Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

A strange church

September 9, 2012
Ebenezer Tabernacle New Testament Church of God

Ebenezer Tabernacle New Testament Church of God

In the summer I would often go past a small church on a summer’s evening and hear singing from the open door.

Last summer, at a flower festival in another church, I met three women from the little church, and they invited me along Sunday evening

Sunday arrived. It was a very hot day. The last thing I felt like doing was moving from my garden and walking to a church. But I had been invited and I felt it would be discourteous not to go, so along I went, only to find the church was closed, a note pinned to the door saying that Sunday they were meeting in a church in a nearby town.

To say I was not pleased, would have been an understatement. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt, try again the following week, and let them know what I thought of being sent on a wild goose chase.

Exactly the same thing happened. The church was closed, only this time not even a note was pinned to the door.

I tried three times, each time to no avail. I may have even called the listed number.

I found a group of Blacks in the street outside. Aha, maybe they will know.

They did not know, did not even know there was a church, even though they had come from the church across the road, a local Baptist Church, though they were not Baptists, they merely used the Baptist Church.

Curious why they were all dressed in white, the women wore white turbans, I asked.

I was told it was the dress code laid down by the Bible. News to me. I asked for the relevant Biblical passage which they were unable to provided.

This afternoon, I found two Black women outside the strange little church. One was about to drive off, I said it was ok, the other one could answer my questions.

I asked why it was never open. She told me they met later, the sign was wrong, they met at 11am, not 10am. And that the name of the church was wrong, it now had a different name.

I said I had been invited to the evening service. We do not meet in the afternoon, you can come to our 11am service.

Why then do you have a misleading sign outside, that has been wrong for at least a year?

We are aware, and we are dealing with it.

Does that then mean I can come back next week and see the correct times?

No, we are dealing with it, but it will not be next week, nor next month, nor next year, we work in God’s time not man’s time. She then told me I was being impatient and snapped her fingers in my face, which I thought was extremely rude, saying that is man’s time, not God’s time.

I pointed out that far from being man’s time, God’s time was far faster than her snapping her fingers and that far from being impatient, I had taken the trouble to stop and make inquiries from her.

She saw no requirement to change the sign as I now knew and the whole community knew.

Not true, I said, as the people I had spoken to last year from the church opposite knew nothing of her church, they were not even aware of its existence.

How therefore was anyone passing by to know when the church was open if the sign was wrong, or were they a church that held secret sessions?

She turned her back on me, walked into the church, shutting the door on me.

Later, as if on cue, I met the people dressed in white who used the Baptist church. I again asked who they were, why in white?

I was told that was how the apostles dressed.

How do you know?

We do not know, but it how we imagine they dressed. The white dress was also a uniform, everyone the same. The men had white lab coats, but I noticed the women had varying degrees of finery.

They explained theirs was only one church and that they travelled all the way from Essex and Hertfordshire. The service lasted four hours or longer.

Pollution, global warming, and environmental damage was not something that figured high on their agenda.

What’s the point of ordained ministry anyway?

July 24, 2012
Anglican Identities: A series of talks at St Nicolas

Anglican Identities: A series of talks at St Nicolas

What do we need Bishops for? Do we need them?

No one seemed to know, least of all the panel.

One panel member said people she knew who were friends, had changed when they became Bishops.

Another said they become spineless.

The United Reform Church has an entirely different system. No Bishops. A church calls its minister. He or she, applies for the job, if the church like he or she, they are called to take up the post. Moderators act to resolve any problems that may arise between church and clergy. They are not in charge of the church, nor senior to the minister.

At the time of the Reformation, there were no Bishops, the Bible was seen to be the authority. Under James I, Bishops were brought back in.

Even within churches there is a hierarchy.

Church of England, did, maybe still does, use psychometric tests to determine suitability of clergy.

Do we need clergy? What is their role? Can we do without them?

Clergy claim their job is a calling. Clergy claim there’s is a stressful job.

40% of clergy in the Church of England are due to retire in the next ten years. This will cause a crisis in the church.

Following the discussion I asked the Minister of Guildford URC why the Worship of Mammon? He denied the large banner poster on entry to the church. He was adamant not true, he would not permit. I showed him a photo.

I then gave him two books for his church:

Discussion held at St Nicolas Church in Guildford: Father Andrew (St Nicolas), Rev Philip Jones (Guildford United Reformed Church), Canon Barbara Messham (All Saints Church).

Anglican Identities: A series of talks at St Nicolas during July.

Once again failure to post information on the main noticeboard (the only one most people see) facing the High Street and the bridge over the River Wey. No mention on website either!

Erasing Hell

March 1, 2012

God has the right to do whatever He pleases. — Psalms 115:3

If we dig deep and find the caring, loving part God has placed within us, the angels cannot be restrained from actively being our associates. — Elaine Street

Anyone who knows God cannot describe him. Anyone who can describe God does not know him. — Paulo Coelho

Erasing Hell may not be brimming with hatred but is certainly lacking in grace.

Francis Chan plays the proof text game.

One can prove almost anything playing the proof text game.

Fancy engaging in a little genocide? There are Biblical texts you can quote. Slaughter all men, women and children. Spare not even the women and children.

The Lord´s Army in Uganda use biblical texts to justify their atrocities. As do suicide bombers, Islamist fundamentalists use The Koran.

Yes, God is all powerful. He could destroy the earth tomorrow in the blink of an eye, but could is not the same as would.

We have a loving God, a God who cares. Why would such a God condemn to an eternity in Hell for sins committed in a finite lifetime?

But Francis Chan commits to Hell, not for sins committed, but for not believing what he says we must believe.

We have not free will if we must believe what we are told to believe, and will be punished if we do not comply

Desmond Tutu addresses this very well in Tutu: A Portrait.

Does God say to the Dalia Lama, yes I recognise you are a Holy Man, but because you chose a different path, I will condemn you to an eternity in Hell?

At a St Joseph’s Day party at a medieval Venetian castle, Paulo Coelho told of dying at birth, of being strangled by his umbilical cord. His mother prayed. She promised she would mark St Joseph’s Day as thanks. She never kept her promise. God did not punish her. He recognised the frailties of human beings. Paulo Coelho now keeps his mother’s failed promise. He celebrates St Joseph’s Day with his friends, and has done so for the last 25 years.

In, I think, The Valkyries, an encounter with angels, Paulo Coelho speaks of the angel with a flaming sword guarding the entrance to heaven. The angel no longer guards the gate. The way is open to all. There are many paths. No one person has the right to say theirs is the right path. There are those bigots who have the arrogance to claim theirs is the one and only, the true path.

As Ron Bell says in Love Wins, not all would wish to enter heaven as they would have to change. Would the racist wish to sit with peopple of all races and colours? Would the bigot wish to sit with those of other faiths?

When asked, Master how do we enter heaven? Jesus gave as many different answers as those who asked.

In the Koran, we learn that to enter heaven is to recognise the one true God and to do good.

In The Shack we learn God is not a God of wrath.

Francis Chan is not though content to play the proof text game. He performs mental gymastics to claim words mean other than what they mean.

Erasing Hell is an evil book. It is like those odious people who stop you in the street and tell you if you do not believe what we believe you will suffer eternal damnation. They of course are always counted with the chosen few.

Roman lead water tank with Christian imagery

January 31, 2012
Roman lead water tank with Christian imagery

Roman lead water tank with Christian imagery

baptismal scene on Roman lead water tank

baptismal scene on Roman lead water tank

Fragment of a Roman lead water tank with Christian imagery indicates the water tank may have been used as a baptismal font.

The chi-rho symbol first introduced by the Roman Emperor Constantine who defined the Christianity we know of today, who made Christianity the religion of a military Empire, the baptismal scene, all indicate its use as a baptismal font.

Lincoln Cathedral

January 22, 2012
Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral sits atop of a hill. It is visible from miles around, but within the city not so as the short-sighted Lincoln City Council has allowed the erection of appalling multi-story eyesores. The same city council that has presided over destruction of the heart of the city, has put the historic Lawn up for sale and now plans the destruction of Sincil Street, the one area of character left in the city centre. It used to be policy to not allow any building to obstruct the historic skyline, but now greed and fast bucks is all that matters.

The best way to approach the Cathedral is on foot. From the top of the High Street, up The Strait, passed Norman Houses, up Steep Hill and more Norman Houses, and the cathedral is there when you reach the top. On the way up you will get tantalising glimpses of the cathedral.

Resist the temptation to tarry, if you do, you will not have time to look around Lincoln Cathedral. Though there is lots to see on the way up. If you do tarry, then make the most of it and save the cathedral for another day.

I did tarry, with the result that on the two days I made it to Lincoln Cathedral, before Christmas and in the New Year, I had no time other than to look in the door, have a chat with the Duty Chaplain and light candles.

Lincoln Cathedral was founded by the Normans not long after they invaded, as was Lincoln Castle. It is the finest Gothic Cathedral in Europe, as you will see when you step through the door and look down the nave. The view down the nave literally takes the breath away. Worth the climb if you only look down the nave then have to turn around and set off back down the hill. As did I.

Inside the Cathedral the Lincoln Imp, Cathedral treasures and lovely cloisters that are very tranquil to walk around.

Lincoln Cathedral owns one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, currently on loan to Lincoln Castle.

Lincoln Cathedral was used as the set for The Da Vinci Code, with Tom Hanks staying at the nearby White Hart.

I have a knack of being in the right place at the right time. The light on the walls is the winter sun filtering through the stained glass windows at midday.

The cathedral on the hill is the cathedral being caught by the morning sun not long after sunrise. But note the ugly building on the left, a blot on the landscape.

Candles in the side chapel are a bit of a disappointment. A sand pit! I would have at the very least expected wrought iron candle holders.

The book to get on Lincoln cathedral is Capturing Lincoln Cathedral, though you will have a job as it was a limited edition edition and I picked up the only two remaining copies. It captures the cathdral in all its moods.

Cross at St Nicolas

January 17, 2012
cross St Nicolas

cross St Nicolas

I was passing by St Nicolas in Guildford. As I always do, I checked the noticeboard as they often have something interesting on, though sadly too often they neglect to mention on their noticeboard.

Christian meditation. I had missed it. But at least it meant I might find the church open.

As I walked in, the sun just caught the cross suspended above the altar.

Any other time, and the sun would not have caught the cross. On reflection I realised nor would it any other time of the year as the sun would be too high in the sky.

It had been cloudy all morning or hazy sun, unlike the previous days with clear blue sky. The sun came out to illuminate the figures on the cross whilst I was in the church. When I left the church, the sun vanished behind the clouds.

I had a brief word with Father Andrew who thanked me for the DVD of a talk I gave him of Canon Andrew White.

Canon Andrew White at Guildford Baptist Church

I lit several candles: for Canon Andrew White, Lina and Fulla, Paulo Coelho for writing Aleph, my mad friend Sian and my friend Lilly.

Hopefully next week I will make the meditation. I may be wrong but I think 1230 until 1315 Tuesday lunchtimes.

Faith Under Fire

January 7, 2012
Faith Under Fire

Faith Under Fire

Don’t take care, take risks. — Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Donald Coggan

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. — Romans 8:28

There cannot be any such word as ‘can’t’ here in Iraq. We have to persevere, and we do. And in everything we see the glory of God. — Canon Andrew White

When religion goes wrong, it goes very wrong. — Archbishop William Temple

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. — 1 John 4:18

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:17

Anaesthetist, curate, parish priest, head of peace and reconciliation unit at Coventry Cathedral, Middle East peace negotiator, Vicar of Baghdad, not bad for a CV.

Some people are lucky, or so those who consider themselves unlucky bemoan, but it is not that, it is taking risks, drawing upon what life gives us.

If we look at the Life of Charles Darwin, Origin of Species did not just happen, nor was it because he happened to be at the right place at the right time (though that helped). It was because he took what life offered, he drew upon the experience gained in his earlier life.

The same is true of Canon Andrew White, he takes risks where others would hesitate, he draws upon the experience life has given him, all done with a love of God and love for those who he serves, underwritten in the faith in the One God, or G-d as he would write.

Much of my work in religious sectarianism is simply about showing love to the unlovely.

Those who commit the worst atrocities are usually those with nothing to lose.

It is easy to talk to the good guys, not so easy the bad guys, those whose hands drip with the blood of the innocents. But to make progress we have to talk to everyone.

The founder and leader of Hamas was beyond the pale. He changed from a man of violence to an advocate of peace. When he died, even Members of the Knesset attended his funeral.

At the age of ten Andrew White knew what he wanted, knew where he was heading. He wanted to be both an anaesthetist and a priest.

You cannot be both, he was told, and in any case, with your background, Pentecostal and Baptist, you cannot be a priest as they do not have them.

Needs will or looked at another way, God provides. He became both, first an anaesthetist, then an Anglican priest. Part of his theological studies were spent in Jerusalem studying Judaism. All of which has prepared him well for the work in the Middle East.

The world I occupied then is vastly different to the one I occupy now, but nevertheless I learnt some important lessons – not least the ability to react quickly in situations. When a patient goes into cardiac arrest you have to react immediately. When someone points a gun at you, you must also react immediately. If you have to think about dodging a bullet, it has already hit you. On the streets of Baghdad, my medical training has probably been of more use to me than my theological training at Cambridge.

Christianity in Iraq has a long and proud history. It is not an alien religion brought in or imposed by the West. Christian Fundamentalists who rode in on the coattails of the Americans like modern day carpet baggers did a huge amount of damage. It made Christians seem tools of the West. The Crusades are still in common memory. Conversely Iraqis were surprised to find American soldiers were Christians with crosses around their necks as they thought Christianity a Middle Eastern if not Iraqi religion.

House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East
Crass stupidity by Christian fundamentalists leads to persecution and massacre of Christians in the Middle East
Christianity A History: The Crusades

St George’s in Baghdad was built by and for the Brits. It now serves Iraqis, all are welcome.

Those who can, have long fled Iraq. Those left are the poor and dispossessed. When all is lost, faith is all that is left.

Lord Hylton on a visit to Baghdad described St George’s as a church of the future. A church that welcomes everyone and everyone is made welcome, be they Catholic, Protestant or Orthodox, be they Christian or Muslim, where everyone is loved and shares their love. A place where angels appear. A place of peace and tranquillity in a war-torn country.

Angels? The angels first appeared in 2007, and have remained since.

Another of our ‘gains’ has been the visible presence of angels. I had read of angels in the Bible, of course, and I, and others, had regularly prayed for their protection in Iraq. But until three years ago I had never actually seen one. Towards the end of 2007, quite suddenly, we started to see angelic forms. They look very much like we’d expect angels to look – like males with wings – but they are strange figures, large and translucent. We take them very seriously.

Occasionally strange objects like wheels within wheels are seen. They only appear within St George’s, at some other churches in Iraq and at Ezekiel Tomb.

Wheels within wheels

It is not known what they are, they are very prolific. In photos they appear as blobs.

Ezekiel saw something similar (Ezekiel 1:15-21):

As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel. As they moved, they would go in any one of the four directions the creatures faced; the wheels did not turn about as the creatures went. Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around.

When the living creatures moved, the wheels beside them moved; and when the living creatures rose from the ground, the wheels also rose.

Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, and the wheels would rise along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.

St George’s used to cost $600 a year to run, it now costs $175,000 a month to run. It is not only the running cost of the church, there is an associated clinic, education, food and welfare. All of which has to be raised through fund raising and donations.

Why do people suffer, why is Iraq descending into Hell, why is Canon Andrew White afflicted with multiple sclerosis?

Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
The Truth as Iraq descends into Hell

God moves in mysterious ways.

I am aware that God trains and prepares us through all of life’s experiences. Sometimes He sees fit to impose on us things we do not see as ‘the best’ for our lives, but He sees the greater purpose and allows such things as so that we will do what He wants us to do oe go where He wants us to go.

It is often those who face the greatest adversity who share the greatest love. Canon Andrew White in Iraq is a good example of this.

St Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn from his side, God responded (1 Corinthians 12:19):

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

God speaks in quiet whispers, we have to listen with care.

I often recommend to people three books, well I actually recommend far more than three books, but these three books are special because they compliment and support each other – Love Wins, The Shack, Aleph – to which I now add a fourth, Faith Under Fire, as what we read in the first three and at times seems mystical, not real, far-fetched, is an everyday occurrence in Iraq.

Aleph is a strange mystical book, it cannot be for real, we think, and yet Canon Andrew White recounts far stranger mystical happenings.

Love Wins tells of the love God has for each and everyone one of us. Canon Andrew White tells of the love in Baghdad.

In The Shack we see the mystery of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness. We see this happening in Iraq.

Faith Under Fire has been shortlisted as the Christian Book of 2012. It is open to vote on-line for your favourite book, but somewhat dumb you have to vote for a childrens book too even though you may have no views. Also badly designed website, link does not go direct to voting form.

Canon Andrew White is the vicar of St Geoge’s Church in Baghdad and President of FRRME.

Iraq
The Vicar of Baghdad
Suffer the Children

Church of England group to advise Bishops on human sexuality

January 6, 2012

Church of England group to advise Bishops on human sexuality. They are all men! You couldn’t make it up. — Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral

First, I believe Jesus’s story is first and foremost about the love of God for every single one of us. It is a stunning, beautiful, expansive love, and it is for everybody, everywhere. — Rob Bell

If there is one thing the Anglican Church excels at it is shooting itself in the foot.

The Anglican Church, the Church of England, has formed an advisory committee to advise on human sexuality. A committee consisting entirely of men!

Sir Joseph Pilling to chair CofE Bishops review on human sexuality
Group to advise House of Bishops on human sexuality announced

Is this meant to be a sick joke? Not even lay people, let alone women.

The committee consists of a senior establishment figure, plus a handful of Bishops.

This is not an advisory panel, this is a private conversation within the church senior hierarchy chaired by an establishment figure.

It lacks credibility even before it has started, rendering any report it produces worthless.

At the very least invite someone like Paulo Coelho, a man who understands female sexuality, or read his books.

At a meeting last year discussing merger with the Catholic Church, the Bishop of Guildford admitted that sexuality was not an issue as the theology had yet to be developed.

Bishop Christopher on closer Anglican ties with Catholic Church

Sexuality is not an issue! At least it is not an issue other than for those who cannot cope with the sexuality of others, and probably not their own either.

Where sexuality becomes an issue is in merger talks with the Catholic Church.

Maybe they should heed the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Jesus welcomed all, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, Romans and Israelites, all races, white black yellow and brown, gay and straight, men and women.

Palestinians are Christians too

January 5, 2012

We tend to forget Palestinians are Christians too, that Palestine was Ground Zero for Christianity.

How many over Christmas thought of Bethlehem today, an open air prison, still under occupation 2,000 years on?

In Faith Under Fire, Iraqi Christians ask: have they forgotten us?

Why do churches in the West turn a blind eye to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the place from which Christianity grew?

In Iraq, they still use in church Aramaic, the language Jesus used.

Sorry Sir my dear Jesus , we came to you with, black gown
House of Lords debates the plight of Christians in the Middle East
Fresh mood in Bethlehem, but little joy
Christmas in the Middle East
Israel blocks Christians going to Bethlehem at Christmas

We wish you a happy Christmas

December 22, 2011

We wish you a happy Christmas - Ken Crane

We wish you a happy Christmas - Ken Crane


Christmas greetings to everyone.

Illustration by my good friend Ken Crane.