Saturday, 20 October 2007

Map of Gartree North Mission Partnership

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Click one of the markers to see details of a church and to find directions to it from any address. Click and drag to scroll around the map. Use the + and - zoom buttons or change the view with the Map, Satellite or Hybrid buttons.

3000 years of war - an evening of poetry and readings 10 November 2007

Following our announcement last month, David Foulds and a team have made arrangements for the evening of poems and readings, to be held in St Paul's Church. It will be followed by a fish and chip supper. Tickets £5 from David or Cynthia Foulds, in Church or Tel 2710462. Please bring your own drinks, tea and coffee provided.

Fair trade gifts for Christmas 3 November

I spotted my first Christmas decorations for 2007 at Sainsburys, Fosse Park this week. Not for sale but hanging above the tills. Reindeer and snowflakes on 18 October felt absurd.

But it is time to think about getting organised with cards and gifts. There's a great opportunity to do so at our Fair Trade Sale and Coffee Morning in the Barnabas Centre on Saturday November 3rd. 10am – 12noon. There will also be a stall at the back of Church after the service on Sunday November 4th. All goods on sale have been fairly traded, guaranteeing a better deal for Third World workers. Please support this worthy cause.

The church budget

I spent yesterday morning with Vivien and Diane, working through a draft budget to present to the DCC next month.

Contrary to what you might think, I've never found this tedious but actually quite an exciting annual task. There's nothing quite like figures on paper to give a snapshot of the life of our community. True, it's a very limited snapshot, as most of the really important things can't be measured in £ and p.

Juggling the £80,000+ total into smaller figures to reflect our hopes (and some of our fears) for the next year is about combining faith and wisdom. That's why we pray together before we get the calculator out.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

CTO Prayer meeting

Steve Rowe has organised a prayer meeting at Oadby Baptist Church on 1 November at 7.30pm. The focus for prayers is Churches Together in Oadby and its future direction.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Oadby Churches on Facebook

Christians really ought not be competitive, jealous, proud or obsessed with numbers. So with no hint of any of these, I note that the great Facebook revolution has hit Oadby with mixed results. Only Oadby Baptist Church (32 members) and St Paul's (33 members!) appear to have a Facebook group. What about the rest? Still, both of us fall short of the Grange Farm Appreciation Society (91 members).

I was delighted to compare the membership policies of the two church groups - while we have a "walk through the door and we count you in" approach, our good friends at OBC have an approved membership list. Ecclesiological differences run deep, don't they?

Multicultural Group

I've just come from a meeting of the Oadby and Wigston Multicultural Group, which met at St Paul's for the first time. There was a high turnout of 27 people, including many councillors, who first came into church to see the Desi Masti group rehearsing their dancing. All major faith groups were represented in a gathering which discussed forthcoming festivals and the way in which members of ethnic communities can be encouraged to access medical care, especially mental health provisions.

Who does St Paul's give money to?

Last week the DCC approved the donations made to mission organisations. We give away a tenth of all our income to brilliant agencies for the relief of suffering and to support people working for justice and the gospel around the world. This is, in addition to the funds raised by occasional appeals and the contribution to local mission in Leicestershire through the parish share.

The approved donations given by St Paul's are going to Evangelical Alliance, Care, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Africa Inland Mission, and Jakin Pregnancy Care and Counselling.

From the 'common pot' of parish-wide donations, funds are going to CMS, Bible Society, Crosslinks, Mission Aviation Fellowship, USPG and Christ in the Centre.

Supporting the church in Belize

Malcolm and Ruth Lambert, two ministers from Leicester Diocese, are set to go to Belize next year to assist the Anglican Church in its mission.

Last night Malcolm and Ruth came to St Paul's to speak about their work and to share their hopes, excitement and trepidation about all that awaits them.

As a parish, we're delighted to be able to support their work through USPG and hope to hear from them regularly.

Malcolm will be working at the Anglican Theological Institute to develop a range of courses for lay and ordained ministry. Ruth will be a pastor based at St Ann's Church in the capital Belmopan, and developing schools and hospital chaplaincies.

Keep up with Malcolm and Ruth's adventure through their website.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Key facts about the Church of England

While browsing the HalloweenChoice website I came across some useful facts:

Church attendance and visits
  • 1.7 million people take part in a Church of England service each month, a level that has been maintained since the turn of the millennium. Around one million participate each Sunday.
  • More than 2.8 million participate in a Church of England service on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve. Forty three per cent of the population attend church at Christmas, rising to 48 per cent in London and, nationally, 22 per cent among those of non-Christian faiths.
  • In 2005 forty seven per cent of adults attended a church or place of worship for a memorial service for someone who has died and twenty one per cent were seeking a quiet space. Both these proportions are increases on thirty seven per cent and nineteen per cent respectively in 2003 and twenty nine per cent and twelve per cent respectively in 2001.
  • 86 per cent of the population visit a church or place of worship in the course of a year , for reasons ranging from participating in worship to attending social events or simply wanting a quiet space.
  • Every year, around 12.5 million people visit Church of England cathedrals, including 300,000 pupils on school visits. Three of England's top five historic 'visitor attractions' are York Minster, Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.
  • Seven in ten (70%) of the population agree that Church of England schools have a positive role in educating the nation's children.
  • One in four primary schools and one in 16 secondary schools in England are Church of England schools. Approaching one million pupils are educated in more than 4,700 Church of England schools.
  • The Church of England has more than 27,000 licensed ministers - including more than 9,000 paid clergy; more than 3,000 non-stipendiary ministers; more than 10,000 Readers; around 5,000 active retired clergy; and more than 1,100 chaplains in colleges, universities, hospitals, schools, prisons and the armed forces.
Community involvement
  • More people do unpaid work for church organisations than any other organisation. Eight per cent of adults undertake voluntary work for church organisations while sixteen per cent belong to religious or church organisations.
  • A quarter of regular churchgoers (among both Anglicans and other Christians separately) are involved in voluntary community service outside the church. Churchgoers overall contribute 23.2 million hours voluntary service each month in their local communities outside the church.
  • The Church of England provides activities outside church worship in the local community for over half a million (515,000) children and young people (aged under 16 years) and 38,000 young people (aged 16 to 25 years). More than 136,000 volunteers run children / young people activity groups sponsored by the Church of England outside church worship.
Church buildings
  • Nearly half the population (46%) think that central taxation, local taxation, the National Lottery or English Heritage should be 'primarily' responsible for providing money to maintain churches and chapels. These churches and cathedrals are largely supported by the efforts and financial support of local communities. Often, they are the focus of community life and service.
  • Forty-five per cent of the country's Grade I listed buildings are parish churches maintained by the Church of England. There are at least £378 million of major church repairs outstanding, 87% for listed churches.
Sources: Church Statistics 2003/4 and 2004/5
Opinion Research Business national polls 2005/ 2003/ 2001/ 2000.

How to say no to trick or treat callers

Following last week's post about Halloween, we had a lot of interest in the idea of giving treats to The Children's Society instead of handing out money at the door. We extended the idea from the Halloween Choice website by selling "No trick or treat thanks" posters for a minimum donation of £1 after church. We had lots of takers and will do a re-print this Sunday. Once we collect the donations, we'll send them off to The Children's Society.

All this raises a question, when the doorbell rings in a couple of weeks, what will you do?

  1. If you feel vulnerable or afraid, don't feel that you have to answer the door.
  2. If you decide to answer the door, check through the window first. A gang of hooded teenagers is a different prospect from a couple of toddlers with their parents.
  3. Don't be rude. Many people will find it odd that you refuse to give money to a small child but there's no need to give offence.
  4. A "no trick or treat, thanks" poster in the window makes it easier to say no.
  5. Be positive. Explain that you're not just mean but that supporting a children's charity is the best way to make a difference in children's lives.
  6. Give away a couple of small sweets if you like.
  7. Don't scare youngsters with blood-curdling warnings about satanism! There is a dark and scary side to Halloween but the doorstep is hardly the place for a subtle theological conversation. Be friendly and show that the Church is a brighter, happier place for children and families to be than they might imagine.

New men's Christian Magazine

Inspire reports that a new men's lifestyle magazine will launch next month. Sorted will tackle issues such as: What does God thing about sex? Is it OK to have a beer? and What should be our response to Islam? in it's first issue.

It strikes me that this is quite a tough sector. Though I'm not a reader of Nuts, Zoo or Men's Health, I reckon Sorted will be an unlikely challenger for the bottom-shelf at W H Smiths. Still, we wish them well.

Sorted will retail at £2.50 and is available on subscription at £12.50 a year. For more information contact Steve Legg at

The legalities of getting married in church

I've just been talking the new curates of Leicester Diocese about weddings. We explored the legalities of who can marry whom, where and how. It's all quite invoved. The good news is that there is quite a lot of very useful guidance if you know where to find it.

Only about six out of ten weddings are completely straightforward, in my experience. The others have me reach for my trusted copies of ANGLICAN MARRIAGE IN ENGLAND AND WALES - A Guide to the Law for Clergy and SUGGESTIONS FOR THE GUIDANCE OF THE CLERGY WITH REFERENCE TO THE MARRIAGE AND REGISTRATION ACTS, ETC.

But apart from the complexities, marriage ministry is one of the best and most valuable aspects of our work in the wider community. I enjoy every wedding.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Hooray Day 26 - Prince of Egypt - 24 and 25 November 2007

The next St Paul's Hooray Day is just around the corner.

Derek and the team will be building on the Egyptian theme and using the brilliant Prince of Egypt video for the all-day Saturday session on 24 November and again on the following Sunday morning.

There'll be fun, games, activities, songs and crafts.

Publicity will appear soon but for more information, contact Derek on 0116 271 5765.

Fabulous artwork from Soar Valley Press. Click the image for more detail.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Don't go grim this Halloween

Few of us are happy about the darker side of Halloween (Hallowe'en?) and even the most laid back parents are able to see that dressing up four and five year olds as zombie monsters and serial killers is a little inconsistent with the rounded and wholesome childhood that we hope for our offspring.

But speak out against the worst Halloween excesses and it's easy to be characterised as an irrelevant fundamentalist. And locking up your Christian children on 31 October may make the whole thing even more intriguing and exciting, while you come across as a real killjoy. So I'm pleased that Halloween Choice is offering some positive suggestions about using the occasion.

Their website includes party ideas and a downloadable No Trick or Treat poster, which involves making a donation to the Children's Society. It all looks good.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Breakfast at Barney's - Church Urban Fund Big Brunch

The Church Urban Fund is promoting its fundraising to support the mission of churches in urban areas through its Big Brunch idea.

Anita spotted that linking this with our regular monthly Breakfast at Barney's was too good an opportunity to miss, so all proceeds this week will go to support the Fund's work.

Last month forty breakfasts were served, so book early by contacting Anita to make sure you get a place. Breakfast at Barney's is served in the Barnabas Centre from 8.30 to 9.30, so that you can eat before the Sunday ten o'clock parade service.

DCC meeting - October 2007

Last night's District Church Council meeting at St Paul's discussed:
  • The new Gartree North Mission Partnership
  • A review of the 25th anniversary celebrations - we didn't rule out doing another fete again!
  • The Alpha Course - we made a major commitment to do the Alpha course but changed our planned timetable so that we could prepare properly. Alpha at St Paul's will begin in January 2008.
  • Modifications to the church sound system to overcome the faulty connections in the plug-and-socket arrangement. This will make the whole system far more reliable but it will mean that we won't be able to disconnect the sound desk. A foldback speaker will be bought to aid the musicians. We committed ourselves to purchase next year additional microphones to cater for our expanded music group and a new radio mic.
  • Increasing the numbers at the next Hooray Day through better publicity.
  • A financial review, which included the uncomfortable fact that our income from giving is around 10% below the budgeted amount.
  • A review of our mission giving and donations.
  • The new constitution of Churches Together in Oadby and its calendar of events in 2008.

Should the church podcast its preaching?

We've sometimes recorded the sermons from our main Sunday service and made them available. At one time this was done on cassette tape, which had the advantage (at the time) of being able to be played in most homes. With the demise of the cassette, this is no longer the case. The other main problem was that duplicating recordings was time-consuming, so generally only one copy was made. It wasn't used very much.

We then tried an experiment in recording in .mp3 format and making it available for download from the internet. This worked for a number of people and seemed to go well but it was always difficult to know how many people actually used the facility. It took a bit of work to get the recording converted and uploaded - about 30 minutes each time.

Someone asked me last week if we were going to resume these recordings and I'd like to know what people think.

Arguments for recording:
  • church members are able to catch up on sermons that they missed.
  • people can "listen again" to reflect further on what was preached.
  • people who are not members of the church community can hear the gospel preached and get a feel for the kind of church that we are.
  • preachers can learn from the way that their sermon came across.
Arguments against recording:
  • time and effort are involved.
  • the recorded sermon never has the same impact as the live, preached sermon.
  • preachers may adjust their message or delivery to address the online audience.
What do you think? Hit the comments link and share your thoughts, please.

Brand, image and the church

The Holy Space team met on Sunday night and decided we needed a simple logo to promote the alternative worship services.

We chose something "un-churchy" and simple, which connects with the idea of a space and time set apart for encounters with God.

I think we have more to learn about the way that graphics help people to understand what we do. Perhaps the symbol of the cross is the ultimate graphical representation of the Christian faith.

I've always wondered why churches don't do more to create a powerful and consistent image to present to the world, as a simple aid to mission. Perhaps it's because the commercial world followed the Church's original lead so that now every enterprise has a logo and spends huge effort developing its brand image. If this means that Christians are wary of gimmicks or "slick marketing" then I understand the concern. But whether we like it or not, every church has an image.

I hope we can do more to create a positive public profile - realistic and truthful, but also attractive and appealing. The gospel deserves nothing less.

For some provocative thoughts on publicity in relation to the Church, visit the blog of Church Marketing Sucks. Their mission is to "frustrate, educate and motivate the church, to communicate, with uncompromising clarity, the truth of Jesus Christ".

Update: The ChurchRelevance blog lists its top twenty church logos.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Banishing irreverence

While browsing through the ecclesiastical laws that govern the Church I recently discovered Canon B20.3 (the italics are mine)...
It is the duty of the minister to ensure that only such chants, hymns,
anthems, and other settings are chosen as are appropriate, both the words
and the music, to the solemn act of worship and prayer in the House of
God as well as to the congregation assembled for that purpose; and to
banish all irreverence in the practice and in the performance of the same.
I shall be watching!

Bagels and worship in Hebrew at Parklands

I promised to write after the 2007 Oadby and Wigston Civic Service, which took place yesterday at Parklands Leisure Centre. In recent years, members of the Borough's major faith communities have been invited to attend and to speak, and I was privileged to be able to do so as a Christian church leader.

The Mayor, Jeffrey Kaufman, is a member of the Jewish faith and the service was led with a light touch by his chaplain, Rabbi Steven Howard. It was a good occasion and a chance to affirm that people of different faiths can work together for the common good and for the flourishing of the town we share. I referred in my short address to the encouragement that God brought to his people through the prophet Jeremiah to seek the welfare of the city in which they lived, a city of multiple faiths. Active, engaged, confident Christian witness is much more likely when built on relationships of trust and understanding.

The Jewish liturgy was familiar and much of it is used in our own worship. We heard Psalms 100 and 147 read and sung in Hebrew by the Rabbi and the large number of supporters from the Progressive Synagogue. I smiled to hear the final blessing followed by an invitation to tea and refreshments (surely something else we have in common with other faiths). There was an impressive spread of food with bagels instead of sausage rolls, of course.

Collared and thumped - does a dog-collar invite violence?

The Church Times reports that clergy are being advised not to wear their clerical collars while out on their own.

Apparently, the level of violent assaults on clergy has reached such proportions that vicars are being encouraged to walk the streets with a minder, or to slip their dog-collars into their pockets before venturing out.

This isn't quite as daft as it sounds. In seven years of ordained ministry, while wearing my dog collar I've been verbally abused, threatened with "being ripped apart", had crockery thrown at me and, in a complete random assault, punched in the face. None of these attacks have been launched by members of my congregation but by the general public, outside on the street. All of them happened while I was wearing a dog-collar. The article goes on to report that at least five vicars in the last ten years have been murdered in the course of their duties - that's apparently a higher proportion than deaths of police officers in the course of their service.

A clerical collar may mark its wearer as a soft touch, or it may invite some kind of warped projection from the deluded or mentally ill. But it's also a sign that its wearer functions in the community in a particular role. It simply helps in the ministry that we have. I'll try to be more careful but for now at least, I'll keep mine on .

Living the dream

On Saturday, we went over to Lichfield Cathedral for the launch of a friend's new book. It's Living the Dream by Pete Wilcox.

Pete is a gifted interpreter of scripture. Being trained for ministry by him was a rare privilege. During my curacy we made ourselves a routine of reading the bible together after our weekly staff meetings. In the three years of my time with Pete, we read large sections of scripture, in chunks of one or two chapters at a time.

We talked about what we read, sometimes for an hour or more, and the times we spent with the cycle of stories that tell of the exploits of Joseph were especially memorable.

So I'm looking forward to getting back in touch with Pete's insights into a wonderfully dramatic episode in the history of God's people.

"Living the Dream" is published by Paternoster Press at £7.99. ISBN 1842275550.

The attitude of gratitude

I've just taken an assembly at Manor High School with a harvest thanksgiving theme. I explained the roots of the harvest festivals which have been part of the calendar of churches for centuries. And then I talked about gratitude.

I'm convinced that gratitude, simply being thankful, is one of the secrets to a happy and purposeful life. In a culture satiated with so much stuff, we still manage to find things to complain about and so much more to want. Being thankful for what we have may seem naive or corny but it's a vital attitude. Too much desire and insufficient thankfulness is a recipe for a driven, grey and miserable life.

For a while now, I've woven little thanksgiving rituals into my day. Sometimes I pour a glass of cool, clean water and cherish the sheer gift of it. I wake up and give thanks for a good night's sleep and the warmth and security of a safe and loving home. Before I sleep, I count my blessings - identifying the big and the very small mercies for which I'm grateful. The results of these little thanksgivings have been quite dramatic - I find that observing them makes me less fretful, more rested and let's me sleep much better. Being quietly thankful to God makes a big difference in making me calm, bringing perspective and increasing my awareness of the needs of others, especially those who don't have the basic necessities.

One of my favourite half-verses is from Colossians 3.15. In a beautiful series of invitations to good and gracious living Paul adds this three-word sentence: "And be thankful." It's one of the most important sentences in the bible.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Jargon busting: what is communion wine made from?

I get asked all the time. Well, okay, I get asked about twice a year. At St Paul's we use fortified red wine. The rules of the Church of England require that the wine is made from fermented juice of the grape, good and wholesome (Canon B17). There's no restriction on the colour of the wine - some churches use amber rather than red.

Hope 2008

I'm encouraged to hear more about Hope 2008, an intiative to encourage churches to work together in mission in their communities throughout 2008. We heard about it again last night at the annual meeting of Churches Together in Oadby and it was well received. Expect to hear more in the future.

Sowing into the Future

The annual Bible Society event this year is to be held at Trinity Methodist Church on 24 October at 7.30pm. Simon Foulds of the Bible Society will speak and the fantastic Paradox Performing Arts will perform We Shall Overcome.

On 28 October at 6.30pm, the Bible Sunday service is at the Roman Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception, New Street.

Schubert, Vivaldi and Dvorak

The good Methodists down the road are planning a concert. Music by Schubert, Vivaldi and Dvorak will be played at Trinity Methodist Church on Saturday 3 November 7.45pm. A retiring collection will be taken for Christian Aid.

The Vocation Generation

When I was in my late twenties and exploring whether God was calling me to Reader ministry, it seemed as though most people who were doing the same were five to ten years older than me. I've just finished a Reader vocations report for the Diocese and it's been fascinating to discover the ages of those who have been selected for this ministry in recent years.

Fifteen years after my initial explorations, the startling fact is that most candidates for Reader ministry are in their late forties and fifties. In other words, they're still up to five years older than me. This suggests that the Church is still attracting enquiries for ministry from broadly the same group of people.

Now it may be that those born between 1955 and 1965 are an especially gifted group of people but I have my doubts. Why is it that we rarely see people offering for ministry below the age of 35? I've had several conversations with young people in our own church in recent months and I'm struck by the fact that they've hardly thought about becoming a minister in God's church.

Let's see if we can encourage more younger people to ask whether God is calling them to ordained or lay ministry.

Gartree North Mission Partnership confirmed

The proposed Mission Partnership has received approval and will be established shortly. The name for our particular partnership of mission communities is "Gartree North". We have a meeting next week in order to elect a Mission Partnership Convenor, who will enable our working together.

Gartree North Mission Partnership confirmed

The proposed Gartree North Mission Partnership has received approval and will be established shortly.

It links sixteen church communities in the villages of Houghton, Hungarton, Keyham, Thurnby, Stoughton, Oadby (St Paul's and St Peter's), Great Glen, Burton Overy, Carlton Curlieu, Kibworth, Saddington, Smeeton Westerby, Foxton, Laughton and Gumley.

According to the approved foundation document, the aim of the mission partnership is "to focus exclusively on equipping our churches for leadership in mission and teaching."

2007 Oadby and Wigston Civic Service

I've been invited to speak as "a representative of Oadby and Wigston's Christians" for a few minutes at the Civic Service to be held at Parklands Leisure Centre on Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

This is a privilege and also quite a challenge. The service includes contributions from all the major faiths represented in Oadby and it raises the issue of who speaks for whom. The theme of the service is "unity in diversity" and we are certainly a diverse population in our Borough. Thankfully, relations between the faith communities are generally very good and I'm delighted to be able to take part in an occasion which testifies that people of different faiths can work together for the good of the Borough.

Knowing the diversity of the Christian population of a small Borough like ours means that I'm sensitive to the diversity within all religions. As a "representative Christian" I shall try to bear witness to the rich heritage of inclusion, hospitality and graciousness which has characterised the Church at its best.

Expect a report for the blog next week.

Christian Praise Transfusion youth night 1 November 2007

Tickets are now on sale for the first ever Christian Praise Transfusion youth night at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall.

For the first time Christian Praise has been extended to three nights to include a special youth oriented event. Headlining the evening will be the UK’s biggest Christian band – Delirious?

Andy Hawthorne from the Message will be speaking along with support from Kristyna Myles.

The evening is the perfect opportunity to bring young people to a Christian event and hear the gospel message in a relevant way.

Delirious? have had huge success with many best selling albums, popular worship songs sung in churches across the globe, and have worked with many other artists including a live album with Hillsong.

The event, organised by Transfusion which is a part of the Christian Praise Trust, takes place on Thursday 1st November and tickets are £20.

Tickets are available from the Transfusion ticket hotline on 0116 233 7915, through the Christian Praise ticket office, CLC Bookshop or online at or

Light up the fire...

...and let the flame burn.

Thankfully, the church heating was restored to full working order yesterday.