Cursillo involvement continues

Three years ago, following growing and enjoyable participation with Bristol Anglican Cursillo, the Bishop of Bristol appointed me as the clergy rep to be part of the leadership team (so a trustee and Spiritual Director) of this growing Christian community.

I've decided to step down from this role, but hope to continue to be actively involved in this valuable ministry. I value the ongoing fellowship and support, and the way people are encouraged to look at their life with God through the three lenses of piety (that is prayer, or devotion), study, and action.

Apart from our regular renewal events (Three Day Weekends) the life of the community centres around regular small group meetings. I was pleased tonight that we held the first meeting of a new group, after rearranging the groups to include the record number of people who joined at our weekend earlier this year.

Logos Hope at Canary Wharf

Logos Hope is the latest ship in Operation Mobilisation's fleet. Renamed and commissioned at the end of last year, she replaces their ship Logos. A former car ferry from Scandinavia, she is the first of their ships to be refitted for purpose rather than used “as is.”

I spent a few hours in London seeing her, having an on-board tour, and viewing the extraordinary vast bookshop on board. Along with her sister ship Doulos she tours the world seeking to bring something of the Christian message through word and action at every port. Her schedule is such that it may be another ten or twenty years before she visits the UK again, and it is a strange sight to see her moored alongside modern office buildings in Canary Wharf.

She is crewed entirely by volunteers. The refit has been good: although the ship still feels like a car ferry in places, she is far more comfortable and homely.

C3 Church

Last night was interesting, as it turned out to be my first experience of the fast-growing city churches founded by Australian Phil Pringle.

I attended an event in Bath that a friend and colleague had invited me to. It was a rare opportunity to listen to founder pastor Phil, and people had gathered from the UK and Europe and people who felt called to found new churches were commissioned during the worship.

I was impressed that the style of the service worked in attracting young people, and that Phil had a real vision for reaching Europe with the gospel in a way that works for the changing balance of people groups in the continent.

More info here http://www.christiancitychurch.eu/bathandbristol

Easter Life

Easter is a time when it is easier to be cheerful, with the arrival of primroses, daffodils, and other spring flowers and sunnier weather (in the northern hemisphere anyway).

There is also the message of the church of the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, which I enjoyed hearing afresh this morning.

“Eternal life” is a phrase that we can underestimate, because arguably we cannot understand it anyway. It conveys the meaning of life outside of, unconstrained by, time – not just an everlasting life that goes on forever. If God created, then he also created time, and somehow exists outside it as well as within it – being both the beginning and the end (as the Bible puts it) but more than that. So the gift of eternal life is the invitation to be with him in this way.

Julian of Norwich is famously quoted as saying that “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” This leads to a Christian hope that even if things do not seem well now, it will be O.K. This was one of her “revelations.” However if our life is eternal, then what is a future hope can also be recognised as (present) reality.

So (as Christian writers such as Anthony de Mello put it) not just “all shall be well,” but “all is well”, and we are able to discover this. Such a fresh way of seeing life and experiencing life must be good news, whatever situation we are in.

Here are the related quotes from the Bible.
God has given us eternal life… (1 John 5:11)
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)

Janet dies

It is with some sadness that I record that our Team Rector's wife Janet died yesterday morning after being ill for some while. She was gently competent and always keenly interested in people and will be greatly missed.

I find myself leading more worship services in church, to provide cover, and it is a privilege to do so.

Epiphany

Does God appear when you want Him to or, to put it another way, how do you authentically celebrate the Epiphany?

In our local churches we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany today (6th January). This festival celebrates the appearance of God, or his “shining forth,” or his glory. In the western church the event usually associated is the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus bringing gifts.

On this Sunday so soon after Christmas it often seems to be a challenge for those constructing worship and choosing hymns to know whether to retain the feel of Christmas or to try to do something different. Most of the hymns seemed to conjure up an image of trudging slowly through snow, and the sermon sought to encourage us to set New Year's Resolutions to do with being more environmentally responsible (too late, I'd done mine, but I do hope that they are responsible). So the set of compromises used this time round didn't seem to lift me to a sense of the presence of God's glory… until we got to the middle of the service.

At the customary handshake called “The Peace” everybody seemed to come alive and it struck me that (as well as everything else it means) the image of the baby Jesus speaks of the presence of the glory of God in each one of us – people – how special we are!

Church Climate Change Priority

Should churches be “running with the pack” in their action on climate change? They have a special task.

It is encouraging to hear that government support for climate change is growing. Also this year a leading economist spoke of the importance of tackling the problem. I believe that his purpose was to speak to the business community, to convince them that they should not be relying on politicians. Indeed western businesses are now asking governments to legislate appropriately – an apparent turnaround from global firms trying to avoid government intervention.

Writers have also been pointing out (again) that the problem is not a problem for the planet, but for the human race. We may succeed at killing ourselves off, but the planet will recover from us.

Reading the church press it is clear that churches are seeking to be more environmentally responsible, and to encourage the general public to do the same. As local organisations,  churches do need to be environmentally responsible at least as much as other organisations. Yet they also have a task that is their own and thus more important for them.

Much of the human race has treated the planet like an inexhaustible mine. This is worse than treating it as a machine, because at least we usually recognise that machines need maintenance from time to time. Surely what lies under this attitude of disrespect is greed.

Current appeals to people to behave more responsibly put their hope in “enlightened self-interest.” In other words, if people who are concerned mainly about themselves recognise that it is in their interests to avert climate change, then they will act. The same belief is behind the Market Economy, yet we see that its “trickle down” theory (that if some people get rich everyone will benefit) works in some areas; but in others people continue to be severely exploited. Economics will not provide an anwer to everything.

So this way of appealing to people has a problem: its underlying philosophy is unsound. This is clear even looking at it just from a secular world view. From a religious point of view, the only way to tackle the greedy behaviour is to deal with the greed underneath the symptoms.

Why are we greedy? I think that in many cases the root is insecurity. We think that if we don't grab all we can get we won't survive, because nobody else cares for us.

The Christian religion reminds us that there is a God who loves us, cares for us, and has provided all those resources that we think we need to grab – so actually we don't need to grab them. Nor are we a law unto ourselves. The church is to demonstrate and proclaim this message.

So as well as acting responsibly, the church needs to remember it's special task. Whatever the human causes of climate change, I believe that the only lasting solution will come when we discover that God loves each of us, and that we can abandon self-interest.

The good news of Christmas continues to be as relevant as ever. God sends a saviour, Jesus, to save us from ourselves.

Lively church service this morning

This morning I joined St Peter's Church, Chippenham, for their morning family service. There were three baptisms taking place, two of those being a mother and her son. I enjoyed the lively worship in a different church, and I enjoyed their competent band too.

I went along to give feedback to a friend who was giving a talk in church only for the second time. She did very well, with a bold start for Advent: when called on by the minister to give her talk she cried out “I'm not ready!”