Thursday, 29 March 2012

We all need a Barnabas

Dave finishing the Yeovil Half Marathon
Sunday 25th March 2012
He’s a favourite of mine, Barnabas – The Son of Encouragement.  In one passage he’s even mentioned before Paul and that might mean at one time he was considered the most reliable and experienced of the two.  Of course it all changed; yet Barnabas remains in the background, still reliable and still an encourager.

I’m grateful to have met a Barnabas or two in my time!  Folk who have spurred me on, prayed for me and the family or have simply been sources of encouragement.  In any walk of life such people are an asset, especially – dare I say - in church life.

Last weekend was full of Barnabases – or should that be Barnabi?!

One of our deacons, Dave, completed the Yeovil Half Marathon and was given so much encouragement both before and during the race.  He emailed saying how uplifted he felt by the cheering crowds on the roadside and by recalling the text an ‘encourager’ had given him from Isaiah 40.31 about those ‘who wait upon the Lord will have their strength renewed’.  All of us were thrilled to hear, at the end of morning service, that Dave had completed the course in less than two hours and raised at least £700 for Yeovil Street Pastors – in fact that news truly ‘encouraged’ us!

And then there was last Sunday’s Service of Infant Blessing.  The family had told me a few friends might be coming.  In the end I counted over thirty – and what a welcome addition they were to our morning service.  People who had come to share this precious moment – to lend their ‘encouragement’ to Harry, his mum, dad and brother. 

This weekend on Palm Sunday we’ll be celebrating communion together and sometimes, during the distribution of the bread and wine, I sit and think of those saints I’ve known and loved who used to share in this meal but are now in heaven.  I recall their faces and think about their inspirational example and how it has enriched my own pilgrimage of faith – and I’m grateful – grateful for their encouragement.

So to combine Dave’s experience of the Yeovil Half Marathon and the words of the unknown writer of Hebrews, in chapter 12: With this great cloud of witnesses around us (The Barnabases who have come our way) let us run with resolution the race that is before us – keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.

So let me encourage you to keep going!

This weekend we gather for Palm Sunday worship at 10.30am and then at 6.30pm we’ll watch that wonderful animation film of the life of Christ, The Miracle Maker – combining it with some worship suitable for the beginning of Holy Week. And our prayers go out to all from our church who will be attending the Baptist Union Retreat Group’s Spring Retreat at Ivy House, Warminster – and especially The Revd Barbara Carpenter, one of our former members, who will be co-leading it.

With best wishes,


Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Interrupting The Sermon

Perhaps it was having the unusual opportunity of sitting in the back row that ‘done it’!  On Sunday evening in our church, whilst listening to the Rector of Yeovil, The Revd James Dudley Smith give his fascinating lecture on ‘Queen and Established Church’ – anarchic tendencies overpowered me and I interrupted! 

James had just got to that bit of his history tour de force describing the liberating atmosphere brought about by The Glorious Revolution and the arrival on these shores of William of Orange.  Feeling that he’d missed an important bit out I shouted from the back that a predecessor of mine at South Street – its first minister and one time captain in Monmouth’s army, Thomas Miller was sent for by the king in 1688 and offered an Anglican living if he would ‘conform’.  Miller was a free churchman to the core and declined His Majesty’s offer asking that he be given leave to remain a Baptist Minister.  The king, apparently, gave him ‘full liberty’ so to do!

Well it’s a great story and I thought worthy of a bullish interruption from the back row!  Fortunately James agreed with me and ecumenical relations have survived!

Now I’m not encouraging further congregational contributions this Sunday but it has got me reflecting about the way we all receive sermons.  I suppose we can listen with too great a passivity – the preacher’s words floating over us and making the minimum impression.  Jesus once told a story about that in the Parable of The Sower.

An alternative way of hearing is to do so with our hearts as well as our minds – a listening out for God’s word and voice and so letting the sermon pierce or ‘break through’ and touch us.

The Revd Andrew Fuller was the first secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society and he wrote these words during his days as a Kettering pastor in 1806: 

You cannot conceive the difference between addressing a people full of tender and affectionate attention, whose souls appear in their eyes, and answer, as it were, to the word of God; and preaching to those who are either half asleep, or their thoughts manifestly occupied on other things.

Just love that phrase ‘whose souls appear in their eyes’.

Well I’m grateful to those who stay awake during my sermons and I hope James will forgive me for interrupting his.

This weekend we welcome the Sherriff family to church for the Infant Presentation of baby Harry and then in the evening service the Chaplain of St Margaret’s Hospice brings our Lent Lecture series to a close with a talk on ‘Queen and Voluntary Groups’ - and I promise to behave

With best wishes,


Thursday, 15 March 2012

Losing my voice!

It’s back today but for seven days it went AWOL!  Losing your voice is a strange experience.  Without it I felt disempowered and at times useless.  Almost everything I do ‘professionally’ depends on having a voice – even answering the telephone (as some of you experienced) became something of a comic moment.

These last few days have made me realise afresh how much I should value ‘normal’ health and those ‘routine’ abilities like being able to speak.  It has also, I must say, been interesting to live life at a slower rate – cancelling a week’s worth of appointments has not been an entirely unpleasant experience!

I do want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Heather and Paul who stepped in and held the fort so wonderfully on Sunday – you’ll understand my concern when Rachel returned home from church and said ‘it went REALLY well’!

A few weeks ago on this blog I wrote about the importance of words – little knowing that just a few days later I wouldn’t be able to speak any.  The voiceless in our society are found at all levels and have been disempowered for all reasons.  In his ministry Jesus seems to have listened out for such people and willingly engaged with them.  Having someone to speak for you – advocacy – brings hope to an abused child, a political refugee or a subsistence farmer.  Being able to contribute to the debate – to speaks words into an arena - as a citizen, member or friend brings a sense of respect and self-worth to us all.  And no wonder one of the richest and deepest titles for Christ is ‘The Word’.

This evening we have a Deacons’ Meeting and this weekend we celebrate Mothering Sunday.

With best wishes,


Saturday, 10 March 2012

Making the Front Page - well, of The Western Gazette at least!

From The Western Gazette - Thursday 8th March 2012

Our 'campaign' to oppose the introduction of evening and Sunday car park charges has made it to our local newspaper this week.  The Western Gazetter were present at last Monday's Town Council meeting at which at group from our church spoke.  It's good that they have not only reported this but given it such prominence on pages one and two! 

None of us know how this process will end - and we respect the fact that different views are held - but it's good that we, as a church family, are prepared to play our part in the democratic process.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Man Flu!

Well this week has turned out very differently than expected because I have gone down with the dreaded man flu!

There’s a lot of it around at the moment and the three males in our household have been passing it on to each other. 

I thought I was sailing through it until just after taking the Women’s Meeting on Monday afternoon (you can blame a lot on those sorts of gatherings!).  Since then I’ve been cancelling meetings and appointments left, right and centre and spending a lot of time listening to Radio 4 in bed.

A colleague of mine, who I much respect, wrote on her church blog last year that she was having to spend a few days away from her pastorate and this would give her folk ‘the gift of her absence’.  I thought that was a nice phrase – the idea that sometimes when we are not around others step up to the mark and fulfil their potential. 

I’m grateful for that happening this week – for those who attended Monday evening’s Town Council Meeting without me and read a speech I had written on my behalf protesting about the forthcoming evening and Sunday car parking charges – folk who will chair meetings in my absence so that routine decisions can be made – people who have offered to help out with this Sunday’s worship so that the pressure is taken off.  Thank you!

Rachel said yesterday that colleagues at her school who have had this virus have been told it usually lasts 40 days!  In which case I have been mis-diagnosing it – it isn’t man flu at all – it’s Lent flu!

This weekend the Men’s Breakfast group gathers on Saturday morning for a talk on war time in The Channel Islands and on Sunday we have a Parade Service at which the BB will present a sketch on The Feeding of The Five Thousand followed by Church Lunch (the two are hopefully not related!) and finishing the day with our third Lent Lecture for the Diamond Jubilee, Queen and The Military given by former Army Chaplain, The Revd Paul Cattermole.With best wishes,


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Words Words Words

Yesterday I attended a family wedding in Southampton and sitting in the pew was struck again by the power of words – specifically the ones that went ‘I do’! Once said, amongst witnesses, in that particular context they form a precious covenant. 

It reminded me of the power of words and how they can inspire or discourage in equal measure. 

This morning I went into school and helped judge a Word Book Day dressing up competition.  It was great, and loads of fun! There were lots of Harry Potters, Red Riding Hoods and Mr Men characters and many of the students not only wore the costume but also carried with them the book it came from. 

Reading gives us insights and ideas outside our own experience.  I still remember the first time I read Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd for my English O Level and how, as a boy growing up in the Midlands, I was instantly transported to rural 19th century Dorset – all through the magic of words upon a page.

I felt the same tingle last summer standing on The Lincoln Memorial in Washington and remembering that on those very steps Martin Luther King had delivered his famous Dream Speech and that he used words as his weapon against discrimination rather than violence – and won the day.

The words we speak today, the ones we type in emails or text on our phones, are important.  They will say much about us and the Saviour we serve.

I’m very conscious that one of the most valuable descriptions of my particular calling is that of ‘Minister of Word and Sacrament’ and that Sunday by Sunday I am given such a privilege of standing before a congregation to preach. 

A prayer that is often uttered by preachers before a sermon is surely one for us all in any situation: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts by acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

This weekend the Fortnight of Guided Prayer begins with a service in the Chapel Lounge on Sunday at 4pm.  Our prayerful best wishes go out to all of the ‘retreatants’.Best wishes,


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