Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Wish I could be like Isaac Watts

Had a great Christmas with family and some good services over the holiday. Boxing Day was very low attendance wise, just 35 of us due to Christmas services and the lethal ice that was covering town, but still a lovely feeling of being family together.

Well, after a day off yesterday I am briefly back in the saddle today for a (quite a) few hours in order to be able to take the rest of the week off. But I had to do this today or a) take it with me when I visit friends, or b) have nothing to preach when I get back on Sunday.

As I was looking for the words of a different hymn, I found this classic first verse of an Isaac Watts hymn. It's a pretty good argument for the updating of the language in hymns and translation of the Bible.

Blest is the man whose bowels move
And melt with pity to the poor;
Whose soul, by sympathizing love,
Feels what his fellow saints endure.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Yawn, yawn Pope - been there done that

I see that the Pope did the Radio 4 Thought For The Day today. This is clearly a big news story but I have to say that I beat him to it by at least 13 years (the memory is a little hazy).

Mine was at Word Alive, a conference for students (in those days) and I was nominated by the people I worked for (UCCF) because I had played around at student radio at one time. Looking back it was a tremendous risk on their part, not sure how playing the Milltown Brothers on university radio was any help for the task in hand.

So it came to pass that I had a carefully scripted and timed Thought for the Day recorded live in front of several thousand people at The Gaiety Theatre, Skegness as part of the student celebration. A nerve wracking experience that took way longer than it should. I remember the director telling us we weren't saying 'Amen' correctly at the end of the prayer so he recorded doing it lots of different ways. We also had to record a period of silence in case the Queen Mother or someone similar died overnight, before the broadcast went out.

UCCF representing students from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, we had representatives from each nation doing the prayers and the splendid Geoff Baker led the worship. The theatre has since been demolished and Butlins (did I mention this was where we were?) have redeveloped the site.

We still go to the conference, now New Word Alive, located in North Wales, and now open to all. It's a positive oasis in the calender and an annual event that we prioritise in the calender every year. Does the whole family the world of good.

Actually, as I write this I realise that I didn't really do Thought for the Day at all, it was Morning Service. The Pope wins after all. But has he ever done Morning Service in Skegness?

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Billy Graham on Christmas

"But when I looked into the crib or the manger and saw that little baby who was going to rise to become the greatest teacher that ever lived, to die on the cross for my sins, to know that I'll be forgiven because of what He was doing, it absolutely transformed Christmas for me."

Billy Graham on Christmas from an interview with Fox News, 20/12/10.

Fuller interview at http://www.bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=34303

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Animated Jesus Storybook Bible

Another resource that would be useful for a Christmas service. Too late for me to use this year but could be useful to someone out there?

The Jesus Storybook Bible is a fabulous piece of work. It tells in about 40 stories the story of the Bible and is a particular favourite because of the beautiful illustrations and the fact that it shows how the whole of the Bible (Old Testament and New Testament) fit together and point to Jesus. It is so good that about three years ago we read the stories one a week in church to give young and old a simple Bible overview. Probably about time we did it again, actually.

Well, now it comes with moving parts. This is a clip I found telling some of the Christmas story. I do hope this means that they are animating the whole thing. Click the top right hand link under Our Friends Eclectic to see it for yourself.

Monday, 20 December 2010

BBC's Nativity

Watched the first of the BBC's The Nativity this evening, it looks promising. Written by Tony Jordan, better known for his work on Eastenders, Life on Mars and others, it seems that researching and writing the nativity story changed him - even though there's no chance of him attending a church this Christmas. There's an interesting interview with him in the Telegraph on the subject:


The Tardis and the Stable

A friend has posted the following quote on his Facebook page and it's very useful for a service this Christmas.

'There is your hope lying in a manger. He is much bigger than he looks.'
J Wilson (no idea who he/she is I'm afraid).

I think it ties in nicely (or could be made to!) with this quotation from C.S.Lewis' The Last Battle.

"It seems, then," said Tirian, smiling himself, "that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places."

"Yes," said the Lord Digory. "Its inside is bigger than its outside."

"Yes," said Queen Lucy. "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world." It was the first time she had spoken, and from the thrill in her voice, Tirian now knew why. She was drinking everything in even more deeply than the others. She had been too happy to speak.

It was this quote that has got me thinking and so I have called the Christmas Day sermon, "The Tardis and the Stable". I remember another friend using line about the Timelord and the Lord of Time; will be nicking that too!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Carol Service resources

This is a bit late but a couple of pieces that I am using in church over the next few days.

The New Zealand kids nativity is a great piece of video for a Carol Service. I am using it in the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and it even comes in HD.

The quality of the Lego Nativity is not so high but it's engaging and I plan to use it this afternoon in what is usually one of our biggest services of the year (only our Kids Holiday Club Service is bigger). With all the ice on the ground it will be interesting to see if that is the case this year.

You can see both videos by clicking the link under "Our Friends Eclectic" in the top right hand bit of the page.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


Today we woke to the biggest snowfall the town has seen for many years. Only about five inches but I've heard people say it was the most for a good 25 years. It's a wonderful novelty but will really knock a hole in our congregations for the main Carol Services tomorrow.

Good to get out in it with my camera.
Odd to see snow on the beach.

The morning service is going to be led by two of these yobs. What is the world coming to?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Digital Nativity

Here's another great resource for a Carol Service, courtesy of the interweb thing. What would the nativity look like if played out through social media? Thanks to the Baptist Union for highlighting this.


Tuesday, 7 December 2010

How To Find Jesus!

Made me laugh - could well be finding it's way into a sermon this season.

Churches fit GPS to Baby Jesus to stop nativity thefts
Updated: Sunday, 05 Dec 2010, 8:46 AM EST
Published : Sunday, 05 Dec 2010, 8:46 AM EST

(FOX 25 / MyFoxBoston.com) - Churches in the US are fitting their baby Jesus statues with GPS trackers to stop them being stolen from their Christmas nativity scenes, myFOXny.com reported Friday.

Company BrickHouse Security is providing free GPS trackers to churches and communities across the country.

Religious institutions and nonprofit organizations can enroll in a program to get a free GPS tracker to install inside a baby Jesus statue. Jewish organizations can also fit them to their Menorah candle holders for Hanukkah.

The company said the tracker means that if a thief makes off with the cherished item the church, synagogue, or other group can log on via computer or mobile phone to track the missing items.

St. Ambrose Roman Catholic Church in Old Bridge, New Jersey -- about 40 miles (64km) southwest of New York City -- installed the device after suffering from thefts and vandals in the past.

"There's been no attempt of theft since we announced that we're tracking our Jesus," said Alan Czyewski of St. Ambrose Church. "This is our third year, and we love this. People are now well aware of our GPS Jesus, so they leave it alone."

Read more: http://www.myfoxny.com/dpp/news/offbeat/church-protects-manger-with-gps-jesus-20101203-akd

It's A Wonderful Life

Last night was the final Reel Issues of the year and I was delighted to have 83 come along to watch It's a Wonderful Life, easily a record attendance. What a delight it was to see the film in it's original black and white on the big screen in such great quality - digitally remastered and sent to the cinema on a hard disk - it looked stunning.

Watching it in a cinema was a great atmosphere and I had forgotten how funny it was, as well as (obviously) it being so moving. My friend Andy lead the discussion afterwards and pointed out that many of the themes were similar to Up (our first film in the series) and also, at the end of the discussion, drew out how it is a truly Christmas film, featuring a lead character who repeatedly sacrifices himself and empties himself of everything for the benefit of all those around him. He put it better than that though.

We intend to continue Reel Issues in February and asked for feedback last night on ideas for films that we could show. Given that the idea is to discuss the big ideas and moral and spiritual themes in a film it was amusing to get one suggestion that we should show "musicals - i.e. Sound of Music" or "comedy - i.e. Dad's Army". Clearly need to work on communicating what we are trying to do!

It has been freezing cold here with such heavy frosts that the the grass and trees have been covered and not thawed out during the day. It looks like it has snowed and so it felt a bit like Christmas before we watched the film. Afterwards, so much more so...

Friday, 3 December 2010

And the winner is...


Last time I posted I mentioned that the standard of the pictures at the camera club is dauntingly good. Here is a link to the picture that won the competition on Monday, a truly stunning image.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

On a freezing beach this afternoon

Bitterly cold on the beach this afternoon, I managed to be gloves off for a few pictures for just six minutes. After that, very numb indeed. I've just joined a camera club and am in turn inspired and despairing when I see some of the work of the other guys - some seriously talented people there. But I think I am learning a little from them and one of those is the effect of a simple filter (an ND grad apparently) on this scene. As you see from the before and after, it makes a huge difference to the sky in this one and black and white suits it better too.
I've a long way to go but after this afternoon no-one can ever accuse me of just being a fair-weather photographer.