Archives July 2010

Book Review: Creative Ideas for Alternative Sacramental Worship

Mother Ruth, a good friend of mine has given me a stonkingly good review. Although some of the comments on her blog about it remind me how much of an uphill struggle it still is – so many just don’t get it (although some also clearly do, so there is hope). Someone asks sarcastically ‘what kind of antique shop do you get a projector from?’ Err… a data projector perhaps? Ho hum.

Still, thank you, Mother. Much appreciated.

Sermon Outline: Ordinary 17, Year C

Text: Luke 11:1-13

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

  • Luke’s Lord’s Prayer looks very different from the familiar cadences of St Matthew’s version
  • We should not be worked up about the variances, but concentrate on the focus of the prayer:
    • Looking towards God
    • Depending upon Him
    • Seeking forgiveness and seeking to make reconciliation with the world
    • Seeking God’s help when we are tested, put-upon or battered, bruised by life
      • Which is really what we are asking – it is never God who tests us, but rather life, and God is there to help us pick up the pieces.
      • God responds to prayer in three ways:
        • He says “Yes”
        • He says “No”
        • He says “Not yet”
        • But he never ignores prayer. Just because it is not the answer we want, doesn’t mean there is no response.
        • To show this, I bought a Lottery Ticket and I prayed really hard this I might win the prize (or indeed any prize)
        • As you can see I am still here, so just because I prayed for it doesn’t mean God will grant my prayer
          • Prayer isn’t mechanistic
          • It isn’t to satisfy our deepest desires
          • You aren’t a toddler, wanting to make a long list of selfish demands on the Parent-God
          • Prayer is a dialogue which demands that we listen to God as well
      • One of our Churchwardens prayed earnestly “Please God, let me win the lottery, let me, let me, let me, I’ve been good, I’ll even make a (small) donation to the Church Hall fund, please, please, please”. Lottery day comes up and no win. Next week:  “Please God, let me win the lottery, let me, let me, let me, I’ve been good, I’ll even make a (slightly bigger) donation to the Church Hall fund, please, please, please”. No win. On the third week: ““Please God, let me win the lottery, let me, let me, let me…” and God chimes back “Steven, you’re going to have to meet me half-way here – at least buy a Lottery Ticket!”
      • But this isn’t about Lottery wins is it? The ticket that God asks of us is not seven numbers and a bonus ball, but rather it is an engagement with him.
      • If we, collectively and individually, are not prepared to meet with God, then the blessings that he so much wants to shower upon us cannot happen.
      • We are a praying Church, but we should pray more.
      • We are a welcoming Church, but we should draw more into the encounter with God
      • We are a caring Church, but we should be more embedded and not separated from the community outside these walls, we should be a parish engaged in Mission and Social Justice.
    • This leads me on to Back to  Church Sunday on September 26th
      • I am asking everyone to buy into this project, and with the input of each and every person in this place we can double our congregation
      • No fancy words are required, simply to ask someone you know “would you like to come to church with me on Sunday”
      • We need to pray for those people who will respond to that invitation
      • We have resources (cards and suchlike) to help
      • We can arrange lifts where needed (Taxi!)
      • If only one or two of you do this, then it will be a failure
      • If we all do this, then it will be an enormous success
      • Finish with a lovely parish BBQ in the Church grounds

    Touching the Sacred

    I have just seen a sample chapter from a forthcoming book called Touching the Sacred by Christ Thorpe with illustrations by Jake Lever.

    The SCM-Canterbury blurb says this:

    In this imaginative and rich prayer resource, words and images come together powerfully to create a versatile collection of contemporary liturgies. These have made an impact at Greenbelt in the last few years, where the authors have created a ‘sanctuary space’ for reflective prayer using this material.

    The icon-like images of hands are inspired by biblical figures and sequences:
    • Angel hands invite us to explore our calling to bring God’s word into today’s world
    • The hands of the Magi bearing gifts enable us to discern our own giftedness
    • Christ’s hands as he faces his own death invite us to recognise the reality of living and dying and repair our relationships
    • A jester’s hands celebrates the liberating effects of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost
    Fresh and strikingly relevant, these liturgies can be used for alternative worship, by individuals, prayer groups, by retreat and quiet day leaders looking for new material. In each liturgy there is a mono thumbnail of the image, which links to the CD colour images that can be projected on to a wall or printed for individual use.

    But I say further: it is stunning. The meditations take the form of an Office, the simple yet subtly complex images are really engaging and the depth of prayer it engenders is simply wonderful. I will be ordering a copy as soon as it is published, and I commend it to you all.


    Beware! At St. Thomas the Apostle, we practise the inclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means you may be mixing with tax collectors, sinners, adulterers, hypocrites, Greeks, Jews, women as well as men, female and male priests, homosexuals, lesbians, the disabled, thieves and other sinners, the dying, white people, black people, Asians and people from other races, Muslims, Bishops, bigots, people of other faiths, strangers, heretics and people with no particular faith etc. etc.  In fact, anyone like those with whom Jesus himself mixed.
    So beware—this is not a private club. We Welcome All.

    Homily I heard this morning said one very important thing: that Martha broke all the rules by inviting Jesus and the disciples into her house and Mary broke all the rules by taking a man’s role, in seeking to learn from Christ. Moving forward in our faith can only come at the expense of breaking the rules: expect the Gospel to exceed the norm, and if that doesn’t make you all uncomfortable, then you aren’t paying attention!

    Jargon as Poetry

    The Church is becoming more management-obsessed, more ‘corporate’. How long before you can see these phrases coming in at PCC meetings

    I bet Bishop’s Staff is full of it already!

    I was speaking to a friend who is about to be installed as the Team Rector of a large parish. In his interview he was asked “What is your management style?” To which he paused and said that the Church of England was becoming so obsessed with ‘Management’ that he wanted to get back to a style that was overwhelmingly ‘Priestly’. A good answer which I would want to take further (as well as store up as a good answer for the next time I might need it!) – Priestly Management is both Prophetic ie visionary and Pastoral ie concerned with people. It also uses none of the phrases seen in the above extract.

    That book I am continuing to read “Why should anyone be led by YOU?” continues to inspire, and to inspire me to be more like me, only better: that is the mark of authentic leadership, and the only management style that Jesus seeks from us.

    Prayer of the Day

    O loving God, Lord of all creation,
    you have created us in your own image.

    You have called us, men, women,
    young and old, people of different races and nations,
    to serve in your church and to love each other.

    But we have abused your creation, divided your church through prejudice,
    malice and lack of love for one another.

    Look in mercy on us, your children,
    forgive us, forgive your church
    as it struggles against injustice
    and strives for honesty and integrity.

    Heal our divisions,
    heal us that we may serve you faithfully. Amen.

    With thanks to Lesley

    The Dash

    Sorting out papers in the Study this evening, Lou was going through material from her first degree which was in Death, Loss & Palliative Care (for which she received a First, she delights in reminding me). In a pile of notes was this poem, which when we re-read it, we thought quite touching:

    The Dash by Linda Ellis

    I read of a man who stood to speak, at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on his tombstone from beginning… to the end.

    He noted that first came his date of birth and spoke the following with tears. But he said what mattered most of all, was the dash in between those years.

    For the dash represents, all the time he spent alive on earth. And how only those who loved him know what that little line is worth.

    For it matters not, how much we own: the cars, the house, the cash, what matters most is how we live and love and how we spend our dash…

    So think about this long and hard. Are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left, that can still be rearranged.

    If we could just slow down enough, to consider what is true and real. And always try to understand, the way other people feel.

    And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more, and love the people in our lives like we’ver never loved before.

    If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile…Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

    So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash would you be proud of the things they say and how you spent your dash?

    Diocesan Missioner's Conference, Merville, July 2010

    The Missioner’s Conference in Merville was, for me, a great experience; and I want to thank Fresh Expressions for allowing me to attend on their behalf. It was great to have the opportunity to hear both the wider narrative of missionary thinking and the narrow nuts and bolts of good ideas for me to apply in my local context. It was therefore for me a great learning opportunity.
    Our reflection was largely based on the work of Lesslie Newbigin led by Paul Weston of Ridley Hall. This explored the radically ecumenical outlook of Newbigin and his concepts of Kingdom, Community and Proclamation.
    The opportunity to engage with others and discover their take on the role of Fresh Expressions in the mission culture of the church was considerable. Many in the Missioners Network had engagement with FE, and spoke positively of it. A small group of us gathered together in a  forum to share our work with FE and to pray. In this group we considered  the preparation of Pioneer Ministers, especially the courses for the preparation of Pioneer Ministry. Jonny Baker is doing some interesting work in this area. Of key concern was the lack of Pioneer Curacies, resulting in the newly ordained serving titles in traditional parishes, for which they might not be appropriately prepared. Many dioceses had sponsored Pioneer training only to release ordinands to other dioceses and this was felt to be unfortunate. Maybe we should be more proactive in encouraging dioceses in their vision for this special ministry.
    As a result of this conference, I have the opportunity myself to help develop further exploration of the sacramental tradition of FE in other localities; a number of Missioners were extremely interested in the Sacramental contribution that I can make in their areas; and I look forward to seeing fruit in that: perhaps with some other speaking engagements or Blesséd away games.

    iPlayer Downloader – a work of Genius

    If you live in the UK, then you will know how iPlayer is rapidly becomming the only way to access TV: on demand, when you need it and without advertisments: I’m not being elitist, but very little on ITV actually interests me, whereas the BBC is the most important UK institution after the Church of England: from radio to rubbish experimental comedy on BBC3, it’s all we need.

    Downloading a video from iPlayer is tricky, and comes bundled with some very limiting digital rights management which makes me unhappy, and you can’t simply grab a few frames to illustrate an assembly, youth talk or sermon, let alone use footage of current news events to help focus the prayer of the community that easily.

    Well, for a time now I have been using iPlayer Downloader which gets around the DRM restrictions by the simple expediency of pretending to be an iPhone, so the BBC sends the data down the wire in an unencrypted format (H.264 if you are really interested) and you save it.

    It is simple to use and effective.

    It is a multi-platform tool and is available with a GUI for Windows and Mac; and all kinds of Linux as a command-line program

    I highly recommend this utility: five stars