Friday, 18 June 2010

Churches WORKING Together in Coulsdon

When churches of different denominations and traditions come together in an ecumenical group it can result, very often, in a self-congratulatory smugness or just endless talk,talk, talk. Here in Coulsdon, though, it's different (said he, trying not to sound smug!). This year we have been thinking about how we can do mission that is possible and practical - mission that one church alone couldn't do, but churches together could. And so we are going to be involved with the Croydon Churches Floating Shelter next winter, and run a series of events to mark The Year of the Bible.

The Floating Shelter is run by a number of churches round Croydon, to provide shelter for homeless people during the winter. Each night a different church in the Borough is open, and teams of volunteers help set up, provide food, talk to the guests, clear up and wash bedding. It's usually more than one church alone can do, so Churches Together is an ideal group to run this. For us in Coulsdon, it's a way that the churches can practically show the care and compassion of God.

In addition, we have been planning how to mark next year as The Year of the Bible - the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Authorized Version (The King James Version) of the bible. Working together, we have planned a series of events that will be educational and fun. Lectures, interactive learning for adults and children in churches and schools, a quiz night and a 'Travelling Bible Readathon' during which we will read the entire bible in 5 days. One of our local ministers will be writing a short play about the Hampton Court Conference that oversaw the publication of the AV bible.

I get most excited when I see the church doing what it's here for: co-operating with God in mission by being and telling the Good News.

Friday, 11 June 2010

The discourteous Dean of Southwark

The Dean of Southwark Cathedral, Colin Slee, has been described as 'provocative and discourteous to the Archbishop of Canterbury' by The Church of England Evangelical Council. This is because of his latest attempt to use his position as Dean to undermine the Anglican Communion's finely balanced position on human sexuality, and, in particular, the ordination of gay bishops. The Dean has invited the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church of the USA, Catherine Jefferts Schori, to preach and preside at a eucharist in the cathedral on Sunday. Dr Jefferts Schori ordained a practising lesbian as a bishop in the ECUSA last month, an action which has put that church effectively outside the Anglican Communion. The rest of the Anglican Communion has agreed a moratorium on such ordinations, but ECUSA seems to think itself above the rest.

Colin Slee is no stranger to controversy. When the proposed appointment of the former Canon, Jeffrey John, as Bishop of Reading was reversed Colin Slee accused those who opposed the appointment - a large number of the clergy of Oxford Diocese, of which I was one - of being 'the evangelical Taliban'. He was forced by the Bishop of Southwark to apologise.

What annoys me is not that another priest in the diocese takes a different view to that which I take, but that the Dean can use our diocesan cathedral to promote whatever hobby-horse he may like. What a shame that the church which should be a focus of unity for the diocese is being highjacked for this deliberately provocative invitation. No doubt it will attract the media, and any who disagree will be portrayed in similarly negative terms to the Taliban.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Spare a prayer for those not interested

My thanks must go to the Bishop of Croydon for including the small percentage of those of us who will be quite relieved to see England go out in the first round of the World Cup. I have never shared the national obsession with football, even though I can see that it can bring a very temporary sense of unity to the country. Perhaps our performance in the Eurovision Song Contest will prepare us for a similar fate in South Africa.

Call me a sad 'cultureholic' but I am with Stephen Fry whose recent wonderful and personal documentary about Wagner on BBC 4 revealed his extasies about being in Bayreuth - the home of the Wagner Festival - and his visible excitement at even touching the door handle into the Festspielhaus. (Echoes of Psalm 84: 'I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than dwell in the tents of the wicked.') Thank the Lord that BBC 4 offers football-phobes a place of sanctuary over the next few weeks.

Does anyone else share my view?

A prayer for those simply not interested

Lord, as all around are gripped with World Cup fever,
bless us with understanding,
strengthen us with patience
and grant us the gift of sympathy if needed.