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:
Mobile: 0796 942 4095
Address: The Lectio Divina Trust
Chapel Street
LE67 6HG

Sunday, 24 August 2008

New services booklets

Many of the people who've joined St Paul's tell me that they appreciate having formal words and prayers in a booklet for most of the services. Sponteneity and freedom are important of course, but words which have been carefully crafted, sometimes through centuries of use, often say things 'just right'. This written liturgy brings significance and substance to our praying together.

We use seasonal booklets for our worship on three Sundays out of four and now there's a new booklet to join the set. I've chosen prayers from the Common Worship series for a season of thanksgiving, which will include our harvest celebrations. We'll use these through September and October.

Update: Thanks, Alastair, for all that folding and stapling!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Hazard removed

Thanks David, for making the rough places level ground (Isaiah 42.16).

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Updating the church address book

For the last three years, we've revised the church address book and given regular members the opportunity to share their contact information. Of course, not everyone wants to be listed, and many people choose to keep mobile or work numbers private. But being listed in the address book is one way in which we make ourselves known to each other - it's a small but significant way of building fellowship. Fellowship may be a 'churchy' word, but in the gospels it indicates a partnership and mutual commitment that goes beyond the current fashion for 'community'.

Church is more, much more, than a social institution. But the web of relationships and friendships that church sustains is not insignificant in our living out of the gospel. If you're a member of St Paul's, or just come along from time to time, do make sure you get your details in the new revision. And many thanks to Alastair for his time and effort in getting the invitations and printing just right.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Principal services - September and October 2008

The end of summer is traditionally a time for celebrating the harvest. Our ancestors toiled hard in these weeks to gather in the grain that would see them through the winter. With the unpredictability of the British weather, a week or two of sunshine or rain could make the difference between plenty and hunger for months to come.
In our day, the availability of food makes it easy to overlook the goodness of God in his provision. But rising food prices, climate change and the vulnerability of the world to environmental problems are slowly changing our attitudes.

What does the Bible have to say about the relationship between human behaviour and the ecology of our planet? Why aren't the hungry fed? How are thanksgiving and worship related to these issues?

We'll explore these issues and more during September.

In October, we have a series of sermons in which we'll focus on some of the fascinating questions that Jesus asked in the gospels. These are based on the book, “Do you love me?” by Victor Shepherd.

7 September 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Fields of thistles and blood
Genesis 3:14-19; 4:8-16 and Matthew 18.15-20

14 September 2008
10.00am Parade Service
Harvest Thanksgiving: The gift of Creation
Genesis 2:4b-22

21 September 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Are droughts and famines “acts of God”?
Joel 1:8-10, 17-20 and Matthew 20.1-16

28 September 2008
10.00am The Word Service on Back to Church Sunday
Life-giving water
Revelation 22:1-5 and John 4.3-30

5 October 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”
1 Peter 5.1-7 and John 21.15-19

12 October 2008
10.00am All Together Church
Jesus asked, “Why worry?”
Matthew 6.26-34

19 October 2008
10.00am Holy Communion
Jesus asked, “What's your name?”
Genesis 11.1-9 and Mark 5.1-13

26 October 2008
10.00am The Word Service
Jesus asked, “Who touched me?”
Leviticus 15.25-31 and Luke 8.43-48

26 October 2008
6.30pm Bible Society Service

Questions Jesus asked

I've been reading Victor Shepherd's book, "Do you love me? - and other questions Jesus asks" in preparation for some training that I'm delivering soon.

It's a great idea for a book. We often think of ourselves as having all the questions, and perhaps of Jesus as having all the answers. But faith is a living relationship and our communion with God in Jesus is more of a conversation than we might at first assume.

We'll be exploring these questions during our sermon series in October, but home group leaders and church members might like to look at Victor Shepherd's book in preparation.

Amazon includes this synopsis:
Many of us have questions about Jesus, but did you know that Jesus has questions for us? Indeed, as Victor Shepherd points out in this book, Jesus spent much of his ministry on earth asking his disciples questions rather than answering the questions on their agenda. Instead, he used questions as a way of reshaping and redirecting his disciples towards the Truth. This is not to say that Jesus dismisses our questions as trite. Yet because our hearts are corrupt, we are often asking the wrong questions. In this book, Victor Shepherd reflects on twelve important questions that Jesus asked, challenging us to reflect on the significance of these questions for us today and bringing these truths to bear upon our everyday lives. A pastor for more than forty years, Victor Shepherd now serves as Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Tyndale University College & Seminary, Toronto, and professor ordinarius for the Graduate Theological Foundation, University of Oxford.

Woman at the well

Always looking for fresh tellings of the gospel, and beginning to think about Back To Church Sunday on 28 September, I found this today.

Desi Masti Bollywood Dance Academy performs Michael Jackson 50

Every Wednesday, the main church hall is full of youngsters learning to dance like Bollywood starts. Anand Bhatt and his team run the Desi Masti Academy very successfully and they have become one of the most popular midweek activities that take place at St Paul's.

On the weekend of 29-31 August, their practice and rehearsals come to a climax with a performance at The Peepul Centre in Leicester. Tickets are £12.50 each.

According to the publicity:
The MJ50! Show will showcase the best of MJ moves and music by an excellent troop of dancers backed up by some amazing vocal and music talent. With a concert-like feel, we will have everybody out of their seats and dancing. Some of the most classic songs of all time will appear in this show, spanning the career of Michael Jackson from his Jackson 5 days to Invincible.

Songs being prepared include works from:

  • The Jackson 5
  • The Jacksons
  • Off The Wall
  • Thriller
  • Bad
  • Dangerous
  • HIStory
  • Blood On The Dancefloor
  • Invincible
The weekend of the event will also include:
  • Fairground rides, games and attractions
  • King Of Pop's Banquet Hall with Michael Jackson themed cuisine - complete with waiters dressed as the Jackson 5!
  • A bar serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic Michael Jackson themed cocktails - come and buy a Smooth Criminal or Liberian Girl
  • Stalls serving sweets, ice-cream, candy floss and much much more.
MJ50! promises to be a show you will not want to miss.

Contact: For further details of MJ50! or to book your tickets now, email

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Neil's on his way

I saw Neil Griffiths last night and wished him well for his epic cycle journey, which begins tomorrow. Neil is on the train to Penzance today, then he makes his way to Land's End before turning north and setting off for John O'Groats.

You can still support Neil's fundraising efforts for the YMCA at

A new cathedral for the Arctic

A new cathedral is being built in the town of Iqaluit (formerley Frobisher Bay), in the most northerly diocese in the Anglican Church. Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk made a big impression on last week's meeting of the Fellowship of the Arctic as he talked through the plans.

Bishop Andrew is the first native Inuit to become a diocesan bishop and he leads a growing church. As well as being the most northerly Anglican diocese in the world, the Arctic is also the largest at 1.5 million square miles. The population is only 55,000 and there are vast distances between settlements. Just like the UK, it's not unusal for a minister to look after several churches but in the Artic they may be many hundreds of miles apart.

The Bishop is a funny, positive, warm-hearted man whose trust in God is clear. He might have had reason to be disheartened about losing his cathedral to an arson attack in which the cross carved from narwhal tusk was taken and cut up. Instead, he spoke about all the good things that he saw and his excitement at the challenge of building a new St Jude's to serve the people.

He told us about the recent Lambeth Conference, including a shared meal with some African bishops who were amazed to meet their first eskimo. For more information about the Diocese of the Arctic, see their website at