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


Say Hello

On Sunday we said goodbye to Say “Hello!” until we probably do it all again at Stoke URC in the first week of August. We had great fun, our 9 children were a bit swamped by our 19 leaders but it meant that they had lots of help and attention and our leaders ranging in age from 13 to 70 something learnt that they can work with children, lead games, create music and big art.

We began with Moses, approaching the burning bush, learning what it can mean when God says “Hello!” We listened to Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray and we prayed with them, “Our Father in heaven ….” and we asked the question, “Who is my neighbour?” with a couple of dramatic retellings of the Samaritan story before serving coffee and cakes to parents and friends.

Gathering After Eve for the Autumn

A new programme for the Autumn includes Changing Stables a series of Advent/pre-Christmas gatherings for all the City of Coventry United Reformed Churches – go to the Gathering After Eve page for full details.

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.

Entertaining Angels

I’ve just finished a book called “Winter in Madrid” It is based in Madrid during 1941 and deals with the repercussions of the Spanish Civil War, it’s brutality and ruthless cruelty hidden by slow communications, diplomatic niceties and the passage of time. Today images from Iran are twittering and you-tubing around the world – in particular the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan, shot by a rooftop sniper as she watched/participated in peaceful protests against the Government. (Her involvement differs depending upon the news source as does the allegation that she was shot by government backed militia). Last week at Minister Summer School we spend one session looking at the story in Judges where Jael kills Sisera with a tent peg through his head. 


It is a cruel hard world that we live in, yet we are fortunate enough to live in a relatively, stable, peaceful, law-abiding part of it;  free to worship as we want; to engage in whatever political activity we want to engage in; to have the back up of a benefit system when we fall on economic hardship and a legal and political system that whilst by no means perfect is not as corrupt as some would make out. We also live in a country that throughout history has had a reputation of accepting the refugee into our community and using their skills to enhance our own society – it is a part of our heritage of which many of us are immensely proud. It is also part of the biblical heritage – whether in Deuteronomy reminding the people that God “loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing (Deut 10:19); or Jesus telling a good news story about a hated Samaritan (Luke 10: 30-37); or Paul’s reminder that “there is no longer Jew or Greek” (Galatians 3:28); or Hebrews prompting, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Heb 13:2)


Coventry is blessed with people from many nations, many have come away from places where they are not free to worship, to engage in politics or to do more than scrape a living. No doubt some come to take advantage of our good nature, but most come to make a better life for themselves and their families and are prepared to work hard to do so – I hope our instinct is to welcome, you never know we may be entertaining angels.


And talking of angels, Neda Agha-Soltan, has become known as the Angel of Freedom, her name means Voice and in her death the cry for freedom for all peoples has reverberated around the world – we must listen for the voice of angels.


Be Blessed



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


Wyken 22 February 2009

Mark 9:2-10
2 Kings 2;1-14;
2 Cor 4;3-6

Mountains as spiritual places experienced by Moses at Sinai, Elijah at 1 Kings 19:11

What are our own reference points?

Key: This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him


The disciples want to build dwellings –

dwellings/churches give stability, permanence, connection –

but down side – insular, static, maintenance burden – what are we to do? – listen to Jesus

Coming down from the mountaintop in amongst the crowd becomes involved in  conflicts of real life.


The mountain is place to dream…….. imagine ………. inspire  …….listen ……..

Where life can be transfigured, transformed

What is the Vision for our churches – each person; community, building: – what have we been created to be? what can we imagine? how will we inspire? 

Amongst all the voices we must listen to Jesus for “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him”  Around the Lord’s Table we come to a  place of storytelling, meeting, fellowship. Let us listen and dream.

Lenten Journey

Lent is often viewed as a journey – from the mountaintop to the cross, from the wilderness to the city, from doubt to faithful obedience. It is a time when we follow Jesus en route to Jerusalem and when we can make our own spiritual journey exploring issues of faith for ourselves.

Of course journeys also involve an element of waiting – for the time to come when we set off, or at the junction waiting for the lights to change, at a station for the train, at an airport for check in, for the taxi … and we all deal with waiting in different ways. For some it is an exciting time – full of anticipation; for others it is an opportunity, time to watch the world go by, or read a book or explore something different; for many it is tedious boredom – a time to be avoided at all costs!

In Lent we look forward with anticipation for the Easter story, yet step forward with apprehension on the road to the cross. On the way we take time to pause and look at the world in which we live and wonder at God’s response and our own reaction. From a personal point of view I look forward to this first Lent with you, wondering how it is marked in these churches, exploring your ways for the first time. We have organised two afternoon events at Stoke on 11th and 25th March when we will wait at the foot of the mountain and plan the journey to the city – it would be good if you could join us.

Our time of waiting to begin a journey together has ended and I’m delighted to be here with you. Now it is time to get to know one another and most of all to see what God has in store for us. I look forward to worshipping with you, finding reasons to socialise and working amongst you in whatever ways emerge. I like my tea in a mug, hot and strong and am partial to the odd biscuit or two – even when Chris claims I’m on a diet!

Be Blessed