About Will Grady

I am an American living in Lancashire, England. I serve as a presbyter (minister) in The Methodist Church of Great Britain. I am a husband and father.

The Answers to the #BibleQuiz

This past Saturday, St Luke’s celebrated it’s church anniversary with a Strawberry Tea. While we were eating a traditional British favourite of strawberries, cream, and scones, we worked on a quiz. It was created by one of the members there.

The idea is to guess which book of the Bible is represented by the picture. There are 4 on each page. I’ll post the pictures first and put the answers at the bottom in case you haven’t seen this and want to have to go:

Set 1

Set 2

Set 3

Set 4

Set 5

Set 6

Set 7

Set 8

Set 9

Set 1:
1.  Esther  2. John  3. 2 Kings 4. Romans

Set 2:
5. Joel  6. Ruth 7: Hosea 8: Philemon

Set 3:
9. Numbers  10. Timothy  11. James  12. 1 Kings

Set 4:
13. Psalms  14. 1 & 2 Chronicles  15. Samuel  16. Exodus

Set 5:
17. Mark  18. Acts  19. Hebrews  20. Revelation

Set 6:
21. Isaiah  22. Nehemiah  23. Judges  24. Nahum

Set 7:
25. Luke  26. Song of Songs  27. Genesis  28. Matthew

Set 8:
29. Amos  30. Jude  31. Jonah  32. Proverbs

Set 9:
33. 1,2,&3 John  34. Daniel  35. Job  36. Colossians

Giving Up Infant Baptism as a Sacrament but Keeping Infant Baptism

What if we give up infant baptism as a sacrament? I don’t mean Methodism should become believer’s baptism only or should stop doing them. I imagine we could carry out many infant baptisms as we do weddings. Nowadays, weddings are simply quasi-religious ceremonies we agree to perform on behalf of the state (or, as a ‘service to the community’) for those couples who want more intimacy than a signing in the registry office, but not at the expense that many hotels/other venues charge.

Churches see weddings as a ‘reaching out’ opportunity and even if the couple has no interest in faith or will not ever come back to the church, I generally have a good time meeting the couple and it’s a fun day. All I ask is for the opportunity to share my understanding of Christian marriage (as an egalitarian!) and that they don’t ask to remove the Christological language. I believe that the couple intends to keep the vows they make to each other and love each other. But in most cases no one pretends this more than a ‘secular union’.

While infant baptism serves no state function as weddings do, many seek out having their children ‘christened’ (baptismal language rarely if ever enters in). I don’t get that many requests, as often people find their way to the Anglican church before ever getting around to the Methodists. But even some of Methodists colleagues have talked about the wonderful experiences and people truly seeking to understand what’s going on in some way.

I haven’t had those experiences. Most of mine have been done because they want to get the kid in a faith school, want to appease grandmother, or simply think it’s the done thing. As far as the vows, they of course want to love their children (I have not doubt about it!) but have no real thoughts about what it means to bring up the child in the faith and only a handful of the churches could carry out their vows to assist the child (not all churches have an active Sunday school or other children’s activities). Nor as far as I have seen are parents bothered that the churches don’t have the resources to do this.

An alternative that’s been floated is to talk about having a service of thanksgiving. What parents want is for a time to come together to celebrate the family – and why wouldn’t the church want to be a part of it? But, when I say it’s not a christening and there’s no water involved, we go right back to baptism. Because I struggle with the ‘if it moves baptise it’ understanding, I have felt the need to defend baptism in some way – even if in the end I comply.

So, why don’t we simply stop worrying about where it takes place (in church) and when (in worship)? Why don’t we focus on the parents loving the child and not really worry about what happens with the faith side of it? Why don’t we adapt the service to one that simply focuses on that love and God’s love for the child? Then we could drop the language of bringing someone into the church and drop the vows that keep them trying to live up to that language. It could provide a moment of reaching out to the family with God’s love, giving the family the service they want, but not push baptismal theology to breaking point.

Do you have any thoughts?

I’m Resurrecting the Blog

I’ve decided to reopen my blog. I haven’t blogged for some time, but as it is the Easter season, resurrection seems appropriate. I haven’t a clue what I’m going to write about, but I find that I think through things better if I actually write about them.

I also gave the blog a make over and a new name. As my friend David Faulkner pointed out, I’m moved and the old title wouldn’t fit as I no longer live in Lancashire. That’s been the biggest change since I last posted. I now live in Kent, in the Medway Towns – the land of Charles Dickens. One of my churches is not far from the church graveyard that may have given Dickens the inspiration for the graveyard where Pip met Magwitch in Great Expectations.

As I’m not terribly clever with names, I have chosen ‘Man of Kentolina’. First, there is a strange tradition of determining whether you are a ‘man of Kent’ or ‘Kentish man’ by where you are born. If you were born west of the Medway River, then you are a ‘Kentish man’. I wasn’t born in Kent, but still live east of the Medway. Second, I was born in North Carolina and lived for most of my life in South Carolina. So, I have combined Kent and Carolina. There you have it.

So, I hope that I will have more to say on here in the future.

Why am I Nervous about Posting My Opinions?

When twitter lights up over an issue or my blog reader fills itself with impassioned commenters, I find myself going silent. Every once in a while I will retweet someone I am inclined to agree with, but otherwise I don’t jump into the fray. (N.B. For those unfamiliar with twitter, retweet is a twitter term used for an action similar to forwarding an email.) Today’s coverage over the horrible events that transpired in Tottenham with the riots. All the British tweeters I follow appear to have an opinion! When these discussions – whether about the theology or politics – I wonder why I am not bold enough to state my own case.
So I have been thinking about it and decided to open up a little. Maybe I will move past some of these issues. I start tonight with one.
I have self-doubts about my own opinions. I don’t want to be disagreed with and be unable to say anything back. Sometimes I find I do know what I am talking about. For example I retweeted to Facebook a joke about cookies and the economy. A more conservative friend of mine decided to give his own rendition of the joke. I commented, but didn’t really say anything. I think I asked a question or something, but was really too scared to form a coherent opinion. But my friend pushed back and I wrote a long answer with my now more left of centre opinion. My friend didn’t answer back, but I did seek out my friend Sarah McGiverin, who helped me engage with new political options when we were in seminary. She read through my answer and gave it her approval.
So one reason is my own doubts about myself. But where it hurts is even if I am wrong or there are places I need to be challenged (as in the example above) I miss out because of my doubts. At the end of the day, if I can’t give a full account, what does it matter? I’m not paid to have an opinion so why not say something?

Wandering Around Blackburn

P21

It feels strange to think that this will likely be the last time I visit Blackburn – at least for some time. I notice things that I haven’t or haven’t thought about. The stance lion clock at the Morrissons for one.

But this is the town where both my children were born. The cathedral across the street from the Morrissons is where I was ordained – nearly 4,000 miles away from my hometown of Florence, SC, where I had assumed I would have been ordained at the civic centre (no, the SC Annual Conference doesn’t use churches).

I don’t connect much with the town centre itself, but gave me lots of memories.

In Transition

As of today we have one week before we move down south to Kent. I am in a strange but lovely time provided by The Methodist Church. Whereas my US counterparts would move out of their house and into the new one on a Saturday to begin the next day at worship, British Methodists finish around the end of July and don’t begin until the first of September.

That’s not to say there’s not plenty to do, but most of it involves packing and preparing for the move. In between I’m trying to give myself time to reflect, but I’ve never really taken the opportunity to do it. I think my normal mode is to waste as much time to protect myself from thinking too much. Yet since one of the activities I have chosen to fill time is watching old reruns of Scrubs (Channel 4 quit running them because obviously people would rather watch My Name is Earl). Watch JD (the main character) carries on an inner-monologue where he constantly reflects on his life. Watching him, I can’t seem to help but be a little reflective.

So, I’m going to reopen the blog to see if I can allow myself to be a little publically reflective. It just seems that reflection is called for when I am spending a last week in a house where my wife and I have lived together longer than any other place, that has been the only home my children have known, and where I have served my first full appointment.

Savannah Pauses at the Tomb

Savannah at the Tomb

This past week we went to York for a few days as we won’t be near enough to visit the city in the near future with our move down to Kent. As we usually do when we go to York, we made a stop at the beautiful Minister Church. As we are still in the Easter season, the church still had it’s large Easter Garden display with the crosses and the tomb.

The Easter story really fascinated Savannah, just as much as the Christmas story did. Though there being no plays we have not had to put on Easter plays as much. She has also asked some fascinating questions, like why do the pictures of Jesus always have him leaning forward; or why are the clothes still in the tomb? And usually when she sees vinegar she will tell us that the soldiers gave it to Jesus to drink but he didn’t like it.

So she was quite excited to see the large tomb, if a little surprised at first. She named all the parts and we took her photo with it. Then April and I walked away, expecting her to follow. I turned around and I saw the scene in the photo above (which, I couldn’t resist taking and I was far enough away that I did not disturb her). I called April to turn around. Savannah was sitting in front of it quietly, taking it all in. Maybe she was just waiting for us to finally leave her alone so she could have a moment.

It was also a beautiful reminder that York Minster was not a tourist site, but a place of prayer.

Laughing at the Rapture Crazies

Religious fanatics are everywhere. They have their beliefs and most are dealt with by simply laughing them off. Sometimes, if you don’t laugh at what is out there, you might cry. Every so often, it can be downright harmful and giving it more exposure only worsens the problem. I think of this past year’s saga with the pastor in Florida who wanted to burn books.

Then there seems to be the odd movements that get attention and I don’t know why. Take for instance Harold Camping, who believes that the rapture will happen on Saturday 21 May 2011. At 6PM. In each time zone. I don’t remember hearing a quite-so-specific time set for the rapture before, but certainly this is nothing new. Plenty of people have promised to tell us when it was going to happen. I wonder why this has got the press it has. There is now a site called Rapture Fail that will catalogue the failures of the rapture in each time zone. Twitter and Facebook have been buzzing about it. And of course, lots of jokes made. I won’t deny that I have engaged in a few myself. As I said, sometimes if you don’t laugh you will cry.

Then my blogging friend Wyman Richardson made me to stop to think with his latest blog post, ‘An Open Letter to the Followers of Harold Camping’. The paragraph that stood out most to me was:

I believe that you are sincere people.  I believe that many of you sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus and I believe that many of you sincerely trust in the scriptures.  Unfortunately, in embracing the prophecies of Harold Camping, you have sincerely believed in a false prophecy and a false prophet.

Of course we should expose bad teaching and theology where it is (therefore, I am not criticising those who are behind Rapture Fail or any other attempt to discredit Camping’s teaching). But, where does exposure/correction leave off and full-blown ridicule of the people begin? In his post, Wyman shows his concern for the deluded people who have chosen to believe the ramblings of a deluded man – a man who very well believes he is following Jesus. These are people loved by God and whose heart breaks over this. What will happen to those people on 22 May? Perhaps we should be in prayer for them, even before the laughter dies down.

As a post script, I am speaking about Camping’s belief that he has correctly identified the date for the return of Jesus, who told us himself that no one knows the hour or day when he will return. While I do not hold to a view of the rapture and I think it bad theology, I am not calling those who hold such a view deluded. But for an excellent summary of the problems with Rapture Theology, I point to my blogging friend Craig Adams’s website.

Bin Laden and the Narrative of Scripture

Not long after President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, Twitter lit up. As you would expect, Christians have played their part, too. One particular way Christians tweeted was using Bible verses to proclaim their feelings on the matter. Christianity Today, the American Evangelical magazine, posted an article on their website that listed data from OpenBible.info that told us what were the most tweeted Bible verses 12 hours after President Obama announced bin Laden’s death.

I admit that I was glad to see that the number one verse was Proverbs 24:17, ‘Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice’ (NIV). Of course there were other verses, too – ones that seem to be quite fine with the rejoicing that the enemy had indeed fallen, but 3 of the top 5 indicated that the death was not a celebration. Still, what does quoting one verse do?

Quoting Bible verses in my environment growing up was nearly a language all its own. It’s how you answered questions when people challenged what you thought and it was what you quoted to prove your case. Usually the surrounding context mattered little. It was easy that way. You could find your preferred texts and use them as an axe to cut down any argument that someone tried to make. They were little clues that formed a picture of your own making.

Since that time, I have learned that quoting verses does not always help, and if we read carefully in the New Testament, we see that Jesus and Paul nuanced how they used scripture. For Jesus, I can point to the gospels where he would begin by saying ‘you have heard it said’ before quoting some part of the Old Testament and then deepening its meaning. Paul could have used any number of scriptures that said eating food sacrificed to idols was wrong, but he takes a very long time to get there and in the end doesn’t exclude it all together! In both cases, Paul and Jesus wanted us to hear more than just what a single verse of scripture might say.

While I am not opposed to quoting scripture, and as a general practice I wish I knew more than I did so I could quote them, I think we also have to look at the full story of where scripture is going. It’s a little more difficult this way, and sometimes I have to give up my preferred verses. It also takes discussion and listening, as unlike quoting a verse it isn’t easily doled out in bite-sized portions. The overarching story of scripture has at it centre what Jesus did for a world that was opposed to him. He came to bring forgiveness, and did it amidst people who were cheering and celebrating his death. He even reached out to a terrorist and converted him so that he could take the gospel to the gentiles.

So, I do understand there are verses that would say it’s perfectly OK to gloat and brag that bin Laden is dead. But, there are other verses that say the opposite. I think we have to go to the overarching story for where the weight lies for those verses. If our central story is that of Jesus and his sacrifice, then I don’t see how we can celebrate the death of another.

Hymn of the Day – Palm Sunday

I don’t wish to steal Richard Hall’s thunder as he is the usual one for posting Charles Wesley hymns for his ‘Hymn of the Day’, but I spent about 15 minutes looking for a Wesley hymn that I couldn’t find and was using for worship this morning.

This hymn is the appointed one for today (Palm Sunday) in Paul Wesley Chilcote’s The Song Forever New: Lent and Easter Meditations on Charles Wesley’s Hymns. He suggests using the tune ‘Ratisbon’ (the normal tune, for him at least, for ‘Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies’). This morning I used ‘Heathlands’, the tune we use over here for the same hymn. I hope you enjoy it!

O my all redeeming Lord,
all thy kindness I record,
me thy kindness hath allured,
called, and drawn me from above,
sweetly am I thus assured,
of thy everlasting love.

But is now thy grace less free
for all sinners, than for me?
Lord, I have not learned thee so:
Good to everyone thou art,
free as air thy mercies flow;
so I feel it in my heart.

Every soul may your grace find
for you love all humankind,
all have once thy drawings proved,
every soul may say with me,
me, the friend of sinners loved,
loved from all eternity.

Sinner, how he yearned to be
joined by grace to you and me!
He was willing, we were not,
would not sleep beneath his wings:
grace to all salvation brought,
grace to all, salvation brings.

Now, yes, even now we may
grace receive in this our day,
all may hear th’effectual call,
he would all the world receive,
Lo! He spreads his arms for all,
all may come to him and live.

Shout ‘Hosanna’ to the Son,
Child of David, on his throne!
On his throne of love, and grace,
grace, which all with us may prove,
love to all the fallen race,
sovereign, everlasting love!