Welcome to Church

The Church of England has recently published a guide to the “Top Ten Facts About Christenings“. It is a starter for ten for people making enquiries about their local church and “getting little Timmy ‘done'”.It seems to have picked the same scab that The Weddings Project picked for a lot of vicars….. it educates people about their rights (something vicars don’t like to admit people have) and their responsibilities (something many vicars insist people should be born with pre installed like iOS6).

I am not a cradle Anglican. I may have mentioned this once or twice. I wasn’t even a churchgoer. I grew up with the belief that The Church TM didn’t have anything to do with ‘people like me’. In all honesty, the church treated me like a pariah when I was a teenager with a Helloween patch on the back of my denim jacket – I managed to attend for 5 weeks. When I arrived at university this is what I told Ruth: The church does not want people like me in it. The David Mitchell portrayal of the Evil Vicar isn’t just a cultural stereotype, it is often the real lived experience of a first time enquirer.

“Hello, are you the vicar? I am just ringing to ask about booking a venue…..”

There are two responses to this phone call:

a) [a brusk] It isn’t as simple as that! You are not simply booking a venue…
b) Congratulations. That’s great. Let’s have a chat about how we can help you celebrate the gift of a new child/celebrate the love you have for each other as you come together in holy matrimony…

I have sat in a room and watched both of these happen. I know which one I picked up as good practice.

The Church TM is a daunting experience for those of us you refer to as ‘unbelievers’. Walking through that door for the first time is a real challenge. If your first instinct is to trip someone up on their way in for the first time you will probably never see them again and neither will anyone else.

There is a massive theological issue at stake here. Jesus is the incarnate God who had a table ministry. He welcomed everyone in. Regardless of their religious literacy. Regardless of their knowledge of canon law or the parish system. Regardless of whether they had the language to ask for a service rather than a booking.

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“I didn’t realise we could get married in church vicar”. Happy to help.
“Can we have Timmy done?” Why don’t you meet me and the church wardens on Sunday and we’ll help you along the way?
“Will I be able to bring my son with me, he’s got Asperger’s so he may not be the most well behaved.” That’s fine, everyone is welcome here. If we can cope with a noisy vicar like me I’m sure we can cope with a little noise. After all, some famous guy said ‘let the little children come to me’.

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Lord Truro and the “Undeserving Poor”

Once more all decent folk found themselves under attack from the ever hungry and multiheaded mythological beast. Fortunately Lord Freud was able to defend us all once more from the onslaught of the “undeserving poor”.

20130703-074824.jpgThe daemonisation of the poor is a well documented phenomenon and a tool that is being used to drive ideological political change. “Why don’t they help themselves out of poverty?” We have a situation in the UK where food bank use has trebled in the past year. Lord Freud seems to be of the opinion that food banks are one of the many choices that people mmakes when planning their weekly shop. “We can get some cold cuts from the farmers market, they do that lovely Brussels Pâté. We need to make sure we get to Waitrose on the way home for the loo roll and dishwasher tablets. Ooooo, and we’d best stop at the Food Bank and get some beans for the kids”.

The Bishop of Truro challenged Lord Freud on his statements to The Lords. Church Action on Poverty challenged these ideological beliefs five weeks ago. Oxfam challenge this ideological belief daily. Everyone who works with people in poverty challenges this blame culture, designed to shift the focus of blame for the current global economic climate to the most vulnerable in our society. The people who aren’t challenging this are those who are using the myth to drive ideological political change.

The growth in food aid demonstrates that the social safety net Is failing in its basic duty to ensure that families have access to sufficient income to feed themselves adequately. The exponential rise in the creation of food banks reflects a growing problem and only delivers mitigation. Food banks provide a vital emergency service to the people they support but they do not address the underlying structural causes for the growth of food poverty. – Walking the Breadline

Silent Night

I spotted this guy outside Covent Garden begging/busking.  He’s found a traffic cone and he is playing all of the Christmas Classics on it.  He was very good.

Of course this photo doesn’t exist because we don’t have any poor people in the UK.

The Bible and the English Language

The Open University have produced some great potted history videos with famous people doing a quick run down of a topic.  My favourite is David Mitchell’s look at Schrödinger’s Cat.  This one is probably more use to the readers of this blog though…

Rousay

Rousay

Originally uploaded by The Muffin Man

From my trip to Orkney.

Britistics

Julz has given me a link to Britistics.  It is a brilliant visualisation of British life in 2011, cutting through the drivel.  Who am I kidding, Julz has a much better way with words.

Awesome british statical infographic – everything from time spent arguing to whether we believe more in reincarnation than aliens.

Personally I’m voting for aliens!

A Dead Church?

It isn’t often that I stick my head up and make comment on something like the synod of The Church of England but here goes. There was a report that prompted Dr Ruth and I to talk for a couple of hours this afternoon about the nature of God, The Church ™ and our place within it.

“The Church of England will cease to exist in 20 years as the current generation of elderly worshippers dies, Anglican leaders warned yesterday.”

This is a truism. For my beloved Church of England to continue witnessing into the future there needs to be a recognition of the changing world in which we minister. In the rhetoric that has been reported there have been some unfortunate soundbytes such as the need for a “recruitment drive”. There has also been the use of business model type language to describe the impending fall or rise of the good old CofE. This type of discussion has prompted me to a key theological question:

What is the role that The Church of England is called to within the missio dei?

To see our primary motivation to mission as merely “perpetuating The Church of England” as a goal in itself then we have missed the point. God is on a mission and invites us to be involved with it. We need to reexamine the true nature of our call as a church to go into the world as followers of the way. Along the way we need to keep pointing to our destination and call others to join us on the road. If we believe we need a “recruitment drive” then we may as well pack up the shop and go home now. We need to empower people to live out their baptism call corporately as the body of Christ.

How can i try to paint a picture of the problem as i see it? Lets imagine that The Church of England is transported to a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. When Luke landed on Degoba he met with a little muppet called Yoda. Yoda did not turn to Luke and say “welcome to Degoba, you’ll love it here. Pull up a rock by the swamp, please stay”. Why would he stay in a place that is completely alien to him? Where is the desert he knows knows so well from his homeworld? And once he has crash landed here he meets someone who is completely alien to him. Yoda doesn’t speak the same kind of language as him, the lifestyle is completely alien to him. Luke almost walks away and fails to recognise that Yoda’s advancing years have given him an ancient wisdom. Ironically, Yoda tries to dismiss Luke for being too impetuous, youthful and “not the right kind of person to be one of us”.

When Yoda was talked around by Obi Wan he did not point to all of these differences and the settings around him. What he did was point towards something much more significant than himself or the place where he found himself. He pointed to something much more profound and something much deeper than Luke could imagine. He prepared Luke for the journey that he was on and eventually sent him off to fulfil that journey.

How can we as a church get beyond trying to recruit people to man the jumble sale and become more like Yoda?

Or as @emptybelly tweeted a couple of days ago:

If the 21st century church took Jesus as seriously as the 1st century church, this world would again be turned upside down for God’s kingdom