Friday, 30 May 2008

Certificate in Christian Discipleship

We've just received the publicity for the Certificate in Christian Discipleship (CCD) course beginning in the autumn of this year. A number of members of St Paul's have enjoyed the course in recent years. We've also delivered the course at The Barnabas Centre for the last two years. It's now time to let other venues have a turn, so there'll be no course in Oadby next year. However, Kibworth (for the Year 1 course) is only a few minutes away, so why not think about enrolling this year?

The publicity material includes these details:
The Certificate in Christian Discipleship is an ecumenical course that helps us to explore our own life and faith. Running in small groups throughout the county, people from a variety of backgrounds and contexts discover what it is to be a Christian Disciple and have opportunity to study some key elements of the Christian Faith.

This course is for anyone wishing to deepen their faith, ask questions and link that faith to daily life. Explore with others in an informal and relaxed atmosphere.

The course can be taken for personal development, or for preparation for further training and no formal qualifications are required to join. CCD is the foundation requirement for authorised Anglican Ministries in the Diocese of Leicester.

If you would like to, there is opportunity to submit assessments to gain credit towards a University Level Certificate, validated by the University of Wales, Lampeter.

Year 1 course venues

City Centre, Adult Education Centre, Wellington Street, Leicester
Tuesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Wymeswold, St Mary’s Church
Tuesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Kibworth, St Wilfred’s Church Hall
Wednesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Stanton-under-Bardon, St Mary & All Saints
Thursday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Year 2 course venues

City Centre, Adult Education Centre, Wellington Street, Leicester
Monday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Launde Abbey, East Norton
Monday Mornings, 10.00am – 12.00pm

Thorpe Acre Church Centre, Loughborough
Monday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

Market Bosworth Community College
Tuesday Evenings, 7.30pm – 9.30pm

For further details and to book your place contact the School for Ministry Office : 0116 248 7417.

Modules available include:

Year 1 (Year 1 courses begin week commencing 29th September 2008)
Christian Discipleship
Opening up the Old Testament
Opening up the New Testament
Introduction to the Creeds
Mission Ministry and Vocation
Theological Reflection

Year 2 (Year 2 courses begin week commencing 22nd September 2008)
Christian Spirituality
Entering into the Old Testament
Entering into the New Testament
Sources of Theology
History of English Christianity
Christian Leadership

Each module is studied over 5 x two hour sessions


For further information about the CCD course, call the School for Ministry on 0116 248 7417 or email Claire Stapleton.

Ten things to do in a boring sermon

I love John Pritchard's book, Beginning Again. It's a great way back to Christian faith if you've lost your way and it includes lots of practical hints as well as good, solid spiritual advice.

Among its gems are these ten things to do in a boring sermon:

  1. Forgive the preacher (unless he makes a habit of it). We don't know if he had a bad week, a blinding headache, or simply ran out of inspiration. In any case, not all ministers are gifted in preaching. The bottom line is: 'As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive' (Colossians 3.13)
  2. Resolve not to go for any cheap shots afterwards, such as "Well, you always manage to find something to fill up the time," "It's a shame they make you preach so often," or "Did you know there are 236 panes of glass in the east window?" Rise above this temptation.
  3. Pray for the preacher. It can't do any harm. But don't be too optimistic either. Remember the vicar's daughter who asked her mother why daddy said a prayer before he preached. "He asks God to help him," came the answer. Pause. "Then why doesn't God help him?" asked the little girl (on behalf of the congregation).
  4. Pray for the congregation. This is actually very important because God can use almost anything to speak to people's hearts. A word, a phrase, a half-formed idea, even a misheard idea - all can take seed in a listener's mind. The proof of this divine cunning is the number of times a preacher is warmly thanked for something he is sure he never said!
  5. Think of a good line to help the preacher re-examine his preaching technique. Try: "Thank you for having a go at that subject today. But what really interests me about it is this..." In other words, get him to think harder about his preaching. If you really want to put the wind up him, you might even suggest setting up a group to discuss his sermon with him regularly. (But be prepared for a small attendance).
  6. Pray for yourself, for a forgiving spirit and a good lunch. Or more constructively, pray that God will give you that one pearl which makes the sludge worthwhile.
  7. Think how you might preach on this same passage. What would be your main point? How would it relate to the congregation's current experience, and yours? How would you illustrate it? Can you think of a memorable phrase to sum it up so that people might go our 'humming the sermon' instead of the last hymn?
  8. Put the sermon in a broader context. Remember that there are hundreds of thousands of sermons being preached all over the world this morning, and some of them are going to be barnstormers. Briefly regret the fact that this is not one of them, but praise God for those people who are being challenged and changed even now in luckier places.
  9. If you are having as bad a day as the preacher, allow yourself some extra-curricular activity. A small survey in my home revealed the following favourites: count how many people nearby have dyed their hair; plan next week's menus (or next month's); find a small child and watch it for acts of spectactular freedom. Failing everything, start rattling your watch to see if it's broken.
  10. Pray for the Second Coming, when all preaching will be unnecessary.
But here's one thing not to do: don't ever lower your sights in what you expect of the sermon. Here should be a divine-human exchange of the highest order. Remember the words of Thomas Carlyle: "Who, having been called to be a preacher, would stoop to be a king?" Put that on your Christmas card to the vicar.

Beginning Again is published by SPCK, at around £8.00, and I thoroughly recommend it.

Photo: Björn Rixman, on Flickr

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Church Urban Fund Sunday - 1 June 2008

There's a 'something or other' Sunday every week of the year, it seems, and it's just not possible to re-work the calendar to include them all. We chose this Sunday to focus on Christian Stewardship and Giving, so there'll be little opportunity to do justice to Church Urban Fund Sunday this year. I'm resolving to do more next year, or to find a way in the coming months to raise the profile. (We did try a Church Urban Fund evening a few months ago and the response was disappointing).

Church Urban Fund is celebrating 20 years of action in England's poorest communities. The Fund does great work helping churches make an impact in some of the most challenging places. It was set up by the Church of England in 1988 as an expression of its mission to serve the poorest within our society.

Key areas of its work involve partnering with other organisations to tackle the roots of poverty, advocating on behalf of faith communities and their work at the grassroots, the giving of grants, developing of research and the championing of causes related to poverty.

A prayer from the Church Urban Fund website:
Dear Lord

Help us to follow your example by looking out
for those who each day feel that they are marginalised,
who cannot find hope,
who believe that they have little to offer,
who are overcome by the challenges of poverty.

Help us to widen our horizons,
to make space for the stranger,
to watch out for those who feel invisible,
to give time to the outsider,
to talk to the person facing silence,
to restore justice and value.

Give us the courage to undertake this,
the determination to join with others in seeing grace
in every human face,
the faith to embrace the opportunity in your name.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

The gift of administration

It's been a paperwork day. Or a paperwork, phone, email and word-processing day. I've been sweating the keyboard, inbox, and sticking stamps to get things off my desk and away.

It's easy to dismiss administration as a chore, something necessary but essentially unrelated to the mission of the church. But Paul tells the Corinthians that administration is ranked among the spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12.28). The word rendered as administration in the NIV is leadership in the NRSV.

Perhaps it's what he means when he tells Titus that he appointed him to put things in order (NRSV) or straighten out what was left unfinished (NIV) in Crete (Titus 1.5). I wonder if Paul was the pioneering initiator and Titus had to set things up sustainably.

We need to re-think adminstration as leadership. Done accurately and effectively, without fuss or show, and the church is enabled and people served well. So let's hear it for the administrators in all walks of life.

Breakfast at Barney's 8 June 2008

Anita is taking bookings for the last Breakfast at Barney's before the summer break. To reserve a place for a cooked or light breakfast served between 8.30 and 9.30am, please email Anita. Cost is £2 for adults and £1 for younger children.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Ministry with free software

One or two people have asked me about the software I use to keep on top of things. Now I realise that this is really a minority-interest topic, so skip this if computers aren't your thing. But if you really want to know what's running on the vicar's computer, here's a list of the programs I use pretty well everyday, most of which are free:
  1. I use Windows XP Home Edition for my operating system. It came bundled with the budget PC that I bought three years ago and it's adequate for my needs. What I would buy if I had the money? Probably Windows Vista, but I'd need a new machine to get decent performance from it and, at the moment I can't really see the point. I love the slinkiness of the Mac but it's in a different league cost-wise and not easily compatible with my Pocket PC. Cost: free with PC.
  2. Firefox as my web browser. It's years since I made the switch from Internet Explorer. As well as being open-source and free, it's just so much better than IE in performance and extensibility. I use the Mouse Gestures, Adblock Plus, and RTM extensions. At the moment I'm using Firefox 3 Beta RC1, expect to see FF3 released in June. Cost: free.
  3. I love Gmail. The best things are the vast storage capacity, the way it links messages and replies into conversations, its fabulous search facility and tagging capabilities. Cost: free.
  4. For my word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations and database needs I run OpenOffice. I rather resent the cost of Microsoft Office and while OpenOffice isn't quite as slick, it runs very well. It's open-source and, yes, it's free.
  5. To make sure I don't miss an appointment, I use Google Calendar. It's flexible and reliable and I particulary like the way it integrates lots of calendars into one view. On the same screen I can see my personal calendar, the church and Barnabas Centre calendars, the Church of England calendar and Leicestershire school holidays. Cost: free.
  6. For contacts, I use a combination of Gmail (for email contacts) and Thunderbird. Thunderbird comes from the Mozilla Foundation (the movement behind Firefox) so it's open-source too. Cost: free.
  7. To keep my to-do list in shape and to make sure I don't overlook anything crucial I use Remember-the-Milk. I tried it first a couple of years ago and wasn't that impressed. But I've since taken another look and in recent months it's really paid off. I like the integration with Gmail that means that the list of things I need to do is right in front of me.
  8. I use Copernic Desktop Search to find files on my computer (though I am a bit of an anorak when it comes to maintaining neat and tidy folders). Copernic also searches for contact details and a variety of file formats, so it's a very fast way of retrieving information. Cost: free.
  9. For snappy application launching and the keyboard shortcuts that make things faster nothing works better than the open-source Launchy. Cost: free.
  10. For synchronising appointments and contacts between my desktop PC and my Pocket PC, I use BirdieSync (via Thunderbird and the Lightning calendar extension). Cost: 19.95 euro.
  11. I keep lots of lists in Listpro, everything from a list of church keyholders to my shopping list. It's not free but I've not found anything better. Cost: $29.95
  12. This blog is written with Blogger from Google. I did try Windows Live Writer, which has a much smarter interface than Blogger, but after the reinstall of Windows I've tried to keep the list of applications running on my PC to a minimum, to keep things as responsive and snappy as possible. Cost:free.
  13. All my photographs are catalogued and edited with Picasa. Cost:free.
  14. I've created a few nifty scripts to automate things from email signatures to funeral forms, with Autohotkey. Cost: free.
  15. With such a lot of vital information on the computer, I'd be pretty lost when the hard disk fails, without up to date copies of all my data. So I keep everything backed up automatically with the wonderful Mozy. I've gone for the paid version, so I get all the space I need to save precious family photographs etc. Cost: $4.95 per month - well worth it for the peace of mind it brings.
  16. To read PDF files I use the lean Foxit Reader, rather than Adobe Acrobat. Cost: free.
  17. I run Avast antivirus, which has a relatively light memory footprint compared with Norton and other paid products. Cost: free.
You'll see from all this that I don't spend much money on software. It's not just that I'm mean, but there are lots of quality programs that are available for nothing. Most of them come from the open-source community, which means that you can do a lot without breaking the bank.

In the church, it's good to use formats for documents which don't oblige people to spend lots of money on software to read them. Having lived and worked successfully without the Microsoft Office suite, I'm sure that in Leicestershire alone we could save tens of thousands of pounds by using free software.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Fragments - 25 May 2008

  • "No one can be filled with the Holy Spirit if they're full of themselves"
  • A quote from Martin Cavender of Resource: "40 years ago people were asking, 'Is this true?' 25 years ago they asked, 'Will this work?' Today they're asking, 'How can I be sure God loves me?'"
  • God doesn't play tricks when his children ask for good things (Luke 11.11-13).
  • When did you first realise that God loves you?

Hope where you live

From Hope 08

Be someone's hope today.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Keith Waddell

During our ten o'clock service this Sunday 25 May, Keith will be sharing information about his work in Africa in recent months. Keith is a highly skilled eye surgeon who has worked for many years to restore sight to people and to develop effective treatments for eye diseases in some of the most disadvantaged parts of the world. He is in the process of "retiring to Oadby" but he joked with me last week that his retirement is an annual event, which is quickly followed by packed bags and the resumption of work in Africa.

We are delighted to support Keith's work as part of our mission giving.

Church grounds and gardening morning

Not being much of a gardener myself, I'm pretty clueless when it comes to keeping things in trim.

But thankfully, a small number of volunteers keeps on top of the regular grass cutting and upkeep of our modest grounds. Their work is much appreciated.

Twice a year we invite the congregation to come out with their tools and gloves to get things really sorted out. Vivien has planned for this again this coming Saturday, 24 May, from 9.00am until 12.00 at the latest. Do come and help out. I always find the conversation far more interesting than the gardening but that says more about me than the task itself. Sadly I won't be there as I shall be chairing the AGM of the Diocesan Association of Readers. Oh well, there's always my own humble patch.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

What's the best date for a Harvest service?

It's mid May and the summer's almost upon us, which means it's time to draft the rotas for the autumn and Christmas!

I've been thinking about the best time to celebrate Harvest. It's traditionally been in October but in 2007 we heeded the voices of those who pleaded that the fields, gardens and allotments were all empty and celebrated Harvest on 9 September. This felt a bit early, but the attendance was good and I think it worked.

But what do you think? Would you rather we celebrated Harvest on 13 September 2008 or on 12 October 2008? Let the people speak...

Send me an email or use the comments facility beneath this post to let us know which you prefer and, even more helpfully, why.

Update 29 May: Every response, email and conversation I've had with people confirms that 13 September is much the better date. So there you go, time to get on with the marrows, carrots and beans.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Jane Wood

You may remember that last year we were joined by Jane Wood, an ordinand training for ministry at Ripon College, Cuddesdon. Jane spent several weeks working with me and exploring how St Paul's ministers to the community and parish.

I've been able to keep in touch with Jane and she tells me that she will be ordained as deacon on 29 June at Leicester Cathedral and will serve as Curate in the Parish of Kirby Muxloe and Leicester Forest East.

We'll be praying for Jane and others who will be ordained this Petertide.

District Church Council - May 2008 meeting

At its meeting this month, among other things the DCC:
  • elected its officers for the coming year (Aileen Tincello as Lay Chair, Anita Chettle as Secretary, Diane Wright as Treasurer, Diana Courtney as Electoral Roll Officer).
  • reviewed the purpose of the DCC in the life of the parish and the mission of St Paul's.
  • reviewed administration of the church.
  • considered new possibilities for lay ministry in the church.
  • discussed the plans of the Gartree Mission Partnership.
  • decided to purchase stoles for the use of visiting clergy when mine are elsewhere.
  • decided to try a different brand of Fairtrade communion wine in services.

Love Sandhurst Street Green

Chris Swan at OBC has sent details of a practical service to the community at Sandhurst Street Green.

She writes,
The main aim is to help improve the area – recently there’s been a lot of vandalism & graffiti in that patch and the whole area feels a bit unsafe. It’s been great to work alongside the police, county. library and O&W and we’re also having help from Oadby Local History Society & the Civic Society to pull together some local history info. ASDA have offered to bring some practical help & possibly a barbecue! It’s turning into a bit of a village green event – all we need now is good weather.

If you’d like to come along we’d love to see you.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Do iMatter

Watch this film

Diocese gets new web site

The Diocese of Leicester has unveiled a new website:

The site has been fully revised and designed with a contemporary layout and navigation. Some aspects are still being implemented but this will hopefully create a more appealing and effective way of communicating the work of the Church in Leicestershire.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Quiz night raised £150 for CMS

Last week's fish and chip supper and quiz night raised an amazing £150 for the work of CMS, a mission society which we're delighted to support.

Ruth Biddulph of CMS writes,
Thank you for your generous gift of £150 towards the work of CMS. We are passionate about transforming lives around the world through sharing Jesus, and we are encouraged that you share this passion.
CMS currently works in partnership with approximately 700 people in mission in over 60 different countries, including the UK.

Thanks to Paul and Teri for organising one of the very best evenings of entertainment at St Paul's.

Friday, 9 May 2008

The Blooming Great Tea Party

Our friends at Adkinson & Son Funeral Directors are organising a Blooming Great Tea Party to raise funds to Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Call in between 1 and 4pm for a cup of tea and a chat, refreshments and raffle.

Further details from Chris Sarson on 0116 271 2340.

Oadby Bible Society Visioning Day - 7 June 2008

An opportunity to hear and pray about the exciting ways in which Bible poverty is being tackled today in our country and overseas, with workshop sessions, a question time and resources available from the Bible Society.

Come along to Barnabas Centre on Saturday 7th June 2008 from 10 am to 3 pm

Revd Paskal Clement

Last Sunday evening, St Peter's Church in Oadby was full for the licensing of Paskal Clement, as Assistant Priest in the Oadby Team Ministry.

Paskal and Ahktar were joined by many friends from the parish of Hounslow, where Paskal had served as a minister since 2004.

One of the Bible readings was read in Urdu and a song was sung in Pujabi. Paskal was welcomed by representatives of the local community and St Peter's and St Paul's Churches. He took the opportunity to express his gratitude to God for the journey that led him from Lahore to Oadby and to look forward to ministry here.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

30-40s Christian Singles Group

Lesley Green writes,
Are you in your 30-40s and a single, separated, divorced or widowed
Christian who is looking to meet new people, make new friends & have a fun time? If so we'd like to hear from you. We are seeking like minded people to develop a social group based in Leicestershire / Rutland / Northamptonshire. Activities may include meals, walks, quiz nights, sporting activities, 10 pin bowling, cinema, theatre trips etc. Suggestions welcome. Please contact Lesley (Leicestershire) or Mandie (Northamptonshire) We want to arrange an initial meet up early June so please contact us by the end of May if possible. We look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Revd Mandy Flaherty

In a joint parish service at St Paul's yesterday morning, we thanked Mandy for the last four years in which she's ministered as Curate in Oadby.

Mandy has brought a personal warmth and creativity in ministry and initiated activities that will last - especially Peter's Place and her work in getting alongside young families. As she said at the service, she arrived as one and is on the way to becoming three and I get the feeling that her time in Oadby has been pretty transformational, for all sorts of reasons. We prayed for her and her family, that God will bless and keep them and take them on adventures together.

Thank you, Mandy, and we're glad that you'll continue to be around in the coming months.

Parish magazine article - May 2008

Mandy Flaherty writes,

“Maybe Rosebud was something he couldn’t get, or something he lost.”

If you’re any kind of film buff, you may know the quotation above as a significant one from near the end of Orson Welles’ 1941 film, ‘Citizen Kane’. The film, in its time, was ground breaking in its cinematography but also in its portrayal of a man who had failed, despite being loaded with material possessions and fame. It is a deeply exposing film about loss and loneliness as well as a reflection on how important childhood and family are. The Children’s Society is prominent in its work at the moment in raising awareness on ’What makes a good childhood?’ highlighting the very disturbing fact that ‘the UK fares very badly in bringing about the well-being of its children.’ Britain is not a good place to grow up in, according to new research cited by The Children’s Society, and there is much loss and loneliness, of various kinds, experienced among our children today.

I have been mulling over these thoughts and ideas about a good childhood versus the loss of that childhood for a few weeks now, both on a theological level in preaching and leading services and last month’s Peter’s Place, but also on a personal level as I prepare to adopt my 16 month old son, Jayden. Having a fulfilled and well connected childhood that extends into adult life is so important to be able to deal with all the pressures that modern life throws at us. And, of course, it’s something I want to be able to provide for my children, no matter what disadvantages they face, now or later.

As Christians, we search for what God says to us about how to be fulfilled so that we can take that into our lives and give it to others. As we near Pentecost, one scripture comes to mind that offers some answer to this searching and yearning. In Ephesians 5, just as he warns against filling your life with other things, Paul says, ‘… be filled with the Spirit’. Instead of the huge number of alternatives that the world offers to fulfil our lives and take away the loss and loneliness, Paul urges, ’be filled with the Spirit.’ This is the real alternative and the tool needed to ensure we don’t feel the huge loss and loneliness depicted in Citizen Kane or inferred in the research done by The Children’s Society. A more accurate translation of this phrase is actually ‘keep being filled’ or ‘ be continually filled’ with the Spirit and this is the principle we are urged to live by: to continually ask God to fill us with his Spirit so that we can live an alternative life to the consumerist and addictive modern life that takes up so much of our time and energy. By being filled with God’s Spirit we can have a deeper energy and fulfilment that keeps us happy and contented. May God fill us again this Pentecost with his Holy Spirit that we might know and share the satisfying love of Christ. Amen!

On a personal note: I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone in the parish that I have got to know over the last four years in my role as Curate here. I have met many people; listened to and enjoyed many people’s stories and friendship and all are valuable. Grace and I are looking forward to our lives changing over the next few weeks as Jayden arrives as son and brother and as my role changes. We will still be living in Oadby for the foreseeable future and I will be moving into a teaching role after my adoption leave but hope to continue my ministry as a non-stipendiary priest at a suitable point in the future. Thank you for your prayers and support. See you around…. With a double pushchair!

Every Blessing – Reverend Mandy Flaherty