Monday, 17 October 2011

The Curse of the Institution

We've been working through the Essential 100 Bible Reading Challenge over the past while, and I've been posting comments on those passages from time to time through my YouVersion notes. I think I'll have a look and see if any are worthy of wider bloggage, perhaps with a few tweaks...

This is the most recent, sparked by John 9:28 (the New Living version is below but you might want to read the whole passage to get the context):
Then they cursed him and said, “You are his disciple, but we are disciples of Moses!

Most people these days - certainly those in my generation - are anti-institution: it gets blamed for the evils and woes of the world, whether in politics, economics or indeed religion.

Yet often this disdain ignores both the huge amount of good done by those within it, and also the fact that, in less than a generation, the fresh and new will have become institutionalised itself.

However, there is no doubt that here in John 9 and many other places (not least the crucifixion of Christ), the Pharisees do what institutional leaders do best - protect the institution... at all costs.

I am a minister of the Methodist Church in Ireland - a movement of the Spirit that solidified but is nonetheless Spirit-filled. How can we avoid making the mistake of the Pharisees, and not curse the new things Jesus may be doing?

Monday, 26 September 2011

Facebook's Ticker and Privacy

Following a number of worried posts about the new Ticker on facebook, I did a wee bit of research, I've distilled it down to this:

If you're concerned about the whole 'Ticker shows people the colour of my underwear' thing, bear this in mind - when you comment or like something on facebook, you do it so your friends can see either how witty you are or how important something is to you; it's 'social media' so you share with your friends. All 600 of them. And the people looking over their shoulders going, "Ooh, who's that?"

However, some folks have their status updates privacy set to 'friends of friends' or even 'public' - this is probably a mistake: do you really want the world and the world's friends to know the intimate details of how your head works?

So three things to do:
1) Ensure your own privacy settings for your updates are set to 'friends' or even a sub-group of your friends
2) Remember that tagging someone else in your post or photo means all of their friends can see your update too, not just our own.
3) Before commenting or clicking 'like' on (for instance) John's status, make sure you've checked his privacy setting for that post - if it's not 'John's friends', then send a private message instead.

Does that help? Have I understood the situation correctly?

ps No, facebook isn't about to start charging, they're making plenty of money out of the ads.
pps Asking me to stop looking at your comment and likes is kind of telling me to stop stalking you - The only person I know who actually stalks me on facebook is my mum :) If you have 'friends' you don't want to see what you're up to then unfriend them and use twitter for stuff you're happy for the world to see.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Radical, not respectable

The Twitterati were at work for a second year, using the #chw11 hashtag.
If you don't already follow me on Twitter you can see my username above :)
We're back from another great Castlewellan Holiday Week - well, by 'back' I mean 'still here' because we stayed in our own home for the second year running. Perhaps "camping with benefits" is the way to describe it, living on-site during the day but sleeping in our own beds at night. It's a perk that comes with our current station!

And by 'another' I do mean that many of the CHWs that I've attended since first encouraged to participate in the Youth and Children's Team in 1994 have been absolutely wonderful. Of course, some have had their tensions and stresses, but God so often works in so many people's hearts and lives that the occasional bumps and strains are worth it.

And by 'Holiday' I mean, 'Work' - our circuit agreed before our arrival that CHW would form part of my responsibilities, and to them I'm very grateful. While it is physically and spiritually demanding to practice with the band and then lead worship for ten sessions over a week, it is also energising and uplifting, hope-building and transforming. This year was no exception and while it's taking a few days to recover (not helped by developing a minor case of shingles and catching Son #2's cold), I was hugely blessed to see our prayerful preparation of song selection and arrangements facilitate the CHW family in connecting with God.

There were many words of encouragement and challenge offered throughout the week, both to us as a couple and to the wider church, many of which flowed in a stream of prophecy on the Thursday morning - "Trust in me, I am with you." But the words that have spurred me to write today were offered in the closing minutes of the event on Friday night: a call to the Methodist Church in Ireland to be radical, not respectable.

Those words have resonated with me because, having studied Martin Atkins' book Discipleship and the people called Methodists (click the link to download it) as a circuit last Winter, I am increasingly convinced that our role as a movement within the wider Church is to intentionally make disciples of Jesus Christ. And while Jesus did many things that gained him respect, he was entirely different to the people who demanded it. Paul writes to Timothy that leaders should be worthy of respect; but in Thessalonians he suggests that the respect should be coming from outsiders rather than the people who are already 'in'. [1 Tim 3:4,8,11; 1 Thess 4:12]

Jesus was a truly radical figure, He challenged so many social norms of 'respectable' people in order to bring good news to the least and the lost. Touching a leper, speaking with loose women, healing on the Sabbath, feasting with sinners. This is what gained him respect from the outsider - and the ire of the establishment. Is it possible that 80% of what we do as church is derived from our culture instead of the Bible? Have we - have I - become the respectable establishment, respected because we dress nicely, speak quietly, smile a lot and go along with the flow of society?

Let us instead be God's radical people, willing to be made uncomfortable for the sake of the Gospel, ready to do the unimagineable should our Lord demand it. Above all, let's stop this nonsense of making decisions based on what people will think, and start praying more together and reading our Bibles intently so we'll know what God thinks.

An '80s pop song was referred to last Friday, introduced prophetically to those of us gathered who call the Methodist Church home. Here are some of the words: [full lyrics and copyright here]
Take or leave us, only please believe us - [we have a gospel to proclaim]
We ain't never gonna be respectable.
It's our occupation, we're a dancing nation, [there have been references recently re MCI to Ezekiel's dry bones being pulled together, receiving breath and dancing]
We keep the pressure on every night. [a praying people, night and day]
Taking chances, bold advances, [risk-takers for the Kingdom]
Don't care if you think we're out of line. [if God wants us to do something, tested by scripture and wise believers, we're going to do it]
Conservation is interrogation, [tradition is the foundation for today's action, not our everything]
Get out of here, we just don't have the time. [today is the day...]
Like us, hate us, but you'll never change us, [we are all about Jesus]
We ain't never gonna be respectable.
We like to put ourselves on the line. [because that's where contact with the 'outside' happens]
Recreation (re-creation?) is our destination... [our ultimate desire is for more people to be come new creations in Christ]

This is a big challenge to me in the first instance, but also to our people. How do you respond?

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Travelling with young kids - things to bring

We've done our fair share of travelling with young children on a budget - why stay at home when going abroad is the same price? Each time we fly or float we discover new things that make the travelling experience that little bit more relaxed. Some we'd even call life- (or at least holiday-) savers. Here they are:

Sun and sleep cover - a black mesh cover for the buggy that gives UVA and UVB protection from the sun (so no need to worry about suncream) and makes the outside world less interesting when curious eyes need to take a nap (eg Koo-di). And then there's the buggy itself, which all airlines will allow the whole way to the aircraft door before sending to the hold. Don't even think about not bringing, it makes for a great bag/towel/food carrier too!

Car seat - if hiring a car at our destination we found it much better to bring our own car seats rather than rent upon arrival. Most airlines won't charge to do this, whereas the car hire company gets you for up to 8 euro/dollars per day. It's especially helpful to have your own seat if baby is under six months old as the hire seats don't seem to cater for small infants. Consider investing in a strong cover for the seat for easy transport and if you don't want it to get dusty in the aircraft hold (eg Sunshine Kids).

Bucket and spade - if there'll be sand where you're going, you'll end up buying an over-priced novelty set anyway!

Inflatables - when at the pool we've found inflatable baby seats to be fun for baby and release you to swim a little too. A ring or armbands help for toddlers' enjoyment.

Sticker-books and toy cars - these work for boys anyway - go to Asda/Tesco before you leave and grab a token 'new' thing for the journey. The novelty factor should buy you some valuable time when I-spy doesn't work any more :)

Soltan Once Kids Waterplay - it's five-star sun protection for up to six hours with three hours of water play. And it hasn't bothered our family members with sensitive skin. We've found the Soltan insect repellant range to work well too. Soltan is made by Boots.

DVD player - we were loathe to succomb to this one but are glad we did. Looking at online retailers it seems prices have gone up in the last couple of years, but you don't need a top-range model - a 7-inch screen is fine (a video output socket means it can be connected to a TV or projector at home) - just check reviews of battery life. Use in the car and on ferries and planes that don't offer screens and have a quiet child for 90 minutes of bliss! Your phone might also be able to show movies or play games...

That's our list for now, I might add to it if I remember more. What's worked for you?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


By the time I left college I had heard quite a lot about 'abiding'. There's a strong emphasis on spiritual formation in Methodist ministerial training,the sense being that you can always read a book about something to learn more facts, but if you aren't abiding 'in Christ' your ministry is going to be fruitless.

I am reminded again today to 'abide', 'remain', 'stay' in Christ. Lord, please centre my heart, mind, soul and strength on you today.