Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When my friend Lizzy and I share a bag of Randoms (the jelly sweets), it works out perfectly. I love the ones with the white bits on them. Lizzy hates them. She likes the plain jelly ones and I’m pretty cool towards those. So, our differences allow us to split the bag really well.
Differences between people don’t always work out as well as it may for sharing sweets. Sometimes the differences between people make us clash. But the Apostle Paul was insistent that each of us have different gifts and all are needed in the body of Christ. This means that we can’t all have one particular gift – no matter how much we may value that gift in others. All gifts are valued and God wants to ensure that we have all gifts needed to carry out his mission.
This summer, as I go on sabbatical, I will take the time to reflect on my gifts, especially in regards to evangelism. I will be working with Gillingham Youth for Christ in their work with teenagers from a completely non-church context. No doubt Lizzy and I will share many bags of Randoms, but it will also be a time to share our gifts with one another and sharpen my own. I invite you to take time this summer to reflect on your own gifts and ask, “Where is God calling me?” There is no one who is not needed. All have something to offer as God enables.
Have a great summer, and see you when I return!
Grace and peace
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:
1. Esther 2. John 3. 2 Kings 4. Romans
5. Joel 6. Ruth 7: Hosea 8: Philemon
9. Numbers 10. Timothy 11. James 12. 1 Kings
13. Psalms 14. 1 & 2 Chronicles 15. Samuel 16. Exodus
17. Mark 18. Acts 19. Hebrews 20. Revelation
21. Isaiah 22. Nehemiah 23. Judges 24. Nahum
25. Luke 26. Song of Songs 27. Genesis 28. Matthew
29. Amos 30. Jude 31. Jonah 32. Proverbs
33. 1,2,&3 John 34. Daniel 35. Job 36. Colossians
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’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.
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?