Monthly Archives: January 2010

Making choices

It seems to me that life and particularly Christian discipleship is about choice.

Some choices bring joy to others and build us up, others drag us and all around down.

With that in mind I am delighted with some choices I have seen recently. For example that Methodists from Raunds made the choice to get up at 3am this morning to go and cook breakfast for people who are homeless in London. This morning others in the circuit met to plan future Cafechurch events to reach people in this area with the Good News.

I am also sure that my choice to engage with the future of the Methodist Church through standing for the Methodist Council was the right one for me. While reading the 400 odd pages of reports is time consuming I do believe that making time for reflection and conferring in that way has been a good choice for me. Mind you I am also convinced that for me engaging through social media is also an appropriate choice. See The Kneeler: A place to Confer…?

Sadly other choices abound. During the last few days I have been saddened by some choices Methodists have made online. Choices that have not exhibited grace, choices that have torn down people and have not reflected Christian values.

I am not going to name anyone (and I will simply delete any comments that do so). But come on people this is not good enough, it is not worthy of the Lord we serve, it is not worthy of our faith, it is not how Methodism should be seen by anyone. 

Meanwhile, to everyone else: Don't look at us, we are failures, we have not lived by the gospel we preach and we need forgiveness. Instead look to Jesus and encourage us to do the same. Then the gospel reading we have explored recently might be true today as it was 2,000 years ago:

Luke 4:14-21 – Today's New International Version – BibleGateway.com:

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.  He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. 

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Wow what choices we could make! What a difference they could make to our lives and the lives of people around us.

Snow and Homelessness

My sincere apologies. I am afraid we have done it again. You may remember from December that Methodists from Raunds caused the snow (42: Improving the chances of snow).

This morning we went to the Whitechapel Mission again and so it snowed again. I got quite a surprise when I went out to the car at 4am, in fact we had snow on and off all the way to London and even at Whitechapel itself.

I guess we should not be surprised but of course it had a big impact on the number of people who are homeless and wanted a hot breakfast. We had a queue at the hatch from before we started serving food at 8am right through to 10am.

I was chief egg fryer and cooked 120 beautiful eggs. Also while serving we had to cook extra hash browns, extra sausages and extra porridge. Still we judged it very well, if I say so myself, with almost exactly nothing left at the end.

I don't think I have ever seen the canteen so full, there were loads of people having to stand. Very hectic.

We have a big problem in this country and still politicians seem to not care and be doing nothing to improve the situation. The contrast between so many people that have been so marginalised and left in such need and on the other hand the hive of activity and building work around the Olympic park that we drive past on the way home is heartbreaking.

With an election this summer who will try to win my vote with a commitment to properly respond to homelessness.

On slow blogging

Just a quick heads up that things are going to be a bit slow around here as in other parts of life they are anything but slow.

Fortunately we are having some holiday at half term. However before that there are 12 weekday evenings (excluding Fridays – my day off). So far I am working 10 of them with the possibility of a meeting to fit in on one of the others.

With several lent courses following half term things won't slow down much.

One reason for the workload is that we have been rather short-staffed and that will continue until at least mid May. 

Sadly the impact of that is visible beyond blogging. For one thing I have been trying to shake off a cough for 2 1/2 weeks, thought I had done so but 3 services and a ecumenical lunch on Sunday undid much of the progress and the assembly I took this morning was a bit of a trial voice wise.

Another classic indication of being rather more busy than is ideal is easily measured by either belt holes or the bathroom scales – neither giving encouraging feedback at the moment.

Yet another indication is the frequency of filling cars with fuel and paying for servicing – again not encouraging.

Anyway having written this I thought it would a sensible idea to look at the breakdown of those meetings:

  • 2 evenings Fresh Expressions planning (2 different Fresh Expressions). Important to me as Circuit Fresh Expressions Enabler
  • 2 evenings Circuit Leadership team (unusual to have meetings so close together but required at present)
  • 2 evenings on a retreat for ministers in their 5th year of ministry
  • 2 evenings as Chair of Church Councils (covering for a colleague)
  • 1 evening taking part in a Fresh Expression (the other one meets on a Saturday evening so does not figure in this count).
  • 1 evening at Methodist Council
  • 1 possible meeting as a briefing on a key agenda item for a Church Council

I also have one Saturday at Whitechapel (4am til about 2pm).

Fortunately maybe a bit quieter for Sunday worship with only 2 services each Sunday (but I also have 2 services on the Sunday when we are away on holiday). On the other hand on 2 Sundays both services are in the same Church so no repeats.

Now off to get on with the 400+ A4 pages of reports/briefing papers for Methodist Council next week.

Cafechurch Network training

As mentioned in 42: Coffee and other bits we are part of the Cafechurch network and have run two Cafe church events in the Wellingborough Costa Coffee.

Today, I went to a training course Help, I'm leading a cafechurch! – day conference in London at the Costa Coffee 13 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6AU. Nice location and as helpful staff.

Anyway a helpful day, met some interesting people with useful experience they could share. Will be taking plenty of ideas into our next planning meeting in the coming week.

Changing the World

If there is one thing I am passionate about it is this: 

The world needs to be changed. 

I hope that comes through clearly in the things I write here. I also hope that it is clear that my motivation for this passion is just as clear. 

I believe the world needs to be changed because I follow Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.

However, I also believe that many other people who do not have the same motivation also want to see the world changed and have many of the same goals as me. So

I will gladly work with people who have similar goals but do not share my faith in Jesus.

The changes that I want to see include:

  • Utter destruction of Poverty everywhere
  • Justice for all people
  • Peace throughout the world
  • All people to be valued, welcomed and included
  • Protection of the planet and its resources for future generations
  • Building of communities around these goals.

For me as a Christian these changes form part of what I understand as the need to be part of the building of the Kingdom of God and also preparing for the return of Jesus. However, I believe that many others would see these changes as desirable, certainly as worthwhile and maybe even as essential.

Does my life show commitment to changing the world?

I have been reflecting on how my commitment to these changes becomes real. In other words what aspects of my life make concrete contributions to these changes. Alternatively "what do I do?" and "what am I?" so that people can see and experience my commitment to these goals.

As I look at the very public side of myself in the contents of this blog I hope that my commitment can be seen in four main areas

  • My lifestyle as a disciple of Jesus
  • My work within the Methodist Church (and wider Christian Community) to encourage change and growth
  • My support for and contributions to Free Software
  • My commitment to cycling as transport

In some ways these may appear a mixed bag of general and specific, they may also leave you wondering if they are connected and even how they might support the changes I am committed to.

So I want to explore each of these four areas in a series of posts before then considering more generally how we can change/should the world. While I hope all my thinking is theological I also hope that it is still relevant to those interested in changing the world who do not share my faith perspective.

One of the reasons for this series was a post by a friend (Dave Faulkner) Seth Godin: Without Them « Big Circumstance and the comments that followed. In them I mentioned that I try to bring change in the way Seth Godin suggests and that I refer to it as "being easier to get forgiveness than permission". Dave asked me to expand on what I meant and in particular on the importance of motivation and process in doing this.

However, that is not the only reason. Through reflecting on these issues I also hope to find it helpful for me as a review of where I am and how well my life actually fits with what I believe is important. Therefore this is not fully planned and worked out so diversions and changes should be expected on this journey. Hopefully that taking stock will be of interest and perhaps help to others too.

Please feel free to challenge woolly thinking as we go and for that matter encourage anything good as well :-) Helping me be honest and thorough is good for me and should make this more generally useful as well.

Going back

Today was unusual, unique even.

Not the morning service, that was quite normal (annual covenant service at Thrapston with a new person joining the congregation). 

But in the afternoon I had been invited to the ecumenical covenant service at the Shared Church in Ringstead. It was great to be part of the congregation for a covenant service (see 5 things I, me, myself,, love about Methodism – part 5) without any reading, leading, preaching or anything else. Plus it was great to see everyone again.

It was special as this is the first time I have been back to a Church where I have been a minister after finishing there. It is an unusual situation as I have not moved, but the Circuit was re-organised in the Summer and so since August I am no longer the Methodist Minister at Ringstead Shared Church. [Actually the pedant in me wants to admit that I did go back for a welcome service for Kevin the new Baptist Minister but that was so soon after leaving that it did not feel like returning].

So I now have some limited experience (well one experience, hence the comment about today being unique) returning to a Church where I have been been a minister and so far in my wide experience it is good :-)

Anyway it got me thinking about another "Going Back" that is coming up soon. On February 14th we are visiting my "home" Church (St Paul's Methodist Church, Crawley) and I am taking the two morning services. That is going to be quite strange as we have only visited once since moving to Raunds four and a half years ago. It was my home Church from 1976 to 2005 with a couple of gaps (University and when we lived in Croydon when first married) and so we have a lot of history there.

I guess I am wondering a bit about how it will feel to us and to the congregations there. Will we all have changed so much that it feels strange? Last time I preached there I was still a student with little experience as a Local Preacher, I wonder if I have changed much. Yet at the same time I have a grand total of one service taken outside the Nene Valley Circuit since my appointment so I am not exactly experienced at this :-). Strange how things change. As a Local Preacher I used to really like going to different circuits to preach. Now as a Minister I love being with the Churches I serve, where I know more of what is happening in people's lives and where I can do more to try to connect Sunday Worship with the whole of the life of the congregations and communities. 

H'mm, odd to write that because in many ways it is not what I would have expected of me a few years ago. Maybe I am just getting old. Maybe I used to feel safer doing "hit and run" services whereas now I can handle "hit and stay" :-)

Anyway, better dash now cos someone seems to have gone crazy with my diary for the coming week.

Church of England saves Methodist Covenant Service

Yesterday the annual Covenant Service at Raunds Methodist Church was saved by St Peter's Church of England. Seriously, my voice was really giving up with this cold and interrupted by coughing so we only got through the service because Shena (Rector at St Peter's) was leading the service and presiding at Communion. I only had to preach and my voice just about held out for that although I had to get Phil to turn up the volume on the mic far more than normal.

It was great that so many commented afterwards on how good it was to worship together and just how many had come despite the weather.

The service was followed by our monthly lunch at Church, Roast Beef this time. It was a few minutes late for which the preacher got the blame :-)

I confess to being very relieved at not having an evening service so I went to bed. Feeling much better today, enough so I awoke early to listen to the start of Chris Evan's breakfast show on Radio 2. Next stop is to find lots of extra warm clothes for a staff meeting at the circuit office (hopefully followed by coffee in the snug at Beans to thaw out).

Coffee and other bits

Just back from our second Cafe Church event, part of the Cafe Church Network, held at the Wellingborough Costa Coffee. Monthly Saturday evenings. Opens at 7pm for 7:30pm start.

Tonight the theme was debt which is highly appropriate for this time of year.

Nice to meet some new people and have a good chat over my favourite coffee (if you must know it is a Massimo, skinny latte with extra shot).

Thanks to Sam and Matt for the live music.

Sadly though my record Christmas (1st Christmas in Raunds where I have not had flu or a bad cold over Christmas) has now come to an end and I now have a horrible cold with bad cough (enough to keep me out of bed all last night). So I struggled a bit during my little bit at Cafe Church.

Fortunately tomorrow we have a joint service with St Peter's (CoE) at Raunds Methodist. They are joining us for our annual covenant service which is great – especially as Shena (the Rector) is going to lead most of the service and preside at Communion so I only have to preach. Mind you on Wednesday Shena had no voice so it may mean we have to be adaptable switching to the one with the stronger voice at random places in the service.

Winter is when infrastructure really matters

So we have had a bit of snow and ice in recent days. I really mean a bit, here it has not been very deep but it did get very slippery where it was not cleared and got packed down (most residential roads and nearly all pavements).

So I have not done any cycling. A couple of years ago I fell off when the bike just slipped out from under me. Last year I had a bigger fall when caught out in a few inches on my way to Launde Abbey so I am cautious about going out cycling in icy weather.

There are several problems:

  • Falling off on ice. Itself not a big deal, the problem is that you will be cycling on the road (we don't have much in the way of cycle facilities here and anyway I don't think any of them are cleared or gritted). When you fall in the road the danger is from cars etc who have not been giving you enough space and who you feel are likely to run over you.
  • Lack of gritting: It is not a very priority so all the quiet roads where we normally cycle (as there are no cycle facilities) don't get cleared. They soon become sheets of ice as there are just enough cars to pack the snow without clearing tracks then a bit of thawing during the day and freezing at nice and you just get sheet ice. Terrible for cycling
  • Lack of cycle facilities. As there are no cycle facilities (or they are not cleared of snow and ice) you have to ride in the road. On many roads there will be quite a long period of time where there will be clear tracks where the car wheels go but deep icy snow on the sides. This is very dangerous for cyclists. We have to ride in the tracks but then cars can''t overtake and they get very very impatient very very quickly. Then they either squeeze past using the same tracks or go onto the ice themselves. Both are insanely dangerous for the cyclist..

For any claim to be a nation supporting cycling as a sensible, practical, cheap, efficient, green means of transport we must have a proper infrastructure. That means:

  • Good cycle routes fully separated from motorized vehicles. In towns and cities and between them as well.
  • Proper maintenance of cycle facilities (repairs, lighting, routes around roadworks, snow ploughs, gritting, leaf sweeping)
  • Legal protection. Vulnerable modes of transport (cycling, pedestrians) need to be assured that the law will automatically assign fault to the more powerful modes of transport (cars, buses, vars, lorries etc).

Here are a few blog posts demonstrating how it is possible to keep people cycling in winter:

Britain is falling further and further behind. We are simply not making the basic investments needed to transform our rates of cycling yet it is increasing essential that we do so for our health, our economy, our communities and our environment. Radical action is needed fast