Magazine leader - July 2014

From the Vicar

Recently Jane and I went on a holiday with a difference. Over the years we have done some odd things and on this occasion we spent two weeks in Balestrand on the main Sognefjord in Norway. We paid to get there, but the Kviknes family generously put us up in their hotel, in return for which we took services in St Olaf’s church in the centre of the village. The church was founded in Victorian times when an English lady went to Balestrand to do some mountaineering. She fell in love with the local hotel owner and her descendants, the Kviknes, still run that hotel and still care for the church she founded. The church is an Anglican one and it comes under the Church of England Diocese of Europe. Until recently my brother Jonathan was the Archdeacon out there and it was through him that we were offered the opportunity to go out there.

For the two week we were there all the services were (of course) in English. However we could identify at least twenty four different nationalities among visitors. The standard of English in the congregation varied, which presented a challenge to preaching. We did discover than most of the well-known hymns are used by people of every language and denomination, which meant that music became one thing which united us in worship. When it came to saying the Lord’s Prayer, we encouraged everyone to say it in their own language, which somehow works and is a very powerful experience. Coming from different countries, languages and cultures, what unites us is a common calling to pray together and to find a unity that flows from our common discipleship of the risen Lord. Most of all, what is universal and goes beyond all language is the breaking and sharing of bread and the sharing of the common cup of wine. Represented in our congregations were people from nations which had in the past been bitter enemies, but we found ourselves drawn into one fellowship by an action which brings into the present a body, broken for us on a cross, and blood, shed so that we might find Life.

Experiences like this help to underline a basic dynamic to the Christian faith which is all too easily lost. We can spend so much time defending our own positions of theology, tradition and culture that we fail notice the Christ who hangs there, dying for us and calling us to put aside difference and gather at the foot of the cross. In July, at General Synod, one of the things we will be debating is some proposed new words to be used at baptisms. It is felt that the language we use at present is too convoluted and theological, to the extent that it fails to make connections with people’s lives. There are those who believe that we should not compromise our language. What is needed is proper instruction so that those who bring children (or themselves) for baptism are taught what they should believe before the baptism takes place. But there is a different approach. Although baptism is a one-off event, it is part of a process by which people are drawn into the fellowship and worshipping life of the church. It is the gateway into a community of relationships in which what is important is the warmth of our welcome and the extent to which we make it easy for families or individuals to feel that they are part of our church. So that presents us with a challenge. We are a community which is obedient to Christ in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread. But to what extent are we a baptizing community? Certainly, many baptisms take place at St John’s, but to what extent is the process of initiating people into the Christian faith something we share together? Using accessible language is one part of this process, which is why new words for the baptism service are being proposed. Another part of the process is to ask to what extent we provide worship that is accessible to newcomers, particularly young families who bring children for baptism. Hand in hand with that is the question as to what extent we nurture those children who have been baptised at St John’s.

In July, our PCC will be considering these things, including a proposal to try a once a month 9am Sunday Breakfast Worship, which will be simple, involve both breakfast and worship and not be a Eucharist. The idea is to hold it in the hall, which will allow helpers both to have breakfast and to get into church for the 10am service. The Wednesday First Steps has come to an end, because so few people are using it. The present structure of Sunday School cannot be sustained beyond the end of the present term, so we will be asking what provision we can make for our children from September. Messy Church and the summer Holiday Club remain key elements in our interface with young families. We are grateful to all who help with these. We will need more help for some of the new ideas being proposed. Please contact me if you would like to learn more – or indeed if you can help.

Nigel LLoyd

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