Friday, June 29, 2007

It looks like a castle but it's not

These are the words I heard from a 6/7 year old walking past our church down the churchyard path with his dad. It got me thinking - I hope people do see that the church is not a castle - not a fortified place defending what's inside it from the outside world. I hope they focus on the "it's not" part - the wide open doors that welcome all of any age. hmmm - that'll have me pondering.

"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." Matthew 11.25

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Armour Believer

I can't believe I haven't put up the notes from my talk to Cross-Section on Sunday! Well I suppose I can as I have been kinda busy since then BUT I do usually manage it. In fact it was one of those talks which I can't quite remember. A friend kindly said "those ar the best kind" and another also confirmed I said something that hit home so...

We often think of faith as a journey. At the moment if we were going ona journey we might take a rain coat and heavy boots (there were props - can you guess what!) but of course I'm not talking about that kind of a journey. The faith journey isn't like that but we still need to be equipped.

How about these (ok without the visual bit here this may have slightly less impact)

a sign to point the way (a cross)
a map of where we're going (a Bible)
something to light the way (a candle - Christians use those a lot)
a guide book to explain everything (a bible commentary)

Well let's have a look at what Jesus' model was:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. "When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.'
Luke 10:1-11

So Jesus didn't tell the disciples to go out with Scriptures and commentaries and of course he wouldn't have sent them with a cross. No the equipping we need for our journeys of faith is very different. Paul considers faith not so much a journey as a battle:

"Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."
Ephesians 6.11-18
So in Paul's image of the battle of faith, our armour is not something you can pick up and hold it's not something you put on - it's something inside; it's the way you behave and how you feel. So what is this armour?

At the centre is the belt of truth - the thing which holds everything in right in the middle is TRUTH. The truth of the Gospel of Christ. The knowledge that this Good news is TRUE and is TRUTH is central to our defence and our faith.

What is it that protects us against temptation? against sin? Righteousness is what protects us. You can wear a silver ring as a symbol of that if you like but it is your own inner sense of Christian morality, your own righteousness which will protect you against sin.

Our feet a protected too. Whether we are called on to stand firm against oppression by others because of our faith or if we must follow Christ and MOVE. It is the READINESS of the Gospel of peace. What does that mean? It is that inner peace, that calm still centre which is the knowledge of the peace which God gives that makes us able to stand firm or to follow where Christ leads. (My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you etc.)

What about all those peopel who attack our faith; people at school who take the mick out of you for being a Christian or just for believing SOMETHING rather than being cynical "like everyoe else". I often think this is harder for young people than for adults. Most adults will be polite and not criticise someone for their faith even if they do disagree but young people will voice their opinion and the defence against that is your own faith in God.

For all those times when someone does try to RATIONALISE you out of your faith there is this helmet of salvation. People may try to make arguments that they call logical against your belief in God but the knowledge of the salvation that God offers all through the death and resurrection of his son; that totally irrational illogical love of God for his creation and his children.

Now the last in the list. The ONLY weapon please note. The Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. When people DO attack your faith, God offers all this armour to defend you and he gives us just one weapon; the word of God which is revealed in scripture and the words given to you by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Those are the only things you can use to fight back.

That doesn't make it easy. It is a struggle to keep the faith in an increasingly secular world and that's why we at Cross-Section what to give you some tools for that journey. One of them is the Examen, an ancient form of prayer used by Ignatius Loyola and many Christians since. You can do this each night when before you go to sleep - something we all do pretty much everyday, no matter how late! We'll do it now and you can try it on your own again tongiht or tomorrow night as one of your tools for the journey.

Racing through a journey of faith

I picked up from Tim Abbot that Jonathan Edwards, once hailed as such a great ambassador of the Church in the media and the public eye has now had a crisis of faith.

Apparently it was in making a documentary about St Paul that Jonathan first heard the suggestion that the conversion of St Paul was in fact an epileptic episode. Edwards' response:

"It made me realise that I had taken things for granted that were taught to me as a child without subjecting them to any kind of analysis."
I think this response says to me that we need to learn a lesson from this in our ministry to young people. Of course we shouldn't be telling them that all the events in the Bible can be explained away by science BUT we should tell them that people will suggest it. We should encourage them to THINK about the Bible not merely to READ it but to read it WISELY and REFLECTIVELY.

What is it about one tiny comment like this that can unpin a whole life of faith. I remember someone else (much younger than Edwards) who decided the whole Bible must be"made-up" because the angel in the book of Isaiah needed to use TONGS to pick up the coal which he touched to Isaiah's lips in the vision. Surely an angel wouldn't need tongs - was his assertion.

Fowler's model (though in my mind not perfect) talks about the different stages of faith development and I think it's the transition between each of these stages which can be the most difficult. I'd say Jonathan Edwards may have been stuck in one of these stages and fallen between the gap. Of course i don't know him so I wouldn't want to judge but his description of the St Paul incident and his reaction to it suggests his faith was more at the
Stage 4 - "Synthetic-Conventional"and hadn't worked through the stage 5 - Individuatice-Reflective stage. Some might even argue he IS in stage 5 and in taking charge of his own beliefs has rejected those of his upbringing.

Jonathan Edwards does not seem to be missing his faith but rather rejoicing with the zeal of the convert. He puts it this way:
"But I feel internally happier than at any time of my life, more content within my own skin. Maybe it is because I am not viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles"
I'd argue that he IS viewing the world through a specific set of spectacles. It's just his prescription has changed. He's not viewing the world through Christ's eyes anymore but through those of the secular humanist.

So there are three challenges to us as youth ministry practictioners:

How do we disciple our young people to THINK about their faith not just learn it?
How do we help young people move from one stage of faith to another?
How do we Christians deal with the secular humanist spectale wearers who consider themselves "neutral"?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Examen-ation time?

We used a form of the examen at Cross-Section on Sunday...

Do I hear "what's the examen?" or "what's Cross-Section?"

Head on over to the WYDE blog to find out!


We had our youth event on Sunday night - we'd planned a great SUMMER feel with BBQ and outdoor cafe with garden games... ok so it didn't go wuite to plan but at least when we were setting up the rain wasn't too bad AND we only heard thunder AFTER the event... even thought it did make a few of us unable to get a certain song out of our heads! enjoy!

Shiny Happy Person?

Your Social Dysfunction:

You're a happy person - you have a good amount of self-esteem, and are socially healthy. While this isn't a social dysfunction per se, you're definitely not normal. Consider yourself lucky: you walk that fine line between 'normal' and being outright narcissistic. You're rare - which is something else to be happy about.

Take this quiz at

Please note that we aren't, nor do we claim to be, psychologists. This quiz is for fun and entertainment only. Try not to freak out about your results.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cross Section this sunday

Cross-Section is travelling into the coutnryside this Sunday as we're off to Hughenden church. We're also thinking about our faith journey and the tools that we need to travel that journey. I'm delivering the talk this time and (after using the examen) I'm going to pick up on Jesus' instructions to the twelve and the seventy two as well as the armour of God from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Any thoughts people?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Life's tough

I know Ben has already put this up (thanks to Fr Simon Rundell's inspiration) but it is SO TOTALLY A MUST SEE. I'm just trying to work out when to use it... Heads up to the Australian section of World Vision for putting this together - majorly thought-provoking.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What's in a name?

Am I the only person who finds amusement in the things other countries call some of their shops and food items?

I've just come back from Menorca where, as a child, I used to giggle because of the local bakery which made the bread picture below.

It was delivered in Bimbo van driven by a man wearing a T-shirt emblazoned Bimbo. Last week, i was giggling again much to the embarrassment of my husband as well as my dad!

well last year I was in Sweden and brought back some chocolate bars called PLOPP bars for my youth group so this year it's Bimbo buns called Bimbo completo.

So readers... what's your conclusion? Funny or sad?

Any other examples.... (keep it relatively clean please people!)

In or out

Interesting evening last night. I was stationed outside the main door of our church for the Episcopal Visitiation (with Bishop John - and Bishop Alan so a whole chess-set's worth of bishops!) to direct all the churchwardens for hald the archdeaconry of Bucks through the WEST door in order to prevent a churchwarden pile-up in the rush to sign official documents, get service sheets, the best seats etc. As our church is in the town centre, there were of course not only those people coming down our churchyard driveway but also quite a few other people heading in to town for the evening. At first it amused me but after a while it did slightly worry me that there was NO DIFFICULTY AT ALL in distinguishing churchwardens from those using the town centre for recreation. I thought it was rather a sad indictment of our churches and their communities in a way. It was a great relief when my friend Dave and his wife came down the path as he IS a churchwarden and is decidedly under the age of 40 which is the first churchwarden I've ever known be so young!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Well I'm back from my holiday - some snaps over at my Flickr account if you're interested - and as much as I'd love to fill the blog with much wisdom of course I'm hurtling back into work today so for the time being I'm going to invite you to follow someone on a MUCH longer journey than me. My friend is driving from Peking to Paris with Team Enersol. They're on a rest day today which should give you time to check out how far they've got so far.

I will be busying myself preparing for all kinds of stuff including the visitation fo the bishop, our youth holiday, the Oxford diocese Taize trip and the next Cross-Section... oh and a service sheet !

Friday, June 01, 2007


Ok so much to blog about but so little time at the mo - I am off on holiday abroad, out of the country out of the range of blogs (well probably not really but...) until 13th June so there won't be anything up until then but hopefullt I have left you some little videos to look at in my absence anyway!!