Sunday, 27 May 2018

Magazine Article for June 2018

Dear Friends,

From time to time I get asked what the different seasonal colours use in church and on the vestments of clergy mean. It’s like so many things in church life. We take it for granted that things that are familiar for us are obvious to everyone, when in fact they’re asking what is going on and why.

Every now and then, it’s a good exercise to think about what church must be like for someone who has no previous knowledge or experience of it. For example, at some of our baptism preparation sessions, I show a short Youtube clip of the old Cadbury’s Smash advert with the plastic aliens laughing at the primitive earth people peeling and cooking potatoes.

Then I pose these questions: What would the aliens make of a baptism, and how might we explain baptism to them? (Best answers on a postcard to…)

You might prefer to think about some of the technical churchy language some of us can find ourselves using. For example, can we all identify an aumbry, a ciborium, a chasuble, or even a vestibule? Some church people, when talking about a communion service refer to the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei, so we’re speaking Latin even though our services are in English. And then we refer to the Eucharist, which contains the Kyrie Eleison, and all of a sudden we’re talking in Greek. No wonder newcomers can be confused.

In the middle of June, we’re being asked nationally in the Church of England to regard June 17th as a Sunday to invite people to come to a church service. That’s great – and I hope you do. But moments like that are a reminder to us all that to be truly welcoming to newcomers, we need to go further than just a friendly smile at the door. We also need to be befrienders, interpreters, and go the extra mile to ensure that people are enabled to participate as freely and as fully as possible in every aspect of our church’s life. Otherwise if we confuse people with words like legilium*, they might be making their escape through the narthex**, never to return to share in our koinonia***.

With all good wishes


* a legilium is a folding lectern or bookstand, often used by priests for the first part of a service, before being packed away

** the narthex of a church is a lobby area at the west end of a church building.

*** koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship, sharing or participation.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Magazine Article for May 2018

Dear Friends,

There are lots of things that are difficult about prayer. We struggle over finding time, finding words, finding motivation, or even wondering whether anyone is really listening. And I know from many conversations over the years that people often give up altogether, rather than have a try and feel they have failed. And a result, there is always a lurking sense of guilt about it.

In fact, we all struggle with prayer (yes – even clergy!) and the life stories of many of the great saints include their wrestling with precisely this issue. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources and help that are available for praying. There are lots of different ways to find a way into prayer again. The traditional methods of using silence or a prayer book will suit some, while others may prefer to be more creative and pray as they go for a walk, or paint, or do something else spontaneous or visual. You can even pray with technology, using websites or podcasts.

However, we’re all being challenged by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to use the period from Ascension Day to Pentecost (10-20 May) to set aside some time to pray as part of their “Thy Kingdom Come” initiative. The focus is to pray for refreshing of God’s Holy Spirit as we approach Pentecost Sunday, and to pray for others to come to faith, and to reflect on how we might be part of helping someone to do that.

Here at MPC, we’re going to be opening church every morning at 9am for an hour, from 10-20 May, so that people can use the building to pray, and there will be a short (15 mins) form of morning prayer said every day at 9-30am, which everyone is welcome to join in. It’s only a small contribution in some ways, but the mystery about prayer is that sometimes the simplest and briefest of prayers can make all the difference in the world. Do join us.