Simply Be

I’ve got into this thing called ‘blob trees’ recently. Designed by Pip Wilson and Ian Long these are simple pictures using blob figures to capture how we are feeling in a particular situation. I’ve started using them as the ‘check in’ at the start of meetings to help people identify and express the mood they are in, as mood can greatly change the atmosphere of a gathering.

As we approach Advent, I’ve been finding the blob Christmas picture helpful, particularly when I’m haunted by my ever-growing list of folks to see, thing to prepare and events to organise.  The one blob I get drawn to has two figures kneeling at a manger, while behind them a third figure is alarmed and distracted and trying to get their attention focussed elsewhere.  This was a reality one afternoon this week when I was sharing a home communion, every time we paused for prayer and quiet my phone would ring!

I’m so pleased about our Christmas theme this year, ‘Simply Christmas’ – which I hope will do exactly what it says on the tin.

We are heading towards a beautifully simple carol service on the December 22nd with a church community choir leading our singing. Our Christmas day service with be all-age appropriate and hopefully the diary will be a little kinder to folks this year. Our invitations and publicity are straightforward and clear; and our decorations will have their usual understated beauty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed the shows and the parties of previous years, but I sense that this year most people just need to stop doing and do a little more being.

At the start of Advent, I’m once again flummoxed by how confusingly simple the Christmas story is, there’s a God of love who came to live amongst us – no longer distant he became one of us, being born in the most humble, poor, unglamorous, simple circumstances. Simple yet full of so many questions; which as we explore draw us closer to the wonderfully simple and mysterious love of God.

Simply Christmas is our theme this year

Come along

Bring your friends

Come and simply be

Being With

Last Sunday we closed our morning service and joined the Remembrance Day service at Shaw’s Corner just outside the church.  I found it a very moving experience and was glad we did it.  Firstly, I was struck by the sheer number of people attending. All generations were there from babes in arms to the other end of the scale. People were respectful and behaved well. There was no heckling, pushing or shoving or even talking. No one’s phone went off, in fact I barely saw any mobile phones at all.  People seemed genuinely moved by the readings and prayers and the beautifully played music that accompanied the service. It was one of those occasions when hearing words of scripture read so clearly publicly was very deeply poignant. I felt great pride to see one of our own church members lay a wreath at the end of the ceremony.

Remembrance Day clearly matters to our local community which is why I believe it was right that we joined in.  There was a sense of belonging, unity and togetherness accomplished by such a simple thing – going to rather than just inviting in. You could say that last Sunday we were truly incarnate with our local community, we joined with something important, we shared the same experience and became part of the story; rather than staying separate and removed as we have in other years.

The plan was for the community to be invited back to the church for refreshments afterwards and I was slightly disappointed that despite our best efforts it didn’t really work.  Nevertheless, the atmosphere back in our building was different to normal Sundays, people were more relaxed with time to talk and chat, there seemed to be less pressure and tension in the air. It was like an open church day without the programme – there’s a novel idea, maybe one Sunday we should just have nice cakes and pastries and refreshments with no service or programme at all.  Interestingly, we had the same number as usual to the evening service – I wondered if we might have a few more folks who missed having a morning service – apparently not.

Let me return to an earlier point, about the importance of being with the community for the value of being with them. Sam Wells (Vicar at St Martin in the Fields, London and Author) says that the essence of incarnation is God’s being with us and encourages us to see incarnation as the important step in discipleship and mission.  I’m talking about this a bit on Sunday as I explore what it means to be a disciple making community. This particularly resonates as we are rapidly approaching Christmas, when we celebrate the wonder of an amazing incarnate God who came to be with us, as we celebrate in the birth of Jesus. He lived among us and was one of our human community. He experienced the joys and challenges, the highs and lows of life – He was truly incarnate, and we should be too.

I’m pleased we closed our service to join the crowd outside last weekend – we were truly an incarnate church – and that was good.

If you want to read more of Sam Wells’ excellent work, ‘Incarnational Mission – Being with the World’ is a good place to start.

See you Sunday

Mundane or Vibrant

This Remembrance Sunday we are trying something different at RBC. Instead of our usual 10:00 am service we will be joining the civic service at Shaw’s corner at 10:45. Our building will be open for refreshments following the remembrance. This ties in well with the theme of my guest blogger Neil Bradshaw our outreach coordinator at RBC. I’ve learned a lot from Neil about outreach, evangelism and a passion for the gospel and so its a great joy to welcome him this week. Over to you Neil …………

Mundane, safe, comfortable, routine, mediocre, pedestrian.

Vibrant, exciting, thrilling, exhilarating, joyous.

Do you ever feel your Christian life feels more like by the first list rather than the second? Mine does regularly. But I find sharing Gods love with fellow work colleagues, neighbours and friends about the hope that we have helps me shift from that first list.

We often hear the term “the GIFT of evangelism” don’t we? I wonder sometimes if evangelism is actually more about normal, everyday Christians like you and me simply being trained?

Before I became a Christian 25 years ago it was made extremely clear to me that from now on I was to be a fisher of men.  And the thought totally petrified me. But alongside this expectation was another clear message. I would be trained to share my faith as it was modelled to me by more mature ordinary Christians, not in a classroom, but in real day to day life.

I was fearful, no natural gifting here. But God worked through my natural timidity and very quickly as I talked to people about God I became less awkward. And in the times when I did share my faith, I found my spiritual life shifted from the 1st list to the 2nd. Gifted in evangelism – No. Trained – yes.

It was helpful to have a Saturday morning focused on evangelism at RBC about a year ago. And it was good on recent Sundays mornings to have Andy Kind, Graham M and Tope encourage us to share our faith. But by simply going out and talking to the lost, God provides us with the very best real life training opportunity I think there is.

So rather than wonder if we may have “The gift of evangelism” a more helpful question to ask ourselves is “Do I have enough love for the lost and for Jesus to be trained in evangelism?”

From 10am -3pm Saturday 16th November we are joining Holy Trinity Church at their monthly Redhill market Christian bookstall where they offer teas and coffees to passers-by. It is wonderfully encouraging and helps me shift from my natural default of being lacklustre in my faith.

If you are currently more like the 2nd list we would love to see you next Saturday, if the 1st  – why not come and join us as God provides the best training there could possibly be.

Neil