Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Programme for the Alpha Course 2009

The programme for the Alpha Course has been set for a while and I thought people might appreciate seeing it here on the blog:

Alpha Course 2009 - Guests' programme

Tue 20 Jan Week 1 Who is Jesus?
Tue 27 Jan Week 2 Why did Jesus Die?
Tue 3 Feb Week 3 How can we have Faith?
Tue 10 Feb Week 4 Why and how do I Pray?
(17 Feb half term - no meeting)
Tue 24 Feb Week 5 Why and how should I read the Bible?
Tue 3 Mar Week 6 How does God Guide us?
Sat 7 Mar Holy Spirit Day
Tue 10 Mar Week 7 How can I Resist Evil?
Tue 17 Mar Week 8 Why and how should I tell Others?
Tue 24 Mar Week 9 Does God Heal Today?
Tue 31 Mar Week 10 What about the Church?

Each evening follows this pattern:

7.00 Supper Barnabas Centre
7.40 Welcome Church
7.50 Talk Church
8.30 Coffee Barnabas Centre
8.40 Small groups Barnabas Centre
9.20 – 9.30 Finish

Alpha Course registration is now open

I've just sent off piles of letters, each with an invitation to our next Alpha Course, which begins on 20 January. I'm hoping that they'll arrive in people's homes after the rush of Christmas cards but in that period when there's a chance for reflection and looking forward into 2009.

Alpha was a real highlight of 2008 and it was fabuous to hear people say how good it was to be part of it.

If you, or someone you know is interested but you haven't yet received an invitation, please email me with your details and I'll get one straight to you.

Date for Hooray Day 29 is set for 25 April 2009

Many of you like to plan long term, so I thought it would be good to confirm that our next Hooray Day, the twenty-ninth that we've held at St Paul's, has been set for 25 April 2009.

Hooray Days are for children in school years 1 to 5 (those aged 5-10). For more information, send us an email.

Midnight Communion "a special, sacred time"

For those of us at the very heart of the life of a local parish church, the sheer number of services sometimes means that the carols and Christmas readings are difficult to hear in fresh ways. But one service usually leads me to a moment where the hair stands up on my neck, the midnight Christmas Communion.

It's a time to be hushed, for the waiting of all of Advent to intensify. The yearning and longing for the appearance of our Saviour builds into a joyous but contemplative celebration.

Our service begins at 11:30pm and will end at about 12:45am, when we all slip away into the darkness of an early Christmas morning.

500 posts to our blog

We've reached a bit of a milestone today. This is the 500th post to our church blog since we began almost exactly two years ago. Take a look at the labels on the right hand side of the page and you'll see what a varied range of categories we've covered on this site.

The blog has become part of our way of doing things and a great way to tell the story of our church community. It's interactive too, so if you see something and want to offer a thought or ask a question, click on the 'comments' link under each post.

Thanks to you all for reading, and for inspiring so much to be written about.

Christingle service tomorrow 4pm

We're getting set for one of the liveliest and funniest services in our year, the Christingle and Nativity.

As usual in what's become a big tradition at St Paul's, the focus of our celebration will be the re-telling of the Christmas story through an impromptu nativity play. The cast isn't set until the service begins - we simply invite the children in the congregation to sign up for a part. Rehearsals take five minutes, as the congregation has a key role to play.

This year there's a twist, as the congregation will be involved in a slightly different way.

Christingle oranges will be distributed, and lit as we sing a carol. The Christingle is a symbol of God's loving gift to the world of a saviour and the money collected at this service supports the fabulous work of the Children's Society.

At around 5pm our service will conclude and there'll be Christmas biscuits and mince pies to share.

Carols by Candlelight service fills the church

Last Sunday's Carols by Candlelight service saw a record number of people fill the church. In all, 220 of us listened to the story of salvation told through readings and songs. We don't do things by halves on these occasions, so all mains lights were extinguished as we worshipped by the light of around three hundred candle flames. All those people and all those flames meant that we had to open many of the church windows (with an engineer's curiosity I've calculated the total heat generated by people and candle flames is 25kW - about the same as ten fan heaters on maximum).

Many thanks to Aileen, the choir, readers, and those who worked behind the scenes.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Principal Services - January to March 2009

A new year brings a sense of promise, the feeling that things can be different, better. Many of the passages explored in our worship point us towards the personal transformation and the social transformation that the gospel heralds. From Paul's dramatic conversion to the creative engagement of our church community with our neighbourhood and beyond, this promises to be a time of change we can believe in.

4 January 10.00am Holy Communion at Epiphany
Worshippers come from the east
Ephesians 3.1-12, Matthew 2.1-12

11 January 10.00am All Together Church with Baptism
Jesus is baptised by John
Mark 1.4-11

18 January 10.00am The Word Service and CTO Preacher Exchange
Finding the King
Revelation 5.1-10, John 1.43-end

25 January 10.00am The Word Service
Paul - a life transformed
Acts 9.1-22, Galatians 1.11-16a

1 February 10.00am Holy Communion
A prophet like Moses
Deuteronomy 18.15-20, Mark 1.21-28

8 February 10.00am All Together Church for Poverty and  Homelessness Week
Voices from the edge
readings to be chosen

15 February 10.00am Holy Communion
The mission and person of Christ Jesus
Proverbs 8.1, 22-31, Colossians 1.15-20, John 1.1-14

22 February 10.00am The Word Service
Seeing and not seeing
2 Kings 2.1-12, 2 Cor 4.3-6

25 February - Ash Wednesday 7.45pm CTO United service
"Return to me with all your heart"
Joel 2.1-2, 12-17, John 8.1-11

1 March 10.00am Holy Communion
Engaging with 21st century cultures
readings to be chosen

8 March 10.00am The Word Service
Engaging in a multi-faith context
readings to be chosen

15 March 10.00am Holy Communion
Engaging in the post-Christendom era
readings to be chosen

22 March 10.00am Parade Service with Baptisms
Mothering Sunday
Psalm 128

29 March 10.00am Holy Communion
Losing your life to keep your life
Jeremiah 31.31-34, John 12.20-33

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

New mosque and community facilities for Oadby

The Oadby and Wigston Muslim Association has published proposals for the use of the old library in Sandhurst Street as a mosque and community centre.

OWMA has patiently campaigned for a long time to find suitable premises for daily prayers and other community activities. It's not been easy in a congested and largely-developed borough to identify where the best location would be. It seems to me that their purchase of the old library could represent the best solution and I wish them well.

The OWMA's proposals are explained in their own words here:


As a group, our aim is to provide a much needed Community Centre in the Borough to provide various activities, which would be open to all in the community, for example:

Promoting Multi-Cultural cohesion by engaging with the local community and hosting multi-cultural events (eg at Christmas, Diwali, Hannuka etc).
Running Health Awareness Programmes (e.g. Diabetes, smoking awareness, drugs, etc)
Tackling Crime (e.g. helping the police with local issues, reducing teenager crime, teenager activities to keep them off the streets)
Emphasising Global Issues (e.g. protecting the environment, and the OWMA’s stand against terrorism)
Promoting Awareness of Islam (e.g. hosting open Eid functions)
Providing activities for the elderly (e.g. health awareness, learning new skills e.g. IT, advice re pensions/claims etc)
Providing facilities for women (ladies-only functions/activities, crèche facilities)
Youth clubs and sports activities for all ages
Hiring of Community Centre to any group subject to availability and conditions of use

These activities are intended to benefit all people in  the Oadby & Wigston area. 
In addition we will have a small designated area within the Community Centre to be used for daily prayers.
Here are some myths clarified:
Any large domes/minarets?..............NO!
Any expansion to the existing structure?.........NO!
Any loud/audible calls to prayers that disturb the neighbourhood?..........NO!
Any traffic congestion?............NO!

OWMA would also like to clarify that it does not intend to demolish the existing building unless the existing structure is deemed unsuitable/unsafe for use by building inspectors.  Any replacement structure will be of a similar footprint and size to the existing one and there are no plans to have large domes or minarets.  We have also considered the implications of traffic and parking at the facility and do not foresee a problem, since we do not anticipate usage of the car park over and beyond that of the previous library. Additionally, there are car parking attendants who continually monitor usage of the public car park and will fine users as appropriate.   
Should you have any queries, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at contactowma@googlemail.com

Updated masterplan for Oadby Town Centre

An addendum to the 2007 master plan for Oadby's town centre has been published by OWBC. The addendum makes key changes to the original scheme, following the public consultations that took place.

The controversial site for a new place of worship in the centre of the East Street car park has been changed, with the new proposals identifying Sandhurst Street as a better location. Additional car parking on multi-level facilities in both East Street and Sandhurst Street are also included. The scale of road alterations is also reduced.

A period of public consulation is now under way and comments can be made online at www.oadby-wigston.gov.uk by 23 January 2008.

Friday, 21 November 2008

St Paul's Engaged

The following is taken from a supplement to our weekly "Epistle" notice sheet, to summarise some of the big things happening at St Paul's just now. We see important connections here and are using the idea of St Paul's Engaged as a way of thinking about the way these initiatives work together.

Following on from our Grace, Gratitude and Growth process it's clear that several ideas and initiatives are pointing to a new phase in the life of St Paul's. There are lots of exciting developments just now that are located on the 'boundaries' of church and neighbourhood. They go to the heart of our mission and purpose and build on St Paul's long record of being confidently engaged with the people of the neighbourhood. St Paul's Engaged means discovering new passion and imagination for growing this work. We sense that the initiative and creativity for these things begins outside of ourselves, that God is leading us forward in surprising ways. There are just too many to be described in a regular weekly 'Epistle', so this special supplement aims to keep everyone informed about what's going on. Give thanks for all that is good, celebrate God's grace, and work to see St Paul's Engaged!

Grace, gratitude and growth
We had a big response to the GGG process in October and November. It's become apparent that God is leading us forward in a number of key areas. Over 70 different people were involved but not everyone had a chance to be at every event. Here's what we did:

We made a key assumption throughout the process: that every good thing that we have experienced in our church life stems from God's grace. Thinking about all that is "true, honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise" re-connects us to spiritual resources that get overlooked when we focus on traditional problem-solving in our own strength (see Philippians 4.8).
We remembered the foundational stories of our church community and we heard about the great moments when we've moved forward together. In these we found revelations of God's character and clues about the key themes that are characteristic of St Paul's in its mission. These five key themes are:
  • Learning and growing
  • Children
  • Outreach
  • Hospitality, fun and food
  • Prayer
We dared to dream - dreams that are expressed in the affirmative, as if already happening to us; that point to real desired possibilities; that are faithful to our collective reflections (not our own pet subjects or hobby-horses); that create new relationships, including partnerships across boundaries (young and old, recent member and long-standing member, church and community, etc.); that bridge the best of "what is" and "what might be"; that involve us learning new things; and that challenge assumptions about our routines or our organisation of things.

A week later our evening worship was interrupted. We were reflecting on how Acts 2.42-47 reflected the priorities that God had laid on our hearts. A young man in considerable need came into the chapel just as we were thinking about our engagement with the wider community. We'd planned a service of eucharistic sharing in bread and wine; we ended up caring for a family and sharing tea with the emergency services. People began to ask, "could God be giving us further clues about re-orienting our worship and service?"

Open Church
A careful and considered discussion about opening our church building more often took place at the DCC. We decided that a time of focussed praying was needed and in this separate event, there was a remarkable unity in sensing God's encouragement to take a greater risk in this direction. To start with, we've decided to open the church from 8.30am to 12.00 on Wednesdays to Sundays each week during Advent, with the hope to see this continue or expand. The Chapel will be available for people to come and use for their prayers.

Prayer and Praise
You're invited to join us in Prayer and Praise in church on 30 November, 14 December and 11 January, from 6.30-8.00pm. We'll focus on the areas of growth that emerged from GGG in the two services in Advent and, in January, on Alpha. We'll plan these services with a light structure, so that we're open to God in prayer. We expect that these will be important times to discern our next steps. Everyone is welcome.

Little Angels
The Little Angels mums and tots group is meeting an important need among local parents and carers for friendship and a place to take pre-school children. As young mums themselves, Keely, Lauren and Tina are doing a great job in leading the project and they will be giving a presentation to the DCC in January. Gwynneth is going in regularly for storytelling.

Alcoholics Anonymous
Our Barnabas Centre is used by a thriving AA group who offer key support on a twelve-step programme for facing up to the realities of alcohol use and a supportive environment for retaining sobriety. We are pleased to partner with AA in this vital work and we applaud the members of the local group for all that they do.

Mental Health Support Project
This new initiative is in partnership with Voluntary Action Blaby District, whose Mental Health Project offers a variety of social support groups, self help courses and a Befriending Scheme that aim to provide the skills people need to enable them to cope with their difficulties, increase their confidence and self esteem and lead an independent life. The first meeting of this group at the Barnabas Centre was held in November and should run every week for the next five years.

Parkinson's Disease Society
Our welcome to the Parkinson's Disease Society took a new direction when Jill was in conversation with the local organisers. From this chance conversation, we are looking forward to up to twenty church members joining to sing Christmas carols and a Christmas message on Tuesday 2 December at 10.30.

Carers' Project
The Carers' Project of Voluntary Action Oadby and Wigston continues to meet at The Barnabas Centre every month to support people who have a major role in caring for a family member. It may not seem a lot, but a monthly meeting breaks patterns of isolation and offers valuable support and encouragement.

Alpha 2009
Nineteen people who came along to explore the Christian faith at our last Alpha Course. We're starting our next course on 20 January and are hoping for a really good response. Here are some quotes from people who came on Alpha at St Paul's in 2008:
"I enjoyed being part of a diverse and friendly group of people on a Christian course that was informative and challenging. The structure of weekly sessions with input by the leader to the whole group, followed by the excellent DVD’s, and ending with small group sessions worked well. PS: and the supper each week was great also."
"Alpha at St Paul's presented a warm and friendly place that gave me the opportunity to explore the Christian faith and meet people from all backgrounds and points of view."
"It was a life changing experience that not only brought more depth and meaning to my life but also changed my approach to life, which in turn has benefitted the people that I meet in the course of my day."
"I have always had a faith, but I always had questions that needed to be answered. The Alpha course helped me to answer those questions. In fact a lot of the questions that the course itself asked were similar to those that I wanted answering."
Remember, these aren't the words from some slick marketing team. They're the words of people who responded to invitations and came to Alpha at St Paul's in 2008. So who will you invite to Alpha in January 2009? Do look out for the publicity, get involved and pray for Alpha 2009.

Chapel Prayer board
People are increasingly using the chapel prayer board to make requests that will be prayed for at our morning prayer meetings, and also during the 9.45am Thursday Holy Communion. Please spend a few minutes visiting The Chapel and use it for your own private prayer or with others.

Courses from Care for the Family
Anita, Paul, Chris, Sue and Teri recently attended an Engage conference and training by Care for the Family. The excellent material gives clear ways of understanding and responding to community needs. We've recognised the importance of beginning this in a manageable way but already it's exciting to plan for really practical and helpful courses in relation to basic financial management and the issue of drug use. We're taking our time to get this right, so don't expect to see the courses up and running until the latter half of 2009 and into 2010. There will be opportunity for more people to get involved as time goes on.

Renewal leave
Simon's three-month sabbatical begins after Easter. We're hoping that it's going to be a refreshing and a stimulating time for all of us. We're glad to be part of a well-resourced and capable parish with St Peter's, to enjoy excellent ecumenical relationships with Churches Together in Oadby and to be part of one of the most developed Mission Partnerships in the Diocese.

During Grace, Gratitude and Growth, someone looked at all we were exploring and with some surprise they noted, "We're strong!" Let's use our strength to help others, to lend a hand and in our partnership with God in mission to our parish, and to keep St Paul's Engaged.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Directions to St Paul's Church, Oadby

St Paul's offers a really warm welcome to those coming to services, events and activities in the church itself and in the Barnabas Centre. We're not difficult to find, just two turns off the main A6. But if you've never been before, you'll appreciate a map or this set of directions.

Note, at the moment, Ordnance Survey does not mark our church with the customary +. We're trying to get this rectified!

View Larger Map

From the M1 (junction 21)/M69 Junction at Fosse Park

Follow signs to the A563 (Ring Road Leicester South and East). Keep on the A563 for 5 miles (eventually following signs to Oadby and Leicester Racecourse). At the ‘Racecourse Roundabout’, turn right (sign-posted “Oadby and Market Harborough A6”), following directions as above.

From Leicester

Take the A6 towards Market Harborough. Go straight on at the ‘Racecourse Roundabout’ still on the A6 (sign-posted “Oadby and Market Harborough”).

Continue past Asda (left hand side) and keep in left hand lane of the dual carriageway. Pass straight on through the lights at the junction with New Street (signposted Leicester Airport) then immediately turn left on to Uplands Road at the next set of traffic lights.

Follow Uplands Road until it joins Severn Road (The Blues pub on left), turn left, then left again into Hamble Road. Take the first left into the car park, which is off St Paul’s Close.

From Market Harborough

Follow the A6 towards Leicester. On the approach to Oadby, the dual carriageway is downhill. Once the road begins to go uphill again, move to the right hand lane and take the right turn (at lights) onto Uplands Road, then follow directions as above.

Co-ordinates for GPS
You'll find us at 52°36'0.99"N, 1° 3'48.51"W

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Settled... It's "The Chapel"

One of the exciting things that we've been exploring lately is if and how we could open the church building and make it available to the community for personal prayer. In a meeting with Anita and Paul this afternoon we turned to the vexed question of what to call the bit at the front, commonly known as the Sidechapel.

From "Prayer Centre" (too clinical) to "Prayer Room" (too much like an airport) to "Sidechapel" (too much emphasising its location as opposed to its function), we settled on "The Chapel". We simply dismissed "The Oratory" and "The Lady Chapel" as being... well, not us.

Expect news in the coming days about how The Chapel will be offered to the people of our neighbourhood as a place of peace for quiet reflection and personal prayer.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Plans are set for the Alpha Course at St Paul's, Oadby in 2009

We're looking forward to an exciting new Alpha Course, starting on 20 January 2009. Our Alpha leaders team has been assembled, a programme of meetings arranged, publicity and materials ordered. Now we wait...

This year's Alpha was a very special course. Nineteen guests came and were served by a brilliant team of leaders. Here are some quotes from people who came on Alpha at St Paul's this year:
"I enjoyed being part of a diverse and friendly group of people on a Christian course that was informative and challenging. The structure of weekly sessions with input by the leader to the whole group, followed by the excellent DVD’s, and ending with small group sessions worked well. PS: and the supper each week was great also."
"Alpha at St Paul's presented a warm and friendly place that gave me the opportunity to explore the Christian faith and meet people from all backgrounds and points of view."

"I appreciated most the new friendships I made, and also how nice the atmosphere was each evening, right through from the meal to the small group discussions at the end.

"It was a life changing experience that not only brought more depth and meaning to my life but also changed my approach to life, which in turn has benefitted the people that I meet in the course of my day."

"I have always had a faith, but I always had questions that needed to be answered. The Alpha course helped me to answer those questions. In fact a lot of the questions that the course itself asked were similar to those that I wanted answering."
Remember, these aren't the words from some slick marketing team. They're the words of people who responded to invitations and came to Alpha at St Paul's in 2008.

So who will you invite to Alpha in January 2009?

Friday, 14 November 2008

Hooray Day 28 - Wastewatchers 2

The teams to run our next event on 22 November are in place and we have started our training sessions. We're asking the church to pray that 'these five loaves and two fishes' that we are offering to the Lord will be successful in reaching children for the Kingdom. We anticipate that there will be at least 20 'teenagers' helping who also need God in their lives. We're also praying for the adult leaders and helpers that they would cope with the challenges of the day and show the love of Christ in all that they say and do.

For more information or to book a place, contact Derek Bowering on 0116 271 5765.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Oadby Residents' Meeting 3 December 2008

Oadby and Wigston Borough Council have organised another Residents' Meeting. It's on Wednesday 3 December 2008 at Oadby Baptist Church Hall.

The agenda includes:
  • Updates on Free Swims Initiative, Capital Schemes Progress, Gas Pipes Replacement, Waitrose Development.
  • Local Policing
  • Leicestershire County Council Big Budget
  • Green Gym Presentation
  • Eco Town Update
  • Budget Update

More information is available from Alan Wood 0116 257 2682.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Going viral - what can the church learn from Obama?

In a conversation with a friend this morning I wondered what we, the church, can learn from Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Church leaders talk about the difficulty of 'reaching the young' and how tough it is to cross generational barriers with a gospel message and an invitation to belong, believe and minister.

Yet Obama motivated 20 million young voters, many of them from traditionally non-voting segments of society, to register, to queue in lines and to cast a vote for 'change we can believe in'. I have no doubt that the man himself and his visionary manifesto accounts for much of this. But Obama's campaign worked in fascinatingly different ways across the generations.

One US newspaper describes the way his message reached the young like this,
20-year-old student Craig Ewer considered Obama "the YouTube candidate."

"His campaign had a massive infiltration of all the most popular social networks that young people are attuned to these days," said Ewer of Norfolk, Mass.

Young voters said the Obama campaign's skill at using Facebook, e-mail and text messaging made it easy for them to connect. University of Hartford sophomore Darren Duncan, a Pennsylvania native who voted by absentee ballot, received several text messages on Election Day morning, plus a cellphone call from an Obama staffer during his Spanish class.
This viral, socially-networked communication is unlike the 'old' broadcast and print media. Its messages are replicated and shared. It's a form of communication which owes more to the word on the street and the chat over the garden fence than to the studio or editing office. And the method is naturally-selective. Unconvincing and implausible messages peter out and die. Only the catchiest, stickiest, most relevant messages that speak convincingly reproduce.

There's a connection here with our recent exploration of 'grace in context' through the sharing of stories at St Paul's. I've been struck by the way that these thankful celebrations of grace have been repeated. They've been compellingly, lovingly and reverently shared. It's been a little experiment in viral communication. It's also the way that the gospel was first rumoured into the hearts of men and women. The capacity of such gossipped good news to move a church into adventurous mission has been striking - as striking as that which led a new generation to vote.

Older generations are familiar with a local church which aped the power of the media in a different age. The parish magazine imitated the printed newspaper. But now I suspect that few under the age of forty ever read a parish magazine. If we're to be more viral, more social, in our communication, we're going to need to scatter far more tiny seeds and hope some stick and take root. And that's not unbiblical is it?

Latest news on Pennbury eco-town

There has been an increased amount of activity in the potential development of an eco-town for Leicestershire. The bid has been assessed as a grade B possibility, which means that the government considers that there is still work to be done in meeting the objectives. Most of the proposed schemes fall into this category.
And of course the local press have been presenting many of the proposals and opposing arguments.

Rather than entering into the "Should it happen?" debate at this stage, I'm interested to know how the details would be worked in practice. We continue to take an interest in a major local concern, to reflect on the 'what ifs' and to consider how a development like this raises important issues about
what a good place to live could be.

Heating improvements on the way

Okay, it's not the most exciting thing to write a post about but bear with me. When the temperature drops and people get chilly in church it matters. In last week's GGG meeting, one person felt so cold they nipped home for a hot water bottle.

I bring good news. The heating engineer we called in on Thursday has found two problems which, when fixed in the next fortnight, should make St Paul's as toasty as... err, toast.

In the longer term, we know we will have to replace the main heater in church. We've been planning this for a while and retaining some funds each year to allow for this to be done. I hope that we'll be able to do this over the course of a summer rather than facing a crisis when it fails.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

District Church Council Meeting November 2008

Last night's DCC meeting read scripture and prayed, approved a budget for 2009, set rates for hiring our buildings for community use, considered further how we should open the church a little more, explored issues arising from my renewal/study leave, and committed itself to using the Engage courses as a way of serving our community.

A momentous day

This morning America began a new chapter in its national life, as Senator Barack Obama was elected to serve as the 44th President of the United States. For as much as the USA's political system deservedly receives criticism, today we should appreciate that a great contest has concluded in a remarkable way.

President Elect Obama and Senator McCain were generous and gracious in their speeches this morning. Victory and defeat reveal depth and strength of character in both men.

Obama will be tested in office. McCain may slip from our attention. But today's extraordinary speeches will be remembered for the way that both men fought honourably for the causes they believed in. Both deserve our recognition and credit.

Two generations ago, Martin Luther King said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Character is a difficult trait to define. But we know it when we see it, and I think most would agree we've seen it today.

We pray for the presidency of Barack Obama, for the United States and for the world.

Link to Barack Obama's speech in Grant Park, Chicago http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=N8rQrU3-ghI

Link to John McCain's speech in Arizona http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=BE5xPEIBR4w

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Remembrance Day in Oadby

This Sunday, 9 November, we'll be observing the two minute silence as part of an act of remembrance during our main ten o'clock service.

On this day we welcome Cubs, Beavers, Rainbows and Brownies and we're sure of a special celebration atmosphere as we rejoice at a baptism too.

But for a few minutes the noise quietens and the church falls still. Quietly and in thankfulness, we wait and remember those who have died in war. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the end of the terrible Great War.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Plans for my renewal leave in 2009

People have been wonderfully encouraging about my sabbatical plans since I shared them more widely last week. I wrote an outline for the congregation to answer some of the obvious questions (and a few not so obvious ones) that people might have. I've edited it a bit for the blog:

Renewal leave 2009
A guide to Simon's sabbatical / study leave

It's a privilege to plan and prepare for a substantial period away from the responsibilities of full-time ministry in 2009. Clergy are recommended to take a sabbatical every so often in order to be renewed and refreshed for the demands of their role and the Diocese of Leicester generously provides for this as part of the normal pattern of clergy development and support. My Ministry Development Review with the Dean of Leicester Cathedral in December 2007 recommended that I should take a sabbatical in 2009.

The idea of a sabbatical has been on my personal agenda since 2007. In the months since I began serious planning, I've been excited about the prospect. I've also noticed how even anticipating the adventure has helped me reflect on what I do in the day-to-day. Just thinking about not being here challenges my desire to be closely involved in everything going on and makes more intentional about empowering others.

I often meet people who are exhausted by the demands of their jobs or pressures at home. I know people who dread their work and I feel rather embarrassed about taking up the generous offer of time away from a role which I love. A pastor who is as exhausted as those he seeks to serve isn't much use. I want to minister more effectively to people who are stretched by competing pressures and will focus on this during my time away.

I've not been entirely satisfied with the usual idea of 'sabbatical', nor 'study leave'. Some authors suggest 'renewal leave', which feels better but is less familiar to people. In this document, I've decided to use all three terms interchangeably!

1. Timing
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; What gain have the workers from their toil?
Ecclesiastes 3.1-2, 6, 7, 9

I plan to take study leave for three months beginning after Easter 2009. That is, from 13 April to 12 July.
This feels like the right season, for several reasons:

I'll have been in post at St Paul's for five and a half years, and for three and a half years as Warden of Readers. Both roles are now very familiar to me. Living 'in the detail' for such a long time leads me to think it's time to stand back, regain perspective and to examine the assumptions that familiarity has created.

The period from Christmas to Easter is very busy at St Paul's. We have an exciting Alpha Course to deliver and it's usually a time of significant growth for us. I wouldn't want to be absent in these months.
The summer is a period when cover for services is harder to arrange, due to holiday commitments.
I plan to be away for about fifty days, returning home when Jon and Phil are taking their exams. Jon will be preparing for university over the summer and this will be an important period of adjustment for us as a family.
Easter marks the beginning of the celebration of resurrection life. Resurrection and sabbath are related as moments of renewal, creativity and freedom. The freedom of resurrection will characterise an adventurous period of discovery for me and, I hope, for St Paul's.

2. What I will do
I'm planning two main components:
  • Walking Home
  • Exploring the Evangelical Spirituality of Activism
Both of these are described in a little more detail below.

Sabbaticals enforce disconnection from the familiar, routine and urgent demands of regular ministry. They work best when they involve doing "something different". It will be hard to not do what I love doing. But I sense that it's important that I break away from some of the compulsions to live and work in certain ways that ministry has led me to adopt.

Walking Home
I shall give around fifty days to a long walk from Paris back to my home in Oadby, Leicester. This may sound bizarre (it still sounds odd to me!) but there are specific reasons for planning this adventure in this particular way.

Walking demands a change of pace. Spending such a long time on the road will force me to experience less rushed, less frantic days. Walking allows time to think, to pause, to simply experience the passing of miles and hours in ways that are more 'human' than driving or being a passenger. I have never really been a walker and it already feels odd not to find the parking space closest to the supermarket door! Living this strange way will be a complete change, give me the space for solitude which I value, and help me to experience a certain powerlessness which I think will be important. I hope to meet people as I go and will enjoy the freedom to discover, explore and encounter.

Walking is physical. This won't be a heroic journey and the daily distances that I have planned are modest compared with the adventures of some people. It's tempting to turn the plans into something more epic but I want sufficient time to linger, to meet people and to pause when I want. There's no denying that walking a significant distance every day will test me physically. I need that! But I also need to find ways of integrating patterns of exercise into my daily routines for the sake of my long-term health and fitness.

Walking offers many parallels with the scriptures. I long to "to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with my God" (Micah 6.8) and sense a personal calling from God to be renewed in humble walking. He wants me to "get out more". Through the bible, and in Christian tradition, the long walk has been a metaphor for the life journey. It's often a journey in which the places of departure and destination are significant - sometimes a pilgrimage from the profane to the holy, from darkness to light, or from slavery to freedom in a promised land. But it's also sometimes less a means of 'getting somewhere' and more an experience in it's own right, exposing the walker to the testing of the wilderness.

I've chosen to Walk Home because I want my destination to be the relationships and responsibilities of family and church. It instinctively feels wrong to walk away from home. Instead of an escape, this is a journey in which the dis-location is resolved by a home-coming and the glad resumption of life again.
I've chosen a route which allows me to meet up with people who have been personally significant in the past. Full-time ministry reduces the time and energy for catching up with friends and I have been too neglectful of precious people. Conveniently, many of those who I want to re-connect with live on a walk-able route from the south coast of England, through to the West Midlands and on to home.

I chose Paris as a starting point because it's where Jennifer and I started our marriage. We honeymooned there and will enjoy a couple of nights together before I set off. Beginning abroad will make sure that I really do leave and that it feels like getting away. It also means that the total distance I walk will be around 500 miles, which is appealingly round as a number!

Fifty days for the walking corresponds to the fifty days between Easter and Pentecost. I'll wait a week or so before setting off, so my fifty days won't parallel this  exactly, but I like the idea of a period which leads towards the Pentecostal promise.

Exploring the Evangelical Spirituality of Activism
During my walk I'll experience a disconnection from the work that I find fulfilling and immensely satisfying. But I've been in ministry for long enough to realise that the pleasure from what I do risks taking me into a 'compulsive doing' which isn't healthy for either me, the ministry I exercise or the people around me. I recognise traits in myself and patterns in my working from which I need liberating.

I am more confident of my evangelicalism than I have been for a long while. I rejoice in an understanding of the gospel that celebrates God's achievement and the dynamism of the life in his Kingdom. But I am also aware of the pitfalls of activism that lead some evangelicals away from grace and towards an imperative of personal achievement, productivity and success.

There have been welcome spiritual responses to our contemporary culture's obsession with these things but these have most often come from catholic tradition. I treasure these insights but I wonder, what of us evangelicals? Do we not have similar resources in our own tradition which we can use, and offer to others, in response to the same issues?

I must be careful not to set an objective for learning which is too demanding - that would defeat the purpose of the time I'm spending. But I have a hunch that during this sabbatical I will learn for myself things which I may be able to helpfully share with others. It would be good if part of the legacy of this renewal leave is a more balanced, more integrated approach to ministry and life in an evangelical context.

While I'm Walking Home, I won't be able to carry a bundle of books. But I do hope to be able to use the experience itself as the raw material for reflection during the journey and afterwards in the study. I hope to write as I go and will have to think carefully about the extent to which I keep in touch.

3. Funding
The main costs for my renewal leave are the accommodation and meals during the fifty days away. I soon decided that reducing costs to a minimum by camping would turn an exciting and demanding adventure into a gruelling slog. So I'm planning to stay at modest bed and breakfast accommodation and am budgeting for £50 a day.

The costs I anticipate look something like this:
Accommodation and meals    2500
Equipment and clothing    400
Books and study tools    400
Total    3100

To pay for this, I anticipate using my own money, subsidised by a grant from the Diocese and from the bursary scheme of Ecclesiastical Insurance. The Diocese also encourages clergy taking renewal leave to seek funding from their church and parish.

4. While I'm away
Sabbaticals can be times of growth for the local church. I realise that too often I lead in ways that interfere with the initiative of other people. This happens most when I feel less secure - ironically, usually when I am most busy and pressured. Being out of the scene will allow others to take on more of the responsibility of leadership and decision-making for which they are very capably gifted. I expect a flourishing of local leadership in the congregation of St Paul's in the coming years and this renewal leave could be an important part of the process.

It will be important to plan carefully so that people are not unnecessarily burdened but it's already clear how some of the tasks and responsibilities can be shared.

5. Returning home
Guidance for clergy preparing for study leave recommends planning effectively for the resumption of ministry. I'll want to ensure that the lessons I've learned won't be lost in a pile of urgent demands. It feels very good to be returning in the summer, when the press of regular meetings is at a minimum.

I'd also like to find a way of repaying the investment in me during this period. This might take the form of some central meetings, or conversations with individuals or both.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Opening our hearts, opening our church

Last Sunday evening the sidechapel was full. We'd arranged a prayer meeting following the DCC's discussion of whether to keep our church open for extended hours. It's something that St Peter's Church does (Frank the verger says we should "go for it!") and several other local churches in the mission partnership do as well. Of course, there are issues of safety and security. We want to balance responsibility and hospitality and for that we needed God's guidance.

We began with a few moments of discussion to set the context, then asked God to help us in our reflections. We took a lighted candle flame out into the darkness and prayed in the alley behind the church. This is a favourite haunt of young men during the afternoons and we often find litter or minor vandalism. I guess it's this group that gives us most concern in terms of what could go wrong. But we reminded ourselves that they are as much loved by God as we are and that we have a responsibility to reach out to them.

We walked around the church and brought our fragile candle flame (which had to be re-lit a couple of times) to the area outside the front doors. We remembered that it's often difficult for visitors to step across a threshold into church and that what we take for granted is a big issue for most people. The foyer is lovely and welcoming, with positive and attractive displays, yet this movement from outside to inside is still a significant one. We prayed again outside, then prayed inside for the rest of our time together.

It became clear as people offered prayers, feelings and pictures that the Lord was inviting us to move the balance between responsibility and risk just a little further towards the adventurous. This wasn't a time for working out the details but we were sure that we heard God call us forward and to make some plans for extending the opportunity for people to come in, rest and pray.

Principal Services Advent and Christmas 2008

The next flyer for our worship series is out this weekend. It runs through November and December, so it includes a couple of weeks before Advent too. Here are the details:

2 November 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Grace, gratitude and growth
Readings to be chosen

9 November 2008
10.00am Baptism and Parade Service on Remembrance Sunday
Hope in the darkness
 Acts 16.20-34

16 November 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Like a thief in the night
 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11 and Matthew 25.14-30

23 November 2008
10.00am The Word Service
Christ the King
Ephesians 1.15-end and Matthew 25.31-end

30 November 2008
10.00am The Word Service
Advent – the coming of the Lord
Isaiah 64.1-9 and Mark 13.24-end

Thursday 4 December 2008
10.30am Coffee Pot Carols Service

7 December 2008
10.00am Holy Communion and visit of Pauline and Charles Ndirgwa
Prepare the way
Isaiah 40.1-11 and Mark 1.1-8

14 December 2008
10.00am Christmas Toy and Gift service
Great gifts from God
Isaiah 61.8-11

21 December 2008
10.00am The Word Service
The House of David
2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16 and Luke 1.26-38

21 December 2008
6.30pm Carols by Candlelight
Our annual candlelit carol service with traditional favourites and readings that reveal the significance of the child born in Bethlehem.

24 December 2008 Christmas Eve
4pm Christingle Service for all ages
The Story of Christmas

24 December 2008
11.30pm Holy Communion at Midnight
The Kingdom of Heaven
Isaiah 52.7-10 and John 1.1-14

25 December 2008 Christmas Day
10.00am Family Holy Communion
A truly happy Christmas
Isaiah 62.6-end & Luke 2.8-20

28 December 2008
10.00am Holy Communion (Joint Parish Service)
Our refugee Saviour
Jeremiah 31.15-17 and Matthew 2.13-18

Friday, 24 October 2008

Budgetting for the Kingdom of God

With the economy in a state of chaos at the moment, we're all having to think carefully about money. But at this time of year, we also have to plan ahead for the church's finances. It's a task that the DCC will be tackling at it's next meeting.

I met with Diane, our treasurer, and Paul, our churchwarden, this morning. We worked through the figures and ploughed through the utilities bills that confirmed that our electricity costs have already risen by more than 35% and our gas bills by 75% in the last year. Yet our meeting was far from bleak. We had begun the day in prayer together, reading the prescription in Leviticus for sabbath rests for the land and a jubilee every fifty years. It was clear that all our resources are to be received as a gift rather than seen as potential for exploitation and maximum productivity. But the second reading from Paul's letter to Titus contained a surprise encouragement to fruitfulness and effectiveness. Here were two counter-balancing principles which we tried to apply directly to our budgetting task: to budget for enterprise but not exploitation.

After a couple of hours, some strong coffee and further prayer, we balanced the budget. It will be for the DCC to decide if and how to amend our proposals but we concluded with a heartfelt time of thanksgiving and praise. I'm looking forward to 2009!

Renewal Leave 2009

For a number of months, I've been steadily getting excited about the prospect of taking a three-month sabbatical or 'renewal leave' as it's sometimes called. Clergy are recommended to take a sabbatical every so often in order to be renewed and refreshed for the demands of their role and the Diocese of Leicester generously provides for this as part of the normal pattern of clergy development and support. My Ministry Development Review with the Dean of Leicester Cathedral in December 2007 recommended that I should take a sabbatical in 2009.

I'll be sharing plans with the church congregation this Sunday and at the DCC in the coming couple of weeks, so I'll resist the temptation to set out my hopes and dreams on the blog tonight.

Make the most of a lie-in

As usual, churchgoers are among the first to feel the effect of the clocks changing. British Summer Time ends this Sunday, so don't come early.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

A most peculiar Sunday

This Sunday is peculiar:

In a year when there are 23 Sundays after Trinity before the Fourth Sunday before Advent, the Collect and Post Communion for the Last Sunday after Trinity shall be used on the 23rd Sunday after Trinity and the Collect and Post Communion for the 3rd Sunday before Lent shall be used on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity.

From the Church of England's Rules to Order the Christian Year.

So now we know!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

‘Carols by Candlelight’ Rehearsals

Our Carol service is on Sunday 21 December.
As usual we will have a small choir to lead the service. Anyone is welcome (age 12 upwards) and you do not have to be able to read music, just enjoy singing and be ‘mostly’ in tune! The more singers the better. You need to be able to come along to most of the rehearsals, but if you aren’t free for all of them, don’t worry.
Practices are in the Barnabas Centre as follows:
Wednesday 19 November 7.30pm
Wednesday 26 November 7.30pm
Wednesday 3 December 7.30pm
Friday 12 December 7.30pm
Wednesday 17 December 7.30pm
There will also be a practice on 21st December at 4pm followed by a light tea to sustain us for the service. Contact Aileen Tincello for more details on 2590025

Transformation through the gospel - 4 November 2008

Rev'd Dr Alison Morgan and Martin Cavender of ReSource are to lead our Mission Partnership forum evening on 4 November from 7.15 - 9.45 at St Wilfrid's Church Kibworth.

This event, entitled "Transformation through the gospel" is designed as an evening of encouragement and will offer practical ways forward for every church in the partnership to feel confident about engaging in mission in unscary ways.

This will be an Open Meeting. Members of all churches in The Gartree Mission Partnership are welcome to come along.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Reader Ministry Course 2008

Vicars get teased about having a one-day-a-week job. Behind the laughter, there's often a genuine curiosity about how we spend our time between Sundays.

One of the areas of work that absorbs about a quarter of my time is supporting the work of over 160 Readers in  Leicestershire. Readers are licensed lay ministers who preach, teach and lead worship. This last couple of months has been a very busy time and I thought that you should know what I've been up to.

Last night, I met with the eight newest students on the new Reader Training Course for the last of our five sessions together on preaching and communication. The course members were selected for this important role in the church in a rigorous vocations process, which I also lead. I remember meeting them each individually several years ago and it's great to see them come together as a group for the third and final year of their studies. This term we've been learning about Communication in the Church. That's a broad subject, but within it preaching has formed the focus and emphasis of our studies.

Yesterday, each student preached a short sermon using the methods and principles that we've discussed in previous weeks. I was impressed with them all and it was a really encouraging evening. They are already contributing really effectively in their churches and I know that they'll make a big impact through their ministry.

Last weekend at the Cathedral we licensed seven new Readers from last year's course. They joined new Pastoral Assistants, Evangelists and Children's Workers for a service that celebrated lay ministry and left no seats unused. Existing Readers and other ministers returned to be recommissioned for their ministries.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this busy season of Reader ministry activity - and looking forward to focussing more on St Paul's in the coming months.

Friday, 10 October 2008


Paul Webster writes,

How often has it been said that some good things come out of Wales! Well this time they have, with a mighty rush. A wonderful team from Cardiff called “Care for the Family” is offering support and ideas for churches to use when trying to engage their communities.  Rob Parsons their executive director spoke to the 400+ representatives of various denominations and from all over the Midlands. His introduction laid down the flagstones which led us to a better understanding of need in our communities and a realisation that the Lord is willing and able to help us address those needs in relevant and meaningful ways. It might mean meeting people where they are at this time and it certainly will not be a walk over but it is where we are called to go.

Teri, Christine ,Sue and a chauffeur went up to the University of Nottingham to the conference ; while the ladies went their various ways to different seminars I began in one called “Money Matters” This talk mainly by Paula Pridham was about handling debt and involves a course called “Quidz In” which is intended to give parents the knowledge and background to advise their children about sensible practice in handling money. I found it fascinating but also grim and would like to do some further training to enable me to lead a course at St. Paul’s for our neighbours.

Teri in the mean time went to a course called “20s and30s Building relationships”, Sue went to “Transitioning your church to engage”. Chris went to “Drugs and your community” If you are interested in more details ask any of us about our courses or visit one of these websites:


www.dpyk.org.uk (drug proof your kids)


After a quick lunch we looked at the exhibition and gathered leaflets about the vast collection of resources available from a growing number of interested organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Mother’s Union and Parish Nursing Ministries UK. The afternoon plenary sessions were very good. Ian Coffey spoke about leading your church to engage and David Oliver opened a discussion on how we engage people in work. We then went off to our final seminars to finish the day.

Everybody came away filled with enthusiasm and prepared to look at ways in which we as a congregation can get closer to our neighbours, there are bound to be hours of discussion ahead before we introduce some of these initiatives, but wemust pray that whatever we decide God will be in it.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Buried Treasure?

We're looking forward to hosting the Bible Society's service on Sunday 26 October at 6.30pm.

Our own Emmanuel Oladipo will be preaching, joining me and Simon Foulds of the Bible Society. Emmanuel has served on the board of Bible Society and in his many and far-reaching travels has experienced the great hunger for God's word all over the world.

I love this year's idea of 'Bible Monday' on 27 October, which invited Christians to take their bible to work.

The service is open to everyone and includes a short video about the remarkable 'sidewalk Sunday schools' that are making a big impact in Kingston, Jamaica.

Oadby faith groups get together for One World Week

Students in Oadby are organising an inter faith fair with the theme, "Together". Beauchamp College is hosting the event between 1 and 4pm on Sunday 26 October.

The major faiths of Oadby are making a contribution, including dancing, food and displays.

Entrance is open to everyone, for 50p or a can of baked beans! (The beans will go to support The Welcome Project in Leicester).

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Coffee Pot Harvest Lunch

Coffee Pot invites you to a Harvest Lunch at 12noon in church on Thursday 9 October. Please book a place with Jennie on 0116 288 1151.

Hooray Day - 22 November 2008

Hooray Days fill our church for a whole day with laughter, fun and activities for children from Years 1 to 5. They're free and open to all. Derek and the team are already planning Hooray Day 28 for 22 November 2008.

Should we open our church?

Every now and then, we find ourselves wrestling with a fascinating question that goes to the heart of our church life. This week, the DCC asked itself whether we should leave our church open for periods during the week, so that people can drop in to look around and to find a quiet spot for prayer and reflection.

Anita discovered helpful information at a recent meeting of representatives of local churches that are open. We shared this at the DCC and talked for a long time about the practical opportunities, and problems, of keeping the building open.

Some felt that being such a new building, and located in the midst of a housing estate, we are unlikely to be seen as an interesting place to visit. And some expressed reservations about the vulnerability to theft and damage from the youths that frequently loiter around the building.

Others felt that this was an important opportunity to witness to the availability of God, and his Church, to the wider neighbourhood. Some suggested that the side chapel could become an even more significant place for prayer.

We decided that this is a question that we should offer to the whole church. We've planned a short prayer meeting for Sunday 19 October, from 6.30 to 7.30pm, at which we'll try to discern what the right approach might be. If you have any thoughts, use the comments feature below.

A spirituality for the 21st Century - Lay Congress 2009

The Rt. Revd Gordon Mursell, Bishop of Stafford and a well-known preacher, author and tutor in spirituality. I remember him from my days in Lichfield Diocese and always found his lectures fascinating. I remember a couple of talks on the topic of lament, in particular.

This all-day event is free of charge and well worthwhile if you're interested in how spirituality can sustain contemporary living.

For a programme of the day and further information, see this article on the Diocese of Leicester website.

Called Together - Leicester Cathedral 11 October

On Saturday 11 October at 11.00am, Leicester Cathedral will be filled for a service to affirm and celebrate authorised lay ministries.

I shall be there in my role as Warden of Readers, to assist with the admission of seven new Readers and the licensing of six Readers to new parishes. They will join Evangelists, Pastoral Assistants and Children & Youth Workers who are being commissioned for their ministries.

All are very welcome, and members of those congregations who have lay ministers being admitted or authorised are particularly encouraged to attend – tickets are not required. Following the service there will be refreshments and musical entertainment. Further information from Claire Stapleton email: Claire.Stapleton@LeCCofE.org; tel. 0116 248 7417

Monday, 29 September 2008

People come Back to Church at St Paul's

We enjoyed meeting a number of guests at our Back to Church Sunday service yesterday. I counted fourteen new or not-so-regular faces among the hundred who came to the 10.00am service. Thanks to those who invited others, even where the invitations weren't taken up. We'll be reviewing Back to Church Sunday at this week's DCC meeting, so send me an email or speak with one of the DCC members if you've got any thoughts.

Pearl of Africa Children's Choir

Jerry saw me at the end of church yesterday and gave me a flyer for an event hosted by the school at which he teaches. The Pearl of Africa Children's Choir and singing at Lancaster School in Knighton on 1 October at 7pm. Admission is £3 for adults, £1 for children.

More information from Jerry at j.p.wilkes@btinternet.com

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Can I get married here?

I spent a couple of hours with the clergy of the newly enlarged Leicester City Deanery today, delivering some training on the new Church of England Marriage Measure. It's now possible for people to marry in a wider range of churches, other than the church in the parish where they live.

Churches do great weddings. But we also want to support couples in a way that goes beyond a really special day. So all of us were concerned to apply the new legislation in a way that's genuinely helpful and welcoming.

Mike Harrison, our Diocesan Director of Mission and Ministry, will be working with me in the coming months to help clergy around Leicestershire with the new regulations.

If you'd like more information about a wedding in Oadby at St Paul's or St Peter's, get in touch with me by email or phone.

District Church Council agenda for 30 September

Apologies for absence
Bible Study and Prayer - Serving God who challenges
Please read Hosea 5.14 – 6.6 before the meeting
Minutes of the meeting of 10 June 2008
To check and approve them as an accurate record of our last meeting.
Matters Arising from the minutes of the last meeting
To respond to issues which were marked for action, or for which significant developments have since taken place, and which aren’t on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.
Open church?
At the moment, St Paul's is open when in use for church activities and lettings. Should we do what a growing number of churches are now doing, and open it at other times? Anita attended an Open Churches meeting (leaflet attached) and will help us to learn from the experience of others.  The benefits include a very visible witness to God's availability and for our mission of engaging with the wider community. It's not difficult to imagine the risks and there are ways to reduce them but probably not to eliminate them altogether. What do you think?
As part of this item, Anita will also bring some ideas for improvements to seating in the foyer.
Alpha 2009
We had a really successful Alpha Course in 2008 and are excited about planning Alpha 2009. A timetable has been drafted and we'll share our plans at the DCC.
Review of Back to Church Sunday 2008
This is the first time that St Paul's has used BTCS. How did it go? What have we learned?
Healing and wholeness course and ministry
A number of people from St Paul's are taking this introductory course. We'll hear about how things are going and consider where this might take us.
Dates for DCC meetings 2009
Dates for the PCC and DCCs are being considered at the next PCC meeting and will be circulated at our DCC meeting.
Other business and date of next meeting – 4 November 2008

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Back to Church Sunday 28 September 2008

I discovered that the Leicestershire villages of Sileby, Cossington and Seagrave have a Youtube video to publicise Back to Church Sunday, which churches across the country are holding this weekend. This is a brilliant way to reach people and I hope a lot of people discover 'what they're looking for'.

Back to Church Sunday is a great idea. It's simply about personally inviting someone to church.

We're not pulling out all the stops to make this Sunday's service extraordinary. We think that we need to be who we are, true to ourselves, and leave the rest to God.

Come back to church - we'd love to see you at St Paul's.

Oadby Residents' Meeting - 8 October 2008

The agenda for the next Oadby & Wigston Borough Council Oadby Resident's Meeting arrived yesterday:

Wednesday 8th October 2008 at 7.00 pm

To Be Held at
United Reformed Church, Rosemead Drive, Oadby, Leicestershire.

Agenda Items

1.Update Reports
To include:
Uplands Park Development, Proposed Eco Town Development & Highway Matters

2.Local Policing Issues

3.Leicestershire County Council Participatory Budgeting

4.Forum Spending – Residents’ Suggestions

5.    New Library Update

    If you wish to discuss other issues that affect you there is a
          surgery session with Councillors and Officers between
6.30 pm and 7.00 pm

For further information contact:
 Alan Wood
Tel. No. 0116 2572682

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

St Paul's Facebook group reaches fifty members

If you're on Facebook and have ever worshipped at our church, join our Facebook group.

'Come and See' Diocesan Assembly

I joined almost five hundred people from across the Diocese of Leicester at the Samworth Enterprise Academy last Saturday for a very varied and very good day.

This was my first time in the Academy itself and I was struck by the quality of the building. The Academy is a Church of England school, in which the Diocese of Leicester has entered into partnership with David Samworth, Chairman of Samworth Brothers (better known for their Ginsters brand of savoury food). The entrance hall and restaurant area are a spectacular open space and the classrooms themselves are full of technology.

In the Sports Hall, the day began with Bishop Tim in a Big Brother diary room style interview. He was asked questions from the Diocesan Youth Council on a range of questions, including his personal tastes in music, his childhood and the way he found Christian faith.

A talented group performed highlights from the new pop-opera Luv Esther in an hour of bold and breathtaking re-telling of one of the Old Testament's most surprising stories.

We then went our separate ways into a range of more than twenty workshops. I led one on developing a vocational culture in the local church, which was well attended.

School dinner followed - a delicious curry and fruit crumble. The restaurant was packed and I found space on the table of the Luv Esther cast. They were great company and we swapped stories of Bristol where they live together as a Christian community and church.

In the afternoon more workshops followed, and then the senior staff of the diocese took part in a question-and-answer session. This wasn't particularly revealing and the questions were rather tame - it's a pity the advertised interview of Bishop Tim by Riazat Butt, Religious Correspondent of The Guardian newspaper, didn't materialise.

The Bishop spoke well at the closing eucharist, with a greater confidence than I have seen on other occasions. The parable of the rich fool who built his bigger barns and congratulated himself on his profits was chosen long before a week of huge instability in the financial world. It made for compelling connections.

The day was full of the kind of positive energy that gives real identity to the Diocese. I hope it won't be too long before we have another.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Fresh thinking on Pennbury

The BBC reports that Transition Leicester, a campaign group urging sustainability, have come up with suggestions for the proposed Pennbury eco-town which would see a much greater proportion of the land in question used to 'feed the population of Leicester'.

Sam Wells and the power of speech

I spent today at the Cathedral Centre in Leicester in the company of Sam Wells, Dean of Duke University Chapel in North Carolina. Sam gave a series of three lectures on Ministry, Mission and Money to a couple of dozen clergy and lay people from the Diocese of Leicester at the event organised by the Minstry Department of the Diocese. It was a day well spent.

I'm hoping to receive a copy of the lecture notes soon, so I think I'll wait until these come through before posting about the content of the lectures.

But at a time when I'm in the midst of preparing to take a module on Communication and Preaching for the new cohort of students on the diocesan Reader Training Course, I was interested to notice Sam's style of delivery.

The venue left something to be desired; ample in size but with all the charm that the phrase "church hall" might conjure. An overly-tall Victorian carved lectern stood in front of two and a half rows of hard chairs.

Yet in this unpromising venue and without stepping away from the lectern Sam held our attention for three 60 minute lectures, which were each followed by fifteen minutes of questions. He read from notes and his language was so precise that I'm sure that he had a full text in front of him. Each lecture's notes were a fistfull of closely-typed text. He had no visual aids, no Powerpoint and no handouts. He's a very capable speaker but not one who relies on a flashy rhetoric or dazzling charisma.

He was compelling simply because his message was relevant and because he had carefully crafted his material. Someone I spoke with between lectures described him 'dropping bombshells' as he made striking points. What he had to say was important, and the way he said it added weight. Here was a speaker comfortable in his own space. And comfortable with silence.

I shall look carefully through the lectures when the notes arrive but I shall also remind the Readers-in-training in the coming weeks that simple, crafted language conveying an important and serious-minded message can be compelling, edge-of-the-seat stuff.

Update: Audio of Sam Wells' lecture now available.

Harvest Thanksgiving supporting The Welcome Project

Special flowers have appeared in church (thanks Janice) and bales of straw are due to arrive tomorrow (thanks Derek). On Sunday we celebrate our Harvest Thanksgiving, which is always great fun. This year's produce will go to the Welcome Project in Leicester, which meets the needs of destitute asylum seekers. Our service is from 10-11 and follows Breakfast at Barney's.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Grace, Gratitude and Growth

Grace, Gratitude and Growth - Three important sessions in the life of St Paul's Church, Oadby.

We don't always need to think, decide or or explain our way towards a future with God. We live in a world which loves to predict and plan but the Bible shows the ways of God with his people are often not neat and tidy. Only by pausing, listening, re-discovering and re-telling the ways God has shaped us can we learn where he's taking us.
Taking stock of where we are and where we are going is essential for every church. Without active reflection, it's possible for church life to stagnate, to become inward-looking or for the range of our vision to fall. The Bible speaks of God who transforms, renews, heals and empowers. Every Spirit-led and Spirit-filled community of Christians should expect to be growing and on the move.

Why Grace, Gratitude and Growth is different
Conventional ways of reflecting can be too negative, leading to a kind of shared depression about what feels impossible, what hasn't been achieved and what is regretted. They can be superficial, leading to hasty conclusions or impractical goals.
Grace, Gratitude and Growth is the name that I've given to a different process. With a basis in scriptures and using rediscovered approaches to growth and change, I'm excited about a way of renewing our vision, getting in touch with the will and mind of God, learning from our stories and the story we all share, and laying plans for the future of St Paul's.
Grace, Gratitude and Growth is a process and an approach, rather than a course. You don't need to be clever or good with words. You don't need to have been a member of St Paul's for a long time. You don't need to be an expert. You just need to come along!
I'd love the whole church community to get involved.

The three sessions
There are three sessions altogether. To enable the greatest participation, we're repeating sessions 1 and 2 at different times.
You can come along to session 1 at either:
  • Wednesday 15 October, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm, or
  • Wednesday 15 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm, or
  • Thursday 16 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm
You can come along to session 2 at either:
  • Wednesday 29 October, from 2.00pm to 4.00pm, or
  • Wednesday 29 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm, or
  • Thursday 30 October, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm
Session 3 will be an all-day event, on Saturday 1 November, from 10.00am to 3.00pm.
Sessions 1 and 2 will be in the Barnabas Centre, session 3 in church. Please try to get to all three sessions if you can.

Where will it lead?
St Paul's doesn't exist in isolation. We have crucial partnerships and shared commitments with St Peter's, with local ecumenical partners, with the Gartree Mission Partnership and with the Diocese of Leicester. One of the outcomes that I'm expecting from Grace, Gratitude and Growth is a greater confidence about who we are, where we are heading and what God hopes for from us. Confidence generates a sense of security in which we can give and receive in our relationships more easily and more effectively.
The title, Grace, Gratitude and Growth gives some clues. I chose this title because:
The initiative must always rest with God. Only through his grace and in his strength can we enjoy the freedom and take responsibility to see dreams take shape in reality.
The emphasis on gratitude because thanksgiving should flood the lives of Christians and the church. Without thankfulness to God, we become self-important, delusional about our strengths or hopeless about our weaknesses.
Growth is the normal in the Kingdom of God. Whether in personal transformation, change in society or church attendance, growth means things changing for the better. I believe we shouldn't by shy about our ambition for the gospel and that we should expect God to grow us spiritually and numerically.
You'll find tools and ideas in Grace, Gratitude and Growth that will be helpful outside St Paul's, perhaps in your work and family.

What will it look like?
At the heart of GGG will be participation. So apart from some outlining and initial presentation, the process will involve discussion and contributions from the widest possible range of people.
GGG sessions will include worship and praise, re-telling and hearing true stories, celebration of God's goodness, study of his word, recording and recognising, prayerful discernment and commitment. I'm hoping that we might make some imaginative graphics to record our progress.

What difference will it make to us?
There's no script that ensures that we will get to a particular place. But I am looking forward to outcomes that mean that St Paul's has greater confidence about its future direction, greater involvement and willingness to participate among our members, a deeper cherishing of the Word of God, a clear sense of how to deepen our engagement with our neighbourhood's needs, and a deeper trust in God.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Teenagers - what every parent has to know

Rob Parsons is speaking at Hinckley on 20 September 2008, on the subject of his latest book, Teenagers - what every parent has to know.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Do you say hello to strangers?

Scarcely has an introduction to a sermon provoked so much immediate feedback. Our epistle reading on Sunday was Romans 12.9-end, which was full of practical issues about lived-out Christian faith. Much of it is about the way we relate to others, including showing hospitality to strangers.

I introduced the topic by talking about the way that I try to acknowledge or greet people I meet on the streets of Oadby. I'm disappointed by the numbers of people who don't return a nod, a smile, or a "Hi". There are some interesting differences. I find younger people more likely to respond than the middle aged or older people, though they're less likely to initiate an exchange. But after the service, some older members of the congregation told me that their experience was the opposite.

I had quite a number of conversations along the lines of, "I know exactly what you mean. Oadby's like that. You'd be spoken to in Wigston/Evington/Sheffield"

What's your experience? Do you say hello to strangers? Do they return your greeting? Use the comments form and let us know.

Finally, the look on the face of the head-scarved moslem woman I met today when I wished her "Ramadan Mubarrak" was a picture. She beamed her thank-you with a broad smile. I think we both felt better.

News from the Lambeth Conference

The next meeting of the Gartree Deaneries Synod will be an open meeting, with Bishop Tim Stevens talking about his first-hand experience of the recent Lambeth conference. We've already had opportunity to hear from one bishop about the experience and it will be good to hear from our own bishop how it all went and where the Church goes from here.

The meeting is open to everyone and begins at 7.30pm on Thursday, 17 September at Kibworth Church Hall.

Breakfast at Barney's returns 14 September

Begin your week with a hearty breakfast and worship.
On 14 September, Breakfast at Barney's returns. Once again, enjoy a choice of full cooked English or something lighter, with juice, tea and coffee. Breakfast is served from 8.30 to 9.30am. 
Cooked breakfasts £2.50
Continental £2.00
Children's £1.00
Booking is essential, as we regularly get fifty people along. So email or call Anita 0116 271 4465.
Breakfast at Barney's usually happens on the second Sunday of the month. Check the calendar on the right of the blog page for details.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Meeting of Sidespeople and Wardens

Paul has sent me this for the blog:
Planned, but unprepared. The Sidespeople’s meeting.

When I was sitting in the relative safety of my study thinking about my expectations for a meeting I planned to chair this Wednesday evening, nothing of the real drama that followed was on my mind. Anita and I both felt that we would benefit from a better understanding of the role played by St. Paul’s sidespeople. So we invited the team for a glass of something and nibbles.

We felt that high on the agenda would be congratulations to the team for their excellent support and the understated way they manage their service for the Lord and the various congregations with which they are dealing. So with the innocence of youth on our side! We entered.... (without realising it) The dragon’s den.

"Hi Paul, I hope you realise that 'Who do you think you are?' is on TV at 9 o’clock", was the opening line. On the back foot, I braced myself for an unexpected onslaught of facts, figures and clearly thought out reasoning for things that happen in our services. I felt that the learning curve was turning into a spiral when we discussed the minutiae of sides persons duties. At 9.o’clock we ended and Anita drew breathe; it took me another five minutes to do the same.

As we packed away we knew that we had been dealing with a team which is on the ball and gives a lot of consideration to how our services are marshalled. It is going to take a while for us to get our heads around all the things that came out of this discussion but It has done us good to gain an insight into the work that our sides persons do. I hope that the new members of the team were encouraged by the wealth of detail and the expertise displayed during the evening.

Thanks to our Sides people and thank the Lord for the work they do.

Paul and Anita

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Ramadan 2008

It's good to be aware that Muslims in Leicester begin the fast of Ramadan at 04.01am tomorrow. I find this a good opportunity to listen to and talk with Muslims in Oadby about their devotions and it's always interesting to explain that fasting and prayer are important in the Christian faith too. Ramadan ends this year on or around 30 September.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Christian Aid total for 2008 exceeds £10,000

I've just received the fabulous news from Chris that the congregation that the churches in Oadby raised a total of £10,072.60 this year for Christian Aid. This came through the Lent Lunches, the sponsored walk, a collection outside Sainsburys and the door to door collection.

The committee are meeting again at the beginning of October and are very interested in any ideas for raising money. Apparently one member of St Pauls is already planning to run in the London Marathon with sponsorship to go to Christian Aid.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Neil makes it to John O'Groats

I've just received a text from Neil Griffiths to say that he's arrived at John O'Groats, a thousand miles from Land's End which he left fifteen days ago.

That's an amazing feat. Well done, Neil and we look forward to welcoming you back to St Paul's on Sunday morning.

The abuse of the blasphemy law in Pakistan

I know that a number of people talked with Paskal about Pakistan after the service on Sunday. He told us about the abuses of the blasphemy law which, among other things, is leading to a cruel persecution of the Christian minority in some places.

For those who want to know more, the organisation which Paskal referred to is the Centre for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement. The material which they produce quotes Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as saying, "The problem is not so much the idea of a law against blasphemy, as about a law whose penalty is so severe and whose practice gives so much scope for allowing people to settle private scores."

The story which Paskal told of the two kidnapped girls was reported online by Ekklesia here.

Lectio Divina - a course in 'stress and modern meditation'

Around the office, at the shops and in our homes, it's not unusual to hear people say, "I'm stressed!". We may lazily imagine that ours is the first generation to experience stress and the pressure of "having too much on at the moment" but the truth is that men and women have struggled with these issues throughout human history.

Perhaps what has changed is that we have cut ourselves off from the wisdom of the ages and have little resources for dealing with these issues. So I was glad to hear that a new course is being run at Beauchamp College, with the hope of helping people from mainly non-Christian backgrounds discover the deep resources in Christian spirituality. Here's the publicity material:

Lectio Divina is a new ministry offering Christian Meditation
Courses to those outside the church.
(Lectio Divina is supported by the EMBA and Home Mission.)
Since the beginning of January 2008 the Revd. Gert Glasius (formerly
minister of Ashby Baptist church) has been working as a detached evangelist in
the EMBA area organising Stress & Christian Meditation courses in hotels,
leisure centres and adult education colleges. The vision behind this new form of
mission is to offer the benefits of Christian meditation to those well beyond the
fringe of the Church.
How people respond…
Those attending the courses are mostly from non-church backgrounds and
often, during the course, engage with the bible for the first time. Psalm 23 is one
of the passages used; the imagery in the psalm still has the power to speak to
people in very different situations. Some have never heard of the words of the
psalm before and yet imagery like ‘the valley of the shadow of death’ evokes a
response in people often experiencing excessive levels of stress. A number have
not experimented with any form of meditation before and are learning to
appreciate taking time out to be more reflective. The Ignatian style of meditation
is especially appreciated with people expressing surprise about how powerful an
experience it is to place yourself into an imagined situation. Most want more!
Managers of adult education colleges or leisure centres approached have
been really helpful in helping to organise the courses. They have been pro-active
in offering to publicise courses to their membership, offering space on websites
or issuing press releases. Gert is currently employed by two adult education
colleges on a sessional basis. Shopkeepers have also responded very positively
to requests to display posters etc. The same reaction was received from
managers of health centres, dental or solicitors’ practices. On numerous
occasions conversations took place with people expressing surprise that there is
such a thing as Christian meditation. On a few occasions, conversation led to
The ‘New’ Spirituality
Institutional religion is struggling to draw the attention of today’s generation.
Yet many people still express an interest in spirituality. Most however reject the
more establish forms of religion and turn to a wide range of spiritualities many of
which are informed by the major religions originating in the Far East.
In the area of meditation Yoga is seen as the main ‘provider’ with classes being
offered by adult education colleges, a number of leisure centres and not
forgetting the yoga sessions run in church halls. It is often forgotten (by
Christians as much as by others) that Christianity too has a long tradition of
meditation. The Lectio Divina Trust has been set up to bring the particular
emphasis of Christian meditation to as wide an audience as possible.
Lectio Divina focuses on two ancient Christian traditions:
Ignatian styles of meditation were developed by Ignatius of Loyola, the
founder of the Jesuit order, this form of meditation is part of the 30 days set of
Christian Meditation
exercises – a silent and led retreat which is still offered today by many Jesuit
retreat houses. Ignatian meditation is also known by its modern designation of
‘visualization’. You are encouraged to imagine yourself in a chosen passage from
the scriptures experiencing the story ‘as if you are there and so allow the
scriptures to speak afresh.
Lectio Divina or ‘Sacred Reading’ starts with choosing a text from the bible.
The passage is first read through to understand the general meaning. The next
step is to ‘slow read’ the passage paying attention to every single word allowing
that word to speak by making connection with where you are in your life. By
doing this you create space for God to speak. Having done this for some time
you put aside the text and spend time reflecting or praying about that whatever
stood out.
The reason for choosing these two forms of meditation is that both emphasise
the use of the bible in the meditation exercises.
Gert has practiced meditation for many years and since becoming a minister
has included meditation in services and in evening meetings. The power of the
scriptures to transform lives is part of his story hence his desire to see Lectio
Divina and Ignatian forms of meditation used outside the church
To contact Gert for further information:
E-mail: gert.glasius@lectiodivina.co.uk
Mobile: 0796 942 4095
Website: www.lectiodivina.co.uk
Address: The Lectio Divina Trust
Chapel Street
LE67 6HG