Thursday, 14 June 2018

On this day...

Ordination Sunday 14th June 1987

Over breakfast I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard that ‘On this day…’ in 1777 the United States adopted the Stars and Stripes as their national flag.

Then I realised it was 14th June – which for me is a memorable date because it was ‘On this day…’ thirty one years ago that I was ordained.  It was Trinity Sunday 1987 and I was 26 years old!

I suppose in some ways it was a different age: No internet or emails so I actually read newspapers and made telephone calls.  No ‘cut and paste’ facility on my electric typewriter, so I wasn’t tempted to use the template for last week’s order of service and forget to change the date!  No Whatsapp, so I wrote letters and no Spotify so I listened to CDs!

It’s also true that back in the late 80’s Church life was different too.  There were more people around.  We were still the beneficiaries of what I sometimes think of as the ‘Billy Graham’ generation.  Those folk who had come to faith in the 50’s and 60’s – many of whom have now been ‘promoted to glory’.  A repeat ‘influx’ of new people has never really been repeated on quite the same scale.

I have had the privilege, over these last thirty-one years, of serving in five churches: in Northamptonshire, Worcestershire, the West Country and two in the Home Counties.

However, for me, today isn’t just about looking back but re-committing myself to those ordination vows I took in my late twenties – even as I now enter my late fifties!!

I think I am fortunate that I still have a sense of optimism and conviction about local church life, never more so than in serving amongst my present congregation for whom I have the deepest respect and admiration.

My prayer for coming days is that, with God’s help:

 I’ll continue to strive to make sermons as interesting and relevant as I can.

That our worship together will resonate with daily life.

That we’ll be an ‘encouraging’ congregation.

That we’ll seek not only a personal application for faith but a corporate/civic/ society understanding too.

That we’ll be a church, confident enough in God, that we go on asking questions.

I have no doubt they’ll be ups and downs in coming days, but I have every confidence that God will work beside us every step of the way and that ‘good’ things will develop.

On 14th June 1987 my prayer was that God would help me ‘make good my vow’ – and that prayer has never changed.

Friday, 8 June 2018

The 'Sound of Silence'

Last Sunday’s lectionary reading from the Jewish Scriptures was the story of Samuel’s call.  Part of the narrative is that the Lord’s voice had not been heard in recent years at Shiloh, the national shrine of Israel.  There had been silence.

Some people long for silence whilst others fear it.

In just over a week’s time I’ll be attending the Retreat Association conference in Derbyshire which this year has the intriguing title: ‘Sounding the Silence’.

I think I personally have a love/hate relationship with silence.

On the negative side I struggle a little with short periods of silence.  I never seem to settle down. Perhaps I need more practise!

On the positive side, I love silent weekend retreats.  After the welcome and first shared meal on Friday evening the group goes into a corporate silence until after communion on Sunday morning.  As I journey through these few days I actually feel myself ‘calming’ down and becoming more focussed, and I hope, open to God.  The lack of a need to talk, even in company with others, I find surprisingly liberating.  Come Sunday lunchtime and I’m slightly reluctant to leave the silence – but at least I know I take the fresh perspectives I’ve found within it away with me.

One of my favourite ‘modern’ hymns, by Christopher Idle, puts it like this:

Lord, you sometimes speak in silence
through our loud and noisy day.
We can know and trust you better
when we quietly wait and pray.

On this day...

Ordination Sunday 14th June 1987 Over breakfast I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard that ‘On this day…’ in 1777 the ...