Royal Wedding

Royal Wedding Westminster Abbey
Image by Pesky Library via Flickr

Like most of the country I`ve just spent a couple of hours watching the Royal Wedding of Wills and Kate. I don`t count myself an ardent royalist but neither am I an out-and-out republican. I tend to sit somewhere on the fence over this which allows me the privilege of enjoying the wedding without becoming over obsessed or consumed by it all.

Consequently I`ve been able to enjoy the wedding today. I thought that Catherine Middleton looked gloriously beautiful and more importantly she looked happy. William looked every inch the royal groom and together they both looked relaxed in each others company.
The Archbishop of Canterbury and the other clergy of the Abbey managed to keep the pomp and circumstance of the occasion without it becoming too much and becoming stuffy; neat, tidy and well-organised it was an enjoyable service.
I thought the Bishop of London spoke well but I`d like to examine a transcript of his sermon later on.
As I sit here listening to interviews with `ordinary` people it makes you aware of how many people have been behind the occasion. It also gives a sense of the pride which people have in Great Britain and I just think it would be wonderful to have more of this pride in our own country and achievements.
The balcony kiss has just occurred, fleeting but natural. And now a second one (they`ve got the hang of it !)
Well, it’s over and its been thoroughly enjoyable but what now for the couple ? Well, my hope is that they are truly allowed to be a couple without too much prying and pressure.
Christian marriage is supposed to reflect the union of Christ and his Church; of self-sacrifice and self-giving and I hope that what we`ve seen of this couple, so far, will continue as they seem relaxed enough to truly want the best for each other. I pray that they will be an example of this for us all.


A little silver-haired lady calls her neighbour and says: “Please come over here and help me. I have a killer jigsaw puzzle, and I can’t figure out how to get started.” Her neighbour asks: “What is it supposed to be when it’s finished?” The little silver-haired lady says: “According to the picture on the box, it’s a cockerel” 

Her neighbour decides to go over and help with the puzzle. 

She lets him in and shows him where she has the puzzle spread all over the table. He studies the pieces for a moment, then looks at the box, then turns to her and says:

“First of all, no matter what we do, we’re not going to be able to assemble these pieces into anything resembling a cockerel.” 

He then takes her hand and says: “Secondly, I want you to relax. Let’s have a nice cup of tea, and then,” he said with a deep sigh …………   “Let’s put all the Corn Flakes back in the box.”


a drawing of a 4 piece jigsaw puzzle
Image via Wikipedia

 Sometimes we can have all the information but miss the mark completely: the little old lady had all the information to tell her that it was a breakfast cereal, BUT she still thought it was something else !!

Here we are on the edge of Easter and my mind is reflecting on that first Easter and in particular the Johannine account. John  20:1-10 tell us that even though the disciples had travelled with Jesus for three years, heard his teachings, received his parables and experienced his miracles they still believed that he was dead after Good Friday; so Mary goes to the tomb to mourn. Upon seeing the stone removed she goes for Simon Peter and `the other disciple` (probably John himself) and declares the body has been stolen.

What I find remarkable is their lack of comprehension (although I would probably have been the same). John tells us that they arrived at the tomb and saw the information/evidence. Firstly, the stone had been removed: big, heavy stone which surely couldn`t have been removed by a dead man……….its natural they would think first of all of theft.

Secondly, the linen cloths lying there: if they were stealing a body surely no one would have unwrapped it first ?

Thirdly, why should the head linen be lying separate from everything else ? These must have been extremely tidy thieves !!!!!!

Fourthly, much of the Old Testament prophesies that the Messiah would die and rise from the dead, and Jesus even on the night before his death explained it in detail to his followers.

The evidence points to some sort of supernatural event and yet in verse 9 John records “they still did not understand the scripture which said that he must rise from death”. 

I find that people can be like that at Easter. The evidence is there but people don`t bother examining it; they simply dismiss it all as bunkum, without even fully knowing the story. They hear the evidence and decide that as it’s not scientific they won`t evaluate it. They receive the information but it isn`t `exciting` enough for them in our hi-powered, technological, thrills-are-all-important culture so its cast to one side as `boring`. They see the evidence and decide that it can be true for some people, as if truth is a changeable thing.

Well, for me I`ve recieved the information, I`ve studied it but most important of all I`ve experienced it. You see, in the next part of that same chapter 20, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and in verse 16 she fully grasps who he is. You see experience is as important as information.

Returning to the joke the woman had the information which she hadn`t fully or properly understood, but had she tasted the cereal with some milk and sugar she would have appreciated it for what it truly was. It’s the same with us——we need to open our hearts and experience the risen Christ. Nicky Gumbel of Holy Trinity Church, Brompton always says that it’s when knowledge drops 18 inches from head to heart that Christianity makes sense. I urge us all to stop trying to analyse the evidence but to pray in our hearts for an experience of Jesus Christ. Pray that he might touch us all this Easter time.

May the blessings of Easter be yours and may the presence of the Risen Christ be with you.

Thought provoking, appropriate for Good Friday

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One day, a man went to visit a church, He got there early, parked his car and got out. Another car pulled up nearby; the driver got out and said, ” I always park there! You took my place!”

The visitor went inside for the service, found an empty seat and sat down A young lady from the church approached him and stated, “That ‘ s my seat! You took my place!”  The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing.

Afterwards, the visitor went into the sanctuary for the prayer meeting and sat down.. Another member walked up to him and said, ” That ‘ s where I always sit! You took my place!”  The visitor was even more troubled by this treatment, but still He said nothing.

Later as the congregation was praying for Christ to dwell among them, the visitor stood up, and his appearance began to change. Horrible scars became visible on his hands and on his sandaled feet. Someone from the congregation noticed him and called out, “What happened to you?”

The visitor replied, as his hat became a crown of thorns, and a tear fell from his eye,   “I took your place.”

Good Friday 2011

What a great day this has turned out to be. Good Friday, the day when we remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is often considered to be a dull and dour occasion; some Christians are known to wear black all day and look miserable (certainly that was the more Victorian understanding), others will engage in solemn and silent walks of witness parading through town and village centres to show the seriousness of the occasion.

I can remember in my childhood that shops weren`t allowed to open on Good Friday and meat wasn`t allowed to be eaten.

Since coming into the Ministry it has been a day of mixed experiences. I remember in Oldham we used to have a powerful walk of witness between four churches and then I used to take the wooden cross and dash off to another Church in time for its service.

In Eastwood we were involved in a nine denominational walk of witness through the town centre and then spent the afternoon in a quiet reflective reading of scripture up till 3.00 p.m. Meanwhile at Langley Mill it always involved a Maundy Thursday supper and a Good Friday evening service.

It has always been a busy day for me (as well as for other people) but it is such an important day that these services are especially important.

Birchwood Methodist Church, Somercotes. This r...
Image via Wikipedia

So what have I been doing today that has made today so good ? First of all I spent the first half an hour of the working day in prayer with others from Zion Methodist Church (South Normanton) praying for revival in the town and the unity of all the Churches. I then travelled to Birchwood Lane Methodist Church in Somercotes for a more traditional Good Friday service. On this occasion we looked at Rembrandts etching entitled “Three Crosses” in which he is supposed to have painted himself into the crowd at the foot of the cross. A quiet reflective occasion where approximately 20 people gathered; each received a card with a picture of Rembrandts etching on it and we reflected on “were our faces in the crowd at the foot of the cross ?” As the questions were asked Elaine, one of the Church members hammered nails into a block of wood. It was even more powerful than I imagined it would be.

After that I dashed back to South Normanton to join in with all the denominations of the town who had shared in a service at Bethel Methodist Church and were embarking on a walk of witness around the town. There was an excellent turn out from all the Churches; stopping to read portions of Scripture and sing hymns it was both powerful and unifying. Again it was a moment in time when you really felt that God was at work, just as he had been at Birchwood.

I can`t help but think that the tears which flowed at Birchwood and the spirit with which people walked in South Normanton was down to God`s Holy Spirit moving; as scripture tells us in Romans “our spirit cries out to God`s spirit, crying `Abba, Father`” Friends don`t doubt it, when we`re about Gods work with hearts that truly desire to serve and honour him, he responds in powerful ways.

I wonder how some of my readers might have acknowledged Good Friday this year. For some of you it may have been no more than another day but I hope and pray that, like me, it has truly been a day when the saving work of Jesus Christ has been remembered; a day when we have been able to give him thanks for that salvation and a day closer to the full restoration of Christs Kingdom in this world.

Exciting Day

Lutheran deacon with Easter candle
Image via Wikipedia

Exciting day today. This morning I lead worship at Swanwick Chapel, this afternoon a baptism at Birchwood Chapel and this evening I am leading worship at Old Tupton Chapel. Pretty much the same for any Sunday you may say or you may point out that this is what I`m paid to do………………………..however it is more than that. Today is exciting for the simple reason that it is a major privilege to be employed by the Church to do what comes naturally, worship.

We were created to worship God Almighty, to bring him praise and honour and it is for that reason alone that today is so exciting. Today I have the opportunity again to be with Gods people and to bring him the worship that is worthy of him.

Yes, it may not have the raw excitement of worshipping with 8000 people in a tent at Spring Harvest, nor is the singing anywhere near as professional and yes I will be criticised for the length of my sermon or my choice of music, BUT it is simply good to be with those I consider to be family and worship with them.

Excited about today ? Yes, I most certainly am !!

Sonnets at Spring Harvest

Spring Harvest 2011
Image by Gordon McKinlay via Flickr

Over the past few years I have felt that there was a tiredness about Spring Harvest, but this year feels different………….it seems fresh again.

Following the them of Route 66, its aim is to explore how the 66 books which comprise the Bible help us in life today. The four teaching days are divided into the headings of Sonnet, Symphony, Screenplay and Streetmap. Yesterday we looked at the first one and explored how Scripture is a love letter from God to us; we recognised how it’s too easy to select certain passages and keep going back to them but how that doesn`t help us to get the full flavour. We need to be people who see the whole story and this was shared as the drama of Scripture………………………….

       Act 1   Creation, God establishes His Kingdom

      Act 2   Fall, rebellion in the Kingdom

     Act 3   Redemption initiated, Abraham onwards

     Act 4   Redemption accomplished, Jesus comes

     Act 5   Mission of the Church   (We live in Act 5)

     Act 6   Restored creation, Kingdom fully present, New Heaven and New Earth.

Too often people look at a small portion of Scripture (usually that which supports and confirms what they`ve already decided) instead of trying to grasp the whole story of start to finish. That’s not to say that we must read from cover to cover, but it is to say that we must place our preferences into the context of the wholeness of Scripture.

It also brought back some of my theological training when we spoke about the `tough texts` which make us uncomfortable or don`t fit the image of a loving God. Usually we would avoid the passages which speak about God telling his people to `destroy the amelichites` and so on as these passages challenge us too deeply. However, I was reminded of different approaches to these tough texts…………….

1 The Cultural Contextual Approach~recognising the historical context in which these things happen

2 The Biblical Contextual Approach~trying to understand the situation by looking at the `big` picture and seeing it as a journey

3 The Allegorical/Prophetic Approach~a highly Christo-centric approach which sees everything as pointing to Jesus

4 The Fundamental Approach~which says that every word is literal and applies to the current time and place as well.

5 The Progressive Approach~involving reading and re-reading the tough texts over and over again until some meaning can be found, maybe teaching us something about our world today

It was quite fascinating.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Its strange but after 17 years of coming to Spring Harvest at either site, last night was the first time I have ever got to the after hours entertainment 10.30~11.30 p.m. It was to see a comedian called Joe Fisher who I enjoyed very much including his competition “Spot the Vicar”.

On a more practical front, the weather remains lovely (very unSkegnesslike), warm sunshine and no trouble with wind (read that however you wish to read it !), the worship band are good if somewhat loud (maybe I`m getting old !), the preaching is mixed (last nights preacher began by shouting and ended with shouting and guess what ? there was a lot of shouting in between !). However, the advantage to something like this is that although last nights preacher did not move me she will have reached the heart of someone; 8000 people between this event and the one at Minehead means that God will touch many lives and ultimately all of them but at different times and in different ways.

Sadly Alison seems to have developed quite severe Conjunctivitus resulting in an early morning dash to the chemists for eye drops and so we have both missed out on this mornings sessions (Symphony). Shes resting at the moment without her contact lenses in. Might get out for a walk later.

Spring Harvest Stand
Image by Gordon McKinlay via Flickr


OR I might go to the bookshop/Dvd/Cd and see what might tempt me ……………………..

Spring Harvest

Spring Harvest
Image via Wikipedia

We have arrived at Spring Harvest Skegness today, although its very hard to imagine that we are actually here ! Why ? Because the weather is warm and sunny………………..

Skegness has a reputation for being wet and very windy and that has been our experience over many years of attending Spring Harvest.

This is our 17th year of attending and barring a couple of times when we attended the same event at Minehead, we have come to Skegness each time.  It may not be my favourite place but Spring Harvest is a special event. For those who don`t know about it, it is a Christian event centred around preaching, Bible Study, creative arts, children’s work and so much more . So often it is a speaker at Spring Harvest who has alerted me to new work within the wider Christian community or challenged me into a new way of thinking. Spring Harvest has been a major influence on my journey over the years and its good to be back here again !

Missional Church

Facebook costume detail 1
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I came across this on my Facebook page earlier today…………..

Have a look at it and see what you think.

Although it doesn`t answer many questions it does deal with what is fundamentally wrong with the Church: i.e. our expectancy that `they out there` need to come to us and do things `our way`. Often our sole intention is to build up the numbers at Church with scant regard for the persons actual faith journey with Jesus Christ. Consequently our outreach is limited to “Why not come to Church on Sunday ?” At the risk of being provocative I know many who attend faithfully on a Sunday but they don`t necessarily have a vibrant ongoing relationship with Jesus. It’s not for me to say who has or who hasn`t and I wouldn`t presume to do so but there isn`t always lifestyle evidence to support Sunday attendance. In other words true faith is often lived out in much of day-to-day life.

In my view true outreach is best served when Christians live their lives alongside others, helping, supporting, encouraging and generally being a blessing to others. Yes, that does happen but the part we often omit is to understand where that person may be in terms of faith.

Since moving into this village I have tried to attend the Community coffee morning ach Thursday in the community centre. I don`t go to preach, or harangue, or Bible bash but I simply attend and read my paper, smile at people, buy a raffle ticket, and generally `be`. Yes the sausage cobs are a great attraction but the greater attraction is that of making friends so that in the long-term they know where they can turn to for help, so that they remember the Church as a supportive community and so that they see Christians as positive people.

I don`t always get things right; I know that too well…………………. but I do try to love people as Jesus would and I think that is far more attractive than telling them they should be in Church on a Sunday. It’s also why I support the Fresh Expression movement so much, because I see in it a desire to meet people where they are and to walk the journey with them to a point where they not only see Jesus in us but desire to receive him themselves.

“is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”

I came across the following in The Buzz, an e-letter from the Methodist Church telling of exciting developments around the Connexion, where the Gospel of Jesus is being shared in new and exciting ways.

It made me wonder, “is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”……………………………………….

EVANGELISM – Hope Theatre Cafe 
From: Christchurch URC/Methodist Church, Cardiff
Anne and Darren on stageHope Theatre Cafe is a great, welcoming venue in Cardiff where you can see a Christian performer, theatre company, singer, musician or mime artist. A special evening out at the theatre and a fresh expression of church!Anne Middleton and husband Revd Darren Middleton of the Hope Theatre Cafe believe that the arts have a way of transcending barriers. They see the Cafe very much as a place where people can bring friends and family because it is ‘neutral’ territory’. One audience member said, ironically, ‘you wouldn’t get me in a church’!

Upcoming performances include the Lantern Theatre Company performing The Hiding Place in June and gospel Illusionist, Steve Price, appearing in July. All performers share their message of hope in Jesus, through their own art form.

The winning formula is for the audience to be seated around small tables and treated to free tea, coffee and home-made cakes. The cafe opens at 7pm and the performance starts at 7.30pm. Afterwards prayer and an opportunity to chat is sometimes offered and a few people who have been to performances have since been to church.

Anne and Darren are encouraged that the Hope Theatre Cafe team has committed help from volunteers, especially as it is likely that they will move on within the next two years. Their hope is that, now established, the theatre cafe will continue its successful run for years to come.

E-mail contact: Anne Middleton
Website: Fresh Expressions


I find this an exciting project and it has fired my imagination for similar ideas. However many would say that this is only a theatrical experience and not true worship. Whilst I don`t doubt that for a moment, lets look a bit more closely.

Firstly the article reminds us that each performer(s) brings their own understanding of Jesus through their own art form; surely this is simply preaching using gifts and talents the artistes have. We`d expect preaching within the context of Church and surely this is what is happening here.

Secondly, the opportunity to sit around tables in a cafe-style presentation is surely no different to the fellowship people claim to have when they attend a more traditional act of worship. It’s possibly a deeper fellowship because there is probably less inhibitions than there would be across pews or rows of chairs.

Thirdly, tea and coffee (free) can be interpreted as the fellowship meal in Acts 2:42-47

Fourthly, the opportunity for prayer is there for anyone. Now I know some would say that in traditional church the leader tells us when to pray, but surely what often happens is that we all bow our heads and start thinking about all manner of things ! Can this truly be described as prayer ? heart prayer ? I feel that when prayer is offered and someone asks for it then the prayer time is far more personal and meaningful (now that’s opening a can of worms !!).

Fifthly, and it isn`t stated above, I feel that there is the possibility for discipleship development within this expression. It’s probably already happening at the Hope theatre cafe and simply not expressed above. However I think that there are ways in which someones experience in such a place can then be led forward and their faith developed. I note that some have already started coming to Church; brilliant !! but, that cannot be the ultimate aim. The ultimate aim has to be to develop and nurture their faith in Christ, not simply seek `bums on seats`. Now for some that may be developed through Church itself in all its traditional form, but for others it may be through continued attendance at the cafe. Whichever it is we should rejoice at the pilgrimage of faith people are engaged in.

Finally, the government cuts announced this week have got the Arts council up in a panic crying out that it will mean the end of entertainment to the masses. What an opportunity for the Church. Much of the theatre in this country and in other parts of the world began in Christian communities, the medieval mystery plays being one of the finest examples, and here is our chance to take the Gospel back to the people through drama/entertainment/films/and other media. Will we seize the chance ? I hope and pray that enterprising Churches will do so in ways that suit their communities and cultures.

Drama and theatre were amongst my first loves. I`ve acted in and produced shows since the age of about 5 years (so there are one or two performances under my belt !); I`ve had the privilege of touring with a Christian professional theatre group around this country on a couple of occasions so I have seen and been a part of the positive effect of using these mediums to spread the Good News of Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  

So, to come back to my original question…………  “is there a place within the Church for drama/entertainment ?”, I would want to say an unequivocal YES, YES and YES again. Well done to the Hope Theatre Cafe in Cardiff for this.

Judas from "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1990)


Hamlet in the 1970`s