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Training For Leadership In The Church Of England

ITN

Courtesy Upland Path Management: http://www.snh.org.uk/uplandpathmanagement/5.1.shtml

Unless you have spent the last fortnight on a Pacific atoll, you will know that the Church has had what it no doubt believes to be A Bright Idea about how to improve the management skills of the next generation of Bishops and Deans. If you have not already done so, I urge you to read Psephizo’s blog post on the subject, which summarises the comments that have been made, as well as offering his own useful insight.

I had not thought to add my pennyworth. However, something that is glaringly obvious to me does not seem to have been mentioned, viz It Won’t Work!

Assuming you do not object to the idea of training bishops and deans as managers (which of course many do, but that is not the point of this post), there are three important characteristics of managers which the report does not address:

1. Managers are individuals, with individual strengths and weaknesses, and individual training needs.

2. Managers need practical training/coaching/equipping at the moment of need, not theoretically in advance.

2. Managers are part of a team – not every team member needs the same skills.

 

Identifying Future Leaders

Come off it! This is not a new idea – it has always been done, sometimes from the comfort of the Athenaeum, sometimes apparently in the gents at Church House. This is the way of the world, and the Green Report is not going to change that.

Equipping The Chosen For The Task

What is needed is helping those who have been chosen for leadership through these tried and tested methods to carry out their new role. Remember the Peter Principle?  The Church of England is about to conduct an experiment costing £2 million pounds which most of us expect simply to provide further evidence in support of this principle:

The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory in which the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in his or her current role rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”

Not to mention ‘those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it’.

Reflect On Your Own Experience

For example, supposing you were not born wired up to a computer monitor, do you remember when you first realised this was a skill you needed to master if you were to remain effective in the workplace? I hope you did not go on ‘a computer course’, which taught everything from Ada Lovelace and Babbage up to COBOL. If so, I doubt whether you took much in. People learn best when they are being taught how to solve a particular problem they have encountered at a particular moment.

How To Train A Church Leader

Do not, I beg of you, on bended arthritic knee in case that helps, offer training to high fliers on the way up. Wait until they have arrived in post. Then offer tailor-made ‘equipping’ to help with situations as they arise (or even better, as they are identified on the horizon). For instance, we are all agreed that the future Bishop Libby Lane is going to face difficulties, simply because she is the first woman in this role and all eyes will be on her. I hope that she will make contact with one of the other female bishops in the Anglican Communion and ‘buddy up’ – this is likely to be the most effective form of support. I also hope she will be offered training support as and when she needs it – probably a short course of a week at a time, say, at one of the management colleges on specific issues faced by all managers.

Intercession for 4th Sunday of Advent Year B – 21 December 2014

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The Collect

God our redeemer, who prepared the Blessed Virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son: grant that, as she looked for his coming as our saviour, so we may be ready to greet him when he comes again as our judge; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of  the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading : 2 Samuel 7.1-11,16

Now when David, the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, ‘See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.’ Nathan said to the king, ‘Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.’ But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord : Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, ‘Why have you not built me a house of cedar?’ Now therefore you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you, David, that the Lord will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.

Psalm: The Magnificat – Luke 1.46

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; * he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed; *the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him, *from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm *and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones *and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things *and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, *to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors, *to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now and shall be for ever. Amen.

Second Reading:  Romans 16.25-27

To God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever! Amen.

Gospel Reading: Luke 1.26-38

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you.’ But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ Then Mary said, ‘Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.’ Then the angel departed from her.

Prayers of Intercession

Visual Liturgy suggests:

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge. We pray for …
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations. We pray for …
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter. We pray for …
Break into our lives, where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls. We remember …
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory. Lift us up to meet you,
that with all your saints & angels we may live & reign with you in your new creation.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Silence is kept.

Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to your people,  who trust in your love. By your coming, raise us to share in the joy of your kingdom on earth as in heaven, where you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

Our Lord says, ‘I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

May the Lord, when he comes, find us watching and waiting.
Amen.


 

Jane Williams says:

When David offers to make God a home, God explains that his home has always been with his people. He has gone with them, preparing things for them, making provisions for them in ways that they never even noticed. He knows that they long for a home, but perhaps they do not realise that they can have no home without him. All the things that we long for, that we search for throughout the world, throughout our lives  – love, security, peace, fulfilment, joy – all of these things are to be found in God, our only real home. So now, God is preparing, as Advent moves towards Christmas, to come to us, in our own place, in what we call ‘home’ and yet are never quite content with. He will make it, and us, his home, so that we can come to our true home, at last.

Eternal Spirit of the living God, be for us a flame of warmth and light, steadying and transforming our desires so that, lovingly and truthfully, we may pray and we may live.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, as we reach the shortest days of the year, we ask you for night vision that we may see you in the dark. May we find in the shadows, the contours of your presence. If all our hopes for the Church have not yet been realised, then our fears may yet be misplaced. Oh, let it be so! As we look forward to celebrating the birth of your Son, let us search once more the corners of your Church where your people, united in your purpose, may yet be able to shine your light and offer the water and the nourishment needed for new life.

Lord, turn our faces gently to the sun: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, it matters what we pray, but so does what we eat. It matters what we believe, but so does what we buy. It matters what we love, but so does our stewardship of all the bounty of this planet. It matters how we worship, but also where we work. It matters that we sing hymns of praise to you, but so does the care we take of this world that we call home.

Lord, turn our faces gently to the sun: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, you take the earth and all its inhabitants, and orchestrate the Babel of competing voices into a world of  beauty. However discordant the different strands may be, if we allow ourselves to receive your grace, you are always creating new harmonies. Let there be peace on earth this Christmastide. Let there be peace among nations and peace within nations. Let there be peace in our community and peace in our homes. And let it begin with me.

Lord, turn our faces gently to the sun: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we are hard-pressed by anxiety and discord while you shower blessings on the just and unjust. You endure with us the showers of black rain,  and the pain and evil that we face is but a drop in the vast ocean of your love. Lord, we are cold, empty, hungry, thirsty and broken . Come fire, come food, come glue, come glory; Comforter come to us.

Lord, turn our faces gently to the sun: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Creator of mankind, we are mortal, formed of the earth and to earth we return. Only you are immortal. Give rest to your servants with your saints, where sorrow and pain are no more, but give way to life everlasting.

Lord, turn our faces gently to the sun: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 


The prayers today are drawn from a variety of sources, including Jim Cotter’s ‘Out of Silence’, and Gerald Kelly’s ‘Twitturgies‘, which offers new insights every time I open its pages.

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Invitation to Confession (1st Sun. of Advent to Christmas Eve) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted) Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Blessing (1st Sun. of Advent until Christmas Eve) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Not Nones, Not De-Churched, Just Dones

Reblogging:

John is one in a growing multitude of ex-members. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They have not joined the also-growing legion of those with no religious affiliation—often called the Nones. Rather, John has joined the Dones.

At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.

For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews.

Why are the Dones done? Packard describes several factors in his upcoming book Church Refugees (Group). Among the reasons: After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One of Packard’s interviewees said, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.”

The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.

This is an extract from an important and fascinating blog post called ‘The Rise of the ‘Done With Church’ Population’ by Thom Schultz on Churchleaders.com. You can read the whole post here.

Thom Schultz’s post is of interest in connection with the thoughts published on Lay Anglicana by me, but more particularly in the comments on Fuzzy Church, Anyone?

Intercessions for 3rd Sunday of Advent Year B – 14 December 2014

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The Collect

O Lord Jesus Christ, who at your first coming sent your messenger to prepare your way before you: grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready your way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at your second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in your sight; for you are alive and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Isaiah 61.1-4,8-11

The servant of the Lord said:

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me;  he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,  to bind up the broken-hearted,  to proclaim liberty to the captives,  and release to the prisoners;  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour, and the day of vengeance of our God;  to comfort all who mourn;  to provide for those who mourn in Zion –  to give them a garland instead of ashes,  the oil of gladness instead of mourning,  the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness,  the planting of the Lord, to display his glory. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. For I the Lord love justice,  I hate robbery and wrongdoing; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants shall be known among the nations, and their offspring among the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge that they are a people whom the Lord has blessed. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my whole being shall exult in my God; for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations.

Psalm 126

Refrain: The Lord has indeed done great things for us.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, *then were we like those who dream.
Then was our mouth filled with laughter *and our tongue with songs of joy.
Then said they among the nations, *‘The Lord has done great things for them.’
The Lord has indeed done great things for us, *and therefore we rejoiced. R
Restore again our fortunes, O Lord, * as the river beds of the desert.
Those who sow in tears * shall reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed, * will come back with shouts of joy, bearing their sheaves with them.

Refrain: The Lord has indeed done great things for us.

 

Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5.16-24

My brothers and sisters, Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil. May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

 

Gospel Reading: John 1.6-8,19-28

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No.’ Then they said to him, ‘Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord”’, as the prophet Isaiah said. Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him, ‘Why then are you baptising if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptise with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.’ This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptising.

Today is Gaudete Sunday. ‘Despite the otherwise sombre readings of the season of Advent, which has as a secondary theme the need for penitence, the readings on the third Sunday emphasize the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming.’

 Prayers of Intercession

The following is again suggested by Visual Liturgy:

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge. We pray for …
Help us to live in the light of your coming
and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations. We pray for …
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter. We pray for …
Break into our lives, where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls. We remember …
Give us with all the faithful departed
a share in your victory over evil and death.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you, that with [N and] all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Silence is kept.

Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to your people,
who trust in your love. By your coming, raise us to share in the joy of your kingdom
on earth as in heaven, where you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit,
one God for ever and ever. Amen.


 

Let us pray to the source of all light and life.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, renew our hope for the building of your kingdom on earth and lead the Church home.  Restore the years that we have lost, that have been eaten by locusts. Through you, may we shatter even the bars of iron that impede our progress. Even when we feel locked in confrontation, despairing, move secretly within us and among us so that, without realising it, we find that we are, in fact, reconciled and moving forward on our journey to your celestial city. *

Lord, help us not to quench your Spirit : in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, guide the nations of our world so that all people may be enabled to sing for joy. Bring good news to the oppressed, bind up the broken-hearted and proclaim liberty to the captives. Remember those who carry on the difficult work of peace-making. You who bring hope out of emptiness and energy out of fear, comfort all those who have lost their homes through persecution, war, exile or deliberate destruction. Bless them with beauty instead of ashes, and instead of a spirit of despair a garment of unending praise.

Lord, help us not to quench your Spirit : in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, bless to a rich harvest all the signs of hope and growth in our community. May we so respect and love our neighbours, whose lives are linked to us both by physical proximity and by shared goals, that we do not fail in our loyalty to you above all, choosing each step along the path according to your will for us and those we live amongst.

Lord, help us not to quench your Spirit : in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, bring hope and comfort to those who are imprisoned in their own despair and pain. Comfort and raise up to new life those whose hearts are broken by sorrow. Teach us the art of patience when we are well and give us the use of it when we are sick. Grant in your mercy that our pain may be free from waste and rebellion, that it does not turn us in our ourselves. Rather teach us to be aware of that great sea of consciousness of which we are part, members one of another in your name.

Lord, help us not to quench your Spirit : in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we give thanks for all who have passed from this world and touched us with your fire. For all those who live beside us, whose weaknesses and strengths are woven with our own, we praise you. For all the saints who live beyond us and who challenge us to change the world with them, we give you thanks.

Lord, help us not to quench your Spirit : in your mercy, hear our prayer.

* This section of the intercessions is based on Jim Cotter’s reflections on Psalm 126 in Out of the Silence

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):
Invitation to Confession (1st Sun. of Advent to Christmas Eve) © 1988 Continuum (Mowbray) (Adapted)Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

 

‘Fuzzy Church’, Anyone?

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The Great Commission

The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose. –C. S. Lewis

We Have A Gospel To Proclaim

dog jumping up

courtesy http://www.woodshumanesociety.org/pet-care/wood-c-h-i-p-s.php

In our more enthusiastic moments, all convinced Christians feel an urge to shout from the roof tops ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good!’ - we have discovered a secret of living that makes an enormous difference for the better in our own lives, and we naturally want to share it with everyone.

Head and Heart

But even if they share your ebullient nature, the people on the receiving end of all this exuberant enthusiasm  were almost certainly thinking about something else when you made your pitch, since you probably did so at a time and place to suit you rather than them.

 

Hard Sell or Soft Sell?

Some priests put up hoardings saying ‘All Are Welcome’  (as if the presumed default position of the Church were the reverse), with unknown degrees of success. Other priests refuse to ‘sell’ the Church at all:

It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love. Billy Graham

(Of course, this is a little disingenuous on the part of Billy Graham, who was the greatest evangelist of recent times). At the other extreme,  people  ring doorbells of complete strangers, or walk up to them in shopping centres, asking whether they know Jesus. If the success rate of these confrontational approaches were high, we would  have heard about it by now. American advertising agencies have examined the two approaches.

‘Spiritual But Not Religious’

Dr Wendy Dackson has analysed this amorphous group of people,  first here on Lay Anglicana and then on her own Past Christian:  surely these are the people we should concentrate on reaching if we hope to extend the existing Christian community? How do we do this? Well, sticking up a sign saying ‘All Are Welcome’ must rate as ‘could do better’.

The shortest distance between two points is rarely a straight line.

Robert Twigger writes:

It could be a spiral, a slow spiral around one point and then a loop into the other. Or a zig zagging path … The more I observed my own …setbacks… and successes, the more I saw there was NO correlation between directness of route and success, or rather, there was: a negative correlation. The direct approach was the more likely either to fail or take twice as long… Straight lines are not to be found in nature. Look at the cracked mud of a field recently in the sun…Water is curved as it lies in a glass- surface tension. Trees branch, even very straight trees waver at the top.

Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions

seeks to transform communities and individuals through championing and resourcing new ways of being church. We work with Christians from a broad range of denominations and traditions and the movement has resulted in thousands of new congregations being formed alongside more traditional churches.

There is already a course called ‘Puzzling Questions’ which encourages those attending to discuss the four last things and so on, but the directing staff solution is a Christian one. The Fuzzy Church concept does have a common point of departure with Fresh Expressions – see  ‘Interest in spirituality is widespread’-  but takes it a step further.

 

The Proposition

Fuzzy Church would be an outreach of each participating community (parish/benefice). It would host a series of discussions (in the village hall or pub, preferably not the church?) on the meaning of life aka ‘puzzling questions’. (It would probably NOT be overtly called ‘Fuzzy Church’, but something more anodyne, perhaps ‘Puzzling Questions 2.0′?). The USP of Fuzzy Church is that these would be completely open-ended discussions, ie they would not seek to impose a directing staff solution or Christian answer to the question, but enter discussions with the rest of the audience with no preconceptions. Again, this is not completely original:

Mission Statement of St Stephen, Walbrook (after ‘Proclaim, celebrate and promote the good news of Jesus Christ to everyone in the City’)

Provide, without prejudice or expectation, a safe and welcoming place where people of all religious faiths or none can find spiritual inspiration, guidance, encouragement and support.

 

Why ‘Fuzzy’?

You’ve heard of fuzzy logic – its predecessor, Boolean logic, saw everything as either true or false, one thing or the other. Fuzzy logic allows for gradations of truth. For example, if you begin eating an apple, it begins as an apple and by the time you have finised eating, it has become an apple core. At what point in between did it cease to be an ‘apple’ and become an ‘apple core’?. Calvin College Engineering Department have put forward an explanation of fuzzy logic which even I can understand.

Machines that use fuzzy logic take the ‘truth’, fuzzify it in order to talk to the machine, and then de-fuzzify at the end.

 Why Fuzzy Church?

  • If atheist churches are increasingly popular, we would be tapping into the zeitgeist.
  • The idea costs nothing – at least nothing financial. It simply needs us to engage with people on the basis of  where they are and what they need. It would be a slower way of making Christians, but possibly one with more lasting foundations. It would be  fly-fishing (think Isaak Walton) rather than simply casting our nets and hoping for the best.
  • The discussions could be combined with a  liturgy in church, perhaps on the fifth Sunday of the month (ie four times a year) using prayers, songs and readings like those selected by the Templeton Foundation in ‘Worldwide Worship‘ .
  • The discussion groups could be based on existing house groups and/or those temporary groups which form for Lent and Advent study. Between Lent and Advent, (some of) the same people would engage with the agnostic but spiritual amongst the community who were willing so to engage.
  • There seems no need to hide the fact that it is a Church initiative – we are seeking to inform ourselves about the way others think, to debate our reasons for holding the beliefs that we  do,  and to seek after the truth.

 Is there any mileage in this, do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intercessions for 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B – 7 December 2014

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The Collect

O Lord, raise up, we pray, your power and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness we are grievously hindered in running the race that is set before us, your bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be honour and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

 

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Isaiah 40.1-11

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,  and cry to her  that she has served her term,  that her penalty is paid,  that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.  A voice cries out:  ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,  make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  Every valley shall be lifted up,  and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level,  and the rough places a plain.  Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,  and all people shall see it together,  for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’ A voice says, ‘Cry out!’  And I said, ‘What shall I cry?’  All people are grass,  their constancy is like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower fades,  when the breath of the Lord blows upon it;  surely the people are grass.  The grass withers, the flower fades;  but the word of our God will stand for ever.  Get you up to a high mountain,  O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength,  O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,  lift it up, do not fear;  say to the cities of Judah,  ‘Here is your God!’  See, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; his reward is with him,  and his recompense before him. He will feed his flock like a shepherd;  he will gather the lambs in his arms,  and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85.1-2,8-13

Lord, you were gracious to your land; * you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the offence of your people * and covered all their sins.
I will listen to what the Lord God will say, *  for he shall speak peace to his people and to the faithful, that they turn not again to folly.
Truly, his salvation is near to those who fear him, * that his glory may dwell in our land.
Mercy and truth are met together, * righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
Truth shall spring up from the earth  * and righteousness look down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give all that is good, * and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness shall go before him * and direct his steps in the way.

Second Reading: 2 Peter 3.8-15a

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Gospel Reading: Mark 1.1-8

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,  ‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way; the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”’. John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Prayers of Intercession

I urge you once again to read Jane Williams’ reflections on the lectionary for today – if you visit this page and search for ‘shopping’, it will appropriately take you to her thoughts on the Second Sunday of Advent.

The following is suggested by Visual Liturgy
In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge. We pray for …
Help us to live in the light of your coming and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations. We pray for …
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter. We pray for …
Break into our lives, where we struggle with sickness and distress,
and set us free to serve you for ever.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls. We remember …
Give us with all the faithful departed a share in your victory over evil and death.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory.
Lift us up to meet you, that with [N and] all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

 


¶The Church of Christ

Lord, help us to prepare a world into which the King of kings and Lord of lords will feel at home; help us to make ready a Church to worship Him which is worthy of the task. Take the dried grass and chaff that has accumulated and let your breath blow upon it. Send down the fire of your Holy Spirit to purify your Church and make us ready to receive Him. Raise up your people, we pray, from the daily squabbles that beset us and help us to unite in the face of the coming miracle that is promised.

Lord, may we be found watching and waiting: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord, still does your love strive with our waywardness, reaching across the abyss that is wrath, opening our eyes to the needs of those whom we cannot or will not see, compelling us to cherish an earth that is fragile. Mercy and truth will meet together, righteousness and peace will embrace. Faithfulness will spring up from the earth and justice leap to meet it from heaven. God of the whole earth and God of each land, teach us with a steady endurance to build at least the tents of justice. *

Lord, may we be found watching and waiting: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, as we prepare to celebrate in community the coming of the Christ child, we pray for all members of His body. We pray for those who are like us, and whom it is easy to love. We pray for those who think differently, with whom we find it difficult to live in common. We pray for the tired and the weak, that membership of the body may be a blessing and a healing for them. We pray for the strong, that they may also be gentle and compassionate. We pray for renewed grace to work together as one for the coming of your kingdom.

Lord, may we be found watching and waiting: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, giver of life and joy, comfort all those who mourn today. Whether it be the loss of those whom they love (either through death or the ending of a relationship); loss of their own health and strength; loss of hope or loss of confidence in the future, we ask you to comfort them with your healing and strengthening presence. May they know at the deepest level of their being that you will not forsake them, and that through the deepest of rivers and darkest of shadowed valleys you will carry them.

Lord, may we be found watching and waiting: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, we commend into your hands those whom we have loved. You gave them breath, and loved them throughout their lives. Receive them now in your infinite tenderness, and give them peace in company with all your saints.

Lord, may we be found watching and waiting: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

* This section of the intercessions is based on Jim Cotter’s reflections on Psalm 85 in Out of the Silence

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)


 

If you have a moment, you might like to look at (and I would appreciate it!) the next blog post, Fuzzy Church, Anyone? 

Intercessions for 1st Sunday of Advent Year B: 30 November 2014

dawn

Lighthouse vigil just before dawn

 

The Collect

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and to put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility; that on the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen

 

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Isaiah 64.1-9

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.
From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him. You meet those who gladly do right, those who remember you in your ways. But you were angry, and we sinned; because you hid yourself we transgressed. We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on your name, or attempts to take hold of you; for you have hidden your face from us, and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord, and do not remember iniquity for ever. Now consider, we are all your people.

Psalm 80.1-8,18-20

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, * you that led Joseph like a flock;
Shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim, * before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your mighty strength * and come to our salvation.
Turn us again, O God; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
O Lord God of hosts, * how long will you be angry at your people’s prayer?
You feed them with the bread of tears; * you give them abundance of tears to drink.
You have made us the derision of our neighbours, * and our enemies laugh us to scorn.
Turn us again, O God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Let your hand be upon the man at your right hand, * the son of man you made so strong for yourself.
And so will we not go back from you; * give us life, and we shall call upon your name.
Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; * show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1.3-9

My brothers and sisters: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind – just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you – so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Gospel Reading: Mark 13.24-37

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. ‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake – for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.’

Prayers of Intercession

The following is suggested by Visual Liturgy:

In joyful expectation of his coming to our aid we pray to Jesus.

Come to your Church as Lord and judge. We pray for …
Help us to live in the light of your coming and give us a longing for your kingdom.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to your world as King of the nations. We pray for …
Before you rulers will stand in silence.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to the suffering as Saviour and comforter. We pray for …
Break into our lives, where we struggle with sickness and distress, and set us free to serve you for ever.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come to us as shepherd and guardian of our souls. We remember …
Give us with all the faithful departed a share in your victory over evil and death.
Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come from heaven, Lord Jesus, with power and great glory. Lift us up to meet you, that with [N and] all your saints and angels
we may live and reign with you in your new creation.

Maranatha: Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

Come, Lord Jesus, do not delay; give new courage to your people, who trust in your love.
By your coming, raise us to share in the joy of your kingdom on earth as in heaven,
where you live and reign with the Father and the Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


 

Lord, open our eyes to your presence and our minds to your grace; open our lips to your praises and our hearts to your love; open our lives to your healing and come amongst us, we pray.

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, as we begin the season of Advent, we ask for your help in concentrating on preparing ourselves for the coming of the Christ child, rather than preparations for the social festivities and responsibilities of Christmas that have grown up alongside. Though these are important in building our life together as the Body of Christ, yet we also long for the treasure of stillness and watchfulness in response to the building darkness, knowing that in the end the Light of the World is to be born.

Lord, help us to become what you would have us be: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Radiant and glorious Lord, shining through the universe, lighting our jagged landscapes, guiding your troublesome peoples, straighten now the path of our coming, stride forth to meet us and save us. We have misused the freedom you gave us, we have felt the anger of your love. You have fed us with the bread of tears, and given us many a bitter drink. Yet you cared for us like young vines, nourishing the soil for our roots to deepen, and you sent us the warmth of the sun and the rain. Empower us again to follow your way, give us life and we shall delight in your name. *

Lord, help us to become what you would have us be: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The local community

Lord, we ask you to give us straw that we may make your bricks.  You are the potter and, as the clay that you mould, we too play our part. As we sense the shape into which you are trying to sculpt our community, help us to draw strength and inspiration from each other in the great work. Help us to be supple and pliable in your hands and, while you seek to work as one with the clay, help us to bend to your will. If the pot should become misshapen, help us to begin once again on the potter’s wheel with a new sense of direction and purpose.

Lord, help us to become what you would have us be: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, giver of life, we wait with you to bear your hope to earth’s darkest places: we wait at the places where darkness is deeper than the deepest pain. Lord, we ask you to teach those who suffer to hew the rock of hope from a mountain of despair. Be with them in the sharpness of their angular pain, and help them to become malleable to your will for them as they take on the comforting, rounded shape of being cradled and nurtured in your everlasting arms. May their pain be lessened or may they be fortified in their ability to endure, offering their suffering up to you.

Lord, help us to become what you would have us be: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord, you are both the journey and the journey’s end. You created us and have a purpose for each of us. We pray for those who have heard your call and met the hour of their death. May they rest in peace and rise in glory in communion with all the saints.

Lord, help us to become what you would have us be: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

 §

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above): Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2002 Blessing (1st Sun. of Advent until Christmas Eve) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

*Based on the commentary by Jim Cotter on Psalm 80

 

Westminster Faith Debates, Unity and Diversity: by Erika Baker

Capture

 


 


 

A purely subjective account

 

I had been really looking forward to the Westminster Faith Debate “Diversity – what kind of unity is appropriate nationally and internationally, how can diversity become a strength?”, the penultimate one in this year’s series organised by Professor Linda Woodhead from Lancaster University.

 

The format of the debates is a 5 minute talk by each of the panellists followed by a brief moderated discussion between them, which is really more a question and answer format than a genuine conversation between the speakers. There is then a period for contributions from the floor and slightly longer contributions from the designated provocateurs.

 

I won’t summarise all the contributions here, they can shortly be listened to here, and Colin Coward published a very good summary of them here  .

 

Laura has asked me for a “smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd” contribution… well, the first thing to say is that there was indeed a full crowd, plenty of spontaneous applause (as well as the customary “end of speech” version) and that there were many interesting questions raised by various people in the audience.

 

The first speaker was Bishop Trevor Mwamba from Botswana, now Assistant Bishop in Chelmsford. I must confess, I had not heard of Bishop Trevor before and my initial suspicion was “an African bishop, well, we can guess where this is going”. I was delighted when Bishop Trevor spoke warmly about embracing diversity, and I also felt hugely ashamed of my completely unfounded original prejudice. SUCH a dangerous thing, suspicion and prejudice, and although I try so hard to be genuinely open to everyone, I still catch myself out every now and then.

 

It made me think that much of our debates around women bishops and about lgbt inclusion is characterised by mutual suspicion.

 

That perception was reinforced when the discussion was opened up to the floor and the first question was for a show of hands about whether the audience believed that the vote on women bishops had been a success and that it would provide stability and unity in difference. The vast majority voted “yes”, but I sensed with great hesitation, and if we had known that there would be a third option “we don’t know yet”, many of us would probably have voted for that. Talking to people afterwards, it was clear that traditionalists weren’t sure that the promises given to them would be kept indefinitely, whereas the women were still shocked by the complete lack of joy and celebration in General Synod after the final vote in favour and felt that there was still a very long way to go before the church truly celebrated women’s ministry.

 

One of the key comments for me came from Miranda Threlfall-Holmes who said that when she had first been one of those who came up with the idea of “mutual flourishing” it had been intended to be not a legalistic but a relational concept whereby we are each committed to the flourishing of the other. Since then, the term had morphed to mean “my right” to “my own flourishing”.

It is not clear to me why we can’t have both, why a focus on someone else’s flourishing is seen as threatening my own rights and place. And for me our inability to say not “either/or” but “both” will remain one of the great mysteries of our church debates. But if we could do what Miranda proposes, if we could focus on relationships and on the flourishing of the other, we would be a good deal further on than we are.

 

The actual debate was incredibly polite and measured, to the point that Simon Sarmiento criticised the panellists for being too nice to each other.

 

Someone from the floor commented that people tend to be nice when they meet face to face but that they can be quite vicious online.

 

Yes…. but no. It’s not the tone of the debate that’s the problem but its content. Anger and insults are as counterproductive as this appalling ice cold, dismissive politeness that so often characterises our conversations. Last night’s debate was perfectly polite but also, at some level, perfectly bland. I suspect it’s partly the format of the moderated panel discussion that does not allow a robust debate to develop. All anyone can do is to disagree politely and there is no mechanism and no time for teasing out the root of disagreement and of engaging with that passionately.

 

For me, coming from the lgbt sector, there is the added frustration of this huge imbalance of power, because my views about my own life still count for nothing in the church. We are still not formally included in the next round of discussions, which feels like yet again others talking passionately about us behind closed doors, reserving the right to make decisions on our behalf.

Having heard David Porter speak, I do believe that if anyone can make a go of guiding the conversations in the church, it is him. He has a sense of urgency and an appreciation of the difficulties on all sides. And yet, suspicion remains my overriding emotion.

 

This was encapsulated perfectly by a passionate contribution from the floor from a woman who had the courage to make the debate personal and who started by saying that God clearly had a sense of humour, making her female, gay and evangelical! She asked about the reality of lgtb suffering in the church and at the hand of church. And while there was passionate applause for her and some very heart-felt comments from the panellists, especially from Alan Wilson and Miranda, Andrew Symes from Anglican Mainstream acknowledged that Christian demands weren’t always easy for people and that one had to have compassion, but that one nevertheless had to draw lines…and we were back in the “head space”, the territory of supposedly purely theological and rational debate about us, where people take ownership of their ideas but no responsibility for the impact these ideas have on real people’s lives. And we just have to sit back and trust these people to decide our future in the church… not easy!

 

Fascinating also how we all hear each other’s contributions in our own way, reinforcing our own thoughts.

Miranda spoke very clearly about the problems presented by the bible, about how the historical texts get many things wrong, about the various theologies and the diversity within its many books.

Andrew, in his final summing up, commented that one of the things he had heard that evening was that people had problems with the bible. He stressed that he didn’t have any, his church didn’t have any.

And it was clear that had heard what Miranda had said as a liberal admission of confusion rather than complexity, and of not taking the bible seriously.

We have this inability to truly hear what the other is saying and we only ever seem to reinforce our own stereotype of their views.

 

How can one break through this?

For a possible approach we could turn to the women bishops debate and the almost hopeless situation after the first vote was lost in General Synod. There seemed no way out, everything had been said, people were talking at each other rather than with each other, there was a sense of fatigue, and one could almost believe that it would be impossible to break the deadlock.

Yesterday, David Porter talked about that moment and about the facilitated conversations that followed.

At the start of the subsequent facilitated conversations he asked everyone to take half an hour to think about how the debate so far had impacted on them.

And everyone replied that it had damaged their souls.

With that common experience, that shared admission at the heart of the issue, it became possible to find a new way forward.

Of course, women were eventually an official part of the debate about women bishops in the House of Bishops as well as in the House of Clergy and the House of Laity, whereas lgbt people are still not properly represented in the official process. It matters, because until you can hear everyone’s voices you cannot reach a stable solution. And it matters, because while we are not included, we remain on the outside, firmly and increasingly suspicious.

 

But we are where we are and this is the point from which we must move forward.

So maybe it’s time to do the same in the lgbt debate. It’s time for all of us accept not only our own hurt but that we are all damaged by this discussion, and that we must find a way forward. For our sakes, for the sake of those who oppose us and for the sake of the whole church. And if official church won’t include us in its conversations, we have to continue to shout loudly from the sidelines.

 

The diversity is already there. We don’t need to talk about whether we can have it or not. We need to recognise it honestly and find an honest and open way of living with it.

How could that be possible? Maybe we have discussed the morality of same sex relationships to death. We won’t agree and it’s time to shift the focus. It’s time to recognise that all sides in this debate hold their views with sincerity, integrity and great faith. If we could learn to respect each other and to recognise each other’s integrity, we could follow Alan Wilson’s practical and thoroughly scriptural proposal and recognise that Romans 14 requires us to live with diversity and that it provides a blueprint for how this is possible.

 

Can we do that?

Yesterday’s debate didn’t offer an answer, but it did offer some small measure of hope.


 

 Note by editor:

-Thank-you Erika – you have brilliantly filled the gap that I was feeling. Like many people, I have been avidly listening to the podcasts and reading the Facebook discussions arising from the debates in this series. What I was really missing was the camaraderie, the human exchanges and this piece really transports me and our readers to the debating chamber

-Attempting to find a copyright-free illustration to this post, I have taken a snapshot of the blog page on the Westminster Faith Debates website, which I think and hope does not transgress copyright law. But if anyone objects, I will of course remove it.

 

 

Intercessions for Christ the King Year A: 23 November 2014

The Collect

Eternal Father, whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven that he might rule over all things as Lord and King: keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet; who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading:  Ezekiel 34.11-16,20-24

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep. I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

Psalm 95.1-7a

O come, let us sing to the Lord; * let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving *  and be glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God * and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth * and the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, * and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down * and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God.

Second Reading:  Ephesians 1.15-23

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love towards all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel Reading:  Matthew 25.31-46

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’


The spirituality of this festival must never be forgotten or understated. No one recognised this more than Henri Nouwen in his Sabbatical Journey: ‘on the last Sunday of the liturgical year, Christ is presented to us as the mocked King on the Cross as well as the King [of the] universe. The greatest humiliation and the greatest victory are both shown to us in today’s liturgy. It is important to look at this humiliated and victorious Christ before we start the new liturgical year with the celebration of Advent. All through the year we have to stay close to the humiliation as well as to the victory of Christ, because we are called to live both in our own daily lives.’ Canon Terry Palmer, Church Times, 14 November 2014

Prayers of Intercession

Today we address our prayers to the second person of the Trinity, King of kings and Lord of lords,  as we thank Him for the last year and for the fellowship of our worshipping community here in this benefice [parish]. As we set out towards a new horizon, let us put our hands into His hand in the knowledge that it will be better than light and safer than a known way.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord Jesus Christ,  may we grow in faith and knowledge of you.  Help us to be your body on earth. Where we walk too slowly, give us courage and a helping nudge in the right direction. Where we run too fast, give us a stone in the shoe, and wisdom to ponder. If things take time, help us to hold on to hope. If solutions are slow to emerge, may we stay strong in faith. Give us the patience and forbearance to wait for the ripening of the fruit in due season.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

All thrones, dominions, principalities and powers are subject to your reign, O Lord. The world is charged with your grandeur, whether flaming out like lightning or wrung from the press like oil. We are daily reminded of the continual renewing power of your creation in the way morning always waits on the other side of dark night. Your grandeur pervades every part of the created universe, if your people will only look at their surroundings and we, too, are part of your creation.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The local community

Lord and king, help us, your subjects, to be servants to one another,  mindful that in imitating your example we shall meet you in the most unlikely of places. For our hands offering bread to the hungry and drink to the thirsty are yours. And the hands reaching out to receive are yours also.  The sick that we take care of are you and the stranger that we welcome into our midst is you. You taught us by example how to touch the lives of our fellow men. Help us so that our own wounds may bear fruit in love. May the pains of the past create in us compassion. Stir up * in us generosity, graciousness in giving, and lavishness in love.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶Those who suffer

Lord, son of David, we pray for all who are in need. Heal us and give us the hope that we cannot grasp alone. When we cannot hope because we have forgotten how to dream, kindle a fire in our hearts.  Hear us and help us; hear us and heal us.  Heal us and let us follow; heal us and fill our hearts, our souls and our bodies with your Spirit; heal us and open the gates of heaven.

Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 

¶The communion of saints

Lord of the dance, we pray for all those whom we love who have departed this life.  As we cross the ocean of eternity, losing the shoreline as we seek new horizons, teach us how to trust.  Let all that is deadly in us die, knowing that all that is godly will be raised. Into light, into freedom, into the Trinity of God where you reign, draw us, our Saviour.

 Guide us, O Lord, to a new beginning: in your mercy, hear our prayer

 


 

* A nod to ‘Stir Up Sunday‘, the old name for this Sunday for which the collect was:

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Lo! he comes, with clouds descending,
once for our salvation slain;
thousand thousand saints attending
swell the triumph of his train:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Christ the Lord returns to reign.

Every eye shall now behold him,
robed in dreadful majesty;
those who set at nought and sold him,
pierced, and nailed him to the tree,
deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
shall the true Messiah see.

Those dear tokens of his passion
still his dazzling body bears,
cause of endless exultation
to his ransomed worshipers;
with what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
gaze we on those glorious scars!

Now redemption, long expected,
see in solemn pomp appear;
all his saints, by man rejected,
now shall meet him in the air:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
See the day of God appear!

Yea, amen! let all adore thee,
high on thine eternal throne;
Savior, take the power and glory;
claim the kingdom for thine own:
Alleluia! alleluia! alleluia!
Thou shalt reign, and thou alone.

 


Copyright acknowledgement: Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA. Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000. Introduction to the Peace (After All Saints’ to 1st of Adv.) © The Archbishops’ Council 2002. Post Communion (Christ the King) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

Intercessions for 2nd Sunday before Advent Year A: 16 November 2014

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The Collect

Heavenly Father, whose blessed Son was revealed to destroy the works of the devil and to make us the children of God and heirs of eternal life: grant that we, having this hope, may purify ourselves  even as he is pure; that when he shall appear in power and great glory we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy  Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

¶ The Liturgy of the Word

First Reading: Zephaniah 1.7,12-18

Be silent before the Lord God!  For the day of the Lord is at hand;  the Lord has prepared a sacrifice,  he has consecrated his guests.  At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps,  and I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs,  those who say in their hearts,  ‘The Lord will not do good,  nor will he do harm.’  Their wealth shall be plundered,  and their houses laid waste.  Though they build houses,  they shall not inhabit them;  though they plant vineyards,  they shall not drink wine from them.  The great day of the Lord is near,  near and hastening fast;  the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there.  That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.

 

Psalm 90.1-8(9-11)12

Lord, you have been our refuge * from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or the earth and the world were formed, * from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
You turn us back to dust and say: * ‘Turn back, O children of earth.’
For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday, * which passes like a watch in the night.
You sweep them away like a dream; * they fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and flourishes; * in the evening it is dried up and withered.
For we consume away in your displeasure; * we are afraid at your wrathful indignation.
You have set our misdeeds before you * and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.
When you are angry, all our days are gone; * our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are three score years and ten, or if our strength endures, even four score; * yet the sum of them is but labour and sorrow, for they soon pass away and we are gone.
Who regards the power of your wrath * and your indignation like those who fear you?
So teach us to number our days * that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

 

Second Reading:  1 Thessalonians 5.1-11

Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 25.14-30

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘The kingdom of heaven is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, “Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, “Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.” His master said to him, “Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, “Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” But his master replied, “You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”’


 

The Revd Gill Sumner, writing in ‘The Ministry of the Word‘ (p.378), says ‘Those who try to preserve ways of doing theology or worship or ministry unchanged are left with devalued currency. Faith is given to be developed, spiritual understanding to be deepened, sacrificial service to be extended, opportunities for witness to be seized.’

Jane Williams is perceptive and has a different interpretation, which is worth reading in full. (If you go to this page, you can find the passage on pp 128-129 by searching for ‘maverick’):

‘To this man, God is not ‘good news’ because he is too obsessed with his own failure…he has turned his failure into a weapon. …he cannot recognize good news because he doesn’t actually know himself at all. In order to hear good news, you have to have some idea of what would constitute good news for your situation. But this slave is only looking for the downside of everything. He doesn’t want any good news, because he’s sure there will be a drawback in it somewhere’.

Prayers of Intercession

 

¶The Church of Christ

Lord, where do we find you? We make these prayers together once again in the dominant building of our community. But it makes assumptions not borne out by experience, for prayer is made in village [city] streets and gathering places as well as the tranquility of our church, and bruised and broken people live in both spheres.  We acknowledge that you are elusive, not tame. You slip out of the fortress built to keep you safe and available on demand. You wander the streets and search the hedgerows, looking for allies willing to try the steep hill of connection. Teach us, Lord, to keep you company in work and prayer, without prescribing the time and place. *

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Creation, human society, the Sovereign and those in authority

Lord of the light, shine on your world. Shine that we may be given the courage to work for justice. Give us a lifeline of spirit, an injection of hope so that we may see the possibilities in the predictable and everyday. Replenish us with your vision and renew us with the power of transformative action. Dawning God, dispel all the thoughts and fears of night, and give us and all your creation refreshment and renewal that we might this day reflect your light into the lives of others.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The local community

Lord, grant us grace to discern what is right for us and pleasing to you. Draw into your service all in our community that they may become part of the building of your kingdom. Help us to hold fast to that which is good, that which is true, that which is honest, that which is  just, that which is pure and that which is lovely. Then, through your grace we may leave behind all that is unworthy within us and become truly your children of light.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶Those who suffer

Lord, we pray for all those who suffer, whether from physical pain or because they are struggling with the forces of darkness within. A pain which invades and diminishes us, a pain which makes all else difficult if not humanly impossible. A pain which dissipates prayer and melts our spirit. Help us once again to look upwards and outwards towards the light.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

¶The communion of saints

Creator of life, of death, in the morning of our lives you shape us from clay, and as we are crumbled to earth you return us to the dust: so did you order our days. God of eternity, God beyond time, you are our refuge and our hope from one generation to another. May your grace be upon us: fill us with the spirit of your love. For in the evening of our days when we come to be judged, we shall be delivered only by love.

Lord, amidst the confusions of time, may we hear the heartbeat of your eternity: in your mercy, hear our prayer.

 

*Based on ‘No easy place’ by Ann Lewin. More generally, the prayers take inspiration today from Jim Cotter’s reflections on Pslm 90 in ‘Out of the Silence’.

1. Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.
Old now is earth, and none may count her days.
Yet thou, her child, whose head is crowned with flame,
Still wilt not hear thine inner God proclaim,
Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.

2. Earth might be fair, and all men glad and wise.
Age after age their tragic empires rise,
Built while they dream, and in that dreaming weep:
Would man but wake from out his haunted sleep,
Earth might be fair and all men glad and wise.

3. Earth shall be fair, and all her people one:
Nor till that hour shall God’s whole will be done.
Now, even now, once more from earth to sky,
Peals forth in joy man’s old undaunted cry—
Earth shall be fair, and all her folk be one!

Source: The Cyber Hymnal #6966


Copyright acknowledgement : Post Communion (2nd before Advent) © 1985 Mowbray, a Cassell Imprint:After Communion compiled by C L Macdonnell Some material included in this service is copyright: © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ, USA Some material included in this service is copyright: © The Archbishops’ Council 2000 Collect (2nd before Advent) © The Crown/Cambridge University Press: The Book of Common Prayer (1662)

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