Thursday, December 31, 2009

Really Living...

Frederick Buechner points to the danger of 'reducing life to size', and gets us to think about life beyond reducing it even to 'a mystery'. Life he says is the mystery, the one true miracle. Here's a good review of the year...
  • 'Have you wept at anything during the past year?'
  • 'Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die?'
  • 'Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty?'
  • 'More often than not do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn to speak!'
  • 'Is there anyone you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself?'
Buechner suggests that if you answer no to all or most of these questions the chances are that you are already dead!

Buechner F (1992) Listening to your Life. Harper Collins.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas - What no Bob...!

Christmas has felt a little different this year.

It still had all the carolling, even in our street in the snow with a random drummer who turned up to play. Still thoroughly enjoyed the tension of Christmas dinner at Southwark SA with the mix of inner city characters that turn up every year. Playing guitar to the carols for the Christmas Day service while running out to check on the veg, keeping an eye on two heroin smokers and a huge dog is something Gordon Ramsey didn't have to do this year!

But for me two things have been missing. No Bob! No TV (as such!). Christmas day without Bob trying to be funny or whingeing about the custard is a bit like Christmas without tinsel!

Getting through Christmas having only watched highlights on BBC iplayer has meant that my annual Christmas rant about TV Licence, Sky, not like the old days etc... has disappeared. While I haven't missed the TV, I hope Bob is alright!

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Incidently thoroughly enjoyed Top Gear and Sting in Durham Cathedral. Anything else I should be looking out for?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Salvation Army Officer shot...

This is a very sad sad story - I'm passing on the details as requested in an email.

More here

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Many of you may be aware but for those who are not, A Salvation Army corps
officer was murdered yesterday in Little Rock, Arkansas. Major Philip Wise,
40 years old, was returning to the corps building with his three young
children after taking bell ringers home. Two armed men approached him and
demanded money. They then shot him in front of his children. His wife Cindy
was in the building and called 911. Major Wise was a devoted officer,
father and husband beloved by many in the community. He and his family were
preparing for a trip to West Virginia to spend time with extended family
for Christmas.

Please uphold Cindy and these three precious children in prayer as well as
the extended family and the corps family and community

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who needs theology? An imitation to the study of God ...

Thanks to new doctrine man at college Captain Steve Dutfield, I read a fascinating chapter in 'Who needs theology? An imitation to the study of God' by S. J. Grenz & R. E. Olson

I found some interesting parallels with some of the faith development material I have been reading as Grenz and Olson identify theologizing as a spectrum of reflection. This process of formalised thinking is how we use "our minds to organise our thoughts and beliefs, bring them into coherence with one another by attempting to identify and expunge blatant contradictions, and make sure that there are good reasons for interpreting Christian faith in the way we do". This, they suggest, is a necessary part of any maturing thought process as we reflect even to the extent that we may have been believing wrongly or incompletely.

Grenz and Olson locate their observation in the stages or levels of theological reflection that follow. I've paraphrased their thoughts, the extremities are where the church's influence will be undermined. With the bulk of congregations feeding from a theology that at best could be seen as a Folk Theology it would seem that there is quite some work to be done.

Here's what they say...

Folk theology - unreflective believing based on blind faith rejecting critical reflection and enthusiastically embraces simplistic acceptance of a tradition of beliefs and practices composed mainly of cliches and legends. Intellectual reflection is considered anti Christian even heretical. Folk theology is epitomised and perpetuated by popular Christian bumper stickers, choruses, cliches and legends. Lazy theology with little substance, comfortable with inner inconsistency and unquestionable belief in sensational stories and pithy cliches. It encourages gullibility, vicarious spirituality and simplistic answers to difficult dilemmas. It stunts growth and blunts the influence of Christianity in the world.

Lay theology - appears when folk theology with its simplistic cliches and legends is questioned. While seen by those characterised by a folk theology as evidence of a diminishing spirituality, lay theology represents serious attempts to examine and understand faith through seeking to bring Christian beliefs into a coherent whole through questioning.

Ministerial theology - more depth of reflection as attempts are made to interpret scripture and make more meaningful application to everyday life.

Professional theology - further still along the spectrum. Attempt to further develop critical consciousness. This sometimes appears to others as skepticism and hostility toward piety and devotion. This is a perception that is often laboured with great agony.

Academic theology - philosophical aimed at other theologians. Disconnected from the church with little application to Christian living.

Pp 25- 35

Friday, December 18, 2009

Festive Respect...

I started the mental maths of working the ages of each person that had died and felt the discomfort of each life, but one, younger than me
The words of the carol hung in the air as the list went on. A respectful silence met each name, a name of someone from the street homeless community who had died this year. What made singing Silent Night followed by the roll of honour so poignant was that this carol service was for a community who knew these people and understood the fragility of life that the street brings.

1962 ... 1975 ... 1965 ... 1980 ... 1967 ... I started the mental maths of working the ages of each person that had died and felt the discomfort of each life, but one, younger than me. 1965 ...1982 ... 1970 ... 1972, something inside me felt intensely sad that the street had take its toll on these men and women who by and large were anonymous in their lives and certainly anonymous in their death. Or were they? I looked around the room and felt the corporate sadness.

The list finished, respect was payed and the moment was gone as the 30-40 people who had gathered for the Faith House Carol service moved on in their way to celebrate Christmas together with a special festive love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Missionary who wouldn't retire...

Leslie Newbigin used to come and teach a whole morning at college, the year before we trained this stopped as by then he was getting frail and his eyesight had gone. At the time I can't remember being that bothered, but now I look back and think what an opportunity that would have been and for many, I hope being able to sit back and listen to that remarkable mind remains an unforgettable experience. I've just seen that he would have been 100 this year and Christianity Today have a good article that is worth a look at if you are interested in the themes and influence of Newbigin (here).

The gospel according to Newbigin challenges this thinking in two distinct ways. First, he calls us back to a gospel that brings personal reconciliation with God, but also a gospel that connects us with God's reconciling purposes in conscience, culture, church, creation, and cosmos. Second, he calls us back to a gospel that is more than a series of bullet points, a story that centers on the flesh-and-blood character of the divine Christ.

It was good to be reminded that:
"the church is, by its very nature, missional. Which then has two
major implications. First, the church, not the individual, is the basic unit of
evangelism. A community that lives out the truth of the gospel is the best
context in which to understand its proclamation....Second, the unity of the
church matters to the mission of the church. Disunity undercuts the gospel of
reconciliation that we claim to bring to the world."


(January 2010, Vol. 54, No. 1)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One in the eye for X factor

"The X Factor has had a monopoly over the Christmas Number One but there is a real buzz about Rage Against The Machine," William Hill's Rupert Adams said. "We might just have the biggest upset in Christmas chart history!"
I can't help but be drawn to the subversion of the Cowell induced Mariahfication of music, the thumb in the eye to the unrelenting blandness of X- factor! I'm definitely certain that the lyrics of the song aren't something I particularly want on my iPod, but I can't help but like the slapping down of the kind of smugness that expects a Christmas number one. There is something within me that wants to cheer on the potential unwinding of the outright manipulation that has been Saturday night TV for months.

All this following a Facebook campaign to have Rage Against the Machine take the Christmas top spot break X Factor’s festive monopoly. Apparently William Hill have been forced to suspend all bets.

Simon Cowell says this defiance to his 'music machine' is stupid!

I'd love it...!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Why we are waiting..

Ready steady slow...

"We hope for a world in which we have learned to live with the grain of things, to live patiently, to live respectfully, to live in a way that takes our environment seriously..."
Dr. Rowan Williams

Be invited to take time out this Advent to slow down and consider your lifestyle with daily challenges and thoughts. For anyone looking for an advent calender with a difference the Church of England's whywearewaiting is a useful site containing a range of reflections, actions and video clips.

Welcome to the season of Advent (albeit a few days late!).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Welcome to another Mrs Cotterill....

Congratulations to Dave and Cerys (aka Cave and Derys) on their wedding. It was great to be part of a great day and to spend time with the Cotterill clan and friends.

Welcome Cerys!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Going up stream...

There was a flavour of Jubilee as momentum and strength was drawn from a congregation of diversity committed to social, economic and environmental justice; committed to going upstream to exert pressure together for 'the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow'

There's a well worn story with a variety of versions that takes place in a village on a river bank, this is one:
One summer in the village, the people in the town gathered for a picnic. As they leisurely shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was going to drown! Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river, and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river, and the towns people were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river.

"Where are you going?" shouted one of the rescuers. "We need you here to help us save these babies!"

"We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!"
Social justice means going upstream to stop whoever is throwing babies in the river.

It was interesting last week to be involved and to see the power of grassroots local politics rearing up in solidarity to exert pressure on politics through the power of accountability. I was at the AGM of London Citizens so was Mayor Boris Johnson having to fog his way through his election promises, there was no room to hide in London's Barbican Centre in front of 2000 people. With his promises of 15 months projected on the cinemaesque screen.

Bankers, lawyers and most significantly politicians were made to promise action and involvement on Living Wage, Responsible lending, Cap on interest rates together with Financial literacy and investment into local mutual banking. No fudging the issue 'will you promise to work with us?' No walking away from the podium without a handshake. Everything carefully minuted. All discreetly and cleverly orchestrated by Dr Luke Bretherton.This was kingdom stuff tackling the inequity of financial domination over the powerless within economic crisis. There was a flavour of Jubilee as momentum and strength was drawn from a congregation of diversity committed to social, economic and environmental justice; committed to going upstream to exert pressure together for 'the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow'.