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April 2015

Re: In honour of Paul Fiddes
As someone who has migrated to Anglicanism I've only just picked-up on the tributes that were paid to Paul Fiddes last November in honour of his quality academic work over many years.
But there is another les well-known side to Paul that I wish to honour. He is a man of great wisdom and pastoral sensitivity.
Nearly 25 years ago I was accepted for ministerial training at Regents Park College. For a variety of reasons, Paul had to make a hard decision at the 11th hour to defer my entry to the college. This had a devastating effect on me, both as a Christian and as an individual.
However, Paul kept in touch with me through this difficult time and encouraged me to visit him at the college. Looking back, it was Paul's gentle and kindly Christian care above all that helped me through and prevented me from lossing my faith completely.
I owe him much.
Mike Stranks

Re: Endangered species in church
Recent years have seen some churches investing hugely in youth work, with an increasing number of highly-trained workers. And yet, it appears, this does not seem to be achieving the hoped-for results. Or is it a case of these churches having done well, while the "average" churches which rely on volunteers have seen a massive drop in numbers? 
I don't know, and I'm sure the reasons are many and complex, but we must be concerned. After all, most of the folk in churches today first came as young people. If that "pool" from which churches draw is diminishing drastically, then the future of many churches must surely be in doubt. 
Andrew Kleissner

I would not say Atheism is a "trend" among young people in the sense that it is chosen freely as an appealing alternative to faith, I don't believe there is a choice at all. Rather, Atheism is for most young people the only viable response they feel they can have to pressure from an increasingly secular society.
This pressure says "Faith and belief in God is irrational. 'Irrational' means unthinking and unthinking means unintelligent". Therefore, to summarise; faith is for the intellectually inferior and/or less intelligent. A "crutch for the weak". It's an argument that's been around for decades, if not centuries.
The trouble comes from you place that pressure, that driving idea, into young peoples' contexts (school, college etc) where their primary purpose is academic achievement. Then, we have created a situation where faith and belief have been painted as diametrically opposed to learning and development, as if they are competing ideals! You can either learn OR believe, we are told, not both.
Add to this the portrayal of Christianity (or even religion in general) by social/general media. Religious people sit only at either end of a laughably polarizing spectrum. We are either hypocrites, extremists or deluded, hateful minorities (Isis or the westborough baptist church), or helpless, useless and robbed of any authority, spirituality or the in case of some issues, such as abortion, Morality too.
Together these pressures first stifle the young persons' natural right to ask questions and explore the concept of faith/belief at all (to do so turns you away from the secular ideal), and second, they rob the church of it's power by hiding the good it does in boxes and away from public viewing.
Young people find church unattractive not because of infighting or politics, or the relative qualities of the Sunday sermon or the music.
Rather church is unattractive because it does not challenge young people. It does not involve them as active parts of the community of believers, they are not part of the services, they are always seen as immature, they cannot lead anything, they have not earned responsibility, they do not have a voice (or worse, are not advocated for) in meetings and in church decisions, but above all else they are not offered an alternative worldview to the one they get fro society.
They can find Jesus attractive, they can hear the gospel and they can respond. They can grow, learn and develop in their faith but unless you give young people PURPOSE, the purpose to see the kingdom of god break into their lives and their communities and allow them to be an integral part of that gospel activity, you will never retain them.
Matthew Sheffield 

I think that part of the problem is that where the youth, (or any age group for that matter) fail to find a role model that actual embodies their faith, they judge Christianity as failed and walk.
You can have the best worship in the world.
You can have the best preaching in the world.
You can have the best activities in the world.
But if the church does not have people that walk the talk then it's all for nothing.
I think what I'm trying to say is that we have lost the desire to be Holy. And the holiness I'm talking about is not the window dressing of false modesty, but a true inner transformation that has matured by deep prayer and communion with Christ.
The kind of holiness that gently seeps out from within and reminds the person experiencing where they themselves have come from, what we were forgiven, and that the people we are dealing with are (regardless of who they are or what they do) no worse or better than we are.
What people want is genuine examples of looking at what it is to embody Christianity of the heart. It's a shame that the reformation has detached us from reading about the lives of those great men and women who where transformed on the inside, stood against the human tide of indifference and changed the world. St Francis being an example.
But we get confused about Holiness seeing it as puritanical rather than life giving and bond breaking.
Witnessing inner holiness is the same as encountering Christ in another person. It doesn't need word s or music or 1000s of pounds to lay on. Just a dedicated life willing to follow.
It would be the desire for that kind of faith that would dispel atheism and looking on the plus side of the amount of people that have turn to it, lots of people to remind God loves them and they are part of his family.

Re: The Church has left the building
I am not sure that having a 'church' in an area means that the area has a connection with the church or not. It may be necessary to have a 'church' to have the connection but having a church does not mean that there is a connection. Asking how a church can help certainly shows respect but may also show ignorance - if we are fully involved in a community as people we may then know how the church can act as body in response to the community. I am not arguing against this article in fact I think it invites reflection at a depth level on some of the issues raised not least the relationship between economics and church presence. Yes I think we need Spirit sent-ness, absolutely. Perhaps we also need an understanding of 'church' that does not require all the things that many contemporary churches seem to need to have to make them relevant (top of range audio visual facilities) most of which cost quite a lot of money and people.
Stuart Blythe

I am not a Baptist but share the same Saviour. I grieve to learn of any church of any Christian tradition which close a church building. I live in Watford and one of the Baptist churches is closing though it may be taken over by another Christian group. Is this inevitable? Could not all the Christians in the area of closure get together and work, pray and find ways to not only keep churches open but strive to involve the local people in keeping them open? We give in far to easily when we should be full of faith. We could see these apparently negative situations as opportunities to change things for the glory of God.
The problems are not that we are helpless but we are faithless and to put it plainly in many cases lazy and indolent.
Patrick Boyle

Re: Celebrating a great day
Guest, a relatively short piece like this is never going to go into theological details. Millions of words have been written about 1 Tim 2:12-14 and it will only take you a few minutes with google to find many egalitarian readings. (And I note you omitted 1 Tim 2:15, which is an incredibly difficult verse to interpret).

Re: Youngsters involved in TV debate
These 3 young people are a great inspiration. They are active and committed members of our Community. Deanndra is my daughter and through her I have come to know Ffion and Ashley very well. I am honoured to call them my friends.
Megan Wheatland

Re: Assembly recognised for gender balance
Alan, millions of words have been written about that verse, and opinions are polarised. The majority of UK baptists take the view that it was addressing a specific situation and isn't a general ban on women teaching.

Re: The Israeli election and the church's mission
The remarkable ignorance of Christendom towards the restoration of Israel is remarkable. If you believed the Bible you may realise that the land of Canaan was given to Israel: "Behold, I have set the land before you: go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give unto them and to their seed after them" (Deuteronomy 1:8), "the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee" (Deuteronomy 7:1) and "And the Lord said unto Moses, Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I sware unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto thy seed will I give it:" (Exodus 33:1), in addition their are many more verses to demonstrate this. 
Furthermore a key point is that Israel will be scattered among the nations and subsequently return: "Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; Although I have cast them far off among the heathen, and although I have scattered them among the countries, yet will I be to them as a little sanctuary in the countries where they shall come. Therefore say, Thus saith the Lord God; I will even gather you from the people, and assemble you out of the countries where ye have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel" (Ezekiel 11:16-17). This is therefore prophecy fulfilled in 1948. Instead of being amazed by this miraculous fulfilment of Bible prophecy and the demonstration of the word of God as true, you instead ignore it and even in some cases campaign against its existence. 
This may be for several reasons, firstly you do not understand Gods relationship with Israel and the Jews as his chosen race, instead you believe t hey have been "replaced": this is clearly untrue, demonstrated across the Bible including in the Gospels, letters and Epistles, as it says in Romans 11:1 "I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham", it goes on to explain how gentiles are added on to the olive tree of Israel, as Jesus said "salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22), the only way we are saved is by being grafted on to the Hope of Israel, becoming the seed of Abraham and joining the "commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:13): therefore National Israel is still Gods chosen people and not the "Church" or some "Spiritual Israel". 
Another point is your ability to only understand half of the reason Jesus was "sent". The man you address as "Christ", is Greek for the Hebrew "Messiah" which means "the Anointed". What then was he anointed for? God spoke to David saying: "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son"(2 Samuel 7:12-14). This is clearly speaking about Jesus as from the Matthew 1 genealogy we know that he was a descendant of David, however, also in Luke 1: "And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end". Here and in many other places Jesus is confirmed as the King of Israel, for which purpose he will return to subject all nations to its rule. 
There are many other reasons you cannot understand or accept this due to incorrect Church teachings propagated by the Catholic Church and u nreformed by Protestants which bars you from fully realising Gods plan for the earth, such as: the Trinity, the immortal soul, Heaven going, the supernatural Devil and the state of the body after death. Furthermore your rejection of Bible truth, being: the fact that God is one, Jesus as his Son and King of Israel, the gospel of the Kingdom of God (the restored Kingdom of Israel to the earth), the resurrection, the centrality and special nature of Israel and the Jews, the Hope of Israel and the acceptance of the Bible as the word of God. Unfortunately Christendom is so far from the Bible, that until Church teachings are rejected and independent study of the Bible as the word of God restored it may remain this way until Christ returns.

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Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022)
Fresh Streams leadership statement following summer theology school
Response to Pension Scheme news; Following the Zeitgeist; A Theology of Unity in Diversity
Annual review; walking club; Rwanda
The Queen; does Jesus heal today?; Child Q
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