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Angel mosaic revealed at Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity

Angel mosaic portraitThe BBC have recently done a video report that Italian restoration workers at the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem have been showing off a stunning mosaic of an angel that was previously hidden beneath plaster.

Tensions between different Christian denominations have long delayed the repairs at the church.

But the Palestinian Authority brokered a deal between them enabling restoration work to start three years ago.

Children and Holy Communion

Recently I have been doing some reading about children and Holy Communion.  One of the most helpful things I read was this blog by Margaret Pritchard Houston:

As we were preparing to admit six children to Holy Communion before Confirmation, our curate turned to me and said, ‘So we admit them at age 7? Explain this to me theologically.’

And I had to explain that I couldn’t – that the only reason we do admission to Holy Communion at 7 is that we’re not allowed to do it from baptism, that our policy is more a compromise than a coherent theological principle.

She goes on to answer the following questions:

  • If we admit children to communion at baptism, then what is confirmation for?
  • Children are allowed to participate in other ways, aren’t they? They can come to Jesus through Sunday School and worship without receiving communion until they’re older.
  • Wanting it doesn’t mean they should have it. They don’t understand what it means, and that’s crucial to receiving the sacrament.

Empowering Children as Ministers

Empowering Children as Ministers was a day conference organised by Gill Ambrose and Ally Barrett (Reverendally), with help from the Praxis East Committee.

The notes from the day show it to have been a rich and thought provoking day with a diverse group of ministers and church representatives reflecting together on how they might empower our churches’ children and young people as ministers, and the impact that this may have on the children and young people themselves (both now and into adulthood) and on the church itself.

At a time when the Church of England is actively promoting the nurturing of young vocations, why not start in childhood?  Click here to read a full report on the day, including the full text of the speech given by 11 year old Joanna about her own experiences as a minister.

Threads – Referendum reflections: we did this

Matt White has written a reflection on the referendum for Threads.  Here’s a snippet:

We. Did. This.

I’m not just talking about the mechanics of democracy. More people putting their cross in one box than another. It goes way beyond that.

Our actions of not just the last 24 hours have led us to this point. And if we don’t get to grips with that, then we can’t be surprised when it happens next time, or the next time, or the next time…

And as I take a long, hard, look at myself in that light this morning, some things are uncomfortably staring right back; if I choose to denigrate our politicians, labelling them all “dishonest” or “self-serving”, then I can’t be surprised when people don’t trust what is being said by them. Or refuse to take part in the process at all.

If I disengage from politics from election to election, headline to headline, only diving in a few hours before or after the next big thing, I’m not adding or shaping the discourse. I’m just clanging at the last minute in the hope my pithy tweet or couple of paragraphs on Facebook will really make a difference.

If I make villains out of those who stand up for what they believe in – even if I don’t share their belief – I push others away. Afraid to appear in agreement with those I so clearly find laughable. Making them too nervous to ask why, or start conversations that might help bring clarity to us both.

If I rush to caricature those in my communities who hold different opinions, I stop seeing them as my neighbours. I write them off with broad brushstrokes, and make it clear that my walls will always be built and my borders firmly in place.

And so today I, and we, get another choice. Not leave or remain. Not in or out – that ship has sailed.

Today I get the choice to act.

Do go read the rest of it to hear how Matt suggests we act.

EU referendum: Statement by Archbishops of Canterbury and York

Archbishop Justin Welby and Archbishop John Sentamu have issued this joint statement today after the UK voted to leave the European Union: 

On Thursday, millions of people from across the United Kingdom voted in the referendum, and a majority expressed a desire that Britain’s future is to be outside the European Union

The outcome of this referendum has been determined by the people of this country. It is now the responsibility of the Government, with the support of Parliament, to take full account of the outcome of the referendum, and, in the light of this, decide upon the next steps. This morning, the Prime Minister David Cameron has offered a framework for when this process might formally begin.

The vote to withdraw from the European Union means that now we must all reimagine both what it means to be the United Kingdom in an interdependent world and what values and virtues should shape and guide our relationships with others.

As citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever our views during the referendum campaign, we must now unite in a common task to build a generous and forward looking country, contributing to human flourishing around the world. We must remain hospitable and compassionate, builders of bridges and not barriers. Many of those living among us and alongside us as neighbours, friends and work colleagues come from overseas and some will feel a deep sense of insecurity. We must respond by offering reassurance, by cherishing our wonderfully diverse society, and by affirming the unique contribution of each and every one.

The referendum campaign has been vigorous and at times has caused hurt to those on one side or the other. We must therefore act with humility and courage – being true to the principles that make the very best of our nation. Unity, hope and generosity will enable us to overcome the period of transition that will now happen, and to emerge confident and successful. The opportunities and challenges that face us as a nation and as global citizens are too significant for us to settle for less.

As those who hope and trust in the living God, let us pray for all our leaders, especially for Prime Minister David Cameron in his remaining months in office. We also pray for leaders across Europe, and around the world, as they face this dramatic change. Let us pray especially that we may go forward to build a good United Kingdom that, though relating to the rest of Europe in a new way will play its part amongst the nations in the pursuit of the common good throughout the world.

Youth pilgrimage to Taizé – God’s Presence

A brilliant update from Richard Nihill on the Archbishop of York’s Youth Trust Pilgrimage to Taizé:

I am writing today’s blog sitting in the Church of Reconciliation rejoicing in the opportunity just to be. Surrounded by people waiting to worship, surrounded by young and old from around the world, and surrounded by God’s presence and love.

When I first arrived with our young people on Sunday I was concerned about several things: whether they would embrace or flee from the international character of Taize, how they would react having to attend three services a day, how they would cope with the silence, and how we might fill the rest of their time and occupy them.

From the first few hours of our pilgrimage here I have watched our young people worship in languages they’ve never spoken; greet like old friends students from America, from Sweden, from Italy; and share with depth and honesty in our international Bible study groups.

The services have become a perfect punctuation to the day. Often the young people are the ones who remind the leaders that it is time to be there. We have all loved the opportunity to sing the chants and let the music inspire us and the words take route within.

The silence at the heart of the services has been an element that we have all grown to appreciate. What started as daunting is now a source of nourishment. Just today one of the girls  remarked that at each service it seems to get shorter. A group of them discussed how Taizé was giving them a perspective of seeing silence as a blessing and that they wanted to prioritise more of it in their lives.

And finally, what of the question of how we might occupy our time here? Well that is most definitely filled, filled with the presence of God. Filled with God’s presence as we worship in the chapel, in both the silence and in the sound. Filled with God’s presence in our brothers and sisters as we discuss, as we socialise and as we learn from one another. Filled with God’s presence as the volunteers serve us and as we serve each other, with a smile or by kind words.

But I find myself left now with another concern  – how do we incorporate this experience into our daily lives? In the midst of a hectic existence how do we live the present moment? Perhaps the answer is in these words from today’s midday service; ‘as Peter writes; Above all, love each other deeply’.

 

Richard Nihill

Lay Chaplain, Archbishop Holgate’s

Want to help young people start work well?

Great news! Second round applications for September’s Changing Light are now open:

Changing Light is our new weekend experience for people in their first years of working life or preparing to start work.
At this vital life stage, it’s an opportunity to:

  • Experience God’s love as workers and catch his exciting vision for work.
  • Dose up on fellowship and prayer and be commissioned at the start of working life.
  • Hear stories of how others have done great things for Christ in their work and experienced the odd failure along the way too.
  • Receive input and encouragement from those further along similar career paths.
  • Prepare for and celebrate the start of this vocational life.

Many people have told us that they wish they’d had something to help them through the transition into work. Changing Light meets that need. Do you know someone who might benefit?

Where: Camping in the beautiful fields of Latimer Minster, Bucks, HP9 2XD

When: Friday 9 September to Sunday 11 September, 2016

How much:  £80 (including food)

There are just 50 places available so pass on this link licc.org.uk/changinglight for all the details and to register interest by 18th July.

Feel free to get in touch with me if you have questions or would like a high quality version of the film below to show in your church.
Blessings,
Jen Logan

LICC Contemporary Projects Leader

Total football, total Church

I love this blog post on Total football, total Church by the Threads team.  Check out this snippet:

This European Championships will be the first to take place after the untimely death of football’s great philosopher-king, Johan Cruyff. While sadly Johan himself will not be present, Cruyff’s legacy will very much be felt at Euro 2016.

Cruyff is regarded as the pioneer of ‘Total Football’, a way of playing football in which players were free to respond to the demands of the game without traditional positional constraints. Players rotated, swapped positions and moved around the field; it is remarkable and sometimes disorienting to watch. The system relied on a strong understanding between players, effective on-pitch communication and a willingness to sacrifice individual self for the sake of the team’s collective success …

Like Total Football, the Church depends on its members working in unison to achieve an outcome that no one individual could muster alone. Each member has a role – a preferred position, if you will – and where we are able we should fulfil the role given to us (1 Corinthians 12:18). You can move around to fill the needs of your context, and sometimes you’ll feel out of position, but if your teammates (‘fellow workers’ to use a biblical term) are on the same wavelength, then you’ll be covered (Galations 6:2).

Cruyff’s disciples wholly bought into his way of playing and thinking about football. Ronald Koeman (Southampton FC manager) said, after Cruyff death: “Johan walks through my life.”

You’re a disciple of Christ? To what extent does Jesus Christ “walk through your life”? How is his presence felt in the way you perceive the role(s) you’ve been asked to play?

You don’t get to rewrite the rules of Christian discipleship, you’ve not be asked to move the goalposts, and you’ve definitely been given a position to play. But you do get to do everything in your power to play that position as intelligently and selflessly as you can. These are the tactics that have been given to us by our very own Philosopher-King.

“My role as a church leader is to empty the church”

Great interview with Adam Dyer from Yeovil Community Church by the IDEA magazine for the Evangelical Alliance.  I love this quote:

So my role as church leader isn’t to fill the church, but to empty the church – we run these projects not to get people in to the church but to get the church into the community. That idea that our neighbour is right there, that there’s brokenness  right there, that we can share this journey with people. Jesus came bringing the kingdom one act of love at a time, and we as a Church are invited into this movement.