Monday, 29 September 2008

People come Back to Church at St Paul's

We enjoyed meeting a number of guests at our Back to Church Sunday service yesterday. I counted fourteen new or not-so-regular faces among the hundred who came to the 10.00am service. Thanks to those who invited others, even where the invitations weren't taken up. We'll be reviewing Back to Church Sunday at this week's DCC meeting, so send me an email or speak with one of the DCC members if you've got any thoughts.

Pearl of Africa Children's Choir

Jerry saw me at the end of church yesterday and gave me a flyer for an event hosted by the school at which he teaches. The Pearl of Africa Children's Choir and singing at Lancaster School in Knighton on 1 October at 7pm. Admission is £3 for adults, £1 for children.

More information from Jerry at

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Can I get married here?

I spent a couple of hours with the clergy of the newly enlarged Leicester City Deanery today, delivering some training on the new Church of England Marriage Measure. It's now possible for people to marry in a wider range of churches, other than the church in the parish where they live.

Churches do great weddings. But we also want to support couples in a way that goes beyond a really special day. So all of us were concerned to apply the new legislation in a way that's genuinely helpful and welcoming.

Mike Harrison, our Diocesan Director of Mission and Ministry, will be working with me in the coming months to help clergy around Leicestershire with the new regulations.

If you'd like more information about a wedding in Oadby at St Paul's or St Peter's, get in touch with me by email or phone.

District Church Council agenda for 30 September

Apologies for absence
Bible Study and Prayer - Serving God who challenges
Please read Hosea 5.14 – 6.6 before the meeting
Minutes of the meeting of 10 June 2008
To check and approve them as an accurate record of our last meeting.
Matters Arising from the minutes of the last meeting
To respond to issues which were marked for action, or for which significant developments have since taken place, and which aren’t on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.
Open church?
At the moment, St Paul's is open when in use for church activities and lettings. Should we do what a growing number of churches are now doing, and open it at other times? Anita attended an Open Churches meeting (leaflet attached) and will help us to learn from the experience of others.  The benefits include a very visible witness to God's availability and for our mission of engaging with the wider community. It's not difficult to imagine the risks and there are ways to reduce them but probably not to eliminate them altogether. What do you think?
As part of this item, Anita will also bring some ideas for improvements to seating in the foyer.
Alpha 2009
We had a really successful Alpha Course in 2008 and are excited about planning Alpha 2009. A timetable has been drafted and we'll share our plans at the DCC.
Review of Back to Church Sunday 2008
This is the first time that St Paul's has used BTCS. How did it go? What have we learned?
Healing and wholeness course and ministry
A number of people from St Paul's are taking this introductory course. We'll hear about how things are going and consider where this might take us.
Dates for DCC meetings 2009
Dates for the PCC and DCCs are being considered at the next PCC meeting and will be circulated at our DCC meeting.
Other business and date of next meeting – 4 November 2008

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Back to Church Sunday 28 September 2008

I discovered that the Leicestershire villages of Sileby, Cossington and Seagrave have a Youtube video to publicise Back to Church Sunday, which churches across the country are holding this weekend. This is a brilliant way to reach people and I hope a lot of people discover 'what they're looking for'.

Back to Church Sunday is a great idea. It's simply about personally inviting someone to church.

We're not pulling out all the stops to make this Sunday's service extraordinary. We think that we need to be who we are, true to ourselves, and leave the rest to God.

Come back to church - we'd love to see you at St Paul's.

Oadby Residents' Meeting - 8 October 2008

The agenda for the next Oadby & Wigston Borough Council Oadby Resident's Meeting arrived yesterday:

Wednesday 8th October 2008 at 7.00 pm

To Be Held at
United Reformed Church, Rosemead Drive, Oadby, Leicestershire.

Agenda Items

1.Update Reports
To include:
Uplands Park Development, Proposed Eco Town Development & Highway Matters

2.Local Policing Issues

3.Leicestershire County Council Participatory Budgeting

4.Forum Spending – Residents’ Suggestions

5.    New Library Update

    If you wish to discuss other issues that affect you there is a
          surgery session with Councillors and Officers between
6.30 pm and 7.00 pm

For further information contact:
 Alan Wood
Tel. No. 0116 2572682

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

St Paul's Facebook group reaches fifty members

If you're on Facebook and have ever worshipped at our church, join our Facebook group.

'Come and See' Diocesan Assembly

I joined almost five hundred people from across the Diocese of Leicester at the Samworth Enterprise Academy last Saturday for a very varied and very good day.

This was my first time in the Academy itself and I was struck by the quality of the building. The Academy is a Church of England school, in which the Diocese of Leicester has entered into partnership with David Samworth, Chairman of Samworth Brothers (better known for their Ginsters brand of savoury food). The entrance hall and restaurant area are a spectacular open space and the classrooms themselves are full of technology.

In the Sports Hall, the day began with Bishop Tim in a Big Brother diary room style interview. He was asked questions from the Diocesan Youth Council on a range of questions, including his personal tastes in music, his childhood and the way he found Christian faith.

A talented group performed highlights from the new pop-opera Luv Esther in an hour of bold and breathtaking re-telling of one of the Old Testament's most surprising stories.

We then went our separate ways into a range of more than twenty workshops. I led one on developing a vocational culture in the local church, which was well attended.

School dinner followed - a delicious curry and fruit crumble. The restaurant was packed and I found space on the table of the Luv Esther cast. They were great company and we swapped stories of Bristol where they live together as a Christian community and church.

In the afternoon more workshops followed, and then the senior staff of the diocese took part in a question-and-answer session. This wasn't particularly revealing and the questions were rather tame - it's a pity the advertised interview of Bishop Tim by Riazat Butt, Religious Correspondent of The Guardian newspaper, didn't materialise.

The Bishop spoke well at the closing eucharist, with a greater confidence than I have seen on other occasions. The parable of the rich fool who built his bigger barns and congratulated himself on his profits was chosen long before a week of huge instability in the financial world. It made for compelling connections.

The day was full of the kind of positive energy that gives real identity to the Diocese. I hope it won't be too long before we have another.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Fresh thinking on Pennbury

The BBC reports that Transition Leicester, a campaign group urging sustainability, have come up with suggestions for the proposed Pennbury eco-town which would see a much greater proportion of the land in question used to 'feed the population of Leicester'.

Sam Wells and the power of speech

I spent today at the Cathedral Centre in Leicester in the company of Sam Wells, Dean of Duke University Chapel in North Carolina. Sam gave a series of three lectures on Ministry, Mission and Money to a couple of dozen clergy and lay people from the Diocese of Leicester at the event organised by the Minstry Department of the Diocese. It was a day well spent.

I'm hoping to receive a copy of the lecture notes soon, so I think I'll wait until these come through before posting about the content of the lectures.

But at a time when I'm in the midst of preparing to take a module on Communication and Preaching for the new cohort of students on the diocesan Reader Training Course, I was interested to notice Sam's style of delivery.

The venue left something to be desired; ample in size but with all the charm that the phrase "church hall" might conjure. An overly-tall Victorian carved lectern stood in front of two and a half rows of hard chairs.

Yet in this unpromising venue and without stepping away from the lectern Sam held our attention for three 60 minute lectures, which were each followed by fifteen minutes of questions. He read from notes and his language was so precise that I'm sure that he had a full text in front of him. Each lecture's notes were a fistfull of closely-typed text. He had no visual aids, no Powerpoint and no handouts. He's a very capable speaker but not one who relies on a flashy rhetoric or dazzling charisma.

He was compelling simply because his message was relevant and because he had carefully crafted his material. Someone I spoke with between lectures described him 'dropping bombshells' as he made striking points. What he had to say was important, and the way he said it added weight. Here was a speaker comfortable in his own space. And comfortable with silence.

I shall look carefully through the lectures when the notes arrive but I shall also remind the Readers-in-training in the coming weeks that simple, crafted language conveying an important and serious-minded message can be compelling, edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Update: Audio of Sam Wells' lecture now available.

Harvest Thanksgiving supporting The Welcome Project

Special flowers have appeared in church (thanks Janice) and bales of straw are due to arrive tomorrow (thanks Derek). On Sunday we celebrate our Harvest Thanksgiving, which is always great fun. This year's produce will go to the Welcome Project in Leicester, which meets the needs of destitute asylum seekers. Our service is from 10-11 and follows Breakfast at Barney's.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Grace, Gratitude and Growth

Grace, Gratitude and Growth - Three important sessions in the life of St Paul's Church, Oadby.

We don't always need to think, decide or or explain our way towards a future with God. We live in a world which loves to predict and plan but the Bible shows the ways of God with his people are often not neat and tidy. Only by pausing, listening, re-discovering and re-telling the ways God has shaped us can we learn where he's taking us.
Taking stock of where we are and where we are going is essential for every church. Without active reflection, it's possible for church life to stagnate, to become inward-looking or for the range of our vision to fall. The Bible speaks of God who transforms, renews, heals and empowers. Every Spirit-led and Spirit-filled community of Christians should expect to be growing and on the move.

Why Grace, Gratitude and Growth is different
Conventional ways of reflecting can be too negative, leading to a kind of shared depression about what feels impossible, what hasn't been achieved and what is regretted. They can be superficial, leading to hasty conclusions or impractical goals.
Grace, Gratitude and Growth is the name that I've given to a different process. With a basis in scriptures and using rediscovered approaches to growth and change, I'm excited about a way of renewing our vision, getting in touch with the will and mind of God, learning from our stories and the story we all share, and laying plans for the future of St Paul's.
Grace, Gratitude and Growth is a process and an approach, rather than a course. You don't need to be clever or good with words. You don't need to have been a member of St Paul's for a long time. You don't need to be an expert. You just need to come along!
I'd love the whole church community to get involved.

The three sessions
There are three sessions altogether. To enable the greatest participation, we're repeating sessions 1 and 2 at different times.
You can come along to session 1 at either:
  • Wednesday 15 October, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm, or
  • Wednesday 15 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm, or
  • Thursday 16 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm
You can come along to session 2 at either:
  • Wednesday 29 October, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm, or
  • Wednesday 29 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm, or
  • Thursday 30 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm
Session 3 will be an all-day event, on Saturday 1 November, from 10.00am to 3.00pm.
Sessions 1 and 2 will be in the Barnabas Centre, session 3 in church. Please try to get to all three sessions if you can.

Where will it lead?
St Paul's doesn't exist in isolation. We have crucial partnerships and shared commitments with St Peter's, with local ecumenical partners, with the Gartree Mission Partnership and with the Diocese of Leicester. One of the outcomes that I'm expecting from Grace, Gratitude and Growth is a greater confidence about who we are, where we are heading and what God hopes for from us. Confidence generates a sense of security in which we can give and receive in our relationships more easily and more effectively.
The title, Grace, Gratitude and Growth gives some clues. I chose this title because:
The initiative must always rest with God. Only through his grace and in his strength can we enjoy the freedom and take responsibility to see dreams take shape in reality.
The emphasis on gratitude because thanksgiving should flood the lives of Christians and the church. Without thankfulness to God, we become self-important, delusional about our strengths or hopeless about our weaknesses.
Growth is the normal in the Kingdom of God. Whether in personal transformation, change in society or church attendance, growth means things changing for the better. I believe we shouldn't by shy about our ambition for the gospel and that we should expect God to grow us spiritually and numerically.
You'll find tools and ideas in Grace, Gratitude and Growth that will be helpful outside St Paul's, perhaps in your work and family.

What will it look like?
At the heart of GGG will be participation. So apart from some outlining and initial presentation, the process will involve discussion and contributions from the widest possible range of people.
GGG sessions will include worship and praise, re-telling and hearing true stories, celebration of God's goodness, study of his word, recording and recognising, prayerful discernment and commitment. I'm hoping that we might make some imaginative graphics to record our progress.

What difference will it make to us?
There's no script that ensures that we will get to a particular place. But I am looking forward to outcomes that mean that St Paul's has greater confidence about its future direction, greater involvement and willingness to participate among our members, a deeper cherishing of the Word of God, a clear sense of how to deepen our engagement with our neighbourhood's needs, and a deeper trust in God.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Teenagers - what every parent has to know

Rob Parsons is speaking at Hinckley on 20 September 2008, on the subject of his latest book, Teenagers - what every parent has to know.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Do you say hello to strangers?

Scarcely has an introduction to a sermon provoked so much immediate feedback. Our epistle reading on Sunday was Romans 12.9-end, which was full of practical issues about lived-out Christian faith. Much of it is about the way we relate to others, including showing hospitality to strangers.

I introduced the topic by talking about the way that I try to acknowledge or greet people I meet on the streets of Oadby. I'm disappointed by the numbers of people who don't return a nod, a smile, or a "Hi". There are some interesting differences. I find younger people more likely to respond than the middle aged or older people, though they're less likely to initiate an exchange. But after the service, some older members of the congregation told me that their experience was the opposite.

I had quite a number of conversations along the lines of, "I know exactly what you mean. Oadby's like that. You'd be spoken to in Wigston/Evington/Sheffield"

What's your experience? Do you say hello to strangers? Do they return your greeting? Use the comments form and let us know.

Finally, the look on the face of the head-scarved moslem woman I met today when I wished her "Ramadan Mubarrak" was a picture. She beamed her thank-you with a broad smile. I think we both felt better.

News from the Lambeth Conference

The next meeting of the Gartree Deaneries Synod will be an open meeting, with Bishop Tim Stevens talking about his first-hand experience of the recent Lambeth conference. We've already had opportunity to hear from one bishop about the experience and it will be good to hear from our own bishop how it all went and where the Church goes from here.

The meeting is open to everyone and begins at 7.30pm on Thursday, 17 September at Kibworth Church Hall.

Breakfast at Barney's returns 14 September

Begin your week with a hearty breakfast and worship.
On 14 September, Breakfast at Barney's returns. Once again, enjoy a choice of full cooked English or something lighter, with juice, tea and coffee. Breakfast is served from 8.30 to 9.30am. 
Cooked breakfasts £2.50
Continental £2.00
Children's £1.00
Booking is essential, as we regularly get fifty people along. So email or call Anita 0116 271 4465.
Breakfast at Barney's usually happens on the second Sunday of the month. Check the calendar on the right of the blog page for details.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Meeting of Sidespeople and Wardens

Paul has sent me this for the blog:
Planned, but unprepared. The Sidespeople’s meeting.

When I was sitting in the relative safety of my study thinking about my expectations for a meeting I planned to chair this Wednesday evening, nothing of the real drama that followed was on my mind. Anita and I both felt that we would benefit from a better understanding of the role played by St. Paul’s sidespeople. So we invited the team for a glass of something and nibbles.

We felt that high on the agenda would be congratulations to the team for their excellent support and the understated way they manage their service for the Lord and the various congregations with which they are dealing. So with the innocence of youth on our side! We entered.... (without realising it) The dragon’s den.

"Hi Paul, I hope you realise that 'Who do you think you are?' is on TV at 9 o’clock", was the opening line. On the back foot, I braced myself for an unexpected onslaught of facts, figures and clearly thought out reasoning for things that happen in our services. I felt that the learning curve was turning into a spiral when we discussed the minutiae of sides persons duties. At 9.o’clock we ended and Anita drew breathe; it took me another five minutes to do the same.

As we packed away we knew that we had been dealing with a team which is on the ball and gives a lot of consideration to how our services are marshalled. It is going to take a while for us to get our heads around all the things that came out of this discussion but It has done us good to gain an insight into the work that our sides persons do. I hope that the new members of the team were encouraged by the wealth of detail and the expertise displayed during the evening.

Thanks to our Sides people and thank the Lord for the work they do.

Paul and Anita