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Posted by Ruth on 21 June 2016

Last week was our anniversary. And a lovely occasion it was.

And this week, we celebrated the 80th birthday of our Minister Emerita, Barbara. Another lovely occasion. Barbara spoke in the service ( ) and we sang her favourite hymn. Then we shared lunch, and in the afternoon, what felt like hundreds of people (probably somewhere just over 100) gathered in the Friendship Centre to catch up, sing happy birthday, eat cake (lots and lots of cake) and celebrate.

It was a fantastic occasion. People came back who had grown up at church, or had been part of the congregation at one point, and have now moved away, people met up and caught up who don’t get enough time to be together, there was laughter and memory and joy. An unbelievably HUGE thank you to all those who made it work; the catering was a triumph, the ballons were wonderful, and the invtations a work of art. And a HUGE thank you to all those who came; you made it very special.

In one way, this was not what church is about; we didn’t talk about theology, we didn’t pray, we didn’t change the world.

Except, of course, we did.

In the midst of what has been a deeply sad, frightening and at times unbearable week, in the face of despair, and the bitter, angry campaigning that is going on, we celebrated, affirmed good relationships. There is place for lament in the face of what is going on - we ought to be taking it more seriously. There is a place for righteous challenge to the lies and scaremongering that is coming from both sides in the current campaign.

But we can get caught in such dark places, and get sucked into despair and anger when we spend too long dealing with it.

So, if is also good to remember joy, friendship, good food, laughter and happy times.

It may not change the world - but it changes us, and then we can make a difference; of such is the Kingdom built.

So, thank you Barbara, again, for leading us into service and joy.

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Posted by Ruth on 13 June 2016

Whoops - a bit late this week; sorry (if anybody noticed!) Saturday, when I usaully write the blog, got swallowed up with other stuff.

And yesterday, when I catch up if I miss Saturday, was Anniversary and AGM.

It’s an odd day, Anniversary. We had some lovely greetings (thank you Ekklesia and Crown Court in particular!) wishing us “happy birthday” - gladly received. But it’s not actually our birthday. A bit like the Queen (and if we’d known all that was going to have been happening on June 12th when we started making plans, we’d have chosen another day!) we don’t celebrate our birthday on our birthday.

Anniversary service these days generally happens sometime about the early summer - but the date is determined by when our invited preacher can come. The actual date of our founding is March (or is it - it depends on what we mean by founding…!) And over the years, our Anniversary service has wandered about.

But we do celebrate it.

And what are we celebrating…the faithfulness of God for another year, and the faithfulness of God’s people. These are important things to celebrate. When the world is grim - and it is, as we read news from Orlando, from The Jungle in Calais, from Syria - when we read about brothers and sisters dying, being exiled, harmed, persecuted for their faith, when we read about hate crimes being perpetrated in the name of faith…in the face of all that, it matters to say that God is faithful and God is good. And that there are people of faith who try to live love and hope and life into being. We fail, and we are compromised, and we get it horribly wrong because we don’t see well enough - either our world, or the love of God. But the faithfulness of God is unchanging.

Yesterday, Rev Dr Sam Wells preached for our Anniversary service. We were glad to welcome him (and hope he might come back sometime!) Leading us into encounter with the story of the three young men in the furnace during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, he would not let us escape their amazing statement of faith…
If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Dan 3;17-18)

Our God will save us - but even if not…..

Can we dare to live this, in our world as it is, not as we want it to be, pretend it is, insist it should be; will we live in the presence of God, even if the presence of God is not the way we want it to be?

There is a call to discover and to honur the faithfulness of God for the coming year. ...

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Posted by Ruth on 04 June 2016

This is Volunteers Week. Volunteers Week runs from 1-12 June (!) and you can read more about it here… All sorts of people volunteer in all sorts of ways, and I know that many in our congregation volunteer in a variety of contexts throughout the city and further beyond. But at the moment, I want to say a huge, huge, huge thank you to all who volunteer within the church in a variety of contexts.

Inevitably, as I start this, I know I am going to miss somebody….but I am going to do my best.
So, thank you, in no particular order, to all those who volunteer in
the kitchen on Sundays - lunch and teatime, Tuesdays, and various other days,
making and serving coffee, especially before and after the Sunday services
Open Doors
doing admin
doing publicity
setting out tables for events
being on committees
keeping in touch with people
visiting people
singing in the choir and playing instruments
making posters and programmes for the recitals
welcoming people to organ recitals and serving coffee
tidying up after recitals
washing up
doing maintenance around the building
running the sound system for services
arranging flowers
stewarding at services
organising rotas
organising the concerts and recitals
serving on a - or several - rota (that should cover most folk!)
dealing with the recycling
printing the order of service
organising and editing the magazine
writing for the magazine
dealing with the website, especially the diary
seting up communion
tidying after communion
counting the offering
banking the money
taking minutes
reading in services
finding people to read in services
running the finances
sorting out licenses, and offering their wisdom on it
staying in touch with folk through email and phone calls
being a deacon and trustee
washing the towels
leading home groups
coming to Evening Centre
Staffing the Night shelter
washing the sheets for the night shelter
being ready to look after children who come to the service
working on the refurbishment project
dealing with constitutional issues
talking to visitors
organising social events
.....and all the people I have forgotten.
If you see a gap in my thanking, please let me know, and I’ll add it (with suitable apologies and grovellings!)

And if you see a way of volunteering that interests you, let me know.

And if you see something not being done - well, you might think of ways to fill in the missing piece….

But whatever you see, please join me in saying



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Posted by Ruth on 28 May 2016

If you know anything about the life of our congregation, you will know that we are planning Building Works! At last, after many months/years, we are finally getting ready to deal with the damp downstairs, sorting out the water damage on the stairwell, and various other long-awaited and very necessary sorting out of things.

Assuming we go ahead (decision will be taken at Church AGM on June 12th - I trust members reading this have the date in their diaries) things won’t look very different, except better. And that will be a relief.

But there will be consequences while the work is being done. The kitchen will be out of use.

For a church like us, this is a big deal. As we have started planning what the coming months might look like assuming we go ahead with this, we have realised just how many of our regular activities are going to be affected - Sunday coffee before the service, Sunday lunch, Sunday tea, Tuesday lunch (though at least during the summer, this has a different shape anyway, with outings on quite a few weeks), Tuesday Evening Centre, Exchange, and monthly organ concert.

And that’s only the regular things. The irregular ones need the kitchen too. In fact, it has become clear just how much of our life together centres on the kitchen. I like that. I think it demonstrates something very important about who we are and how we function; we value fellowship - we like to eat together; we work well together - most of our cooking is done in teams; we are committed to sharing - we share food in a variety of ways with a whole host of people; we are sometimes ahead of the curve - we started serving food long before it became fashionable in churches and we value embodiment -we like food!

It will be interesting over the next few months as we reflect on how best to manage the current situation, and on how to restart and refresh our catering. Please pray for us as we talk and wonder and wait for the decisions to emerge.

And please join me in saying a HUGE thank you to all those who work in the kitchens…

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Posted by Ruth on 17 May 2016

Yesterday, unexpectedly, I was leading an evening of reflecting and looking ahead for a group I am part of on my own (that is, it was the doing it on my own that was unexpected!) Because I was doing it alone, I was working with minimal notes and no real script. And it went ok.

The only rough part came when I said, as I often do, “the thing is, I simply don’t believe in vision”. And, in good part, but predictably, came the question, “but what about the verse “unless there is a vision the people perish”?”

And to that I gave my predictable response; “why is that the only part of the Authorized version people quote; the more accurate translation in contemporary terms says it differently; for example, New International Version “where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint” And so the debate goes on.

But it has got me thinking. Because there is a lot about vision in the Bible - it’s just that it is usually disrupting plans, not giving them - Moses seeing the burning bush discovers a call back to what he had thought he had escaped from; Amos visions sent him out as a prophet when that was not his life plan; Ezekiel’s strange vision (as if any vision is not weird!) of wheels and eyes and so on challenges the nation’s sense of itself; Isaiah’s vision in the temple calls him to a new ministry - and then in the New Testament, Mary’s “vision” that we call the annunciation was really not what she had planned, nor was Joseph’s vision in the night. And Peter’s vision of the blanket let down from the roof and the call to eat completely overturned his understanding of what the gospel was, or at least who it was for.

So I need to modify what I say - I believe in vision. But not in finding and implementing a vision. Vision doesn’t confirm our sense of direction. It challenges and redirects us - often uncomfortably.
Visions come as gifts (sort of). Our call is to faithful obedience, and openness to change.

To respond to Pentecost, really….

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Celebrating another birthday by Ruth: Last week was our anniversary. And a lovely occasion it was. And this week, we celebrated the 80th birthday of our Minister Emerita, Barbara. Another lovely occasion. Barbara spoke in the service ( more
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