Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Oremus bible browser

Some of the best web sites do just one thing, really well. The Oremus Bible Browser is one of these. I use it all the time, to provide a text from a bible reference, or series of references.

It's all very straightforward. Choose your bible version (we use the Anglicized New Revised Standard Version at St Paul's), enter the reference (John 4.2-6 or Jn 4: 2 to 6 - it's very tolerant of different formats).

Holy Spacers in Paradise

Great night at Paradise last night with the Holy Space team, or "Holy Spacers" as we were called by a guest among us. (Who was, incidentally, a man who came to faith in the last year and has had brilliant support and encouragement from Oadby Baptist Church)

Good, not only because Paradise provides one of the best curries in Oadby, but because there's an enthusiasm to plan the next Holy Space event. We managed to sort dates and I'll post details soon.

Why men hate going to church

In this month's News and Views, Shuna George reviews David Murrow's book with this title. Apparently, the top ten reasons for not going to church are:
  1. There are too many hypocrites there
  2. It's for wimps
  3. They ask for money too much
  4. It's too long
  5. I don't want to talk about it (!)
  6. I don't like the vicar
  7. It's irrelevant to my life
  8. It's boring
  9. Church just doesn't work for me
  10. I don't have time
I wonder how we score against these factors?

In response, Murrow recommends:
  1. Seek excellence and quality, not mediocrity
  2. Use technology
  3. Keep periods of sitting still and listening to a minimum
  4. Be project oriented. Plan, work, celebrate, rest!
  5. No fuzzy goals
  6. Offer time limits to voluntary work
  7. Beware of emotive language in worship
  8. Drop traditions which have lost their meaning
  9. Deal with conflict openly and plainly
  10. Sing less
There's some important stuff here, but also some things which need further thought. Emotive language in worship can be a problem (and not just for men), especially if worship is reduced to songs of the "I'm in love with Jesus" type. But behind even the stiffest of upper lips is an emotional being. I think that good worship doesn't just meet our preferences but takes us to places that we wouldn't normally go. And emotion is a vital component in that, even for the most blokish of blokes.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Evening Communion to move to Sidechapel

At Sunday's evening communion service, we talked about whether the Barnabas Centre was really the best place, or whether we should move back to the Sidechapel, which is where the service was held five years ago.

It would certainly be easier in terms of setting up. But perhaps the most important issue is to see how this affects the way we worship. We'll give it a try and if the new location helps us draw nearer to God in his word and at his table, we'll stick with it.

The evening communion service is held every month, on the same Sunday as the Parade service.

Homelessness Sunday

Our Homelessness Sunday service on 28 January was thought-provoking in the way that makes you want to see this world differently.

When we got to church we found a pile of rubbish in the doorway. But a closer look revealed that it was made as a place for a person to sleep. Confronting this surprise came as the first of a series of moments that helped us understand our assumptions about homelessness.

Neil had worked with some of the young people from church and their visit to the YMCA before Christmas had led them to meet real people who were without secure homes. I found the stories of these seven people, ages 16 to 25, really moving. They reminded us that homelessness is not an impersonal 'issue' but a fact of life for men and women like you and me. Neil linked these real stories with Jesus' teaching that as we care for the least among us, we care for him and that even more seriously, as we ignore them, we ignore him too.

At the end of the service, the young people read a resolution: Choosing Justice

Choosing justice

We choose to try to live our lives
in ways which will not harm or disadvantage others.
We choose to try to keep our hearts and minds open
to hear the voice of those who need our help.
We choose to aim to live simply,
not squandering the riches around us
and not keeping for ourselves what others desperately need
We choose to consider the effects on others
of what we say and do, of what we buy and use.
We choose to try to live justly, always seeking to make a difference
in the smallest things as well as the biggest
knowing that together the small steps we take
will grow into changes that will help to transform our world.

We choose to aim to work together
to spread the word
and to serve
in the name of Christ
the servant King.

The just one who chose us all.


Sunday, 28 January 2007

25 Years of St Paul's Church

In 1982, the Manor Church became St Paul's Church. The worshipping community that met at Manor School moved into the brand new church building in Hamble Road. That means that it's 25 years in the autumn of 2007 since St Paul's began.

Perhaps it's time to think of how we might celebrate this event, and how we might renew our commitment to serve the Lord and to be Good News for our neighbourhood. Do you have any thoughts? Should we mark the event in a special way? And if so, how?

Do share your thoughts through the 'comment' feature below.

Transfusion Big God Nights

Thanks to Elena for publicising Superhero and supporting bands at the next Transfusion 'Big God Night' at the Y Theatre, East Street, Leicester on Saturday 3 March 7.30pm to 10.00pm.
Tickets are available online at or on 0116 233 7915 or from CLC Bookshop.

As it says on the Transfusion website,
Transfusion is an in yer-face night of music, suitable for all ages from your granny to your grandson (no hearing aid required).


Here's a selection of very elegant people, taken at last night's church social event. Paul and Teri organised an Evening of Elegance which was supported by over 60 people. We enjoyed the glamour and found that we do 'bling' rather well. David Foulds took us on a tour of elegant Florence, with slides taken during a recent break.

Click the picture to see Paul, Mike, Teri, David, Cynthia, Clarissa, Isis, Jenny, Angharad, Dinah, Gilda and Sheridan in greater (and more glorious) detail.

It's great that there's no dress-code at St Paul's. People come and worship as they are, which is as it should be. But it's also good to put on the style every now and then!

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Leicestershire Quilters

The Barnabas Centre is a hive of activity this morning as the ladies from The Leicestershire Quilters are busy working away. The quilters have only recently moved their regular Saturday meetings to The Barnabas Centre and I hope we'll continue to see them here in the months to come.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Church attendance increasing in Leicester Diocese

It's encouraging to read the news issued by the Diocese of Leicester about church attendance:
Figures just released by the Church of England for 2005 show an increase in church attendance in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Regular weekly attendance rose in the Diocese of Leicester by 1.1%, reversing a decline of over 1% the previous year. This applies to the week overall, and not to Sundays in particular. Leicester was one of 15 dioceses that saw a rise in overall attendance in 2005.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said: “These latest figures confirm that the Diocese of Leicester is managing the decline in church attendance. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, patterns of churchgoing and church affiliation in England are changing. Although weekly Sunday attendance has not risen, the numbers of those who church during an entire week is rising. For every 50 people attending church on a typical Sunday, another 8 attend during the week. Our churches are being challenged to open their doors and look beyond themselves in their mission and ministry, and these statistics help encourage us that when we look beyond ourselves people in our communities want to attend church and support us.”

I'm not sure that the the idea of "managing the decline" is all that positive but at least there are signs of encouragement. We're thankful that we've seen a steady increase in the attendance at worship at St Paul's both in the totals for all weekly services and on Sundays in the last few years. More people have joined St Paul's through 2006 and those coming to worship with us represent a wide age range. It's heartening that people discover God's call on their lives and respond with regular worship at all ages but we must also find ways of reaching the under 40s.

Learn to Earn

I had a very good conversation with Dawn Cunningham from Learn to Earn yesterday. She is really excited about the prospect of beginning a six week programme of helping people who are on incapacity benefit, income support or severe disablement allowance with:
  • relaxation
  • coping with stress
  • confidence building
  • exploring returning to learning or work
She was really pleased to see the facilities at the Barnabas Centre, and I'm delighted that this morning we were able to finalise the dates of the sessions. They will be on Tuesday afternoons, for six weeks beginning on 20 February 2007. The exact time is to be confirmed, once they know what the participants preferences are.

For more information about Learn to Earn, call 0116 265 6449. If you are interested, or know someone who may benefit, do call. Alternatively, email to

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Certificate in Christian Discipleship Course

Oadby is one of the six venues for the Certificate in Christian Discipleship (CCD) course that is being run in Leicester Diocese for the first time this year. We have the largest group, with 22 people presently coming together from across south Leicestershire to The Barnabas Centre every Wednesday afternoon.

I'm tutoring the current module on Vocation and it's really worthwhile to be involved with people exploring the many aspects of God's call. But we don't all have to be accredited and authorised ministers; many of the people on the CCD course are simply doing it for interest and to deepen their knowledge.

If you're interested in what goes on, and perhaps in beginning the course yourself next year, do get in touch, or take a look at the information on the Diocesan website.

I've just come back from a planning meeting this evening at Church House, where we've been comparing the experiences of delivering the courses in different venues and gathering thoughts for the planning for next year.

Desi Masti

The Desi Masti Indian dance classes meet in St Paul's Church on Wednesday evenings from 5pm to 9pm . Here they're rehearsing for a show at De Montfort Hall on 4 February. For more information, contact Anand Bhatt.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Presence and Engagement

Presence and Engagement is the title of a recent Church of England report, which:
"focuses on the situation of churches in multi Faith neighbourhoods, with the aim of re-affirming the commitment of the Church of England’s ministry in these areas, encouraging dioceses to review their strategies for supporting clergy, and encouraging theological reflection. The report includes research carried out in the Presence and Engagement project, which investigated the Church of England’s role in parishes with significant multi Faith communities."
Guy Wilkinson, a leading author of the report and the Archbishop of Canterbury's Advisor on Interfaith Relations is visiting Leicester on 28 February, and I'm hoping to bring him across to Oadby for a short time. He will be speaking at an open evening on 28 February at St Philip's Church, Evington, from 7.00pm to 9.00pm. Some of the questions under consideration will be:
  • What does it mean to be a Christian community among different faith traditions?
  • Are Christians a diminishing Community?
  • What are the mission and theological issues?
  • How can Christians be present and engage creatively with a diverse society?
I think we've got some good stories to tell about confident Christian mission in an area where we have many Hindu, Muslim and Sikh neighbours and friends but I'm looking forward to meeting Guy and hearing his perspectives. Do come along if you're interested.

Weddings at St Paul's, Oadby

Between 1993 and 2004, we had not a single wedding at St Paul's. But since then, we've seen something of a revival. Izzy and Steve (2004), Clare and Michael (2005), Ian and Sehlule (2006) all began their marriages with wonderful services in our church. Now we're looking forward to Lynn and Richard's wedding this summer.

Of course, most of the weddings in Oadby are at St Peter's. We've produced a leaflet with some basic questions and answers, which you can download here.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Incline our hearts

I'm enjoying taking the 8.00am services at St Luke's, Thurnby (our neighbouring parish) in which the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is used.

At the start of each service, we hear the ten commandments. And in response the congregation prays together, "Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law".

I've been thinking about how different this is from our instincts, which might lead us to pray: "Sorry, God, I'll try harder."

"Incline our hearts" is a prayer that God would work in our very being, rather than a promise to do better through the application of our own willpower. To pray this sincerely involves something more vulnerable and daring than making a promise. It means permitting a Godly transformation to take place within. Cultivating the transformation of our heart's desires and inclinations is a better, more effective, more faithful, response to God's law.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

St Peter's Church Blog

Yay! Now St Peter's has its own blog! Check out the latest posts by Helen at

Christian Singles

I saw this today on the Friendsfirst website:

The views of a young Christian singleton

"I'm approaching 30 and unless I do something fast, I'm going to be single in another 30 years time and I will have left it too late. I'm a professional and actively involved in my church, but we are part of three small parishes and have a very elderly congregation and those who are young are married. I've been in church life since I was eight, went to university, taught in schools, yet I have never found someone who I feel I could develop a relationship with.

My problem is I never meet eligible Christian men. I really feel in church life I'm in a minority group. Churches are all too keen to attract young families, but what about the young people who are not married, or those who are married and no kids? I'm a reader in the church, and yet I'm not valued.

I think every church should have someone to help look after single Christians, male and female. I have a spiritual director with whom I can open up to on a very personal basis. Mentors do not have to be single to relate to us, just people we can trust, take an interest and be good listener and encouragers.

We are often the loneliest people in churches as we are the ones who are dropped when our friends get married. From being the best friend, the one with whom all confidences are shared, we are now far down the pecking order after husband, two lots of parents, extended families etc.

I would not date non-Christian men, although several of my Christian friends have set me up on blind dates. They've been nice, but we have nothing in common, on the other hand, most of the Christian men I have met in my life have been wimpy and not at all the sort you'd want to marry. I think churches need to link up with others in their cities so those of us who are single could at least develop friendships with people our own age, of both sexes."

It's good to be aware that this is the experience of some, but not all, young single Christians. Let's try to ensure that in our efforts to be 'family-friendly' we don't overlook the perspectives of singles.

Being Anglican and being evangelical today

I'm happy to simply be known as a Christian. Full stop. In many ways, there's no need to qualify the statement with categories like 'Anglican' and 'evangelical'. Quite often, these terms are only used in a negative way, as in "The problem with Anglicans is...", or "Well, you know what evangelicals are like..."

In today's sermon, I looked rather more positively at these terms which, like them or not, help to define the inheritance and identity of St Paul's Church.

Despite much radical pruning, the sermon is one of the longest I've preached. I'm grateful to the patient congregation at St Paul's for being so attentive, and especially grateful to John, who told me after the service, "It didn't feel long at all". Such kindness!

Here's an audio version, in .mp3 format:

and as a Word document:

The bible readings were Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10 and Luke 4.14-21.

If you have any thoughts, you might like to use the 'comments' feature below and share them with us.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Ecumenical exploration of the practice of Holy Communion - 2 May 2007

Churches Together in Oadby has arranged for a "Prayer and Share" evening, in which we'll be comparing different approaches to the celebration of Holy Communion. Rather than beginning with theology, we'll take our starting point in the very practical issues that arise from our local practices. It promises to be an interesting and informing evening. The evening will begin at 7.45 in The Barnabas Centre at St Paul's.

Friday, 19 January 2007

Holocaust Memorial Day - 27 January 2007

I've had a letter from Oadby and Wigston Borough Council today, inviting us to attend the Holocaust Memorial Day event at the Pavilion in Peace Memorial Park at 4.30pm on 27 January.

Fairtrade fortnight 26 February to 11 March 2007

From the Fairtrade website:
The theme is Change Today, Choose Fairtrade. With over 2000 Fairtrade certified products now available, it’s easier than ever to change what you eat drink and wear to Fairtrade, and make a positive change today for the lives of millions and farmers in developing countries. Take part in this Fairtrade Fortnight 26 Feb - 11 March 2007.
We'll be supporting the event in church as usual but you don't need to wait to trade fairly - there's an increasing range of fairly-traded goods in local supermarkets and we decided a couple of years ago to become a 'Fair Trade Church'. Enjoy your fairly-traded cuppa.

Planning for Lent 2007

Lent is a time of preparation and devotion that has diminished in the popular imagination in recent decades. Apart from the odd question along the lines of, "What have you given up this year?", we don't hear much about it outside church.

In my personal experience, Lent can be a time of real progress in our spiritual walk with God - a focussed period of growth and deepening of faith.

There are several ways you can make the most of this Lent.
  • Joining an ecumenical Lent House Group with members of other churches in Oadby. This year the course is entitled, "Face to Face" and you can speak with John or Beryl Starie for more details
  • The Bishop's Lent Addresses at the Cathedral on Thursday evenings.
  • Read a Lent book. You'll find lots of suggestions by doing a web search on 'Lent Book' or by calling in at a local Christian Bookshop or online retailer.
  • Keep a journal or diary of your thoughts, questions and prayer concerns.
  • Give up something that's part of your usual comfort or security. Experience, in a small way, the loss of something familiar and deepen your reliance on God.
  • Take on something new, like an act of service or a time of prayer. Attend a midweek service or go out of your way to be more helpful to others.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is on 21 February. There is a communion service at St Peter's, Oadby at 10.30am and an ecumenical service at the Roman Catholic Church on New Street, Oadby at 6.45pm.

Coffee Pot

Coffee Pot is our regular weekly coffee morning, held at St Paul's Church in Oadby from 10.30am until 12.00noon. There's always a friendly welcome and a chance to relax with new friends.

Coffee Pot organises regular outings and activities in addition to its Thursday meetings and is an ideal way of making friends and overcoming loneliness and isolation.

Parish Magazine feature - January 2007

Helen Bence writes-

Well, here we are in 2007. Seven years since the Millennium – seven New Years Days – and probably seven sets of New Year’s resolutions.

What is it about the New Year which makes us want to abandon all the things which we do which we know are not good for us, or do the things we don’t do, which we know we should do? It’s as if the New Year gives us a renewed hope that a new start is possible and yet, since the Millennium, it’s likely, if you are like most people, that those resolutions were quickly abandoned and forgotten, until they were re-resolved on the following six New Year’s Days. New Year’s resolutions seem to fall into the category of the triumph of hope over experience, yet, in the end, experience triumphs over hope.

As I reflect on that, it seems to me that we human beings really do long for life to be different somehow. We long to be people who have more self-control and so we resolve to drink less or eat more sensibly or give up smoking. We somehow sense that there is more of life than we experience most of the time and so we resolve to take up a new hobby or spend more time with the family. We long to be better than we are and so we resolve to serve our community in some way or raise money for charity or to keep our temper or not gossip. And yet, for most of us, soon after New Year with all our new hope and new sense of longing to be better and live better and do better, it all trickles through our fingers like sand and we are left with our hope dashed and our longings unfulfilled. It’s all very discouraging and very frustrating. You can’t help feeling that somehow we’re tackling it the wrong way, because those hopes and longings are real and good and somehow it ought to be possible for things to be better; for us to be better; for life to be better.

Jesus told a story to illustrate this point:

“He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins." Luke 5.36-39

If we try to patch ourselves with old material, or try to put “new wine in old wine-skins” we are bound to fail but the good news is that there is a way and it is possible for things to be better; for us to be better; for life to be better. The trouble is we can’t make it happen – only God can – but the good news of the gospel is that God has already sorted it.

Paul writing to the church at Ephesus says:

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”. (Ephesians 4.22-24)

If we want to keep our new year’s resolutions, we need to “put off our old self” and “be made new in the attitudes of our minds” and we can’t do that in our own strength. Indeed, our “old self” is so “corrupted by its deceitful desires”, that, however muc we long to be better and do better, and however convinced we are that we will this year somehow manage to keep our new year’s resolutions, we’re back to our “former way of life” and our “old self” before we know it.

But the Christian message is a message of hope – we can be better and do better – life itself can be better. Paul again, this time writing to the church in Corinth says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
(2 Corinthians 5.17)

Being “in Christ” means letting God into our lives so that we are changed from the inside. God’s promise to each one of us is:

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36. 26-27
If we are prepared to accept that promise, we will be able to follow Jesus’ key teaching, which was revolutionary then and is just as revolutionary now for it would revolutionize our world if it were applied today:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
(John 13.34-35)

The whole story of God’s dealings with his people is about making things new. In the Old Testament, Isaiah speaking as God’s prophet says:

"Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. (Isaiah 65.17)

In the New Testament, Peter writes:

“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth”.
(2 Peter 3.13)
And in the last book of the Bible, we read:

“He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" (Revelation 21.5)

The theme is consistent throughout - God is working his purposes out and his purpose is to renew his creation until it becomes everything God meant it to be when

“In the beginning God created….” Genesis 1.1

His purpose is to transform the world which we corrupted until it once again lives by God’s principle of love

So, this year, why not make just one new year’s resolution - to rely on God to fulfill your longing to be better and do better and live better, because as it says in Lamentations 3.22-3

“Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”

Christian Aid Week 2007

This year's Christian Aid Week is 13 to 19 May. As usual, we will be working with members of Churches Together in Oadby to support the work of Christian Aid through the street collections, a united service at Oadby Baptist Church at 6.30pm on 20 May, and the sponsored Christian Aid Walk. Chris Burberry is our church contact for Christian Aid.

Leicestershire Produce

Leicestershire Produce is an initiative of Groundwork Leicester and Leicestershire to promote the awareness of locally-produced food.

Buying local produce reduces the environmental impact of transportation and should allow better value for money, as well as supporting the local economy.

Look out for the Leicestershire Produce label.

Thursday, 18 January 2007

Modern Day Slavery

The Board of Social Responsibility has booked the Phoenix Arts Centre at 6.30pm on 25 March 2007, to show the newly-released feature film, Ghosts. The film is based on the story of the Morecombe Bay cockle pickers and explores the wider issues of slavery and exploitation in Britain.

After the film, there will be a panel discussion on modern day slavery, chaired by Bishop Tim.

More details about the costs and booking for the event will be available from the Diocese of Leicester in February.

Bishop's Lent Addresses 2007

The Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens, has announced that following promptings to develop the Bishop's teaching ministry, he is giving a weekly series of addresses on themes arising from The Magnificat. Each address will begin at 6.30pm and will be followed by questions and refreshments. The series begins on Thursday 1 March and concludes on Thursday 29 March and will be held in the Cathedral.

More details will be available soon, on the Leicester Diocese website.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Multicultural Oadby

This morning, Chloe Thomas and I joined Shanthi Hettiarachchi of the St Philip's Centre and Revd Julie Aylward, Minister of North Evington Baptist Church to give a lecture at the Cambridge Federation of Theological Colleges. We were leading two interactive sessions of a three-day intensive course with the title, "Challenges and opportunities of ministry and mission amongst Muslims".

The students were mainly in training for ordained ministry and the sessions were very lively. The multicultural environment in Oadby certainly does present challenges but there are many positives, not least that among most of our parishioners faith plays a significant role in daily life. It is easier to have conversations about faith in a place where faith differences are obvious than in a monocultural environment.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Hooray Day 28 April 2007

We'll publicise more details in a while, but you might like to know that the date of the 25th Hooray Day is Saturday 28 April 2007. A Hooray Day is like a mini holiday club for children in school years 1 to 5. Youngsters come from all over Oadby and south Leicester to join us for a day of fun and learning about Jesus.

For more details, contact Derek Bowering.

Community use of our buildings

I've just had the details of the lettings for December, which means we can now see how the buildings have been used by the community in the last year. Once again, there has been a remarkable increase in sessions that the buildings have been put to use, and in the income generated for our mission in Oadby and beyond.

In the summer of 2006, we had to close the church for refurbishment for nine weeks, so to increase our lettings compared with the previous year is really gratifying. Compared to 2005, the use of the buildings increased from 40% to 45% of the available sessions and income rose by 7%.

Now that the church is refurbished, we look forward to another good year in 2007, and to welcoming more of Oadby's population to our facilities.
Posted by Picasa

An evening of elegance - 27 January 2007

Paul has come up trumps with the latest plan for a church social. Billed as 'an evening of elegance', it promises to be a night of sophistication and style. The evening is free, and your invited to bring your own wine. David Foulds will take us on a slideshow tour of Florence, once we've digested the cheese and 'interesting nibbles'.

If you're in the area, take a look at the posters and book with Teri as soon as you can.

Monday, 15 January 2007

How to use this blog - Comments

You will probably have noticed that blogs are usually less formal than websites. They change more often, because it's really easy to include new information. That means that a blog is usually more closely related to current events or changing situations.

Comments are a key feature of blogs that are not usually available on websites. Comments allow anyone viewing the blog to respond to something they've read with a question or a thought. People may be inhibited about making a comment but it's quite straightforward and, once you have a go, you'll feel more confident. Comments really enrich the blog, so we'd be glad to receive them (though you'll appreciate that a comment that is rude or likely to cause offence will be removed).

Every post is automatically marked with the name of the person who posted the article and the time it was published (look below this article to find this). Next to the time is a 'comments' link. Click this and let us know what you think.

>>Update 21 Jan 2007. To prevent 'comment spam', I've changed the settings so that comments are moderated. This means there will be a delay of up to a day before your comment will appear.

How to use this blog - Parish Map

The parish map appears in the right hand column, under the map. The locations of St Peter's and St Paul's Churches are shown and the parish boundary is marked by a red line.

The map is interactive, so you can zoom in and out using the + and - buttons. The arrow buttons allow you to move around on the map, but an even neater way of doing this is to click-and-hold on the map and drag the cursor.

Map information is supplied courtesy of A Church Near You.

How to use this blog - Calendar

How does the calendar work?

In the right hand column there is an online calendar for all events and activities taking place at St Paul's Church and the Barnabas Centre.

We now use Google Calendar for all our bookings. The calendar embedded in the blog is constantly updated, which makes it easy to share information without lots of work.

The calendar includes buttons and a scroll bar, so you can check any date in the future or the past. Click on an event and you'll see further details, usually including contact information for the activity.

If you run a group that uses our facilities, you can check the calendar to confirm that the bookings have been made. If you want to amend the contact information, please get in touch.

Click on the 'help and tips' label for more about using the blog.

There's information for leaders and organisers of groups that use our buildings here.

How to use this blog - How to find information

How can I find the information I'm looking for?

If you want to look up information about a specific topic, you don't have to work your way through all the posts to find it. Use the 'Search Blog' facility at the top left of every page - you can enter a word, or several words, or a phrase in quotation marks.

Alternatively, look at the 'Labels and Categories' section in the right hand column, underneath the map and 'Links' section. Most posts have at least one label, so for example, clicking on the 'youth' label will return a list of posts that have been categorised as relating to young people. Click on the 'help and tips' label for more about using the blog.

Lastly, if you really are stuck, do send me a question at I'd be glad to help if I can.


The next 'Desire ' youth event is coming to St Paul's for the first time on Sunday 25 February. More details to follow.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Christian Unity

Today I had the privilege of preaching at Rosemead Drive United Reformed Church, and we welcomed Revd Ivor Smith to St Paul's. I'm really glad we could do this.

Decades ago, it was quite remarkable to see ministers and congregations from different denominations in the same room. In this country now, there is a greater maturity in the Church of God and a willingness to accept each other and to treat denominational boundaries as permeable. So much so, in fact, that the key question for me in working with other churches is not, "Can we get on?", but "What can we get on and do?"

The fact that we can be courteous to each other and welcome each other no longer impresses those outside the Church. We have therefore made good progress in dismantling one of the powerful objections to Christianity: "Christians are always falling out with each other and don't agree on anything!" So now we need to move forward again and face other questions: What can we best do together and what can we best do independently? The answers to these questions are likely to be more practical than idealogical, so our future ecumenism is likely to be more about doing than talking. Already we have opportunities for ecumenical study and training, for publicity and outreach in Oadby. I am hopeful we can build further on this.

While the ecumenical scene is generally encouraging, there are other issues of unity that concern me.

Because while inter-denominational hospitality has improved, sadly there are signs of a new sectarianism within God's Church. When thinking about Christian Unity this year, my thoughts turned first to some of the tensions within Evangelicalism. Fault-lines have appeared that run through denominations and sometimes within local churches.

Some Christians are finding a new unity in opposing developments in the international and national scene that are deemed unacceptable. They have a point. But around the country, unlikely coalitions are forming and beginning to demand new arrangements that threaten co-operation and partnership across the Church as a whole. This is far from the unity for which Christ calls us to work. He himself warned how a proper concern for righteousness can become twisted into self-righteousness when it is coupled with a willingness to judge, or even demonise, others. Likewise we mustn't assume that every agreement between Christians is a step towards godly unity, especially when the agreement is about who is to blame for all the ills of the Church.

This Thursday, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins. Next Sunday, our sermon is on the theme of "Being Anglican and Evangelical Today". I hope we'll have opportunities to reflect together on the high calling of unity - not the cheap unity of agreeing who our enemies are, but the kind of unity that demands the very best of us in grace, charity and trust.

Saturday, 13 January 2007

Vocations Day 2007

I'm a member of the team planning the annual Vocations Day, which this year is being held at St Philip's Church in Evington, on Saturday 3 February.

Last year we had an amazing turnout. Over sixty people came from around Leicester Diocese to explore God's calling. Some were pretty sure about the shape of that call, and were looking for more information and help. Some were nearer the beginning of the process of discernment, exploring the nature of the ministry that they sensed God was suggesting to them. Others were just looking and wondering - aware that we are all called to ministry, but that for some that call is focussed in a particular authorised role. Everyone found it a helpful day and, as a result vocations to lay and ordained ministries have been pursued.

Revd Simon Heathfield, Team Rector of Walthamstow and former CPAS Vocations Adviser will join Bishop Tim as the key speakers. But one of the most important aspects is to hear about the experience of Readers, Pastoral Assistants, Evangelists, Under 25's Advisers and ordinands.

There's still time to register for this year's event. A leaflet is available for download from the Diocesan website.


We've a music leaders' meeting on Wednesday 17 Jan. Music plays such a vital role in worship and our leaders are all gifted people who put lots of thought and time into this ministry. We're blessed with a wide range of music at St Paul's but we're always keen to know how we can develop this aspect of worship even further. The team would always like to hear any suggestions from church members, which you can send to John, Doug, Aileen, Bryan or me. Or you can post a comment here, by clicking on the 'comments' link below.

Friday, 12 January 2007

David and Goliath

Last week while most of us were in church, Supertroopers heard the story of David and Goliath. They painted some great pictures, using all their imagination to show the scene.

I just love this one by Hannah.

The Philistines have their backs to us, and the mighty Goliath has a "Come and have a go if you think you're hard enough" attitude.

The colourful Israelites are glad to be across the other side of the stream, but David's ready to step up and face the challenge.

Thank you, Supertroopers, for reminding us that God supplies courage when we come across the Goliaths in our own day.

The full set of pictures will be shown to the congregation this Sunday.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 11 January 2007

Homelessness Sunday

I've just been talking with Neil Griffiths about our ten o'clock service to mark Homelessness Sunday on 28 January 2007. This will be a Parade Service and suitable for all ages.

Neil has real expertise and experience in this area and I've been really impressed with his passion about the subject and his imaginative thinking about worship. He works in the sector of Housing Associations and voluntarily works with Leicester YMCA as it's Chair. Neil is also a member of our church and co-leads the Pathfinders group for our 11-14 year olds.

The national organisers of Homelessness Sunday say,
The theme for the 16th Homelessness Sunday is No Home – No Justice.

In our affluent consumer society we are all encouraged to think of our dwellings as monetary assets rather than as the heart of family life, as places of comfort and safe refuge, and as key components of our identity. In contrast Homelessness Sunday will focus on some of the injustices that are linked with homelessness.
We've invited Neil to lead our worship and from what I've seen this morning, I think this will be one of the special services of this season. Neil has already taken a number of the young people from Pathfinders to meet with a range of people affected by homelessness and housing issues and their experience will enrich our engagement with this vital issue.

Wednesday, 10 January 2007

Prayers for Christian Unity

In the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, this year's “Prayers for Unity” services are as follows (all 6.45pm to 7.15pm, unless stated):

Prayer requests board

Many feel St. Paul's Chapel is a special place for meeting with God. A short time of shared prayer takes place there on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 8.30 to 9.00am and a communion service is held every Thursday 9.45 to 10.30am. We've just fitted a prayer request board in the Chapel, and there are slips available for people to use to request prayer for issues or needs. We promise to pray for the requests posted on the board in these services.

Superhero at Transfusion Events Saturday 3rd March

From the Transfusion team:
In November a large crowd were entertained by YFriday, LZ7 and Titus at Transfusion's Big God Night.
The event was a huge success and our best yet, with many young people engaging with God in a relevant way.

Now we bring a superb line-up to the next event on Saturday 3rd March at the Y-Theatre in Leicester.

Superhero return to Transfusion and will be supported by Brave and DJ Steach.

Ticket sales are now on sale and we hope to sell out once again.
We aim for each event to be better than the previous one and Transfusion's reputation grows across the East Midlands from event to event.
If you haven't attended a Transfusion Big God Night before then don't miss out this time - book your place today.

Tickets are just £6 in advance with any remaining tickets on sale at the door for £7.50.
Call the ticket hotline on 0116 233 7915 or email:

If you require printed flyers or posters please reply to this email.
Check out the artists on: Superhero Brave
Visit our myspace site at Transfusion for further info.

We look forward to welcoming you on March 3rd.

The Transfusion Team

Swapping preachers

This year's preacher exchange at the start of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity sees Revd Ivor Smith of the United Reformed Church visiting St Paul's, this Sunday (14 January). It's a neat swap, as I will be at Rosemead Drive URC on the same morning.
Exchanging preachers is a great way of enriching our experience of God's diverse church and getting to know each other better.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

Happy New Year!

New Year is traditionally a time for resolutions, though research shows that by the end of the first week as many as forty percent are already broken. It's also the time when political leaders try to find visionary language to inspire their party members to another year of effort.

It's certainly good to consider strategic, planned and purposeful activity, rather than to drift aimlessly. But the bible provides a corrective to the notion that we must set our own agendas and then see them through with gritty, heads-down determination. The invitation of scripture is to look up and look around, to capture God's vision (or perhaps, to be captivated by it). We do not best serve our Saviour by dreaming up schemes of our own and asking his Spirit to bless them while we slog away. The true dynamic of biblical mission is to seek after God and to fall into step with his activity and purpose. I get excited when I catch up with God and notice him at work in people's lives, transforming possibilities and bringing hope. He is already out there, wanting us to find him and partner him among our neighbours and in our neighbourhood, as well as in our gatherings.

2006 was a good year for St Paul's by most earthly measures. We have continued to grow and welcomed new believers and enquirers to join us in a journey of service, worship and discovery. Christmas felt like a time of real abundance and a celebration of God's generosity, with many new people appearing at St Paul's. Our building has been transformed by the refurbishment, without becoming an object of adoration in itself.

2007 will bring fresh challenges as well as familiar ones. We will certainly need to be daring, committed, active and purposeful. But let's also be keen discerners of the Spirit, alive to the fact that God is 'already working his purpose out, as year succeeds to year'. Advent is over and we celebrate the Creator's love in sending a Saviour, but we must remain expectant - watching, listening and joining in where we see God at work.

May God who loves us and his world with such extravagance, fill us to overflowing with compassion and grace in his service this year.

Monday, 8 January 2007

Why ‘choosing the right church’ is a problem

(This article appeared in the June 2006 edition of the Parish Magazine)

I’m preparing for the funeral of Doris Bemrose, who was a member of St Paul’s from 1989 when she moved into the nearby retirement flats until frailty led her to move into a residential home. I never knew Doris in her churchgoing days but, by all accounts, she was a very committed member. I’ve heard how she’d generously give lifts to people who couldn’t walk to church and how she used her organising skills to arrange the bible readers’ rota.

As Doris’ daughters described their mother’s background in rural Lincolnshire and Norfolk, I realised that the kind of churches she knew for most of her life were quite unlike the style of worship at St Paul’s. But for Doris, the matter was straightforward – St Paul’s was her church and she would not only attend but she would give generously of herself to the church community and beyond. No wonder she is fondly remembered.

Doris’ story offers us a perspective on the question of ‘choosing the right church’.

In our contemporary culture, personal choice is now enshrined as a guiding principle in public policy, as well as a way to a ‘lifestyle’ and the means of selecting goods and services. In this uncritical adoption of the logic of the market, personal choice is assumed to be both a basic human right and the way individuals can define their identity. But is it right to adopt a similar consumerist mindset to the question of choosing a church?

If it is, then I can offer you a checklist of the sort of things you might want to consider, in making your choice:

  • Choose a church that caters especially for people like you. Chances are, you’ll like the people there and have similar interests and outlook. You won’t have to try too hard to understand the values and experiences of other people, because these will be reassuringly familiar.
  • Choose a church in which the worship style exactly fits your personality and taste. You’ll never find yourself singing anything you don’t enjoy.
  • Choose a church where the minister’s style is entertaining and engaging. Over a year, you’ll be spending many precious hours listening to sermons, so find a preacher who’ll ‘push your buttons’ and reassure you in your beliefs.
  • Choose a church not too close to home, so that you can put a safe distance between your private life and your church life. Keep yourself to yourself – pleasant chit-chat after the service is fine, but don’t get drawn into networks and relationships that might mean getting too involved.
  • Choose a church that reminds you that although the world can be scary and bewildering, there’ll always be a place that’s just right for you, safe from challenge and uncertainty.
  • Choose a church where you can dip in and out, turning up when you feel like it and not making any substantial contribution to anything that ‘isn’t your thing’. Be a passenger, be entertained, and be reassured.

Do I believe this is the right approach? Of course not! There’s an old adage that you’ll never find the perfect church, and that even if you do, it won’t be perfect after you join.
Sadly, there are signs in our country that this kind of church-choosing is becoming more prevalent, with all the fracturing of real community that involves. Some churches are responding by deliberately appealing to one age-group, one socio-economic profile, or one kind of worship-style. I believe this kind of mono-cultural church is inevitably introspective, passive and disconnected from the world.

Paul’s letter to the Galatians includes an appeal for Christians to be forbearing towards one another. Paul’s vision is for much more than a pleasant experience of church – he has been gripped by a vision of the fullness of God’s mission for the world. The post-Pentecost church is to be a place of the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Not because these virtues deliver a nice experience for those who belong, but because these God-given characteristics are vital in a community where compromise, disappointment and the messiness of failed human relationships are unavoidable.

So may I offer you another kind of checklist:

  • Belong to a church in which God is regularly encountered and where his presence is recognised. Look out for celebrations of God’s grace in the everyday living of the community as well as in the mysteries of worship in spirit and truth.
  • Belong to a church where people are not all like you. And expect to learn from the youngest, the oldest, the poorest, the visitor and the long-standing member. Listen to their stories with respect and share your story too, for the same God loves you all.
  • Belong to a church where God will reveal himself through unfamiliar worship, songs, music, and architecture as well as through the things you love. Sound doctrine is not the property of one tradition alone but God’s truth expressed in love is a treasure surpassing any matter of style.
  • Belong to a church in which you will be transformed by grace and called upon to risk and adventure for the sake of the Kingdom of God, where the Holy Spirit gifts you and God calls you out of your comfort zone.
  • Belong to a church where growth occurs not because of stunts or tricks but because lives are given to God and discipleship deepens.
  • Belong to a church where you will be forgiven and where forgiveness will be asked of you, where you will learn how to receive as well as how to give, where your failures will be occasions for redemption, where relationships will be broken and healed, where you will experience the sorrows and the joys that come with hopeful and honest community life.
  • Belong to a church where you risk being known as you truly are, not as the mask you put on until you get back in the car to drive home.
  • Belong to a church where the Lordship of the crucified, risen and ascended Jesus Christ is more than a slogan, where courage is needed to live a life charged with possibility and where people and communities are transformed.

I won’t be surprised if the church you belong to now doesn’t exactly fit this second list. After all, this is the real world and even the early churches of the New Testament struggled to make progress. But the advice that comes from St Paul and other apostles is not to withdraw and try to find somewhere ‘better’. Instead, we are to be the people who are becoming the Church that God wants.

In this, people like Doris have set us an example of generosity and maturity. Let’s do likewise.

Simon Harvey

Whatever happened to atheism?

(This article appeared in the November 2006 edition of the parish magazine.)

Have you noticed how much religion there is in the news at the moment? There are the horrors of religiously-inspired violence; the Christian BA check-in clerk who was told to remove or hide her cross; the debate over the rights and wrongs of a Muslim teacher wearing a face veil; the discussion about admission arrangements of religious schools – it’s sometimes hard to watch a news bulletin without a religious story.

How things have changed! I don’t think anyone would have predicted all this a generation ago.

In 1943, Winston Churchill gave a speech to an audience at Harvard University in which he made a startling prediction, “The empires of the future will be empires of the mind.”

Churchill was suggesting that power was shifting from nations to ideas. Instead of nations disputing territories, the world was entering a new era in which competing political-economic ideologies would vie to shape the lives of billions. The human mind, not physical space, was to be the front line in a wholly new kind of struggle.

For the next half-century, it looked like Churchill was right. One ideology, Nazism, had already been defeated and the Cold War saw a new struggle between Marxism and the capitalist ideologies of the West. Churchill’s ‘empires of the mind’ were these modern ideas that captivated hopes and loyalties. They offered competing systematic interpretations of the state of humankind and each made proposals that promised substantial advances in the great endeavour of human progress. And in this development, the assumption was that religion was dead, or at least dying. How could religious belief possibly survive when the exciting new ideas were so rational and sophisticated?

According to theologian Alistair McGrath, it has been estimated that by 1960 half the population of the world was nominally atheist. Academics described ‘secularisation’ – the process by which religion was rapidly disappearing in developed nations. The equation seemed straightforward; progress meant the death of the idea of God. In this country, as our churches steadily emptied, it appeared to some that if Christians wanted to offer the world anything, they should quickly ditch their mythologies and superstitions in order to embrace the brave new world of rationality and modernity. Some writers and preachers tried to distil the ‘timeless essence’ of the faith so that they could offer a Christian ideology that was free of any embarrassing spiritual baggage.

The world didn’t listen much to those offerings from liberal theologians of the sixties and seventies. Attempts to change Christianity so that it had a plausible, modern voice might have given the churches something to think about but they hardly changed the world. With hindsight, we can see now that the era of competing rational ideologies as the dominant force in the world order was about to change. In the eighties, idealism had given way to pragmatism; what mattered was what worked.

Public voice

We may feel encouraged that the development of evangelical faith in the eighties and nineties has helped the faith of thousands in our country to grow. But there has also been a withdrawal from the marketplace of ideas and the public realm. We might ask whether in the 1980s, Christian faith (along with railways, telecoms companies and airlines!) became privatised. The Church still had big ideas to offer but it seemed that no one was interested in big ideas any more.

And now thing have moved on again. What we urgently need now are not grand theories but compelling theological responses to issues of identity and to the challenges of living in a connected, highly differentiated and mobile society. This autumn has seen a remarkable shift. Our politicians, journalists and commentators have been willing to discuss the practical issues that arise from multi-culturalism. There have been some extreme voices and we must be very careful not to see one sector of our population as the root of a problem. The Church, once desperate for a public voice and ideally placed to offer insight and perspective, seems to be rather timid and quiet.

At a local level, it’s easy for parishes to carry on as if nothing has really changed. We can plough on with our usual range of activities and events as if we were still living in 1961, 1981 or pre-September 11, 2001.

Parallel Living

How tempting it is to live our church life in a kind of bubble; self-contained and blissfully separate. Indeed, this kind of parallel living, in which communities barely brush against each other but don’t engage, is very close to the heart of today’s concerns.

When we shut out the world around us, it’s easy to pretend that our faith can remain unaffected by the controversies and complexities of a multi-cultural society and a multi-cultural Oadby. If we only focus on the things we need to ensure our churches’ survival and health we distract ourselves from the calling we have to offer real hope to a fractured and broken world.

In this climate, I’m finding the situation and ministry of the early Church inspiring. The letters of the New Testament were written to Christian communities that were immersed in a complicated and confusing world. In Corinth , for example, the enthusiastic believers lived in a city full of ideas, foreign workers and economic migrants, at a hub of trade routes. In that kaleidoscopic world of innovation, political turmoil and economic ferment it was tempting for Christians to get carried away in insular and self-obsessed fervour that neglected generous provision for the poor. Paul offered a corrective vision – the reality of human weakness, a new life in Christ, the supremacy of love and above all, the amazing grace of God. Like the communities that later received the letters of Peter, it seems there was need to find encouragement to live among others who are not Christians in a wholesome and attractive way, rather than in ways that brought the gospel into disrepute.

The New Testament writings urged Christian communities to model a new kind of connection – with God, and also with each other and with the world. The momentous discovery that God’s mission was not simply a renewal of the nation of Israel but a global mission for the renewal of all people and all peoples made the early church reflect hard on how to live with difference. They learned that relations with those who do not share the Christian faith must not be hostile or defensive. In contrast with later sects, the walls of the early Christian community were permeable and accommodating. With a radical combination of devotion to Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life and a world-embracing engagement with outsiders, Christianity avoided simply fizzling out within a few decades.

As the tide of atheism in our world retreats, new questions have emerged. We in the Church have a moment of opportunity that was unavailable to any previous generation in our land. We may find ourselves in a bewildering marketplace of ideas and beliefs - but people are listening.


Wondering about confirmation?

If you have any questions about confirmation we're having an opportunity to discuss and find out more. We've arranged a short meeting in The Barnabas Centre on Thursday 11 January at 7.30pm. If you, or someone you know, is interested in being confirmed, or you'd just like to ask some questions, do come along.

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Principal Services January to March 2007

This first quarter of 2007 sees a mixture of services which take their starting points from:
  • the Common Worship Lectionary.
  • contemporary issues in church and society.
  • three figures from the early era of Israel’s history in the times of the Judges.
  • the challenge to develop our Christian character as part of our ongoing discipleship.

7 January 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Epiphany – Visit of the Magi
Ephesians 3.1-12 & Matthew 2. 1-12

14 January 2007 10.00am Service of the Word (CTO Preacher exchange)
Abundantly blessed
1 Corinthians 12. 1-11 John 2. 1-11

21 January 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Being Evangelical and Anglican today
Nehemiah 8.1-3, 5-6, 8-10 & Luke 4. 14-21

28 January 2007 10.00am Parade Service
Homelessness Sunday
Readings to be confirmed

4 February 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
A reading from Judges 6 - 8 and a gospel reading

11 February 2007 10.00am Parade Service
A reading from Judges 13-16

18 February 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Judges 11. 29-end, and a gospel reading

25 February 2007 10.00am Service of the Word
The Christian character 1 – Resisting Temptation
Genesis 39

4 March 2007 10.00am Holy Communion

The Christian character 2 – Showing Compassion
Luke 10. 25-37

11 March 2007 10.00am Service of the Word
The Christian character 3 – Godly Self-image
Exodus 3.1-15; 4.1-17

18 March 2007 10.00am Parade Service
Mothering Sunday
Luke 2.41 - 51

25 March 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
The Christian character 4 – Perseverance
2 Timothy 1.8 – 2.7