Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Happy Christmas!

There's been less time for blogging with a rush of Christmas services and now I'm taking a few days off. We've had a wonderful Christmas and I've been touched and thrilled by the way that God has worked among us. Thank you to all those who've worked really hard - some in very obvious and 'up-front' ways and some behind the scenes.

We're excited about what God has in store for us in 2008, but for now, have a very happy Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Carols by candlelight 23 December at 6.30pm

The rehearsals for the carols by candlelight service are finished and I'm really impressed. Aileen's chosen a wide range of music and this year has put together the readings too. There are congregational carols, choir pieces, a string quartet and a piece of drama. It's going to be a great evening.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Blog's first birthday

It's exactly a year since the first post on this blog. 1195 different people have visited the blog a total of 3297 times. Compared to other blogs, our traffic might be low, but that's not the point. The idea has been to tell something of the story of a church community in mission to those who participate in it, or who have a connection, interest or live locally. That's why it's especially pleasing that several people have joined our church after finding us here.

276 articles have been posted, which means that the archive is full of information for future reference. Don't forget to use the search facility to find answers to your questions.

Thanks must go to the worshipping community at St Paul's Church, for your suggestions and comments, for your encouragement to keep up the work, and most of all for giving me so many good news stories to write.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

New storage sheds on the way

The wooden sheds between the church and my house have served to store all sorts of equipment through the years. The problem is that they've really reached the end of their serviceable life. Rain gets in through the gaps in the perished felt, the wood is rotting, and some attention from vandals have left them in a pretty sorry state.

So we'll soon be decanting all the contents into a container on the car park and laying a concrete foundation for new sheds in January. There'll be a week or so when the path will be closed to allow the work to go ahead.

Many thanks to Vivien for getting this all arranged.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

New arrivals at St Paul's

It's always encouraging when new people appear in church and we've seen a number of people join us at St Paul's in recent weeks. I'm pleased that many have said that they have found us through the internet. If you're a regular member, do look out for people you don't recognise and make them welcome.

Leicestershire Christmas Breakfast at Barney's

With crackers, candles and festive trimmings we sat down to breakfast before church this morning. Only four of the fifty or so people who came tucked into the traditional Leicestershire pork pie and pickle breakfast.

I confess I couldn't face it myself and stayed with the equally traditional full cooked English. Thanks to all the team for their wonderful work.

Cutting the dog collar

The splendid Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, took out a pair of scissors on live TV this morning and cut up his clerical collar. The archbishop said that this was in protest against the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zibabwe. It looks like that the good archbishop is going to collar-less for a while, as he declared, " As far as I'm concerned, from now on I'm not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone."

It made for a great TV moment and is sure to raise the profile of the Church of England's opposition to Mugabe's treatment of his people in the national and international press.

It won't be long before I'm invited to cut up my own dog collar in response to some issue, I guess. Any suggestions?

Friday, 7 December 2007

Houghton on the Hill credit card scam

I just heard on the national BBC radio news bulletin about a credit and debit card scam in the nearby village of Houghton on the Hill. The BBC News website is now running the story, which is currently the most read story on the site. It appears that people who have used the village shop and garage may have been defrauded of money as far away as Australia, the Phillipines and India. It looks like all this took place without the knowledge of the owner, who has now changed his credit and debit card machines.

If you've recently purchased goods at the garage in Houghton with a card you may wish to check your statements carefully.

Evangelism and the strength of weak ties

The Alpha invitations have gone out by post and email, to several dozen contacts and people on the edges of St Paul's. On Sunday, I'll be asking the congregation to take at least one flyer each and think about who they could invite.

Classically, congregations are encouraged to think first about their family and close friends as those most likely to be invited to an evangelism course. But I'm wondering if it might be better to ask people to think of an acquaintance who could be invited instead.

I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point this week. Gladwell talks about the strength of weak ties in the propagation of ideas, fashions and news. He takes the work of sociologist Mark Granovetter who found that personal connections are powerful factors in issues such as getting a job. The surprising thing that Granovetter found is that acquaintances are actually more fruitful than close friends in this respect. Gladwell adopts this idea; that while word-of-mouth is a significant force it's these weak ties that are instrumental. Hence "the strength of weak ties".

I wondered if this might be true for evangelism. Certainly most people find faith through the encouragement of other people who are known to them. Evangelism is a relational matter. But, perhaps contrary to what we might usually think, could it be through our acquaintances, rather than through our close friends and family, that these introductions happen. There's plenty of evidence in the bible for the spread of the gospel through the strong ties of family and close friendships. But there's also evidence of people receiving encouragement through weaker ties too.

When I think about the list of people who I have sent the invitations to, they are people who are known to me through funerals, weddings, baptisms, community use of our buildings etc. I know them well enough to remember their names and some relevant information about them, but I'm hardly their friends.

So this Sunday, I shall be asking the congregation to think in the same terms. Perhaps there are people in their street, office or in the pubs where they drink, that they might invite. I'll report back through the blog how we get on.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Dates confirmed for the new Alpha Course at St Paul's

We have a leaders' planning meeting next week but we have already confirmed that the Alpha Course will be on Tuesdays, beginning on 15 January 2008.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Christmas services

Principal Services Advent and Christmas 2007

This year, make Christmas what it should really be – a celebration of the greatest gift ever given.

With a wide range of services, Christmas at St Paul’s offers everyone a chance to draw closer to God and to know his grace.

If this is your first Christmas with us, we hope and pray that it will be a really special time. And if you’ve been here before and settled into a pattern, why not try a different service and explore a new dimension of worship?

May God enrich your celebrations with the promise of his love.

2 December 2007 – Advent Sunday
10.00am Holy Communion
The unexpected hour
Romans 13.11-14; Matthew 24.36-44

2 December 2007
8.00pm Holy Space alternative worship
…and God became a man

9 December 2007
10.00am Toy Service and Parade
What do you want for Christmas?
Make someone’s Christmas with a special small gift for a child or young person. Pick up a leaflet from Church and bring your gift to church at this Parade Service for all the family.

16 December 2007
10.00am Holy Communion
John the Baptist prepares the way
James 5.7-10; Matthew 11.2-11

23 December 2007
10.00am Service of the Word
An unexpected pregnancy
Romans 1.1-7; Matthew 1.18-25

23 December 2007
6.30pm Carols by Candlelight
Our annual candlelit carol service with traditional favourites and readings that reveal the significance of the child born in Bethlehem.

Christmas Eve
4.00pm – 5.00pm Christingle Service
With the preparations for Christmas Day almost ready, come and join us for a wonderful celebration of the Nativity for all ages.

Christmas Eve
11.30pm – 12.45am Midnight Communion
The Christ-child is born
Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-14
Approaching midnight, we wait and watch for the promise of the prophets and the message of the angels to be fulfilled – Glory to God in the Highest!

Christmas Day
10.00am – 11.00am Short Holy Communion
Happy Christmas!
Hebrews 1.1-4; John 1.1-14
At last the longed-for day is here. In a shorter service of Holy Communion we gather to put Jesus at the heart of our celebration of Christmas.

30 December 2007
10.00am Service of the Word
Jesus the refugee
Hebrews 2.10-18; Matthew 2.13-23

Multi-cultural celebrations in December

Albert Mosely writes with details of forthcoming events:

Oadby and Wigston MultiCultural Group are planning two celebrations in December.

Monday Dec 10th - celebration of Hannukah - 6.45 pm outside Tippett's on the Parade, followed by refreshments in Trinity Coffee Lounge.

Wednesday Dec 19th starting outside Tippett's on the Parade
6.30 pm Explanation of the significance of Eid-ul-Adha, remembering Abraham's willingness to obey God even if it meant sacrificing his son.
6.45 pm Explanation of the meaning of Christmas (Rev Mark Cheetham) and the singing of a carol, led by a group of
carol-singers from Trinity
7.00 pm Appropriate refreshments in Trinity Coffee Lounge
7.15 pm The carol singers will go singing round the village - everyone is invited to join them

Friday, 23 November 2007

The Kingdom of God's healed people and communities

Following the recent discussion about recording sermons, it seems there's an interest in starting this again. I recorded last Sunday's sermon in low-tech way (on my mobile phone) and you can hear it by playing this file: Sermon 20071118. The readings for the service were Amos 5.14-24 and Luke 7.18-23. Feel free to add your comments.

The future of Uplands Park

Uplands Park is important to people in Oadby, particularly to those on "our" side of the A6. It's really one big open space, with football and cricket pitches and a pavillion. But apart from these opportunities for organised sport, there really isn't much going on. Sure, many people walk their dogs and the car park seems to be used as a bit of rendezvous place. The skate park was sadly removed after complaints about noise and nuisance (perhaps made worse by its location). Does the park have a future, and if so, in what ways can it best serve the people of the neighbourhood.

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council are holding a series of public consultations with plans for their proposals available for inspection. The next consultation is on Wednesday 28 November in two sessions. The afternoon session (12 to 4pm) is in the Pavillion and the evening session (6pm to 8pm)is here at The Barnabas Centre. Do come and take a look.

Update: 23 November - I received a letter from the Council today with a plan showing a whole range of proposed improvements, including a new Skateboard Park (in a new location and with some landscaping and planing), picnic and natural play areas, sensory play area and basketball provision plus an extended pavillion and lots more. Looks good to me but what do you think?

Would you like a traditional Leicestershire Christmas Breakfast?

Anita writes, "Barney's Christmas Cracker - Our next breakfast will precede the Toy Service on 9 December. This festive event offers a traditional Leicestershire Christmas breakfast in addition to the usual menu. Contact Anita Chettle to book now!"

What on earth is a Leicestershire Christmas breakfast? I guess that with being the snack-foods capital of Britain it must involve crisps or pork, and some form of pastry perhaps. Any ideas? Hit the comment button and let us know...

New ministries begin in Oadby

I met with two new ministers in Oadby this morning. The first is well-known to the community at St Paul's. Revd Mark Battison will be joining the parish team as a Minister in Secular Employment with a specific interest in working with the business community. Mark's licensing will be at St Peter's Church this Sunday, 25 November, at 6.30pm and the Archdeacon of Leicester will conduct the service.

As Mark left my study this morning we welcomed Fr Denis Hough, who joined the RC Church of the Immaculate Conception as priest two weeks ago. Fr Denis comes to the East Midlands from Altrincham, Cheshire, and we look forward to working in partnership in the coming years through Churches Together in Oadby.

It's a time of change for the public ministers of Oadby, as the Oadby Baptist Church continues its search for a new minister, who we hope will be appointed in the coming months.

Oadby's Masterplan and the Bible's vision of urban living

Parish magazine article – December 2007

The newly published Oadby Town Centre “Masterplan” is available for public consultation. I’ve obtained a copy of the full 51-page report and it makes for fascinating reading. Pick up a copy from the council or download a copy. You can offer the council your own thoughts before noon on 21 December 2007.

The “preferred options plan” sets out an analysis of the issues facing Oadby’s town centre and offers a vision for a policy framework, against which future proposals for development will be tested and monitored.

While people will have varying opinions on the specifics, I welcome what appears to be a positive commitment to the improvement of the heart of our town (or “village” if you prefer). And it’s made me reflect on the visions for urban living contained in the Jewish-Christian tradition.

It’s become something of a cliché to note that the Bible begins in a garden and concludes in a city. The paradise of Eden was lost, but the renewed creation which completes the Revelation to John is a city, teeming with life.

This is a little at odds with English sentiment over the last two centuries. The romantic charms of simple rural living have persuaded generations that the “unspoilt countryside” is always better option than the delights of town and city. It needs pointing out, of course, that precious little English countryside could be described as “unspoilt”. Two millennia of organised agriculture have shaped and dressed English hills and fields in a beautiful, but certainly man-made, environment. Still, what could be better than escaping the bustle and noise of the tarmac-covered city streets and breathing fresh country air?

While I love the countryside, I rather feel that for many people its chief attraction is the isolation and opportunity to get away from others. We all need space and places to stretch our legs but I wonder if the desire to flee into the quiet green shires goes further. Could it have something to do with our rather ambivalent attitude towards other people? So here’s the question: Is part of the countryside’s attraction as a place to live that it makes it alright to be just a little anti-social? Do people prefer it because it demands less patience and tolerance than the town?

Urban living brings all the nuisance of cramped social space. Part of the stress of living in towns and cities is the constant negotiation that goes with it. People ‘fight’ for parking spaces, ‘do battle’ with the traffic and contend with ‘neighbours from hell’. Working out how to share space is inevitable in the town and city and often difficult.

But if this is the Achilles’ heel of urban life, it also offers wonderful possibilities.

In the Old Testament era, cities were protected with walls, ramparts and watchtowers. They offered far better security than the outlying scattered settlements. And in large cities, guilds of tradespeople worked together in co-operative enterprise. The security meant that cities were the natural places to build palaces for treasures, places for worship and institutions for learning, space for performance, dance, art and music. No wonder that the blessing of the Promised Land was to exchange the broad open spaces of the “unspoilt” wilderness for the congestions of Jericho – a ready-made gift of urban habitation (albeit with some urgent repairs to do to its walls).

When Jeremiah’s people were later exiled into the foreign city of Babylon, they faced the tough question about whether to participate in it or to sabotage it. God’s message to Jeremiah was that the displaced captives should work for the welfare of the city and all its people. It was possible to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land after all.

Jerusalem was finally restored by Nehemiah, who surveyed her broken walls and shattered places. He followed through with divinely-instituted town-planning and renewed the life of the city in bricks, mortar, worship and prayer. The city could not be left desolate – it simply had to be rebuilt with vision, skill and hard work.

When the apostles took the message of the gospel to the Gentiles, the Holy Spirit guided them to market places and to town squares. And the very fabric of civic life prompted questions – in Athens Paul used a sculpture dedicated to an unknown god to point to the one true God he served. In wealthy Ephesus, with its sophisticated public bath houses and grand aqueducts, he disputed with the guild of silversmiths, who manufactured and traded in the streets surrounding the great temple of Artemis. The names of many New Testament books are the names of city-dwellers that Paul corresponded with: Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians, Galatians.

The final biblical vision is that of a new city, a heavenly Jerusalem, that is even more spectacular in its life and purpose than in its architecture.

Back to earth and specifically to the little bit of it that’s post-coded “LE2”. Oadby’s “Masterplan” offers a vision for the life of the town in a series of affirmations:

“To establish a distinct and sustainable role for Oadby.

To encourage the growth of economic and social benefits for local people.

To create a safe, distinctive and pedestrian friendly environment.

To achieve an attractive and accessible place to shop, live and work.

To ensure that Oadby reflects high quality and inspirational design.

To link the town, physically and economically, to its catchment.”

These are welcome aspirations. If realised, they will significantly improve the town in which we live. But I can’t help wondering if together we suffer from a lack of imagination about urban (or suburban) living and expect our planners to do all the hard work for us.

Certainly, the project of improving Oadby can’t be compared with Wren’s masterful re-working of London or with Haussman’s transformation of Paris. And thankfully the ambitions of the current generation of provincial planners are more modest than those brutal designers of twentieth century modernism, with its concrete and tower block “machines for living”.

But we need to enlarge our vision for shared civic space. It matters enormously that we create an environment that humanises us and introduces us to our neighbours. This vision must be more than retail opportunity and coffee-stops for the middle-classes. The poor, the young, the elderly and the frail must all share the same social spaces as the leisured and affluent. And our ethnically diverse population ought to be properly represented on Oadby’s town centre streets.

So perhaps the greatest and most effective improvement in Oadby will not be the re-worked spaces but the way we use them. Take a look at the plans. Comment, criticise or applaud them. But whatever we end up with, let’s civilise the urban environment with generous and wholehearted urban living. Let’s not dream of escape to countryside homes from where we’ll commute unsustainably. Put down roots in Oadby’s tarmaced fields. We’ll have a better Oadby yet if we move more gently through her streets, smile more often at strangers, pray for her welfare and cherish the land on which we walk.

Simon Harvey

St Peter's Church Christmas Fair - Saturday 1 December 2007

St Peter's Church are holding their annual Christmas Fair on the morning of 1 December 2007, at the Church and Church Centre.

Hooray Day 26 - Prince of Egypt

The church is full of intriguing displays and games equipment ready for tomorrow's Hooray Day. If you want more information, contact Derek on 0116 271 5765.

Mums and Tots Christmas Party

Stacey and Keely have planned a Christmas Party for St Paul's Mums and Tots on 18 December between 1 and 3 pm. For more information call them on 0116 271 0025 or 07816 403016.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Oadby Town Centre Masterplan

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council have unveiled their "Masterplan" for the development of the centre of Oadby. The period of public consultation has just begun and the plan is available on the Borough's website and as a 51 page PDF.

I welcome the report in principle but have only just begun to read it now, so can't comment on any details. Comments have to be made before 12.00noon on 21 December 2007.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Carols by Candlelight - 23 December 6.30pm

Aileen is drawing together a team of singers for the annual carol service. This is always a special treat and if you're interested in being part of it, do send me an email and I'll forward it. Rehearsals are in the Barnabas Centre as follows: 21st November 7.30pm, Wednesday 28th November 8.15pm, Friday 7th December 7.30pm, Thursday 13th December 8.15pm, Wednesday 19th December 7.30pm. There will also be a practice on 23rd December at 4pm followed by a light tea to sustain the singers for the service.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

DCC Meeting November 2007

This week's DCC meeting focussed on the 2008 church budget, rates for lettings, the Alpha Course and replacements for the storage sheds.

Body Control Pilates for a healthy mind and body – beginners classes

Stephanie Smith writes:

Body Control Pilates for a healthy mind and body – beginners classes

A five week beginners course teaching the basic principles of the Pilates method starts on November 12th , 8pm at the Barnabas Centre, Hamble Road. Oadby.

The Pilates method is growing in popularity as people become aware of the numerous health benefits. Properly taught and regularly practised you can expect to experience -

improved posture; toned, strengthened muscles; increased flexibility; a reduction in neck, shoulder and back pain; you will feel less tense and with a greater sense of wellbeing.

Body Control Pilates is safe and effective for all ages and levels of fitness. I teach small groups to ensure that every body receives close individual attention and exercises safely.

For more information, or to reserve a place on the course please contact Stephanie Smith 07921 385689 or email bcpleics@yahoo.co.uk

Fair Trade

I was asked to confirm that St Paul's remains committed to the use of Fair Trade produce, so that we can retain our status as a Fair Trade Church. I was glad to do so and it's heartening that after many years of campaigning, fairly traded goods are no longer a speciality but have become mainstream. We're experimenting with different brands of fairly traded tea and coffee - so far M&S seem to be the best received.

Don't forget to enjoy a fairly traded cuppa with your cooked breakfast before church this Sunday.

SPCK - Leicester

From the Leicester Diocese email news service, Peter Hebden writes:
SPCK Bookshop, 10 Bishop Street Leicester

We are pleased to announce that from the 1st November 2007 ownership of the SSGCT/SPCK bookshop in Leicester is transferred to Reverend Peter Hebden.

As a consequence we shall once again be able to emphasize the ethos of SPCK and will trade under the name of CHRISTIAN RESOURCES.

The address and telephone numbers remain unchanged but there will be an increase in the use of e-mails for facilitating credit accounts for parishes. Thus the preferred method of ordering, invoicing and statement production for parish accounts will progressively use e-mail thus dramatically reducing the amount of paper being used. There is no need to travel into Leicester just telephone or e-mail your needs.

We are determined to retain and improve this Christian resource centre by serving those whose mission is necessarily rooted in the parishes. For this to succeed and be a foundation for the future we would like all P.C.C.’s to consider if they can use our facility even more than they do at present.

Please contact us (by e-mail if possible) and allow us to open a credit account for your parish even if you may not use it for a while.

Tel; 01162854499 e-mail; peter@christianresourcesleicester.com

Best wishes from Peter, Janette, Harriet, Alison and Helen.

In addition, The Bishop sends the following message:

I am delighted to add my support and encouragement to this courageous initiative that Peter Hebden is taking to keep the SPCK Bookshop ethos and resource available to us in this Diocese. It is vital that we all maintain our reading and awareness of Christian issues and the presence of a high quality Christian bookshop at the heart of the Diocese is a matter of real interest to all Christians. We owe it to Peter to do our best to support this initiative and to ensure that it does not fail.

This is good news for Christians in Leicester who want the assurance of friendly service and breadth of stock for which its SPCK branch has been known.

Update: Thanks to Dave Walker of CartoonChurch who has lots of information about the SPCK/SSG saga on his blog.

Holy Space - December 2007

The next Holy Space alternative worship event is at St Paul's on Sunday 2 December at 8.00pm. No need to book - just turn up.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Map of Gartree North Mission Partnership

View Larger Map

Click one of the markers to see details of a church and to find directions to it from any address. Click and drag to scroll around the map. Use the + and - zoom buttons or change the view with the Map, Satellite or Hybrid buttons.

3000 years of war - an evening of poetry and readings 10 November 2007

Following our announcement last month, David Foulds and a team have made arrangements for the evening of poems and readings, to be held in St Paul's Church. It will be followed by a fish and chip supper. Tickets £5 from David or Cynthia Foulds, in Church or Tel 2710462. Please bring your own drinks, tea and coffee provided.

Fair trade gifts for Christmas 3 November

I spotted my first Christmas decorations for 2007 at Sainsburys, Fosse Park this week. Not for sale but hanging above the tills. Reindeer and snowflakes on 18 October felt absurd.

But it is time to think about getting organised with cards and gifts. There's a great opportunity to do so at our Fair Trade Sale and Coffee Morning in the Barnabas Centre on Saturday November 3rd. 10am – 12noon. There will also be a stall at the back of Church after the service on Sunday November 4th. All goods on sale have been fairly traded, guaranteeing a better deal for Third World workers. Please support this worthy cause.

The church budget

I spent yesterday morning with Vivien and Diane, working through a draft budget to present to the DCC next month.

Contrary to what you might think, I've never found this tedious but actually quite an exciting annual task. There's nothing quite like figures on paper to give a snapshot of the life of our community. True, it's a very limited snapshot, as most of the really important things can't be measured in £ and p.

Juggling the £80,000+ total into smaller figures to reflect our hopes (and some of our fears) for the next year is about combining faith and wisdom. That's why we pray together before we get the calculator out.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

CTO Prayer meeting

Steve Rowe has organised a prayer meeting at Oadby Baptist Church on 1 November at 7.30pm. The focus for prayers is Churches Together in Oadby and its future direction.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Oadby Churches on Facebook

Christians really ought not be competitive, jealous, proud or obsessed with numbers. So with no hint of any of these, I note that the great Facebook revolution has hit Oadby with mixed results. Only Oadby Baptist Church (32 members) and St Paul's (33 members!) appear to have a Facebook group. What about the rest? Still, both of us fall short of the Grange Farm Appreciation Society (91 members).

I was delighted to compare the membership policies of the two church groups - while we have a "walk through the door and we count you in" approach, our good friends at OBC have an approved membership list. Ecclesiological differences run deep, don't they?

Multicultural Group

I've just come from a meeting of the Oadby and Wigston Multicultural Group, which met at St Paul's for the first time. There was a high turnout of 27 people, including many councillors, who first came into church to see the Desi Masti group rehearsing their dancing. All major faith groups were represented in a gathering which discussed forthcoming festivals and the way in which members of ethnic communities can be encouraged to access medical care, especially mental health provisions.

Who does St Paul's give money to?

Last week the DCC approved the donations made to mission organisations. We give away a tenth of all our income to brilliant agencies for the relief of suffering and to support people working for justice and the gospel around the world. This is, in addition to the funds raised by occasional appeals and the contribution to local mission in Leicestershire through the parish share.

The approved donations given by St Paul's are going to Evangelical Alliance, Care, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Africa Inland Mission, and Jakin Pregnancy Care and Counselling.

From the 'common pot' of parish-wide donations, funds are going to CMS, Bible Society, Crosslinks, Mission Aviation Fellowship, USPG and Christ in the Centre.

Supporting the church in Belize

Malcolm and Ruth Lambert, two ministers from Leicester Diocese, are set to go to Belize next year to assist the Anglican Church in its mission.

Last night Malcolm and Ruth came to St Paul's to speak about their work and to share their hopes, excitement and trepidation about all that awaits them.

As a parish, we're delighted to be able to support their work through USPG and hope to hear from them regularly.

Malcolm will be working at the Anglican Theological Institute to develop a range of courses for lay and ordained ministry. Ruth will be a pastor based at St Ann's Church in the capital Belmopan, and developing schools and hospital chaplaincies.

Keep up with Malcolm and Ruth's adventure through their website.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Key facts about the Church of England

While browsing the HalloweenChoice website I came across some useful facts:

Church attendance and visits
  • 1.7 million people take part in a Church of England service each month, a level that has been maintained since the turn of the millennium. Around one million participate each Sunday.
  • More than 2.8 million participate in a Church of England service on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Forty three per cent of the population attend church at Christmas, rising to 48 per cent in London and, nationally, 22 per cent among those of non-Christian faiths.
  • In 2005 forty seven per cent of adults attended a church or place of worship for a memorial service for someone who has died and twenty one per cent were seeking a quiet space. Both these proportions are increases on thirty seven per cent and nineteen per cent respectively in 2003 and twenty nine per cent and twelve per cent respectively in 2001.
  • 86 per cent of the population visit a church or place of worship in the course of a year , for reasons ranging from participating in worship to attending social events or simply wanting a quiet space.
  • Every year, around 12.5 million people visit Church of England cathedrals, including 300,000 pupils on school visits. Three of England's top five historic 'visitor attractions' are York Minster, Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
  • Seven in ten (70%) of the population agree that Church of England schools have a positive role in educating the nation's children.
  • One in four primary schools and one in 16 secondary schools in England are Church of England schools. Approaching one million pupils are educated in more than 4,700 Church of England schools.
  • The Church of England has more than 27,000 licensed ministers - including more than 9,000 paid clergy; more than 3,000 non-stipendiary ministers; more than 10,000 Readers; around 5,000 active retired clergy; and more than 1,100 chaplains in colleges, universities, hospitals, schools, prisons and the armed forces.
Community involvement
  • More people do unpaid work for church organisations than any other organisation. Eight per cent of adults undertake voluntary work for church organisations while sixteen per cent belong to religious or church organisations.
  • A quarter of regular churchgoers (among both Anglicans and other Christians separately) are involved in voluntary community service outside the church. Churchgoers overall contribute 23.2 million hours voluntary service each month in their local communities outside the church.
  • The Church of England provides activities outside church worship in the local community for over half a million (515,000) children and young people (aged under 16 years) and 38,000 young people (aged 16 to 25 years). More than 136,000 volunteers run children / young people activity groups sponsored by the Church of England outside church worship.
Church buildings
  • Nearly half the population (46%) think that central taxation, local taxation, the National Lottery or English Heritage should be 'primarily' responsible for providing money to maintain churches and chapels. These churches and cathedrals are largely supported by the efforts and financial support of local communities. Often, they are the focus of community life and service.
  • Forty-five per cent of the country's Grade I listed buildings are parish churches maintained by the Church of England. There are at least £378 million of major church repairs outstanding, 87% for listed churches.
Sources: Church Statistics 2003/4 and 2004/5
Opinion Research Business national polls 2005/ 2003/ 2001/ 2000.

How to say no to trick or treat callers

Following last week's post about Halloween, we had a lot of interest in the idea of giving treats to The Children's Society instead of handing out money at the door. We extended the idea from the Halloween Choice website by selling "No trick or treat thanks" posters for a minimum donation of £1 after church. We had lots of takers and will do a re-print this Sunday. Once we collect the donations, we'll send them off to The Children's Society.

All this raises a question, when the doorbell rings in a couple of weeks, what will you do?

  1. If you feel vulnerable or afraid, don't feel that you have to answer the door.
  2. If you decide to answer the door, check through the window first. A gang of hooded teenagers is a different prospect from a couple of toddlers with their parents.
  3. Don't be rude. Many people will find it odd that you refuse to give money to a small child but there's no need to give offence.
  4. A "no trick or treat, thanks" poster in the window makes it easier to say no.
  5. Be positive. Explain that you're not just mean but that supporting a children's charity is the best way to make a difference in children's lives.
  6. Give away a couple of small sweets if you like.
  7. Don't scare youngsters with blood-curdling warnings about satanism! There is a dark and scary side to Halloween but the doorstep is hardly the place for a subtle theological conversation. Be friendly and show that the Church is a brighter, happier place for children and families to be than they might imagine.

New men's Christian Magazine

Inspire reports that a new men's lifestyle magazine will launch next month. Sorted will tackle issues such as: What does God thing about sex? Is it OK to have a beer? and What should be our response to Islam? in it's first issue.

It strikes me that this is quite a tough sector. Though I'm not a reader of Nuts, Zoo or Men's Health, I reckon Sorted will be an unlikely challenger for the bottom-shelf at W H Smiths. Still, we wish them well.

Sorted will retail at £2.50 and is available on subscription at £12.50 a year. For more information contact Steve Legg at steve@breakout.org.uk

The legalities of getting married in church

I've just been talking the new curates of Leicester Diocese about weddings. We explored the legalities of who can marry whom, where and how. It's all quite invoved. The good news is that there is quite a lot of very useful guidance if you know where to find it.

Only about six out of ten weddings are completely straightforward, in my experience. The others have me reach for my trusted copies of ANGLICAN MARRIAGE IN ENGLAND AND WALES - A Guide to the Law for Clergy and SUGGESTIONS FOR THE GUIDANCE OF THE CLERGY WITH REFERENCE TO THE MARRIAGE AND REGISTRATION ACTS, ETC.

But apart from the complexities, marriage ministry is one of the best and most valuable aspects of our work in the wider community. I enjoy every wedding.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Hooray Day 26 - Prince of Egypt - 24 and 25 November 2007

The next St Paul's Hooray Day is just around the corner.

Derek and the team will be building on the Egyptian theme and using the brilliant Prince of Egypt video for the all-day Saturday session on 24 November and again on the following Sunday morning.

There'll be fun, games, activities, songs and crafts.

Publicity will appear soon but for more information, contact Derek on 0116 271 5765.

Fabulous artwork from Soar Valley Press. Click the image for more detail.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Don't go grim this Halloween

Few of us are happy about the darker side of Halloween (Hallowe'en?) and even the most laid back parents are able to see that dressing up four and five year olds as zombie monsters and serial killers is a little inconsistent with the rounded and wholesome childhood that we hope for our offspring.

But speak out against the worst Halloween excesses and it's easy to be characterised as an irrelevant fundamentalist. And locking up your Christian children on 31 October may make the whole thing even more intriguing and exciting, while you come across as a real killjoy. So I'm pleased that Halloween Choice is offering some positive suggestions about using the occasion.

Their website includes party ideas and a downloadable No Trick or Treat poster, which involves making a donation to the Children's Society. It all looks good.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Breakfast at Barney's - Church Urban Fund Big Brunch

The Church Urban Fund is promoting its fundraising to support the mission of churches in urban areas through its Big Brunch idea.

Anita spotted that linking this with our regular monthly Breakfast at Barney's was too good an opportunity to miss, so all proceeds this week will go to support the Fund's work.

Last month forty breakfasts were served, so book early by contacting Anita to make sure you get a place. Breakfast at Barney's is served in the Barnabas Centre from 8.30 to 9.30, so that you can eat before the Sunday ten o'clock parade service.

DCC meeting - October 2007

Last night's District Church Council meeting at St Paul's discussed:
  • The new Gartree North Mission Partnership
  • A review of the 25th anniversary celebrations - we didn't rule out doing another fete again!
  • The Alpha Course - we made a major commitment to do the Alpha course but changed our planned timetable so that we could prepare properly. Alpha at St Paul's will begin in January 2008.
  • Modifications to the church sound system to overcome the faulty connections in the plug-and-socket arrangement. This will make the whole system far more reliable but it will mean that we won't be able to disconnect the sound desk. A foldback speaker will be bought to aid the musicians. We committed ourselves to purchase next year additional microphones to cater for our expanded music group and a new radio mic.
  • Increasing the numbers at the next Hooray Day through better publicity.
  • A financial review, which included the uncomfortable fact that our income from giving is around 10% below the budgeted amount.
  • A review of our mission giving and donations.
  • The new constitution of Churches Together in Oadby and its calendar of events in 2008.

Should the church podcast its preaching?

We've sometimes recorded the sermons from our main Sunday service and made them available. At one time this was done on cassette tape, which had the advantage (at the time) of being able to be played in most homes. With the demise of the cassette, this is no longer the case. The other main problem was that duplicating recordings was time-consuming, so generally only one copy was made. It wasn't used very much.

We then tried an experiment in recording in .mp3 format and making it available for download from the internet. This worked for a number of people and seemed to go well but it was always difficult to know how many people actually used the facility. It took a bit of work to get the recording converted and uploaded - about 30 minutes each time.

Someone asked me last week if we were going to resume these recordings and I'd like to know what people think.

Arguments for recording:
  • church members are able to catch up on sermons that they missed.
  • people can "listen again" to reflect further on what was preached.
  • people who are not members of the church community can hear the gospel preached and get a feel for the kind of church that we are.
  • preachers can learn from the way that their sermon came across.
Arguments against recording:
  • time and effort are involved.
  • the recorded sermon never has the same impact as the live, preached sermon.
  • preachers may adjust their message or delivery to address the online audience.
What do you think? Hit the comments link and share your thoughts, please.

Brand, image and the church

The Holy Space team met on Sunday night and decided we needed a simple logo to promote the alternative worship services.

We chose something "un-churchy" and simple, which connects with the idea of a space and time set apart for encounters with God.

I think we have more to learn about the way that graphics help people to understand what we do. Perhaps the symbol of the cross is the ultimate graphical representation of the Christian faith.

I've always wondered why churches don't do more to create a powerful and consistent image to present to the world, as a simple aid to mission. Perhaps it's because the commercial world followed the Church's original lead so that now every enterprise has a logo and spends huge effort developing its brand image. If this means that Christians are wary of gimmicks or "slick marketing" then I understand the concern. But whether we like it or not, every church has an image.

I hope we can do more to create a positive public profile - realistic and truthful, but also attractive and appealing. The gospel deserves nothing less.

For some provocative thoughts on publicity in relation to the Church, visit the blog of Church Marketing Sucks. Their mission is to "frustrate, educate and motivate the church, to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ".

Update: The ChurchRelevance blog lists its top twenty church logos.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Banishing irreverence

While browsing through the ecclesiastical laws that govern the Church I recently discovered Canon B20.3 (the italics are mine)...
It is the duty of the minister to ensure that only such chants, hymns,
anthems, and other settings are chosen as are appropriate, both the words
and the music, to the solemn act of worship and prayer in the House of
God as well as to the congregation assembled for that purpose; and to
banish all irreverence in the practice and in the performance of the same.
I shall be watching!

Bagels and worship in Hebrew at Parklands

I promised to write after the 2007 Oadby and Wigston Civic Service, which took place yesterday at Parklands Leisure Centre. In recent years, members of the Borough's major faith communities have been invited to attend and to speak, and I was privileged to be able to do so as a Christian church leader.

The Mayor, Jeffrey Kaufman, is a member of the Jewish faith and the service was led with a light touch by his chaplain, Rabbi Steven Howard. It was a good occasion and a chance to affirm that people of different faiths can work together for the common good and for the flourishing of the town we share. I referred in my short address to the encouragement that God brought to his people through the prophet Jeremiah to seek the welfare of the city in which they lived, a city of multiple faiths. Active, engaged, confident Christian witness is much more likely when built on relationships of trust and understanding.

The Jewish liturgy was familiar and much of it is used in our own worship. We heard Psalms 100 and 147 read and sung in Hebrew by the Rabbi and the large number of supporters from the Progressive Synagogue. I smiled to hear the final blessing followed by an invitation to tea and refreshments (surely something else we have in common with other faiths). There was an impressive spread of food with bagels instead of sausage rolls, of course.

Collared and thumped - does a dog-collar invite violence?

The Church Times reports that clergy are being advised not to wear their clerical collars while out on their own.

Apparently, the level of violent assaults on clergy has reached such proportions that vicars are being encouraged to walk the streets with a minder, or to slip their dog-collars into their pockets before venturing out.

This isn't quite as daft as it sounds. In seven years of ordained ministry, while wearing my dog collar I've been verbally abused, threatened with "being ripped apart", had crockery thrown at me and, in a complete random assault, punched in the face. None of these attacks have been launched by members of my congregation but by the general public, outside on the street. All of them happened while I was wearing a dog-collar. The article goes on to report that at least five vicars in the last ten years have been murdered in the course of their duties - that's apparently a higher proportion than deaths of police officers in the course of their service.

A clerical collar may mark its wearer as a soft touch, or it may invite some kind of warped projection from the deluded or mentally ill. But it's also a sign that its wearer functions in the community in a particular role. It simply helps in the ministry that we have. I'll try to be more careful but for now at least, I'll keep mine on .

Living the dream

On Saturday, we went over to Lichfield Cathedral for the launch of a friend's new book. It's Living the Dream by Pete Wilcox.

Pete is a gifted interpreter of scripture. Being trained for ministry by him was a rare privilege. During my curacy we made ourselves a routine of reading the bible together after our weekly staff meetings. In the three years of my time with Pete, we read large sections of scripture, in chunks of one or two chapters at a time.

We talked about what we read, sometimes for an hour or more, and the times we spent with the cycle of stories that tell of the exploits of Joseph were especially memorable.

So I'm looking forward to getting back in touch with Pete's insights into a wonderfully dramatic episode in the history of God's people.

"Living the Dream" is published by Paternoster Press at £7.99. ISBN 1842275550.

The attitude of gratitude

I've just taken an assembly at Manor High School with a harvest thanksgiving theme. I explained the roots of the harvest festivals which have been part of the calendar of churches for centuries. And then I talked about gratitude.

I'm convinced that gratitude, simply being thankful, is one of the secrets to a happy and purposeful life. In a culture satiated with so much stuff, we still manage to find things to complain about and so much more to want. Being thankful for what we have may seem naive or corny but it's a vital attitude. Too much desire and insufficient thankfulness is a recipe for a driven, grey and miserable life.

For a while now, I've woven little thanksgiving rituals into my day. Sometimes I pour a glass of cool, clean water and cherish the sheer gift of it. I wake up and give thanks for a good night's sleep and the warmth and security of a safe and loving home. Before I sleep, I count my blessings - identifying the big and the very small mercies for which I'm grateful. The results of these little thanksgivings have been quite dramatic - I find that observing them makes me less fretful, more rested and let's me sleep much better. Being quietly thankful to God makes a big difference in making me calm, bringing perspective and increasing my awareness of the needs of others, especially those who don't have the basic necessities.

One of my favourite half-verses is from Colossians 3.15. In a beautiful series of invitations to good and gracious living Paul adds this three-word sentence: "And be thankful." It's one of the most important sentences in the bible.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Jargon busting: what is communion wine made from?

I get asked all the time. Well, okay, I get asked about twice a year. At St Paul's we use fortified red wine. The rules of the Church of England require that the wine is made from fermented juice of the grape, good and wholesome (Canon B17). There's no restriction on the colour of the wine - some churches use amber rather than red.

Hope 2008

I'm encouraged to hear more about Hope 2008, an intiative to encourage churches to work together in mission in their communities throughout 2008. We heard about it again last night at the annual meeting of Churches Together in Oadby and it was well received. Expect to hear more in the future.

Sowing into the Future

The annual Bible Society event this year is to be held at Trinity Methodist Church on 24 October at 7.30pm. Simon Foulds of the Bible Society will speak and the fantastic Paradox Performing Arts will perform We Shall Overcome.

On 28 October at 6.30pm, the Bible Sunday service is at the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, New Street.

Schubert, Vivaldi and Dvorak

The good Methodists down the road are planning a concert. Music by Schubert, Vivaldi and Dvorak will be played at Trinity Methodist Church on Saturday 3 November 7.45pm. A retiring collection will be taken for Christian Aid.

The Vocation Generation

When I was in my late twenties and exploring whether God was calling me to Reader ministry, it seemed as though most people who were doing the same were five to ten years older than me. I've just finished a Reader vocations report for the Diocese and it's been fascinating to discover the ages of those who have been selected for this ministry in recent years.

Fifteen years after my initial explorations, the startling fact is that most candidates for Reader ministry are in their late forties and fifties. In other words, they're still up to five years older than me. This suggests that the Church is still attracting enquiries for ministry from broadly the same group of people.

Now it may be that those born between 1955 and 1965 are an especially gifted group of people but I have my doubts. Why is it that we rarely see people offering for ministry below the age of 35? I've had several conversations with young people in our own church in recent months and I'm struck by the fact that they've hardly thought about becoming a minister in God's church.

Let's see if we can encourage more younger people to ask whether God is calling them to ordained or lay ministry.

Gartree North Mission Partnership confirmed

The proposed Mission Partnership has received approval and will be established shortly. The name for our particular partnership of mission communities is "Gartree North". We have a meeting next week in order to elect a Mission Partnership Convenor, who will enable our working together.

Gartree North Mission Partnership confirmed

The proposed Gartree North Mission Partnership has received approval and will be established shortly.

It links sixteen church communities in the villages of Houghton, Hungarton, Keyham, Thurnby, Stoughton, Oadby (St Paul's and St Peter's), Great Glen, Burton Overy, Carlton Curlieu, Kibworth, Saddington, Smeeton Westerby, Foxton, Laughton and Gumley.

According to the approved foundation document, the aim of the mission partnership is "to focus exclusively on equipping our churches for leadership in mission and teaching."

2007 Oadby and Wigston Civic Service

I've been invited to speak as "a representative of Oadby and Wigston's Christians" for a few minutes at the Civic Service to be held at Parklands Leisure Centre on Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

This is a privilege and also quite a challenge. The service includes contributions from all the major faiths represented in Oadby and it raises the issue of who speaks for whom. The theme of the service is "unity in diversity" and we are certainly a diverse population in our Borough. Thankfully, relations between the faith communities are generally very good and I'm delighted to be able to take part in an occasion which testifies that people of different faiths can work together for the good of the Borough.

Knowing the diversity of the Christian population of a small Borough like ours means that I'm sensitive to the diversity within all religions. As a "representative Christian" I shall try to bear witness to the rich heritage of inclusion, hospitality and graciousness which has characterised the Church at its best.

Expect a report for the blog next week.

Christian Praise Transfusion youth night 1 November 2007

Tickets are now on sale for the first ever Christian Praise Transfusion youth night at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall.

For the first time Christian Praise has been extended to three nights to include a special youth oriented event. Headlining the evening will be the UK’s biggest Christian band – Delirious?

Andy Hawthorne from the Message will be speaking along with support from Kristyna Myles.

The evening is the perfect opportunity to bring young people to a Christian event and hear the gospel message in a relevant way.

Delirious? have had huge success with many best selling albums, popular worship songs sung in churches across the globe, and have worked with many other artists including a live album with Hillsong.

The event, organised by Transfusion which is a part of the Christian Praise Trust, takes place on Thursday 1st November and tickets are £20.

Tickets are available from the Transfusion ticket hotline on 0116 233 7915, through the Christian Praise ticket office, CLC Bookshop or online at www.transfusionuk.co.uk or www.myspace.com/transfusionevents

Light up the fire...

...and let the flame burn.

Thankfully, the church heating was restored to full working order yesterday.

Friday, 28 September 2007

3000 Years of War

David Foulds is planning a Festival of Remembrance with readings from 3000 years of war poetry (not all of it!) to be held in the church on the evening of Saturday 10th November. More details to follow.

Relight my fire

As a member of that special class of the clergy (vicars who live next to the church) several routine jobs come my way. These include re-lighting the heating when the pilot light goes out. After doing this three times in two days, I called in the engineers who announced that we need a new main valve.

Not only does this sound expensive but I'm told that we might have to wait a while.

This is a problem. We have up to 500 people in our buildings each week and the prospect of entering the first cold snap of the autumn with no heating is not a bright one. We're trying several options, including checking if our insurance covers us for the use of portable gas heating. Meanwhile, if you're a member of St Paul's you may want to bring your warm coat.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Sometimes the most beautiful things...

...are under your feet.

Picture taken this afternoon in Manor Road, Oadby.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

And the winner is... not us!

Congratulations to all the winners at the 2007 Christian Blog Awards. Jennifer and I had a fine night in the splendid setting of St Stephen Wallbrook but we came away without an award (we did have a rather nifty goody bag given to us at the door, though). We were entered in the 'Best Newcomer' category, which was won by Krish Kandiah. Well done Krish! The winning blogs and websites are all amazingly good and it's encouraging to see Christians being so creative with the technology.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Pitfalls of projection

Up to a few years ago 'projection' in church meant clergy standing with straight backs, intoning stirring words of comfort and challenge to the congregants huddled in the back row. Theological colleges brought in drama teachers to show young ministers in training how to speak properly. In my college that meant excruciating lessons involving groping around to locate our diaphragms and addressing inanimate objects around the room with absurd sounds.

But this is the twenty-first century and we're in the decade of the Audio/Visual Projector.

Up and down the land churches have bought projectors and laptops to show pictures, video and text during worship. In moderation and done with polish, it's a real enhancement. We bought a system just over a year ago and it's worked really quite well. Except last Sunday, when it failed during the last hymn. Some people claim to have seen a message flashed on the screen before it disappeared altogether: "Overheating - now shutting down".

This was no ordinary Sunday, of course. The church was packed at our thanksgiving and celebration of the 25th anniversary of the church's opening. So perhaps our worship was getting overheated! All went well until I announced that we'd sing "To God be the Glory". The organ struck up and then I noticed the operator of the projector making some kind of semaphore. The waving arms clearly meant something like, "It's completely busted". Sure enough, I glanced around and the wall onto which the words of the hymns are projected was blank.

But the singing was amazing. The congregation knew all the words to the hymn (though we wobbled just a little in the final verse owing to confusion about whether our 'transport' or 'worship' will be purer, and higher, and greater, when Jesus we see). We smiled at the fact that the technology let us down and sang all the louder and praised all the more. A great moment.

The installers of the projector now tell us that it's just a few weeks outside the full guarantee period so we have to send it off for repair. But this morning Colin shinned a ladder, switched it off and on again and all seems to be well. That leaves us with another detail to worry pray about on Sunday then.

Update: for those of you wanting to know, the projector worked fine so perhaps the failure was a one-off (can you detect a hopeful tone?)

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Grave concerns

I've just come back home from taking a funeral of a local lady. We walked down from St Peter's Church, me in front of the hearse, the mourners behind, to the grave at Oadby Cemetery. I like this way of doing things. There's something very special about honouring someone in stopping the traffic and taking things at walking pace. In these moments, the worth and significance of one human life is celebrated.

At the graveside there's always a bit of nervous edging around the open grave, but once we're settled, peace and calm descends. Not even the hammering of some nearby builders could spoil the tranquility of a late summer afternoon. Tears were wiped from eyes and flowers tossed into the grave, while we heard words of promise and hope.

It's the way it's been for centuries. Warm, dark earth and a community of real people finding strength and comfort from each other and from the church's ministry of the gospel. A good way to use the afternoon.

The soup gets better

I hope to post a picture soon, but no image could do justice to the soup served at the Coffee Pot Harvest Lunch today. Sixty guests were treated to the traditional hearty vegetable soup which, as far as I can tell, is prepared in at least six homes around the parish and then blended in careful combination in the church kitchen. These ladies must have palettes more discerning than a whisky blender for each year the soup comes out as a delicious, wholesome and peppery treat. I'm convinced it gets better each year and I was first up for seconds. Thanks ladies!

St Paul's in the press

I've just had my picture taken for the Leicester Mercury, who are planning to feature our shortlisting as finalists for the blog awards. Having just finished a splendid Coffee Pot Harvest Luncheon, I hope I didn't have food between my teeth. The story should appear in tomorrow's paper.

Now I hear that Radio Leicester want to do a quick live interview at 7.10am on Sunday morning, so I'd better set the alarm a bit earlier. I made a solemn vow before my ordination that I'd try really hard not to look or sound stupid in the media. This is quite a challenge! You'll have to be the judge of whether I failed or not.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Ruby Rainbow Children's Hospice Appeal

We decided from the outset that we didn't want the proceeds from our 25th anniversary fete to go into church funds, so planned for any profits to go to the fund for extending the Rainbows Children's Hospice in Loughborough. This appeal is being supported by both BBC Radio Leicester and the Mayor of Oadby and Wigston, Councillor Jeffrey Kaufman, who opened the fete. We're pleased to announce that over £1400 was raised last weekend. Thank you, everyone!

"Hello, can I be baptised?"

Perhaps sometimes the visible fruits of ministry seem small compared with the effort put in. But occasionally something happens so easily and naturally that you catch yourself wondering if it's for real.
The phone rang yesterday and I was asked by someone I've never met if St Paul's conducts baptisms. I said yes (of course) and suggested a chat. Well, today we met and I was thrilled to hear a young man speak of his recent interest in Christianity and discovery of the work of God in his life. Turns out he'd seen our anniversary celebrations advertised in the Oadby and Wigston Borough "Letterbox" newsletter and then looked us up in Yellow Pages (thank goodness I updated the entry last year). We chatted, we read a little of Luke's gospel together, we prayed. All very straightforward, very simple and very much full of a sense of the Holy Spirit at work. And so a young man begins his journey of faith and we've a baptism to plan. I can't wait to see what happens next.

SMILE at St Paul's

I've just let twenty young people and staff from Manor High School into church for a training day. They're part of the new SMILE peer support team which has worked really well for a number of years. Students can approach SMILE team members to share worries and concerns or just to talk things through. It's a great confidence builder for everyone involved.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

We're finalists in the 2007 Christian Blog Awards

We're excited to hear that St Paul's blog has been selected as a finalist in the 'Best Christian Newcomer' category of the Premier 2007 Christian Web and Blog Awards. I've been asked to attend the award ceremony at the church of St Stephen Walbrook, on Friday 21 September. The evening will be hosted by Jeff Lucas and Premier Christian Radio presenter Maria Toth and the Bishop of London is attending. Now, what to wear...

Monday, 17 September 2007

Celebration Fete - what can we learn?

What a fantastic day! The sun shone down and hundreds of local people joined us on Hamble Green and in the church itself for a whole range of traditional games, competitions, displays and more. A really big thank you to all the team that made it such a success with all their hard work. Did you come? If so, did you have a good time? What can we learn from the experience?

Friday, 14 September 2007

The site of St Paul's

Hard to imagine it now, but many will be able to remember what the site of the church in Hamble Road looked like before the foundations were dug in 1981.

A weekend of celebration

We're hoping for sunshine and praying for a great turnout for our weekend of celebrations, beginning tomorrow.

The fete on Hamble Green, next to the church, begins at 12.00 noon and promises to be great fun for everyone. There'll be activities for people of all ages and it's free - so do drop by.

The Sunday service at 10.00 will be a chance to give thanks for the past quarter-century and an opportunity to look forward. We'll be hearing from members of St Paul's, old and new, about the ways that their faith in God resources their living. And after worship, we'll be sharing in fellowship over a buffet lunch.

Root, Shoot and Fruit

The 2007 Diocesan Clergy Conference ended yesterday and was acclaimed by all the clergy that I spoke with to be one of the best. The speakers were challenging and stimulating but I think it was the conference theme of growth that helped most. We were reminded by Robin Gamble that the natural condition of a healthy church is to grow - not spectacularly but steadily and organically. Professor John Hull challenged us to grow in truth and to resist the self-deceptions that can frustrate mission, especially in its challenge of injustice and poverty. Dr Paula Gooder took us on a three-part exposition of key parables in Luke's gospel which provoked fresh insight.
The worship was innovative and inspiring and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and share stories was very helpful. On a sadder note, the Archdeaconry of Leicester lost the football match to Loughborough by 2-0.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The Dedication of St Paul's Church 6 October 1982

We're gearing up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of St Paul's and it's been great to see the memorabilia that people have from those early years.

This is an extract from the order of service for the dedication service. It's a statement read by the Revd John Tonkin to the bishop after the churchwardens presented the church keys.

“The increase in population in Oadby in the late fifties and early sixties from about 3,000 to almost 20,000 meant that there existed a community of some 7500 people on the south eastern part of the parish separated from all community facilities by the dual carriageway by-pass, a pyschological as well as a physical barrier.

The initial response by the parish was the establishment of a Sunday School (in 1972). The initial response of the Leicester Diocesan Patronage Board was to purchase an area of land in Hamble Road when it was offered through the then Oadby Urban District Council. This land was finally purchased in 1976.

Mr Graham Beck led a devoted team of teachers and their work was given a stimulus by the presence of the Reverend Glyn Jones for six months while he and his family lived in the parish during furlough from Northern Argentina.

In the next three years 1975-1978 during the curacy of the Revd Reg Morgan the Sunday School grew in numbers and more teachers were enrolled.

At this time we decided to start a monthly Family Service. This gained increasing support and by the time that the Revd Wally Brown arrived in 1979 those who were worshipping at Manor were ready for weekly services.

The Parochial Church Council were very conscious of the need for a place of worship and a community centre in this part of the parish. They invited the other member churches of the Oadby Council of Churches to participate. However, for various reasons none of them was able to offer financial involvement but since 1975 have participated in visitations and other events in connection with the erection of the church centre.

A sub-committee of the Parochial Church Council investigated the possibility if the centre being financed jointly by the Church Commissioners (through the Diocese) and the Department of Education and Science (with the Borough of Oadby and Wigston). When it became clear that this was not possible, the Leicester Diocesan Board of Extension [Education?] decided to finance the building of a church centre and a parsonage house at a total cost of £221,000. Of this, the parish has to repay £55,000 in ten years under the terms of an interest-free loan/

The church as the Body of Christ has existed in this part of Oadby for many years, worshipping in Manor School, being taught and sustained by word and sacrament. Members of the congregation at St Peter’s have given active encouragement. Initially this was especially noticeable in the musical life of the ‘Manor’ congregation. (The present organist and her predecessor were both members originally at St Peter’s). More recently this encouragement has been particularly seen in the willingly-offered expertise of the parish treasurer and the other members of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and the Stewardship Committee.

During the past three years the ‘Manor’ congregation have worked together and through their management committee have borne the burden of all the preparations for the equipping, staffing and financial stability of St Paul’s. They and their chairman, the Revd Wally Brown, have worshipped and worked together and have increasingly grown in stature.

I pray that this fine church centre will stand to the glory of God and that here many people will find God’s love expressed in word and sacrament and in the caring and loving fellowship of the church and I invite you to dedicate this church building.”

The readings used at the service were Revelation 21.1-5 (read by Val Ball), Psalm 84.1-7, 1 Corinthians 3.9-13, 16, 17 (read by Steve Bolton) and John 4.19-24.

Transfusion featuring Glass Darkly supported by Philippa Hanna at Y Theatre, Leicester 8 September

This event is part of Mission Possible Leicester and Love Leicester 2007.

Tickets are £6 in advance.

Call the ticket hotline on 0116 233 7915 email: tickets@transfusionuk.co.uk or the Y Theatre box office on 0116 255 7066 or CLC Bookshop, Belvoir St.

Visit Transfusion's myspace site at www.myspace.com/transfusionevents or www.transfusionuk.co.uk for further info.

Kibworth Praise - 9 September 2007

Our friends at Kibworth Praise are holding the next event, titled "A new mindset", this Sunday evening at St Wilfrid's Kibworth at 7.30pm.

For more information call Alison on 0116 279 3195.

Buses everywhere in Oadby

Everywhere you look, there's now a double-decker bus, or four, on the streets. This week, First joined Arriva in running the 31 route around Oadby and into Leicester. Some aspects are welcome - the competition has led to drastic fare cuts, which at last makes a bus journey into town competitive with a car journey. And doubling the number of buses means that you scarcely have to wait more than five minutes for one. But there are downsides.

In a period of less than sixty seconds, on Uplands Road yesterday at 9.15am I was passed by three buses. I counted a total of three people on them. This was quite a busy time for travellers, but one ten tonne bus per person, each with their own five litre engine, does seem excessive.

I guess the present situation is unsustainable, and that both First and Arriva are hoping that they can squeeze out the other. What will happen then to fares and timetables is something we'll have to see. Meanwhile, there's more traffic, more fumes and pollution.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

GCSE results in Oadby

One week after A Level results were announced, congratulations to all who were rewarded for hard work with GCSE results this morning. Beauchamp College was busy this morning but we should remember that most aspects of human worth cannot be measured in grades. While we rejoice with those who are delighted by their results, let's also affirm those who find it hard to get opportunities for rewarding work in a post-industrial age. Connexions in Leicester have advice for youngsters and parents looking for ways forward.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Guillain Performing Arts Drama Classes

Following two successful taster sessions, Guillain Performing Arts are about to begin weekly children's drama classes in the Barnabas Centre. Rebecca Guillain writes that the classes are varied and fun and a superb way to build confidence and a love of performing.

The classes are on Thursdays in term time, from 6:00 to 8.00pm.

More information: rebeccaguillain@ntlworld.com 0780 936 4372

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Breakfast at Barney's - 9 September 2007

On the day we commission the leaders and helpers of our young people's work and celebrate Harvest, come along early for a filling cooked English or lighter continental breakfast.

Breakfast at Barney's is getting more and more popular. You can't beat worship on a full stomach!

Breakfast is served from 8.30 to 9.30am. Book a place, or get more details from Anita.

Photo by r3wind at Flickr

The Hill Top Towns of Tuscany - 1 September 2007

David Foulds will give an illustrated talk on "the hilltop towns of Tuscany" on Saturday 1 September 2007 at 7.45pm in the Barnabas Centre. The evening will include light refreshments and there will be an opportunity to give donations to Christian Aid.

Principal services at St Paul's - September to November 2007

This autumn promises to be a very significant time in our journey as a church. We’ll celebrate 25 years of St Paul’s Church at Hamble Road in September with as much gratitude for the opportunities of the future as for the blessings of the past.

2 September 2007
10.00am Holy Communion
The parting of friends
1 Peter 2.4-10; Matt 5.17-20

9 September 2007
10.00am Family/Parade Service
Harvest Thanksgiving
Psalm 146.5-9

16 September 2007
10.00am 25th Anniversary Celebration Service, followed by lunch.
God’s Opportunity People
Galatians 6.7-10; John 4.7-29

23 September 2007
10.00am Holy Communion and baptism of Phoebe Ellis
A surprising story of dishonesty
Amos 8.4-7; Luke 16.1-13

30 September 2007
10.00am Service of the Word
Listen very carefully…
Amos 6.1a, 4-7; Luke 16.19-end

7 October 2007
10.00am Holy Communion
Increasing faith
Habakkuk 1.1-4, 2.1-4; Luke 17.5-10

7 October 2007
8.00pm Holy Space – Details to follow.

14 October 2007
10.00am Family Parade service
Being thankful friends of Jesus
Luke 17.11-19

21 October 2007
10.00am Holy Communion
Praying when nothing seems to happen
Genesis 32.22-31; Luke 18.1-8

28 October 2007
10.00am Service of the Word
Bible Sunday
Isaiah 45.22-end; Luke 4.16-24

28 October 2007
Evening (time to be confirmed). The Church of the Immaculate Conception, New St
Bible Society Service

4 November 2007
10.00am Holy Communion
The Kingdom of God’s sovereignty
Isaiah 40.9-15; Matthew 12.22-32

11 November 2007
10.00am Family/Parade service
The Kingdom of God’s renewed creation
Revelation 21.1-4

18 November 2007
10.00am Holy Communion
The Kingdom of God’s healed people and communities
Amos 5.14-24; Luke 7.18-23

25 November 2007
10.00am Service of the Word
The Kingdom of God’s priorities
James 2.1426; Luke 4.16-30