Please pray for peace in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas.
Last day of 2008; another year over; I can’t think of a better way to end this year than what I’m doing today. At lunchtime I’m meeting an old friend I haven’t seen for a few years and then this afternoon a very dear friend is coming to stay for a few days.
Is there anything more precious than friendship and especially the friendship we can all have with Jesus.
Happy New Year to all who regularly put up with my ramblings
(and to those who don’t)
After several years of resisting I have at last joined Facebook, the networking site. Invited to do so by Alison my wife, I suddenly find myself with 11 friends !!
Facebook has highlighted the whole concept of networking on the internet for me. As an old fuddy~duddy I find it confusing, and I think it looks really rather messy, but my daughter thinks its simple and clear. I want a conversation that’s more than just a snippet of information, but Becca thinks its a good, quick way of keeping in touch.
I have no doubt that this is a generational thing; nor do I have any doubt that I’ll get used to it and already I find myself checking in each day, so I’m not too worried and not do I feel ancient by it.
However it raises the question of culture. More and more of society relates through the internet, through sites such as Facebook, Bebo, Plaxo and others and see it as perfectly normal. This is a major challenge to Church, for as society becomes more internet dependent and therefore doesn’t see the need to always gatyher in one place, we must ask ourselves “what are we doing about it ?”
Increasingly the church needs to get hold of the concept that peoples networks will dictate who they spend time with; the gym, the internet, workplace, bowling club have all become the places where there are communities gathered. Does the church meet these communities or do we still rely on those living next to our buildings to `pop~in` ? Why should Joe Bloggs visit the Chapel next to him if his best mate from work worships at a Church 5 mile away ? He’ll go with his mate, understandably. I’m aware of a family in Derbyshire who commuted every Sunday to Yorkshire to attend Church because that was where there son was the Pastor. Their network was the son and his family.
I don’t know the answer to this but we perhaps we all need to stop and think about what networks we belong to and what it is that keeps us going to the same Church each week, or what it is that stops others from doing the same.
Meanwhile, I can be found whiling away the hours on facebook…………………………..
Where are we going as a Church ?
Wow, what a question ! How big is that ? And yet despite the enormity of the question it is one that we must all answer. I find that some people say that the Church has changed too much (modern hymns, lack of pews, irreverant worship etc.) and others will say that it hasn’t changed enough (ancient hymns, too many pews, stuffy worship etc.). People tell me that they won’t go to Church until it reverts back to being how it was when they were children and I also find others who tell me that they won’t go because its still the same as it was when they were children ! How can we know the way forward with such contrasting views ?
I can’t even look around for evidence as to what is working, for I find that traditional Churches are growing as long as they remain true to their identity and not become liberal in their liturgies, and by contrast I find that the whole Fresh Ex[pressions movement is blossoming with new worship developing all over the country. Indeed in December 2008 there were 717 expressions registered on the Fresh expressions website, and I have no doubt that there are many more who have not put their details on the website.
So, where do we go from here ? Do we become hard line and revert to traditional Methodist ways of doing things (and before anybody shouts “yes” it includes things like weekly attendance at the class meeting as well as Sunday attendance and Bible Study) or do we scrap everything and say “lets do it differently” ? At this stage I want to say that the answer should be neither for I believe that the biggest mistake that the Christian Church has made over the last 40-50 years has been to jump on the latest band wagon trundling into town. I think this has caused uncertainty, loss of confidence, and a general lack of direction.
Whoa, sweeping statements you say but the evidence seems to be before us and from someone who firmly believes in the whole Fresh Expressions movement. I say that the answer should be neither simply because Churches (i.e. all its people) should be listening more to what God wants than what the community around us demands, more than the loudest voices within any particular congregation and certainly before what the Minister demands. As I look around I see growth in the areas who are regular in prayer, whether that be in a traditional or non~traditional sense. Prayer is the key. Prayer of individual Christians on their own in their own homes and also regularly in communal prayer groups. This prayer should also not be a spiritual shopping list asking God to “do things our way” but it should also include a time of listening for what he has to say to us.
I have long been interested in the Welsh Revival of 1904 and over the years as I have studied this I have regularly been returned to the concept of people gathering to ask for Gods direction and to pray for revival. 100,000 people were converted in Wales as a result; swearing stopped in many communities; fighting and violence disappeared and even football matches had to be postponed because the supporters were in Church !!
Similarly the Moravian Community of Hernhut (Saxony) began a 24 hour prayer meeting that would continue non-stop for over a hundred years. This was in 1727 and as a result by 1791 that small community had sent out 300 missionaries to other parts of the world. They had committed themselves to pray, in turn, for an hour each day until God sent revival. The current movement of 24/7 prayer mainly amongst young people which is currently in force has now generated a multi-national movement changing the lives of many and inspiring thousands.
I don’t recite these stories as anything other than to say that prayer should be at the heart of all that we do, and all that we are. We were created as human beings to have an ongoing relationship with God our Heavenly Father and yet we have subjugated that so often into a once a week gathering to sing hymns that we like. If we want to know where we are going as a Church then we need to begin by seeking God’s will and direction. Whether that be in traditional patterns or fresh expressions isn’t the point; the point is that it will flourish only when God leads and we follow.
Are we prepared to pray for Gods guidance and for us to have courage to follow, even if we don’t like where he takes us ? I hope so.
Interesting to read the Times today. On one page it shows something of the outcry over channel 4`s choice for the `alternative Christmas message`, the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and then on the next page (double page spread) an article naming Barack Obama as the Times Person of the Year. What a contrast these two people make; one is demonised and the other lauded; one for his speeches denouncing Israel and America and other for his speeches saying there needs to be a more conciliatory tone between America and the rest of the world.
Perhaps in this coming new year we will all be watching Barack Obama`s Presidency to see if America can actually deliver the peace we all hope for in the Middle East, but it will surely only come if there is a spirit of, and a desire for, reconciliation rather than the bullying super-power America has a reputation for.
The Americans I have met (albeit few) have seemed like decent, honest and honourable people quite undeserving of the reputation this country often has. I pray that we will see more of that side in the example set by President Obama and equally I pray that President Ahmadinejad`s words in the channel 4 speech about following the teachings of all the prophets, including Jesus, will be extended into all the policies of his government. When that happens in ALL countries then we might come closer to peace than ever before.
|Christmas is coming,
The goose is getting fat;
Please put a penny
In the old mans hat.
Familiar words, but I’m not sure I’ve ever really understood them. No doubt someone will send me an e~mail and explain them to me!!
Perhaps the clue lies in the subsequent lines…
|If you haven’t got a penny,
A ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny,
Then God bless you.
So often Christmas is about the commercial ‘stuff’; the getting of presents, the round of parties, etc., when this carol reminds us that it should be about giving. However the second half also reminds us that there will always be people who are worse off than ourselves. Perhaps an important part of Christmas should lie in the giving to others of something of ourselves.
By this I mean that instead of simply looking for gifts and presents to give, we should look at what we can give of our lives; our time, energy, care, compassion, love. In other words, our faith in action.
You see even if we don’t have much money we can still capture the true meaning of Christmas in the kindness we do, in the care we show, in the love that we express.
And after all isn’t that what God did on the first Christmas. Every part of the Christmas story is about people giving of themselves: Mary in her willingness to be the Lords mother: Joseph in his support of her: the wise men in their travelling to give gifts: the shepherds leaving their flocks. They all gave time and energy in their service to that little child who we worship as Lord and Saviour. In fact the only who didn’t was King Herod and look at how history remembers him!
But it’s the same with New Year. Again a time for revelry and self-seeking fun but perhaps in our New Year resolutions we need to carry the Christmas spirit of
Too often at Christmas time and again the making of New Year resolutions we tend to think about our own enjoyment and yet the Christian principle from a God of love is to love others. Jesus said “Love God and love your neighbour as yourself.”
May each one of you find that love in your own hearts to give away to someone else this Christmas and at the beginning of 2009.
Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year to you all.