Last night was our regional council meeting. I would say a bit more about it (its purpose etc), but I am not quite sure - except that it seems to be a way of getting (a few) people together from different churches in smaller groups than at Diocesan Synod. For the large part it was information about the goings on at General Synod (two weeks ago) and, to be honest, I didn't follow all of this but did have a couple of thoughts:
Despite the negative connotations which some Scots apparently associate with the word 'covenant' (history is something of a weakness for me, but I pulled this off GadgetVicar's blog) surely we might look to the fact that covenant is a biblical term of relationship (between God and humankind) and that surely this positive (and historical) use of the term may outweigh the negative (and historical) use?
What is wrong with signing up for something where we actually have to say that we believe in something? Surely we do (believe in something)?!
We also had a most encouraging time hearing some of the things that different churches are doing in the whole area of stewardship. Fr Kenny no doubt has some more exciting news to take to his next stewardship meeting.
For the last 11 months I have been working with the Small Groups at St Silas - basically helping people to find groups when they want to join one, helping to organise training days for the leaders, offering support to leaders, and various bits of administration that are a necessary requirement for a church with 16 groups. But, due in part to the fact that for the first half of my job I was travelling around different groups most weeks and also as I was part of a group along the same lines as a Small Group at ICC, I wasn't a member of a group myself.
I do, however, believe passionately in the importance of the groups and the role that they have to play in the life of the church and so now that ICC is done I am joining a group. The first meeting that I attended was last night - and it was great! I was so excited when I left and am really looking forward to it becoming a regular thing for me each fortnight. As well as the many other great things about being a part of such a group it will be great to go somewhere where I have no responsibility (in terms of leadership etc) other than that which each member has to one another. I can certainly see that it will become a real source of strength as I move into my new role.
...and I passed everything! I even passed pretty well.
I am delighted and somewhat surprised as it has been a very busy term and I more than equaled my average across the whole course (if I were to go onto honours and continue at this level I would be at the level of a good 2:1). As it is, exiting the programme at level three, I won't get a classification. But it is nice to know that I reached a good standard academically.
So now it really is full steam ahead. I am going to try and chill a bit for the rest of the week and we are going to go away for a couple of nights at the weekend. And then, a week today, the next adventure starts...
What a day we had, yesterday. The church was open to visitors from 2pm onwards, right through until the end of the evening service, and at 6.15pm (when we switched counters) we had had 547 people come through the church. There was a cafe (with home-made fair-trade baking), massage, bouncy castle (for kids), computer games, scalextric, quiet place, prayer room, necklace-making and live music throughout the day - and it was all free.
I spoke to a couple of families who were in complete amazement that we were also a 'fully functioning' church but who also thought that what we were doing was really great (especially considering that we are a 'fully functioning' church). It was also a great privilege for us to be able to pray with a number of people, one of whom had come into the church, had a hand massage, left, but then felt prompted to come back and ask for prayer. I am reliably informed that there were a number of people who came in throughout the course of the day and said that they would be back for services next week.
In the evening we had a service which was advertised on all our leaflets which were handed out throughout the day and which we hoped people might invite non-Christian family or friends to. In true St Silas fashion people were still arriving after 6.30pm and so we started a little late as the first half of the service was all performance (poetry and music). It was excellent: a great testimony to the incredibly creative and gifted people that we are blessed with.
After that I spoke, making the theme for the (short) talk 'bridge building'. I used this picture (a must buy for preachers/teachers). I think it is incredibly symbolic of the way in which we try to build bridges - with God, with people, or in situations - but also of how, although they may work for a while, a new storm will always come along rendering them somewhat useless. We looked at three great truths from the bible in relation to bridge building:
My college course has required that I do a lot of reading, an experience which has ranged from incredibly useful and enjoyable to incredibly tedious and (seemingly) irrelevant (although I am sure that this has not been the case). One of the things that I have been looking forward to about finishing is that it means that I will be able to pick up some of these books and read them simply for the sake of reading, without the prospect of an assignment looming in the not-far-off-distance.
I also finalised (unless otherwise prompted) my talk for the evening service tomorrow night. The talk came out of one of the best photos I have seen in a long while and the theme that we will be briefly thinking about is that it is only Jesus who can help us to build lasting bridges in every area of life. I am really looking forward to tomorrow - to the afternoon and the service in the evening which are both part of this. If you're into praying then please pray, and if you're around then why not drop by and join us for a while?!
I was just chatting with the vicar of the church where I became a Christian. He has since 'retired' - i.e. taken on a smaller rural parish - but is still more than happy to be a sounding board, source of advice, and prayer support. We chatted about some of the things that have gone on in the Anglican 'world' over the past week and what the future might hold.
I have come away whistling the song that goes with these old, but enduringly true, words:
And can it be that I should gain An interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain— For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me? Amazing love! How can it be, That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies: Who can explore His strange design? In vain the firstborn seraph tries To sound the depths of love divine. ’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore, Let angel minds inquire no more. ’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore; Let angel minds inquire no more.
He left His Father’s throne above So free, so infinite His grace— Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race: ’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me! ’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!
Long my imprisoned spirit lay, Fast bound in sin and nature’s night; Thine eye diffused a quickening ray— I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
Still the small inward voice I hear, That whispers all my sins forgiven; Still the atoning blood is near, That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven. I feel the life His wounds impart; I feel the Savior in my heart. I feel the life His wounds impart; I feel the Savior in my heart.
No condemnation now I dread; Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; Alive in Him, my living Head, And clothed in righteousness divine, Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own. Bold I approach th’eternal throne, And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Today was my last exam at ICC. In fact it was my last academic assignment (unless I need to do any resits). It was on Old Testament Theology and the questions I answered were:
To what extent can the theme of the Old Testament be expressed in terms of 'relationship with God'?
What is meant by the biblical concept of a 'covenant' and how is it used in the Old Testament?
"The election of Israel was not the rejection of the nations." Discuss.
I felt that my answer for the last question was my best, the middle question was OK, and I scrambled something together for the first (which I did last) and for which I didn't just want to say the same as in the other two, although I think I could have. I was writing right to the wire and I hope I have done enough - but it was tricky to revise for with so many biblical references needed and so I feel that it could have gone either way, especially if the ones I think I did OK in I didn't...
So that is more or less it. We get the results next week and, all being well, graduate on the 12th July. So, what happens next? Well, I am happy to say that I have a job which I can't wait to get going with. From the 1st July I will be the Assistant Pastor at St Silas. To some extent it is a continuation of the part-time role that I have been in this year - coordinating the Small Groups - but I will also be involved in more regular preaching, pastoral work, outreach and some work with the youth. It has been a great honour to serve God and the congregation at St Silas over the past ten months, and it is a real privilege to be asked to step into this role.
I am a little nervous, a little scared, but really excited too...
Today is our first wedding anniversary. It has been a great year; fun lots of the time, hard at other times, overall - brilliant. I am so blessed to have a loving and beautiful wife who is also my best friend and closest support. I can't wait for all that we will do together in the next year.