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March 2014

Re: Free from Mother's Day?
Couldn't agree more Andy (and with your comment on Remembrance Day too). Sadly very few Christians seem to ever think about bucking the trends and prefer to go with them, indeed the churches endorse the Hallmark culture by looking at it as an opportunity to link into to peoples' thinking.
On Mothering Sunday - and I'm careful to use that name and explain why! - I always make sure we pray for folk who have bad relationships with their parents, people whose mothers have died or left them, for women who have lost children or who cannot give birth, etc. - and also for fathers! That's not the whole list but you get the picture.
This year we have been "journeying through the Passion story" in Lent, with displays at the back of the church. Last Sunday we actually got to the Last Supper and (in the "children's talk") I made the point that, as far as we can see, Mary was not invited to it (which does make one ask questions as to whether it was a Passover meal or not). I also referenced the time when Mary arrives at a house and Jesus has no time for her, and ended up by making the point that the Church ought to be an "alternative" family with new allegiances.
Two final thoughts. One is that our congregation drops on Mothering Sunday, as people don't return to "Mother Church" but go off to visit their sons and daughters. The other is whether we can challenge the way that so many folk in the churches think of Easter and Christmas, too!
Andrew Kleissner
Re: Israel-Palestine: theology and politics
Excellent article David. Thanks one again for highlighting the issue.
Re: Budget alcohol announcement criticised 
Nice to hear what my views are on this very complex issue, from people who not only know what I think (or at least what I'm supposed to think), but have taken a great deal of time to study the Budget statement in detail.
I'm no fan AT ALL of the present Government, not least in its treatment of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, but to jump in so quickly on this one issue, with a statement purporting to represent the views of three denominations (not to mention hundreds of Baptist churches), will just perpetuate the impression that "those church people" are against anything ordinary folk enjoy.
Tony Jones
Re: Welfare: 'stick to the facts' about the poor
Hooray for the riposte by the JPIT, etc. to the appalling misuse by the government of statistics on poverty and their wilful ignorance of the plight of the poorest in the UK. More strength to JPIT's arm. Just one quibble: can the BT really get away with calling Archbishop, now Cardinal, Nichols a plain old 'Mr.' ??
Michael Cleaves
Re: Time to rub out the battle lines?
Hi Ed, Nice article, do you have any weblinks or docs looking at the last two points you had down to consider? It would be interesting reading.Thanks in advance
Thanks Martin,
In terms of enabling everyone within the life of your church able to speak into what God is doing in initially I'd point you in the direction of the Today...not tomorrow initiative, that seeks to encourage churches to become fully intergenerational (www.todaynottomorrow.org.uk). Within it the 'steering group' is one way of helping all-ages to speak into what God is doing and its been great to see this developing first hand.
When it comes to sharing what it means to be church for all-age with your church, Krish kandiah's blog 'It takes a whole church...' raises some great questions (and suggests some good reading) in regards to to the bigger picture of how we need to be being church together so much more. (http://www.krishk.com/2012/02/.... Slightly differently, I also came across this blog on 'Ten Ways of doing Intergenerational Church' (http://tinyurl.com/ntnvsmg) that is more practical steps to engaging the whole church in be a whole church.
Finally, watch this space (hopefully later in 2014) as Arise Ministries, Baptists Together and one or two other organisations are currently working to unpack some of these challenges seeking to to present some practical ways to think this all through and move forward together.
Ed Jones
Re: Withdrawing from church
Having been the Minister of two small churches (and now a larger one with an ageing congregation) I can appreciate the problem. Indeed, I have often felt that leaders of smaller churches don't so much "count" people each week as "weigh" them. A few thoughts:
- if someone is stressed beyond measure, churches should not add to that stress. On the other
hand, keeping the regular routine of church activities and work going may just manage to give them a sense of normality and keep them "sane".
- another suggestion (which won’t help your church, at least in the short term) is to suggest that your stressed-out member simply goes along to the local Cathedral (or equivalent) where they can simply “observe” and “absorb” beautiful worship without having to “do” anything. This might re-energise them and restore their faith in God.
- we might say that "a church has to trim its activities in line with the folk available". There is truth in that, especially if one is trying to run an "inherited" programme with fewer and fewer people. However there are certain jobs that have to be done in any church and some are quite time-consuming, e.g. Treasurer, Secretary, Property Maintenance etc. The problem is there may be few people left over for Mission and Outreach once these things have been sorted out.
- I think many visitors or newcomers may have unrealistic expectations of what a church needs to offer, beyond basic Sunday worship. Trouble is, we are in a consumer market and potential worshippers assess the children’s activities on offer, the calibre (and size) of the music group, the provision of social activities and the like. I got so fed up of people saying “we were looking for a larger church” and never came back, and wanted to say, “well, we’d be a bigger church by now if you’d all stayed!”
Andrew Kleissner

Re: Missionary leadership is vital
I'm with Paul in saying that missionary vision and leadership is essential for the church anywhere - local or national. Anything else throws the church back into maintenance node. As Paul correctly noted that leads to decline.
A couple of observations to throw into the discussion:
1. Those with missional leadership focus and vision might not always have the pastoral skills or personality. (St) Paul had his Barnabas. Paul was in senior pastor role at Chelmsford with an under-shepherd who could cover that (using that word to reflect that Emma Percy has merit in her observations, and certainly no reflection on Paul B-M's pastoring). It can take 2, so if that's not possible, perhaps ensuring a good pastoral team within the church will keep that key base covered.
2. In smaller churches with 'a faithful remnant' of lifelong saints often have the wish to grow but in many hearts the desire not to have 'change' can inhibit meaningful growth. So teaching and removing fear of something different is essential.
For case studies in this I suggest "Big Hearted" Chris Duffett & Simon Goddard. Gilead Books 2012 . Has a reccommend by Dr Nigel Wright (a successor of Paul as Principal Spurgeon's College)
Finally: like Simon Goddard I am a Methodist Homes Chaplain, as well as being on the clergy team of the West Swindon and Lydiard Tregoze Partnership - so Paul's challenge about 'did the church want a chaplain' definately gave me pause to reflect, and determine to be missionary as well. Thanks Paul !
(PS I am of the same generation at LBC /now LST, and only 3 years younger)
Mike Dilly
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