Saturday, 25 October 2008

Opening our hearts, opening our church

Last Sunday evening the sidechapel was full. We'd arranged a prayer meeting following the DCC's discussion of whether to keep our church open for extended hours. It's something that St Peter's Church does (Frank the verger says we should "go for it!") and several other local churches in the mission partnership do as well. Of course, there are issues of safety and security. We want to balance responsibility and hospitality and for that we needed God's guidance.

We began with a few moments of discussion to set the context, then asked God to help us in our reflections. We took a lighted candle flame out into the darkness and prayed in the alley behind the church. This is a favourite haunt of young men during the afternoons and we often find litter or minor vandalism. I guess it's this group that gives us most concern in terms of what could go wrong. But we reminded ourselves that they are as much loved by God as we are and that we have a responsibility to reach out to them.

We walked around the church and brought our fragile candle flame (which had to be re-lit a couple of times) to the area outside the front doors. We remembered that it's often difficult for visitors to step across a threshold into church and that what we take for granted is a big issue for most people. The foyer is lovely and welcoming, with positive and attractive displays, yet this movement from outside to inside is still a significant one. We prayed again outside, then prayed inside for the rest of our time together.

It became clear as people offered prayers, feelings and pictures that the Lord was inviting us to move the balance between responsibility and risk just a little further towards the adventurous. This wasn't a time for working out the details but we were sure that we heard God call us forward and to make some plans for extending the opportunity for people to come in, rest and pray.

Principal Services Advent and Christmas 2008

The next flyer for our worship series is out this weekend. It runs through November and December, so it includes a couple of weeks before Advent too. Here are the details:

2 November 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Grace, gratitude and growth
Readings to be chosen

9 November 2008
10.00am Baptism and Parade Service on Remembrance Sunday
Hope in the darkness
 Acts 16.20-34

16 November 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Like a thief in the night
 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 and Matthew 25.14-30

23 November 2008
10.00am The Word Service
Christ the King
Ephesians 1.15-end and Matthew 25.31-end

30 November 2008
10.00am The Word Service
Advent – the coming of the Lord
Isaiah 64.1-9 and Mark 13.24-end

Thursday 4 December 2008
10.30am Coffee Pot Carols Service

7 December 2008
10.00am Holy Communion and visit of Pauline and Charles Ndirgwa
Prepare the way
Isaiah 40.1-11 and Mark 1.1-8

14 December 2008
10.00am Christmas Toy and Gift service
Great gifts from God
Isaiah 61.8-11

21 December 2008
10.00am The Word Service
The House of David
2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16 and Luke 1.26-38

21 December 2008
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.

24 December 2008 Christmas Eve
4pm Christingle Service for all ages
The Story of Christmas

24 December 2008
11.30pm Holy Communion at Midnight
The Kingdom of Heaven
Isaiah 52.7-10 and John 1.1-14

25 December 2008 Christmas Day
10.00am Family Holy Communion
A truly happy Christmas
Isaiah 62.6-end & Luke 2.8-20

28 December 2008
10.00am Holy Communion (Joint Parish Service)
Our refugee Saviour
Jeremiah 31.15-17 and Matthew 2.13-18

Friday, 24 October 2008

Budgetting for the Kingdom of God

With the economy in a state of chaos at the moment, we're all having to think carefully about money. But at this time of year, we also have to plan ahead for the church's finances. It's a task that the DCC will be tackling at it's next meeting.

I met with Diane, our treasurer, and Paul, our churchwarden, this morning. We worked through the figures and ploughed through the utilities bills that confirmed that our electricity costs have already risen by more than 35% and our gas bills by 75% in the last year. Yet our meeting was far from bleak. We had begun the day in prayer together, reading the prescription in Leviticus for sabbath rests for the land and a jubilee every fifty years. It was clear that all our resources are to be received as a gift rather than seen as potential for exploitation and maximum productivity. But the second reading from Paul's letter to Titus contained a surprise encouragement to fruitfulness and effectiveness. Here were two counter-balancing principles which we tried to apply directly to our budgetting task: to budget for enterprise but not exploitation.

After a couple of hours, some strong coffee and further prayer, we balanced the budget. It will be for the DCC to decide if and how to amend our proposals but we concluded with a heartfelt time of thanksgiving and praise. I'm looking forward to 2009!

Renewal Leave 2009

For a number of months, I've been steadily getting excited about the prospect of taking a three-month sabbatical or 'renewal leave' as it's sometimes called. Clergy are recommended to take a sabbatical every so often in order to be renewed and refreshed for the demands of their role and the Diocese of Leicester generously provides for this as part of the normal pattern of clergy development and support. My Ministry Development Review with the Dean of Leicester Cathedral in December 2007 recommended that I should take a sabbatical in 2009.

I'll be sharing plans with the church congregation this Sunday and at the DCC in the coming couple of weeks, so I'll resist the temptation to set out my hopes and dreams on the blog tonight.

Make the most of a lie-in

As usual, churchgoers are among the first to feel the effect of the clocks changing. British Summer Time ends this Sunday, so don't come early.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

A most peculiar Sunday

This Sunday is peculiar:

In a year when there are 23 Sundays after Trinity before the Fourth Sunday before Advent, the Collect and Post Communion for the Last Sunday after Trinity shall be used on the 23rd Sunday after Trinity and the Collect and Post Communion for the 3rd Sunday before Lent shall be used on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity.

From the Church of England's Rules to Order the Christian Year.

So now we know!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

‘Carols by Candlelight’ Rehearsals

Our Carol service is on Sunday 21 December.
As usual we will have a small choir to lead the service. Anyone is welcome (age 12 upwards) and you do not have to be able to read music, just enjoy singing and be ‘mostly’ in tune! The more singers the better. You need to be able to come along to most of the rehearsals, but if you aren’t free for all of them, don’t worry.
Practices are in the Barnabas Centre as follows:
Wednesday 19 November 7.30pm
Wednesday 26 November 7.30pm
Wednesday 3 December 7.30pm
Friday 12 December 7.30pm
Wednesday 17 December 7.30pm
There will also be a practice on 21st December at 4pm followed by a light tea to sustain us for the service. Contact Aileen Tincello for more details on 2590025

Transformation through the gospel - 4 November 2008

Rev'd Dr Alison Morgan and Martin Cavender of ReSource are to lead our Mission Partnership forum evening on 4 November from 7.15 - 9.45 at St Wilfrid's Church Kibworth.

This event, entitled "Transformation through the gospel" is designed as an evening of encouragement and will offer practical ways forward for every church in the partnership to feel confident about engaging in mission in unscary ways.

This will be an Open Meeting. Members of all churches in The Gartree Mission Partnership are welcome to come along.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Reader Ministry Course 2008

Vicars get teased about having a one-day-a-week job. Behind the laughter, there's often a genuine curiosity about how we spend our time between Sundays.

One of the areas of work that absorbs about a quarter of my time is supporting the work of over 160 Readers in  Leicestershire. Readers are licensed lay ministers who preach, teach and lead worship. This last couple of months has been a very busy time and I thought that you should know what I've been up to.

Last night, I met with the eight newest students on the new Reader Training Course for the last of our five sessions together on preaching and communication. The course members were selected for this important role in the church in a rigorous vocations process, which I also lead. I remember meeting them each individually several years ago and it's great to see them come together as a group for the third and final year of their studies. This term we've been learning about Communication in the Church. That's a broad subject, but within it preaching has formed the focus and emphasis of our studies.

Yesterday, each student preached a short sermon using the methods and principles that we've discussed in previous weeks. I was impressed with them all and it was a really encouraging evening. They are already contributing really effectively in their churches and I know that they'll make a big impact through their ministry.

Last weekend at the Cathedral we licensed seven new Readers from last year's course. They joined new Pastoral Assistants, Evangelists and Children's Workers for a service that celebrated lay ministry and left no seats unused. Existing Readers and other ministers returned to be recommissioned for their ministries.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this busy season of Reader ministry activity - and looking forward to focussing more on St Paul's in the coming months.

Friday, 10 October 2008


Paul Webster writes,

How often has it been said that some good things come out of Wales! Well this time they have, with a mighty rush. A wonderful team from Cardiff called “Care for the Family” is offering support and ideas for churches to use when trying to engage their communities.  Rob Parsons their executive director spoke to the 400+ representatives of various denominations and from all over the Midlands. His introduction laid down the flagstones which led us to a better understanding of need in our communities and a realisation that the Lord is willing and able to help us address those needs in relevant and meaningful ways. It might mean meeting people where they are at this time and it certainly will not be a walk over but it is where we are called to go.

Teri, Christine ,Sue and a chauffeur went up to the University of Nottingham to the conference ; while the ladies went their various ways to different seminars I began in one called “Money Matters” This talk mainly by Paula Pridham was about handling debt and involves a course called “Quidz In” which is intended to give parents the knowledge and background to advise their children about sensible practice in handling money. I found it fascinating but also grim and would like to do some further training to enable me to lead a course at St. Paul’s for our neighbours.

Teri in the mean time went to a course called “20s and30s Building relationships”, Sue went to “Transitioning your church to engage”. Chris went to “Drugs and your community” If you are interested in more details ask any of us about our courses or visit one of these websites: (drug proof your kids)

After a quick lunch we looked at the exhibition and gathered leaflets about the vast collection of resources available from a growing number of interested organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Mother’s Union and Parish Nursing Ministries UK. The afternoon plenary sessions were very good. Ian Coffey spoke about leading your church to engage and David Oliver opened a discussion on how we engage people in work. We then went off to our final seminars to finish the day.

Everybody came away filled with enthusiasm and prepared to look at ways in which we as a congregation can get closer to our neighbours, there are bound to be hours of discussion ahead before we introduce some of these initiatives, but wemust pray that whatever we decide God will be in it.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Buried Treasure?

We're looking forward to hosting the Bible Society's service on Sunday 26 October at 6.30pm.

Our own Emmanuel Oladipo will be preaching, joining me and Simon Foulds of the Bible Society. Emmanuel has served on the board of Bible Society and in his many and far-reaching travels has experienced the great hunger for God's word all over the world.

I love this year's idea of 'Bible Monday' on 27 October, which invited Christians to take their bible to work.

The service is open to everyone and includes a short video about the remarkable 'sidewalk Sunday schools' that are making a big impact in Kingston, Jamaica.

Oadby faith groups get together for One World Week

Students in Oadby are organising an inter faith fair with the theme, "Together". Beauchamp College is hosting the event between 1 and 4pm on Sunday 26 October.

The major faiths of Oadby are making a contribution, including dancing, food and displays.

Entrance is open to everyone, for 50p or a can of baked beans! (The beans will go to support The Welcome Project in Leicester).

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Coffee Pot Harvest Lunch

Coffee Pot invites you to a Harvest Lunch at 12noon in church on Thursday 9 October. Please book a place with Jennie on 0116 288 1151.

Hooray Day - 22 November 2008

Hooray Days fill our church for a whole day with laughter, fun and activities for children from Years 1 to 5. They're free and open to all. Derek and the team are already planning Hooray Day 28 for 22 November 2008.

Should we open our church?

Every now and then, we find ourselves wrestling with a fascinating question that goes to the heart of our church life. This week, the DCC asked itself whether we should leave our church open for periods during the week, so that people can drop in to look around and to find a quiet spot for prayer and reflection.

Anita discovered helpful information at a recent meeting of representatives of local churches that are open. We shared this at the DCC and talked for a long time about the practical opportunities, and problems, of keeping the building open.

Some felt that being such a new building, and located in the midst of a housing estate, we are unlikely to be seen as an interesting place to visit. And some expressed reservations about the vulnerability to theft and damage from the youths that frequently loiter around the building.

Others felt that this was an important opportunity to witness to the availability of God, and his Church, to the wider neighbourhood. Some suggested that the side chapel could become an even more significant place for prayer.

We decided that this is a question that we should offer to the whole church. We've planned a short prayer meeting for Sunday 19 October, from 6.30 to 7.30pm, at which we'll try to discern what the right approach might be. If you have any thoughts, use the comments feature below.

A spirituality for the 21st Century - Lay Congress 2009

The Rt. Revd Gordon Mursell, Bishop of Stafford and a well-known preacher, author and tutor in spirituality. I remember him from my days in Lichfield Diocese and always found his lectures fascinating. I remember a couple of talks on the topic of lament, in particular.

This all-day event is free of charge and well worthwhile if you're interested in how spirituality can sustain contemporary living.

For a programme of the day and further information, see this article on the Diocese of Leicester website.

Called Together - Leicester Cathedral 11 October

On Saturday 11 October at 11.00am, Leicester Cathedral will be filled for a service to affirm and celebrate authorised lay ministries.

I shall be there in my role as Warden of Readers, to assist with the admission of seven new Readers and the licensing of six Readers to new parishes. They will join Evangelists, Pastoral Assistants and Children & Youth Workers who are being commissioned for their ministries.

All are very welcome, and members of those congregations who have lay ministers being admitted or authorised are particularly encouraged to attend – tickets are not required. Following the service there will be refreshments and musical entertainment. Further information from Claire Stapleton email:; tel. 0116 248 7417