Worship Idea – Bear my Cross

For the epiphany service at our church I gave everyone in the congregation a grain of incense and invited them to place it in the burner.  This would take place with the accompaniment of the Taizé chant ‘O Lord Hear My Prayer’.  I invited everyone to use the opportunity to spend the time whilst this was going on in personal prayer for the coming year, their hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations.  After the service, several members of the congregation commented that it was the first time they had prayed for them self and their family and that they often forgot to do it.  On reflection, Anglicans often do not pray in this manner but instead it is seen as a corporate act.  This is of course a good opportunity to pray for those big issues like the Middle East or the ministry of the diocese.  However, life is a complicated business for all of us and we have many issues that we should be offering in personal prayer.

This morning I met with my spiritual director, an aging and infirm monk who has had continued to have a long and varied career as an Anglican Priest.  Something he said sparked the makings of a worship idea that addresses this.  You need to get hold of a small basket containing small wooden crosses (try SPCK or Wesley Owen) or an equivalent.  For the intercessions each member of the congregation is invited to take one and carry it in their pocket throughout the coming week.  They can bear their cross whenever they are reminded by it and offer their own prayers.  There is no pressure to confide the things that you struggle with, your deepest seated worries or the argument you had with your kids this morning, you can share them with God.  The following week, everyone can throw them back into the basket at the beginning of the service.  At the point for intercessions, the crosses can be offered in corporate prayer and then redistributed to the congregation.  This time people are invited to bear someone else’s cross and pray for them over the coming week.  Hopefully this should build a greater sense of community and support for one another as well as giving people permission to pray for themselves.

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Metaphore

Some words of wisdom:

Some metaphors don’t bear close examination

Neil (Young Ones)

The musings of a bored not-a-housewife.

Appologies for the doom and gloom of the last few posts.  I have just realised that they are very negative in their outlook.  It is time for something possitive! 

Along that vein, my wife has made the decision to leap into cyberspace.  She has been lamenting that her life isn’t interesting enough to tell people about or that it is too confidential to tell people about – the problem of her profession I guess.  She has decided to chronicle the process of starting a new band with all of the associate humour that goes with that.  If anyone has a name we could have (so far we have got Roquiem and Jet Set Willy as suggestions) let me know.

 Ruth has of course looked into the statistical possibilities of the band and produced some graphs:

Cheese

Go and have a look

Christian Unity

I have regularly mentioned the Catholic/Protestant bickering that seems still to be tearing at the body of Christ.  A recent article from ekklesia seems to have taken a rather eclectic approach to name game.

Catholic” and “Roman Catholic” are not the only complexities these days. More urgent, most urgent, is the task of dealing in a fair way with the many, many brands of Christians who get lumped together as “Evangelicals,” especially in political discourse, where they get miscast simply as “the Christian right.”

…”Mainline Protestants” didn’t and don’t like their name, which is usually used pejoratively by non-Protestants, most of whom never liked and few ever use the accidentally applied term “Protestant” itself.

I think this sums the attitude some Christians have towards their brothers and sisters.  The times I have heard those who chose to label themselves people accuse the ‘others’ of indoctrination without examining where their own opinion was learned.  We seem to be in a situation where ever decreasing battle lines are being drawn.  ‘He’s an evangelical?  But is he a good evangelical?‘  Well it depends on which evangelical you want me to be like?  Do you want me to be a right wing fire and brimstone spitting good evangelical?  Sorry, I’ll get my coat.

It is time we moved from a situation where people feel inclined to appologise when asked by another christian about their roots.  We shouldn’t be in a situation here people feel thy have to say ‘I’m an Anglican (sorry)’ or ‘I’m a Catholic, I’ll get me coat’.  So what happens when people start pointing out that by referring to themselves as “Christian, I follow Christ but I worship at X” use this to increase their sense of superiority?  Who can say?

Dealing With Others

I was reading a post on ASBOJesus when I saw a phrase that stopped me in my tracks. 

Christians still tend to shoot their wounded.

How true this often is.  When someone does something wrong we tend to cast them out.  It is also the case when it comes to theological debate.  There comes a point where one party or the other says “away from me foul beast, you are of the devil”.

How did we end up here?

Applying Bill Rogers to the Church??!?

A presonal account: 

 I used to attend a church in one of the poorer areas of the inner city.  The church was nestled in cheap accommodation that served two types of people.  One of the groups were students who paid cheap rent and were barely seen as they spent most of their time in the city centre if they weren’t sleeping.  The other residents were often unemployed since the heavy industry had collapsed some years ago.  Some had found manual work or retrained but many remained long term unemployed.  The women of the household had since gained employment but often in low paid jobs.  I tend to use this as a yard stick – there were three working men’s clubs and one pub (for the students).  Whilst the Church was situated here, the congregation mainly travelled by car to the church.  The BMW would pull up and out would step a family with 2.4 immaculately dressed children.  Worship was evangelical charismatic with a vast wealth of musicians and a number of bands.  This seemed to attract a large number of students who would attend during two thirds of the year.

This church had a large youth group with several groups for different ages.  After a few years there was a small group of local teenagers who started to wander into the services on a Sunday night.  They didn’t know what was happening in the services.  They didn’t know how to behave during the services.  They would often shout out or hit each other.  They weren’t particularly clean and tidy.  They didn’t know to take their hat off at the door.

The church didn’t know what to do with them.  Do you ignore them and carry on regardless?  Do you stop what you are doing and tell them to be quiet and listen?  Do you take them to a different room and do something with them there?  How can we brush them under the carpet and pretend they don’t exist and this hasn’t happened?

At one point it was suggested that they would be better served with the youth group.  Imagine that someone ran into a church meeting holding a hand grenade with the pin pulled.  With the reaction given, you could be mistaken for thinking that this was the case.  Phrases such as “my children can’t…”, ”they shouldn’t have to put up with…”, “Not fair on the…” and “over my…” became the order of the day.  Needless to say, the people who inadvertently wandered into church over a few months were ‘given the message’.  You aren’t welcome here”, “God doesn’t like people like you”, “People like you aren’t welcome in church” and “We’re better than you”.

So why have I chosen to share this story with you?  This may turn out to be a little long winded so please bear with me.  This memory was dragged up by a meeting I went to last night where we discussed Bill Rogers.  For those of you who are not familiar with the world of teaching in the UK, he is one of the leading educationalists on how we learn to behave.  His aim is essentially to help teachers become more effective in the classroom by using more effective strategies to modify behaviour.  I know it doesn’t look like it at the moment but I will get round to it.

I suppose for this to make any sense I better give a brief synopsis of what was said.  The starting point of the presentation/discussion was that the social situations in which we learn how to deal with people have changed radically over the course of the last century.  The guy in charge used a diagram of the circles of intimacy*:

These are the social situations in which we have learned our boundaries and rules.  We learn in the centre and then progress to the next level out.  We learn first the rules we must follow with our parents and siblings as toddlers and then in friendship groups and so on.  In many cases the groupings in which we (in the UK) need to be able to behave have become blurred.  The parent child relationship is often one where there is little distinction between the two – parents and children have the same interests and in many cases, the same social structures.  The relationship negotiation on this level have become blurred as the boundaries merge with the friendship group.  This in turn merges with authority figures and so on.  This means that many younger people** no longer know how to behave in a situation.  A programme on TV last night about cycle cops highlighted this quite well.  A cycle courier in his mid twenties was pulled over for shooting a red light.  Instead of saying “Sorry guv, I wont do it again”, he started shouting and swearing at the police until the situation escalated and the police had no option other than to arrest him.  He didn’t seem to have developed the skills to deal with that situation. 

We then went on to look at Bill Rogers and the principles he gives for teaching good behaviour.  He starts with the basis that to teach others good behaviour we must model it.  It makes sense that if you want someone to learn not to shout in a conversation you don’t shout at them about it!  Instead of pointing out someone’s bad behaviour you request good behaviour instead.  Whilst the rules remain the same people are enabled to own them and respond in an appropriate way to them.  Instead of showing people that you deal with something by bellowing “WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT BOY!!” a simple “Dale, can you turn and face the front thanks” will suffice.

“So what has this to do with the church?” I hear you ask.  In many congregations we see many well dressed, well educated, well behaved people who sit down, stand up, sing, eat and drink on demand throughout a service.  This situation is one in which people have learned how to behave in that peculiar situation.  As I’ve said, for some people it is difficult to learn how to act in different social settings.  Some people don’t know what to do in a given situation until you have been taught it.  If you haven’t been given the skills to cope with learning a new social situation it is going to be very hard for you.  If we make Sunday attendance the only way of being seen as an accepted member of The Church then we are going to see large groups of our society permanently excluded and marginalised.  Perhaps Sunday services aren’t the places where some of our society is going to be able to ‘get our head around it’.  For the group I mentioned at the beginning who wandered into this strange place, perhaps a service isn’t the most appropriate place for them.  Perhaps the youth group isn’t either – after all, why should they have to put up with all those middle class kids and their strange ways?  Perhaps the best thing would have been something new, something different, something we haven’t thought about yet.  The problem with this is that it requires some time, effort and though.  It also requires stepping out in faith!

My last point is that following Jesus isn’t a no holds barred free for all of sex and drugs and rock and roll.  There are certain expectations that He has when it comes to our behaviour.  For example, you don’t kill people.  It’s not the done thing really.  It’s not cricket.  I use the obvious example, but Jesus is also concerned about what we do with our forgiveness.  When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well, he didn’t say “you are forgiven, carry on” he said “go and sin no more”.  2000 year before Bill Rogers whilst he walked the Earth, Jesus was quietly talking to people whilst living out his life as the example to follow.  He didn’t set up a pulpit of condemnation from which to challenge those he saw as ‘sinners’ within society shouting about brimstone – the trap that many of us fall into each Sunday morning.  Instead, he lived his life as a model whilst he showed people the paths that they could take.  Why did he do it?  Because he loves us!

    

*those of you who are thinking “where have I seen this before” may have been involved in seeker-sensitive worship or www.purposedriven.com.

** I also see the irony of me using these words.  There’s something about teaching which makes you feel like an elder statesman.

Church Seasons

Time seems to pass by so fast.  It feels like five minutes ago that I was complaining about the advertisers trying to force Christmas shopping upon us in October.  Here we are a week into January and Christmas is a distant memory.  Work is once again upon us and strangely the nights seem to be getting lighter.  I can really relate to Billy Connolly when he said ‘this is my life’:

Should old acquaintance be for… happy birthday to… jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the…whoosh!!

Christmas has come and gone, the Magi have delivered their gifts and we are now off on a short jaunt through towards Lent and Easter.  I guess the real feeling I have this morning as I sit here is that every moment is important and you’re never getting it back.  We need to wring every ounce of life out of it and grab it with both hands.

Worship Idea – Easter Communion Service

As I contemplated writing this I thought “This is completely the wrong time of year”.  We haven’t yet had Epiphany!  Then I realised, with Easter so early in the year we’re nearly in Lent!  So here’s a worship idea to contemplate over the coming months.

A friend of mine told me about how they used the Easter morning communion service to bring home the resurrection message.  Instead of the usual red wine reminiscent of the crucifixion, they used white wine to show the redemption God brings three days later.

 

Obviously there are some for whom this may be a big deal.  However, if they are given warning it could be a very powerful symbol.

 

What does your sign say about Grace?

I was wandering around town before Christmas when I stumbled upon this. 

It really struck me that what the sign mostly says is “we don’t like other Christians”.

Happy New Year

Happy New year everyone!  It is far too early in the afternoon to be up and about!!