Sunday, 10 September 2017

Changing Culture

Thomas Buxton
Changing culture - these words are buzzing around our Diocese at the moment. You hear them in safeguarding and in senior leadership meetings and they offer an intriguing insight into where we might go and perhaps how we might go.

This morning I met with the good people of St Andrew’s Earls Colne for their Harvest Service. After taking their service I was given a little booklet on the history of the church. This often happens, but rarely have I read one that was so interesting. It’s here that I read an article about Quaint, Honest Abraham, a memorial to an Earls Colne gamekeeper.  Abraham Plaistow was known to be of humble station, quaint, honest, simple-hearted and "to all our village dear".

The Buxton family, together with young son Thomas, moved to Earls Colne in the late eighteenth century. Young Thomas was known as “daring, violent and domineering of temper” and he fell under the influence of Abraham, eventually becoming a reformed character.

Thomas grew to be a Member of Parliament, joining the campaign to abolish the slave trade. When Wilberforce retired, it was Thomas Buxton who led the final debates which persuaded Parliament to abolish slavery. Towards the end of his life Thomas wrote about Abraham, describing him as “my guide, philosopher and friend”. He went on to write, 

This tutor of mine could neither read nor write, but his memory was stored with more natural sense and what I called mother-wit than almost any other person I have met since. He always held up to us the highest sentiments as pure and generous as could be found in the writings of Seneca or Cicero, He was our play-fellow and our tutor”.  

So how do you change culture? The Abraham way was to live a quaint, honest, simple-hearted life. To live in such a way as to influence the young, however violent or domineering of temper they might be. To shape a life through integrity. And see how culture changed!

I couldn't find any image of Abraham, just of Thomas, but I think both had a important part to play in changing the prevailing culture for millions of people. 

Perhaps a change of culture might best be achieved through a change of character.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Thy Kingdom Come

Thy Kingdom Come is a global prayer movement, inviting Christians around the world to pray for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. What started out as an invitation from the Archbishops’ of Canterbury and York in 2016 to the Church of England has grown into an international and ecumenical call to prayer. The hope is that:
  • people will commit to pray with God’s world-wide family - as a church, individually or as a family;
  • churches will hold prayer events, such as 24-7 prayer, prayer stations and prayer walks, across the UK and in other parts of the world;
  • people will be empowered through prayer by the Holy Spirit, finding new confidence to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Why not join in with the global wave of prayer? There are resources to help, you can find them here;

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

I'm not religious .....

This week I met a delightful man who said he wasn't religious. For most of his life he dug graves or tended to graveyards. That was his job. Now that he's retired he looks after his local churchyard. It's immaculate! He does it so that it will look nice for those paying their respects. 

He's not religious but he does pray. He told me he prays this prayer throughout each day. He knows it by heart and keeps a copy in the drawer where he keeps his wallet and phone. He prays throughout the day and every time he opens the drawer to get his phone or wallet, he sees the prayer, he says the prayer. 

Dearest Lord, 
teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve You as You deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to ask for reward
save that of knowing I am doing Your Will.

The prayer is generally attributed to Ignatius, Whether he wrote it or not, we don't know. It first appeared as a prayer used by French Scouts. Some think it was first penned by "someone who used to work with youth ...". It's been sung, translated, loved, cherished, learned & recited by many, often.

And the man, who describes himself as 'not religious', is generous, does serve, gives, fights, toils and labours without recognition or reward. There are wonderful people all around. 

Maybe I need a drawer of prayers, or to pray every time I pick up my phone or pay for something. Or maybe, in the vernacular of my new friend, I need to be a little less religious and a little more prayerful. 

And all this reminded me of an elderly lady I met a coupe of days earlier, who said, "I don't pray, not really. I just chat to God a lot."

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Lord's Prayer - unspoken

Here's a resource I've been using in schools and churches and in training sessions for a few years now. I can't remember where I fist saw this but many thanks to whoever first thought it up. I've added some of my own actions to replace those I've forgotten. It's been used in schools where there are more than 50 native languages, with KS1 children who find the vocabulary difficult to access and with a number of schools who have asked for help in teaching prayer. I've used it in Sunday worship, informal church and in work with leadership groups. It brings a different dimension to a prayer that has brought security, comfort, vision and perspective for centuries. Try it out, see if it works for you, think about making up your own actions or work with a school council or worship team to create your own interpretation.