Friday, 26 October 2007

Bulgaria Aid

Was playing keyboard at an interesting service last night at my home church. We had a visiting Pastor from the gypsy church in Sliven, Bulgaria who was telling us about his work among the 'Roma' people in Bulgaria.
He showed us a photo of a building he believes God wants him to buy to enable them to have a proper church. He told us he had agreed with the owner in May of this year that he would buy the building at a cost of £16,000 and that even thought property prices have risen dramatically in Bulgaria the owner has honoured the agreement. Encho (the pastor) needs to raise the money by the end of the year otherwise the owner will put it on the open market.
People in Walsall have sent a number of containers to Bulgaria over the last ten years and it was interesting that many of the people in the congregation had actually been to Sliven.
Please pray for Encho and his family and for the provision of the funds to buy this building for the glory of God!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Day five - last ten!

Well here we are the last ten points from the list - we have put them on the church notice board along with a blank page in case any of our members want to add anything they may have forgotten or if any who were not present want to add any points.

Good hymns, particularly a good uplifting closing hymn
A mixture of old and new hymns
Hymns and worship songs that we know (and like)
Good hymns and choruses
Rousing hymns
Cafe style worship occasionally ( this was from a table of our more senior members)
Respice Prospice (motto of Blue Coat School which I am told means 'Look backward, look forward'
Giving oneself in worship as well as receiving
A time of reverence as well as fun and fellowship
Tolerance of and sharing in other peoples ideas of worship.

Here we are then at the end and no sign of 3 points and 5 hymns - I just hope my readers aren't too disappointed by this.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this and found it interesting, the service was very interesting and everyone present joined in with the conversations so that was good too.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Number Four.

This is the fourth lot of comments from the service last week - lots in this one about sermons as this is how they were written onto the list from the post it notes. Interestingly this is the number between the three point sermon and the five hymn sandwich - wonder if they'll make an appearance tonight
Receiving a good message from the preacher
A message that is fairly simple and relevant to our present lives
A message that is not too spiritual , but earthly
A powerful message to take away
A sermon (Short!)
A sermon not too long and one we can hear
A sermon that is not too long with interesting contents
A sermon that we can all hear and understand
A well explained sermon
Praising God in Song

Next instalment may appear tomorrow but I am a little busy so it may not. Tomorrow morning I am playing the organ at Pleck Methodist Church and tomorrow evening I am playing at St Johns Anglican church, Pleck where they are having a favourite hymns service and they are having 10 hymns.
If I don't get chance tomorrow I will post the last set of 10 points on Monday so watch this space.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Three of five!

Remind me of an episode of Star Trek where all the 'baddies' were a number of another number such as three of one or two of six. In case you are now confused here are the next set of point from our service on Sunday - just realised some of you may think I am making some sort of cryptic comment about sermons and hymns in the title of this post. Might tonight be the night for three point sermons and five hymn sandwiches? Here goes.....
Offering and tithing
Christ centred
Helping and praying for each other
People leading worship clear and concise
A good relationship between the congregation and the preacher
Active participation
getting involved
Sharing testimonies
Sharing your ideas with others

Watch for more tomorrow - still no 3 point sermon or hymn sandwich but I can say there will be mention of sermons and hymns in tomorrows ten points.
I was pleased to see preaching has made it on to the list particularly as there was no preaching element on Sunday - you never know the congregation might have said they liked not having any preaching now that really would have been an interesting result.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

What is worship 2!!

I have been asked following last nights post if a 3 point sermon or a 5 hymn sandwich is on the list of points and you know what? I am not going to tell you - you will have to read this post and the next three to see what else is on there.
Here are the next 10 points and it might be worth saying that these are not listed in any particular order and there may be some things that appear more than once or are broadly similar but that is the nature of the type of exercise we did on Sunday.
On more thing to note is that in 9 years of attending this church I think we have only sung the Lord's Prayer about 6 times - hopefully this will put one of the comments into perspective.

Leaving church feeling happy
Worshipping the Lord with all your heart and soul
A challenge
looking both inward and outward
Child friendly
Open mindedness
Doing the best at whatever it is you are doing
Keeping relevant
Companionship and laughter
Singing the Lord's Prayer occasionally

No mention yet of hymn sandwich or 3 point sermon but who knows what may be on here tomorrow?

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Worship is!!

Following on from my previous post and the feedback at Church Council last night here are the first ten points from the 50 that were written by members of the congregation on the theme of what makes a good act of worship - others will follow during the next few days.
Hearing the scriptures
A time for prayer and reflection
Praying for people
Being still and knowing that You are God
Making time for God
Being brave not being afraid to embrace change
Something for everyone
Leaving church feeling happy

The worship leaders did not actually contribute to the discussions so these are all from the congregation.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

What makes good worship?

Just a quick note following on from my previous post. The worship group at my own church led worship this morning cafe style with tea and biscuits in the middle of the service, and asked the congregation what makes a good act of worship. The congregation were encouraged to discuss in their tables groups and write their thoughts on post it notes to put up later in the service. It was very encouraging that there was a 'buzz' of talk around the church as people obviously got into the discussion and there were lots on notes being made. There was quite a lot of feedback and I think there will definitely be some food for thought among the comments made. One of the worship leaders is going to collate the comments for us to discuss at our Church Council meeting this week and who knows we may even feed the information back via the Preachers Meeting to those who lead our worship (This may be helped by the fact that I am LP Secretary).
I hope to post more details during the week of what the feedback was but for any who may be interested this was the format of the service this morning:-
Introduction/Call to worship
Hymn Be still and know.
Prayers of adoration
Psalm 111
4 songs - For I'm building a people of power, My Jesus my Saviour, I've got the joy,joy, joy; Jesus is the name we honour.
Reading - Hebrews 10 v 1 -25
Hymn Come now is the time to worship.
Hymn O for a thousand tongues to sing
Feed back - people came and put post its on flip charts
Prayer of confession
Hymn God forgave my sin
Round up of comments from post it notes
Prayers on intercession followed by Lords Prayer (sung - we normally say it)
Hymn You shall go out with joy
Grace shared by all.

34 people were present with ages ranging from 3 years to over 80 and the majority being over 50 years old.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Location! Location! Location!

Been reading on another blog about the lack of Methodist services in the centre of Birmingham and at first I could not believe what I was reading but then I thought again and it struck me - what is the point of having a church where nobody lives - what is the point of having a church in a city centre where no one lives. I think it is important that there is some Christian witness even thought there is no Methodist Church and fortunately there are three Christian bookshops which provide a type of witness in themselves and of course there is the cathedral and St Martin's in the Bull Ring so it is not all bad news.
Isn't the location of our churches or meeting places important - how many of our churches are now in areas where there is very little housing or areas where given the changing population and their aging membership the work is increasingly hard and sometimes beyond the physical capabilities of our members.
Is this a reason why some other churches are seeing growth in their membership - they are in good locations and very visible on the street so to speak. One of the biggest churches in Walsall is right by the motorway at junction 10 and they are very visible with a notice board that always has something relevant and challenging and often they use the latest 'in slogan' and turn it to their advantage - one of their early ones featured the 'Tell Sid' slogan of British Gas.
It may be too that this particular church is seeing growth because the worship is vibrant and alive. We were planning a service at our church the other day and were thinking about asking the members what they thought makes good worship - should get some interesting responses I think - not entirely sure it will be very clear at the end as the question may lead to some very subjective answers. I may post on this topic next week as the service is this Sunday - we are doing it cafe style and asking the questions in the middle and getting folk to jot their answers on post it notes and stick them on the flip chart at the front. Could prove to be quite interesting and who knows there may be a few surprises.

Friday, 5 October 2007

More on big words!

I understand that the average person has a vocabulary of something like 5,000 words and it is I am told by one of my colleagues a fact that the average reading age of people in Walsall is 8 years old. Given this thinking I am glad that I have always tried to keep my preaching reasonably simple and any illustrations I use relevant to the people I am speaking to. I believe this is very much the way that our Lord did things. When I read the parables I can imagine Jesus telling these stories that were relevant to the understanding of the people he spoke to. They were stories that would 'live' for the people because they knew exactly where He was coming from.
I really can't imagine Jesus using words that some of our theologians use and I see on some of the other blogs I read regularly - it does stretch me when I read some of these and I do have to look in the dictionary at times but what concerns me even more is when these sorts of words are used in sermons when we are speaking to ordinary folk rather than the theologically minded (whoops just used a big word myself). I was in a management training course a couple of weeks ago when one of my colleagues said something about a paradigm shift and probably two thirds of the people in the room said 'what is he on about now'. I really do think he missed he chance of getting his point over because of the word he used - how often do we miss the chance of getting across the gospel message by our use of words that may not be appropriate for the situation we are in?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Big words, unusual words!

I wasn't planning to blog at this point but have just read a post over on connexions and it has some marvelous words and some I will have to get the dictionary out for - it always reminds me of that section they used to have in Readers Digest 'It pays to improve your word power'. I just wonder how many people reading this type of blog actually read it all the way through or whether the words used sometimes mean they don't.
I can understand that some people are quite academic and will be able to understand the post well but does it lose some of its effectiveness if it is not easily understood by a wide range of people?

Monday, 1 October 2007

A good read!

Been doing a lot of reading the last week in between travelling the length and breadth of the country - well sort of. Went to the District LP meeting last Thursday at Dawley and was disappointed that only 7 out of 21 circuits were represented even though the meeting was very good and some interesting things discussed.
On Friday evening after work I drove down to Alton in Hampshire to help my son's girlfriend to move out of the flat she had been living in - worst thing was the fact that the flat was up 55 steps on the third floor of a very large house. Drove back on Friday night as well and then went to Oswaldtwistle and Feniscowen (Nr Blackburn) on Saturday.
Sunday I was playing the organ in the morning and preaching in the evening so another busy day.

I have been reading other blogs rather than writing my own and there has been some interesting and quite controversial stuff during the last week or so - I have to say that two of my favourite reads are a column in my local evening paper the Express and Star, which is written by a born again atheist called Peter Rhodes and the blog of They can both be very challenging and may sometimes get right up peoples noses - I know there are times when I could cheerfully burn Peter Rhode's column, especially when he is having a pop at Christians - funny how he hardly ever has a go at any other religious groups. On the other hand methodist preacher seems to raise a number of interesting points some of which I agree with and some I don't, and I think it has to be said that he certainly generates lots of comments from other people. Another site I like to look at is connexions but there are times when I have to reach for my dictionary as it seems to be a site where a lot of highly educated people post and I am just an ordinary common or garden Black Country Lad and dare I say proud of it.
There has been some discussion elsewhere about the use of titles and qualifications and whether we should use them or not - like some other bloggers I have a qualification that is relevant to my occupation and not necessarily relevant to my church life so initially I didn't ask for it to be put on the plan. I did find though that some people seemed to judge me as being a bit thick because I speak with a very broad Black Country accent so I asked if my letters could be put on the plan. Its quite amazing to me that no one has ever asked me what they mean but perhaps it paints a slightly different picture of me for some.
I note the discussion about ministers and agree with the one comment I read that you can have a situation where half the congregation think the minister is great while others will have a totally opposite view. As I travel round our circuit I pick up lots of comments about both ministers and other local preachers and I suspect others pick up comments about me and I think this is very much part of life. I am fairly certain that my style of leading worship may not appeal to everybody - I am not a great fan of Hymns and Psalms (shock, horror) and prefer to use what on of my local preacher colleagues refers to as the 'Funny Book' i.e. Mission Praise. I am fairly sure if I go to the church this particular preacher attends and use Mission Praise he will straight away be unhappy, so I have no illusions about. It has to be said though that the church I preached at last night may have been quite surprised because I did use Hymns and Psalms due to their other book being 'The Source' which is another good and varied collection but perhaps better in the mornings when the congregation is bigger and has more younger people present. I suspect that many of the congregation would have been reasonably happy last night because I used H & P.
Again with the discussion relating to ministers I think that sometimes there is an expectation that they will be all things to all people and of course the reality is that every one of us has a range of skills and abilities. I believe we should never expect one person to have all the skills and abilities in the same way that no one person has all the answers - perhaps what we should look for much more is a collaborative ministry - for instance and this is one I feel quite strongly about - why do we expect ministers to chair all of our meetings?(I know Standing Order 502 and 027 and 028 in CPD) Some are very good at this but others seem to struggle and waffle prolonging meetings and meaning that often important discussion or business that may be towards the end of the meeting is rushed or not even discussed. Perhaps this is something we could look at and enable lay people who may be well experienced in this type of thing to take on these roles. Just in case anybody thinks it I am not trying to throw ministers or superintendents out or having a go at them but there really are things that I don't think I could do that they do and likewise there are times I think when there are things they are expected to do that others could.
One thing I would find extremely difficult is visiting the bereaved, especially if I knew the deceased person well as I am one of those men who do not think men shouldn't cry and in fact I could cry at Lassie films so visiting the bereaved would probably have me in tears.
Just a last thought about titles and the use of them - I saw a leaflet a couple of weeks ago for a special service which would be led by Reverend Doctor The Lord Griffiths - wouldn't Lord Griffiths have been sufficient? Surely most of us in Methodism know who he is and what his titles are - even those of us like me who are not dyed in the wool Methodists - ah well got to fetch my wife from work so signing off now. Goodnight readers.