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Sabbatical Presentation

Today I gave a presentation to one of my churches based on my recent sabbatical. By popular request (two people), I am uploading the PowerPoint here:

Sabbatical Presentation

Be warned, it’s a 14.7 MB download. If you don’t have PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress (from the free OpenOffice suite), you can view this with the free PowerPoint Viewer.

Sabbatical, Day 71, Easter Sunday: Jesus Returns To Life

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Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! In this final Damaris Trust video for Holy Week, Krish Kandiah and Peter May talk about how Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives us hope when considering what happens when we die.

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A great service for Easter Day at St Andrew’s this morning. ‘In a packed programme tonight’, as the Two Ronnies used to say, we had the Easter liturgy, renewal of baptismal vows, Holy Communion (of course) and people invited from the community to remember deceased loved ones.

In the middle of all that, there were two highlights for me. Firstly, the worship band shrank at one point to the younger members only. So Emily on vocals , Dan on guitar, Bradley on keys  and the drummer whose name I don’t know – they’re all round about thirteen years old – led us in Tim Hughes‘ ‘Happy Day‘. Here’s a version by the original artist:

Emily is a great singer, Dan a quiet and efficient bandleader, Bradley filled in subtly and the drummer guy is top drawer.

The other highlight was Lee’s sermon. Taking Mark 16:1-8, he made a virtue of the strange and sudden ending to Mark’s Gospel. He said we have to write our own ending to the Easter story in our lives. I thought that was great. 

For all that, it’s been quite a mixed day emotionally. On the one hand, I have entered Easter with a renewed confidence in the truth and importance of the Resurrection. Not that I ever lost my belief in the bodily Resurrection of Christ for one moment, but sometimes when life or circumstances aren’t the most encouraging, it can feel far away. Reading Tim Keller (sorry to mention him again!) and Tom Wright (see this excellent article from The Times yesterday) has done much to fortify my faith.

But other things have been weighing me down. My friend Will says today, in talking about his service this morning, 

Before the prayers of intercession, I reminded our congregation that for many the joys of Easter are still crowded out by their own personal Good Fridays. I know I have friends who will this week spend more time agonising in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jen and Mike, we are praying for you and Luke). For some, Easter is more like the women in Mark who hid when afraid.

And as he mentions his friends Jen, Mike and Luke, so I have been thinking about the three couples I mentioned last Sunday who have separated. Some events today have reminded me of them. Debbie and I feel such pain for them. And if that is how we feel, how do they?

More trivially, our eighteen-year-old cat is suddenly looking old, frail and weak. We are beginning to think the end might be near. The children realise, and on top of the fact that they have been asking questions about death as we’ve come through Holy Week, Good Friday and today. Mark in particular keeps asking whether he will die on a cross like Jesus.

I’m also starting to get more regular questions about how much longer the sabbatical has to go. The answer is that – with having tacked a week’s leave onto the end – I shall be back on duty four weeks today. The official Methodist literature on sabbaticals talks about planning your ‘re-entry’, which rather makes ministers feel like Apollo astronauts. The idea is that there should be a managed, phased re-introduction to active ministry.

Which makes me think of two words: ‘fat’ and ‘chance’. At least I hope it won’t be like my last sabbatical, when the superintendent asked me to come back early due to a crisis with the circuit treasurer. However, a sabbatical grants you new vision in all sorts of ways. It is then a huge challenge to share that vision with churches that are used to things being a long way different from such visions. I’ve always been a restless traveller on the outer fringes of Methodism: right now I feel somewhere out beyond Pluto.

Of course, it may just be a version of what anyone feels when a good holiday is coming to an end and they have to return to work. (Not that I’m suggesting the sabbatical is a holiday!) Time will tell.

Sermons, Worship And Stuff

My eagle-eyed reader will have noticed there was no sermon posted on the site this weekend. (My wife says you should be rejoicing. If you wondered why I posted about the dressing gown yesterday, I just wanted to get some writing out of my system.)

That’s because I wasn’t preaching today. I led some prayers in a Christingle service this morning at St Augustine’s followed by leading a short said communion, and some more intercessions tonight in a circuit service to commission three worship leaders.

The Christingle service was fun. Jane, my Anglican colleague, made a boy in the congregation into a human Christingle. I just hope he got the orange make-up off before his football game this afternoon. 

Tonight it was good to celebrate the gifts of three worship leaders. Berniece, sadly, couldn’t be with us, as she had been taken to hospital this week. But Joe and Dianne, both from churches I serve, are the sort of people any minister would want to have in their congregations.

Next week I may or may not post a new sermon. In the evening I’ll have a café church service where we discuss some clips from a DVD. In the morning I’m on a pulpit exchange to mark the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and so I shall be doing my minister stuff at a local United Reformed Church while a Catholic lay pastoral assistant fills my pulpit. It might be one of those weeks where it would be helpful to lift the pressure by repeating an old sermon, not least with assemblies at two different schools (including my children’s school for the first time), all sorts of other meetings and the minor detour of a tooth extraction tomorrow morning.

Come three weeks’ time and there will be a protracted period of there being no new sermons on the blog. It will last three months. On 1st February I start a sabbatical. Not that I’m deserting the family for long periods of times, so no burglars who know our address should contemplate an unfriendly visit. But naturally I am looking forward to it. My recent laptop purchase was ready for that experience, and hopefully when the sabbatical starts I’ll be able to blog my experiences regularly.

So that brings you up to date with things.