“Losing Faith”

Lately I’ve been reading Andy Frosts book entitled “Losing Faith” in which Andy recounts various conversations he has had with people for whom faith has become or has been problematical. It is a book which tries to address the issue of those who have been under the Christian faith and have `walked away`.

andy_frost_2 (Photo credit: rachel sian)

  He covers a wide variety of scenarios and invites us, the readers, to consider how we`d  react, what took the person away from the Church, how the Church reacted and what can be done about it. Having known Andy for quite a few years now through his Dad, Rob, I`m aware that Andy`s own Christian journey hasn’t been an easy one, so when he writes of people wrestling with faith, or being disillusioned by the Church or being bullied out of the Church then I know how much he understands.

It isn`t a comfortable read, but it’s certainly challenging to those of us who aren’t content simply to leave the Church as it is, but who want to find ways of making it more welcoming, more attractive, more missional and certainly more caring.

andy_frost_1 (Photo credit: rachel sian)

I particularly like the way that towards the end of the book Andy describes the Wesley Quadrilateral, a framework for understanding God. Often neglected by many Methodists today it still forms a major part of Methodist thinking. Formulated by John Wesley his followers were encouraged to use all four aspects for understanding God; firstly we build our faith on scripture, secondly on experience of God, thirdly reason is important and fourthly tradition as we recall Church history. All four are important in our thinking and developing of faith, but so often people will look to one or two and miss out the other; consequently it becomes an unbalanced faith. How often have we stumbled because we have placed too much emphasis on Church tradition and our own experience without putting our roots into scripture or how often have our emotions got the better of us at the expense of reason ? As Andy reminds us we need to have all four in order to develop our faith properly. Too often, I find, Christians are not thinkers about their faith; they’ve developed into a people who wait to be told what to think instead of seeking Gods wisdom on their journey. Wesley wanted his movement to be one in which people sought the truth about God and in order to do that, Scripture, reason, experience and tradition were all necessary. Oh that the Methodist folk would again seek to develop fully within their lives the Wesley quadrilateral!

Lego brick

Lego brick

Every now and then someone comes across your path who then becomes very special to you. Just under 22 years ago I met a young family who have been a part of my life ever since. Dad had left the family and so Alison and I did what we could to help and over the years since they too have become a great help to us; a source of encouragement and a family we can rely on.

The young son and daughter in the family I hold in prayer constantly (and also their partners) and although they aren’t really I regard them like Godchildren. This morning I received in the post a Fathers Day note from the young man and the above present. I am so delighted, not only that he has chosen something he knew I would like but that he has taken the time and trouble to get it. Lego has always been my favourite toy, but if you look closely at this brick you can see it has my name on it.

I am proud that I met that family and that to this day they are very special friends.

Stop today and give thanks for YOUR special friends

Ship of Fools

During my occasional rooting around on the internet I sometimes go to the “Ship of Fools” website (WWW.shipoffools.com). This, for me, is one of the best Christian sites around; it is irreverent and thought-provoking.

One of its pages is entitled “Mystery Worshipper” and the idea behind it is that a mystery worshipper will visit a Church without anyone knowing and then post a report on their findings and opinions on the website. Some of the views are interesting and reveal how Churches are often seen from an outsiders point of view. I know that several years ago Eastwood Parish Church was visited and that was when I realised that any of my Churches could be visited, my worship leading could receive comments and things like the welcome of the congregation could be examined.

M21 mystery worshipper
M21 mystery worshipper (Photo credit: crunklygill)

Of course it isn’t a legal visit, like a school inspection, and it is subject to opinion, likes/dislikes and point of view. It is not an objective way of looking at things and of course once its on the internet the Church concerned has little real opportunity to redress the balance. However it still remains a challenge to all of us to think of how our Church would be perceived by a visitor. Would they feel welcome? Would anyone speak to them? Would they understand the service? Would the sermon be meaningful and relevant? Would they enjoy the after service coffee (if there is any!)? Would they want to come again? If not, why not?Last month Roger Johnson led a fascinating and challenging three-week course on “Welcoming Churches”. Those who were able to attend really seemed to appreciate it and at least once Church has begun to think of how it can improve as a result. Ironically its one of the most welcoming churches in the whole circuit, once you`re over the doorstep.

We may never gat a mystery worshipper in our churches but we should be asking ourselves these questions the whole time; and not just those people who hold office or sit on the Church council, but every one of us, who cares for Christ’s Church.

Go and have a look at the website and then think “How would a visitor perceive my Church?”



Only 7 weeks till my leaving service from Borders Mission Methodist Circuit and then only two weeks until we move to the newly formed Trent and Dove Circuit; being this close creates a strange mix of emotions within me; the sadness of leaving friends and people who I`ve come to accept as family and the joy of meeting new people who will hopefully become just as valuable to me. It really is a strange time and despite having done this many times before as I`ve moved around the country this time I`m really feeling the pressure and stress.

What`s the difference this time ?

I`m not really sure but I wonder if it was because I was in at `the birth` of this circuit and so feel more of an ownership; I feel as though this is `my baby` and now I`m handing it over to someone else. Although I remain sure that Dermot will be a wonderful Superintendent and is the right person for the next phase of maturing that this Circuit needs, it’s still hard to let go.

Maybe another reason is that my health is beginning to suffer because of the amount of time I`ve put in and its now time for that fresh challenge; after all I`ve been Minister of some of these Chapels for 9 years which is a long time for them and for me. We both need a freshness but after that length of time where I`ve held hands with the dying, listened to the weeping and danced with the joyful I`m only too aware of how many lives I`ve been involved with.

On Saturday I spent a wonderful day with Newton Chapel studying the book of Job, my favourite, and from it I tried to draw out the idea that even in the midst of the hurricane, the troubles, the grief and loss God was still at work and still cared. On the Sunday I followed this up with the need to listen to the still, small voice of God often lost in the business of life amongst care and worry.

And through it all I tried to encourage people to realise that no matter what was happening or coming God was a step ahead of the situation. Because of this, despite my current mixed feelings, I know that there is a job for me to do in Trent and Dove, I know that I will continue to love Borders Mission and above all else I KNOW that I`m in Gods hands. Where else would I rather be ?


English: Newton - Methodist Chapel
English: Newton – Methodist Chapel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Love equally

Photo: The EDL will hold hate filled fascist marches today in many towns and cities. I stand against them

The English Defence League are today holding marches in many towns and cities supposedly in defence of our country and yet I find that often the EDl extremists are as bad as the Islamic extremists they rant against and as bad as Christian extremists such as the hate filled Baptist Church who protested at a 9 year old boys funeral after he was killed in the recent Hurricane.

I give thanks for the dignified response of drummer Lee Rigbys family who have appealed for calm and asked for no reprisals and that is truly the way forward against the extremists who would rather find any excuse for violence and hatred.

I believe in a God of love, a Saviour of people irrespective of colour or culture, and a Spirit who moves me to see all people through the eyes of the creator.