Joan Chittister has written a commentary on the Rule of Benedict, and this is serialised on the web with a daily reading from it http://www.eriebenedictines.org/daily-rule. Today (22nd September) the chapters on Obedience and Humility start. I find these a most inspiring set of chapters and would suggest that they are a good place to start with this. If you don’t see this post in time, it is possible to see the previous days reading by clicking on the date above the image.
In October we are starting a Start! course… The course introduces Christianity through six DVD based interactive, small-group sessions. The Start! course makes no assumptions about participants’ background or experience or knowledge of Christianity or the church. It really does start from scratch.
Each session lasts about 90 minutes and is based around short, DVD programmes – two per session. There’s time to chat, interactive exercises and space for reflection – in a style that aims to be honest and enjoyable.
Come along and bring your friends. To find out more contact Lesley – 01252 820537, email@example.com
Last Wednesday (July 18) I and several others from the parish, had the privilege of being part of a ‘Rainbow Service’ at St Mary’s Church in Guildford, a communion service which celebrated diversity and in particular welcomed people from the LGBTI+ community, along with family, friends and allies.
The word ‘privilege’ is often used to describe people’s feelings when they have attended an event, so often used that it has become a cliché and I thought carefully before using it, but it really did feel a privilege to be part of a warm, joyful, colourful service which not only celebrated diversity but was also ground-breaking. There have been other such services in other places but this was, I believe, the first in this part of the Diocese of Guildford. It was also packed, and not just with Anglicans, for it was an ecumenical service. I don’t know who came from which church but among those I was particularly pleased to welcome were three from the Godalming Unitarian Chapel including the minister Sheena.
The word privilege is important here for another reason too. Those who identify as straight and cisgendered have been privileged in society, and LGBTI+ people have been at best marginalised and discriminated against. More than that they have often been persecuted, attacked, forced to hide themselves. In some places they are imprisoned, killed. Though in many countries society is much more welcoming now – we have equal marriage after all, though ceremonies cannot be conducted in the Anglican Church – discrimination remains and the church is in large part responsible. There were those I knew there who had experienced direct discrimination and humiliation from both church and society, and I knew just a few of the congregation.
During the service there were references to the wounds that have been and continue to be inflicted, but there was no sense of bitterness, simply an offering of ourselves to God and a joy that God welcomes us all here, now, as we are, and loves and celebrates us. The Confession included the words: ‘Forgive us when we don’t believe such love is true or possible, when we wonder how you could love us just as we are, when we forget our intricate construction, fearfully, wonderfully made, in your image! You know our hearts – and you love us still.’
There was joy, there was wonderful music, and there was colour, not least in the ribbons that we all wore and then tied to a huge circle of wool which we all held, before placing it on the altar, in the rainbow cloth in front of the altar, in the rainbow banner which until the night before had adorned St Mark’s in Hale, in the amazing rainbow cupcakes which a lady called Liz had made, in the installation celebrating and challenging us on inclusion which Lesley Shatwell had prepared, in the rainbow collages which Dave and Helena Walker encouraged us to make.
There was also talk, lots of it, with people lingering over nibbles, wine and those cupcakes, making friends, just feeling welcome. It was, as I said, a privilege and the first, I am certain, of many such occasions.
We will be reading Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World by Brian McLaren as our next book. We read books quite slowly – a few chapters at a time. Our next two meetings are 2 July 2018 and 20 August 2018. If you would like to know more please contact Alan Crawley.
I have just started rereading this book for our book group, and whilst I remembered many of the “parables”, I had forgotten the introduction.
In it Peter Rollins explains that the purpose of the book is not to provide answers, but to pose questions (I paraphrase). And that the point of these questions is to change our behaviour, not to gain our assent to some ideas. He goes on to point out that so often people will assent to an idea, but then behave as though they don’t believe it; for example saying how terrible materialism is, but then living in a materialistic way.
I recently posted some thoughts on Remembrance Sunday, and yesterday I had some more that I thought worth sharing.
In the previous article I commented on an article by Simon Jenkins, and he suggested that we should make next year the last Remembrance Sunday because too many use remembering as a means to keep past hurts alive. However, it struck me that the problem is not keeping the memory alive, it is keeping the animosity alive.
Telling the Story
Naming The Hurt
Renewing/releasing the relationship
It strikes me that at Remembrance the difficulties come because we are good at the first two, but don’t always move on to the third or fourth.
I would suggest that until we have mastered those two steps as well the nursed grievances will remain whether or not we abolish Remembrance Day.
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes.
This surprised me as it was a memorable phrase, which I did not remember!
Looking it up I discovered that it follows on from the Parable of the Unjust Steward, so when I usually read/hear it it is in a particular context. The words are the same, but the context is different (not that the unjust steward is an easy parable to interpret).
It isn’t in the same league as theatre bill boards (see here), but reading something out of context can give a misleading perception.
The question then comes – how do we use the Bible without taking it out of context?
This coming Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, and this morning I read this by Simon Jenkins.
For many clergy Remembrance Sunday is a struggle – how to remember the fallen with dignity, whilst remembering what has happened and wanting to say “never again”, often in the context of military parades. The last thing that many of us would want to do is to preside over “a validation of war by embracing its horrors in religiosity”.
However, my experience in church is that when we struggle to achieve that balance it is welcomed. Whether that is a generational thing, as in many churches, including ours, there are still people who can remember the war, I don’t know. And of course, although Remembrance focuses on the two world wars, there have been many conflicts since, and many killed or injured.
If I were to be provocative I might ask whether the problem is that we don’t remember the more recent conflicts enough! People under 70, which includes most politicians, have no experience of a “big” war. Perhaps if our politicians had, or we Remembered better the smaller wars, there would be less inclination to solve our problems by military means.
Over the years I have heard a number of priests complaining about the increasing amount of management coming into the role of incumbent. Until now I have thought it only sensible that the good bits of modern organisational management theory should be used by the church. However…
Recently the Church of England has adopted new safeguarding procedures, and we have recently been made aware of the GDPR that are coming into force in May 2018. Both of these have added significantly to the administrative overhead of running a parish (and that is before the impact of implementing them is considered). If you are in a parish with several retired managers then this may be dealt with by them, although there is a level of knowledge required that the incumbent probably has in their head that anyone else will spend time finding out. But if you are in a parish without those kind of people the burden falls on the incumbent – and in some of those parishes the incumbent is already doing more administration than in others, perhaps no administrator, and I have heard of some with no treasurer.
This is not a plea for the church to be exempt from either of these – there is good reason why they are needed. However, it is a plea for the national church or dioceses to look at ways to reduce the burden of them on parishes. I will admit that this is a hobby horse of mine, but in the era of the internet providing systems centrally for use across the country is not rocket science, and could just help!
And for those parishes who do have people who can do these things – wouldn’t their time be better spent on ministry rather than administration?
I was reminded by a recent sermon of Craig’s that when preaching it is good to tackle the bits in the passage which challenge us. Indeed, at a previous church, the congregation asked the clergy to specifically address this (rather than preaching on an alternative reading).
They also say that the best sermons are those that are addressed to yourself.
Note to self – remember this and act on it!