Friday, 29 July 2011

on the edge?

For many years I have lived on the edge of towns or villages and it has suited me well. I remember, many, many years ago doing an 'Introduction to Counselling' course with about twenty others and one of our exercises was to stand in a hall where we felt comfortable. My friend stood at the front facing the rest of us - well, she was the minister! while I stood towards the back, at the edge, near a door - for a quick escape!
And now we are living in the middle of an estate; we tried to buy a house on the edge, but it was this house, bang in the middle that we eventually bought, and in church I'm the one out the front facing everyone else!
This week has been quite hectic with a 'Village Women' meeting, a 'Coffee Morning' lunch and a 'Book Club' get together and at those gatherings, I'm still very happy to be sitting at the edge, listening to the conversations. It is the first time that I have attended so many social events and I considered it to be part of my role as minister to go and hopefully break down some of the barriers to church going. When the 'Coffee Morning' goes out to lunch in the local pub or hotel, I am asked to say grace and always give thanks for the fact that someone else is going to do the washing up! Hopefully folk will realise that church too, is relevant to their lives, and far from being dull and dreary is quite good fun with lots of laughs.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

small churches

We had our annual church meeting last Saturday morning; our only church meeting in the year. It was like that when I became the minister and I see no reason to change it. The meeting started with coffee and home-made biscuits and lasted just over the hour! such a change from churches I have been part of in the past where the monthly meeting would go on far past my bedtime!
Questions were asked about the donation to the local 'Churches Together' in our local town which is six miles away - we really feel out of it and don't seem to have much in common with the larger in-town churches.
Meanwhile, we are part of a Rural Churches Group and hold joint services and celebrations and swap pulpits throughout the year.
Each Tuesday evening one very small (numerically) chapel is hosting the Baptist Union six week course for small churches. We start with tea and coffee with home-made cakes! and so far (just two weeks in) it has been an excellent opportunity to recognise the benefits of being a small church as well as trying to see the needs of the locality.
Small churches in a town can be very different to those in rural areas. The little chapel last night is in farm land where the local population has shrunk to about 10% of what it was a hundred years ago - farming then was labour intensive.
There may not be the people around locally who have needs which the chapel can try to fulfill but holding the course stimulates those from the other chapels who may be able to help folk in their villages.
I believe that God brings together certain people at certain times to do certain jobs. And we have to be open ready for change and upheaval - not easy but I also believe that God gives us everything we need to carry out his work.

Monday, 18 July 2011

not what was expected

I was recently treated to a new bike with much lower gears to enable me to cycle up hills instead of getting off. A cycle rack was purchased and off we went on holiday with bikes.
We had planned a few days in the Lakes so that we could visit our friend who has the gift of healing by gentle touch. In March, my session with her brought a wonderful stillness to my body so I was hoping that several sessions would make a lasting improvement.
On our first morning, we got on our bikes but I managed to throw myself off after only 20 minutes and landed on my knee - so in my three sessions with Gretchen she concentrated on my knee and other bits of my body that had been shaken.

We went to North Wales for the second half of our holidays and had booked into a farm. Unfortunately, the web-site made no mention of the fact that they also ran boarding kennels and we were greeted by barking dogs and we like a quiet life! And as they also had dogs in the house we were also greeted by the smell of dogs as we entered and I started wheezing. We made a hasty exit and then started to look for other accommodation and ended up in a seaside hotel.
We had never had a seaside holiday before having always headed for the hills, but we enjoyed the coastal walk, a cycle ride, fish and chips on the beach, eating ice creams and 'people watching' from the rocks.
The weather was sunny which had not been forecast and we enjoyed our unexpected holiday.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

new members

Of the four ladies who play the organ, only one is a member. However, last month our '1st Sunday in the month' organist, who first came to the chapel as a babe in arms asked to become a member. She said that she had missed out as a teenager as she was so shy and hated being the centre of attraction so had never been baptised. 
Although when I was on the Baptist Union Council, I could see no reason why anyone wanting to become a member should not be baptised first, I now realise that there are many reason why some people would love to become members without baptism first.
I checked the chapel's deeds and it seems that we are an open membership even though a hundred years ago there was a split over this, with many just assuming that we were a closed membership.
I then approached another shy lady who moved into the area a year ago and asked her if she would like to become a member. She too, thought that she would have to be baptised first, and was delighted to have been asked.
The following morning at our deacon's meeting they were delighted to hear that we would be having two new members. We then discussed the fact that it would be good to have some new deacons and one name kept coming up but it was some time before someone realised that she was not a member although she had been coming to Chapel for nearly thirty years, was a Sunday School teacher and at one time had run the youth club. So G. was duly asked if she too would like to become a member.
Having already prepared the sermon, I decided to omit it and instead encouraged the three ladies to say a little about themselves. All three said how nervous and scared they were but gave brilliant testimonies of their gentle, steady walk with God. None had had an overwhelming conversion experience but their faiths had grown over the years. Favourite hymns were sung and relevant Bible passages were read, concluding with communion and carried over into coffee and biscuits.
Feedback says that it was a wonderful service especially as two of the ladies have been worshipping here far longer than most of the other members!