Monthly Archives: April 2007

Evangelistic Unity in Action

Tonight I believe a small village in Northamptonshire has provided a demonstration of unity that the wider Church could do well to learn from.

In Ringstead there has been a Shared Church of Baptists and Methodists for over 12 years with a formal sharing agreement, for many years before that there was a great deal of informal sharing.

Tonight we have taken the next step, it has taken 18 months of prayerful discussion and searching to get to this point. This step is complicated, in fact it consists of seven separate elements. The net result though is interesting, unique (we believe) and exciting for the future.

What we now have is a single church with an integrated membership. Legally it is Ringstead Baptist Church who are issuing  a Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome. The Nene Valley Circuit are welcoming this and are supporting the Church in it’s ministry. In return the Church is providing financial support to the Circuit.

The net result is that as of tonight the Methodist Church in Ringstead has voted to close and Ringstead Baptist Church has welcomed 10 new members (all with dual membership).

For all our work in the Village we will continue to be known as Ringstead Shared Church (which accurately reflects who we are and how we work). As the Methodist Minister for this section of the circuit I will continue to be part of the ministry at Ringstead Shared Church including preaching, administering sacraments, pastoral care and involvement in the rest of the mission of the Church. I will also be an ex-officio member of the Church Meeting (as is the Circuit Superintendent).

This process has only happened because after so many years of sharing the Baptists and Methodists in Ringstead were united in wanting to move to being a single Church. We explored many ways this could happen and together created a solution that fits our situation. We believe that this structure is unique and yet hope and pray that others may find our journey and solution helpful to them.

We confidently expect that our "Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome" will be ratified by the Shire and Soak regional body of Churches Together in England at their meeting tomorrow. Ringstead will be the first  "Declaration of Ecumenical Welcome" in this region and hope that others will soon follow.

For nearly 20 months I have been privileged to work with the congregation in Ringstead and with Rosemary, the Baptist Pastor, I am delighted that we will be able to continue working for the gospel together.

The Shared Church in Ringstead is a growing Church that is highly committed to reaching out in mission, these changes will free us to be more effective in our mission.

I have written before that unity is a costly but essential part of what it is to be Church. Ringstead is a superb example of the how unity can be developed and of the immense positive impact that unity has on the mission of the Church.

Through years of working together this Church has found that unity is costly. However, both Churches have learned to accept and rejoice in each others traditions, to move beyond past hurts through grace leading to reconciliation and to love and support each other.

During the meeting (although it was officially a business meeting it actually was for much of the time more like worship with prayer and testimony) we shared some of the stories of the past, of those who have brought us to this point. That included over 150 years of Methodism in Ringstead. So much to give thanks for.

Yet also so much to look forward to as we also spent time reviewing the events planned for the summer. Looks like it will be a good one. – Loans that change lives

Looks a great idea if you have some money to invest without needing a return: – Loans that change lives. It will be good when they have completed the transparency process.

Only small concern is that I have reservations about distortions caused by the selection of entrepreneurs being entirely in the hands of the investor. Will we see people choosing certain industries because they are attractive to investors rather than because they are appropriate?

Hat tip: Kiva: lend money to entrepreneurs in the developing world » The Cartoon Blog by Dave Walker. See also Thoughts from the Bus Stop: Lend us a tenner? Kiva – loans which change lives.

Windows Vista Content Protection

See A Cost Analysis of Windows Vista Content Protection.

Executive Summary

Windows Vista includes an extensive reworking of core OS elements in order to provide content protection for so-called “premium content”, typically HD data from Blu-Ray and HD-DVD sources. Providing this protection incurs considerable costs in terms of system performance, system stability, technical support overhead, and hardware and software cost. These issues affect not only users of Vista but the entire PC industry, since the effects of the protection measures extend to cover all hardware and software that will ever come into contact with Vista, even if it’s not used directly with Vista (for example hardware in a Macintosh computer or on a Linux server). This document analyses the cost involved in Vista’s content protection, and the collateral damage that this incurs throughout the computer industry.

Executive Executive Summary

The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history [Note A].

Hat tip: Boing Boing: Vista Suicide Note paper reading now available.

Robert Frost quotes

Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor. [link]
Robert Frost, The Black Cottage
US poet  (1874 – 1963)
Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired. [link]
Robert Frost US poet  (1874 – 1963)

Two interesting quotes I noticed the other day that seem relevant too some of the discussions we have been havinmg recently. Particularly: 42: Not At-one-ment and 42: Managing Alone.

Word Alive[4] – Hebrews 9:11-28

Living Stones: Word Alive[4] – Hebrews 9:11-28.

Here is something that Richard said that struck me: "God never forgives – he punishes" wow…let that digest.

I suggest that we contrast with the words of Jesus while dying on the cross

Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." [a] (Luke 23:34 and I do acknowledge the footnote).

Or a certain prayer that Jesus taught us which includes:

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

H’mm, here we have a choice. We can believe someone called Richard who tells us that "God never forgives – he punishes" or we could believe Jesus who goes around offering forgiveness (a significant factor in getting himself crucified for me), teaching us to pray for forgiveness and praying that we might be forgiven as he dies on the cross.

Alternatively we could look at the life of, oh say Paul, and see if he considered that God forgave him or punished him.

Now I wonder which view might be considered good news for me a sinner. Difficult choice don’t you think. Jesus offering forgiveness or someone I have never heard of offering punishment from God. Maybe, just maybe I’ll stick with Jesus, my Lord and my saviour.

hat tip: the blue fish project: The word is out….

[Update] Peter Kirk has also written on this in Speaker of Truth » UCCF Director: “God never forgives” also see Threads from Henry’s Web » God Doesn’t Forgive? from Henry.

Glad to be a Methodist

I know it may get boring but I was powerfully reminded this evening

  • why it is good to be a Methodist
  • why it is fantastic to be a Methodist Minister
  • why being a Methodist Minister in the Nene Valley Circuit is even better than fantastic

Tonight at Raunds Methodist Church we had what looked like being the meeting from hell. This meeting seemed like it had the potential to make the debate on atonement look like a tea party (that is not quite the right expression, but I guess you know what I mean). This meeting was something I had been dreading. I have been stuffing myself with chocolate while worrying about it.

It was not as if the meeting came out of the blue. The Church Leadership team first started thinking, praying, discussing, praying, reflecting, sharing on this issue seriously in July last year. The Circuit Leadership team have also been doing much the same from their side.

Tonight we met to attempt to deal with a crisis.

You will understand why everyone was worried about this when I say it was about balancing a budget. A budget with a big hole. A classic case of a Circuit against a Local Church. Who has the power? Who has the authority? The potential for a huge explosion cannot be overstated.

I am serious here, not joking or exaggerating. Everyone coming to the meeting knew that we were coming with no solutions and no plans for solving the crisis.

However, all that follows is what leads me to the statements at the top of this post. All that follows is what reminds me

  • why it is good to be a Methodist
  • why it is fantastic to be a Methodist Minister
  • why being a Methodist Minister in the Nene Valley Circuit is even better than fantastic

First, is the knowledge that before you meet there has been a huge amount of preparation. By that I mean the time spent praying so that every aspect of mission, decision making, behaviour, relationships was all rooted in prayer and in the gospel.

Second, was the knowledge that in the Circuit we have a finance team that work so very hard on our behalf to make sure that everything is done properly, accurately, correctly and in a timely fashion. A team that have already built up a store of trust and goodwill from the Churches.

Thirdly, that in Raunds we are blessed with a treasurer who is a prayerful spiritual giant, someone who is not only a diligent, careful, considerate and faithful treasurer but also a wonderful member of our team of worship leaders. I had seen the huge commitment of time he had put into ensuring that the right figures and support for them were available with clarity.

All that comes as background before the meeting.The next step in making this work is critical. In Methodist structures one of the key people in a crisis like this is the Superintendent Minister. I think I have mentioned before some of the joys of having Michael as Superintendent. Well I was never as glad of having him as my super as I was tonight. Michael’s deep spirituality, the depth of his faith and the breadth of his experience coupled with his pastoral insights and clear devotion make him a superb chair of meetings like this. His devotions at the start of the meeting and his calm conduct of the meeting ensures a confidence among all present that we are in safe hands.

During the meeting it was also clear how blessed we are by having Mike as one of our senior staff (yes I know it is confusing to have Michael & Mike plus David & Dave as the four ministers in the circuit). His insights, clear thinking and exciting commitment to the gospel provided a number of really helpful and incisive points during the meeting (even managing a bit of mind reading at one point).

I love those times when (even?) business meetings come alive with the presence of the Holy Spirit. When people catch fire in all kinds of different ways. Coming up with ideas, practising reconciliation, demonstrating faith, showing the fruits of the spirit in their responses to each other. I have had these experiences more times in this circuit than at any other time in my life – I love it.

I wish some of the people who say that Methodism is dying could be in meetings like this. Seeing how Methodists wrestle with difficult problems, how open they are to the Spirit, how realistic they are, yet how determined they are to get on with the Mission of God.

So we tackled the difficult crisis head on and together as Circuit and Church ought to. We have come out with a way forward. One that is pragmatic, honest and achievable in the short term while making clear challenges to the Church and Circuit for the longer term with clear commitments from Circuit and Church to face up to these challenges. As the minister caught up in the middle of this I came away incredibly encouraged, supported and affirmed by my colleagues, by the circuit leadership team and by the Raunds Church Council.

When I write about the importance of unity and what it costs I can write from the perspective of being a minister privileged to see Methodists demonstrating how it should be done.

My grateful thanks to the Nene Valley Circuit and Raunds Methodist Church for providing me the opportunity to be a minister here.

Managing Alone

I am feeling a little sorry for myself. For a whole two days I am managing alone. Jane is away supporting her Mum while the removal men (she calls them Removalists) pack up her house. I mean she has only lived there 52 years, surely she does not need any support while they pack all her possessions into a van.

Meanwhile I hold the fort at this end. Today my contribution to this removal epic was to nearly paint one room at the mother-in-laws new home, plus meet the locksmith (how did the previous owners get house insurance when we have to get so much work done to get insurance?) and people from other trades.

Fortunately, I have a flexible job. So I re-arranged a meeting to home for 3:30pm so I was in when the boys got home (thank goodness they go to good schools that they can walk home from on their own).

Then out from 5pm til 7pm taking the oldest to his clarinet lesson over the other side of Northampton. A quick meal cooked and served to them so I could go to my evening meeting, leaving home at 7:35 and back just after 11pm. Now after a bit of catching up with work, some time to relax and then get ready for the school preparation in the morning – all with nobody to hug.

Tell you what, two days of this and my admiration goes out to all those parents who manage all this stuff on their own all the time. I don’t think I could do it. I don’t mean being without Jane sharing my life – that is just too terrible to imagine. I mean the total workload of bringing up a family alone, it is the awful combination of the sheer amount of work coupled with the having to do it alone.

When I think of the work that is available around here, how many are working shifts and what that means for family life it is no wonder that coping is so hard. I grew up with a Mum who was always at home when we came home from school and while I was young a Dad who came home at a fixed regular time every night (around 6:30pm I think it must have been). Our kids are still luckier than most with Mum not working, but I am out at work 5 nights most weeks – tonight has reminded me of some of the cost of that.

Is there any point to this post? Not really, except that Jane will get an extra big hug from me when she gets home.

Will the Rock Badger be able to sleep tonight?

Seeing this The Rock Badger: I Agree! on Sunday after this on Friday:

aside – though I disagree with almost everything that Dave Warnock
writes about Christianity, he is right to point out the wonders of
Ubuntu, version 7.04 of which was released yesterday.

from The Rock Badger: On the Spring Harvest/Word Alive split.

Makes me wonder whether Paul will be able to sleep tonight :-)

Of course the transformation that Sunday brings after Friday is well documented. I don’t suppose any of the disciples slept very well on the Sunday night of the first Easter either.

See resurrection is good for agreement, good for unity, good for life.