Friday, 25 May 2007

Principal Services June to September 2007

We've worked through the plan for our summer readings in worship at St Paul's. We're sticking with the lectionary, which means a great four-part study of the Letter to the Galatians, and then an exploration of what we might call 'lifestyle issues' in Luke's gospel.

3 June 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Trinity – The community of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Romans 5.1–5; John 16.12-15

10 June 2007 10.00am Family/Parade Service
Show me how to pray
Luke 18.9-17

10 June 2007 8.00pm Holy Space (Alternative Worship)
Walking the Shadowed Valley

17 June 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Paul's letter to the Galatians 1 of 4
Galatians 1.10-12, 2.15 -end; Luke 7.36-8.3

24 June 2007 10.00am Service of the Word
Paul's letter to the Galatians 2 of 4
Galatians 3.23-end; Luke 8.26-39

1 July 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Paul's letter to the Galatians 3 of 4
Galatians 5.1, 13-25; Luke 9.51-end

8 July 2007 10.00am Family/Parade Service
Paul's letter to the Galatians 4 of 4
Galatians 6.1-6, 18

15 July 2007 10.00am Joint service at St Peter's Church, Oadby

22 July 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Catering for God
Genesis 18.1-10a; Luke 10.38-end

29 July 2007 10.00am Service of the Word
How boldly can you speak with God?
Genesis 18.20-32; Luke 11.1-13

5 August 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
What are you working so hard for?
Ecclesiastes 1.2, 12-14; 2.18-23; Luke 12.13-21

12 August 2007 10.00am Service of the Word
Your treasure is where your heart is
Genesis 15.1-6; Luke 12.32-40

19 August 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Is conflict always wrong?
Jeremiah 23.23-29; Luke 12.49-56

26 August 2007 10.00am Joint Parish service of Holy Communion at St Paul's
Break the Law, for mercy's sake
Isaiah 58.9b-end; Luke 13.10-17

2 September 2007 10.00am Holy Communion
Where would you like to sit?
Proverbs 25.6-7; Luke 14.1, 7-14

Transfusion - 16 June 2007

The next Transfusion event is on Saturday 16th June at the Living Rock Church in Stoney Stanton, Leicestershire.
Transfusion is hosting the Hope Revolution Tour with thebandwithnoname, LZ7, and Blush.
Tickets are just £10.
Call the ticket hotline on 0116 233 7915 or email:

Thursday, 24 May 2007

How to lead prayers of intercession during worship

I inherited this excellent advice from a paper that my predecessor, Revd Brian Robertson, circulated at St Paul's in 1999. If you lead intercessions, it's well worth re-visiting.

Leading Intercessions at St Paul’s

Intercessions should be a high point in a service. “We have the awesome task of holding open to the Father those parts of his creation which stand in need of renewal. Here great issues of Church, politics and human destiny are hammered out. Here people’s health and well being are being restored or maintained.” But so often …”Let us pray for the Church and for the world, and let us thank God for a short sleep.” is the most we can expect!

· Work on your own prayer life – public praying flows from private praying
· Start early. Ask God to show you what to pray about and how to pray about it.
· Think about the theme and texts of the service – you may want to reflect them in what and how you pray.
· Keep up to date! Check with the vicar or service leader if there are special people or situations that need prayer this week.
· Pray about the things the congregation cares about … but also stretch their horizons. And pray about the things that you care about – it will show in your prayers. But don’t forget, these are the “people’s prayers”, not your prayers that others are eavesdropping on.
· Decide on a “structure” for your prayers. Try different approaches, but don’t get too clever. Your task is to lead others in prayer, not to dazzle them with your originality.
· Be selective – prayers should last no more than 5 minutes. If you say about 100 words per prayer topic, then you have time for 4-5 topics only. A cardinal sin is to try to cover too much.
· Be specific, be concise, be honest. Try to use language vividly. But be yourself … pray in a way that is natural to you.
· If children are present, keep your prayers short and simple. Aim for prayers that an 8 year old would understand and relate to, but that an adult would not feel patronised by.
· By all means blend in a small element of confession, praise and thanksgiving with your prayers – but focus on intercession i.e. “asking prayers”. Other parts of the service major on the other types of prayer.
· Check where the prayers come in the order of service.
· Sit where you can easily get to the place where you will be praying
· Aim to be heard – people can’t say “Amen” to prayers they can’t hear (or don’t agree with!)
· Have a start and an end. No need for an anecdote. If you are starting with a scripture, make it just one verse (much more than that gets in the way). And pray, don’t preach!
· If you are using “responses” (Lord hear us …Lord, graciously hear us), tell the congregation what the responses will be. If they are not “stock” responses or very easy to remember, use the AV projector.
· Speak slowly and carefully. Give people time not only to hear what you say, but also to pray it for themselves. Pause between prayers. Cut rather than cram. Don’t be afraid to use silence, but make it clear what the purpose of the silence is … and make sure it lasts for the right amount of time.
· Get constructive feedback on the way you lead prayers. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Be a learner.
· Learn by listening to how others lead prayers. But don’t mimic them. Be yourself.
· Start to compile your own collection of favourite prayers. Some of the well worn ones of the past are a model of confident and concise praying, often couched in vivid and memorable language.
· Start to compile your own collection of favourite prayers. Some of the well worn prayers written by others are a model of confident and concise praying, often couched in vivid and memorable language.

The Church on the Other Side

I've just re-read Brian McLaren's book, The Church on the Other Side, which in the 2000 edition is subtitled, Doing Ministry in the Postmodern Matrix and which is subtitled "exploring the radical future of the local congregation" in the latest edition.

After almost four years of ministry at St Paul's, it's been really helpful to read McLaren's assessment of the problems and limitations of conventional church and his recommendations for 'new church'. In many ways, St Paul's scores well against the criteria which he identifies as important. To a greater extent than many churches, we are flexible, community-minded, un-dogmatic, mission-focussed, and welcoming. But there are still issues to address and it's helpful to seek a broader perspective on the assumptions and habits that might limit our future.

Among the sound analysis, the chapter on structures was stimulating. For example,
A structure that works tends to promote growth, which will eventually make the structure obsolete. In other words, yesterday's successes and progress guarantee today's organisational failures and problems. Success today guarantees trouble tomorrow. Churches, like snakes and lobsters, need to shed their organisational skins as they grow.
It's gratifying to see the mission of St Paul's grow - not spectacularly, but steadily - yet it's vital to understand that we always need to be prayerfully preparing the next stage of organisational growth. One of McLaren's basic points is that there's no secret or blueprint that can be transposed from other situations, or implemented once and for all. Instead, constant change is necessary to stay healthy. I sense that as a church community, we're nearing the point where some significant organisational change will be necessary, in order to continue as a healthy and growing church.

I expect that in the coming year, we will find new priorities for change and development that will allow us to deepen the discipleship of our members and to attract new believers. Even as we do so, we will understand that it's the mission of God that counts, not the programs and structures that we develop to support it.

At one point in the book, McLaren compares church structures with the clothes that we carefully choose to buy for our young children. We don't insist on dressing children in clothes that they have outgrown, nor do we regret that old clothes have to be discarded.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Mechanisms of grace

Some readers will know that parts of the Church of England are getting quite agitated through a new debate about the doctrine of atonement. Actually, it's a very old debate, but it's generated a lot of heat in recent weeks.

The church has always struggled to make sense of what the climax of Jesus' vocation and ministry on the Cross achieved and what it truly represents. The Letter to the Colossians puts this atoning work of Jesus in cosmic terms.
For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1.20).
The struggle to understand exactly how this was achieved, is where the controversies arise. Different theories of the atonement have foundations in scripture, but each has been developed and described through the centuries. The most recent controversy concerns the theory of substitutionary atonement, in which the cross involves Jesus suffering the punishment for sin which was rightly ours.

Opponents of a narrow theory of substitution have claimed that it interprets God as vindictive, even cruel. Proponents have pointed to clear scriptural foundations (in Isaiah 53.4 and elsewhere) and to the fact that love demands justice, and justice punishment. The suffering of God in the person of Jesus is the action of a loving Trinity, not a vengeful tyrant.

Now this blog is no place for a lengthy exposition of scripture or examination of the development of doctrine. Even if I were capable (which I'm not), I would not think it worthwhile for most of us to get bogged down in theological subtleties. Sadly, as with debates about the incarnation, or arguments about the real presence of Christ in the eucharist, these controversies lead us up blind alleys. Forgetting the truth of the grace of God, to which these glorious doctrines bear witness, leads to strident and unloving battles for the victory of one theory over another.

Perhaps there is a wisdom in not seeking mechanisms for grace. Do we need to know the answer to all our 'how?' questions in order to embrace the truths of God's loving purpose? I think not. The quest for a mechanism leads to a kind of reductionism, that ultimately reduces God, his person and his purpose, to mere facts that can be conquered by human intellect. There is no mechanism for grace, except that it is to be received, with open and thankful hearts.

Creeping elegance - Why church is the way it is

In a reflection entitled, "Why software is the way it is", Jef Haskin writes about 'creeping elegance'. It's the familiar phenomenon in which an efficient and effective computer program is incessantly improved with little additions and tweaks. Some of these enhancements might add benefit to the user, while perhaps most make the program run more slowly.

In my former engineering life, we spent considerable time and resources refining our products. But if I'm honest, there were moments when we added too many features, leading to a loss of focus and making life a little harder for our customers. We called the worst of these largely-useless additions 'bells and whistles'. When things got out of hand, we asked ourselves why we'd introduced unnecessary clutter and usually concluded that we'd simply acted on a whim. We knew that people wanted quality and genuine value from what we made, but perhaps we got too excited sometimes about novelty and cleverness.

This isn't a new problem. In most areas of human activity, it's tempting to assume that adding new enhancements automatically delivers improvements. The worship of the church has arguably gathered little accretions of language, ritual and ceremony over the course of time, before undergoing minor reformations (and one major Reformation) to recover the essentials. Liturgists are particularly fond of adding clauses to prayers, to say just one more thing about God. Worship leaders so easily add yet another unnecessary phrase and so dilute our praise. Even in our informal intercessory prayers, we have a problem of language getting away from us.

With all our technology, for example, there is a real question to be asked about whether we are more effective than our predecessors, who relied on less. This blog might itself might be a useful support to our mission and ministry, and it provides me with a space to think, but if it becomes an end in itself, or an alternative to the more important things, it's simply wrong.

Jesus criticised the Pharisaical tendency to focus on minutiae and to lose sight of the bigger picture. He rebuked people for going so far as to tithe their tiny stores of mint, dill and cumin while neglecting the key issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness. (Matthew 23.23). Jesus embodied a practical wisdom that focussed on the essence of a well-lived life - Love of God and love of neighbour, prayer and worship, devotion and rest.

So it's really important to me to live with an open question in all areas of my life, "is doing this new thing a genuine enhancement, or a fancy bit of trimming, which is really a distraction?" Or, to sum it up in a more memorable command, "Simplify!"

In our church community we're quite good at looking for little ways of improving and developing our ministries - St Paul's is not a community that always wants to keep things the same. But let's be careful not to focus on the ephemeral at the cost of the essential. And let's attend to the quality of all we do, rather than cleverness.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Walking the Shadowed Valley - Holy Space 10 June 2007

The next Holy Space is on 10 June at St Paul's. We've given it the title:

Walking the shadowed valley
"Though I walk the valley of the shadow of death, I shall not fear, you are with me." Psalm 23

We'll be exploring the reality of God in the midst of death and dying. While there won't be harrowing or explicit images, these are sensitive issues and it's possible that some people will find this topic a hard one to handle.

We'll be especially sensitive to this and have planned for a shorter time of worship than usual, which will end with a positive affirmation of the Christian hope.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Desire Youth Event - 17 June 2007, South Wigston

Click on the image for a larger view.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Breaking the Mould #2

Last Friday, we gathered for an evening of drama and song. I don't think anyone guessed just what a brilliant night it would be. Paradox Performing Arts and Translucent Theatre Company were simply dazzling!

This was top-notch entertainment with a real message about the love and generosity of God, told through funny sketches, moving reflection and passionate music. Thanks Paradox/Translucent! When can you come back?

Puddles, soggy clothes and Christian Aid

The wettest Christian Aid Walk in memory didn't put off a hardy band of walkers from churches in Oadby and beyond.

We trudged the wet fields and muddy paths of Oadby, Evington, Thurnby all the way to Houghton where there were refreshments at St Catherines and a chance to shelter from the downpour.

Some heroic souls set off for the walk back to St Paul's, while most of us were content to call it a day and return by car.

A big 'well done' to all who made such a splendid effort and to everyone whose contributions through sponsorship will go to Christian Aid. And thanks to Colin for organising it all.

Pressures faced by those in their 20s and 30s

Since posting about the event at the Y Theatre on 19 June - Better than alright?, I've been looking at the research conducted by Care for the Family's 2030 Vision project. Their survey of people in their 20s and 30s revealed that the greatest issues affecting them are (in order):
  • Career and finding fulfillment in working life
  • Debt and money worries
  • Appearance, self-worth and image
  • Building and maintaining friendships
  • Seeking a long term partner
  • Relationships with parents and siblings
  • Sex and/or sexuality
  • Issues with marriage or long-term relationship
One respondent said, "We want what every other generation has craved - friendships, relationships and significance".

Better than alright?

Got any plans for 19 June? If you’re in the Leicester area, then take a look at ‘Better than Alright? - looking at the stuff of everyday life’.

So what’ll be happening at ‘Better than Alright?’ Emma Coffey, who heads up 2030vision, explains…

Photo of Emma Coffey

Turning 30

“Sometimes when I look in the mirror I wonder, “Where did my 20s go?” It all seemed to happen so fast. I guess it’s true that time flies when you’re having fun, although some bits certainly weren’t fun at the time!

“Since getting involved with 2030vision, I’ve realised I’m not the only person who sometimes feels life is passing me by. We ran a survey and one person said she felt she’d been encouraged to believe she could be anything she wanted to be and could ‘have it all’, only to find out it wasn’t true. I think a lot of us in our 20s and 30s feel like that.

Self-worth, relationships, money, and work

“True, everything’s ‘alright’ I guess, but when people ask me how things are, I want to be able to say that life’s better than alright. And, you know, sometimes I’m just not sure who to talk to about the big things of life - like self-worth, relationships, money, and work. Where do we start?

“So that’s why we’re calling this event ‘Better than Alright?’ I’m hoping it’ll be a place where we can talk honestly about these big issues.

What do you think about life?

I reckon one of the best things about the event will be hearing what you think about life. And I don’t mean in a ‘heavy’ sort of way. You’ll have time to chat in this cafĂ©-style evening, to listen, and think. And you can contribute as little or as much as you like. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, I hope you’ll join us.”

Emma Coffey will be joined by David Oliver, author of Love Work, Live Life! and singer Julia Harris.

More details and booking here.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

coMISSIONing Monday 11th June at 7pm Leicester Cathedral

From the Diocese of Leicester website:

A service to commission the Diocese for mission action at the heart of Shaped by God. Includes telling stories, jazz music, food and drink, anointing for mission and even balloons!

Praise you in this storm

Casting Crowns have become one of the most popular Christian worship bands in the last year and I've just discovered their edgy, down to earth music. I like their honesty. Their music isn't just worship for the joyful and glad but reaches into darker, more anguished places. Here's an example, via Youtube.

Praise You in This Storm
words by Mark Hall/music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms

I was sure by now, God, You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.

And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away


I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth


Friday, 11 May 2007

Bible Society Concert - 19 May 2007

An evening of humour and music with the Monologue Man, John Tearne on Saturday 19 May at 7pm. Trinity Methodist Church, Oadby. Tickets are £5, proceeds in aid of Bible Society.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

The Bereavement Register

The Bereavement Register is a service with one simple aim: To reduce the amount of direct mail to those who have died. Originally launched in the UK in 2000, the service has since expanded into France and Canada.

Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one takes time and you will want to remember the good times with fondness and not be bombarded by direct mail sent to someone who has recently passed away. Mail of this kind serves no purpose and we can help put an end to those sad reminders. If you would like further information, then email Lizzie Fordham at, or call her on (01732) 460000.

More details are on The Bereavement Register's website, where you can register a bereavement online.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

This is Christian Aid

Christian Aid Week
begins next week. Believe in life before death.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Questions, questions

We had a brilliant quiz night last night. The turnout was tremendous - a sell out of over sixty people.

Many thanks to Paul and Teri for their planning and organising of this event, and for fetching all those fish and chips. It was a great opportunity to enjoy each other's company.

As usual, you can see a larger view of the photo by clicking on it.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Just Enjoy - Celebration of Fair Trade 9 June 2007

Leicester celebrates five years of being a Fair Trade city!

Just Enjoy will be the biggest ever celebration of fair trade to take place
in the Midlands. On Saturday 9th June 1,500 people from across Leicester,
Midlands and beyond will come together at the Peepul Centre in Belgrave,
Leicester, for a day of hands-on activities, live entertainment, a market
place and fashion shows. Just Enjoy marks Leicester being a fair trade city
for five years. The evening fashion show will also include special guest BBC
news presenter and journalist George Alagiah.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Perspectives on holy communion

Last night's Churches Together in Oadby (CTO) meeting in the Barnabas Centre exceeded our expectations, with an amazing turnout leading to us running out of chairs.

This third 'prayer and share' event focussed on the practicalities of the ways that our six churches celebrate Holy Communion (or Mass, Lord's Supper, Eucharist).

A speaker from each church gave a short presentation, in response to some questions that were devised before the meeting. The purpose of starting with these issues was to help understand the experience and practice of the churches from the perspective of the worshipper. Practical issues, such as what to do with any remaining bread and wine, reveal the deeper theologies which underpin our different approaches.

At times we laughed, at times we felt uneasy. I appreciated the courtesy and respect that was shown, and it was clear that we were handling sensitivities and precious, deeply-held convictions. For me, the great value of this event was the confirmation that the differences between us are not insubstantial, yet we have enough trust and confidence in each other to explore with patience, tolerance and good-humour. This was not a meeting for resolving things, but those of us who were present came away with deeper understanding of each other and, perhaps, ourselves.

Leaders of groups using our buildings

If you're a leader of one of the many groups which use our church building and the Barnabas Centre, we'd like you to help us keep the information this blog up to date. Here are some ways you can help:
  • Check the calendar to make sure we have the right times for your group. If the start time for your activity is different from the time of your booking (perhaps because you need to set up), then let us know. Check also that we have your contact details correctly recorded. Visitors to the blog will find it easy to contact you if we can include your email address.
  • Send us a few sentences about your group and a photograph. This is a great way to publicise what you do and to raise interest in the wider community.
  • Tell us if you have a special event or an issue of interest. What are the highlights and 'good news' stories? Are there issues you're concerned about? We'd love to hear what your group is doing. If you wish, we can share this information through the blog.
To get in touch, send an email to

Jargon busting: Church Electoral Roll

There's sometimes a bit of misunderstanding about the church electoral roll - what it is, why it matters and who it applies to. So here goes with an explanation.

The first thing to clarify is that the church electoral roll is nothing to do with the local register of electors compiled by the Borough.

The church electoral role is a list of people who may vote at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (APCM). It's an important part of the procedures for church representation, so its administration is taken very seriously. We have an electoral roll officer in each church to take care of this for us. If your name appears on the roll, you are entitled to attend the APCM, to vote and to stand for office (for example, as a PCC or DCC Representative).

The rules which govern whose name may appear on the church electoral roll are a little complicated. A lay person is entitled to have his or her name included on the church electoral roll, if they fulfill the requirements shown here. In general terms, this includes being baptised, 16 years of age or over, a member of the Church of England, residing in the parish (or if not resident, habitually worshipping in the parish during the previous six months).

The electoral role is also important in the qualification for marriage in a church, following banns of marriage. Everyone is entitled to marry in their parish church, but they may also be entitled to marry after banns in another church, provided that their name is on the electoral roll of that parish.

The Church of England doesn't have a formal membership system as some churches do. In the absence of anything formal, the church electoral roll is sometimes used as a kind of membership list. We encourage everyone who regularly worships at St Paul's to join the electoral roll for the parish as it's part of the way people identify with the church community and vice versa.

At the time of writing, we've just completed a revision of the roll and there are 122 members of St Paul's on the church electoral roll, out of a total of 324 in the parish as a whole.

You can download a copy of the Electoral Roll Application Form in Word format.

Transfusion events in May 2007

There's a fantastic range of youth events under the 'Transfusion' brand in Leicester this month. Full details.

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Breaking the Mould - 11 May 2007

We're thrilled to be hosting a performance on Friday 11 May, of Breaking the Mould, an evening of family outreach performed by Translucent Theatre Company. The evening will combine puppets, music and drama, and will be a great night to invite family and friends.

The performance starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are £2 for adults and £5 for a whole family. See Vivien James for details.