Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.
Peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how as the day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.
Peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair, I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song,
Of Peace on earth, good will to men.'
Peace on earth, good will to men.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep;
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on earth, good will to men'.
Peace on earth, good will to men.

For so long now my default “go to” carol over advent has been “O come o come Emmanuel”. I’ve appreciated its element of lament, the great theology in it,  the cry of the hurting human heart “O come!”, and the reply of heaven, “Rejoice, Emmanuel shall come”.

However, just recently I’ve been turning to this HW Longfellow poem that has been set to a variety of tunes, but I first encountered performed by John Gorka.

Longfellow wrote this on Christmas Day 1864, a few years after the tragic death of his much beloved wife, Frances, and a few months after the terrible maiming of his son, Charles, who fought in the American civil war.

On first reading it can seem quite simplistic, with its pithy response that the wrong shall fail and the right prevail. That sounds a lot like the kind of things I tell my five year old son, to reassure him, to shelter him from the harsher realities of life as it’s experienced.

And yet, as simple as it sounds, it’s the truth. And for Longfellow, writing in the midst of pain and loss, it speaks of the hope that we’re looking forward to receiving afresh at Christmas, even though sometimes we receive that hope from a distance. It’s a declaration of faith. It’s part of the meaning and message that we’re celebrating tomorrow. Because of this baby, justice will be done; because of this baby, peace becomes a possibility; because even though this baby gently sleeps, God never sleeps.

This Christmas eve, we’re waiting. Waiting for news, waiting for the celebration, waiting for it all to be over, waiting to finish work finally, waiting to see friends, waiting to see if we can make it through, waiting for a clear sound from a pealing bell that will preach the message again. God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.

However this waiting day finds you, I pray that when you hear the bells, you’ll hear the angel afresh, Peace on earth, good will to all people.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Silent Monks Singing Halleluia

I hope you enjoy this as ,much as I did, an early Christmas pressie!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blue Christmas, 21st December

This year we're adding an extra service in to our Advent programme.

Blue Christmas is a time and space to explore the reality that for some people Christmas is a tough time.

Family breakdown, redundancy, bereavement, illness, loneliness and other pains of life can leave us feeling quite "blue" whilst everyone else seems to be having a jolly old time.

On December 21st (the longest night of the year) we'll be meeting for an hour to pray together, sing some appropriate songs, listen to and respond to some scriptures and share communion.

It'll be a time to be real, to remember, and to reach out for comfort and hope.

If you'd like a quiet and prayerful space to reflect on the pain of life this Advent, then you are most welcome, whether you have faith or not.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

New blog added: Baptileaks

A couple of days ago I was sent a link to a new blog. It looks promising, so I thought I'd give you a heads up.

I'm not entirely sure who's behind it, but I have a good idea...

Take a look at Baptileaks

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Please bless Wolverhampton

A Wolverhampton school has made it through to the final of Berol's Win a Minibus competition. Now they need to get as many votes as they can. Please, click on this link to Berol's site. Find the August entry, which is from Dunstall Hill Primary School, Wolverhampton (next door to our church building) and vote for it. It will only take a moment, no registering needed or anything like that.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sunday Nights @ Broad Street

We've begun our series of seeker events on Sunday evenings, where we're partnering with Saltmine and the Church @ Broad Street. This week Jon Turner from Saltmine will be speaking on Expectation and Surprise in the Christmas story. Jon Bruton playing guitar, and joined by some talented vocalists from Broad Street. We're starting at 7pm, finishing around 8pm then having refreshments. Do come if you're around.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Partnership with Saltmine and Church @ Broad Street

Last night saw the formal beginning of the partnership of Church @ Broad Street, Saltmine and Tabernacle Baptist Church, Wolverhampton. We're working together to ensure the continuance of Christian ministry at Broad Street. Here are the words we used last night, closely sourced from Gathering for Worship.


We have gathered to mark the beginning of a new phase in the life and witness of the Church at Broad Street, Tabernacle Baptist Church and Saltmine. We come to affirm our belief that these churches and organisations have been led by the Spirit as they have explored the possibilities of shared ministry together here in Wolverhampton. Because of that, we make this mutual commitment to each other, and to the city.

Today we have come to witness the beginning of a season of collaboration and exploration, of hope, of challenge and of renewed commitment to Christ, and his growing Kingdom. As representatives of Church at Broad Street, Tabernacle Baptist Church and Saltmine, we’ve come to declare our intention to share our strengths, our possessions, our prayers, our skills and our time together, in order that the Kingdom of God might come more fully in our city.

Together representatives from Saltmine, Church @ Broad Street and Tabernacle Baptist Church said:

Today we stand with each other,
recognizing Christ in our midst,
affirming our faith in the God who loves us
with a love that transforms us,
and who calls us to work for a transformed world.
Today we stand with each other,
recognizing Christ in each other, and in the churches and organizations we lead,
affirming the calling of the Spirit
who has brought us together this day.

Today we bring ourselves and the gifts we have, so that together we can serve and encourage our churches and community:

We commit to respect and care for each other,
to journey together,
to take responsibility together,
to seek God together,
to listen to God together,
and to work together to be Christ in this world.

The congregation responded:

Today we bring ourselves and the gifts we have,
and we also commit to serve and encourage
our churches and community:
to respect and care for each other,
to take responsibility for the people we are
and the people we hope to be in Christ,
and to seek God’s Kingdom as we make this journey together.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Africa United Trailer - Africa United Movie Trailer

So, here's the trailer for Africa United, it's on general release in the UK from 22nd October. See you there?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Taking a minute

A Pastor from Beverley, East Yorkshire, a membership of 155, deacons meetings agendas that include issues around the timing of Sunday evening services, provision for elderly members, the needs to engage with the local community in both mission and evangelism. Excitement about growth, questions about the suitability of the current building, the needs of young people rising up the agenda, and structures being changed to make the most of opportunities given to Tabernacle Baptist Church. Sounds familiar? This is us today.

But not just today.

I’ve had the pleasure of looking through some of our archived minutes today, and in 1952 this was a picture of where the church was at.

It’s a discovery that has had me smiling (what are the chances I’d not be the first pastor from Beverley here?), delighted there have been some great moves forward (a stipend of £350 wouldn’t quite work) and also questioning why we’re dealing with such similar issues today. Maybe it’s because every generation has to deal with these, maybe it’s because fifty-odd years later we’re still searching for the best answers.

Whatever the reason, it’s been a good reminder, at the end of my first sabbatical, that I stand in a long line of pastors, and hopefully (until Jesus returns) a long line to come. That’s humbling, and it’s reassuring. It’s not my job to build the church, it’s not my glory to take when things go well, it’s not my empire, it’s His kingdom.

So we’re going to spend some time over the next few months looking at the values of the Kingdom, making sure we’re keeping in step with the morality of the maker, we’re holding fast to the values of the victorious Christ.

I’d love to think that in 50 years time someone will read the minutes of our meetings with thankfulness, and I pray we’ll have sorted seniors ministry out by then!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

John Boy's response to burning questions

I remember an episode of “The Waltons” that had quite an affect on my then rapidly developing sense of justice and morality. It was set in the late 1930’s and the local reverend had arranged a good old book burning, telling folks to bring all their German books for the fire, it would be an act of rejecting that evil Nazi philosophy, of cleansing a community from the very words that would lead to such dreadful warfare.

I remember John Boy protesting, and the crowd shouting him down, until he pulled a book from the fire that hadn’t caught yet and asked if anyone spoke German. A little elderly lady steps forward, a German immigrant if I remember, a woman who’d been ostracised by the town. She reads the beginning of the book in German, then translates it; “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth...”

This scene impressed itself upon me, and is probably what formed in me lasting unease about censorship, and a sense (not unquestioned) that free speech, access to literature and freedom of the press are good countermeasures against dictatorships both evil and benevolent.

So when I look at the contemporary story of a pastor in a small church, planning to burn copies of a book that 1,500,000,000 people consider to be sacred I’m worried, and confused.

I’m worried because I think it’s an approach that achieves little but division and enmity. I’m worried because it adds fuel to another fire, the fire that philosophical and theological liberals regularly stoke against those of us who’d lay some claim the word Evangelical. I’m worried that members of other faiths may consider that this action in some way speaks for more than the few who attend that church.

And I’m confused. I’m confused as to which Bible this pastor has been reading. I’m confused about how anyone can want to ally themselves to Jesus, have read his teaching and then perform an act like this. I’m confused as to why anyone who’d consider themselves a shepherd would lead their people into such a blind and dark place, and I’m confused about why the media are hyping this up so much, that they themselves are (metaphorically) buying the petrol to get the blaze going.

I’m an Evangelical.

I believe the Bible is the only book that can lay claim to be the utterly dependable revelation of God’s will to us.

I believe in Jesus, and that in him alone I find peace with God, that in him alone I am set free from all that hurts God, others and myself, and that in him alone I find hope, meaning and life in all it’s fullness.

I believe that God breathes the Holy Spirit into his followers, enabling them to live like Christ in this world.

I believe that people of other faiths may well be reaching out towards God, journeying towards truth, a truth I think can only be found in Jesus.

I believe that every human being was given life by God, was created by God, is loved by God and has the potential to be truly united with God.

I therefore believe that every human being is worthy of respect, is to be loved as Jesus loved, and is to be welcomed as Jesus welcomed.

This is why I won’t be burning books, and this is why I urge you to do all you can to welcome your Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, and Atheist neighbours as warmly as Jesus would.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

World Cup 2010 Football Song - There May Be Glory

Loving this - my personal choice for World Cup Anthem.

We want another star on the shirt!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tuesday 27th April, a day of prayer and fasting

We’ve taken the unusual step of calling the church to a day of prayer and fasting on behalf of the leadership team in the church. The reason for this is that a significant number of the leaders have been struggling and suffering recently (indeed a number of people in the church have been struggling greatly).

I wouldn’t normally rush to a conclusion that we’re under some kind of spiritual attack, however there have been just such a large number of the team who have affected recently that we are made more mindful of Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (TNIV)

What does this attack look like? For some it is the recurrence of chronic and painful illness, for others it’s a sense of being overwhelmed by the pressures of life, for others it is close friends and family members who’ve been taken seriously ill. We recognise that this is the stuff of life, and that everyone experiences these things, however we are seeing such a powerful, sudden and large number of these issues amongst the leaders that we felt there is more going on here than simple coincidence. In an effort to express our current experience one member of the team turned to this scripture: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (TNIV)

So with this in mind, we are inviting people to pray for each member of the leadership team. They are:

Christina B – Deacon for Pastoral Care
Jon B – Deacon for Music, Arts and Creativity
Phil C – Deacon for World Mission and International Issues
Denise D - Deacon for Children's Ministries
Richard E – Deacon for Youth and Young Adults
Dianne H – Deacon for Fellowship and Social Activities
Phil M-S – Deacon for Nurture and Small Groups
Merylen P – Deacon for Pastoral Care
Edwin S – Deacon for Prayer
John T – Deacon for Administration

Simon P – Finance Manager
Jonathan Somerville – Senior Pastor

Some of the scriptures that have been mentioned to us include:
2 Chronicles 20:17 & Exodus 14:13, verses which speak of standing firm.

Psalm 27, a Psalm of praise for God’s deliverance.

Please pray for each team member by name, asking for God’s peace, protection, leadership, wisdom, rest, healing, wholeness.

Please pray for strength as they seek to stand firm under the enemy’s onslaught, and for their families and friends as they too need strength to simply stand.

Pray that God would use this to develop perseverance, faith and empathy for others in the church who’re facing similar situation.

Pray for others who exercise leadership in the church, housegroup leaders, Sunday School teachers, prayer teams, etc.

Pray for the wider church, just this weekend Carolyn, a senior leader in an international mission agency has been hospitalised, and the volunteer who provides much of her PA cover, Ann, was suddenly taken ill whilst visiting her, initially thought to be suffering a stroke, but now looking less like that.

Finally, pray that the work of building God’s kingdom wouldn’t be hindered. There are a number of strategic developments we’re in the middle of planning and delivering, that we hope will see many people come into a deep appreciation that Jesus is the Christ, bringing the fullness of His love and life into their lives.

Thank you for praying. If you can join us at 7am or 1 pm at the church building that would be a blessing, otherwise, reply here and let us know you’re praying with us. Grace and peace, Jonathan

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Nowrūz Mobarak

Every week I lead a class for small group of people who are recent followers of Jesus. We use some excellent material from All Nations college (SEAN Courses) that I highly recommend.

The group meets at the home of an Iranian family, who are part of our church, and this week, instead of our usual study, we celebrated together the Iranian New Year (Nowruz).

Part of this celebration is to look at the Haft Sin table, a place where seven items that begin with the letter S (Sin in Farsi) and have symbolic meaning are placed.

Here is their Haft Sin table:

On this table you can see several items, each with a symbolic meaning. For the Christian couple these are used prayerfully at the start of the year to ask God's blessing in key areas.

The traditional Haft Sīn items are:
  • sabzeh - wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish - symbolizing rebirth
  • samanu - a sweet pudding made from wheat germ - symbolizing affluence
  • senjed - the dried fruit of the oleaster tree - symbolizing love
  • sīr - garlic - symbolizing medicine
  • sīb - apples - symbolizing beauty and health
  • somaq - sumac berries - symbolizing (the color of) sunrise
  • serkeh - vinegar - symbolizing age and patience

Alongside these items (all here except the sabzeh and the samanu) are candles with a prayer for enlightenment, eggs (much the same symbolism as an Easter egg), a goldfish (which is released into freedom at the end of the 13 days of festivities), and a Bible.

National poets are read, especially the Divan of Hafez and Rumi. Rumi and Hafez are famous poets, I'm a little embarrassed to write that this was the first time I'd read them.

It was a lovely relaxed couple of hours, with us learning more in one evening about Iranian culture than we had done in the ten weeks of class preceding it. What spoke to me most was the idea of placing our prayers in a prominent place, these symbols of things to be prayed for, a constant physical reminder during that new year period. So much more interactive (and tasty) than a list on a piece of paper - so much more present the hopes and dreams for the year ahead.  I think this December/January we as a church might be exploring this a way of praying into the New Year.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

David Kerrigan reflects on Baptists and Women in ministry

The following article is reproduced with kind permission of David Kerrigan from his blog Thinking Mission. David is General Director of BMS World Mission, and I reproduce this as I consider it an excellent statement and reflection from a Baptist leader.

the limits of dissent

Indian woman - DK[A personal view - not an official account - of one aspect of Baptist Union Council this week.]

I returned from BU Council on Wednesday, feeling that this had been three days well spent. Recent Councils have been excellent in grappling with substantial issues in ways that restore your confidence in the principle of the gathered community discerning the mind of Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I commented on this in relation to last November’s Council here.

These last three days have had a major focus on “Women in Leadership among the churches of the Baptist Union of Great Britain”. This wasn’t a debate about whether women can exercise ministerial leadership. That was established back in the 1920s and affirmed many times since. Nonetheless we were ably led by both women and men into an understanding of some of the attitudes women encounter when they explore a leadership calling, not least to pastoral ministry itself. And we engaged with a wise, theological understanding of Paul’s overarching ‘grand vision’ as exemplified by Galatians 3:28 as well as his need to attend to immediate realities occasioned, for instance, by hitherto uneducated women speaking up in worshipping communities.

As you would expect, there were a range of views expressed, though with the vast majority supportive of the Union’s long-held support for women in leadership in all roles.

But it wasn’t theological pressure that brought this issue to Council but the continuing discrimination experienced by women exploring or undertaking leadership roles, especially as ministers. And so, fittingly, it was the pain of women’s experiences brought into the open by their story-telling that shaped the character of Council’s listening. Their stories at times made me ashamed to be a man knowing that men in our churches could be so offensive, so hurtful and at times so misogynistic.

And so Council, it seemed to me, was clearly of a mind to say enough is enough. Things must change. And that is a challenge to all of us, not least those of us in denominational leadership.

But then comes the question of how we handle those who dissent, some out of biblical conviction, others out of ignorance, some out of prejudice.

Whilst Baptists would never wish to stifle dissent, nor act punitively towards those who do so, there was a courageous recognition that whilst there is a place for conscientious dissent, this must never, ever occasion the kind of hurts that were recounted this week. Further,prejudice masquerading as dissent could no longer be tolerated.

And how is prejudice to be distinguished from principled dissent? Blind prejudice is when someone says to a woman in ministerial training that she shouldn’t expect a salary because her husband has a good job. Blind prejudice is when women have to tolerate comments about their shape, their weight or parts of their body. Blind prejudice is when a woman is told that ‘I hope you’ll never preach while menstruating’. And there were many other stories besides.

There was a tacit understanding that as a Baptist people we have made our position clear. Our forebears believed they had discerned the mind of Christ on this matter many years ago (at a time when women’s justice was hardly a popular cause). That conviction has been reaffirmed over the years and now again in March 2010. There should be no barriers to women exercising leadership in our churches.

It follows therefore that even those who dissent on grounds of biblical conviction have to understand that they do so over and against the conviction of the gathered community. Of course, there are examples in history where the majority have been wrong, and this mantra will be trotted out. But this is significantly deeper than ‘a mere majority vote.’ This is men and women from our Baptist family, over many generations, set apart for a purpose, devoting themselves to listening, praying and discerning, and together we have again and again arrived at the same position.

Enough really is enough therefore.

Those who dissent on biblical grounds must understand that this is not the position of the family of which they are a part.

And anyone exhibiting the kind of ‘blind prejudice’ illustrated above is behaving in a way that, let it be understood, is completely unacceptable among us.

No woman within our Baptist family, called and gifted for leadership, should have that calling stifled.

David Kerrigan

Monday, March 15, 2010

Book Review; Building a Multi-Ethnic Church by Linbert Spencer

Following recent European election wins for the BNP, the mini-pogrom against Romanian immigrants in Northern Ireland last year, and concerns about immigration issues and the increased appearance of the BNP this comes as a timely read.

This book is accessible and comprehensive. Beginning with a biblical reflection on diversity in the Church, Spencer argues a strongly biblical and missiological case in favour of multi-ethnic congregations. He then very helpfully goes on to give an analysis of the current situation, and the patterns of migration that have led to where we are now. Something very valuable in dealing with and defining both a distinctively Christian, and positively truthful response to many of the claims and lies made around this subject.

This is also a very practical book, with a section on terminology that will be helpful to many, and with chapters offering valuable advice on developing diverse memberships, and planning mission in multi-ethnic contexts. From here in Wolverhampton it's particularly useful reading, and ought to lead to some ways of doing church and engaging in mission conversations that lead to a greater level of diversity in our churches, rather than what we have now, which is a few truly diverse churches amongst a far greater number of churches that have primarily got just one ethnic group in attendance.

World mission is now possible in our own towns and cities, this book is a helpful tool in making the most of those opportunities.

Published by SPCK

ISBN: 978-0-281-05905-8

Friday, March 05, 2010

Bible for Spiritual Seekers

John Drane (over on 2churchmice's blog) has linked to this excellent online resource. It's called "Awaken the Spirit" and is being released over a period of time. It's a great way of exploring and entering into the scriptures, and well worth a look.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Retreating or conferring?

I'm not sure which it is I'm meant to be doing, so I'll just do both...

I’m currently staying at Hayes Conference Centre, Swanwick and attending the Heart of England Baptist Association’s (HEBA) annual Ministers’ conference.

Some things have changed since I was last here, such as the breakfast (which used to be a highly unsatisfactory affair) which has improved tremendously, as has all the food. It’s such a shame I’m on a diet! The other thing that has changed is the layout, it’s been modernised in the downstairs of the main hose, and looks all the better for it.

So, what does one do at a Ministers’ Conference? Well, I arrived yesterday evening (after conducting the funeral service of our oldest member, may she rest in peace and rise in glory) just in time to hear Elaine Storkey speaking on 1 Peter. She was good, as always, mixing both the theological study and the very practical application, something she continued this morning in our worship and teaching time. I also listened to Mike Coley share about the work of BCUIM, the industrial mission agency in the Black Country. He spoke well, sharing both his heart and his theology of industrial chaplaincy. Alongside these formal sessions (of which there are several more to come) there is what I guess is just as fruitful an activity, networking and catching up. I’ve been having some inspired conversations about shared mission, networking leaders of larger churches, the way HEBA supports missions, new activities all across the HEBA patch, what God’s been up to in churches, communities and individuals.

Will it change anything, my being here? Well yes, I think it will, and I think new mission opportunities, and a fresh sense of the scale of work to which I / We are called to will shape some of what lies ahead for us in the years to come.