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Towards a 21st Century Church: Four Assumptions to Challenge

Posted by on Apr 23, 2019 in Blog | 7 comments

Now that we are almost a fifth of the way through the twenty first century, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the church can no longer act as though it is still the twentieth century. People give various reasons for why significant change is needed – some of the more common contenders being that we now live in post-Christendom (and the church therefore no longer operates from a platform of privilege, nor can it assume that people have a basic understanding of the Christian faith); or that the postmodern turn in society has rendered everything relative, making the truth claims of the...

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Counting our more complicated blessings…

Posted by on Apr 18, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

You’ve probably been taught to count your blessings. It’s good advice. When we count them we usually discover there are far more than we initially imagined, and it is certainly more refreshing to be in the presence of a grateful person than one who feels cheated and bitter. But what are we to make of what William Sloan Coffin has called “our more complicated blessings”? The expression is found in a challenging prayer from Riverside Church which Gil Rendle cites in his excellent new book on leadership, Quietly Courageous (2019) p11. Here is an excerpt from it: And, grant us to count our more...

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Beyond Tut Tut: Thinking Through the New Zealand Massacre…

Posted by on Mar 19, 2019 in Blog | 9 comments

Friday March 15, 2019 was indeed, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described it, “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”, for on that day a gunman, (his name best left unspoken), killed 50 worshippers at two mosques in Christchurch, and injured many others. It was an attack that represents so many things… for the families of victims, a long term journey with grief, sadness and probably rage – for many of them it will never ease; for New Zealand, the loss of innocence, for it has now not been spared the violence present in many parts of the world; for the world, a...

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When a Cardinal Sins: Reflections on the conviction of George Pell

Posted by on Mar 1, 2019 in Blog | 7 comments

For those not in the loop (and they must be a very small number), Cardinal George Pell has been found guilty of child sexual abuse, and is  being held in detention while his sentence is awaited. As he is the most senior cleric in the world to be convicted of this crime, it is deeply unsettling. He could have become the Pope – having been a serious contender (though not the front runner) when Pope Benedict resigned in 2013. Until stepping down from his role at the Vatican to face trial in Australia, he was the third most senior figure in the Roman Catholic Church (far and away the...

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Quotable: Marilynne Robinson – Gilead, take 2

Posted by on Feb 4, 2019 in Blog | 2 comments

Last week we looked at some quotes from Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer prize winning novel Gilead. The book is a fictional series of reflections by dying clergyman, John Ames, to his seven year old son. It is filled with wisdom, and is a celebration of life. Here are some more reflections from the book… I think the attempt to defend belief can unsettle it, in fact, because there is always an inadequacy in argument about ultimate things. Marilynne Robinson Any human face is a claim on you, because you can’t help but understand the singularity of it, the courage and loneliness...

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Quotable: Marilynne Robinson – Gilead

Posted by on Jan 28, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

American novelist Marilynne Robinson (1943- ) won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize (for fiction) with her novel Gilead. It is the fictional autobiography of aging Congregationalist minister John Ames, who, aware that his serious heart condition means  his death is imminent, wants to leave a memoir for his seven year old son to remember him by. The book is a wonderful celebration of life, and is filled with profound insights. Here are a few… Love is holy because it is like grace – the worthiness of the object is never what matters. Marilynne Robinson It’s not a man’s working...

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Quotable: With Frederick Buechner – Take 2

Posted by on Jan 21, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

This is a second take on Frederick Buechner (1926-), an ordained Presbyterian minister, who is a notable novelist, preacher and theologian. I recently read one of his memoirs, Telling Secrets, and it led me to track down some insights from his thirty plus published works. His novel, Godric, was a 1981 finalist for the Pulitzer prize. You might well be aware of the most famous of Buechner quotes: “God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Here are some others… One life on this earth is all that we get, whether it is enough...

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Quotable: With Frederick Buechner

Posted by on Jan 14, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

Frederick Buechner (1926-), an ordained Presbyterian minister, is a notable novelist, preacher and theologian. I’m currently enjoying reading one of his memoirs, Telling Secrets, and it has led me to track down some insights from his thirty plus published works. His novel, Godric, was a 1981 finalist for the Pulitzer prize. You might well be aware of the most famous of Buechner quotes: “God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Here are some others… You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary. Frederick...

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What do Theologians do?

Posted by on Jan 8, 2019 in Blog | 4 comments

It’s a question I’ve been asked often enough, especially after I’ve introduced myself as a pastor and theologian, “So what do theologians do?” Let’s note the obvious. By definition, theology, being made up from two Greek words theos (God) and logos (the word about, or the study of), is the study of God. By implication then, all those who grapple with the question of God are, in one way or another, theologians. They might be very poor theologians, amateur theologians, professional theologians, perhaps even theologians whose work is widely recognized in the life of the church – but theologians...

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Quotable: For the New Year – take 2

Posted by on Jan 7, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

As 2019 gets under way, here are a few gems for the journey. The first three are attributed to Mother Teresa, the remainder, unknown. In the end, dear friend, it is always between us and God, not between us and them. Mother Teresa If you judge people, you have no time to love them. Mother Teresa God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer. Mother Teresa In the blink of an eye it could all be taken away. Be grateful always. Unknown There will be many chapters in your life. Don’t get lost in the one you’re in now. Unknown You will never always be...

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