Thursday, April 11, 2019

Mission and Ministry Week 1

Over the course of the next month or so I am teaching / facilitating learning on the Certificate in Christian Studies Course being run by the diocese - This evening was the opening night of the course.  

During the evening the participants looked at an overview of 'Mission' as we understand it within the Anglican Church

The evening consisted of

outlining the Module:

MODULE LEARNING OUTCOMES: On completion of this module, students will be able to-
  • Discuss the theological basis of mission and evangelism
  • Explain contemporary approaches to mission and evangelism
  • Evaluate  the influence of social context in defining the mission, nature and purpose of the local church
  • Discuss the relationship between mission and pastoral care

Discussing what comes to mind when we think about mission - this provoked a bit of discussion both  positive thoughts and also the negative side of mission.

Praying the collect for mission
Almighty God,
who called your Church to witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. 
2 (BCP 334)

Looking at a definition of Mission - beyond the stereo types

Mission is the creating, reconciling and transforming action of God, flowing from the community of love found in the Trinity, made known to all humanity in the person of Jesus, and entrusted to the faithful action and witness of the people of God who, in the power of the Spirit, are a sign, foretaste and instrument of the reign of God. 

With such a definition there is tremendous scope to understand that mission is actually the act of God into which he calls us to work with him. The God of Mission has  a church! 

For more on this see Bosch - Transforming mission 

In theology - we have the 4 sources of theology 
  • Scripture
  • Tradition 
  • Reason 
  • Experience 

Looking at Scripture 

We highlighted that with such a scope as per the definition above we need to go right back to the beginning ... 

God interacting with humanity  and throughout the pages of scripture there is God's action with his creation 

  • OT Narratives & Characters
  • The Beatitudes 
  • The sheep and the goats 
  • 12 & 72 Sent out
  • Great Commission 
  • Pentecost 
  • Epistles

and we see that there is a continuous revealing and partnership with God and his people 

In the ministry of Jesus we see mission continuing - the relationship developing 

We could pick umpteen passages: 

One of those is 

Matthew 9:35–38 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

What do we notice from these verses? 

Key words:  Teaching, Proclaiming good news, Healing, compassion, harassed and helpless, lack of workers, ask (prayer)

Focusing in on : word, action and compassion 


What does mission look like today? 

Tradition - Yes there are negative stereotypes but actually we need to get beyond those 

The Anglican Church has 5 marks of mission 

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  2. To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
  3. To respond to human need by loving service
  4. To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

I got a bit controversial here and said that some parts of the church have some tendency to  focus primarily on one of these but actually we are called to have a balanced approach. 

Some deep discussion occurred around these. 

for more on these check out - 5 Marks of mission  


This then led into a discussion about the nature of where we are in history and what the means pastorally. 

A quick outline from 

  • New Testament Times 
  • Early Church History 
  • Constantine  Conversion 
  • Christendom (Church and State)
  • Enlightenment 
  • Post- Christendom 

The example was given of us as a post-christendom church - what does it mean when parents want to give their children a choice as to whether or not to baptise kids? 

which then led to the issues around church beyond the doors of church and the problems with a bounded set of parishioners and the challenges of 21st Century Church as opposed to 50 years ago. 

The tensions of locality v's network society and the difficulties of choice in our society and the range of decisions people are able to make today. 

If mission is bigger than the Church of Ireland ... we're not baptising babies into the Church of Ireland -but rather the church universal of which we are members.   how do we offer choice, maintain membership and do those things that we're called to do in those 5 marks. For more on post christendom check out - Stuart Murray

Discussion was had around Historical Inhibitors to mission in the context of the Republic of Ireland - Issues such as Souperism and Tithe as well as issues with inter church Relations - Difficulties with Irish Catholic Church - highlighted by people like - Fr Joe McDonald  and 5 years to save the Irish Church  coupled with the difficulties around Centenaries commemorations and the work of reconciliation. 

These are very live issues - and need to be carefully handled - some discussion time was devoted to this. 

The point was made that history is important but must not forget that actually mission needs to continue as well as working for reconciliation of the past - a 2 track approach perhaps? 


After coffee these images were shown - one wonders if maybe there is some truth in these? 

The stereotypical church in popular  - boring, sleepy people sitting through a sermon irrelevant to their lives

The doors of the church building closed - either 6 days a week physically shut - what's that saying to people? 
or people who see the church door shut metaphorically due to their circumstances, past or present? 

or those who do go into the building but see an empty shell - they don't feel they belong or that there is nothing in there for them? 

This sadly for so many people is a reality.  What can we do about it? 

It surely brings us back to the 5 marks of mission - and then also searching for what's in our inherited structures but not yet implemented ... see Earl Storey - Apologetic for mission

We concluded with a Franciscan Benediction 

Friday, April 05, 2019

Back to normal?! - Some initial topics from Sabbatical

This is simply a quick wee blog - I have realised that it's been before Christmas that I last blogged and so much has happened - in the past 3 months I've clocked up a couple of thousand KM's on the car as I travelled around Ireland discovering what God is up to in unexpected places, as well as completing a 15,000 word dissertation + appendices in total came to 64,500 words!

The past three months I've learnt quite a bit about ministry, mission and am back in Blarney with a deep refreshment from time in retreat and prayer.

There does seem to be a huge amount of learning from this time which I do think has implications for the way ministry may need to develop.

Topics cropped up such as:

- The Gospel what it means in Ireland today.
- Clergy Self-care / supervision
- Pioneer Ministry and support
- The Dialectic tension between 'cosy club church' and 'gimmick church'
- What success looks like in Ministry
- the balancing of the 5 marks of mission
- Being church in new areas of Ireland
- The Church which seems ready for new forms of ministry to be enacted
- Not forgetting what has already been done
- The need for implementation to happen in areas where the church has already reported on
- The grappling with change within church circles
- The need for adequate support structures
- The good news stories in Church need to be celebrated
- 'Going beyond the Church of Ireland community' in mission
- Being sensitive to our historical context whilst also realising that we are in a new era
- Appraisal of ministry
- Support and mentoring within current and new expressions of Church

Over the next while I hope to blog about many of these topics - as many of them are problematic and challenging to those of us who are in inherited forms of church and in doing so discuss and ponder  what the Spirit might be saying to church.

Whatever that may be ... its certainly an adventure!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mary & the Magificat

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen 

Those words from this mornings gospel reading ... of Mary are words of immense importance … a declaration of who the child is and who he will be - a description of what God is up to in and through her but also what will be happening once the Child in her womb is born. 

This morning I would love us to stop for a moment at this juncture … before we celebrate Christmas and think about Mary. 

In Ireland, due to our history,  particularly we have many images of of the Blessed Virgin Mary … one just has to drive around the roads here and we see statues to her. 

Of course we as a church look to Mary as an example of faithfulness and also a woman called by God uniquely in salvation history 

Much has been written and debated across the centruries … for anyone looking to take this study further …check out ARCIC on Mary - available her 

This document which appears on the Vatican website repeats what Both the anglican and Roman Catholic Church can agree upon - What we must be clear on is that: 

  • that any interpretation of the role of Mary must not obscure the unique mediation of Christ;
  • that we recognize the Blessed Virgin Mary as the Theotókos, the mother of God incarnate, and so observe her festivals and accord her honour among the saints;
  • that Mary was prepared by grace to be the mother of our Redeemer, by whom she herself was redeemed and received into glory;
  • that we recognize Mary as a model of holiness, faith and obedience for all Christians; and
  • that Mary can be seen as a prophetic figure of the Church.

It’s this prophetic role I would like to pick up on this morning - for a few moments 

Prophetic - is either fore-telling or forth-telling 

In other words - a prophet is someone who tells what is going to happen in the future or what should and needs to happen in the future. 

Mary in the Magificat - does  state both what the Child in her womb is going to do and also what needs to happen 

Mary paints a magnificent word picture of what the kingdom of God is going to be like - a vision that is attractive to the powerless, the vulnerable, the poor and the underdog. 

Its not too attractive for the powerful, the exploiter, the rich and the bully. 

Mary in her faithfulness shows what God can do with a single life who is ready to say yes to God. 

Mary in this prophetic role is powerful

<< This has been doing the rounds on Facebook -from a nativity play last year >>

As I watched this time and again … I see Mary in this picture as someone not going to take things that aren’t meant to be (we'll not go much further with this imagery! ;-) 

When we read elsewhere in the Gospels … Mary prompting Jesus, Mary having her heart broken, Mary in her supportive role 

But her prophetic role here … stating the what this child will become - This Christmas … as we pause … we have the kingdom of God being proclaimed here. 

So what are we to make of the Magificat … Mary’s song 

E. Stanley Jones, a famous preacher of two generations ago, said that the Magnificat is “the most revolutionary document in the world.”
Geldenhese, a Dutch theologian, said that the Magificat “announces powerful revolutionary principles.” 
Murrow, another theologian, talks about the “revolutionary germ” found in the Magnificat. 
Barclay, an English theologian, says that the Magificat is “a bombshell.” Barclay goes on to say that people have read it so often that they have forgotten its “revolutionary terror.” It takes “the standards of the world and turns them upside down.” Barclay teaches that in the Magnificat, there are three revolutions: 
“an economic revolution; a political revolution; and a moral revolution.”  

Still another author says that the Magnificat “terrified the Russian Czars.” 

Martin Luther, the father of the Lutheran church, says that the Magnificat “comforts the lowly and terrifies the rich.” 

Gilmore said that the Magnificat “fosters revolutionaries in our churches.”  He says that “the Church needs the leaven of discontent, and the Magnifcat makes the church strive against poverty and wretchedness.”

As we come to Christmas for another year … are we prepared to accept the revelation of the Christ Child - that actually there is a revolutionary message that the church has turned on its head - that we have somewhat sanitised and accepted the message that the world proclaims that it is a lovely story and makes us feel good but nothing more.

One Commentator sums this up quite well when he says Those who know God and his grace will echo Mary’s song. We do not have the honour of giving birth to the Saviour of the World, but we do have the blessing of becoming one of his children. The promises God makes to his humble children, revealed by Mary in her hymn of praise, are promises in which we share.

Casting Crowns wrote a song which is a wonderful piece of poetry - have a listen to it. 

Somewhere between the hot and the cold
Somewhere between the new and the old
Somewhere between who I am and who I used to be
Somewhere in the middle, you'll find me

Somewhere between the wrong and the right
Somewhere between the darkness and the light
Somewhere between who I was and who you're making me
Somewhere in the middle, you'll find me

Just how close can I get, lord, to my surrender without losing all control

Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the god we want and the god who is
But will we trade our dreams for his or are we caught in the middle
Are we caught in the middle

Somewhere between my heart and my hands
Somewhere between my faith and my plans
Somewhere between the safety of the boat and the crashing waves
Somewhere between a whisper and a roar

Somewhere between the altar and the door
Somewhere between contented peace and always wanting more
Somewhere in the middle you'll find me

Just how close can I get, lord, to my surrender without losing all control
Fearless warriors in a picket fence, reckless abandon wrapped in common sense
Deep water faith in the shallow end and we are caught in the middle
With eyes wide open to the differences, the god we want and the god who is
But will we trade our dreams for his or are we caught in the middle

Lord, I feel you in this place and I know you're by my side
Loving me even on these nights, when I'm caught in the middle
Caught in the middle

2018 we look back on with all sorts of feelings for some its been a great year, for some a mixed blessings year, for others it may have been a horrid year.  

2019 is on the horizon - I wonder when we get to this time next year what are we going to look back on - will we be in the same place or do we have a bit of a vision for what could be birthed in our lives, in our community, what is God calling us collectively to, to you personally to. The magnificat was Mary’s song … her calling out what should be and needs to be. This is also not just for young people … its for all of us … remember how God used Abraham and Sarah, Noah, 

This all began with a young woman saying yes to the Lord, this revolution began with a simple let it be according to your will. What is your vision … what are you prepared to see brought to fruition 

Lets pray 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Me and my stop sign

Over the course of advent, if you looked in the boot of my car you'd have found a most strange object ... a stop sign ... I've been carting it about with me for over a month now and I'm still going with it. Its been at Messy Church, its been at our United Celebration, its been at School assembly and its going to be with me right up until Christmas Day.

The stop sign is an amazingly helpful prop when it comes to thinking about advent I've found.  A time in the Church's year when we are challenged to prepare to hear again the story of Christmas.

Its been a reminder to me to stop personally ... to take time to halt during the day at times that I might have whizzed on through ... taking time to stop has been really important.

Its been a reminder to others I've spoken to ... to take that time to re-imagine quiet times and prayer times

This morning as I led our Sunday AM service - I was reminded that a stop sign is not a suggestion but it is a warning sign, a sign that if it is ignored could lead to an accident ... hurting ourselves and others around about you.

so a couple of things might be important at this junction ... If you are reading this ... remember to stop ... to take the time to stop, to halt and look to see if there is anything which could harm us coming our direction before moving off again or even what direction we need to be going.

some ideas   

Stop and reflect ... what's important?

Stop and look at if you do keep going the way you are ... where might you end up? ... is that where you want to be or do you need to make another decision?

Stop in the midst of the Christmas crazy season and remember what its all about

Stop and think about what gives you life and energy... do more of that stuff!

If you need to stop doing something that you know that needs to be cut out ... cut it out! STOP it!

Remember that the Christian message is good News ... Bill in Sunday AM this morning defined Good News as

Something significant has changed for the better and the life of the hearer is now lived in a different way as a direct consequence

It's not about condemnation, but rather about our response to great news. None of us are perfect people but we can respond to Good news

Why not make a decision to stop and see what great things God might be saying to you.

STOP and remember the promises he has already spoken to you

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advent - Bible Study

At Growth Group tonight we were looking at next Sunday's lectionary readings and thinking about what were we looking forward to.

In the readings there were various things but primarily we focused upon ... the Second Coming of Christ

I do love this diagram which reminds us of where we are in the timeline of everything.

As we got going at looking at this I was reminded as we STOP at advent and look back ... we're looking back at what has been ... the incarnation, the resurrection etc but we're also looking forward to the second advent with expectation and preparedness.

Hugely challenging, in that we're living in the tension between the now and the not yet of God's Kingdom.

some key passages ...
1 Thess 3:12  12And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 

Luke 21: 34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation* and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’ 
*dissipation = overindulgence

Some great discussion was had ...


Monday, November 12, 2018

Remembrance Day Sermon

Sermon Preached in Blarney Church on 11th November 2018 on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice.


May the words of My mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be now and always be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen

Today I particularly welcome along those who have come to this church to especially remember members of their family / those connected with them in some way who died during WWI.

We’re commemorating a war that saw so many from this land and these islands march over to battlefields in foreign lands and encounter unimaginable suffering, scenes of the most horrific slaughter and witness the most incredible display of mans inhumanity to man.

The names we read out earlier are relatives of ours or linked to us in some way - people who for various reasons found themselves on  foreign battlefields. We remember them, we remember those who are not named as well because to forget them is to forget the sacrifice of life they made and also to forget the horrors of war they witnessed and to ensure that those lessons not be forgotten by any generation yet to come.

Messy is a word I’m using more and more about life, pastoral issues and certainly the politics of the world… and certainly the history of these islands are messy to say the least. A couple of weeks ago I attended the Blarney and District Historical Society for a lecture entitled Blarney 1918 which talked about this area 100 years ago - the competing political ideologies, the messy reasons for people to sign up and go off to war - whether it be for money, to feed themselves and their families, for adventure, to further the cause of irish nationalism, to support the British forces … to name but a few.

What we do know is without this war - History of this nation and europe would be different, and the world we know today would be unrecognisable.

These brave men who marched are remembered today - with gratitude for their service and their sacrifice

When we look around Ireland in 2018 we see these men some of whom are named on monuments and others who are not - we are realising that they do need to be remembered - there seems to be a general maturing of attitudes - this needs to be encouraged - we need to be careful about this remembering  … that we do not forget the lessons that history teaches us - the importance that no one should be ‘airbrushed out of the history books’.

In remembering we are not glorifying war - not at all! … in commemorating we are not celebrating - that cannot be done  and should never be done.

In our village we do remember … and we will remember those in previous generations who died.

When we turn as we must to scripture - The Gospel reading today ends with Jesus’ command

Love each other

In the Epistle reading … Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus

My appeal is simple today - actually probably the simplest message of all

The human heart … is at the heart of all decisions - personally, politically, nationally, internationally and when we scale decisions up into the corridors of power and down to individual conversations at home or at work - where is love?

This day 100 years ago peace was achieved … after around 17 million people (Military & Civilian) were killed

Peace at what cost? …

This cannot be allowed to happen again … of course we know it did happen again - I was struck that on Friday Night on BBC News they were mentioning that it was 80 since Jews were attacked in Germany …again violence and inhumanity to fellow humans

but what about in our day?

We do know that peace is a longing for us all … we do need to work for it. We do know that there are those from this land today who are trying to work for peace - to stand in the gap between foes

We have today peace keeping forces in various parts of the world serving with the UN

Currently the Defence Forces  of Ireland are involved in a number of missions throughout the world involving approximately one hundred Personnel from all branches.  This number will be increased to include the 440 personnel who will be involved with the new mission to Lebanon which was confirmed by Minister for Defence.

We pray for our leaders, for those in the corridors of power
but we also work for peace in our homes, our families, our workplaces, wherever we find ourselves

Where there are those who stand in the gap … to defend our peace we give thanks

Where there are those who negotiate peace … we pray for wisdom

Where there are those who try to bring reconciliation … we pray for courage.

This is a day for remembrance but it is also a day to re-commit ourselves to the pursuit for peace and justice in our world. Later in the service we will have an opportunity to do just that.

For each of us in our own lives we have opportunities day and daily to bring an end to hatred and division - to embark on a journey of reconciliation - its difficult but God does give us the resources to love one another as he loves us.

as we sit here this morning I wonder as we commemorate a war which none of us remember first hand - are there bits of our history - our family, the community to which we belong that need reconciled.

Let’s remember that although there are no World Wars there are still those who are protecting us from those who would do us harm.

And there are those who we might not take up a weapon against but whom we need to love as difficult as that may be.

Reconcilliation may not be possible but we might have to reach out an olive branch to by what we say or by our actions.

Let’s Pray.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Peace, Reconcilliation, Remembrance - Some thoughts before tomorrow

Lots have been written about the Armistice over the past few weeks and months. As I sit in a coffee shop thinking about tomorrow preparing stuff for tomorrow I'm struck about the immense privilege it is to lead in remembrance.

I'm struck about the sacrifice that was made by so many, the politics of this nation which made remembrance a very difficult topic for the past 100 years but also the need to to remember in order to learn lessons of history.

Having recently been to a lecture about Blarney in 1918 and the difficulties of history there is a need deep down not to plaster over what has happened but to understand - I'm so thankful for historians who can look at the sources and make some sense of how the past impacts the present.

With my pastoral heart going into tomorrow - the acknowledgement of what has been is important but also speaking into what needs to be going forward is important too.

I've been really encouraged by those who have taken up my invitation to remember at our 11am service those who are somehow connected with them who died during WW1 and will be remembering them at that service. All are welcome to join us at that service. We will be  beginning 5  minutes earlier in order to have a silence at 11am. 

Here is the introduction to  tomorrows service
Brothers and Sisters, 
as we commemorate the centenary of the ending of the First World War,
 we come together to offer to almighty God
 our worship and praise and thanksgiving 
to draw near to the throne of God
 in penitence and humility;
 to hear his proclamation of justice and righteousness; 
to remember those who participated
 in the war - those connected in some way to us;
 to acknowledge the relief and joy 
at the ending of this time of great hostility, 
and the anguish, sorrow and grief 
of those who never shared in that relief and joy; 
to remember a world and lives changed forever,
 yet with an uncertainty for the future and of lasting peace; 
to pray for all those who continue to serve
 in our armed/defense forces,
 and to pray that in the power of his spirit
 we may serve him in the pursuit of his heavenly realm.
We will remember them.