Monthly Archives: December 2009

5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 2

A continuation from 42: 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 1.

So if the first thing I love about Methodism was "Meeting the Living God" then the second is more distinctive about Methodism.

2. Theology

Obviously I am not alone in this. All three of the other Methodists who have written on this theme (Micky Youngson, Angela Shier-Jones and Richard Hall) have all picked theology and in one way or another they have all chosen areas related to inclusion.

Something about me makes me want to be different, I just can't help it. So whilst the Methodist understanding of inclusion summarised by the 4 For All's (All need to be saved, All may be saved, All may know themselves saved, All may be saved to the uttermost) is absolutely fantastic and certainly something I both love and rely on – I wanted more.

So I have chosen a broader theme of "Methodist Theology". It is not just one thing but the way a number of Methodist emphases combine that I absolutely love, a combination I have not seen anywhere else and which I would not want to lose.

So I love Methodist Theology about Methodism. Here are a few thoughts on what that means for me:

  • The For All's (see The Methodist Church of Great Britain | All can be saved)
  • Wesleyan Aminianism: From which the For All's spring but which more accurately places Methodism as distinctive from Churches that follow Calvinist understandings.
  • Sanctification: The rejoicing that we are on a journey. No matter where we have come so far there is more to come in the future (Angie puts this well in her number 3 "Growth in Grace").
  • Evangelical: Now this is a bit of a messy one. In recent years this is a term that has frequently been hijacked in ways that are not compatible with Methodist theology. I have frequently been told that I can't be an Evangelical (generally by Calvinists. Yet the traditional understanding (see 42: Back on form: defining evangelical) which defines it as a combination of Biblicism, Christocentrism, Cruicicentrism, Conversionism and Activism fits beautifully with Methodism. Sadly the aggressive redefinition of the word Evangelical and the way that has come to be used in the press has put many Methodists off it (see for example Sally's reaction in 42: What is an evangelical?).
  • Focus on pragmatism: When you talk theology with Methodists there is always a conscious attempt to ask pragmatic questions about what this will mean for the way I act today and tomorrow. If exploring models of atonement then Methodists will want to consider what they mean for the way you live as a follower of Christ. They are less interested in what is right but what makes us better disciples. This makes a significant contrast with those who are interested in getting people to sign up to a specific statement of faith. Methodists instead want to ask whether this is Christlike and how signing such a statement will make us more Christlike, the answer is often that it is not and it won't.
  • Lack of fixed doctrines. We are not a doctrinal people who want to stand by a fixed list of articles or statements. Out theology is generally about practical application rather than proving we are right.
  • Our theology focuses our attention on the poor, the marginalised, the excluded, victims of injustice and strangers because that is where we see Jesus focused and because the God we find in scripture is passionate about these issues.

OK that should be enough for reason number 2 for loving Methodism. Reason 3 will follow later.

Stretchy sausages needed at WOT

Nearly got caught out this week at WOT (Worship On Thursdays at Raunds Methodist Church). We had record numbers of 37 (which is 3 more than at last years Christmas Party which was previously our largest turnout).

That was despite a few regulars not being there, at this rate we will be breaking the 40 barrier real soon now (maybe next week for the party). Great to have several who came for the first time this school term and are now regulars and starting to bring their friends.

But my sausage casserole needed a bit of stretching initially with smaller portions followed by seconds for those with clean plates. After all I only used 80 sausages. We could really do with a catering pack of Colemans casserole mix next time :-)

Some things do take a lot more work as the numbers rise but the older kids are getting really helpful with the younger ones (tonight plenty of team work making Christingles as well as finishing some Christmas decorations made from bread, oh and a colouring in nativity set).

We were thinking about what we know of the real story of Christmas so we had three quizzes starting with some triva (eg which year was Mr Blobby at no 1 in the charts) and finishing with a quiz to help separate the Biblical narrative from the folklore versions.

Now got to get sorted in advance for next week to make sure we have enough food and games for everyone. .

Space is starting to become an issue as we have a single multi-purpose room (used for everything from Sunday Worship to Scouts). Today we needed 5 tables laid for the meal and the crafts spread out onto 3 tables. We have an area used mostly by the adults drinking tea and coffee and doing the more gentle activities, that needed more tables this week and they ended up a bit cramped against the wall. Then of course we have the Wii which we use with projector and big screen, the normal place for that is taken by the Christmas tree. Fortunately we had not planned any active games cos there was no space left.

All in all lovely problems to have, please feel free to come along and make our problems bigger as we would love to see you.

Bradley Wiggins joins Team Sky | Latest News | Cycling Weekly

I don’t know how they have done it. It seemed like it was not going to be possible but Bradley Wiggins joins Team Sky | Latest News | Cycling Weekly.

Good news for supporters of Brad and good news for the Sky team. Obviously a blow to the Garmin team but hopefully they will continue to grow their young riders plus Christian Vande Velde is well worth watching for some big wins.

Hat tip: Dave Walker on Twitter

5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 1

Since I linked to The Road to "Elder" ado: 5 things I love about Methodists… in a very short post 42: 5 things I love about Methodists…. Both Micky Sacred Wells: 5 things I love about Methodism and Richard 5 things I love about Methodism | connexions have given their views.

In my short linking post I took the easy way out and simply said "Of course there are a lot more than 5 things I love about Methodism :-) ". I think I had better do more than that.

So here is the start of  5 things I love about Methodism:

1. Meeting the Living God

It is not only through Methodism that I meet the Living God, but most of my most profound encounters have been within Methodism. I could list so many but you could read through the archives here and find lots of them. They have happened in local churches, in small groups, at huge gatherings, in training for Local Preaching and for Presbyteral Ministry, in Fresh Expressions and inherited Church, in serving as a Methodist Minister and over meals with other Methodists.

It seem essential to me that I meet the living God in the Church I belong to. In the Methodist Church God has met me, loved me, saved me, and transformed me – even if there is still a long way to go in the transformation stage :-)

Now I do want to emphasise that I experience God in other Churches and outside Church. I am very grateful for the ways that Baptist, Catholic, Church of England, URC and many others have helped me meet God. However, here I want to affirm and celebrate that God meets me through Methodism and I want to share my delight that it is true for others as well. My time in the Nene Valley Circuit has allowed me to joyfully travel along that path with others.

In no way do I wish to say that the only way to meet the living God is through Methodism (although of course please come and test it out) and in no way should this be read as a criticism of any other tradition. Instead I simply want to celebrate what people on the outside seem to not know – GOD IS AT WORK IN METHODISM TODAY HALLELUJAH!!!

Install Ubuntu Chromium browser (Google Chrome for Linux)

Oh yes! Excellent!

I have been wanting the Google Chrome browser on Linux for ages. If you don't know anything about it then there is the Google Chrome Comic to explain everything.

Anyway this is how to install it on Ubuntu (I have installed on 2 machines so far using Ubuntu 9.10 and 8.04):

[Update 2]: Chromium is now in beta see Chromium Blog: Google Chrome for Linux goes beta! for installation! The stuff below is out of date!

[Update: See comment 1 from Dan for an even better way]

Install Ubuntu Chromium browser (Google Chrome for Linux) – Linux * Screw.

Just to point out to anyone not using Linux how easy this is:

  1. Add 2 lines to /etc/apt/sources.list eg use:
      sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list
    The 2 lines are:
      deb jaunty main
      deb-src jaunty main

    (Obviously change jaunty to your version of Ubuntu)
  2. Then update and install using:
      sudo apt-get update
      sudo apt-get install chromium-browser

Obviously you could do all that with the gui in the Ubuntu package manager but it just takes longer to describe and you can't copy and paste gui instructions.

If you don't like chromium then you can always remove it completely using the Ubuntu package manager.

New Frontiers on Wikipedia

The Road to "Elder" ado: Distinctives got me to look at the Wikipedia page for Newfrontiers. It has to be said that it could do with a bit of work. However, I think it would be perceived negatively by Newfrontiers if I were to step in and make some changes. So here are a few thoughts:

First, If  I were a member of Newfrontiers I would consider it to be a helpful thing to edit the article so Wikipedia remove the two warnings from the top from Wikipedia (not meeting quality standards and needing citations). At present the discussion page contains complaints that the page is essentially an advert not an article. On the other hand some of the changes are simple and obvious (the link to the Newfrontiers website is to an old domain name).

Second, I found the history section interesting and learnt some things, even if citations would be good.

Thirdly, consider:

they have moved away from the traditional view
of equating the church with the venue. Instead they have emphasised
that church is defined by the community of believers that gather
together to worship.

a) Is this an article about Newfrontiers or is it an attack on a mis-representation of other churches?

b) If a Church is a community of believers who worship together then what about other aspects of people being church (Evangelism, Service, Learning, Caring – taking from the Methodist Church Our Calling)?

c) It makes an interesting contrast to the work done by the CoE and Methodists on Fresh Expressions of Church where no church would be considered mature just because it worships. There needs to be far more to a Churches Mission than simply Worship (key though it is). Certainly it seems that this is understood by Newfrontiers on their own website, pity it has not made it onto wikipedia.

You all knew I was going to come to gender. I have written about Newfrontiers and gender many times (see 42: New Frontiers and Women for starters). I think this wikipedia fails to accurately reflect the position of Newfrontiers. For example:

Many Newfrontiers churches hold to a complementarian position on gender similar to that promoted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

"Many"? Is there a Newfrontiers Church anywhere with a female elder?

Women are also allowed to preach, as long as it does not undermine their husband

What about single women? Oop's I forgot, women have to be under the authority of their husband or they have no status whatsoever.

Women are also allowed to preach, as long as it does not undermine
their husband. This was highlighted when the wife of David Stroud
(Phillipa Stroud, Director of the Centre for Social Justice), who
oversees the UK stream of Newfrontiers churches, preached at "Together
At… North" in 2006 in the main meeting.

Wow! Amazing! A woman was allowed to preach and she is so so valued that she is described at "the wife of David Stroud". Oh and it was 3 years ago and not at the main conference.

And of course notice that the policies on gender have no citations because Newfrontiers try to keep a very low profile on this (again see 42: New Frontiers and Women).

Finally, I was prompted to write this as in The Road to "Elder" ado: Distinctives David said he intends to write some thoughts of other Christian traditions. I welcome that. However, I remain somewhat sceptical. There is a long history of claims to the only understanding of Christianity and then of redefining Christianity to exclude others that need to be overturned.

Transport Infrastructure

In 42: Better transport I was reflecting on a successful trip to an evening meeting by bike. The sort of thing I don't do enough and the sort of thing that as a country we need to do a great deal more to combat four issues in our society:

  • Carbon Footprint: Our love of cars is highly expensive in CO2 emissions.
  • Peak Oil: Whether you believe we have past peak oil or not it is true that we are using oil faster than ever before and peak production will be soon if not already past. We are going to have to reduce our dependency on oil.
  • Congestion: In the UK our journeys are getting slower and more frustrating all the time. We all know it is happening but live most of the time in denial.
  • Obesity: We are getting fatter as we eat more and exercise less

So why don't we cycle and walk more?

Over the years I have changed my view on this. I now believe that the key obstacle to massive increases in cycle use is the infrastructure. My ride to Thrapton is a good example. There is one short piece of cycle path at the roundabout into Thrapston off the A605, it is very short and ends by making you rejoin the road at right angles with nothing to slow vehicles or direct them around you. Totally useless, in fact it seems to me less safe than ignoring it completely (and certainly a lot slower to use it).

One problem is that few people in the UK seem to have ever seen or used a good cycle facility. We just don't realise how bad ours are or how good they can be and the huge numbers of people who will use a good facility.

So I want to point you to a friends blog. David Hembrow is a Brit living in the Netherlands and he he writes an excellent blog with many video examples of good cycle infrastructure. So go and spend a few hours at A view from the cycle path. Only then will you catch a glimpse of what a difference good cycling facilities make. Here is a selection of recent posts by David to give you a flavour of what it could be like to cycle in the UK:

Providing high quality cycle facilities in the UK would require significant changes in funding, legal protection for vulnerable transport (pedestrians, mobility scooters and cyclists) and big changes to planning rules.

But it could be done and the evidence from the Netherlands and Copenhagen is that it is highly cost effective.

Going back to my example journey to Thrapston. The majority of the route was along a single carriageway part of the A45. They are currently moving the cutting sides back in order to install gantries and cabling. They could have added a full width Dutch style cycle superhighway at the same time and revolutionised cycle facilities in this area.

Datasoul and Powerpoint

Following 42: Datasoul rocks :-) Gasreth asks (via twitter):

@dave42w Does Datasoul link with PowerPoint? Can't tell from the website.

140 characters on twitter does not allow a full reply :-)

Except that we could say "No at the moment, but partially soon".

Datasoul comes from a big Church background (the Prado's Baptist Church at Curitiba, Brazil). In that setting you have a Datasoul operator and in such a situation integration with Powerpoint was not an issue. You have both loaded and simply hide datasoul at the appropriate point to reveal the powerpoint presentation below.

However, my own needs are a little different. In most situations the preacher or worship leader uses a remote presenter to move from slide to slide. In this mode you lose flexibility but reduce the size of the worship team and gain precise control over slide changes (can be significant for sernons in particular).

So in the development version of Datasoul we now have support for remote presenters (and it works better than any other with sensible logic on the back slide button in particular).

Also Samuel is working on support for displaying slideshows of images. This will give the first support for powerpoint (actually we are working with OpenOffice as that is free software and Impress is better than powerpoint).

The way this will work is that you can export slides to images (one at a time with OpenOffice Impress, but we are going to have automation for that). So to integrate powerpoint with Datasoul you would get Datasoul to use OpenOffice to convert the presentation to a set of jpegs (one per slide) then you would use these jpegs as a slideshow in Datasoul. Obviously you would lose any animations, but as a first solution we think it will be helpful to many people.

Later on we are looking at automating OpenOffice Impress so that Datasoul has an Impress service element with the filename and calls OpenOffice to launch the presentation. This will work with many powerpoint presentations (again complex automations may not work and powerpoint's horrible mangling of font sizes can cause some layout issues).

So if you want to get ready for datasoul and powerpoint then I recommend you

  • Ditch powerpoint and use OpenOffice Impress.
  • Try using little or no animation (for example if you must add bullet points one at a time then start with a full slide and then duplicate it. Go backwards deleting a point at a time. You then get the same effect by changing slides).
  • Either wait or start using the development version of Datasoul and contribute (bug reports are a good start).

On the other hand if you think I am an idiot for suggesting that powerpoint is not the centre of the universe then if you provide code to support powerpoint from Datasoul I am sure Samuel will consider it.

The last solution is of course to focus on building your Church so that you have the resources to have a datasoul operator in the service. Actually I think that is the best option :-)