he’s left and they’re alone
Without a Vicar of their own.
The living’s been amalgamated
With one next door they’ve always hated.

Dear readers, from this rhyme take warning,
And if you heard the bell this morning
Your Vicar went to pray for you,
A task the Prayer Book bids him do.
“Highness” or “Lowness” do not matter,
You are the Church and must not scatter,
Cling to the Sacraments and pray
And God be with you every day.

Homily: Ordinary 2 Year B “This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

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In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

“This is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”

John the Baptist uses the metaphor of the Lamb of God. It is an odd metaphor when one considers the traditional view of the Messiah of God as a powerful military leader who would free Israel from oppression.

The Lamb of God is the sacrificial lamb, the willing victim, the man of sorrows. John the Evangelist makes this connection clear by telling us that Christ is arrested and is given up late on Maundy Thursday – at the same time as the Passover Lambs were being slaughtered in preparation for the Passover. In the Gospel of John, the Last Supper is not the Passover meal, but the one that precedes it – look closely at the text and you will see this.

When I raise the consecrated elements at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, I always echo these words of John the Baptist directly: “This is the Lamb of God”, not “This is something that reminds me of the Lamb of God…” but “This is…”

As you can tell from my girth: in the past I have been very fond of wine. As the Scriptures say, it “gladdens our hearts” and has been a wonderful source of joy in my life.

The process of making wine is ancient: when Noah found dry land again, he planted a vineyard and got drunk (it’s in Genesis 9:20-21). However, one does not simply plant grapes and get wine, something has to happen to it to make it into that wonderful substance.

The action of fermentation, the work of yeast, to convert sugar into alcohol happens almost invisibly. It happens as it must in the dark, in the warm, and out of sight, and for most of us, how it does it is a mystery.

We start with grape juice and we end with champagne. A transformation in substance.

In the same way, the words and the actions of the priest and the responses of the congregation works on ordinary things: simple bread and wine, and there is another transformation in substance.

In a way that is also mysterious, that cannot be satisfactorily explained, nor indeed should be explained, there is a change in the ordinary and it becomes extraordinary, as God enters into these elements and simple bread and wine become the blessed sacrament and precious blood.

“This is the Lamb of God…” is literally true, it is not a metaphor or an illustration, but a statement of fact. In these changed elements we find God. We find the real presence of Him “hiding” as St Francis of Assisi wonderfully said “under an ordinary piece of bread”. When Jesus took the bread and wine of a meal, he said “This is my body”, “This is my blood”. It was not a metaphor, not an illustration, but the institution of a sacrament. We believe Christ when he admits that he is the Son of God, so I fail to understand why some would wish to deny the reality of Christ in these most sacred mysteries.

We start with bread and wine and we end with the body and blood of Christ. We need not look for God in the molecules of the wine, or the atoms of the bread, look not for the change to the elements but look for the change in the people of receive it – the comfort derived from the sacrament. Look not for the wind, but for the action the wind has on the trees.
God takes the ordinary: people like you and like me, and he transforms us into something extraordinary – into the saved. God does this is subtle ways, hidden, in the dark. How he does this is a mystery. We are transformed by the power of God, transformed by Christ’s body and blood.

This is why I have the highest possible regard for the sacraments.

This is why the Mass is the cornerstone of our worship and why it is at the heart of our missionary activity in this place.

This is why we come together not just on a Sunday but at other times during the week to worship God, and why you should come also.

This is why we keep the blessed sacrament safely in that Aumbrey behind the altar and we revere it with a bow or a genuflection, for God is really present here in these blessed sacraments and his holy presence is signified by the candle that always burns above the Aumbrey.

That is why we have the opportunity to pray before the blessed sacrament when it is exposed. This is why is taken to those too unwell to come to Church to receive the sacrament of salvation.

That is why you should all come to this holy altar to partake in these blessed sacraments; for he was prepared to make himself available to all of us.

As we continue through 2018, we are called into the presence of the sacrament, of the Lamb of God, for here, at this altar, in the midst of these powerful prayers, we are forgiven, reconciled, renewed, anointed.

“This is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. Not the sins of a few, or the sins of those who are already good, but the sins of the whole world, the sins of you, the sins of me, the sins of all of us, past, present and future.

We behold Christ on the altar, making the holy sacrifice, we witness the transformation, we ourselves are transformed.

…and it is something far finer than the finest champagne, for this is the taste of salvation.
Amen.

Nano for Windows

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If you are used to hopping around between systems and platforms, then it’s nice to be able to use the same editor on multiple systems so you don’t have to remember obscure commands or function keys.

This is why I was delighted to discover that there was a port of NANO to Windows. It’s my favourite basic text editor foe Linux: fast and powerful with a good interface.

Then I was disappointed to discover that they have stopped porting it 🙁

Then I was delighted to find an archive copy. Here is it for you: (Version 2.5.3) Enjoy!

Intercessions, Midnight Mass

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Response:
Jesus, Child of Peace
Be born in us tonight

Jesus, whose mother was Mary:
we give thanks for those who have been mothers and fathers to us,
and for your own coming into this world.

We hold in prayer before you
all families of every size and description,
but especially those whose family life is broken in some way,
through abuse, bereavement, estrangement, debt, depression or distance.

Jesus, as Joseph and Mary were bound to each other in love for you,
draw each of us to those whom you have purposed us to love,
that we might do so with patience and perseverance, insight and inspiration.

Jesus, Child of Peace
Be born in us tonight

Jesus, cradled in a manger:
we give thanks for those places we regard as safe, warm and welcoming,
acknowledging the blessing of the security we experience.

We hold in prayer before you
all those who are homeless and living rough on the streets,
prey to violence, disease and in some cases their own addictions,
and all those refugees living a long way from home
in an effort to find a measure of safety,
and provide food and shelter for their children.

Jesus, as Mary gently cradled you,
hold in your loving care each desperate individual and struggling family,
that with Mary & Joseph they might know your presence
and one day come to proclaim your glory.

Jesus, Child of Peace
Be born in us tonight

Jesus, sharing the stable with the animals:
we give thanks for the wonders of your creation which you came into
so that we might know your light and life.

We hold in prayer before you those things we have done to your world
which have damaged it to breaking point,
our greed to possess the best of everything,
and our obsession with draining away the gifts and wonders of what we call the natural world.

Jesus, as the animals brought warmth to your first hours on earth,
give us the humility to set greed aside,
and the strength of will to use wisely the resources you provide.

Jesus, Child of Peace
Be born in us tonight

Jesus, worshipped by shepherds and kings:
we give thanks for the diversity of cultures, nations and races which are together
what makes us in the likeness of God.

We hold in prayer before you those disputed regions of the world,
where diversity of opinion or politics forms a barrier to peaceful co-existence,
and where borders and barriers seek to hide
brutal injustice, terror and torture.

Jesus, just as you were brought gifts,
help us to use wisely those gifts of forgiveness and reconciliation
which you have given us for the good of all nations.

Jesus, Child of Peace
Be born in us tonight

Jesus, our Emmanuel:
we give thanks that you came not only in the form of a human baby,
but continue to dwell with us through the power of your Holy Spirit.

We hold in prayer before you those in particular need
of the knowledge of your presence with them,
that through your Spirit they might know your strength,
your healing, your peace and your amazing love for them.
We pray for those whom we know and those whose cries are heard by God alone.

Jesus, just as you come to us daily,
may we consciously make time to come to you,
not just this Christmas Day, but every day of our lives.

Jesus, Child of Peace
Be born in us tonight

Jesus, we give thanks to you our living God:
born of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
revealed in glory,
worshipped by the angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed in throughout the world,
exalted to the highest heavens.

Blessed be God,
our strength and our salvation,
now and for ever.
Amen.