Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Happy Christmas!

There's been less time for blogging with a rush of Christmas services and now I'm taking a few days off. We've had a wonderful Christmas and I've been touched and thrilled by the way that God has worked among us. Thank you to all those who've worked really hard - some in very obvious and 'up-front' ways and some behind the scenes.

We're excited about what God has in store for us in 2008, but for now, have a very happy Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Carols by candlelight 23 December at 6.30pm

The rehearsals for the carols by candlelight service are finished and I'm really impressed. Aileen's chosen a wide range of music and this year has put together the readings too. There are congregational carols, choir pieces, a string quartet and a piece of drama. It's going to be a great evening.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Blog's first birthday

It's exactly a year since the first post on this blog. 1195 different people have visited the blog a total of 3297 times. Compared to other blogs, our traffic might be low, but that's not the point. The idea has been to tell something of the story of a church community in mission to those who participate in it, or who have a connection, interest or live locally. That's why it's especially pleasing that several people have joined our church after finding us here.

276 articles have been posted, which means that the archive is full of information for future reference. Don't forget to use the search facility to find answers to your questions.

Thanks must go to the worshipping community at St Paul's Church, for your suggestions and comments, for your encouragement to keep up the work, and most of all for giving me so many good news stories to write.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

New storage sheds on the way

The wooden sheds between the church and my house have served to store all sorts of equipment through the years. The problem is that they've really reached the end of their serviceable life. Rain gets in through the gaps in the perished felt, the wood is rotting, and some attention from vandals have left them in a pretty sorry state.

So we'll soon be decanting all the contents into a container on the car park and laying a concrete foundation for new sheds in January. There'll be a week or so when the path will be closed to allow the work to go ahead.

Many thanks to Vivien for getting this all arranged.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

New arrivals at St Paul's

It's always encouraging when new people appear in church and we've seen a number of people join us at St Paul's in recent weeks. I'm pleased that many have said that they have found us through the internet. If you're a regular member, do look out for people you don't recognise and make them welcome.

Leicestershire Christmas Breakfast at Barney's

With crackers, candles and festive trimmings we sat down to breakfast before church this morning. Only four of the fifty or so people who came tucked into the traditional Leicestershire pork pie and pickle breakfast.

I confess I couldn't face it myself and stayed with the equally traditional full cooked English. Thanks to all the team for their wonderful work.

Cutting the dog collar

The splendid Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, took out a pair of scissors on live TV this morning and cut up his clerical collar. The archbishop said that this was in protest against the brutal regime of Robert Mugabe in Zibabwe. It looks like that the good archbishop is going to collar-less for a while, as he declared, " As far as I'm concerned, from now on I'm not going to wear a dog collar until Mugabe is gone."

It made for a great TV moment and is sure to raise the profile of the Church of England's opposition to Mugabe's treatment of his people in the national and international press.

It won't be long before I'm invited to cut up my own dog collar in response to some issue, I guess. Any suggestions?

Friday, 7 December 2007

Houghton on the Hill credit card scam

I just heard on the national BBC radio news bulletin about a credit and debit card scam in the nearby village of Houghton on the Hill. The BBC News website is now running the story, which is currently the most read story on the site. It appears that people who have used the village shop and garage may have been defrauded of money as far away as Australia, the Phillipines and India. It looks like all this took place without the knowledge of the owner, who has now changed his credit and debit card machines.

If you've recently purchased goods at the garage in Houghton with a card you may wish to check your statements carefully.

Evangelism and the strength of weak ties

The Alpha invitations have gone out by post and email, to several dozen contacts and people on the edges of St Paul's. On Sunday, I'll be asking the congregation to take at least one flyer each and think about who they could invite.

Classically, congregations are encouraged to think first about their family and close friends as those most likely to be invited to an evangelism course. But I'm wondering if it might be better to ask people to think of an acquaintance who could be invited instead.

I've been reading Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point this week. Gladwell talks about the strength of weak ties in the propagation of ideas, fashions and news. He takes the work of sociologist Mark Granovetter who found that personal connections are powerful factors in issues such as getting a job. The surprising thing that Granovetter found is that acquaintances are actually more fruitful than close friends in this respect. Gladwell adopts this idea; that while word-of-mouth is a significant force it's these weak ties that are instrumental. Hence "the strength of weak ties".

I wondered if this might be true for evangelism. Certainly most people find faith through the encouragement of other people who are known to them. Evangelism is a relational matter. But, perhaps contrary to what we might usually think, could it be through our acquaintances, rather than through our close friends and family, that these introductions happen. There's plenty of evidence in the bible for the spread of the gospel through the strong ties of family and close friendships. But there's also evidence of people receiving encouragement through weaker ties too.

When I think about the list of people who I have sent the invitations to, they are people who are known to me through funerals, weddings, baptisms, community use of our buildings etc. I know them well enough to remember their names and some relevant information about them, but I'm hardly their friends.

So this Sunday, I shall be asking the congregation to think in the same terms. Perhaps there are people in their street, office or in the pubs where they drink, that they might invite. I'll report back through the blog how we get on.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Dates confirmed for the new Alpha Course at St Paul's

We have a leaders' planning meeting next week but we have already confirmed that the Alpha Course will be on Tuesdays, beginning on 15 January 2008.