When Christians gather to pray things happen. They are changed and the communities around are changed. This can get negative responses (which probably show we are doing the right thing).
Today this was clear and obvious in Raunds. Within two hours of our latest 24x7 prayer room opening some young vandals (yes we saw them) kicked and smashed our brand new sign advertising the prayer week.
So tonight in the prayer room we are praying for the kids in Raunds who are so frightened of prayer that they want to try to stop it. May the Spirit of the living God break into their lives so that they might learn of the love of the God who created them and who calls them by name.
I will be putting up a temporary poster tonight inviting the vandals to contact me to hear that they are forgiven and point out that they are welcome to come in and discover a welcome and love.
Oh and I'll be ordering replacement parts for the sign.
As someone with only a Diploma in Theology (and whose attempt to complete the degree during probationer training was thwarted by family problems particularly Mother-in-law heart attack and double bypass operation) I fully support the need for academically qualified ministers who are spirit filled and can make connections between these things and everyday life with people in and outside the Church.
I take seriously the need to continue to learn and would relish the opportunity to continue to study and that despite finding academic essay writing a horrific process (love the learning, hate the fully referenced writing, love putting it into practice in community).
So anyway with all that in mind I have enrolled on a new course of study. It may not be quite what Angie had in mind :-) Still in January my education continues with a 10 week course through Tresham College at one of their Corby centres to gain a Welding C&G Level 1 Certificate.
Well that is assuming they offer me an interview and accept me.
Suggestions about how to use this in ministry are welcome!
Today was the first time I have used it live. It was at 42: Launching Hope 10 in Thrapston and I was running the latest development source code within NetBeans and so had a number of improvements from version 1.3 (remote presenter, ui improvements, initial support for image displays).
As St James was setup in cafe style we used three projectors and screens so that people could sing without squirming around in their seats. I was running on Ubuntu 9.10 and besides the songs had a dvd to play.
I did not have the songs entered into datasoul before I arrived but it was extremely quick to copy and paste the words in. In fact much much quicker than it is in SongPro, Powerpoint or OpenOffice Impress. The main reason for this is that you don't have to paste each verse/chorus in separately. Instead they go into a single text block with the slides separated by === which are nice and quick to add. The simplicity of datasoul also helps, you don't have to specifically mark choruses and bridges, instead you repeat them as you actually want to sing them (you can modify this for a specific service after adding the song).
I still think it would be good to provide a syntax to identify song elements such as verses, choruses and bridges (partly for display purposes). But I would need to find a really simple way to do this that would not make things more complicated because that would lose this really time saving feature of Datasoul.
Another feature that works better than any other service presentation software I have used is the preview of songs and control over what is actually on the projector. I have not used anything which so reliably allows you to preview the slides for the next song while still moving through the current one. It is an area we have been discussing on the mailing list but this afternoon made the advantages of the current system very obvious. In the same way switching the projector display on and off is really simple and reliable.
Configuration of multiple screens is a little more fiddly (you have to type in co-ordinates and resolution) but the result is much more reliable and resilient than other methods I have used. The display and focus just work correctly all the time even when switching between datasoul and other software using the projector (such as the dvd player).
So while datasoul does have a few limitations at the moment (lack of image support probably being the most significant) there are other things besides the price that make it stand out against others. In particular
Speed of adding and editing songs
Control over what is on the projector and preview
control over multiple monitors
multi-platform (Windows xp, vista and 7/Mac/Linux etc)
This afternoon marked the launch of the 3rd year of Hope in Thrapston. What started with Hope 08 and continued with Hope 09 will carry on, indeed grow in 2010.
So Christians from all the Churches in Thrapston gathered for worship this afternoon at St James. This time we had decided on a cafe style of worship, one that was hindered at least for me by far too many nice cakes :-)
As with all our Hope events all the Churches and all the clergy in the town were involved. We were welcomed by Charles, Vicar of Thrapston (whose congregation were enthused by his service on Hope this morning). Our worship was lead by James from Thrapston Baptist Church.
Arthur, the outgoing Baptist minister had prepared a video of photos of recent projects which we watched before prayers of praise and thanks for some of the projects during the last 9 months or so. We had people from each project lead the prayers but kept this down to only 11 projects for time purposes. It is amazing that God has been so busy in Thrapston that we all find it difficult to keep track. The projects/events mentioned were:
Senior Alpha course for Manor Court Flats
Good Friday March
Praise in the Park
Holiday at Home
Punching Holes in the Dark
Operation Christmas Child
After some more singing we then introduced and prayed for projects and events that are coming up in the next few months. Again these were led by a variety of people including Father Brian and Arthur. They included:
Cross Connect Youth Club
Carol Service 3pm 29th Nov with Thrapston Town Band at the Methodist Church, Market Road
Turning on the Christmas Lights with nativity (5th Dec)
Holiday at Home Christmas Party (17th Dec)
Carol Singing 20th & 21st Dec
Joint Service 10:30am 27th Dec at the Methodist Church, Market Road
Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day party with pancake races etc: Thrapston Baptist Church at 7:30pm
Lent Course : Wednesday Nights 7:30pm on Big Issues facing humanity
Prayer Week during Holy Week
Good Friday March
Lots more being planned for later in the year
We then closed by singing together before Charles led a commissioning of the coming events and sent us back out into the community.
The numbers were great and so was the response, we have seen growth in the numbers of people supporting Hope over the years and again there were new faces which is great news.
As a Methodist it has been incredibly exciting to see how many Methodists are at Mission21. The whole team of District Evangelism Enablers are here plus many others lay and ordained.
Beyond the individuals here it is great to see how much the Methodist Church as a denomination has invested in it for example
Graham Horsley on the organising team,
Money from the Epworth Fund tp make it happen
Martyn Atkins as keynote speaker
Jenny Ellis as joint leader of the 24x7 Discipleship Stream
Ian Bell from the Venture FX Team is here
It has also been great to meet other Methodists, some old friends and some new. Last night a few of us were sharing stories in the pub which included some amazingly encouraging stories of God at work in Methodism.
One thing I have noticed with a little sadness is that many of the District Enablers seem to be ministers who have not wanted a second Circuit appointment. Maybe we need to see penalty points assigned to circuits whose ministers do not seek another circuit appointment when they come to leave. If a circuit has a history of ministers leaving and not wanting other appointments then maybe the circuits should be put into some kind of "special measures".
A couple of weeks ago, so I am told, one of the Raunds Methodist Church leadership team was in a meeting with another member of staff when they were setting dates for something. A date was suggested and the Raunds member said "I can't make that night, we have a Raunds leadership team meeting". They were told "You can't be, Dave is away at the Mission21 Church Planting conference then". The reply was clear "Of course we can, we do it all the time, how else would anything get done".
Well sure enough, on Tuesday evening this week they had the leadership meeting while I was in the last session of the 24x7 Discipleship stream for the day.
By Wednesday morning I had copies of the minutes and sure enough they got lots done (mostly focused on practical getting on with the mission of the Church - like preparing for the coming 24x7 prayer week) plus ecumenical stuff, property stuff, finance. One of the other great things was the progress they made on providing a permanent Prayer room for the town - something I have been dreaming of for a long time.
I got some other updates by facebook and tonight I got a copy of the letter they have sent to St Peter's CoE inviting them to join us for Sunday lunch after the joint covenant service in January.
This is absolutely how it should be. Methodists believe in the priesthood of all believers. Ministers have a representative role not a hierarchical one. Every leadership team should be strong enough and empowered enough to meet without a minister present and every minister and leadership team should make sure that they trust each other for this to be a normal event.
I have blogged quite a few times over the years about the Raunds Leadership Team and this is just another example of why I have the best job in the world. Well except for the bit that will see me up a ladder hanging the nativity lights on Saturday morning (all future Churches should be only one story high please).
I assume I don't have to make it clear that it is the response from Mr Boxall that is the cause of celebration not the terrible act that led to the need to respond - that was obvious wasn't it, I really didn't need to write this extra bit did I because everyone knows what Jesus teaches about love, enemies and forgiveness. I just wish we took the teaching and example of Jesus more seriously more of the time.