Blogroll Category: Friends

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 51 posts from the category 'Friends.'

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How banns can be banned and we can still be missional

Transforming Grace - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 19:58

Marriage in the Church of England is a complex legal thing. The CofE acts on behalf of the state for the legal aspect of marriage.  For British ad EU nationals resident in the UK it is legally required, or at least normal, to marry by banns.  Banns were introduced in the marriage act of 1753 and were designed to prevent polygamy and incest, by giving the community three opportunities before he wedding day, and a fourth on the day itself, to expose anyone who were already married or couples who were unwittingly closely related. Banns no longer serve this legal function because urban communities are too transient and are too big for everyone wishing to marry in church to be well enough known. Many banns which are read in church are for complete strangers to the congregation.

For non-EU nationals the couple can’t legally marry by banns and need to complete the legal prelims at the registry office. This inequality is what Stephen Trott’s private motion at synod last week tried to redress. Unfortunately, all three houses voted down his motion, preferring to put up with the legal and administrative inconvenience and the inequality of treatment for non-EU nationals for the missional opportunities banns provide.

It is too late for synod, but I suggest that we share best practice so that, if the motion returns to synod, someday, we might already know that simplifying the legal does not mean doing away with the missional.

For anyone marrying by banns, there are three Sundays, when the couple don’t need to attend church, but it’s nice if they do, when the vicar reads the banns (I find it slightly disingenuous to say to a couple “we must read your banns, why don’t you come to church?”):

I publish the banns of marriage between NN of … parish and NN of … parish
This is the first / second / third time of asking. If any of you know any reason in law why they may not marry each other you are to declare it.
We pray for these couples (or N and N) as they prepare for their wedding(s)

When a couple can’t marry by banns I propose to say the following, based on the declarations in the marriage service. This gives me the opportunity to say, “you don’t have to come but we’d love to announce your wedding in church and pray for you.”

I give notice of the marriage of NN of … parish and NN of … parish
The marriage vow and covenant which they are to make will be made in the presence of God, who is judge of all.
We therefore pray with them, that as they are united in love, they may fulfill Christ’s will for them throughout their earthly lives.

Does anyone else have a practice which replaces banns when necessary? If so, what do you say?


Categories: Friends

The Opponents in 2 Peter

The Hadley Rectory - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 15:16
"The opponents’ ethical practice, in which sexual immorality seems prominent, is plausibly seen as an accommodation to the permissiveness of pagan society, a perennial temptation in the early church, especially when Christian morality impeded participation in the social life of the cities. The false teachers may therefore be seen as aiming to disencumber Christianity of its eschatology and its ethical rigorism, which seemed to them an embarrassment in their cultural environment, especially after the evident failure of the Parousia expectation. From a general familiarity with Hellenistic religious debate they were able to deploy current skeptical arguments about eschatology and divine revelation. Perhaps they saw themselves as rather daring young radicals trying to clear a lot of traditional nonsense out of the church. Whether they also had any positive religious teaching our evidence does not allow us to say. The analogy with radicals in other generations suggests that a largely negative message could have sounded impressive enough (cf. 2:18a)."

Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (WBC 50; Waco: Word Books, 1983), 156.


"They have abandoned Christian morality and embraced sexual immorality (2:2, 10, 14, 18), giving themselves over to the inordinate satisfaction of their desires, including drunkenness and gluttony (2:13). They engage in self-indulgent behavior and revelry in the context of the common banquet of the Christians. Although they promise “freedom” (2:19), they are people who live without moral law and are not subject to the divine command (2:21; 3:17). In truth, they are nothing more than “slaves of corruption” (2:19). One of their principal motivations is avarice (2:3, 14), viewing others as a means of gain, people to be exploited for their own ends. The heretics are arrogant in their denial of the Lord and their slander of celestial beings (2:2, 10, 12, 18), a trait especially evident in their strident skepticism (3:3–4)...

"The error of the heretics is doctrinal and not only moral. Peter calls them “false teachers,” who have tried to introduce “heresies of destruction” into the congregations (2:1) by using deceptive means (2:3). At the heart of the error is their skepticism regarding the coming of the Lord and the divine judgment on the day of the Lord (3:3–10). Their argument is that future judgment will never occur, and they rest their case on the apparent delay in the Lord’s advent (3:4, 9; cf. 2:3). They criticize the apostolic preaching regarding the coming as an invention of the preachers themselves and tag their proclamation as nothing more than “myth.” They even place prophetic inspiration in doubt, claiming that the prophets spoke of their own accord and incorrectly interpreted their own visions (1:20–21). This eschatological skepticism translates into an affirmation of liberty that throws off moral restraint (2:19; 3:3–4). Moreover, the heretics have sought support in Paul’s Letters, whose message they have twisted (3:15–16). The doctrinal and moral errors of the false teachers are joined at the hip. In fact, at the head of his denunciation Peter declares that the heresy is a denial of the Lord, who has bought them (2:1). At the heart of this denial is the rejection of his sovereignty over their moral lives (2:10).

"The false teachers are members of the Christian communities among whom they promote their error...

"The differences between the situations presented in Jude and 2 Peter argue against identifying the opponents as the same in both letters. The root of the moral problem that Jude combats is a perversion of the doctrine of grace (v. 4). On the other hand, the doctrinal error that is the foundation for the immorality of the opponents in 2 Peter is the negation of the parousia of Christ and future judgment (3:3–10)."

Gene L. Green, Jude and 2 Peter (BECNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 151–153.
Categories: Friends

A simple three-step Bible study method

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Mon, 20/02/2017 - 00:00

I can still remember the day a friend of mine explained this simple three-step method of leading a Bible study.

Its great strength is that it doesn't require any additional preparation beyond a good understanding of the biblical text itself, together with an ability to listen carefully to what people are saying, to think on your feet and come up with specific questions, to guide the discussion appropriately, and so on.

Unlike some other methods, it certainly doesn't require you to work out all the questions you're going to ask in advance. In terms of prepration, you just need to have a pretty good grasp of the meaning and implications of the text you're looking at. And if you don't have that, then no other Bible study method is going to be much help to you, either.

Since then, I've found something very much like it in numerous other places. But since someone just asked me about it, perhaps another reminder might help others too.

Here it is, with illustrations from Colossians 1:1-2.

1. Observation: What does the text say?

Simple comprehension questions, aimed simply at getting people to read the words on the page. Ask questions to which the correct answer is simply the particular words or phrases that you want to highlight.

  • Take a look at v. 1 - who is this letter from? (Paul)
  • How does he describe himself? (apostle of Christ Jesus)
  • Who is the letter to? (church in Colossae ... saints ... faithful)

2. Interpretation: What does the text mean?

Interpretative questions, aimed at highlighting the meaning and biblical / theological significance of the answers to the previous question(s).

It's sometimes necessary here to provide some input yourself, since people won't always be able to work out the answers so easily. However, it's nonetheless possible sometimes to lead people to the right answer, perhaps by other questions or biblical cross-references.

  • What does "apostle" mean? (authorised representative, messenger)
  • So, what's an "apostle of Christ Jesus"? (authorised representative of Jesus, someone who speaks with Jesus' authority)
  • What are "saints"? (lit. "holy ones", people made holy through the sacrifice of Jesus)
  • What does it mean to call someone "faithful"? (living trust in Christ, etc.)

3. Application: What does the text imply for us?

Applicatory questions, aimed at drawing out the implications for us of the answers to the previous question(s). Ask questions to which the correct answer amounts to what we should do or think differently as a consequence of having read this passage of Scripture.

  • So, how should we treat Paul's words in this letter? (With respect - he's speaking on behalf of Christ)
  • What kind of church is Paul writing to? (faithful, holy)
  • How should we regard their example? (worth following)
Categories: Friends

Cancer Does Not Discriminate (Jeremy’s Story)

God Gold and Generals - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 12:51
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This article was published on an excellent web site, "Chris's cancer community", designed to support people with cancer. You can see the original article herehttp://www.chris-cancercommunity.com/cancer-does-not-discriminate-jeremys-story/

In my work I get to meet some wonderful people and Jeremy Marshall is one of those. A man who’s life was also brought crashing down with a cancer diagnosis. I was delighted that Jeremy accepted my invitation to share his experiences on the site. His career is one that most of us can only dream about, but of course when it comes to cancer there is no discrimnation.
.“I have had a very happy and blessed life. I was never in hospital for a day, married for nearly 30 years and  have three wonderful children plus a really interesting career. Then about 4 years ago I found a small lump on my ribs. At my wife’s urging I went to the GP who said “it’s probably just a fatty lump but we will check it out.” For the next few months I went from specialist to specialist, each one of whom was puzzled. Finally, the last specialist told me “we have referred you to the Marsden.” Well, the Marsden only does one thing so it was obvious it was cancer.  Even then though the prognosis was not too bad. It was stage 1 and very easy to access for surgery. It was a type of lipo sarcoma, very rare but should be treatable.
Good probability of complete remission. So I had two operations and a course of radiotherapy, everything seemed fine and I got an all clear after about 6 months.  Then, in May 2015, I was at a friends house, having dinner and I went to adjust the collar on my shirt and felt a really large lump on my collarbone. I immediately knew what it was and had to leave the dinner straightaway, I was so devastated and shocked. The next week the Marsden confirmed the worse possible prognosis. In 2 minutes my life was changed for ever, irretrievably. “You have many tumours, they are incurable, you have 18 months”. I could have chemotherapy to try and slow it down but it was not possible to cure me.
 That was the low point. I have had two rounds of chemotherapy which while unpleasant have not been as bad as I feared. After the second round I was in hospital for a while as my immune system was completely disabled. I had blood transfusions and was kept in isolation but fairly quickly began to recover strength. Just to add to the fun, my wife and I decided after the first bout of chemo to have “the holiday of a lifetime”. Which would have been great except I suffered a detached retina on the flight out. But the time we got back to the UK the sight was virtually irrecoverable. Never mind I thought lots of people have only one eye. Then a few months later the other retina detached. For a while I was virtually blind. After numerous ops on both eyes I now have ok sight in the right eye. Both the eye specialist and the oncologist agree that this is completely unconnected to the cancer: it’s along the lines of “it never rains but it pours.” So if you read about hospitals being overwhelmed, I am personally responsible! From never being in hospital it seems like I am never out! 
Add now.. also, the Marsden have now changed the diagnosis as it was not, what they assumed, a metastatic growth from the original but a completely unrelated type of cancer, small cell lung cancer (though thank God it’s in most places but not the lungs). I await the result of the latest scan next week
What lessons would I draw from the last nearly 5 years?
Get the best expert you can find for your type of cancer. Cancer is a catch all label for a huge variety of different disease types, each of which has its own characteristics. It’s vital especially if like me you have had (two) rare types that you try and locate an expert in the field. I am fortunate to live near London and of course it’s more difficult if you live far away but specialist teaching hospitals have a level of care and expertise that is second to none. I totally trust my oncologist who is an expert in the field and this is vital.
Get fit. I am 53 and was not unfit before so this is relatively easy for me but my oncologist said this was the only thing that I should do.The reason that this is important is that the treatment especially chemo is brutal. The hospital can give you endless rounds, the question is can you tolerate it? So to my children’s amusement I go every week to the gym and work out. I don’t go crazy, just a few km of running and some gentle aerobics but I feel great and you can really heal quicker between chemo rounds
Eat healthily. I have been in touch with a friendly nutritionist who espouses but in a sensible way the alkaline diet. I know some extreme proponents of this have been discredited recently but in moderation it’s similar to the get fit advice – it can’t do any harm and it might help. So I take liquid alkali minerals (with my oncologists approval), lots of vitamins and try and avoid gluten, dairy and especially sugar. I am not obsessive about this but I feel healthy. I don’t think this can cure you but it might slow down the growth of the cancer and it certainly can’t do any harm
Be sensitive to the impact of cancer on your loved ones. As I learned from my own children, everybody reacts in a different way and has their own as they say in the trade “coping strategies.” Communication is a big challenge. There is no right answer. Some people blog about it others are very private. It’s up to you and your most loved ones to figure out what’s best for you. Things like FB closed groups can be really useful. 
Finally, the single most important thing for me which has helped me more than anything is my Christian faith. I appreciate some of you reading this will have no faith, or other faiths. What I can say is this: knowing that I have a loving Heavenly Father who cares for me and promises “I will never leave you or forsake you” makes all the difference in the world. I also discovered that God has a sense of humour. Doing radiotherapy is boring – you have to go every day and lie still while the machine does its thing. If you move or twitch you get ticked off. So I decided to memorise Psalm 34 to give me something to do. As I was running through it in my mind I started laughing ( and duly got ticked off by the radiotherapist!) for verse 5 is “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame”
Categories: Friends

Childhood memories - Culture wars VI - music

God Gold and Generals - Thu, 16/02/2017 - 09:36





Of all the many arenas in which my father and I fought our 1970s cultural wars ( in a mainly friendly spirit, or perhaps better put in an increasingly friendly spirit) none was more contested than music. Yet though it was perhaps the main “front” it was not as nearly as fractious as the fronts we engaged in other topics, which I have covered in previous blogs  — except perhaps the particular “battlefield” around music in church. Why music was less contentious than say theatre, cinema or literature is not easy to explain: possibly music is more subjective than books? Also Dad was musical and came from a very musical family. His brother David was an exceptionally gifted musician who when the organist forgot some of the music at my parents wedding played the organ without sheet music from memory. Many of his children and grandchildren are also equally gifted and certainly much more musical than me. Dad wasn't as talented musically as David, in fact being a typically competitive Marshall he used to complain that he objected as a child to all his wider family paying homage to David's outstanding musical talent. Dad preferred the spotlight to be on him, he confessed, and would often achieve that not through being musical but through being naughty! 
To understand my fathers views on music you have to understand that he was in many ways a Victorian: his father was born in 1887 so was 45 when Dad was born in 1932. Certainly when Dad was growing up the music would have been serious - classical music and above all Handel who ticked the bill for both Christian faith ("The Messiah") and patriotism ("Zadok the Priest"). Of course Handel was German - but then until 1914 the dynasty ruling England was the House of Saxe Coburg Gotha. Changing their name during WW1 to the House of Windsor led to the only known joke from Kaiser Wilhelm who wondered if they would be renaming the Shakespeare play "The Merry Wives of Saxe Coburg Gotha"?
Modern music seemed to have simply passed Dad by in a way that would have been very different for someone born 10 years later, who would have been very impacted by pop and above all by the Beatles, a group I adore. Surely not coincidence that the Beatles first number one hit “From me to you" reached Number 1 on May 2 1963, just in time  to be "Top of the Pops" for my birth 6 days later. Dad's attitude towards "light" music was best summed up by his view of Gilbert and Sullivan which my mother and her family loved. "Far too frivolous Holly" ( his term of endearment for Mum ) would have summed it up. Dad's attitude reflected the seminal change that WW2 drew between those like Dad who remembered it all too well (12 when it finished) and someone like say John Lennon or Paul McCartney (respectively 4 and 2). John Lennon was  particularly not flavour of the month with Dad because of his (in) famous quote " we (the Beatles) will be more  famous than Jesus" which was bad enough but even worse was the lyrics to "Imagine"!  ("Nothing to kill or die for/And no religion too".) 
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Music was a constant presence in our house from early years. It was particularly important on very long car journeys such as the ones that I have described in my blogs on bible smuggling which you can read about herehttp://jsjmarshall.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/personal-memories-bible-smuggling.html. Picture the scene. A maroon Austin 1800 (later a blue Volvo 144) four children packed in. Soon enough I managed to weasel my way into the front seat on grounds of a) size b) if in the back WW3 would break out between me and one in particular of my dear sisters. The car had no radio and only much later did we persuade Dad to allow us to take a cassette tape recorder with us. Each person in the family would eventually get a cassette side each - normally only stopped when as it did frequently the tape jammed and would have to be painstakingly untangled using a ballpoint pen. So Dad would lead (loudly) the family in a whole series of traditional songs the words of which I can still remember nearly 50 years later. I suspect Dad had learned them at school and in the same way that Winston Churchill ( a great hero of his) loved to sing in later life the school songs of Harrow which brought tears rolling down his cheeks, so Dad harked back nostalgically to his youth. Some were patriotic ‘Rule Britannia’, ‘Hearts of Oak’, ‘The British Grenadiers’ but interestingly not “Land of Hope and Glory” - see below under Elgar E. Some were folk songs such as  ‘ Early one morning’ ‘The Ash Grove’,”This old man” and a surprisingly large number were American “While we were marching through Georgia ‘ ‘ Shenandoah ‘ and ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas.’ 
But if there were two songs that absolutely typified our sing songs that I think Dad loved more than any they would have to be ‘Clementine ‘ (#2) and top of the charts 'Green grow the rushes oh,'.  They both have tremendous tunes and lyrics which are actually darker than they appear - which certainly appealed to my father! 'Clementine' is on the surface it seems to a child a sad ballad but actually it's a firmly tongue in cheek send up of sentimental ballads — especially the last verse "How I missed her/how I missed her/ how I missed my Clementine/but I kissed her little sister and forgot my Clementine". And as for “Green grow the rushes O” a very old folk song from the West Country of England, goodness knows what on earth the lyrics mean -  “Five for the symbols at your door…two two the lily-white boys clothed all in green oh??”. It seems a completely bonkers mixture of Christian, Jewish, Pagan and Masonic symbolism. Anyway we sang them all heartily whatever the meaning. My sisters think the first pop record we brought was "The Wombles" which may be correct as dad was probably unsuspecting that this was actually...the horror...a pop group. If you want to understand where punk rock came from then bear in mind that in 1974 the Wombles were probably the biggest group in the UK! Featuring the cuddly eco friendly creatures who lived under and tidied up Wimbledon Common they had a string of hits. Of course my tastes were in general MOR - as well as the Wombles other groups or singers I brought and liked were the painful to recall (such as the Wombles) - David Soul and "Mull of Kintyre" — the acceptable MOR - Brian Ferry, ELO and Abba and the even faintly cool like Blondie, The Police, The Jam and Kate Bush. Later on I was big time into the wonderfully named Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and in fact I would say my all time favourite single was their marvellous "Enola Gay" which reached number 8 in the charts in 1980. I also loved and continue to love The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel both of whom had broken up before I even was aware that they had been together! Finally there is the incomparable Bruce Springsteen. Sarah tells a story on "the Boss" which shows Dads devotion and care for his children. He had driven all the way to Durham to pick her up from uni and then back to Hemel Hempstead - over 500 miles of driving round trip. Sarah had a new Bruce cassette album which she played non stop. As they neared Hemel Dad asked very politely "Do you mind if we change it as I have a headache!"I guess the lesson i would draw was that my father was strict but fair and absolutely willing to debate anything and everything about what was allowed and not allowed. He also distinguished in music between a few things that were morally dangerous and in his view wrong from a Christian viewpoint and many things that were to him taste wise objectionable but morally neutral, or at least not pernicious. Its easy to combine the two categories, parents, which can create exasperation in your children. Above all, although he could drive you to distraction by his unwillingness to budge an inch (the word "immoveable" doesn't even begin to describe it)  we never doubted that he loved us. 
The "3rd of September 1939" on the musical front was that when I was I think about 10 Dad brought a record player. I can still picture it now, a fake wood trim and a black plastic lid with two very small speakers. Even by the standards of the time it was basic (remember Dad had not much money) but it worked. Dads musical repertoire was heavily influenced by his father - Handel at the top then Bach (especially the Passions, the B minor mass being noticeable by its absence, no doubt showing that the Lutherans hadn't really Reformed properly !) then Beethoven and finally Mozart (especially the horn concertos which Dad loved as do I). I don't recall any other composers, surprisingly given Dads patriotism  no Elgar - but then he was Catholic :). What there was in abundance was military music. The Band of the Royal Marines and the Coldstream Guards, bagpipes galore, patriotic songs such as 'Rule Britannia' and so on. These my father loved to play very loudly, a habit that I have inherited but does tend to annoy long suffering members of my family! On his day off (Monday) he used to turn the record player up very loudly and march around the sitting room, recreating his Army days, only ceasing and desisting when the solicitors who worked downstairs - the Old Manse had been divided into two, something i shall return to in a later blog - objected. Strangely, bagpipes were particularly prominent at Christmas, in fact we had more bagpipes than carols. The final category was church music, something we shall also return to in due course in another blog.
Now, the record player was not exactly high tech, even by its era. The really cool thing to have was a "music centre" which incorporated not only a record player but also the cutting edge technology of the era - a cassette player plus a modern radio. We had a very old "steam valve" radio which you had to wait to "warm up". The dil had exotic stations with places like "Hilversum". If you had a music centre on the other hand, you could even record on the cassette your LPs (long playing records or albums which rotated at 33rpm) and your singles (45 rpm) plus if like us you had   old records at 78rpm. Endless hours of innocent amusement could also be had playing records at the wrong speed — and that's before we get on to playing records backwards to try and get the hidden messages (if any). 

But of course having a record player opened the door to us children buying our own music. In fairness to Dad although he objected to much of the music on grounds of bad taste he didn't that I recall ban anything, except one B side of a single by ( of all groups) Hot Chocolate. This was their magnum opus  "I'll put you together again" which reached the dizzy heights of Number 13 in the hit parade in 1978.  For those of you of tender years you bought the single "hit" which was the A side and on the back of the single was another song the B side. Occasionally you had a double A side, the one that springs to mind was the classic Boney M double side "By the Rivers of Babylon" and "Brown Girl in the Ring." Debs my sister comments "Culturally music was an absolutely key social thing in the 70's eg music shops; singles/12 inch/picture disc. Saturday would be spent looking through records in the shops. The "Number 1" (single) was MASSIVE news when announced; social times with fellow teens would involve listening to new records, looking at the album, reading lyrics, passing the sleeve round. We'd take our new records to the Thompson's for example." (The Thompson's was a church  youth group at the Thompson's house - except it wasnt a youth group. I shall return to this!)

Anyway, Dad agreed that there was no way I could have known what was on the Hot Chocolate 45 B side so kindly reimbursed it. But otherwise Dad wasn't too prescriptive, although he did like to check the lyrics which were sometimes on the sleeve. I quickly I am afraid and deceitfully figured out that the easiest way to deal with this was to take the lyric sleeve out before reaching home and replace it with a blank LP sleeve. Borrowing church officers LPs though could also be dangerous as Colin Thompson and I discovered with Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits which featured a song called “Cecelia"! 
But on the whole Dad was pretty relaxed and although he made rude comments about our taste he made them with a smile. Sometimes the study door would open and he would yell “Turn it down”. But, in fact, he secretly I know quite liked Abba, and he felt their tunes sounded like hymn tunes (try “The Way old friends do” to see what he meant.) Once he even — a great compliment — quoted from Abba's lyrics in a sermon at the Banner of Truth conference. High praise indeed! 
Now, after a period of relative calm on the music front in 1983 a Christian book was published called "Pop goes the gospel" by John Blanchard and others, which led to a long running and interesting set of discussions with Dad. Even here though he was fuelled by arguments from the book he was pretty reasonable, which confirms my thesis that between 1973 and 1983 he became much more relaxed and irenic. 


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To be continued....
Categories: Friends

Fifteen realities of life in a church without students

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Tue, 14/02/2017 - 12:22
If our church took the approach of simply transporting a student-church model for training and equipping, we wouldn't begin to resource our people.
Categories: Friends

DIY ministry: write something useful yourself

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Mon, 13/02/2017 - 10:03
The influnce of a little booklet called Journey Into Life, should inspire us to write new material ourselves
Categories: Friends

Emmanuel Church Conference 2017

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Mon, 13/02/2017 - 00:00

It's a pleasure to announce the 2017 Emmanuel Conference, Our God Reigns, jointly hosted with Christian Concern, on Saturday 22 April.

Jesus declared that one day every nation would not only hear the gospel, but be transformed by the gospel. Our God Reigns is a conference for anyone who wants to be a part of this mission.

Join us to expand your vision of the scope of the gospel, and be renewed and empowered to shine the light of Christ into every area of life.

Click here to book.

Date: 9:30am to 4:00pm, Saturday 22 April 2017

Venue: Ashmole Academy, Cecil Road, Southgate, London (click for map)

Speaker: Dr Joe Boot

Joe Boot is the Minister of Westminster Chapel in Toronto, founder of the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Director of Christian Concern's Wilberforce Academy.

A popular speaker around the world, Joe's books include The Mission of God and Gospel Culture.

More information

The modern church is in danger of losing its grip on the gospel, either by reducing it to an individualised message of personal salvation, or by twisting it into a therapeutic feel-good programme.

But the gospel does not revolve around us, and it's not a form of religious therapy. The gospel is about Jesus Christ and his renewal of the whole created order.

The gospel of the kingdom is the glorious declaration that the crucified Lord Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead and is now enthroned as the King of heaven and earth. Jesus has received from the Father all nations as his inheritance, and they are being gathered to him by the power of the Holy Spirit. He taught us to pray that his kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven, and he sent his Spirit upon the church so that we might continue his work of transforming the world in his name.

This transformation involves individuals and families committing themselves to follow Christ as they live their lives and raise the next generation. It involves churches taking seriously their mission to proclaim the gospel to the world. And it involves nations embracing the gospel and so experiencing true freedom.

We urgently need to rediscover these priorities, so that the gospel can once again be proclaimed and lived out faithfully in our land.

Join us at Our God Reigns, a one-day conference on Saturday 22 April 2017.

Programme

9:30am  Registration and coffee

10:00  The Everlasting Covenant: Rediscovering the Scope of the Gospel

11:00  Morning break

11:30  As For Me and My House: The Gospel and the Family

12:30pm  Lunch

1:45  I Will Build My Church: The Gospel and the Church

2:30  Afternoon break

3:00  Every Knee Will Bow: The Gospel and the World

4:00  Conclusion

Food

Tea and coffee will be provided during registration and during the morning and afternoon breaks. However, to keep costs to a minimum, lunch will not be provided. There will be space at the venue to eat packed lunches, and food can also be purchased from shops nearby.

Children

Children of all ages are welcome. We regret that we are unable to provide childcare, but there is a large room adjacent to the conference hall where children may take a break with parental supervision if they become restless. Naturally, parents and guardians are requested to supervise their children at all times.

Click here to book.

Categories: Friends

Week-by-week Bible reading plan

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Mon, 13/02/2017 - 00:00

Here's a simple week-by-week Bible reading plan that I've shared with a few people in recent weeks, and which others might also find useful. I covers the whole of the OT once, and the NT and Psalms twice, in a year. It also includes a ongoing mixture of OT, Gospels, Epistles, Psalms and Proverbs all the time, and breaks down Proverbs 10-31 into very small chunks of just a couple of verses each day so you've got time to really chew them over.

Download pdf version here.

Week 1 Gen 1-19; Mt 1-4; Acts 1-5; Ps 1-8; Pr 10:1-13

Week 2 Gen 20-35; Mt 5-7; Acts 6-9; Ps 9-17; Pr 10:14-26

Week 3 Gen 36-50; Mt 8-11; Acts 10-14; Ps 18-21; Pr 10:27-11:6

Week 4 Ex 1-12; Mt 12-15; Acts 15-19; Ps 22-28; Pr 11:7-19

Week 5 Ex 13-27; Mt 16-19; Acts 20-24; Ps 29-34; Pr 11:20-31

Week 6 Ex 28-40; Mt 20-23; Acts 25-28; Ps 35-38; Pr 12:1-13

Week 7 Lev 1-16; Mt 24-26; Rom 1-7; Ps 39-44; Pr 12:14-26

Week 8 Lev 17-27; Mt 27-28; Rom 8-14; Ps 45-50; Pr 12:27-13:10

Week 9 Num 1-14; Mk 1-5; Rom 15-16; 1 Cor 1-5; Ps 51-58; Pr 13:11-23

Week 10 Num 15-28; Mk 6-9; 1 Cor 6-12; Ps 59-65; Pr 13:24-14:10

Week 11 Num 29-36; Dt 1-4; Mk 10-12; 1 Cor 13-16; Ps 66-70; Pr 14:11-23

Week 12 Dt 5-21; Mk 13-16; 2 Cor 1-10; Ps 71-75; Pr 14:24-35

Week 13 Dt 22-34; Lk 1-2; 2 Cor 11-13; Gal 1-6; Ps 76-78; Pr 15:1-13

Week 14 Isa 1-14; Lk 3-4; Eph 1-6; Phil 1; Ps 79-85; Pr 15:14-26

Week 15 Isa 15-30; Lk 5-7; Phil 2-4; Col 1-4; Ps 86-90; Pr 15:27-16:5

Week 16 Isa 31-44; Lk 8-10; 1 Th 1-5; 2 Th 1-3; Ps 91-98; Pr 16:6-18

Week 17 Isa 45-58; Lk 11-14; 1 Tim 1-6; 2 Tim 1; Ps 99-104; Pr 16:19-30

Week 18 Isa 59-66; Joel 1-3; Lk 15-17; 2 Tim 2-4; Tit 1-3; Phm; Heb 1; Ps 105-106; Pr 16:31-17:10

Week 19 Josh 1-15; Lk 18-21; Heb 2-8; Ps 107-113; Pr 17:11-23

Week 20 Josh 16-24; Jdg 1-4; Lk 22-24; Heb 9-13; Jas 1; Ps 114-119:56; Pr 17:24-18:7

Week 21 Jdg 5-19; Jn 1-3; Jas 2-5; 1 Pet 1-4; Ps 119:57-176; 120; Pr 18:8-20

Week 22 Jdg 20-21; Ru 1-4; 1 Sam 1-7; Jn 4-6; 1 Pet 5; 2 Pet 1-3; 1 Jn 1-2; Ps 121-134; Pr 18:21-19:9

Week 23 1 Sam 8-20; Jn 7-9; 1 Jn 3-5; 2 Jn; 3 Jn; Jud; Ps 135-141; Pr 19:10-21

Week 24 1 Sam 21-31; 2 Sam 1-6; Jn 10-12; Rev 1-7; Ps 142-147; Pr 19:22-20:5

Week 25 2 Sam 7-19; Jn 13-17; Rev 8-16; Ps 148-150; Pr 20:6-18

Week 26 Jn 18-21; Rev 17-22; Pr 20:19-30

Week 27 2 Sam 20-24; Am 1-9; Obad; Mt 1-4; Acts 1-5; Ps 1-8; Pr 21:1-13

Week 28 1 Ki 19-22; 2 Ki 1-8; Mt 5-7; Acts 6-9; Ps 9-17; Pr 21:14-26

Week 29 2 Ki 9-21; Mt 8-11; Acts 10-14; Ps 18-21; Pr 21:27-22:8

Week 30 2 Ki 22-25; Hos 1-14; Mt 12-15; Acts 15-19; Ps 22-28; Pr 22:9-20

Week 31 Jer 1-11; Mt 16-19; Acts 20-24; Ps 29-34; Pr 22:21-23:4

Week 32 Jer 12-26; Mt 20-23; Acts 25-28; Ps 35-38; Pr 23:5-17

Week 33 Jer 27-39; Mt 24-26; Rom 1-7; Ps 39-44; Pr 23:18-29

Week 34 Jer 40-52; Mt 27-28; Rom 8-14; Ps 45-50; Pr 23:30-24:7

Week 35 Ezr 1-10; Neh 1-13; Mk 1-5; Rom 15-16; 1 Cor 1-5; Ps 51-58; Pr 24:8-20

Week 36 Dan 1-12; Mk 6-9; 1 Cor 6-12; Ps 59-65; Pr 24:21-34

Week 37 Est 1-10; Job 1-11; Mk 10-12; 1 Cor 13-16; Ps 66-70; Pr 25:1-11

Week 38 Job 12-29; Mk 13-16; 2 Cor 1-10; Ps 71-75; Pr 25:12-24

Week 39 Job 30-42; Jon 1-3; Lk 1-2; 2 Cor 11-13; Gal 1-6; Ps 76-78; Pr 25:25-26:8

Week 40 Prov 1-9; Mic 1-7; Lk 3-4; Eph 1-6; Phil 1; Ps 79-85; Pr 26:9-21

Week 41 Ecc 1-11; SoS 1-8; Lk 5-7; Phil 2-4; Col 1-4; Ps 86-90; Pr 26:22-27:6

Week 42 Lam 1-5; Ezek 1-9; Lk 8-10; 1 Th 1-5; 2 Th 1-3; Ps 91-98; Pr 27:7-19

Week 43 Ezek 10-23; Lk 11-14; 1 Tim 1-6; 2 Tim 1; Ps 99-104; Pr 29:20-28:4

Week 44 Ezek 24-37; Lk 15-17; 2 Tim 2-4; Tit 1-3; Phm; Heb 1; Ps 105-106; Pr 28:5-16

Week 45 Ezek 38-48; Nah 1-3; Lk 18-21; Heb 2-8; Ps 107-113; Pr 28:17-28

Week 46 1 Ch 1-16; Lk 22-24; Heb 9-13; Jas 1; Ps 114-119:56; Pr 29:1-13

Week 47 1 Ch 17-29; 2 Ch 1-5; Jn 1-3; Jas 2-5; 1 Pet 1-4; Ps 119:57-176; 120; Pr 29:14-16

Week 48 2 Ch 6-23; Jn 4-6; 1 Pet 5; 2 Pet 1-3; 1 Jn 1-2; Ps 121-134; Pr 30:1-16

Week 49 2 Ch 24-36; Jn 7-9; 1 Jn 3-5; 2 Jn; 3 Jn; Jud; Ps 135-141; Pr 30:17-33

Week 50 Hab; Zeph; Hag; Mal; Jn 10-12; Rev 1-7; Ps 142-147; Pr 31:1-9

Week 51 Zech 1-14; Jn 13-17; Rev 8-16; Ps 148-150; Pr 31:10-20

Week 52 Jn 18-21; Rev 17-22; Pr 31:21-31

Categories: Friends

Forum: The Jubilee

Emmanuel Evangelical Church - Sun, 12/02/2017 - 00:00
Categories: Friends

Hauerwas on Matthew 5, Part Two

The Hadley Rectory - Sat, 11/02/2017 - 13:47


Jesus charges members of the church to confront those whom we think have sinned against us. He does not say that if we think we have been wronged we might consider confronting the one we believe has done us wrong. Jesus tells us that we must do so because the wrong is not against us, but rather against the body, that is, the very holiness of the church is at stake. Moreover, to be required to confront those whom we believe have wronged us is risky business because we may find out that we are mistaken.
Anger and lust are bodily passions. We simply are not capable of willing ourselves free of anger or lust. Jesus does not imply that we are to be free of either anger or lust; that is, he assumes that we are bodily beings. Rather, he offers us membership in a community in which our bodies are formed in service to God and for one another so that our anger and our lust are transformed...Alone we cannot conceive of an alternative to lust, but Jesus offers us participation in a kingdom hat is so demanding that we discover we have better things to do than to concentrate on our lust. If we are a people committed to peace in a world of war, if we are a people committed to faithfulness in a world of distrust, then we will be consumed by a way to live that offers freedom from being dominated by anger or lust.
Our speech always takes place in the presence of God. “Thus disciples of Jesus should not swear, because there is no such thing as speech not spoken before God. All of their words should be nothing but truth, so that nothing requires verification by oath. An oath consigns all other statements to the darkness of doubt. That is why it is ‘from the evil one’” (Bonhoeffer)
[Jesus] does not promise that if we turn the other cheek we will avoid being hit again. Nonretaliation is not a strategy to get what we want by other means. Rather, Jesus calls us to the practice of nonretaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took in his cross. In like manner Christians are to give more than we are asked to give, we are to give to those who beg, because that is the character of God.
To be a disciple of Jesus, to be ready to be reconciled with those with whom we are angry, to be faithful in marriage, to take the time required to tell the truth – all are habits that create the time and space to be capable of loving our enemies.
We are called...to be perfect, but perfection names our participation in Christ’s love of his enemies.
Excerpted from Stanley Hauerwas, Matthew (SCM Theological Commentary on the Bible; London: SCM Press, 2006), pp. 68-72.
Categories: Friends

Guest Blog by Patrick Macdonald: Review of ‘D-Day, The Battle for Normandy’ by Antony Beevor (Penguin, 2014)

God Gold and Generals - Fri, 10/02/2017 - 20:51



This is a huge, sprawling monster of a book, 523 pages in paperback and a solid holiday read at that. Antony Beevor picks apart the myths and stories that have grown up around what is arguably the most important military campaign of the 20th century. The invasion of Normandy and the subsequent battle to break out to Paris defined World War II.The first part of the book travels over territory well-covered by previous authors, most notably Cornelius Ryan in The Longest Day. Where Ryan could interview actual veterans of the battle to bring his work to life, Beevor uses written fragments of letters, diaries and memoirs. These provide a searing insight into the realities of war, rather than the heroic gloss we often pour over them, with grim tales of war crimes, corpse mutilation, summary executions and worse. Arguably, he gets closer to the unvarnished truth – or at least, articulates it more openly – than Ryan ever did.

Beevor also punctures some of our comfortable myths about the moral righteousness of the Allied side and the supposed superiority of the experienced British troops when compared with their green American allies. Time and again, the British units perform poorly even against the exhausted German forces, failing to achieve the decisive breakthrough they sought. As one British officer says: “The famous Desert Rats landed in Normandy with an outstanding reputation – which it found difficult to retain.” This weakness extends from the frontline to the very top, with Montgomery coming across as self-regarding and narcissistic, claiming credit for victories that weren’t his and reacting to any criticism of over-caution and indecision (and there was plenty) with a prickly arrogance.

The Americans are presented as far more aggressive and ambitious than the Brits. Whether this is because they were fresher, better-trained, better-fed or better-led is not really made clear. It helped that the Yanks were generally ranged against the weaker collections of German forces. And, fortunately for the Allies, those German forces – sapped by years of war, the need to fight against Russia at the same time, a desperate lack of supplies and a complicated command structure – suffered from extreme micromanagement by Adolf Hitler himself, located hundreds of miles away and no great military strategist to start with. His short-lived generals were frustrated by interference at both strategic and tactical levels, resulting in the loss of not one but two Armies at the Falaise Gap. It was only the indecision of Monty (and, to be fair, Patton), who failed to close the Gap early and cleanly enough, that allowed thousands of German troops to escape to fight another day. Even this great Allied victory wasn’t as decisive as it should have been.

Indeed, the tendency to blunder was by no means confined to the Axis. On several occasions the Allies ended up bombing their own side, resulting in heavy losses including the death of a US general. Inexcusably, repeated confusion over basic communications between ground and air made things worse. And all too often, important pieces of intelligence were not passed on, orders were misunderstood and attacks poorly coordinated.

It’s a long book with a broad view. Beevor ranges seamlessly from the misery of life on the front line – graphic descriptions of life in a foxhole in the rain – to the grand sweep of World War II geopolitics, picking apart the egos and doubts at the heart of both Allied and Axis political and military leaderships. One minute he’s tackling the plot to assassinate Hitler and its repercussions, reverberating through the German military hierarchy. The next he is laying bare de Gaulle’s ridiculous ego and vanity, ludicrous in the telling. The pacing of the book is excellent, breathless and measured at turns.

Overall, then, this impressive, well-written book lays bare the successes, failures and often grim realities of what was arguably the pivotal battle of World War II and, indeed, the 20th Century. Had the Allies failed to land successfully in Normandy and then break out to Paris, who knows how the course of history would have run? Thanks to Beevor, we do know how it actually did turn out, in great and often sickening detail.
© Patrick Macdonald 2017
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Patrick Macdonald is a Partner at the School for CEOs. The School provides senior leadership development and training programmes. Jeremy Marshall is a Faculty member.
Categories: Friends

That sermon, I didn’t enjoy

Ministry Nuts and Bolts - Tue, 07/02/2017 - 17:07
We are pastors, and when we have a hard message, and we know the effect it will have, our hearts shift.
Categories: Friends

Carl Trueman Reformation Lectures

Sussex Parson - Tue, 07/02/2017 - 16:11
19 free You Tube video lectures given by Dr Carl Trueman at The Master's Seminary: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4sbg6ng23C61k2K5J-A9Prw8cy6rAXnM

Marc Lloyd
Categories: Friends

Personal update for those not on FB

God Gold and Generals - Mon, 06/02/2017 - 12:40


So glad to say that my latest scan results this morning were good. The various tumours, to my excellent oncologists surprise, haven't really grown in the last couple of months. More chemotherapy will occur at some point, he said, but every extra week is a gift from God and gives me more time to recover. Psalm 16 which was the 'verse of the day' on my app this morning says "You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."As John Wayne has been retired and Yul Brunner is not needed again (yet) the picture encapsulates the above - go on I am sure you can work it out (at least those of you familiar with the BBC can). Prize for the first person to get it right!Thank you so much for your prayers (which clearly worked) and the many kind messages Jeremy
Categories: Friends

The story of Henry "Box" Brown, with thanks to Gary Brady

God Gold and Generals - Sun, 05/02/2017 - 10:30


The story below is from Henry "Box" Brown's autobiography. He was a slave in Virginia USA who posted himself in 1849 in a box to the North to escape. We join the story as he is in "midshipment" hidden inside the box 
Many thanks to Gary Brady for bringing this to my attention.
Brown writes:
"The next place we arrived at was Potomac Creek, where the baggage had to be removed from the cars, to be put on board the steamer; where I was again placed with my head down, and in this dreadful position had to remain nearly an hour and a half, which, from the sufferings I had thus to endure, seemed like an age to me, but I was forgetting the battle of liberty, and I was resolved to conquer or die. I felt my eyes swelling as if they would burst from their sockets; and the veins on my temples were dreadfully distended with pressure of blood upon my head. In this position I attempted to lift my hand to my face but I had no power to move it; I felt a cold sweat coming over me which seemed to be a warning that death was about to terminate my earthly miseries, but as I feared even that, less than slavery, I resolved to submit to the will of God, and under the influence of that impression, I lifted up my soul in prayer to God, who alone, was able to deliver me. My cry was soon heard, for I could hear a man saying to another, that he had travelled a long way and had been standing there two hours, and he would like to get somewhat to sit down; so perceiving my box, standing on end, he threw it down and then two sat upon it. I was thus relieved from a state of agony which may be more easily imagined than described[.] I couldnow listen to the men talking, and heard one of them asking the other what he supposed the box contained; his companion replied he guessed it was "THE MAIL." I too thought it was a mail but not such a mail as he supposed it to be.        The next place at which we arrived was the city of Washington, where I was taken from the steam-boat, and again placed upon a waggon and carried to the depôt right side up with care; but when the driver arrived at the depôt I heard him call for some person to help to take the box off the waggon, and some one answered him to the effect that he might throw it off; but, says the driver, it is marked "this side up with care;" so if I throw it off I might break something, the other answered him that it did not matter if he broke all that was in it, the railway company were able enough to pay for it. No sooner were these words spoken than I began to tumble from the waggon, and falling on the end where my head was, I could bear my neck give a crack, as if it had been snapped asunder and I was knocked completely insensible. The first thing I heard after that, was some person saying, "there is no room for the box, it will have to remain and be sent through to-morrow with the luggage train; but the Lord had not quite forsaken me, for in answer to my earnest prayer He so ordered affairs that I should not be left behind; and I now heard a man say that the box had come with the express, and it must be sent on. I was then tumbled into the car with my head downwards again, but the car had not proceeded far before, more luggage having to be taken in, my box got shifted about and so happened to turn upon its right side; and in this position I remained till I got to Philadelphia, of our arrival in which place I was informed by hearing some person say, "We are in port and at Philadelphia." My heart then leaped for joy, and I wondered if any person knew that such a box was there.        I was now placed in the depôt amongst the other luggage, where I lay till seven o'clock, P.M., at which time a waggon drove up, and I heard a person inquire for such a box as that in which I was. I was then placed on a waggon and conveyed to the house where my friend in Richmond had arranged I should be received. A number of persons soon collected round the box after it was taken in to the house, but as I did not know what was going on I kept myself quiet. I heard a man say, "let us rap upon the box and see if he is alive;" and immediately a rap ensued and a voice said, tremblingly, "Is all right within?" to which I replied--"all right." The joy of the friends was very great; when they heard that I was alive they soon managed to break open the box, and then came my resurrection from the grave of slavery. I rose a freeman, but I was too weak, by reason of long confinement in that box, to be able to stand, so I immediately swooned away. After my recovery from the swoon the first thing, which arrested my attention, was the presence of a number of friends, every one seeming more anxious than another, to have an opportunity of rendering me their assistance, and of bidding me a hearty welcome to the possession of my natural rights, I had risen as it were from the dead; I felt much more than I could readily express; but as the kindness of Almighty God had been so conspicuously shown in my delivcrance, I burst forth into the following him of thanksgiving,
                         I waited patiently, I waited patiently for the Lord, for the Lord;
                         And he inclined unto me, and heard my calling:
                         I waited patiently, I waited patiently for the Lord,
                         And he inclined unto me, and heard my calling:
                         And he hath put a new song in my mouth,
                         Even a thanksgiving, even a thanksgiving, even a thanksgiving unto our God.
                         Blessed, Blessed, Blessed, Blessed is the man, Blessed is the man,
                         Blessed is the man that hath set his hope, his hope in the Lord"
                         
This was an extract from the story of Henry "Box" Brown (c.1816–June 15, 1897) who was a 19th-century Virginia slave who escaped to freedom at the age of 33 by arranging to have himself mailed in a wooden crate in 1849 to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For a short time he became a noted abolitionist speaker in the northeast US. As a public figure and fugitive slave, he felt endangered by passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, which increased pressure to capture escaped slaves. He moved to England and lived there for 25 years, touring with an anti-slavery panorama, becoming a magician and showman. He married and started a family with an English woman, Jane Floyd. She was his second wife; his first wife, Nancy, had been sold by their master. Brown returned to the US with his English family in 1875, where he continued to earn a living as an entertainer. He toured and performed as a magician, speaker, and mesmerist until at least 1889. The last decade of his life (1886–1897) was spent in Toronto, where he died in 1897.
Wikipedia describes how he was born into slavery in 1815 or 1816 on a plantation called Hermitage in Louisa County, Virginia. Aged 15 he was sent to work in a tobacco factory in Richmond.
In his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Henry Box Brown, Written by Himself, he describes his owner: "Our master was uncommonly kind, (for even a slaveholder may be kind) and as he moved about in his dignity he seemed like a god to us, but notwithstanding his kindness although he knew very well what superstitious notions we formed him, he never made the least attempt to correct our erroneous impression, but rather seemed pleased with the reverential feelings which we entertained towards him."Brown was married to another slave named Nancy, but their marriage was not recognised legally. They had three children born into slavery under the partus sequitur ventrem principle. Brown was hired out by his master in Richmond, Virginia, and worked in a tobacco factory, renting a house where he and his wife lived with their children. Brown had also been paying his wife's master not to sell his family, but the man betrayed Brown, selling pregnant Nancy and their three children to a different slave owner.With the help of James C. A. Smith, a free black man and a sympathetic white shoemaker (and likely gambler) named Samuel A. Smith (no relation), Brown devised a plan to have himself shipped in a box to a free state by the Adams Express Company, known for its confidentiality and efficiency. Brown paid $86 (out of his savings of $166) to Samuel Smith. Smith went to Philadelphia to consult with members of Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society on how to accomplish the escape, meeting with minister James Miller McKim, William Still, and Cyrus Burleigh. He corresponded with them to work out the details after returning to Richmond. They advised him to mail the box to the office of Quaker merchant Passmore Williamson, who was active with the Vigilance Committee.To get out of work the day he was to escape, Brown burned his hand to the bone with oil of vitriol (sulphuric acid). The box that Brown was shipped in was 3 feet long by 2 feet 8 inches deep by 2 feet wide and displayed the words "dry goods" on it. It was lined with baize, a coarse woollen cloth, and he carried only a small portion of water and a few biscuits. There was a single hole cut for air and it was nailed and tied with straps.Brown later wrote that his uncertain method of travel was worth the risk: "if you have never been deprived of your liberty, as I was, you cannot realise the power of that hope of freedom, which was to me indeed, an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast."During the trip, which began on March 29, 1849, Brown's box was transported by wagon, railroad, steamboat, wagon again, railroad, ferry, railroad, and finally delivery wagon, being completed in 27 hours. Despite the instructions on the box of "handle with care" and "this side up," several times carriers placed the box upside-down or handled it roughly. Brown remained still and avoided detection. The box was received by Williamson, McKim, William Still, and other members of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee on March 30, 1849, attesting to the improvements in express delivery services.. When Brown was released, one of the men remembered his first words as "How do you do, gentlemen?" He sang a psalm from the Bible, which he had earlier chosen to celebrate his release into freedom. In addition to celebrating Brown's inventiveness, as noted by Hollis Robbins, "the role of government and private express mail delivery is central to the story and the contemporary record suggests that Brown’s audience celebrated his delivery as a modern postal miracle." The government postal service had dramatically increased communication and, despite southern efforts to control abolitionist literature, mailed pamphlets, letters and other materials reached the South."Cheap postage," Frederick Douglass observed in The North Star, had an "immense moral bearing". As long as federal and state governments respected the privacy of the mails, everyone and anyone could mail letters and packages; almost anything could be inside. In short, the power of prepaid postage delighted the increasingly middle-class and commercial-minded North and increasingly worried the slave-holding South."Brown's escape highlighted the power of the mail system, which used a variety of modes of transportation to connect the East Coast. The Adams Express Company, a private mail service founded in 1840, marketed its confidentiality and efficiency. It was favoured by abolitionist organisations and "promised never to look inside the boxes it carried."
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