Last night we had a presentation from the good people at Christian Institute. Rhys Curnow (whose family we know) and Ian Hamil spoke. There is no particularly burning issue at the moment but it was good to get an update on things. There were some questions at the end and lots of literature for us to take. I do have one or two reservations about CI but they do a wonderful work all told and it is good hear from them regularly. It was also gratifying to see 30 or 40 present for the meeting. The first twenty or so were our own members and people from the Kensit Evangelical Church who had kindly transferred their midweek meeting to Childs Hill. Then there were various others from churches near and far including our nearest BU church. It was nice to have RHys over for tea beforehand with Eleri's dad and his wife.
Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.
We were only six on Wednesday but we had a decnet time of prayer preceded by a message from Gensis 18 on Abraham interceding for Sodom. Generally it is unwise to talk about prayer before people are about to pray but one man was quite exercised in prayer and to some extent prayed, I thought, in the sort of way Abraham might have.
In the Gimson book I read recently I came across this description of the attitude of most British people given in a book on Queen Victoria by the historian Cecil Woodham-Smith (who turns out to be a woman born in Tenby and writing in the seventies).
British belief in the superiority of the British nation knew no bounds. It was an article of faith that one Englishman could beat six Frenchmen, more than six of any other foreign nation, and it was an almost religious conviction that the British possessed a sense of justice and fair play to be found nowhere else. An Englishman stood up for the weak, faced disaster without losing his head, kept his word and never kicked a man when he was down.
My grandfather was a Victorian and even in the seventies when I grew up this attitude was sometimes in the air. it is not hoow people think today.
I saw The White Book the other day and was immediately attracted. I'd never heard of Han Kang but I like that whole eastern minimalist thing and snow (which features in the book, of course). Now one part of me feels I have been had. When you pay £9 for a book called the white book and you realise that half of it is white because there is no writing on many pages, you have to be suspicious. Along with the poorly executed black and white photographs there is plenty to complain about. On the other hand I did enjoy the series of prose poems that focus on things white and tell the minimalist story of a girl from Korea whose older sister and brother died when her mother miscarried and who travels to the west. It made me want to read more.
Having read Andrew Gimson's book on prime ministers I was attracted to his one on kings and queens too. I feel I ought to know such things. I am well up on about half the monarchs in this book but there were plenty of gaps in my knowledge and it was good to fill them in. It's a good book.
I have also recently read the biography of John Fogerty Fortunate son. I have two albums of the best songs by Creedence Clearwater Revival and am aware of some of Fogerty's subsequent material and most of the book was news to me. It was more than I really wanted ot know about the man really but it is(ghost) written very well. Fogerty is an admitted perfectionist and control freak and an obsessive. He speaks frankly about his alcohol abuse and other faults. He was clearly badly treated by Saul Zaentz with whom he signed a contract as a young man. He has not a good word to say for his drummer and bass player. He is slightly superstitious and also turns out to be a pantheist. When I read a book like this I tend to feel - so your life has been a bit of a mess too, I wish you knew what I knew.
I kept my usual day off this week, a Tuesday. Monday was tough for some reason, a typical minister's Monday. I was glad to have a proper day out, therefore. My main things today was reading. I finished three books - a book on British Kings and Queens which I have been reading for a while, the biography of John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival on kindle and a novel by the Korean writer Han Kang The white book. I'll write more about them another time. I didn't do much walking (I failed to do 1000 steps) just sat and drank coffee. Practically, I also arranged a plumber to come and do a job for us and started measuring for some blinds I need to buy. I did a little blogging too and in the evening Eleri and I watched a TV drama for an hour.
With football in the news I have recently read Leo McKinstry's biography of Sir Alf Ramsey. The biography is not without faults but gives you a good idea of the man, I would guess. There are some differences of opinion, eg on whether he was withour a sense of humour or very dry. He certainly was not without humour. Here are ten things I learned about him
1. He is the only manager to take England to a World Cup final and to win the World Cup
2. He is the only manager to take a side (Ipswich) and win the top division the year they came up.
3. He was an essentially shy man
4. He was a man obsessed with football
5. He was a man who saw that it is teams that win football matches not individuals
6. He is one of only 15 football knights
7. He ws a man who generally did not swear but who could use some very ripe language at times
8. He was an Englishman who hated the Scots
9. He did not have a very good relatioship with the press
10. he was the first England manager to select the team himself, something he insisted on
Great to be back in Childs Hill. We had (for us) large congregations am and pm with noticeable contingents of Nigerians and Filipinos in the morning as we were joined by visitors old and new. I preached another of the great texts in the morning - Ezekiel 36:26, 27. I'm amazed to think I've not tackled this as a text before now. So full of gospel. In the evening we started in Matthew 20 and the parable of the workers in the vineyard. That could have been done better perhaps. The heat did not make it easy for any of us. The evening meeting was preceded by communion where we looked again at Isaiah 53.
The old day off fell on a Satruday last week. It was my grandson Gwilym's fourth birthday party so we left London nice and early, drove without stopping and spent the day in Aber before heading home at the end of it, getting back here a little after midnight. My wonderful wife did all the driving. She likes to dive but still that was a stirling effort. The party itself was great with all five boys and wives there as well as people from Sibyl's family, local friends and people from the church. It is normally a fancy dress affair (this year's theme being Super Mario Brothers) but as it was optional no-ine dressed up except me. It's an interesting thing to know about yourself that you can be the only one there in fancy dress adn not be bothered. (One woman I'd not met before did wonder why I was dressed that way but did not like to ask). After most people were gone the family headed down to Tan-y Bwlch and despite the lack of swimming costumes most cooled off in the sea.
Ten of us gathered last night for the midweek meeting. We had a little bit more from Genesis 18 and Abraham's friendship with God and then discussed topics before praying. Some churches shifted their meeting night I understand but we're not football fanatics here and I'm not sure it's a good idea anyway. As Gareth Southgate would say some things are more important than football. At least English fans will have less of a struggle on Sunday. (FYI I did with the first half. If only it had stayed like that).
There was a quite a buzz about Rod Dreher's Benedict Option a year or so ago and on Monday our little group that gathers at the Pastors Academy in North London from time to time met to discuss it. As you might expect there was some antipathy to a book by a former Catholic Orthodox fellow who is basically advoccating that we learn from a Mediaeval monk. We tried to see past that and found many things in the book of interest. What struck me about the book was that it really contains nothing new. People have been speaking about it being a post-Christian situation at least since Schaeffer and the suggested answers - more community living, Christian education (not even the classical education idea is new), greater commitment, etc are also not new. If you have not read it you are not missing much but if this paragraph gets you curious it is worth getting a cheap copy or a paperback or borrowing one.
Calvin's Company of Pastors: Pastoral Care and the Emerging Reformed Church, 1536-1609 (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology) Oxford Studies in Historical Theology by Scott M Manetsch.
I was down in Portsmouth last Lord's Day preaching for the folk at Grace Baptist Church, Copnor Road. (I was last there in 2009). A former member, someone who came to us as a student, is a member there and he looked after me for the afternoon. I know one or two other members of the congregation a little bit also. We were about 30 in the morning and something less in the evening. I preached on Ephesians 2:8-10 in the morning and Romans 8:28 in the evening. It was blessing to be there. More on the church here (the sermons are currently there also).
Alexander was preaching here for me and I think they got on well with several visitors.
Alexander was preaching here for me and I think they got on well with several visitors.
We had an encouraging evening last night. Mike Mellor came up from Bournemouth an gave his testimony and encouraged us all to faith in Christ. We were about twenty altogether, so not a large number, but about a quarter of us were people either new to us or near as. One lady comes often to events, another from time to time but the others (a Muslim, a Catholic, an Anglican, someone with vvarious trooubles who wandered in) were al fresh to us. SOme had simply read the leaflet and decided to come! How heartening. So not an achievemnet as such but a great opportunity. We pray something may come of it. The food, etc, as ever, was exceellent. Our members, especially the women, work really hard. If you don't know Mike's testimony you can get the flavour here (with Roger Carswell).
We carried on with the next bit in Genesis 18 on Wednesday evening. This time it was on the God who knows where sin lurks and who sternly opposes it. Great themes. A couple from Slovakia turned up out of the blue and it was good to meet them and hear of their Brethren assembly in the north of the country. They travel regularly to London. Mikhael prayed in English as did all the regulars present. We were praying in particular for our evangelisitc meeting due the next night as well as plenty of other things.