Musing on life and faith

Best of 2010 December 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lhwright @ 7:31 pm

I want to make sure that this year is ended on high (it has been a mixture of a year) and to celebrate all that is good. So here we go:

1.  Film at the cinema: Harry Potter and the deathly hallows (part 1)

2. Film on DVD: Avatar

3.  TV drama: Sherlock

3. TV comedy: Rev

4. Theological book : The Unnecessary Pastor, E. Peterson.

5. Popular Christian book: Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell

 6. Novel:  An ordinary woman, S. Sallis  

7. Restaurant: Nandos

8. Album: Sigh no more, Mumford & Sons.

9. Older song of the year: Shining Light, Ash

10. Place visited in London: Tate modern.

 

Thanksgiving, endings, and new hopes October 12, 2010

Filed under: church,Community — lhwright @ 1:26 pm

I haven’t blogged for a while; but felt moved so today as I received an email over the weekend about St George in Bristol. Whilst at college I had a placement at St George Baptist Church ( I have previously blogged about the church/situation there) I had the opportunity to walk with this small, elderly congregation in East Bristol, and alongside this imagine new creative mission projects. The time has come for this small congregation to close and to disperse to different congregations. Their building was in a bad state of repair due to the leaking roof and they moved to a senior citizens club over the road, but the club has given them notice to move and so they have decided to close. I feel sad about it, although it is inevitable and I’m surprised that the congregation has continued for as long as it has. They are holding a thanksgiving service, which I won’t be able to attend, but will send them a letter. It is not all ended though, there are new hopes and two ministerial students have been placed in the East Bristol area with the hope of replanting a church.

What do you write in such a letter to such a congregation I wonder? Well here’s my initial thoughts; there is a lot to be thankful to God for the witness of a community of faithful followers of Christ, for the past joys and sorrows that make up the tapestry of church. Their perseverance, endurance, unity, and love that they showed as they came to the realisation of their present situation; still remains with me. I also recall one of the members saying to me they thought it was time for the church to go ‘to an old people’s home’ in otherwords to be put to rest and allowed to die with dignity and peace. I do believe allowing a church to end well is important. It is also good to recognise that the church is a pilgrim people and this ending is only part of the journey; that through prayers, and seed sown new life might spring up. I had hoped, prayed, and dreamed that out of the old new life might spring up – my prayers and hopes continue for east Bristol and in particular St George. When I was there I had a picture of the seed that needed to be burried, in order for new life to spring up – I remember preaching on this theme. So in death comes new life; may it be so for the community of St George.

 

20 books August 30, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — lhwright @ 5:59 pm

Some time ago in July Catronia put together her 25 books that had ‘made an impact on her’ – you can find them here.

At the time I put together a list and then forgot about it, so I’ve completed my list but it only has 20 books and it does include theology!

1. The Lion the witch and the wardrobe, C.S Lewis remember Dad reading it to me and then reading it for myself when I was about 8 years old, and read it numerous times afterwards.

2. The cross and the switchblade,  D. Wilkerson my first real encounter with city mission. I read in after finishing my a-levels before going on to university I was struck by the immensity of their experience and the courage of David Wilkerson.

3. To kill a mockingbird,  Harper Lee  GCSE core text and great novel that highlights a number key issues including racism and discrimination.

4. The irresistable revolution, S. Clairborune book I read at College and found it be one of the most provocative, challenging and inspiring books I’ve read; particularly influential on my thinking.

5. Pilgrim’s Progress, John Buyan another book Dad read to me as a child and was very inspired by the allogary although I’m sure I didn’t get half of it!

6. Please Mrs Butler, Allan Alhlber,  a poetry book- funny and true to school life. I even read one of the poems in church when I was younger.

7. Lucy and Tom go to school, Shirley Hughes I liked a number of Shirley Hughes books when I was young, but this was my  particular favourite.

8. Animal Farm, George Orwell My first encounter with Orwell and became more interested in modern history and politics after reading it.

9. The expanded chocolate teapot, D. Lawerence particularly helpful through a difficult stage in my life when moving on to secondary school and the angst around that.

10. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens this is here because it was  a real achivement actually reading it all!

11. Psalms -from the Bible mostly attributed to David, one of my favourite books of the bible because of its imagery, poetry, and honesty in prayer and the spiritual life.

12. Life after God, D. Coupland really got me thinking about what life would be like without religion and consumerism taking hold, also highlights some of the postmodern problems.

13. Expecting the impossible C. Leonard a book of eight stories of missionaries and people that were doing great things for God, really inspiring for me when I was about 9 or 10 years old and expecting that God would do things in my life as well!

14. Beyond the good samaritan: community ministry and mission,                   A. Morisey read in my first year at college when encountering urban mission for the first time it had a profound effect on my thinking.

15. The cost of discipleship D. Bonhoeffer discovered  Bonhoeffer at university and read this while doing a module on his life and works. It was transformative in my thinking of grace and discipleship, and returned to it again two years later.

16. Letters to a student, Donald J. Drew  particularly helpful as I prepared to go off to university.

17. Love in a box Emma Carwell this book is about the work of Operation Christmas Child, and was given to me by my guitar teacher who was very involved in its work and used to be involved in checking and packing the boxes.

18.The unnecessary pastor, E. Peterson and M. Dawn brillant book provocative and thought prokoving about the the vocation of pastoral ministry. Could have easily included more Eugene Peterson books but thought I’d restrict myself!

19. New Baptists New Agenda, N. Wright after reading this book my theology and understanding of ‘baptists’ expanded and decided I really was a Baptist by conviction.

20. Resident aliens: life in the Christian colony, S. Hauerwas and W. Willimon, particularly influential in my thinking about the subversive and costly nature of discipleship in relation to the kingdom of God.


 

Tracks and Traces, P. Fiddes July 21, 2010

Filed under: Baptist,Books — lhwright @ 5:19 pm

I thought I’d put some of my thoughts on Fiddes book on my blog – just to show I’m still reading theology!

Through tracing the flow of Baptist history this book maps out a Baptist identity and Theology.  Fiddes helpfully uses the metaphors of ‘tracks’ to explain church history and ‘traces’ to describe the interface of traditions with the present life of the church.[i] I found his metaphor to be a useful way of seeing how the identity of a worshipping community is formed through history, and how all this points towards an understanding of who God is (a theology).  Fiddes firmly believes that it is through the life and witness of the church we understand who God is; in this regard Fiddes is a practical theologian. There is a dynamic flow within the book between the church and how one understands God. From our community life together we learn about God, and through our understanding of God we learn how we relate to each other. The undercurrent of the book is that the church is called to ‘participate in the very life of God:’ a concept I find to be important. I have chosen to look at two particular themes in depth that resonated with me: covenant, and mission.

     Firstly, I point to Fiddes exploration of ‘covenanting’ a theme which interlocks with our practice of the church and how we view authority. As humans we participate in God’s covenant; and through God’s grace he takes the church ‘to be his people.’ The church is thus under the direct rule of Christ and is given the ‘seals of the covenant.’[ii] This is a helpful undergirding to the whole of church life; particularly authority and decision making.  Often the church meeting is seen as a place to express ‘personal views,’ resulting in ‘power struggles’. The alternative to this view is found within the heart of God; God does not coerce but persuades through the power of suffering love. Thus power comes through love and service. The prerequisite to church life is community; a love and trust for one another.

  Secondly, I found Fiddes understanding of the current challenge for the church regarding authority of truth to be particularly helpful. Through the recovery of the Baptistic principle of authority which lies within the act of God’s self-revelation in Jesus, we see a different nuance to the term ‘truth’. God’s revelation is personalised, and relational.[iii] Thus instead a polarised argument between ‘legalism’ and ‘post-modernity’; Fiddes calls for a more creative way to view mission. Fiddes holds the tension between God’s spirit alive and active in the world, and the freedom we have to choose to follow Christ. This was a particularly helpful way to view mission which is also theologically erudite.

   This book has given me an opportunity to reflect on the vocation of the ‘pastor-theologian.’ How through study of doctrine, and history this can weave into the work of pastoral ministry through a specific church community.

 

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower June 25, 2010

Filed under: Poetry,Scenery,Spirituality — lhwright @ 9:21 pm

I’ve just come back from holiday a time of  pottering around, walking, reading and just generally relaxing in the sunshine. I bought a book Collected poems 1934-1952  by Dylan Thomas. I’m not one to try to interpret Thomas’ poems as they can be quite obscure, intricate, and difficult. However, one poem spoke to me and so here’s my personal reflection on the poem. I think I can get away with a personal interpretation as literary and poetry is not an exact science, I guess that’s what attracts me to it. So here’s the first two stanzas.

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower

 Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees

 Is my destroyer.

 And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose

My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks

Drives my red blood; that drives the mouthing streams

Turns to mine to wax.

And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins.

How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

Firstly, it speaks of nature how through watching, and experiencing it, we can understand more deeply who we are. When reading the first stanza I could relate to this idea of a ‘green fuse.’ A green shoot is full of potential, if cultivated can grow into a wonderful flower. It is saturated with matter that is ready to explode into life but it needs time to grow, to cultivate, to be tended to, given room to expand. All of this takes time, patience, energy, and committment. If not tended to properly it can destroy. Lots to learn there about my own life and the lives of others.

Secondly, I like how the poem forces you to take time over it to read the words again to feel the twists and turns. Then each stanza the reader is found ‘dumb’  unable to converse to creation it’s almost as if nature speaks and we are there to listen. In a world that expects us to perform here we find ourselves silenced at the wonder of the natural world.

Thirdly, although there is no mention of ‘God’ by name there is a sense of the wonder of creation that speaks of the wonder of the almighty. The life within the green fuse, the force  within nature, the spring of water, finds its origin in the Triune God who is wonderfully creative and powerful. We find ourselves ‘dumb’ when we come near. It takes time to read the poem, to experience the poem, to walk within nature and take in the reality of the words. So with God it take time, not to be rushed, not to be forced, but to be patient, listening, watching, waiting, and being. Perhaps that’s why Jesus went up mountains to pray taking time away from performance, time to listen, time to be, and time to experience the awesomeness of the Father.

 

Update on 15 things – Tate Modern June 12, 2010

Filed under: Photos — lhwright @ 2:44 pm

I visited Tate Modern this morning. I liked it I’d have to confess some of the art installations and pictures I didn’t really get I think sometimes modern art  can be quite abstract and doesn’t do it much for me. However I really enjoyed the photograph exhibitions. My favourites were: Bruce Davidson’s photos of New York Subway, August Sander’s photos of the Rhind and victorian farmers, Monet’s water-liles, and a picture called ‘choas ‘ which I can’t remember where this was (I think it spoke of the busyness of our lives).

Here’s my favourite from Bruce Davidson’s Subway. The dark buildings and the wonderful orange, red glow of the sunset contrasts with the darkness and the artifical glow of the lights on the train.

 

Standing alongside the people of Cumbria June 3, 2010

Filed under: news — lhwright @ 7:56 am

Yesterday, we heard on the news that within the quiet villages of Cumbria the whole county stood still as they were paralyzed with shock and grief. 12 people were killed and 3 injured in a mass shooting. Newspapers are reporting it to be the worst shooting incident in the UK since Dunblane. As the Police investigate the crime scenes, retrace the steps of Derrick Bird, and piece the evidence together; the people close by ask why? This question might never be answered fully.

As people of faith we stand silently with the families and friends of those that have died. We stand shocked with those that witnessed these events. We sit patiently with those injured. We stand and sit beside them in their pain. We pray for the light of Christ to pierce the darkness. For those who mourn may they find comfort.  For those that are frustrated and angry may they experience the enormity of God’s grace filling them. We pray for people of courage and inner strength who can draw alongside those that mourn, people to offer a hand of friendship to those that are suffering from shock. May there be people of peaceful determination who are willing to step over the boundaries and barriers, and be alongside the Bird family as well.

 

 
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