Friday, 28 February 2014

I wonder ....

I'm not sure where I picked up the idea for this. If I find out I shall happily credit the source. This is an adaptation of someone else's great idea, based on work with primary schoolchildren and staff.

In the beginning, before there was anything, before there was time and before there was space, the creator made something new. It had to be new because it was before there was anything. The creator made something out of nothing. For there was nothing. The creator made the tiniest, tiny, tiny speck of what seemed like nothing. But out of this speck that seemed like nothing was the beginnings of everything. And the speck of nothingness grew. And grew. And grew. And never stopped growing. And everything was new.

So there were new galaxies, new stars, new planets, new mountains, new seas, new rivers, new streams, new land, new trees, new plants, new animals, new people, new everything. Everything was new, each moment of each day was a day of newness. There were exciting discoveries. People could think and speak and love and explore and hope and dream and wish and work and .... And anything was possible, because everything was new. And people made homes, new homes. And villages, and towns, and cities. And everything was new.

But as time passed people no longer tried new things, rather, they settled for the things they already had. For if they could see it, it felt more secure and somehow ..... safer. Their feet did not go beyond their village and they did not climb up the mountains. Their eyes did not look at the sky and their minds did not wander or wonder what was beyond what they could see. They forgot about new adventures and new possibilities.

So they became old.

The Creator wanted to see what had happened to the new creation and so he visited people in their homes and in their villages. Before sunset people gathered at the square to talk with the creator. He described to them a life beyond the horizon and suggested,

“Do you want me to lead you there, beyond the horizon, beyond what you can see, and you will see new things, you will find how people live in other places?”

“Oh,” they said, “it is late, we're too old to travel to new places ...”

“Then come with me to the mountains to look at the world from the top! Gaze down at the wonders beneath your feet.”

“Oh,” they said, “it is late, we're tired, we have no energy to climb mountains ...”

“Then gaze at the skies,” the creator said, “and I will tell you about the life in the Kingdom you cannot yet see! You will see worlds you could never imagine without ever leaving your seat.”

“Oh,” they said, “It is late; our minds are too full already, we can't take in more new things .... “

The creator became sad. And so he decided to cheer people.

“Let us sing a song!” he said, and was going to sing first, but people noticed that the sun was going down.

“It is late,” they said, “it is too late for singing, it's time to sleep,” 

... and they went to their homes.

The creator shouted after them:

“People, it is never too late, never too late for exploring and finding and discovering and trying and hoping and .......”

But they did not turn back and they closed the doors behind them.

Then the Creator told himself:

“Nothing is too late, for there is no end, I will take away all words of limitation from people, "late", "not", "impossible", "far", "high", "hard", "will not", "cannot", and I will place in their hearts the joy of hope. The hope of the new.”

Nothing is too late because there is no end, there are only new beginnings. He did so, he took away all limits and all doubts and waited for the morning.

And as the sun rose above the houses and above the trees, as a new day dawned, the  Creator wondered if people would change their minds, would grow young and not grow old. He wondered if they would they go to the mountains? And gaze at the stars, and wander and wonder at what might be?

Imagine what you could achieve if you really, really tried? Imagine what you might experience, what you might see, what you might discover if you stopped saying ... can't or won't. I wonder what might be ahead of each of us if we dared to do more than is required, to see beyond. To stay young.

I wonder ….. if I shall wander

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Time to Talk
Youth Advisers across Chelmsford Diocese arranged for more than 100 youth to meet together, and with senior clergy, to discuss how youth should be integrated in church. After much discussion they gave a set of top tips;

However, the offered so much more and also indicated what churches might do to facilitate these Top Tips:

Collaboration between churches:
  • Find a Church/ Churches near you who you would like to collaborate and share ideas with. Support each other – consider setting up joint youth groups if you’re low on numbers. Leaders – this will allow you to divide the workload between you. If you have a well-established youth ministry, consider mentoring and sharing your resources with a Church with little or no youth ministry
  • Food is always a good incentive and encourages socialising, for example, you could try an evening café-style service- Young people love the contemporary café-style twist!!
  • Joint events, advertising and networking with other Churches also encourage the youth and is great for them to meet other young Christians.
  • Ask the youth what they would like to do – sports, worship, beach BBQs, crafts etc. 
Communication with youth
  • Take what your youth says seriously and consider prayerfully – follow through with their ideas, and if you can’t, feed back to them and explain why
  • Listen and respond
  • Have conversations with them casually and they’ll be more open to discuss issues and suggestions with you
  • Building relationships with them is important – be approachable!
Integration – making youth feel part of the Church
  • We are proud of our identity as a youth group, but we are also proud to be a part of the Church all together. It would be great to find even more ways to worship together. 
  • Church leaders – we love it when you take an active interest in the youth work. We know you are busy but we are a part of the Church, please give us the opportunity to get involved too.
  • Keep youth in the picture and keep them updated about Church decisions
  • We appreciate the traditions of the church, and want to support the leadership; but we as young people would like more variation in the style of worship and various aspects of church life.
Commitment to youth
  • Provide opportunities for mission
  • Show us how to ‘survive’ as a Christian
  • Share testimonies on how you thrive as a Christian in your workplace etc. in a society which doesn’t always accept Christianity
  • Involve and aware the congregation of visions and ideas through prayer and inviting members of the congregation to step up as youth leaders and organisers
  • Be effective role models and let us walk together in our faith journeys

And finally… PRAY at the beginning, during and after

Nothing particularly new or revolutionary, but good, solid, basic, simple, achievable advice. There's a time to talk and there's also a time to listen.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Baptismal Liturgy

The Church of England is trialling new liturgy for Baptism services. You can take a look at the experimental liturgy here. and their rationale here. They are looking to provide materials that are "in culturally appropriate and accessible language."

Coverage from the media has been interesting; Radio 5 jumped in quickly, focusing on the "dropping of the devil" with a phone-in on "Is the devil real?" using the stat that 22% of people believe in the devil. The Daily Mail announced that this new liturgy signalled the end of civilization as we know it (not quite, but typically sensational);

The Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley had their own take on these responses, full post here;

Brother Ivo's Blog - Social commentary as if religion really matters, states .... ”If you can’t reach, you can’t teach” and this is a useful contribution to this debate. Brother Ivo argues that whilst the wording is important, the opportunity for visiting, discussing, befriending and explaining all things baptism is where the most fruitful work is done, as we "work with the grain of humanity".

Andrew Brown, writing for the Guardian, believes that the recent experimental changes will add up to nothing, but states; "I can quite understand we need something which does what infant baptism is supposed to do". Full post

However, some of the most thoughtful reflections have come from Francis Spufford, "So the purpose of the experiment as I understand it - and it is only an experiment, a trial in a limited number of parishes which will not be automatically extended - is to see whether a liturgy that has been simplified in some ways serves better at delivering, to people not practised at ‘speaking Christian’, the same unchanging sacrament." Full text here

Other reactions include; waste of time, missed opportunity, dumbing down, compromise, worst of all worlds, a step forward, a step backward, an attempt at becoming more relevant, not perfect but a great improvement, more accessible, worth a try ....... and .... who really cares what the CofE are up to as long as they are not hurting anyone.

In the C of E one in six children are brought for baptism by their parents. There remains a desire for the best, including the spiritual, with many families, who may well struggle in understanding the framework we place around what is precious to us. Sure, we know what it says, we know what it means, or at least we think we do, but what about those well-meaning, hopeful, questioning, enquiring people who would like to know more, and want more for their children, but find it all beyond their understanding?

So how do we take the precious things of God and relate them to a world that is looking for more?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Tale of three Churches

Recent news & views have featured different expressions of church and how these relate to their communities. The Guardian carried an article comparing two churches separated by a few hundred metres. The state of the church in modern Britain - 

The carol service at Ely Cathedral.
"Five hundred metres from the 12th-century Ely cathedral stands what may be the ugliest place of worship in Britain. But while the Lighthouse church is housed in a converted garage with grey speckled industrial carpeting on the floor, it might also be the future of Christianity in the country."
And in Indiana there's a church which focuses less on Sunday mornings and more on being a good neighbour to their community
"Englewood Christian Church once attracted 1,100 people but now only has about 200; however, that doesn't bother anyone in this circle of friends. According to members, Sunday service is still held, but it is the event that is most not a part of what the church is now. "I believe the church is Jesus in the flesh in the neighborhood," Benjamin said. "We are the hands and feet and the voice of Jesus… in the neighborhood. That's our mission."
What links these expressions of faith is their desire to link with their community in ways that are relevant to them. God only speaks local dialects. We must recognise who we are, what we are and why we are, treading the delicate line between authenticity and relevance, so that we serve God's best interests in our communities. So where do we go from here?