Thursday, 14 February 2019

Lunch with George IV!

Had lunch today with George IV!  Perhaps I need to explain that.

Before attending Great Sacred Music at St Martin in the Fields I picnicked in the balmy February sunshine at Trafalgar Square under the imposing and elegant statue of George IV.

He’s depicted on horseback in the style of a triumphant Roman emperor.  All very impressive but even with a modicum of history it’s clear to any onlooker that the statue is all too flattering!

George IV was the infamous Prince Regent before he acceded to the throne.  He was flamboyant and a lover of excess, famous for his appetite and womanising!  His statue in Trafalgar Square probably says more about how he’d like to be remembered  than the reality of his life.

I suppose he isn’t alone, but fortunately most of us won’t have the dilemma of having ourselves cast in bronze for eternity!

Last weekend a much loved and respected member of our congregation at AFC passed away.  His death was sudden and has rather shocked us all.  At evening service as the news was trickling through, our preacher began her sermon with a lovely tribute to him, saying that he and his wife would be remembered amongst us for their constant, generous and kind hospitality.

I suspect today, on Valentine’s Day, we are remembering such people.  Folk who have no physical memorial to them, but whose memory lives on in our minds and makes our hearts glad. 

One of my favourite hymns puts it like this:

For all the love that from our earliest days
has gladdened life and guarded all our ways,
we bring you, Lord, our song of grateful praise.

 A good day to sing such a hymn and remember such people.

ps: Blog holiday next week

Friday, 8 February 2019

William Carey - a rather modern missionary

Over recent weeks I’ve been revisiting the life of William Carey, the first BMS missionary who sailed for India just a year after the Baptist Missionary Society was founded in 1792.  That’s because I gave a talk on him at Women’s Own last month and tomorrow I’ll give a second at our Men’s Breakfast. I’ve partly chosen him for both occasions because we have a room named after him at Amersham Free Church and I want to make it clear it’s in honour of an historic Baptist minister rather than a recent Archbishop of Canterbury!

Carey was a remarkable man.  He came from the Particular Baptist tradition that believed in pre-destination to such a degree that many in his circle considered evangelism totally unnecessary, even sinful.  One senior minister is reported to have said to Carey at a Northamptonshire Baptist Ministers’ Meeting: ‘Sit down, young men, if God wants to save the heathen he’ll do it without your help!’.  Well, it might have been intended as a ‘put down’ but it had completely the opposite outcome!  Carey stepped up to the mark and immediately offered to go to India as the BMS’s first missionary in 1793.

He served there a full seven years before baptising his first convert.  He translated the Bible into local dialects only to have the printing shed burn down one night; so, he started all over again.  His son and wife died prematurely because of the climate. He worked hard at understanding local vegetation and working for increased crop yield, helping to form the Indian Horticultural Society En route.  He participated in setting up the first Theological College in India at Serampore, with a charter to award degrees from the King of Denmark.  And he campaigned for the abolition of ‘Sati’ – the tradition of burning the widow on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Carey was such an all-rounder. For him mission was about body, mind and soul.  In fact, the BMS have pretty much taken that as their template ever since.  He was a trail blazer – and although I guess it’s not his greatest honour, he is more than worthy to have a room named after him at AFC!

Friday, 1 February 2019

150 - not out!

Although some folks live a settled life in the same location for years ministers can, potentially at least, live quite mobile lives.  Since my ordination in 1987 we’ve had the privilege of serving in five churches in different parts of the UK; each has been a ‘chapter’ in its own right.

Last Sunday I revisited one of these churches, Walsworth Road Baptist in Hitchin, as a guest preacher at the start of their 150th anniversary year. It was super to be back and learn of all the exciting and imaginative projects the congregation are involved in.

I always enjoy meeting up with college friends occasionally and that’s usually on a one to one basis in London.  Sunday was different.  I found myself in a building I knew intimately and after the service, over coffee, a queue started to form around me of people who had known me when I was the church’s minister.  I served at Hitchin between 1992 to 1999 and our children were born there. Last weekend every handshake seemed like a ‘time machine’ back to the 1990’s.  Each conversation recalling some event or person from the past and in that process making it ‘come alive’ again.

I am only too aware that some issues from our past are difficult to deal with and that ‘living’ in bygone days is not the best way to cope with the present.  However, Sunday made me realise again that the past is very ‘real’ and has formed us into the people we are.  Fortunately for us our trip down ‘memory lane’ to Hitchin last Sunday reminded us of some very happy and positive days.

We wish our old church God’s richest blessing during this very special anniversary year.

All Bugs Welcome!

  Last Sunday, under Mary’s expert supervision, members of Junior Church set up the AFC Bug Hotel in the church shrubbery.   It’s a splendid...