Friday, 28 September 2007

3000 Years of War

David Foulds is planning a Festival of Remembrance with readings from 3000 years of war poetry (not all of it!) to be held in the church on the evening of Saturday 10th November. More details to follow.

Relight my fire

As a member of that special class of the clergy (vicars who live next to the church) several routine jobs come my way. These include re-lighting the heating when the pilot light goes out. After doing this three times in two days, I called in the engineers who announced that we need a new main valve.

Not only does this sound expensive but I'm told that we might have to wait a while.

This is a problem. We have up to 500 people in our buildings each week and the prospect of entering the first cold snap of the autumn with no heating is not a bright one. We're trying several options, including checking if our insurance covers us for the use of portable gas heating. Meanwhile, if you're a member of St Paul's you may want to bring your warm coat.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Sometimes the most beautiful things...

...are under your feet.

Picture taken this afternoon in Manor Road, Oadby.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

And the winner is... not us!

Congratulations to all the winners at the 2007 Christian Blog Awards. Jennifer and I had a fine night in the splendid setting of St Stephen Wallbrook but we came away without an award (we did have a rather nifty goody bag given to us at the door, though). We were entered in the 'Best Newcomer' category, which was won by Krish Kandiah. Well done Krish! The winning blogs and websites are all amazingly good and it's encouraging to see Christians being so creative with the technology.

Friday, 21 September 2007

Pitfalls of projection

Up to a few years ago 'projection' in church meant clergy standing with straight backs, intoning stirring words of comfort and challenge to the congregants huddled in the back row. Theological colleges brought in drama teachers to show young ministers in training how to speak properly. In my college that meant excruciating lessons involving groping around to locate our diaphragms and addressing inanimate objects around the room with absurd sounds.

But this is the twenty-first century and we're in the decade of the Audio/Visual Projector.

Up and down the land churches have bought projectors and laptops to show pictures, video and text during worship. In moderation and done with polish, it's a real enhancement. We bought a system just over a year ago and it's worked really quite well. Except last Sunday, when it failed during the last hymn. Some people claim to have seen a message flashed on the screen before it disappeared altogether: "Overheating - now shutting down".

This was no ordinary Sunday, of course. The church was packed at our thanksgiving and celebration of the 25th anniversary of the church's opening. So perhaps our worship was getting overheated! All went well until I announced that we'd sing "To God be the Glory". The organ struck up and then I noticed the operator of the projector making some kind of semaphore. The waving arms clearly meant something like, "It's completely busted". Sure enough, I glanced around and the wall onto which the words of the hymns are projected was blank.

But the singing was amazing. The congregation knew all the words to the hymn (though we wobbled just a little in the final verse owing to confusion about whether our 'transport' or 'worship' will be purer, and higher, and greater, when Jesus we see). We smiled at the fact that the technology let us down and sang all the louder and praised all the more. A great moment.

The installers of the projector now tell us that it's just a few weeks outside the full guarantee period so we have to send it off for repair. But this morning Colin shinned a ladder, switched it off and on again and all seems to be well. That leaves us with another detail to worry pray about on Sunday then.

Update: for those of you wanting to know, the projector worked fine so perhaps the failure was a one-off (can you detect a hopeful tone?)

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Grave concerns

I've just come back home from taking a funeral of a local lady. We walked down from St Peter's Church, me in front of the hearse, the mourners behind, to the grave at Oadby Cemetery. I like this way of doing things. There's something very special about honouring someone in stopping the traffic and taking things at walking pace. In these moments, the worth and significance of one human life is celebrated.

At the graveside there's always a bit of nervous edging around the open grave, but once we're settled, peace and calm descends. Not even the hammering of some nearby builders could spoil the tranquility of a late summer afternoon. Tears were wiped from eyes and flowers tossed into the grave, while we heard words of promise and hope.

It's the way it's been for centuries. Warm, dark earth and a community of real people finding strength and comfort from each other and from the church's ministry of the gospel. A good way to use the afternoon.

The soup gets better

I hope to post a picture soon, but no image could do justice to the soup served at the Coffee Pot Harvest Lunch today. Sixty guests were treated to the traditional hearty vegetable soup which, as far as I can tell, is prepared in at least six homes around the parish and then blended in careful combination in the church kitchen. These ladies must have palettes more discerning than a whisky blender for each year the soup comes out as a delicious, wholesome and peppery treat. I'm convinced it gets better each year and I was first up for seconds. Thanks ladies!

St Paul's in the press

I've just had my picture taken for the Leicester Mercury, who are planning to feature our shortlisting as finalists for the blog awards. Having just finished a splendid Coffee Pot Harvest Luncheon, I hope I didn't have food between my teeth. The story should appear in tomorrow's paper.

Now I hear that Radio Leicester want to do a quick live interview at 7.10am on Sunday morning, so I'd better set the alarm a bit earlier. I made a solemn vow before my ordination that I'd try really hard not to look or sound stupid in the media. This is quite a challenge! You'll have to be the judge of whether I failed or not.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Ruby Rainbow Children's Hospice Appeal

We decided from the outset that we didn't want the proceeds from our 25th anniversary fete to go into church funds, so planned for any profits to go to the fund for extending the Rainbows Children's Hospice in Loughborough. This appeal is being supported by both BBC Radio Leicester and the Mayor of Oadby and Wigston, Councillor Jeffrey Kaufman, who opened the fete. We're pleased to announce that over £1400 was raised last weekend. Thank you, everyone!

"Hello, can I be baptised?"

Perhaps sometimes the visible fruits of ministry seem small compared with the effort put in. But occasionally something happens so easily and naturally that you catch yourself wondering if it's for real.
The phone rang yesterday and I was asked by someone I've never met if St Paul's conducts baptisms. I said yes (of course) and suggested a chat. Well, today we met and I was thrilled to hear a young man speak of his recent interest in Christianity and discovery of the work of God in his life. Turns out he'd seen our anniversary celebrations advertised in the Oadby and Wigston Borough "Letterbox" newsletter and then looked us up in Yellow Pages (thank goodness I updated the entry last year). We chatted, we read a little of Luke's gospel together, we prayed. All very straightforward, very simple and very much full of a sense of the Holy Spirit at work. And so a young man begins his journey of faith and we've a baptism to plan. I can't wait to see what happens next.

SMILE at St Paul's

I've just let twenty young people and staff from Manor High School into church for a training day. They're part of the new SMILE peer support team which has worked really well for a number of years. Students can approach SMILE team members to share worries and concerns or just to talk things through. It's a great confidence builder for everyone involved.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

We're finalists in the 2007 Christian Blog Awards

We're excited to hear that St Paul's blog has been selected as a finalist in the 'Best Christian Newcomer' category of the Premier 2007 Christian Web and Blog Awards. I've been asked to attend the award ceremony at the church of St Stephen Walbrook, on Friday 21 September. The evening will be hosted by Jeff Lucas and Premier Christian Radio presenter Maria Toth and the Bishop of London is attending. Now, what to wear...

Monday, 17 September 2007

Celebration Fete - what can we learn?

What a fantastic day! The sun shone down and hundreds of local people joined us on Hamble Green and in the church itself for a whole range of traditional games, competitions, displays and more. A really big thank you to all the team that made it such a success with all their hard work. Did you come? If so, did you have a good time? What can we learn from the experience?

Friday, 14 September 2007

The site of St Paul's

Hard to imagine it now, but many will be able to remember what the site of the church in Hamble Road looked like before the foundations were dug in 1981.

A weekend of celebration

We're hoping for sunshine and praying for a great turnout for our weekend of celebrations, beginning tomorrow.

The fete on Hamble Green, next to the church, begins at 12.00 noon and promises to be great fun for everyone. There'll be activities for people of all ages and it's free - so do drop by.

The Sunday service at 10.00 will be a chance to give thanks for the past quarter-century and an opportunity to look forward. We'll be hearing from members of St Paul's, old and new, about the ways that their faith in God resources their living. And after worship, we'll be sharing in fellowship over a buffet lunch.

Root, Shoot and Fruit

The 2007 Diocesan Clergy Conference ended yesterday and was acclaimed by all the clergy that I spoke with to be one of the best. The speakers were challenging and stimulating but I think it was the conference theme of growth that helped most. We were reminded by Robin Gamble that the natural condition of a healthy church is to grow - not spectacularly but steadily and organically. Professor John Hull challenged us to grow in truth and to resist the self-deceptions that can frustrate mission, especially in its challenge of injustice and poverty. Dr Paula Gooder took us on a three-part exposition of key parables in Luke's gospel which provoked fresh insight.
The worship was innovative and inspiring and the opportunity to catch up with colleagues and share stories was very helpful. On a sadder note, the Archdeaconry of Leicester lost the football match to Loughborough by 2-0.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

The Dedication of St Paul's Church 6 October 1982

We're gearing up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of St Paul's and it's been great to see the memorabilia that people have from those early years.

This is an extract from the order of service for the dedication service. It's a statement read by the Revd John Tonkin to the bishop after the churchwardens presented the church keys.

“The increase in population in Oadby in the late fifties and early sixties from about 3,000 to almost 20,000 meant that there existed a community of some 7500 people on the south eastern part of the parish separated from all community facilities by the dual carriageway by-pass, a pyschological as well as a physical barrier.

The initial response by the parish was the establishment of a Sunday School (in 1972). The initial response of the Leicester Diocesan Patronage Board was to purchase an area of land in Hamble Road when it was offered through the then Oadby Urban District Council. This land was finally purchased in 1976.

Mr Graham Beck led a devoted team of teachers and their work was given a stimulus by the presence of the Reverend Glyn Jones for six months while he and his family lived in the parish during furlough from Northern Argentina.

In the next three years 1975-1978 during the curacy of the Revd Reg Morgan the Sunday School grew in numbers and more teachers were enrolled.

At this time we decided to start a monthly Family Service. This gained increasing support and by the time that the Revd Wally Brown arrived in 1979 those who were worshipping at Manor were ready for weekly services.

The Parochial Church Council were very conscious of the need for a place of worship and a community centre in this part of the parish. They invited the other member churches of the Oadby Council of Churches to participate. However, for various reasons none of them was able to offer financial involvement but since 1975 have participated in visitations and other events in connection with the erection of the church centre.

A sub-committee of the Parochial Church Council investigated the possibility if the centre being financed jointly by the Church Commissioners (through the Diocese) and the Department of Education and Science (with the Borough of Oadby and Wigston). When it became clear that this was not possible, the Leicester Diocesan Board of Extension [Education?] decided to finance the building of a church centre and a parsonage house at a total cost of £221,000. Of this, the parish has to repay £55,000 in ten years under the terms of an interest-free loan/

The church as the Body of Christ has existed in this part of Oadby for many years, worshipping in Manor School, being taught and sustained by word and sacrament. Members of the congregation at St Peter’s have given active encouragement. Initially this was especially noticeable in the musical life of the ‘Manor’ congregation. (The present organist and her predecessor were both members originally at St Peter’s). More recently this encouragement has been particularly seen in the willingly-offered expertise of the parish treasurer and the other members of the Finance and General Purposes Committee and the Stewardship Committee.

During the past three years the ‘Manor’ congregation have worked together and through their management committee have borne the burden of all the preparations for the equipping, staffing and financial stability of St Paul’s. They and their chairman, the Revd Wally Brown, have worshipped and worked together and have increasingly grown in stature.

I pray that this fine church centre will stand to the glory of God and that here many people will find God’s love expressed in word and sacrament and in the caring and loving fellowship of the church and I invite you to dedicate this church building.”

The readings used at the service were Revelation 21.1-5 (read by Val Ball), Psalm 84.1-7, 1 Corinthians 3.9-13, 16, 17 (read by Steve Bolton) and John 4.19-24.

Transfusion featuring Glass Darkly supported by Philippa Hanna at Y Theatre, Leicester 8 September

This event is part of Mission Possible Leicester and Love Leicester 2007.

Tickets are £6 in advance.

Call the ticket hotline on 0116 233 7915 email: or the Y Theatre box office on 0116 255 7066 or CLC Bookshop, Belvoir St.

Visit Transfusion's myspace site at or for further info.

Kibworth Praise - 9 September 2007

Our friends at Kibworth Praise are holding the next event, titled "A new mindset", this Sunday evening at St Wilfrid's Kibworth at 7.30pm.

For more information call Alison on 0116 279 3195.

Buses everywhere in Oadby

Everywhere you look, there's now a double-decker bus, or four, on the streets. This week, First joined Arriva in running the 31 route around Oadby and into Leicester. Some aspects are welcome - the competition has led to drastic fare cuts, which at last makes a bus journey into town competitive with a car journey. And doubling the number of buses means that you scarcely have to wait more than five minutes for one. But there are downsides.

In a period of less than sixty seconds, on Uplands Road yesterday at 9.15am I was passed by three buses. I counted a total of three people on them. This was quite a busy time for travellers, but one ten tonne bus per person, each with their own five litre engine, does seem excessive.

I guess the present situation is unsustainable, and that both First and Arriva are hoping that they can squeeze out the other. What will happen then to fares and timetables is something we'll have to see. Meanwhile, there's more traffic, more fumes and pollution.