Friday, May 30, 2008


Our faith is increased when we hear a testimony.

This You Tube video gives an unusual but, I suggest, effective example of giving testimonies.

Its one of those videos that, even on dial up, just a little bit of it downloaded will give you the idea of the method used!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Celebrating Lay Leadership of Liturgy

In just over a week's time I have to give a workshop on the title of this post. I think an important question to guide my preparation is 'What can we do to ensure there is something to celebrate?' The answer involves developing, nurturing, training, honouring, and trusting lay leaders of our worship. My surprise in the church as I move around parishes is how little there seems to be to celebrate. I think there are less lay leaders of worship than there used to be (say) 10 years ago. Yet there is something to celebrate because the lay leaders I sit under are doing a great job.

My mind is often exercised by the question why there are less leaders. There are some answers around the busyness of people, the difficulty of getting people to commit to certain responsible tasks, let alone to sign up to extensive training. But I do wonder if a key for transforming the situation is a renewed vision among clergy for developing lay leadership.

Will keep you posted.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Text and sub-text

Many messages, perhaps every message consists of more than one message. There is the message (text) and an associated message (sub-text). A simple example could be a child saying, 'Mummy, I want a hug' with the sub-text being 'Its windy outside and I feel a little bit frightened.' A more complex example could be a TV programme of the mid-evening variety, say set in a hospital or family business, which sets out to explore an issue, say, abortion (text) but the sub-text is, say, the acceptability of abortion or the right of a woman to choose without restraint of moral or family concerns.

When we preach its worth thinking about the sub-texts of our messages. Both thinking about sub-text(s) we intend to be communicated and which are good and holy and worthy things to say, and about sub-text(s) we do not actually want to communicate.

We might set out to preach about God's expectation that Christians forgive each other. Along the way we provide illustrations which encourage our hearers to forgive one another with the (good and holy and worthy) sub-text being the message that a forgiving community is likely to be an attractive community for the gospel as people see how we love one another. But we might also take care because we realise that if we tell story X we will be giving a reasonably obvious sub-text about situation Y where it is well known to the congregation that some unfinished relational business needs to be conducted!

Sometimes we might bring the sub-text right out into the open. (Perhaps it is no longer a sub-text after that)! Our church might be enmeshed in a large building project which is a little bit controversial. We are going to preach on Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem. So right at the beginning we acknowledge the building project, acknowledge the differences of opinion, and then launch into Nehemiah. In this kind of case, not to mention the building project and its controversy could be to make members of the congregation feel that they are being subtley got at - that the message we were really bringing was not about Nehemiah but about the situation at our church. The problem with the sub-text then is it is likely to get people's backs up and they will fume way at the sub-text while the text - the message about Nehemiah sails over their heads!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Great construction

Yesterday I participated in a family service in an Anglican church ... do not try to guess where (unless you were actually at the service)!

Participated is a good word as the congregation not only sang songs and shared in communion but also enacted certain parts of a dramatic reading of the stilling of the storm, offered contributions to the intercessions, and exchanged the peace together.

All in all it was one of the loveliest and best constructed services I have been to for a long time. It had a theme and that theme informed each part of the service (with links being made, e.g. to a particular choice of song, being well explained).

It was a family service and I expect such services to (a) be concise to the hour (it was), and (b) be crisp in communication of message(s) (it was, with the sermon being particularly crisp and to the point).

And there was an excellent morning tea to follow - proper cakes and thick sandwiches!

Oh, and another point: the sound system worked well. How many services suffer from poor sound?! (Incidentally, its nearly always to do with the person responsible for the sound and not with the equipment).

The church was warm too.