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Bognor conference

Yesterday, I returned from the four day once every three years Rochester Diocesan Conference in Bognor Regis. I am sure there are various people commenting in the blogosphere about the happenings of the last few days in that wet and windy seaside town. Certainly both Phil and Rob are worth a read and thanks Rob for the suitable photo of the stage that I’ve reproduced here (I forgot to take a camera and my phone isn’t up to snuff really). Given their initiative, I thought I would add some reflections of my own.

I can’t quite work out if my general depression at the conference was because of missing my wife and three kids or whether it was because of the conference. I think, truth be told, there were elements of both in there. Certainly, I find it harder and harder to leave my family behind for such things these days; a great deal has changed since I worked in London and travelled the country and the world for my work. It’s hard to do – especially when I know my third son child crawled for the first time while I was away.

I generally thought the speakers were of a good standard – certainly Mark Russell of the Church Army was outstanding as I expected him to be with John Bell, Paula Gooder and Chris Wright not far behind. I would agree to a certain extent with Rob’s comments about a narrowness of style but actually I think I can live with that. When I think of what the quality could have been like, given previous experience of Christian conferences, the fact they were all good seemed more important to me than how representative they were. Count your blessings and all that…

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Transforming Worship – the aftermath

York Central Hall

So the Transforming Worship paper from the Liturgical Commission was debated on Saturday and so much for my expectation that it would just roll through on the nod.

You can listen to the Liturgical Commission’s presentation and to the debate on the Church of England website, although much like the CofE’s clunky use of RTF files, it would have been more helpful to me if they’d uploaded MP3 files so that I could have stuck it on my iPod than the streamed ‘wax’ files that they have provided. Be grateful, be grateful.

The Transforming Worship paper included a major section that drew together all of the Commission’s recommendations and addressed everyone from Dioceses and Bishops through all sorts of stakeholders down to local parish level and other such groups as educators and trainers. All were pretty much asked to do different things whilst also setting out a sort of routemap for the Commission itself.

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Lex orandi, lex credendi and the Church of England

York Central Hall

General Synod has, of course, begun in York. Unfortunately I can’t be there although I did get an invitation having been part of a small group who helped the soon to be Revved up (and ex-colleague at Ridley) Tim Lomax put together the worship for Sunday evening. I hope all you Synod-ers enjoy my hopefully visually stimulating but worshipfully unobtrusive Powerpoint tomorrow night! 🙂

No doubt over the next few days there will be even more hand wringing and comment, political maneuvering and argument on the Anglican Covenant proposals than there have been in the last few weeks. The Covenant forms a major discussion topic for this Group of Sessions. I’m afraid I am lacking stamina at the moment to keep up the pace with this ongoing debate that seems to have everyone thoroughly exercised. So I am not going to talk about that.

What I am interested in is Read more

Christianity rediscovered

Christianity Rediscovered

The placement has me very busy but I have managed to finish off reading Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent Donovan so I thought I would review it briefly here.

For those that know nothing about this book, Vincent Donovan was a Catholic missionary working with the Masai tribe in Africa. After many years of working in a mission compound with a school, hospital and other classic missionary paraphenalia and having had zero converts, he upped sticks, moved to the plains with a tent and began to evangelize the Masai on their own territory in their kraals.

In this book, he describes how he was forced to strip the gospel of all the cultural paraphenalia and communicate the gospel in the Masai’s own terms and language and then allow them to work out the implications for their own communities. It’s a fascinating read, deeply challenging and full of throwaway comments that I am sure will continue to force me to think. I have no doubt that I will read it at regular intervals in the future to challenge me and make me think about how I am communicating the gospel in my own situation.

Here is just a taste:

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Credit where credit is due…


So as I trailed some time ago (and criticised), the Archbishop of Canterbury (along with the Archbishop of York) is now broadcasting on YouTube. The first broadcast was launched yesterday and you can watch it by clicking the screen above.

I feel I have to be big about this and actually withdraw some of my remarks from my previous article. The short film they have released is actually pretty good and much of my critique was misplaced.

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Oi, Williams…. NOOOO!

Oi no!

I missed this piece of news last Sunday but, according to the Sunday Telegraph, it appears that Lambeth Palace have plans to broadcast the Archbishop of Canterbury’s sermons via YouTube.

Where do I begin with this one?

I certainly don’t disagree with the motivations to try and reach young people and/or the Internet generation. Indeed, I would agree that using YouTube to do so is a very good idea and, done well, could generate a great deal of good.

However, that is the key – “done well”. I’m sorry to say that even if Rowan gives us his very best on YouTube (and I like his sermons and his thinking as much as anyone), there isn’t the slightest hope that it will come across well. It simply does not fit the medium.

As Gill describes it, posting the Archbishop’s sermons on YouTube is the cultural equivalent of:

“like building a large Victorian church in an Indian fishing village”

I can understand why Lambeth think it’s a good idea. The CofE never has much (any?) money to put into such projects and it looks like a gift – a free website, to which you can contribute easily, that people are using and is a current cultural phenomenon, and with a gifted leader ready on tap – you just need to put a digital camera in front of him and bob’s your uncle.

But it doesn’t work like that. Read more

The Future of the Parish System

Future of the Parish System

My stocking from Father Christmas this year positively bulged with new reading material. From time to time over the next few weeks, I hope to read some of them and do my little reviews!

The first one was actually a pre-Christmas buy for myself and is the recent The Future of the Parish System published by Church House Publishing.

I was at a conference recently in which I heard the account of an amazing success story from a particular church which was on its knees before being turned around and is now a big church of approximately 500. I am not going to say who the vicar is, what the church is or which diocese it’s in for reasons I will come to shortly.

I think the growth of that church is fantastic and the way in which the vicar has gone about his work has been admirable and it has challenged me deeply since I heard him speak. However, I do wonder about what the churches around about make of his efforts. I would hope that they are all pleased for him but from what he said about his relationships, I think partly because of the way in which he has gone about his task, he has made a few enemies of fellow deanery members and most notably his bishop. It’s particularly a shame, I think, because it needn’t have been that way. The vicar concerned has acted swiftly in many areas (which wouldn’t sit well with many CofE structures) and has also been no respecter of parish boundaries (again which doesn’t sit well) so I am sure he probably felt he had no other option. Nevertheless, as I will come to, other options are beginning to present themselves.

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