Mens Retreat.. – Reflections

A month or so ago 25 of us travelled across to Ilam hall for our first mens weekend. Though that’s a bit of a misnomer it was basically an overnighter. I don’t think that any of us new how it would go, and we approached it with varying degrees of enthusiasm and trepidation. As the convener I was aware of different expectations among those coming away. For some of us, this was a chance to get away from the stresses of work, the busyness of family life and enjoy some unhurried time in the countryside in the company of friends from church. For others it was a chance to do serious business with God. To take the time to think and pray through some major life choices.

For me?  Well I hoped it would ‘go well’. I hoped that we would all gell together, and I hoped that we’d get the balance right – friendship and camaraderie, iron sharpening iron, prayer and discussion, food for the mind, body and spirit.

As it happened my expectations were succeeded. Richard our guest speaker was fantastic in leading us through the theme of the Kingdom of God in Jesus teaching. For those who want to know what he had to say his Powerpoint presentations can be downloaded from here. One thing that will stay with all of was the refrain which ran though all his talks:

‘The main thing, is to keep the main thing the main thing’

How we do that is the challenge for each of us, and a challenge for St Giles corporately. A start will be to explore what exactly the main thing is / was in Jesus’ teaching and what that looks like in West Bridgford today.

A second reflection? It is good to get together and talk about God in an unhurried setting. Why don’t we do that more in our churches?

As a vicar I have an almost continual sense that we are falling short in our life of faith together – sorry if that sounds neurotic I am really quite well balanced. We talk about so much in brief snatches together – buildings, services, family life, events, publications – all grabbed in a few minutes over coffee, or in a quick phone call. Yet the One Who Really Matters scarcely gets a look in except for those times when we meet specially to talk about him – services and homegroups – and then the conversation often feels rushed. There have been a few times when it has been different. Times of retreat like the weekend at Ilam Hall, and times of communal study and discussion when training for the ministry at theological college. How do we create the space needed for those conversations in our busy church life? That’s the key challenge the retreat left me pondering.

The Next Vicar

Interesting question from my 4 year old daughter today.

“Daddy, when you’ve died, and mummy has died, and we have all died. And we are all dead and buried in the graveyard, who will be the next vicar?”

Good to know she has the well being of the church at heart.

To Blog or Not to Blog…

I’ve been thinking for a while whether or not to begin a blog associated with St Giles. Before moving to West Bridgford I enjoyed writing a personal blog – ‘Anselmic’s place‘ – strange name I know, there is a story behind it, visit the blog. Moving back to the UK it seemed naturally to leave that blog behind. Now that I’ve been in the UK for a year the urge to blog again has taken root. But being a blogging vicar linked to the church website there are a few issues to consider.

In the blue corner are the arguments against:

Chiefly – is there not something essentially egotistical in the whole notion of blogging? i.e. publishing your own thoughts for the benefit of the wider world. Doesn’t this conflict with the notion of self effacing Christian leadership and ministry.

Secondly – What about the whole personal / private distinction. Is it appropriate for a vicar to air his private views in a public forum such as blog.

Thirdly – have I got the time to make this worthwhile?

Then there are the arguments for:

Blogging is an effective means of communication. And, a big part of contemporary Christian ministry is about communication. Preachers and pastors, ministers and vicars spend a lot of time and effort thinking, reading, praying and preparing, talks, sermons, messages of one kind or another. Why not in the 21st Century use the medium of blogging?

Blogging can be interactive. There is opportunity for debate and interaction though the appropriate use of comments, and this interactive element is absent from much contemporary preaching and teaching.

Thirdly, and for me the clincher was an argument I came across here at the John Pipers Desiring God website (weblibrary would be a better description). Blogging makes you think, and Christian leaders need to think more carefully than they often do. I’ll quote from the article in question –

If you’re a pastor, you probably already know the value writing has for thinking. Through writing, you delve into new ideas and new insights. If you strive to write well, you will at the same time be striving to think well.

So I’m convinced. And here’s the blog, with a few ground rules

  1. This is very much a personal blog. It doesn’t represent the views of anyone other than me and I reserve the right to change my mind!
  2. Comments, critiques, challenges are welcome but will be moderated.
  3. This is a place for news and views, but pastoral issues pertinent to St Giles will not be discussed
  4. I’ll post regularly as I’m able…
  5. It’s go to be fun!