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Tag Archives: Christianity

Christian values in the UK today…

Every so often there is a call in some of the press about the UK being a Christian nation, and that we should have Christian values. But then again there is also the saying to be careful for what you wish because you might just get it.

So at the end of a week when there is what I can only see as a created controversy over the inclusion or not of “Easter” in the name of some events. We have on the one hand those who say that it is all bad because some lumps of chocolate (wrapped in foil with pirates, robots and princesses on) that are hunted for don’t have the name Easter associated with them. As Mark Steel puts it “Theresa May is right: if we let someone drop ‘Easter’ off an egg hunt, we may as well hand Britain to the jihadis

But of course this is in the same week that the Churches raised the issues of child poverty and the effects changes in the benefits system on this. Of course this is not new, as the the item from the Joint Public Issues Team highlights, there have been a number of reports and items raised on this. Going back to 2015 there was the Enough campaign. And even further back the church has been raising such issues. What also surfaced for me this week was a piece in the Guardian where (the then) Victoria Coren defended the Bishops of the Church of England for standing up for children in the befits system – and this was back in 2012.

 

So what are Christian values, to me the latter set of standing up for the poor, the oppressed, being a voice for the voiceless. As it is put in the letter of James

26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

and then there is continual call in Deuteronomy about how we care for the widow, orphan and stranger, with just two examples below.

1018 who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing.

2417 You shall not deprive a resident alien or an orphan of justice; you shall not take a widow’s garment in pledge.

So for me once we have sorted out what can be seen as core Christian values; as come from Jesus him self, and of course he then goes on to explain who a neighbour is

25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he said, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What do you read there?’ 27 He answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 And he said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ (Luke 10:25-28)

And for who is my neighbour – Luke 10:25-37

 

Then we can try for the minor things like chocolate eggs…

 
 

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The political but not partisan

With all that’s going on at the moment, it is difficult to not just let my own views take over what I say in the pulpit. At times yes I need to give my own views and opinions… however these view need to be rooted in scripture and faith, and when preaching, when I

interpret those sacred stories of our community, so that they speak a word to people today [Ordinations service of the Singapore Methodist Church]

It is my place to let me get in the way of the message, but at times it can be hard. This thinking has been kicked off by others having similar issues, in this case David over at Beloved Spear, and how he is dealing with things in the US.

So now we wait and see, but keep in mind the teaching of Christ and ways of God.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Ministry

 

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Dressing the part

I’ve looked a little at how ministers appear as they do in the past, mainly to do with age. However I came across this today, which speaks of being dressed in a cassock and the the effect it had on the wearer. Also the fact that it is seen as a uniform, which is very much the reason I wear it, and that’s the answer to the question. Which is sometimes asked, and mainly when I’m ether wearing a clerical shirt and collar or in vestments. So I thought I’d put together some answers. Firstly however I’ll say that there is no required dress code for British Methodist Presbyters – however British Methodist Deacons being part of a religious order do have a uniform. However there is still the question of what to wear when “working”.

Why I tend to wear a clerical shirt and collar

Part of the ministers role is a public representative one; this means often being a public face on behalf of a local congregation or the wider church. And even today most people seem to recognise a clerical shirt and collar. So at the student lunch, or the church Coffee Morning I’ll wear it so folks can pick me out with ease. This also comes in useful when I’m around different parts of the circuit, people will see the collar and see a minister, and this can be the start of many conversations, a chance to reach out. So the shirt and collar to me is a uniform, something that signals to people what I am, and at times let them see the role rather than the person – much as with shop staff in uniform so you can spot them; a police man or a doctor in white coat.

Why I tend to wear vestments

So when leading services I can be seen at times wearing a black cassock, with white preaching bands, and sometimes a stole on.

So first the cassock, this was originally an overcoat, worn to cover up the every day clothes, and was till not that long ago standard outdoor wear for some clergy. I tend to wear a cassock to remind me that when leading worship I’m doing something out of the ordinary – and also to cover up the clothes I’m wearing be it smart or not. Also this presents a plain black image, so as not to distract with what I’m wearing. As one person put it, “It’s just a fancy boiler suit” and for me it is. It is something I put on to remind me of what I’m doing.

The preaching bands – the two strips of white cloth that hang down from my neck – are an extension of the clerical collar, and in part related to the neck tie. I tend to wear this as one would wear tie, to finish the outfit off. Also it is part of the traditional dress of Wesleyan Methodist Ministers, and acts as an expression of me placing my self within this traditions.

Finally the stole – the scarf like item – is one of the traditional symbols of ordination, and something shared with the wider church. This tends to be why I mainly wear it when leading sacramental service (Baptism and a the Lord’s Supper), or other special services (high days, weddings and funerals and so forth). Also the colour relates to the season of the year;

  • White for celebration – Christmas and Easter
  • Purple for penitence – Advent and Lent
  • Red for the Holy Spirit – Pentecost and times of renewal
  • Green for the rest of the time.

So part of why I dress as I do is to express a link with the wider church, and with the church tradition of which I’m a part. However there are also practical considerations, in not distracting and appearing in a respectable manner. Though as said, there is no right or wrong way for a Methodists minister to dress, and the verity of clothing that can be seen on ministers is as varied as the ministers.

If you would like further history of how some Methodist ministers have dressed; then Norman Wallwork’s “Blackbirds and Budgerigars” might be of interest.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Ministry, Seen by the outside

 

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Reading of the “Word”

Recently I have been thinking about the way in which I read the Bible. Firstly I see the Bible as a book shelf, not as a single volume but as a collection of works drawn together to show the relationship between God and humanity and the response of humanity to God. Within this I do see that the Bible is inspired by God – but I don’t think that God sat there and dictated it word for word. I am aware that the Bible is made up of letter; history; legal books; advice and proverbs; poetry; prophetic writings; political challenges; humour; and the Gospels – the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.

 

However I have found that there are five general ways in general that I read the Bible, in no particular order:

  1. Pastoral reading – this is the reading that I do to prepare sermons, this is for me reading the Bible to hear most of all what it has to say in the situation in which I am to preach, as well as the general message to the current age.
  2. Academic reading – this is the reading to come to know the background of the text, the delving into the history of it, and what at times the Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic meant or could have meant
  3. Devotional reading – this for me is my reading of the Bible in daily prayer; often to a set pattern and trying to keep the discipline of reading the sections set.
  4. Getting to know reading – this is for me reading to come to know the Bible better; it links to me devotional reading, but at times will move away from it. This is an attempted to come to know the body of Bible better.
  5. Personal reading – this is the reading that I do my self, when I open the Bible and simply mediate upon the word with no other purpose but to dwell upon it and listen to it.

So why think about the way in which I read the Bible, in part this is the question of how to approach the text before me. Some of the tools used will cross over and not be individual to one way of reading. However the way of looking at the text will change, what am I trying to get from – if anything – the text.

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2015 in Ministry, Spiritual Vocab

 

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Time, and it’s use

First apologies for the lack of updates of late, but here is one.

So about a month ago, I heard on the radio about a new nutrient pill, that meant one didn’t have to “waste time” eating. On the radio program “A Point of View” John Gray spoke about the fact that people want to be busy all the time, and have our time filled. Now about the same time on Seedbed they had something about Why Worship is a Royal Waste of Time. Now this spoke about worship being there for its own sake, and not to generally do other things.

Now looking at these two things together, first that people want their lives to be filled and with no space in them, but then worship is not a “productive” use of time. I ponder if the filling of time is a good thing, should all be measured in how many time units are allocated to things, or do some things have a different measure on them.

But also is this one of the ways that the church is counter-cultural?

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2014 in Ministry, Spiritual Vocab

 

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Hear the words

One of the things that I find helpful in worship is to listen. Now some may say, yes but that is what we all do. But for me it is a case of listening to readings and other long sections of text, to listen and take in the words. And to not be reading them. Now I know different people engage with information and so forth differently, however I do like listening to readings in church. I find that I will often hear things that I may never of noticed when reading (this even happens during services, that in hearing the words something new to come to light).

However I do wonder if we lose something when everyone has their head in a book as the person up front reads out what they are also reading. I’d also say that I like worship that uses set texts – in fact I raised on it. A Greek Orthodox Priest on this topic spoke of the words being learnt from childhood, that they become part of us and we don’t need to follow them in a book. And to this I say Amen.

Christian say we follow the living Word, so let us have to words dwell in us.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Mystery, Spiritual Vocab

 

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Duality

Duality

The bodiless soul
is unrooted.
The soulless body
shall no soar.
The spiritual alone
is without reality.
The material alone
is without the other.
Justiceless mercy
does no satisfy.
Merciless justice
does no satisfy.
Duality can often
be divided to much.
Uniformity can often
not be broad enough.

 

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Mystery, Poetry

 

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