Monday, June 29, 2009

Start preachers young

I think I was about 18 when I first preached a sermon. Spasmodically through the years that followed I was invited to preach - a particular hat-tip to three vicars through those years, Paul Hammonds, Derek Eaton, and John Meadowcroft, who made those opportunities available. Then I was ordained and opportunities came more frequently. If today I have any thing to offer through preaching it has been through experience, and reflective learning on it. I am very glad for an early start.

Yesterday I was at two different services and, as it happened, at each service a young person preached. Indeed for one of the young men it was his first sermon ever! Both preached well and both should be given many opportunities to preach again. The future of the church depends on many things - we rightly emphasise good leadership, great liturgy, prayer power, vision, training, ability to adapt to changing circumstances and the like. But it will not be a better future than the present if there is not good preaching - inspiring, generative, evangelistic, didactic preaching that brings the whole counsel of the Word of God written to God's church.

So, personally, but I hope for you also, it's a matter of great encouragement to hear people considerably younger than myself preach with present ability and future potential!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Especially for Kiwi Anglicans

Our church has released a new set of liturgical resources, providing collects, sentences and readings which line up with the three year RCL cycle.

Allegedly they "replace" certain pages in our Prayer Book, but I don't know about that as these pages have not been formally approved by General Synod and diocesan synods. (The argument that they simply reorganize resources already approved does not wash with me. Liturgical formularies are about the rubrics, the options (and, in this case of providing just one collect per Sunday, the non-options), as much as about the content of prayers).

Anyway, as a free offering to the life of our church, these resources which have been circulated by dioceses (some or all? not sure) are available online:

For Feast Days

For Sundays

For good collects for each Sunday of the year (as well as for feast days), I encourage you to visit Liturgy weekly.

If you have any comments to make by way of evaluation of the collects in the material I have posted to the above links, please let me know.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Admirer or follower?

Last Sunday I was privileged to hear my bishop, Richard Ellena, preach. His sermon is worth a note because it was not only very good but also because it provided a great example for all aspiring preachers. I won't go into detail because he may yet preach the sermon in your parish!

But the stand out modelling feature of the sermon was the simple, straightforward, memorable theme he preached to - a theme he kept coming back to, and which was repeated at the foot of every Power Point slide he showed.

His theme was a challenge to every person present, indeed a challenge to himself as preacher. It went to the heart of being a Christian, to what it means to live as a Christian. It was not an abstract, let alone abstruse lesson in doctrinal theology!

Admirer or Follower?

You can just about imagine the points he made! Many people admire Jesus, few actually follow him. In what category do we fall?

I will stop there. He had some great real life illustrations to reinforce the message.

A simple theme. A challenging question. From that a great sermon was constructed!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Best thing since sliced bread

There are quite a few candidates for the award for the best thing since sliced bread but my current nomination is Broadband+YouTube. Below I posted about a lovely video from a church in Peterborough, England. Here are a few more, all YouTube but found (save one) via a wonderful blog called BabyBlueOnline which is a mix of commentary/news on things Anglican and music videos, especially featuring Bob Dylan. I like a bit of Dylan myself, but BabyBlue shares my taste in inspiring contemporary Christian music, and, hey, Stravinsky's amazing too. I managed to source the Gregorian chant by myself :)

But why post these here? Three thoughts:
(i) how would church work with a laptop, projector and broadband connection? No need to fish round with those CDs, just YouTube up the next song! Whoops. Maybe we could replace the preacher also!

(ii) music has incredible power, especially when performed live and when performed to the highest standards. How do we ensure great music in each and every church?

(iii) music has amazing range: Stravinsky and Dylan, Hillsong and Gregorian chant are incredibly different and yet united in being music ... all speak to the heart, soul and mind - the body too as we instinctively tap our feet and clap our hands! The best of worship in a service will be a speaking to the heart, soul, mind and body. In what ways can music extend the range of diversity in our services while helping to unite us?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This is worth a watch

I guess my personal bugbear about great large musically dominated churches is not that they are great large musically dominated churches. At the top of their game they are fantastic and, surely, closer to the great worship amphitheatre of heaven than downbeat Anglicans mumbling into our prayer-books. No, it's that attempting to imitate such services in different contexts, can be, well, less than inspiring. (PS For those at worship with me on Sunday 14th June: both services I attended were lovely, inspiring, 'worth coming back to next week' services).

But it's good to be reminded of the real thing - the following YouTube is worth watching/listening to the service AND to Chris Moyles' commentary over the top of it: choice! (H/T to Re-vis.e Ref-form)

Liturgy and Dynamic Anglicanism

This week a bit more content than usual, if you go to this PDF form of a session in yesterday's Post Ordination Ministry Training:

I am calling it, Liturgy and Dynamic Anglicanism.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Turning the liturgical tide?

Over on Anglican Down Under I have posted a question about growing churches using the liturgy:

"do we have any parishes which are (a) growing numerically, and/or (b) decreasing the average age of Sunday worshippers present at services by faithfully following one of the main eucharistic services in our prayer book (while offering creativity in music, preaching, children's talks etc in the course of this faithful following of the rubrics and content of the liturgy)?"

So far no answers in the positive!

But here on this site it is worth thinking a little about using the liturgies from the Red Prayer Book (NZPB): if a parish were to use page 404 at its 10.00 am Sunday service and expect to see the service growing and/or lowering its average age of Sunday worshippers, how might this happen?

What answer would you give?

I suspect the answer might have to differ depending on the starting point. For example, from an existing but somewhat moribund page 404 10.00 am service, one could work on aspects of the service. As already hinted above, music and children's talks are key to transformation. Both tackle the culture of the service and therefore affect the climate of expectation about the service. One change could be quite simple, 'There's nothing in the service for my child' to 'Good, there is something for my child. She really looks forward to the children's talk each week.' There is a lot more which can be worked on: Sunday School, creche, fellowship before and after the service, the way the intercessions are led, the length, style, and content of the sermon, and so on.

With respect to the 'age profile' of the service I would especially work on the age profile of the upfront leaders and contributors to the service. From the front an expectation emerges about who is most welcome at the service. (Note that 'work on the age profile' does not mean making any one age group of contributors redundant; but it does mean pro-actively seeking out representatives from missing generations).

But what if the current service is somewhat liturgically removed from page 404? Would there be any point in changing such a service by conforming it to page 404? Well, it would be a hiding to nothing if the current service fills the church and the music in it lifts the rafters. But the possibility of change is manifesting itself in some parish churches where the church is far from full, the age profile is creeping upwards (again!), and the singing is somewhat desultory. But were change embarked on, it would require the best possible practice of the (so-called) change process. Slow evolution might be better than revolution. I would particularly work on the music, the children's talk, and the sermon.

And, in any situation, I would watch the length of the service like a hawke. Our generations, young and old, are busy (rightly or wrongly). We know when the service is meant to start. It is very helpful knowing when it is going to end!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

If you read anything in 2009, please read this

The unity of the church is based solely on the common truth we share together. But what is the common truth we share (in particular, as Anglican Christians)? John Richardson has posted something extremely important (IMHO). This is it's beginning:

"Recently I spent an hour looking at (as it happens) the Ship of Fools discussion forums —but the same would be true of numerous Protestant blogs and websites —and I have come to the conclusion that what we see represented there is not Christianity, in the strict sense, at all. Rather, what Cardinal Newman said in the 19th century is undoubtedly true of many modern believers who think of themselves as Christian:

“Protestants, generally speaking, have not faith, in the primitive meaning of that word ...”

The problem is, we do not see ‘faith’ as trusting in a received tradition passed on to us through others, as it originally was. Instead, ‘faith’ has come to mean a completely individualistic, ‘pick and mix’, self-made religion. It is ‘my faith’, not ‘the Church’s faith’, around which I organize my life. Pretending to be disciples —learners —of Christ, we have enthroned ourselves as the final aribiters of what is true.

The result is chaos, at the individual and corporate level. The present-day struggles of Anglicanism are simply the logical outcome of allowing everyone, doctrinally, to do ‘what is right in his or her own eyes’."

Please read the whole post.