They will know we are Christians…

Let me begin by telling a little story.

Back in the dark days of 1995 (for more detail see here) I started to attend a church on Sunday in a serious fashion – for the first time. I had attended a few times mid-week, when I could be safely unknown and anonymous, but attending on Sunday had that combination of desire and fear that all wallflowers are familiar with.

Anyhow, first Sunday there – attended the service – wander through to the teas’n’coffees – take up traditional wallflower position. And one man came across to say hello. Very warm, very open, very affirming. I’ve often thought that if that one man hadn’t been so good to me I wouldn’t have continued to attend the church, I wouldn’t have continued to explore my vocation in such a positive and enthusiastic way. He was a real man of God for me and a great help. Of course I got to know him a bit better while I was at the church, though I haven’t spoken to him for rather a long time. He’s a busy man, you see (the church is on display in the lower picture there).

Now – why am I telling you all this? Because some of the nutters are now having a real go at him. Which tells me all I need to know.

Philip Pullman is an idiot

Not because he’s an atheist, but because he completely misreads Tolkien: “No-one is in any doubt about what’s good or bad; everyone knows where the good is, and what to do about the bad. Enormous as it is, TLOTR is consequently trivial.”

Lots of really interesting stuff in the interview, which is on one of my favourite blogsites.

And for the record, I really enjoyed ‘His Dark Materials’, I’d be quite happy for my children to read them in due course, and I have a quotation from Pullman stuck on the side of my computer box so that I can ponder it every day. I just think he’s got rather a significant blind spot.

+John Chelmsford on Bishops

“The Bishop, within the bounds of what is properly lawful, sets the conditions for ordination and for the pastoral oversight of clergy and all who hold his licence. No one, under their oath of obligation, can turn round and say that they are not willing to accept the rule the Bishop makes and expect, nevertheless, to proceed to ordination.”

(via Chelmsford Anglican Mainstream)

For background on why +John is saying this, go here. In essence, an ordinand refused to share communion with Bishop John, and so Bishop John is not prepared for him to be ordained in his Diocese. Which seems fair enough to me.

The grace of God (or Gaia???)

Fascinating article here about how a) Antarctica has cooled over the last thirty years, and b) why. It puts a different perspective on some of the alarmist coverage of collapsing glaciers in the Antarctic peninsula. Interesting and strangely comforting at the same time.

A handful of thoughts on 1 Corinthians

I’ve just posted the last few sets of notes on 1 Corinthians for the use of our House Groups. I’ve found the process of writing the notes extremely demanding (about 2 hours work a week) and satisfying at the same time. I’ve loved the opportunity to work through the text in a thorough fashion (I’d forgotten quite how much I enjoy studying Scripture!!!), and as preparation for leading the discussion in my own house group it’s been great – but I have hated having to write up the notes. It has felt like extracting teeth, mainly because I haven’t had a clear sense of the ‘audience’ – and, as I find out more about the audience I find them to be far too diverse for one approach to work. I think only 2 or 3 out of the six or so groups use them to any great extent; at least one ignores them completely! But that’s fine, because they are only intended to be prompts and resources – the key thing is the discussion in the group itself.

I have been using two main commentaries, with occasional dipping into others: the Oxford Bible Commentary (which is my main resource generally) and Tom Wright’s ‘For Everyone’ commentary. It’s been quite illuminating to compare the two as I’ve gone on, the secular/believing contrast is sometimes strongly evident.

The best thing about it has been getting to know this text in much greater depth, and gaining an awareness of the shape of the text as a whole, how the various parts fit together coherently in Paul’s argument. That has been very satisfying.

I’m almost certainly never going to do this again for the House Groups. The other leaders have access to other resources (and more experience in using them) so I’m very happy to pass on the leadership function to someone else. But I’m almost certain to carry on doing something like this, simply because it has been so spiritually edifying for me. I plan – after Christmas – to resume a weekly rhythm of working through a particular text (probably Exodus), and I’ll post my notes onto the blog. As it will be purely for self-interest I should feel a bit more liberated with what to write, so hopefully it will flow much more easily (and I’ll be able to range a bit more widely to pursue my own interests and spiritual concerns (aka hangups)). And I’ve just read this post, which encourages me to think that as I grow into it, it might turn into something of wider use.