Blogroll: Sussex Parson
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 6 posts from the blog 'Sussex Parson.'
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The Bible a weird and fascinating book: the ascension and Pentecost coming and a PCC / synod meeting to sort out a technical admin issue?
Narrative and normative: this is not just a dusty history lesson, but what are we to learn from it exactly?
It was a church that obeyed Jesus and waited
It was an apostolic church – but of course it wasn’t just the apostles
It was a church that joined constantly together to pray
It was a church that made good decisions together:
It was a church that read the Bible in a striking way as significant and authoritative for its life and all about Jesus
It was a church which trusted in the sovereign plans of God
It was a church that intended to provide convincing testimony to the ministry, ascension and resurrection of Jesus
It was a church that saw itself as the New IsraelMarc Lloyd
My family and I have served three rural Anglican churches for almost the last nine years. Like all of life, there have been ups and downs. There are challenges and encouragements. The views are very lovely. There are only 2000 people on the whole patch. Our more evangelical church gets maybe 50 on a good Sunday. The others 20 each, allowing for Pastor Inflation!
It has been wonderful to see a number of people come to Christ for the first time. And some people come alive in their faith and start serving. And people become real leaders. The ministries of the church have grown significantly. Toddlers and After School Club have been full. There is a new youth group and mum’s bible study and community choir and art group and people are reading the Bible together and….
But we have not seen the revival, for which we still pray! Things are small and fragile. Everyone who was here when we got here is now almost ten years older and 80 is different from 70. I am still good for the age demographic! My wife remains the youngest committed adult in one of our churches and my kids are the sometimes the only ones on a Sunday. In fact, if I did the graphs, I doubt I could even say that we have grown by 10% year on year. We expect the gospel to grow and the Word of God to bare fruit but the results really are down to God. It is really hard to persuade mature people that they should revolutionise their whole lives for the sake of the Biblical Jesus who, let’s face it, has some plausibility issues to your average secular Brit. With deaths and people moving away, I have decided that humanly speaking one is doing well if the congregation size more or less holds up, though we are not satisfied with that.
Three keen Bible believing families would make a huge difference. But I have resigned myself to the fact that the cavalry is probably not coming!
God calls us to love these people and to faithfully serve them and with them to seek to hold out the word of life to others. You must die to the what ifs and the lust for a bigger glitzier platform or a great name. The Senior Pastor for Vision and Preaching at 1st Mega Church has his own issues and challenges. Biblical ministry is not easy anywhere. And even if you went somewhere else you would take yourself and all your baggage with you!
What are some things I would say to my younger self (or indeed myself today still)? There are so many things but let me restrict myself to three paragraphs:
· Being the Senior Pastor and the only professional minister will feel and be very different from your time as Assistant Minister and there’ll be so much to learn. People might cc you on almost every email. You will feel responsible for everything from finance, buildings, safeguarding, to the quality of the coffee and the fliers. You can’t do it all. You’re not the Messiah. And what happens in the church (either good or bad) does not affect that you are a much-loved child of your heavenly Father.
· You should find some way to daily deliberately delight in Jesus which works for you. Maybe what is sometimes called The Quiet Time! That really is key. And it is best for your people and work as well as your own soul. What your flock needs is not necessarily a better prepared sermon or a swifter response to its correspondence but a better prepared Pastor who is swift to pray. Guard your heart above all things. And seek out whatever help with that you need. SORT IT OUT!
· Keep the main things the main things. Prayer. Jesus. The Bible. Dependence on the Spirit. People. Be bold in your evangelism and pastoral care and training in ministry. Who knows? Maybe the Brigadier would like to meet up with the spotty young Rector and read the Bible. And if he laughs and says “no” and dines out on what a silly sausage you are, that would be okay too! Jesus faced rather worse. It would be a privilege to share in a little of the scorn and defeat of the Crucified King. Marc Lloyd
From The Rectory
The BBC reported today:
Prescription drug dependency worrying - health chiefs
Hundreds of thousands of people in England are getting hooked on prescription drugs, health chiefs fear.
A Public Health England review looked at the use of strong painkillers, antidepressants and sleeping tablets - used by a quarter of adults every year.
It found that at the end of March 2018 half of people using these drugs had been on them for at least 12 months.
Officials said long-term use on such a scale could not be justified and was a sign of patients becoming dependent.
It is indeed worrying. But it is also extremely complicated.
Certainly doctors and patients should be more careful. An opioid drug, for example, will likely be addictive and indeed ineffective after time. Higher and higher doses may be given. Users may be distracted, anxious or dulled. There are all sorts of possible risks and side-effects. In the States, even more than in the UK, prescription drugs are very often a gateway to illegal ones. Detox may be needed and harm can be long lasting.
Depression, insomnia and pain are all chemical because that is what we are at one level. We are biological machines. But the answers to these “conditions” are not necessarily pills – or not pills alone. Medication can have a very important place but it often functions by stamping rather bluntly on a symptom, often with collateral damage, rather than addressing any other underlying problems. The place of pills can be as a safety mechanism to give us temporary space to explore other issues. For example, if we have terrible hip pain, we might take pain medication until we have recovered from our hip replacement surgery. Things might not be so different with our mental health.
We need to also think about how we think and feel. For example, diet, exercise and various social activities (like joining a choir or getting a dog) can make a great difference to some depression or lowness of mood. Talking treatments can work well for some issues and should be more readily available.
We are more than our brains. We are embodied minds in community. And we are made for relationship with others and with our Maker.
Believers may suffer from all the problems which we have mentioned and more. But, other things being equal, they do have one of the basic building blocks of mental health in place: God!
God does not promise his people good health or good mental health. But right thinking involves relating rightly to God. To do so is to align ourselves with reality and is the best way to live in God’s world.
Habits of quiet, prayer, Bible reading, worship and Christian fellowship are also, unsurprisingly, good for us. Marc Lloyd
Very rough first draft of some notes. Can you help me improve them?
HOW TO READ THE BIBLE IN CHURCH
HOW TO LEAD THE INTERCESSIONS
IN OUR PARISHES
A BEGINNERS’ GUIDE AND MASTERCLASS!
THANK YOU for being willing to do this!
What are your loves and hates?
You can’t please all the people all the time!
Threshold learning outcomes…
In an ideal world…
Style of services: not a slap dash game show and not a stuffy military parade?
Relax, enjoy it (but not too much!). It will be okay! You are amongst friends!
Engage with the congregation before and after – try to make eye contact etc.
Pray, prepare, think!
(1) Worship of God
Everything must be done decently and in order!
We are aiming to please God and help others. The congregation may not like it but it might be good for them!
OTHER QUESTIONS / ISSUES YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADDRESS?
You might think some of this is stating the obvious but…
READING THE BIBLE IN CHURCH
Of course, in a way it’s not rocket science but it does matter and make a difference and can be done so badly or so well.
You are reading the Word of God! God is speaking, addressing us. We encounter Jesus in the power of the Spirit here.
“This is the most precious thing the world affords. These are the lively oracles of God!”
Pray. Think. Prepare. Practice?! Serve.
Please use the same New International Version as we have in the pews. Either use the lectern Bible or a pew Bible or print it out or write it out or bring your own!
There is no harm in checking you have the correct reading and that there is a bookmark in the Bible and that you know where the reading comes in the service. Does the other reader think they are doing your reading? You might like to turn to the second reading after your reading if you are he first reader. It is normally OT then NT or OT / Epistle / NT then Gospel.
We normally sit for the readings and stand for the gospel readings at Communion services. Standing for the gospel is just traditional but it perhaps is a way of recognising the centrality of Jesus and his incarnate ministry?
Slow down a bit.
Speak up a bit. Use the microphone provided. You need to speak into it and probably be closer to it than you imagine or really project.
Try to begin clearly and strongly with confidence.
Do not under or over interpret especially if the interpretation is unclear
If there are rhetorical questions, do you know what answer they are expecting? E.g. Romans 8
Try to think about the theme / tone / aim / genre etc.
Be yourself but you could probably put a bit more life and feeling into it but don’t go crazy!
Your reading may be more dynamic if you slightly emphasise the key verbs (and adverbs) of action etc. e.g. try this sentence: “Suddenly coming to the house he threw them out with great force for he was angry with them beyond measure”. If you print out the passage (e.g. from Bible Gateway) you can mark on it where you plan to pause and underline words you wish to emphasise and so on.
Serve the text and the people. You wouldn’t be tempted to show off of course.
Consider a suitable and sensible variety of pitch, pace, pause and volume.
Plan your introduction and conclusion.
“Our first reading is taken from Acts chapter 7 verses 3 to 5 and can be found on page 3333 in the church Bibles. Acts 7v3, page 3333.” Pause. Normally no further introduction is needed. Or Marc might say something by way of introduction.
If the first pronoun is ambiguous and you know to whom it refers either change it or add in the correct answer e.g. not just “He said” but “He [that is, Jesus] said:”
Give them a moment to find the passage if they want to.
Pause before the ending response.
Traditional endings (see Common Worship / Prayer Book / Service sheet or book):
Either, This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Or, in a Communion service, This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you O Christ.
(Or, Here ends the second reading.)
Or just stop!
We never read the headings as they are not part of the original text (except for the titles in the Psalms, which we should read, followed by a pause.)
Come up in time so you are ready and go away afterwards (without rushing)! You could sit on the end of a pew to make everyone’s life easier!
Tricky pronunciation: don’t worry! Just be confident. Virtually all pronunciation is only a best guess / convention. Do ask me if you want to know my guess but don’t feel the need to bother!
LEADING THE INTERCESSIONS
(Marc will normally say the Collect and announce the Lord’s Prayer)
Be sensitive. Respect confidentiality. We should only mention people by name if the thing in question is public common knowledge or we have their permission. Do not announce that Smith has cancer in the prayers unless you know for sure from himself Smith that he is okay with that and you think it is helpful! (The people mentioned in the notice sheet will have given their permission but that does not mean that we need a run down of all their symptoms and issues!)
Are there children present? If so, can you make your prayers child-friendly without them being too childish! A shorter word might work just as well as a bigger one.
Normal English and your normal voice are fine, please!
Read the Bible passages and allow them to influence your prayers
These are INTERCESSIONS.
What are intercessions? ________________________________________
You are talking to Almighty God our loving heavenly Father so be respectful but not cringing. You come in Jesus, righteous in him, as a much-loved child and the Holy Spirit helps you.
You are leading corporate public prayer so “we” / “us” not “I”
Normally we do not need lots of extra CONFESSION, or THANKSGIVING, or PRAISE or LAMENT or … We are not really looking for extra sermons, or poetry readings or….
We want to pray according to God’s will with a sense of his priorities. We ask for what we need not just what we want. We pray for the progress of the gospel and the coming of the kingdom and our conformity to Christ etc. The Lord’s Prayer is the classic pattern. There are lots of other Biblical prayers we could read out or use as inspiration. See e.g. Don Carson, A Call To Spiritual Reformation on Paul’s prayers.
It is traditional to pray for the CHURCH and the WORLD.
You could write out the prayers in full or have some notes, which ever works better for you. There may be something you want to slot in on the day if we find out the Queen or a key member of the congregation has died for example! I do not suggest total winging it on the day improvisation!
You could use a mixture of set and extempore prayers, some more formal, some more informal.
We might pray for all people and all Christians, maybe especially those persecuted for their faith.
We might pray especially for the Anglican Communion, for Archbishop Justin and for our own Bishops Martin (Mark and Richard). We might pray for the deanery, benefice and parish. We have a special responsibility to pray for the parish. It is fine to pray for ourselves and those whom we love, but of course we also want to lift our eyes from the merely parochial.
We might pray for the Queen and her government and for the leaders of this and every nation.
We might pray for those known to us who are in need and for those who have asked our prayers.
We might pray for one or all of our mission partners (the partner of the month) but not for all of them by name every time please.
We might pray about something significant from the news but not everything!
We could have some silence.
We could use responses. Traditionally:
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
Or, Lord hear us; Mercifully hear us.
And at the end maybe:
Merciful father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Or other appropriate responses, but maybe that is tricky and distracting? The responses should fit the prayers. They could be planned in advance and so included in the service sheet or on the screen. Or, when I say, “Father in heaven” please respond “bring in your kingdom.”
You can say something by way of introduction if you like but keep it brief: “e.g. A prayer for ourselves:”
It could be one long prayer but probably several with a chance to say AMEN between them is better. It might help if we can see the AMEN coming e.g. “In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Give some content. “We pray that you would give the PCC wisdom as they plan the year ahead” is better than “We pray for the PCC” but too much specific information and unnecessary information is off putting: “We pray for the PCC which is meeting at 7:30pm tomorrow in the church rooms.” God does not need your lengthy explanations. People might benefit from a bit of context / info. but keep it short.
We normally pray to the Father, through the Son in the Power of the Holy Spirit: address God (the Father), do not swap around between persons of the Trinity or you will likely get into a muddle and end up saying, “Father, we really just thank you that you died on the cross for us”, which he did not!
Pray prayers that we can join in with – not too idiosyncratic or sectarian e.g. avoid, “We pray that Wales would beat England…”
Less is more. 5 minutes maximum. 2 or 3 minutes is fine. Leave them wanting more not wishing you would shut up!
Not everything every time. No need to pray for all the PCC, their partners and pets by name ever week!
Please avoid praying for the dead. If you wish you can say something like “We remember with thanksgiving all those who have died in the love of Christ and we pray that you would bring us with them to your eternal glory”. Or “we give you thanks for all who trusted in Christ and for all those whose faith was known only to you.”
We pray in fellowship with all the church around the world and down the ages.
An English Prayer Book
The C of E website
This 5 point list of hints is a good and practical beginning:
This longer interview from The Briefing is helpful on public bible reading:
Check also this helpful advice for choosing a public bible reader:
I am always happy to help and give training, feedback etc. Marc Lloyd
From The Rectory
I don’t manage to read as many books as I’d like. And I have a dreadful memory. But I think my stand out Christian book of the year so far is by Dr Daniel Strange, the Director of Oak Hill Theological College in London, where I trained. Dan’s Plugged In: Connecting your faith with what you watch, read and play (The Good Book Company, 2019) is a really great read which is born out of years of teaching this stuff to would-be vicars and others. This is a book from which every Christian could benefit.
Even if you’re not interested in the question of Christ and culture, you ought to be. It’s one of the old chestnuts of theology.
Culture is how we do stuff. It’s our art and books and music. But also, our way of life, our habits, whether we bow or shake hands or do a high five.
Theologians have asked to what extent Christ is interested in culture. Is there a Christian culture or many? Does Jesus judge culture? Or abolish culture? Or save culture? Or transform culture or what? What cultures will there be in heaven and the New Creation?
One of the best things in the book are the worked examples of Christians engaging with culture by Dan’s students which he included at the end. Extraordinarily, Dan shows us how we can think Christianly about Zombie movies and even Japanese domestic toilets. Those are just examples, but we can see from them that Christ has something to say to and about every area of human activity.
Anyway, you should read the book. It’s only 160 pages long. And it costs less than £7. And it’s remarkably engaging and readable. I like to scribble in the margin of my books and I was tempted to underline something on almost every page.
One big idea of the book is what Dan calls subversive fulfilment. The subversivebit is to do with judgement on culture. Nothing in our world is perfect. And everything has the potential to be a kind of false god whom we worship, who offers us some version of salvation. So, Jesus always says some kind of NO to culture. For example, Jesus would say to Celebrity Master Chef that there is more to life than fame or food.
But there is also fulfilment of culture. Everything comes from God and rightly understood points to God. He is the source and goal of all that is good in culture. So, all the deepest longings which we often express in inordinate or misguided ways can be satisfied in God. Celebrity Master Chef should point us to true glory and to the heavenly banquet of the New Creation when there will be no unhealthy competition or elimination of losers or food that is horrid or poisoning or….
You know what to do! https://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/plugged-in
The Revd Marc Lloyd
Fortnite is the biggest computer game of all time. One hundred people recently took part in the final of the world championships in an enormous arena in the States with their gaming displayed on huge screens. The victor won $3.
It has been fascinating to hear some of the triumphant teenagers interviewed. One hopes to buy a new desk. Another wants to get his mum a house. A lad commented that his parents didn’t like him playing so much, but after the pay out they are kind of pleased.
Prince Harry has opined that this addictive game should be banned.
We may take Fortnite as an interesting test case in Christian ethics. Is Fortnitea sin? May / should a Christian play? Should the nippers be allowed to snipe at strangers online? Is it time for the government to step in?
Of course, the Bible does not mention the Play Station or the X-box. But it sufficiently equips us for every good work. God has given the church all she needs for life and godliness. So together we can work out both how to get to heaven (by trusting in Jesus, as the Bible says very plainly) and how to live in the meantime (becoming more like Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, which takes a bit more figuring out in some of the circumstances).
Christian liberty should lapse into neither licence nor legalism. We are free, but not merely to please our sinful selves. We are called to obey Christ’s law of love but that does not mean that the essence of Christian living is a list of DOs and DON’Ts, nor that we are seeking to build up points in some kind of moral bank account so that God will love us. As the Apostle Paul said (possibly quoting his interlocutors): “Everything is permitted [perhaps in a sense!] but not everything is beneficial.”
Fortnite is at least questionable. The aim of the game is to kill and avoid being killed. If we take it at all seriously, we would have to spin the whole thing as a fake Just War, which takes a certain amount of imagination. The game is free to play, but it the firm behind it make money by selling in-game enhancements to pre-teens. These include dance moves and changes in appearance known as “skins”. It is hard not to see these are a terrible waste of money which feeds a woeful superficiality and a concern to be seen as on trend. Would it be better to play the piano or go for a walk? Probably.
And yet there is a snobbery against so called e-sports. The kind of worries that some people have about computer games have been expressed through history about the book, football and the telephone. Computer games can certainly develop some skills (manual dexterity, strategy and team work). Sometimes they foster community and a striving for excellence. Technology is not the root of all evil. It depends how it is used.
Christian theologians have long recognised the role of lawful recreation in the Christian life. But this should not be to the neglect of other duties. Can you love God and love your neighbour while playing Fortnite? Probably. What if you play for the eight hours a day on a school day required to become world champion? Just possibly, but it presents much more of a challenge. Anyone who wants to be the best at anything in the world probably has to treat it as their full-time job. Fortnite Player would not be a forbidden job for the Christian (as bank robber would be) but it is unlikely that your pastor or your parents would recommend it as the best way to add to the sum of your own or of human happiness in general.
For most, Fortnite is probably okay and relatively harmless. There are ways in which it might both help and hinder, to which we must be alert. I think Prince Harry is right that there is a danger of the whole thing consuming impressionable young people’s minds. But the answer to that is not a ban on Fortnite. We want to live out and compellingly hold forth a better vision by telling a better more exciting story of God the creator and Jesus the redeemer. “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart!”