Photos for the 12 Days – IV

December 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

New toy is a 70 – 300 lens for the camera. Just what you need to capture today’s small miracle.

We’ve been doing our bit to keep the bird population going through the frozen spell – even melting the ice in the bird bath. (Note: the tip about putting a ball in to stop it freezing over doesn’t work for ours…)

Goldfinches love Niger seeds, and we’ve enjoyed watching them feast away through the autumn. But there was no sign of a single goldfinch from the moment it started snowing. Until today, when the thaw brought out at least three of them. Where’ve they been for three weeks?

My small theological thought was that church life can be like that. You can put out all the tastiest morsels, but is takes things beyond our control to make growth happen. Here’s praying for the goldfinches to come flocking.

Photos for the 12 Days – III

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

Beverley Minster has had this set of crib figures for a few years now. They were made by pupils from Beverley High School. The Crib Service consists of children going on a journey to find the figures in different parts of the Minster, and bringing them back to the crib. We had 700 people in two services – and children come year after year in the hope that they will get to carry one of the figures.

This is one of the Shepherds – and I like the look on his face. There were many wonders surrounding the birth of Christ. One was the message to theĀ  shepherds – and the fact that they responded. I described them in a recent sermon as the ‘hoodies’ of the ancient world – on the edge and a bit suspect. This shepherd has seen a bit of life – but here he is, with his lamb. All are welcome, if they have ears to hear the message of the angels.

Photos for the 12 Days – II

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

There was a piece in the Church Times this week saying that most churches were going to do a full programme of services today, the day after Christmas Day.

Well we didn’t. One service at 10.30, to which any members of our five churches could come. And 49 of us did, and it was lovely. We worshipped in the Quire, and as the rest went to the South Transept for coffee, I came back and took this.

I know that belief is about much more than aesthetics and emotion and sentiment, but somehow Christmas became absolutely real when a small number (the ‘hard core’) came together on the First Sunday of Christmas and worshipped together.

Hard not to believe in God when this is the view you have when leading worship. And hard not to believe in God when your curate has preached an excellent sermon, and the Body of Christ has done its stuff.

Photos for the Twelve Days

December 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

After the longing and anticipation of Advent, a celebration of the 12 Days of Christmas. A photo for each day – I hope!

This is All Saints’ Routh, on the road out of Beverley towards Hornsea and Bridlington. Christmas morning 2010, and the clock is correct.

Routh is a scattering of houses and farms – perhaps 100 people in total. A fifth of those were in church for our Christmas Communion. The Vicar of Beverley Minster has been the Priest in Charge of Routh since the 1960s. I’m pleased! To have this view as I parked the car in a snowy field and Julia and I went to church was a brilliant Christmas moment.

My sermons today have been about “wonder”. Not hard to do that when creation is being kind like this.

I believe. You ‘avin a larf?

December 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Interesting article in the Daily Telegraph today. (Yes I read it. No, I don’t inhale). Irritatingly I can’t find a direct weblink to the interview, so my link is to a blog article…

Tony Jordan, streetwise writer of East Enders, Life on Mars, Hustle, etc, has scripted the BBC’s Nativity, to be broadcast this week.

I would guess that lots of sermons this Christmas will talk about this – and may well use his story of a journey to belief through the making of the programme. Jordan says that he didn’t have a religious background, left school at 14, was nobody’s fool, and had ‘discounted’ the nativity, until he started to work on the script three years ago. Like many, when he gave the subject some serious thought, it all began to make sense. “I didn’t believe it…But now I do.” Here’s the killer quote:

“The only thing I know for sure is that the words I read as coming from Jesus Christ are the most truthful thing I have ever heard. As a blueprint for mankind it is so smart that it couldn’t even have come from a clever philosopher.”

Excellent fuel for our annual attempt to convince our infrequent worshippers to come to church a bit more often, and I’m thrilled that such a writer has come to this view. But not all the news is good. He has no time for the church whose central message this is. “I have a distaste for organised religions” – apparently because they mess with the stories to suit their own ends. Couldn’t agree more. And then this about church services:

“I have a distaste for people who say to me, if you come through these doors, walk down this aisle, sit on that wooden bench and sing these hymns in this order, I have got God in a little bottle under my pulpit and I’ll let you have a look. I don’t think that was God’s intention”

Hmmm. On one hand, a man who has made his living telling us to sit down in front of our TV’s at a particular time each week to watch a programme which he has scripted in withering detail to create an effect only he knows about can’t have it both ways. When the church worships it does it in a way which has been thought about and planned. If it was ‘unscripted’ it wouldn’t be any good. The difference between my services and his scripts is that the church’s worship is a public offering, planned by more people than me, with agreed elements coming together in a public offering to which all contribute. If anyone has something “in a bottle” it’s the scriptwriter of East Enders, who has to pull a surprise out of a hat several times a week. Our stuff is everybody’s property.

But: if we give the impression that we are the jealous protectors of this amazing truth, then we are getting it wrong somehow, and we need to enable our services, and our conversation about God, to be open and inclusive. I despise the notion that I as the priest have “God in a bottle”. I want to be the orchestrator of a public celebration of a truth none of us can encapsulate, but within which all of us are included.I have to be able to receive much more than I give, to be affected much more than I affect in worship.

Note to self then this Christmas: be amazed at the wonder of the incarnation. Don’t claim to know it all. Let everyone have a go. Success will be when everyone says, as Tony Jordan does about Jesus: “Wow! That’s pretty cool.”

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