Friday, 26 February 2010

Musical Church

Candlelit score
Originally uploaded by Alex is late
Just a thought. What about Church as an adventure in collective improvisation in the key of Christ?

Christ as the tonal centre of gravity, the reference point for all other tones, the tone that gives all tones meaning to which they all relate, and the destination of the piece.

Members of church as a band with different skills doing different stuff but taking account of, responding to, supporting what the others doing, informed by the tradition and its conventions but always ready to risk new ventures. And always with reference to the tonal centre.

I think this works well, as long as you don’t like Schoenberg.

(With a nod in the direction of Tom Wright’s five act play notion of the Bible and Kathryn Tanner’s intriguing idea that the church is in effect an argument about the meaning of discipleship.)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Marshall Hits Big Time as Music Critic

I'm dead chuffed to discover that my mini reviewette of Billy Cobham's gig at Ronnie Scott's some 18 months ago has been picked up by the drummer's official web site.  It's been sitting there for quite a while now  serene and proud alongside a proper, grown up review from The Times Online.

This world wide web thingy certainly has a way of occasionally giving you the illusion that you are more important than you actually are.  I like it. Though I'm not entirely sure it's good for me.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mainstream North Leaders Day: 25th March, 2010
A vision of the Kingdom
Exploring themes of equality, diversity and unity from Revelation 7

Bev Thomas is a freelance consultant and lecturer. For the last 20 years she has worked as a trainer and speaker on social justice and 'race' issues. Bev has worked previously as project development officer for Churches' Commission for Racial Justice, board member of Evangelical Alliance and the chair of the Christian Socialist Movement. Bev is a lay minister in the New Testament Church of God.

Timing and Venue

Blackley Centre near Huddersfield.
It will run from 10am to 3pm and cost £15 each, including lunch.

Booking your place

To book your place, please email the Mainstream North administrator, Hazel Gilbert, on, or call Hazel at Hoole Baptist Church, on 01244 312037

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Serious Concerns over Ministerial Competence

Pictures have come into my possession that raise very serious questions about the competence of the current generation of Baptist ministers.

Further comment I think you will agree would be redundant.  Please pray for our denomination.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Alexander Maclaren, liberal evangelism and a church's future.

Got to preach for the first time yesterday at Alexander Maclaren’s old church. Maclaren was one of the great Victorian/Edwardian preachers, the northern Spurgeon. Wonder what he would have made of it. Not the sermon, the church.

The folk at Union Chapel, Fallowfield, Manchester now meet for worship in what was the church hall, the “sanctuary” having long since been demolished. Just by way of a reminder though a slice of Maclaren’s pulpit stands in the corner of the vestibule, at once a piece of Baptist Heritage and a free church relic.

Just under thirty of us gathered to worship. The service was formal but relaxed and the morning followed the locally established pattern of an act of worship, a break for coffee (this week with added sliver wedding anniversary chocolate cake) and then a follow-up session exploring a particular theme. I had been asked to address the question of evangelism in a liberal church.

It was good to see a church creating space for interactive reflection. It was good to see that they were entirely at home with the process. Good too to see congregation that regards itself as liberal trying to get to grips with how they might evangelise in a way that is true to their own convictions. If my experience is anything to go by this is an emerging trend.

The issue is a pertinent one for the folk at Union. They find themselves between ministers wondering about the future of the church. What will they need to do if they are to have a future; what kind of minister do they need to help them find a viable and effective way ahead?

As I made my way home after what I hope was a useful discussion I couldn’t help but feel wistful, melancholic even. In Maclaren’s day the 1,500 seater chapel would have been full. Churches knew what they were and where they stood. They also knew what they had to do and as long as they did it well they would prosper.

We live in different days. The challenge facing congregations such as Union chapel are by turn daunting and challenging. Whatever future they fashion for themselves, one thing’s for sure it won’t be as a Victorian preaching barn. Here’s hoping though that it will be a future marked by the manifest blessing of God.