Category Archives: Books

Letter to the Romans

A Study Group is offered by John Innes on the Letter of Paul to the Romans. No prior knowledge is assumed; but some of you may have heard sections of the letter read on Sundays. The suggestion is to have a series of three, then a gap and if another topic is welcomed than another series of three. If anyone is interested, please let me know which dates would be possible. Ring John on 01252-734597. Possible dates: Sept 5, 12, 19 or 6,13, 20 or 7, 14, 21.

John Innes

Continue reading Letter to the Romans

Is our worship any good?

I’ve just read a booklet entitled ‘Evaluating Worship’ by Mark Earey, and I found it fascinating – he talks about the different models of worship that exist, for example, do you think:

  • Worship is for the individual to draw closer to God, or
  • Worship is to enable us to be more open to the readings and preaching, or
  • Worship is our duty – it doesn’t matter whether we like it or not, or
  • Worship is heaven on earth – as the angels are singing ‘Holy, holy, holy’ in heaven, so we reflect that praise on earth…

The models of worship are different to ‘styles of worship’ – so any of these models could be formal or informal, they could use hymn books or the words on a screen. In fact, often when we argue about the style of worship (eg. we mustn’t have bongo drums in the service) we are really trying to defend our model of worship (eg. I don’t care whether people like bongo drums – people should see worship as a duty).

I don’t particularly prefer any style – I like both formal and informal worship – but a more interesting question for me has been ‘What is my model of worship’ – none of the above really resonate for me.

Having reflected on it, for me it is about the family of God coming together around the table and being equipped to serve the community. I value us showing up, week by week, getting to know each other well and becoming a spiritual family. I also value us being sent out into the world to serve others and to let God’s love be known.

There are many sobering scriptures where people think their worship is great but God has other ideas – the classic example is from Amos 5:

I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5.21–24, NRSV)

The booklet ends with a quote from the theologian the Reverend Michael Vasey:

The evaluation of worship in any Christian tradition has to attend not only to the emotional and aesthetic experience but to its outworking in agape, justice and mission.

How can you tell if worship is any good? Not by asking ‘How many of us liked it?’ (the ‘emotional and aesthetic experience’). What Vasey reminds us is that the truest evaluation of worship will always be based on what are essentially long-term criteria, rather than the short-term criteria we often apply.

Autopsies of dead churches

I’ve read an article about what causes churches to have to close their doors. I found it very interesting. It feels a bit macabre, especially as it is a book review of Thom Rainer’s book “Anatomy of a Deceased Church.”  It is based on 14 ‘autopsies’ of dead churches, which does sound very depressing! However, autopsies are essentially there for the living so that we can thrive, and anyway, so many churches are in decline at the moment, we need to know what not to do! The key points that struck me were these:

  1. Slow erosion is the worst type of decline for churches, because the members have no sense of urgency to change.
  1. The most pervasive and common thread of our autopsies was that the deceased churches lived for a long time with the past as hero.
  1. More than any one item, these dying churches focused on their own needs instead of others.
  1. Members of the dying churches really didn’t want growth unless that growth met their preferences and allowed them to remain comfortable.
  1. When the church is engaged in meaningful prayer, it becomes both the cause and the result of greater church health.
  1. None of the members asked what they should be doing; they were too busy doing what they’ve always done.
  1. The dying churches, at some point in their history, forgot their purpose.
  1. Yes, reversal is possible, but God usually waits for a willing leader who will find willing people.

So. Let us look to the future, not to the past. Let us not do things just because they have always been done and let us have a vision for the future and most of all, let us pray!

Beyond Belief

For our next book we are going to read Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor in America who writes of her life and church giving new insight into age old Christian Questions (sample chapter here).  It will make you laugh, and make you ponder on what you thought you knew.

We will be meeting on 24 February, 9 March, and  20 April 2016 (and later at dates tba).

If you are interested in attending then please email or phone me:, 01252 820537.


Spiritual but not Religious Book Club

After the first meeting, thoroughly enjoyed by those who came, we will be meeting again to discuss “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion.

NPR had this to say about it:

“Joan Didion’s memoir ‘The Year of Magical Thinking’ is about grieving for her husband, fellow writer John Gregory Dunne… In her memoir, Didion contemplates how the rituals of daily life are fundamentally altered when her life’s companion is taken from her. Her impressions, both sharply observed and utterly reasonable, form a picture of an intelligent woman grappling with her past and future.”

The books are taken from the Huffington Post’s list, and we will be choosing the next one at the meeting.

Just come along to our house, 25 Upper Hale Road, GU9 0NX at 7:30 on 21st January 2016.

Are you Spiritual but not Religious?

We recently found a list of “26 Books Every ‘Spiritual But Not Religious’ Seeker Should Read” (  We were intrigued and fancied reading some of the books for ourselves, and wondered if any others would like to join us in a book club, reading one every now and again, and meeting to discuss it.

To find out we are going to read “Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”, by Brené Brown, and open our house (25 Upper Hale Road, GU9 0NX) at 7:30 on 12th November to anyone who wants to come along and discuss it.  If there is interest we can choose another book and another date at that time.

You are welcome to just come along on the day, or if you are interested and can’t make it, let us know and we will keep you informed of what is happening.

Lesley and Alan

Now a Christian

There are all sorts of regular daily readings that you can get on the web these days and we have linked to a number of them here.  However, I have recently become aware of this one which is a 5 week course on the basics of Christianity.  It is advertised as a course for those who are Now a Christian, but I think it may well be of interest to others who would like a little reminder – I’ve only just missed posting it in time for people to use it for Lent – never mind!

Also, for those who are reading and enjoying Return of the Prodigal, you might also like a daily thought from Henri Nouwen.