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Monthly Archives: May 2006

Why We Should Not Copy The ‘Successful’ Church

Have a look at this: Seth’s Blog: But I like the sticky floors

Seth Godin reports on McDonald’s redesigning their ‘restaurants’ to look more like Starbuck’s. But as Godin says,

The challenge McDonald’s faces is not to be like Starbucks. Why? Because Starbucks is already like Starbucks. The challenge is to to tell a story to the existing
McDonald’s fan, a story that combines fresh and comfortable with the
stuff they’ve always liked and trusted (the place is cheap, and it
feels cheap, which makes it easier to bring the baseball team…)

And this puts me in mind of church stuff. Apart from the fact that I’m more of a Costa man than a Starbuck’s customer (give me one of Costa’s Fairtrade cappucinos with a lemon and white chocolate muffin soon, please) it’s that danger of copying the ‘successful’ church down the road, or that we’ve read about in the latest trendy Christian paperback (if anyone is still reading books). The largest of the churches I serve, Broomfield Methodist, is in a covenant with our local Anglican church, St Mary’s. St Mary’s is an ancient buildin – even possibly Norman, I think. Its Sunday worship for adults reflects that traditional flavour. They also have a modern church hall in which there is a thriving Junior Church. We, on the other hand, have a 1960s building that has just been refurbished with all mod cons, and yes I can now play with PowerPoint during the sermons. Unlike them, we don’t even have a Sunday School at present. I have maintained since soon after arriving here that our role here is not to ape or copy St Mary’s but to provide something complementary in the locality. Yes, we need to recover children and young people but we may not do it in the same way as our Anglican friends. We have a weekend coming up in September with Mike Bossingham of the Family Friendly Churches Trust and that may lead us in a different direction from the conventional Sunday School. Our worship certainly needs to be different, too, but worshiping the same God and Father through Jesus Christ.

Of course this is the harder way to do things: no ‘off the peg’ suit but something made to measure. Not content creators but context innovators, as Fred Peatross said in a recent Abductive Columns email.

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links for 2006-05-08

Bringing Together My Online Life

I signed up today with this site: peoplefeeds Here you can view a collation of my blog, my Flickr photos and my bookmarks on del.icio.us. If you don’t want to track all that I post but only certain ‘tags’, you can do so.

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Grief Expressed Online

Found this article on the New York Times website (you will need to register free of charge to read it). It details how people are expressing the grief of bereavement on websites such as MySpace when users, particularly young people, die.

Rituals of Grief Go Online – New York Times

Thanks to Andrew Welch for the link.

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Deleting From The Dictionary

The last two weeks have shown us that Tony Blair’s powers, far from being diminished, have in fact increased vastly. For he has been able to delete a word from the dictionary. The word is, ‘resign’. A cabinet minister doesn’t resign for presiding over dangerous incompetence in his department (Charles Clarke), nor for serious moral failure and the use of Government premises to further it (John Prescott), nor for crass ineptitude (Patricia Hewitt telling nurses facing redundancy the NHS has had its best ever year).

So to cheer us all up here is a song for Charles Clarke.

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Deleting From The Dictionary

The last two weeks have shown us that Tony Blair’s powers, far from being diminished, have in fact increased vastly. For he has been able to delete a word from the dictionary. The word is, ‘resign’. A cabinet minister doesn’t resign for presiding over dangerous incompetence in his department (Charles Clarke), nor for serious moral failure and the use of Government premises to further it (John Prescott), nor for crass ineptitude (Patricia Hewitt telling nurses facing redundancy the NHS has had its best ever year).

So to cheer us all up here is a song for Charles Clarke.

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Deceit

Driving yesterday I heard this horrendous interview on the radio with Gary Glitter (Paul Gadd) about his appeal against conviction for sleeping with underage girls in Vietnam:

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Gary Glitter denies abusing girls

The line that stuck out in the vile conversation was where he said “I’m not a paedophile” – this from a man who was convicted in the UK in 1999 of having four thousand photos of children being abused on his home computer. Does he not understand definitions of paedophilia?

Of course he does. He is simply manifesting the appalling levels of deceit and self-deceit common in paedophiles. (We’ll say nothing about his apparent assumption in the interview that a man in his sixties having sex with teenage girls is OK if they are over the age of consent. And I won’t even get on to my traditional Christian views about sex and marriage.)

It is due to these levels of deceit that my denomination will not allow anyone who has been convicted or cautioned for offences against children ever take responsible posts in the church – and not just jobs working with young people. Some object to this, saying that the transforming power of the Gospel must mean hope even for paedophiles to change. It looks bad when the Christian Church doesn’t seem to believe that people can change through Christ’s forgiveness and the work of the Holy Spirit. And of course I believe that people can be wonderfully renewed by God.

Nevertheless I willingly hold the party line on this one. Sometimes the Christian ethic is not about claiming my rights, it’s about not claiming them, for the good of others. For example, the apostle Paul did not claim payment and support from the churches he served, even though he believed that those who preached the Gospel should live by it. He refused to claim his right in that respect, because he believed it would be a hindrance. In the same way it would be a terrible hindrance if we freely allowed paedophiles to hold church office. So we ask them not to claim their ‘rights’. (And there is a whole Christian problem with the language of rights anyway, as the late Lesslie Newbigin pointed out twenty years ago in his book ‘Foolishness To The Greeks’: rights are the language of the Enlightenment, of human autonomy, with nobody, certainly not God, to answer to.)

But the sting in the tail for me is this: it is easy to spot deceit and self-deceit in a criminal such as paedophile. It is fairly simple to spot it in others. But perhaps the Gary Glitter interview should be the terrible warning to us all about how easy we find it to deceive others and ourselves. Most of us, I guess, engage in our little deceits. If we are not careful, where might they lead? I, for one, am all too good at justifying myself when I feel unfairly attacked and go on the defensive. The risk is that I exaggerate and so deceive myself, let alone whoever is attacking me.

So despite feeling revulsion listening to Gary Glitter yesterday I come with a sense of ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ – not into paedophilia, I pray; but I pray more for the grace of God to enable me to live more truthfully.

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