Monthly Archives: October 2009

Good reasons for a big car

While I frequently wonder if we could manage with a smaller car today reminds me why it can be useful.

The whole family have just been helping me load the car with donated food, toiletries and clothes for the Whitechapel Mission. At 4am in the morning I am taking a very full car with 4 volunteers and all this stuff down to London so that we can cook around 150 breakfasts for people who are homeless.

Despite the enormous size of the back of a Citroen C8 we still did not manage to fit everything in. No matter, we are going again in December and January.

As usual finding volunteers for a 4am start is very hard. Hard because so many want to volunteer that I have to turn them away. Again we have a mixture of those who have been before and some who are new. I love it when people discover the huge joys in serving others.

Within the Church so many people have found this a really significant point of change or awakening that it has opened many eyes to the needs that we are so frequently told do not exist (and that most people believe should not exist).

Should be back home for around 1pm.

Note that despite the efforts of the Nene Valley Circuit the Whitechapel Mission always need more stuff and there are always opportunities for volunteers. The page of stuff they need was updated tonight so I was pleased to see that we have loaded some of the things labelled "We are desperate!!" and "We need Help!".

Exciting Churches: Wollaston Methodist

A few weeks go I wrote 42: Exciting Churches: Raunds Methodist. One reaction was from David Matthias in The Road to "Elder" ado: Exciting Churches in which he wrote

Dave Warnock is excited about his Church, which is great to see.

Of course Raunds is only one of the Churches for which I have pastoral charge (Methodist speak for being the minister). So, being a pedantic person – when it suits me :-) – I wanted to point out that a) no Church is "my" Church in a possesive way and b) "my" other 4 Churches (Irthlingborough, Old Weston, Thrapston and Wollaston) are also exciting. So I guess I get five times more excitement than David does.

In fact I could even argue that as Methodist Ministers are appointed to Circuits (in my case the Nene Valley Circuit) not specific Churches that I get either 12 or 15 times more excitement (the difference depends on whether you count Churches or distinct congregations).

Anyway, enough randon rambling.

Today I want to share some of the excitement of a small village chapel. Now I know that many people do not think that a small village chapel can be exciting. So let me tell you about Wollaston Chapel.

Wollaston is a village just south of Wellingborough, there are four Church traditions in the village (Baptist, CoE & Salvation Army as well as the Methodist). They all work closely together and have different strengths.

When I say that Wollaston Methodist Chapel is pretty traditional in Worship style and in the rest of it's life many will dismiss it as boring, irrelevant or dying. In fact it is none of things. Instead it has chosen to be unfashionable in order to serve people in the village that might otherwise be missed.

So Wollaston Methodist Church has deliberately chosen to serve the elderly of the village. It has done a lot of preparation for this over the years. For example in making the premises attractive, safe and easy to access for the elderly (and in the process made them very effective for others too such as the uniformed organisations who use them regularly). But this is not a Church that understands mission as providing a building. Instead they are incredibly active in all aspects of the Methodist calling : Worship, Evangelism, Learning & Caring, and Service.

Beyond the Sunday worship there is a large Wesley Guild meeting every Monday evening (well over 40 when I was there last). On Tuesdays there is a Bible Study group and on Thursdays the Church is open for quiet prayer followed by either a lunch or a Womens Fellowship (alternate weeks).

Then there is the long list of events, most of which are carefully tailored to the target age range.

For example tonight there was a tea at 4pm followed by a concert. There were over 90 guests at the tea plus the "staff". The numbers were made manageable by setting a minimum age of 70 (there is a repeat on Monday night for anyone younger).  So far as I could see it would have been pretty much impossible to fit any more in the hall. The team were clearly well practiced at serving and clearing away with no fuss and great speed.

One tea was over most guests went downstairs to the chapel to sing their favourite hymns while the team cleared away all the tables, set out the chairs, built the stage (it needed to be folded away to fit so many in for tea) and then got into their costumes – all done amazingly quickly, downstairs we were still in full swing with favourite hymns when all was ready. (Note that depite having an upstairs and downstairs we also have level access to front and rear depending on whether you enter from the High Street or College Street).

The concert itself was ideally suited to the audience, there were loads of songs they knew. Plus a comedy duo (certain Church Stewards were seen in a very new light) and a set of songs from Oliver performed by children (children playing the childrens roles is what I mean). Afterwards the Church organised lifts home for anyone who wanted one.

Over the next few weeks it seems that barely a week goes by without a special event for the community organised by Wollaston Methodist Church, in them all they make sure that the good news is proclaimed and lived out.

Beyond all this the Chapel is also very active in world mission with collections for many places, plus a team goes to Croatia every year (late Nov/early Dec). They also make sure to invite speakers and preachers from a wide range of mission agencies to learn and offer prayer and practical support.

So in the morning when I am leading traditional worship and preaching at Wollaston I will do so as someone who is excited to be part of this Christian community living the gospel in the village of Wollaston.

Biblical Manhood and the lost gospels

I feel it is a abiout time for a rant. I have not had a good rant for a while. So when I read CBMW » The Gospel and Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
it got the blood pressure up and I prepared to write while the steam
was still coming out of my ears. However, since then time has passed
and I am now writing this at a little distance from the initial
reaction.

I am grateful that others have already responded and encourage you to read The Gender Debate – a Gospel Debate? – a Church by Dave Woolcott.

I
so often find that beyond my concern for justice and the Kingdom of God
that it is the poor tactics and the poor use of scripture that really
gets to me when I read articles like this one. So here are a few
challenges to the article:

  • John Starke writes:
A good question to ask in order to gauge the importance of an issue is, "How closely related is this issue to the Gospel?"

Well
yes, I would not argue with that. But what Gospel is it that we are
talking about? The entire article is based on Ephesians. Now I love
Ephesians, a fantastic letter for encouraging Churches. But to imply
that "Ephesisans = The Gospel" is plainly ridiculous. If we are going
to decide if something is important and consider how related it is to
the gospel then it is more than a little odd to not refer to any of the
four gospels at all. Or to the rest of Scripture. This is a strange
beast, neither a Bible Study on Ephesians nor a full Gospel based
examination of an issue.
  • If we are going to refer to the Gospel (the Good News of Christ)
    then personally I want to hear more about Jesus. I want some theology
    that refers to the teaching of Jesus and to who Jesus is (the article
    has a low Christology – Jesus as fully divine is never recognoised
    except very obliquely).
  • If we are going to use Ephesians then let us do so by recognising
    that this is not a letter to individuals but to a Christian Community,
    a Church (or more than one). This post individualises Christian faith,
    it makes it about individual men and women rather than about Christian
    communities (Churches) and Christian households (families). This
    individualisation puts a very different perspective on every issue
    including gender. Paul is writing about a household as he knew it. That
    does not match a Western understanding of an individual man and woman
    with or without 2.3 kids. Anything that tries to apply Paul's writing
    without any consideration of cultural differences is trvialising
    Scripture, not engaging with it.
  • If we are going to use Ephesians then let us be sure to pick up
    some of the significant themes. Dave Woolcott points out that John
    Starkey ignores the demand for unity that is so powerful in Ephesians.
    Given that unity stands against the division of people and communities
    then it hardly supports the case for dividing people based on gender,
    maybe no surprise that this theme seems to be missing fcroim John
    Starkey's Bible.
  • If we are going to use Scripture then let us be careful to not pick
    and choose and ignore verses that challenge our simplisitc viewpoint.
    It is therefore hugely significant that Ephesians 5: 21 "Submit to one
    another out of reverence for Christ." (TNIV) gets missed out. Instead
    the whole argument is built upon verses that follow and depend on the
    very verse 21 that is carefully ignored – Oops!

Finally the biggest failing of the argument and one that totally
destroys the whole cae being presented comes in the last paragraph
which I quote in full:

Second, a central concern of Paul in all his letters, especially
Ephesians, is not only Gospel clarity, but also how the Gospel applies
to the Christian life. If we have confusion as to how men and women
ought to act and fulfill divinely intended roles in the Church,
marriage, and family, then there will be confusion as to how to apply
the Gospel to the Christian life. As we see in Ephesians 5, God has
particular applications of his Gospel that are gender specific. If we
lose the gender specificity, then we lose a divinely intended Gospel
application.

Remember this is the edited version of the section that starts in Ephesians chapter 5 no mutual submission). He writes "If we
lose the gender specificity, then we lose a divinely intended Gospel
application."

Hold onto that  for a second.

Now go back to Ephesians 5 & 6 and review the other forms of submission that it requires.

65 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6
Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as
slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 78Serve
wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because
you know that the Lord will reward each one of you for whatever good
you do, whether you are slave or free.

Does anyone
believe that we should tell slaves to obey their earthly masters? Does
anyone believe that today the gospel is better served by telling slaves
not to rebel and seek freedom but to serve wholeheartedly? Should we be
telling girls trafficed for msex today that they should obey thgeir
earthly masters. Should we condone and support such trade on the
grounds of Ephesians 6. Of course not. Yet the need for women to submit
to men is taken from the very same section as the one for slaves to
obey their masters. How can we treat the two differently?

John
Starkey writes: "If we lose the gender specificity, then we lose a
divinely intended Gospel application." But we have already lost the
master/slave specificity and would anyone dare claim we have lost a
divinely intended Gospel application.

In fact far more than
that. We came to realise through using the whole of the Gospel of
Christ – in particular the example and teaching of Jesus, the Christ,
the Son of God – that to not condemn slavery was to deny and damage the
Gospel of Christ. In the light of Ephesians 5:21 to continue to demand
submission for women after after rejecting it for slaves is
unsupportable.

Hat tip: Role Calling: The Gospel and Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change

It seems appropriate on Blog Action Day 2009: Climate Change to report on one of my meetings at Methodist Church House yesterday.

I met with the very recently appointed Carbon Reduction Policy Officer and I was very impressed and excited. I learnt loads about how we can measure our footprint and how we can cost effectively make a significant reduction.

I got a real buzz from seeing the Church responding to Conference initiatives by appointing someone who is highly qualified, very committed and who has hit the floor running. This looks like an area where there is a real possibility of the Methodist Church taking decisive and effective action.

Very encouraging

maggi dawn: The Busy Pastor

In The Busy Pastor Maggi includes this quote:

“The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a husband, or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront…”

and then writes

I read this today in Eugene H Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor. It’s an excellent book. If you are too busy and run off your feet, buy it right now, take the afternoon off and read it. The busier you are, the more you need to read it.

I have taken the advice (at least part way) and ordered the book.

It is of course being busy that has stopped me blogging over the last few weeks. Not blogging and not reading blogs has been a spot of self protection by trying to make sure I had time for more important things. Not always successful but a worthwhile attempt.

Anyway this week has been planned to be rather lighter. I have some gaps in the diary and will hopefully get quite a bit of writing done. Maybe I’ll even do a bit of blogging (they idea of blogging about maybe doing some blogging always makes me smile a little).