Advent Gatherings

Remember November

November: Remembrance month – All Saints Day, Bonfire Night, Remembrance Sunday swiftly following. Each bringing their own memories and rituals. Memory is an important part of who we think we are, hence, when we are unable to remember, or we are faced with someone who seems to have forgotten themselves, life is painful.

At Greenbelt I heard Professor John Swinton ask “Who Am I When I Forget Who I Am?” He was presenting his book, Dementia: Living in the Memories of God.

He talked about a three-fold self in which firstly we bring our experiences of living, secondly we bring the stories our social roles tell and thirdly we have an identity given by our community. Hence, the difficulty of dementia is we lose personhood when the community loses us. He argues that the problem is not that people become forgetful but that they are forgotten. Hence it is important that someone holds our memories well. If Mum seems to have forgotten who you are, don’t forget who she is and things she has always enjoyed. Remember that our bodies hold our memories just as much as our minds – so a song. a smell, a ritual takes us into emotion and open hearts just as much as an ability to still tell our stories. For all of us memories change over time, we live in the present tense and the future is before us all, still with a sense of call and vocation. If we struggle to articulate our past so be it, we are still experiencing this moment.

So our memories are held by those who remember us and amongst those who remember is God. Even if we seem to forget God, God does not forget us. None of which negates the difficulties of dementia, but it is a reminder that we must not define people by their condition. Each person still knows the experience of living, still have social roles, are still part of the communities that hold them close and are still beautiful children of God. The task for each of us is to participate in the stories we have been given,

Remember in November and be blessed
Craig

Retelling an old story

We went to see the new Dad’s Army film last week. I’d heard good reviews and I was encouraged by the cast, but I love the original Dad’s Army programmes – could this live up to it? We have a tendency to remember what has gone before with a sense that it can never be bettered by the present or the future and to want things to be as they always were and so anything new has a lot to live up to.
We enjoyed Dad’s Army, you could see where the new cast were copying the old cast, you could see various nods to the past, and the story line was a bit silly – but then it always was. But as a stand alone film, it made for a pleasant afternoon, it has the usual components mixing slapstick with farce, a bit of adventure and a lot of misunderstanding and we soon forgot what had gone before, enjoyed the present and the way in which this ensemble told the story.
As we move through Lent to Easter there is a sense of going down old familiar routes. We remember this story ever year, so how can it retain it’s wonder, it’s freshness, its passion. How can we feel the pain of betrayal, isolation, loss when we know that Easter is coming? And how can we know the excitement of new life when it feels much the same as it did last year? One way is open our eyes to the present, to be aware of modern stories of betrayal, isolation, loss; to be aware of lives where the hopefulness of Easter can not be imagined. And then to open our eyes to all that is new, exciting, fresh, and celebrate each moment of resurrected new life that causes us to stop and wonder. Another is to be aware that Jesus continues to carry all our betrayal, isolation, loss – past, present and future to the cross and offer each of us the hope of a new future. That does not change, however blasé, or cynical we may be the Easter adventure continues and someone is going to catch it for the very first time – now that is exciting!
be blessed
Craig

Welcoming Ben

Ben 1601Ben 1601We have a new addition to our family. Today Ben arrived. He is a 3 year old Spaniel cross, with jet black hair and lovely sweet manner. I can see already that he is intelligent, a quick learner and will do anything for a food related bribe! He was found as a stray and there have been two previous attempts to re-home, both of which failed because he is boisterous, he will need attention – although as I type he seems quite happy lying in his bed under the stairs waiting for me to move out of the study. So we know we have taken on a challenge, it will not be fair on Ben for us to give up on him or for us not to give him the attention he needs. Already we are making adjustments to some of our plans and some of our routines, to take Ben into account and ensure that he feels welcome with us. It’s an enormous responsibility!

We are at that period in the Christian year where we hear about Jesus calling people to be with him, to become part of a new family, being made welcome in God’s kingdom. It calls for a change in routine, in expectations, in outlook. Jesus comes from God and is made welcome in some homes but not in others, is he made welcome in ours? Are we prepared to change our plans, our routines, because Jesus has come into our lives and calls us to think differently and follow faithfully? When we welcome a new follower of Jesus into our nice tight knit Christian Family are we prepared to make the adjustments that will make each person truly welcome for who they are – or are we expecting others to just fit into our nice comfortable routines?

I can hear Ben beginning to stir, perhaps he needs a bit of attention before I have some dinner. I can hear Jesus sniffing around our world, perhaps he needs a bit of attention as well.

Be blessed

Craig

I’ve stopped …

I’ve stopped walking. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just seemed to sneak up on me and next thing I know I haven’t walked in ages. It’s not just Monday morning which used to be blocked out in my diary for walking, it’s the regular shorter walk most mornings or taking the time to walk to work. The diary had other pressures, so Monday morning was needed for other things, I no longer had a demanding dog. I preferred an extra half-hour sleep or looked at the wind, rain snow and decided that my study looked more appealing. I’ve started looking outside thinking I should go for a walk, but having broken the habit, having discovered that I’m not as fit as I used to be, I make an excuse, squeeze in an extra distraction and jump in the car.

Of course when I walk, I pray, I create, I ponder, I become aware of my environment, of the world around me of the people who share my space, but most of all I pray. I haven’t totally stopped praying, or creating or looking at the world around me – but somehow the quality of such activities is diminished and I know it – but what’s to be done?

I’ve stopped church. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just seemed to sneak up on me and next thing I know I haven’t been in ages. It’s not just Sunday morning ……..Well “I” haven’t of course but my character has, and perhaps you have, or a friend of yours has and you know that somehow life is not quite as prayerful, as creative, as connected as it was but what is to be done? Some encouragement? A fresh purpose? Seeing old friends again? Meeting new folk? Taking that first step, and getting back in the habit?

Time I went for a walk, want to join me?

be blessed

Craig

Looking at Acts

Over the next few weeks the lectionary readings take us through various stories of the early Church as told in the Book of Acts.

The story of Tabitha (Acts 9:36-43) highlighted the importance of disciples (those who follow and learn from Jesus) who engage in good works and acts of charity – they experience and bring life from death.

The story of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10 and 11) highlights the way in which the Holy Spirit challenges our pre-conceptions about who belongs and who does not belong and then provides the means to put our new theory into practice. What a shock it must have been for Peter to be confronted with a dream in which he learns that all of God’s creation is “clean” and then be invited to stay in the home of Gentile worshippers – a few days before he just couldn’t have done it for he would have regarded them as “unclean”. God prepares us for a new idea and then helps us to work through such new ideas in our lives.

The story of Lydia (Acts 16:9-15) – the first European convert is a woman, a gentile, a wealthy businesswoman and highlights God’s disregard for human boundaries. Perhaps her story will challenge those who still the doubt the place of women in church leadership, for Lydia was the first church leader in Europe. Perhaps it will challenge those who believe their wealth is for themselves rather than for the benefit of a wider community.

The story of a slave girl released from a demonic spirit and the jailer liberated from his own fear (Acts 16:16-34) shows the way in which God brings good out of difficult circumstances and entrusts us to speak out so that people hear about the gift of freedom.

And then we go back to first Pentecost (Acts 2) and see the powerful creative spirit sweep through that first church, changing their horizons, expectations and outlook. setting them on a path that would take the gospel message to the ends of the earth and through time and culture.

There is so much to learn, so much that we can relate to our own lives and our own church situation. Inevitably we will only touch on a fraction of it each Sunday so please take time to read the bible passages for yourself and to read around the subjects for yourselves. But you might also want to look at joining in the various bible studies that meet around the Pastorate. It’s my ambition to have one running every week, reflecting on the previous Sunday and looking ahead to the following week. As a preacher it helps me to see what questions need to be explored, but experience says that those who have looked ahead get more from the sermon as they have already had the opportunity to explore some of the ideas.

During this month we will celebrate Pentecost, so happy birthday to the whole church, may we continue to know the excitement of God’s blessings and find new ways to learn and to worship.

Be Blessed

Craig


Changing Worship Times

From 13 September Wyken and Stoke are going to be changing their Sunday morning worship times so as to enable the Minister to lead worship with each congregation twice a month.

Wyken will begin at 10.00 am and Stoke at 11.15am, with Coffee and chat BEFORE the service from about 10.45am. In addition Wyken’s Communion service on the 4th Sunday of each month will be an All Age Service – aiming to be contemporary and relevant to everyone.

We will review this arrangement at our January Church Meetings but will continue to at least Easter 2010.

Reflection for 17 May



Love one another
not as servants and masters
superior and inferior
them and us
but as friends

Love one another
not as strangers passing
occasional acquaintances
nodding heads
but as friends
who share all that life will bring
love one another

know one another
by name and by manner
by all that brings joy
by all that causes pain
by touch and by sign
by all that fulfiils
by all that disappoints
love one another

For this is God’s community
the friends of Jesus and one another
the tellers of good news
the bearers of fruitful gifts
the sharers of abiding love
the outpourers of love in action
so love one another
 – there is much to love.

For this is God’s community
the spirit-filled and the astounded
the mystic and the preacher
the sure and the unsure
the homebird and the stranger
the seeker and the sought
the dancer and the wallflower
the entertainer and the bore
the same and the different
so love one another
 – there is much to love.

 For this is God’s community
the child-like faithful
the carefully obedient
the over burdened
the carefree-soul
the weary voice
the venture catalyst
the constant critic
the social includer
the sorrowful debtor
the quietly confident
so love one another
 – there is much to love

and if we have no love,
then what have we?
and if we have no love
how Dare we,
talk of God
expect grace
hope for justice
inspire liberation
sing praise
offer prayers
name ourselves Christ’s,

– how dare we.

For God is love
and all our words
and all our acts
and all that we would be
are but inadequate
responses to such love.

Kingdom people


Kingdom people seek first the Kingdom of God and it’s justice; 

Church people often put church work above concerns of justice, mercy and truth. 

Church people think about how to get people into the church; 

Kingdom people think about how to get the church into the world.

Church people worry that the world might change the church; 

Kingdom people work to see the church change the world.

(Howard Snyder, Liberating the Church, Inter-Varsity Press, 1983)

 

 

So, are we church people or kingdom people?

 

And if we are one but not the other – how does that change the emphasis of what we do and how we do it?

 

How much of what we read in this magazine relates to church work and how much to the Kingdom?

 

To what extent do our agenda’s balance church issues with kingdom issues?

 

How do/might our churches get into the world?

 

How do Kingdom issues impact upon the life of our churches?

 

Luke tells us that on Ascension Day “two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’ Then they returned to Jerusalem …” In Jerusalem they “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer” and lo and behold the world began to change as the Kingdom of God began to emerge and so the story of the church began ….. how is it to continue for us within the City of Coventry?

 

Be Blessed

Craig�

Encouraging Tomorrow Today

 

Hanging on my study wall is a piece of cardboard with a childlike picture of a church building painted on it. It was a gift from the people of  the United Church of Zambia in and around the small town of Isoka on the Zambia/Tanzania border, given to greet a group of young people who had travelled from the United Reformed Church to visit them. The warmth of that welcome and humbling feeling that people who lived such simple poor lives should bring gifts for people wealthy enough to travel so far from home has lived with me for almost 30 years – and often this simple painting can transport me back to that little church in Isoka.

 

 

And whilst the picture is of a church building, and the words proclaim it to be “The Church”, it is not the building I remember but the people, their lively faith, their singing smiling faces, their enthusiasm and care for their guests. It is the same when I think back to other churches I have belonged to – just over a year ago my work took me to the church I had belonged to from the age of 4 to 10. I hadn’t been there since we had moved on and it was strange to stand there and remember being a child in that place. There were bits about the building I remembered (although it was a lot bigger in my memory) but most of all I remembered the sense of belonging, friendship and involvement – reading the bible in worship, putting away the chairs, watching all the members sign the call to the new Minister (a Presbyterian thing we’ve lost in the URC) – knowing that in that place, amongst those people were some of the formative experiences that have kept me within the life of the church ever since. 

I know from much I’ve heard since coming to Coventry that many people in these churches have similar stories of people and experiences, all of which have helped to mould these churches into the places they are today. But what of tomorrow? and how are we encouraging tomorrow today? Who are the people that will stand in one of our buildings in 40 years time and say “in this place my faith was nurtured”? and who will be the people they give thanks for?

Let it be each of us.

Be Blessed

Craig