Monday, 27 September 2010

Highs and Lows

Bit of a roller-coaster weekend. Saturday started at 5am to finish some stuff for a wedding and Sunday's service. The wedding was fantastic. A couple who have been with us about a year and such a joyful occasion. This is the second wedding I have taken at this church, I hate to think how many funerals - not a good ratio. Really thrilled for them. Some of the church take a special pride in seeing their minister in a suit for once.

The afternoon was very sunny and warm and the family sit outside to watch the boy at a tennis tournament. There is a McEnroe moment or two and he's now saving for a new racquet. He is back on an even keel soon enough though and we get back for a good Indian meal with old friends to round off a really good day.

Sunday is mixed. I have to confess to some disappointment at Back to Church Sunday. We have ninety attend the service, which is better than average for us, but none of the ten people / families I have invited come along. In the end I think we have five extras attend due to being invited for BTCS. It doesn't seem many but without knowing how many were asked it's hard to know if this is a sign that people didn't feel able or inclined to invite friends or whether their friends (like mine) didn't fancy it. From what many think of as "church", I don't blame them and maybe it's a sign of the size of the task that we face.

Evening service is okay, we are boosted by four holiday makers but some noticeable absentees due to it being the informal prayer and praise. Our youth discussion group afterwards is loud and seems to make little progress. I come back with a headache and feel low. This is not my greatest strength and I need to work harder and prepare better for it.

Monday brings some refreshment - meet and pray with an old chum who offers some perspective, which in my tiredness I have lost. Listen to some good sermons read some helpful things and then Tuesday brings fine weather and a game of golf on my day off.

Glad to be refreshed and thinking straighter. Need to be - six talks and two groups to lead in the following five days.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Back to Church Sunday

This Sunday we taking part in the national Back to Church Sunday campaign. We have never done this before but thought it was worth a go. The idea is very simple, we invite friends, neighbours, and family to our church service and make them welcome. Hardly rocket science.

In our context we are aware that the church some people left, or have never been to, is not the church they will find if they come on Sunday. For some that will be a bad thing, others will love it. It will not look like Mr Bean Goes To Church, which I intend to show during the service.

Some research by Tearfund estimated that 3,000,000 people in the UK would come to church if invited by a friend. So let's see. Exciting!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Long Away

It's a plot to make parents feel older. My son's homework in music this week was to answer questions on Queen. At last, homework I can help him with! Offered to play him some songs but he seemed pretty underwhelmed.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Exeter City 2 Peterboro United 2

What a game! Peterboro arrived top of the table and with a fearsome scoring record. So best not gift them one, hey lads? Ahhh. Lots of early pressure from the away team as they pressed and a mix up between centre back Troy Archibald-Henville (imagine the cost of that on the back of a shirt!) and keeper Paul Jones sees an own goal give the Posh the lead. One nil is the score at half-time but Exeter are easing back into the game and finish the half strongly.

Second half and Exeter have the upper hand. Goals from new boy Nardiello and very old boy Jamie Cureton see Exeter take a deserved lead before an equaliser from Peterboro with about ten minutes to go. From then on it's described as "playground football" as the teams take it in turns to attack, looking for that illusive winner. The very last action has Archibald-Henville's headers hacked off the line and at the final whistle the opposing benches are all smiles and handshakes - you just know that they have enjoyed a thrilling game of football. My man of the match was Richard Duffy at centre half, a terrific performance with some very timely tackles when we were under the cosh in teh first half. A Wales recall cannot be far off.

Slightly worrying is that the attendance was a little down on normal. The Exeter Chiefs are at home and now that they are a Premiership rugby team, has this made a difference? Away support was lower than usual too but then it's some trip down. More games like this and attandance should hold up though, terrific entertainment.
It's been a good start to the season and my prediction at the beginning of the season (which raised some scorn in the family) that we'd be somewhere between half-way and just missing out on the play-offs this season, may not be so far out. We'll see. Early days. Happy days.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Terry Jones and Intolerant Christians

It was planned months ago but last Sunday I found myself preaching on Intolerant Christians in the week that a pastor in the States was planning to burn the Koran.

The series is on objections that people have to the Christian faith and week two was called, "I'd like to believe but religious people are too intolerant". Good old Tel provided me with a perfect illustration, though I wish he hadn't.

By way of contrast I spoke on John 8.1-11 and the woman caught in adultery. Can't help but marvel again how Jesus said to her, "I don't condemn you". How different we often are. Grace is so outrageous. Caught in bed with a guy and Jesus tells her this!

I had one person walk out - to later return to tell me I was off-beam on this. Trouble is, he missed the second point - Jesus tells her to go home and stop living this way. There's a Charles Spurgeon quote (think it is him) that says that if a person is scandalised by grace to the extent that they think you are in danger of being too soft on sin, then you are probably preaching it well. So I hope it was that. But, of course, I may be kidding myself.

I suspect that people like Terry Jones would be picking up rocks. It isn't the way of Jesus.

Old Toys

Like lots of other people I have boxes that follow me from place to place which never get unpacked. Following the need to clear out a few things in order to make the house attractive to potential buyers I took the decision to get rid of my old Subbuteo bits and pieces. All that this required on my wife's part was about 15 years (reasonably) gentle encouragement.

So I photographed them (to general family amusement) and listed them on eBay. They aren't laughing anymore. Everything was sold. Some of it for silly money. Four Leeds players for £8.49 for example. The nine Feyenoord players that survived those heady European nights wing their way to Italy for £26. The rest was much more modest but I wish I hadn't repainted and ruined a few of them.

To mark this momentous time in my life I give you (in the top right hand corner) a link to The Undertones and My Perfect Cousin - the only song I know that mentions Subbuteo. The couplet, "His Ma bought a synthesizer, Got the Human League in to advise her" is sheer class.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

New Toy

I was able to play with my new toy for the first time at the weekend. Still trying to work out lots of the buttons and settings but was pleased to get a few in focus. The potential picture quality is amazing, now I need to try and tame it. This is quite heavily cropped but still looks sharp and all I did afterwards is warm it up a bit. I'm quite pleased with it but at the end of the day it's a only a picture of a bird on a feeder. Beware - more dull photos can be expected in the coming months.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Reel Issues - Up

Last night we put on the first of our Reel Issues film nights at the local cinema. Got there 45 minutes early to be ready to greet people and check everything was alright for the projectionist (and get the CD played). Asked how many had pre-booked and was told "One". As the screen holds 110 this was a little disconcerting.

But book it and the people will come as another film famously (almost) puts it. And in the end we had 57 people come along to watch the film and of them 50 must have stayed for the discussion afterwards. Discussion was relaxed and insightful and quite quickly one lady raised the main theme (certainly according to the film makers) that adventure isn't just out there, it's happening everyday as we do stuff together with other people. I was really pleased with the event, it was a really good evening and I think most people will come back.

In focusing on the sadness of the film at the beginning I has forgotten how funny it was overall and being in a cinema with people who haven't watched it before was a great experience. If you've not seen the film you must, it's fabulous.

Next month we watch The Truman Show together.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Up - the playlist

Had fun choosing songs for the playlist for music before tonight's showing of Up. Settled for these in the end:

The Last Balloon - XTC
In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Up, Up and Away - The Beloved
Castles In The Air - The Colourfield
Tonight We Fly - The Divine Comedy
Up, Up and Away - Andy Williams (different song to The Beloved)
99 Red Balloons - Nena

Am very excited about tonight's film. The very first in our series Reel Issues, organised with the local churches. We have hired the cinema, rented a film and are offering the chance to discuss some of the issues it raises afterwards. Have done some homework so as to appear intelligent in discussion and just hope I am not there with only my family for company.


Was a full on day but was quite encouraging all the same. Whatever possessed me to think that speaking on The God Delusion, having people back for lunch, leading the communion service and preaching on Romans 8, and then hosting a barbeque for the Youth Group later that evening would be a good idea?

We had a number of new people around for the first 'proper' morning service after Holiday Club, some extra kids, some Mums (because everyone knows Dads are too hard to go to church) and the Dawkins thing turned out to be less scary than I feared. Was surprised by how feeble some of the professor's arguments are. He is (presumably - it's hard to tell with O level Physics) a brilliant scientist but his theology is very poor. Wasn't the greatest sermon ever but got a few thank yous from people who seem to have appreciated it.

Lunch was lovely, with a family 'home' from Ethiopia who popped across to speak in church about the work they are doing. Rather humbled by what they have chosen to do in order to do their work, in terms of such a different country and culture. As always, interesting to hear what they find odd about UK compared with five years ago when they left.

Grabbed a little sleep (a Pastor's secret weapon on a Sunday afternoon) before the evening service, where I think I completely woke up about 20 minutes into the service. Great to be able to preach about the complete freedom that there is for Christians, how the slate is well and truly wiped clean. "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus". Reflected on the difference between feelings and fact. There are times when we don't feel this but it is still fact. Glorious.

Then one burger too many at the BBQ but great to see extra kids come along. Three were new because they have just become old enough to attend, two are on the fringes and have hardly been around at all. Hope this will encourage them to join with the other six and that we'd grow into something great for the kingdom.

A long day. A good day. The next few days are busy too but predictably I was get to sit and read and rest for the best part of the day this morning because the dentist was running late. Is it healthy when you look forward to a filling and the time you have to spend in a waiting room?

Friday, 3 September 2010

2020 Vision

A very encouraging day yesterday. Each year the leaders of the church go away for the day to think and pray and plan. This year we were helped by Nigel, who helps a bunch of churches in this area, as we thought about the future.

We started by looking at the last five years and were asked how things are, compared with then, in four areas - Numerically, Spiritually, Relationally, and Missionally. Some of those things are hard to gauge of course (we didn't even reach consensus on some of the numbers). But even though we know that we are far from the finished product it was encouraging to see how we have changed and, dare we say, progressed? There is much to be thankful for and sometimes you need to sit down and have these discussions in order to appreciate how far we have been brought on our journey.

It's impossible to know what the future holds, of course, but we then discussed what we might look like in 2020. Firstly, if current trends continue, and secondly, our best (realistic) hope. We have been blessed with growth this past five years. If it continues, or even increases, (and it's a big but possible "if") then what steps do we need to take to play our part in seeing it happen? And what will church need to look like in terms of support structures and the like if it does come to pass?

It confirmed a lot of my thinking and was very helpful in that Nigel drew these things out of us far better than I would have communicated them myself. Plus he had a good number of further insights which helped us all. As a result of the day we left as a group closer to sharing a vision rather than me just assuming everyone knew what we are doing - because, hey, it's obvious isn't it? We have some things to mull over and put into place after the day and that is going to be helpful to us as a group.

A good day, only enhanced by being able to eat outside in warm September sunshine.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

September (2)

Don't think it's the end of the summer holidays, or the end of the cricket season - more likely the earlier sunsets - but September always brings with it a certain sense of sadness. Consequently I always find myself humming the song of the same name by David Sylvian at this time of the year. Short but (bitter) sweet, it's at top right hand side of the screen if you are already nostalgic for long warm summer evenings. But don't wallow, listen once and move on!


Enjoyed a hot day at the cricket today with my father and kids (an odd way for them to spend the last day of the holidays). Gloucestershire needed 125 in their second innings to win and fell 55 short, thus being in the unenviable position of bowling Derbyshire out for 44 in the first innings and still losing.

Enjoyed playing on the outfield at the lunch interval and as I walked off at the end of the day - well just before tea on the second day when it all finished - clutching an old Gray Nichols I felt like it was thirty years ago and nothing had changed. Gloucestershire weren't any good then either.