Friday, September 29, 2017

Mourning the hymn book

It occurred to me last Sunday, now that I've moved away from my home denomination, that there will be something which, potentially, I'll never have to use again.

A hymn book.

Now, admittedly, if I stayed in my denomination, choosing a church which had more relaxed services or solely going church in the evening, I could still have avoided the songbook, but now that I've made the denominational turn, I can now go years without a hymn book in my hand.

And... I'm going to miss it.

Not always.

But, sometimes.


Because, chances are, I won't sing the familiar hymns that the oldies loved.
I won't sing the trusted hymns that I'd turn to when leading a morning service.
No longer may I sing songs rich with hymn-depth theology.

And this comes with an element of sadness.

For, with all its faults, I grew up in a hymn book church.
My maturity as a Christian was marked by attending a service that sung hymns.
I worked in churches full of people who loved and cherished the hymn book. 
I still, at times, have hymns that randomly pop into my head or are triggered by something in church.

Really, last Sunday, I mourned a part of my tradition that has now slipped by...

Saturday, September 23, 2017

When and why to set things right once you've made a preaching mistake

Preachers make mistakes in every sermon. Usually, they will be mistakes in delivery. Hopefully, on only the rarest of occasions, they make a factual error.

Sometimes these will slip harmlessly by because they're obscure or inconsequential.

At other times these goofs will be fairly obvious or pointed out due to someone in the congregation being more knowable about a topic than the preacher.

My most public error was at bible college when I used the name of the wrong King during a preaching assignment. 

So, how should a situation like this be handled?
Should a correction be made, and if so, how should it be done? 
Need it involve an apology?
Does the medium of the correction matter?
If there's a correction, what message does this send to the congregation?

Ideally, the mistake isn't a major point of theology - like you've said that there's four in the trinity or you're saved by good deeds - so no ones salvation is in jeopardy of their image of God clouded.

In these extreme cases the correction must be made, publicly, ASAP. If possible you should communicate on the next level up from how you first communicated. If the error wasn't in person, then you should seek to make personal contact, increasingly directly depending on the first medium.

If the point is minor, then I think it can be addressed as widely as the platform you've used. If your mistake was heard purely in the ears of those present, then a simple email blast can suffice. If the transgression went out online, then social media might be the best avenue for clarification.

All that needs to be communicated is what you said, the facts, and a quick apology. No harm, no foul.

But, should you then address it the next time you speak/write?

I can't see why not. If it's just a two sentence correction then it won't take up too much time, but can also communicate a powerful message.

You're not perfect.
You make mistakes.
You're open to correction.

This is especially powerful if you're able to openly acknowledge that a member of the congregation was the one who pointed you in the right direction.

An admittance of your error and apology, even quickly, is both deeply humbling for the speaker and receiver. These words show that the leader is just as infallible, correctable and prepared to be vulnerable before everyone as they humble themselves, with grace offered by those who, themselves, aren't above reproach,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How we develop our theology and ethics

With Australia currently going through the tribulations of a same sex marriage plebiscite, the topic is everywhere. 


I cast my vote today, but, as yet, I won't tell you which box I ticked (I'll do that when the voting closes and even share which way I think the survey will go).

As I've been considering my vote, watching and listening to people on both sides of the subject and thinking about how people engage in healthy debate, it's become clear that we must keep in mind the most important thing in dealing with topics of theology or ethics.

How and why do people come up with the things they believe.

Fortunately, I'm not the first to wrestle with this issue.

John Wesley, when pondering how people developed their theology, developed the paradigm of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

In short, when trying to establish what we believe, we put a topic through the filters of scripture, tradition, experience and reason.

When faced with an ethical or theological quandary we weigh it up against our source of truth - be it the bible, Koran, Dawkins or science textbook - cultural and personal history - including family, social circles and structures - and our intellect/logic.

When we consider how these four things influence what we believe and how they might affect the worldviews of others, then we can be in a place to have a respectful and empathetic depiscussion, even if we're in disagreement.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In the common shadows of the Reformation divide

Last Sunday morning I went to the first communion of my niece. Accompanied by my five year old, I knew going in that things would be different to what we were used to.

The whole service reminded me of the difference between the rugby codes.

For, while I follow both rugby league and rugby union, I know others who only follow one.

And, if they only follow rugby league, then, frankly, they are lost at times.

At times, on Sunday, I was a little lost.

I didn't know the responses.
I was unsure when to stand.
As was noticed by my five year old, the building was quite different (she liked the pictures of the stations of the cross and the colourful statue of Jesus).

But, also, plenty of things were familiar.

They spoke about Jesus. 
They spoke about forgiveness.
They spoke about reconciliation.

Similar to both rugby codes sharing the dimensions of the field, ball, tries and aim to score the most points, both sides of the Reformation share core things.

Sure, Catholics and Protestants may differ and appear different due to interpretation, history and structure, the central things are held in unison.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The missing element in a liturgy-free church service

I've shared in the past that I'm not the biggest fan of written liturgy during church services. From my experience, it's easily open to ecclesiastical-monotonal-fakery.

Sure, with disclaimers about the importance of liturgy or intentionally inviting a connection with the words before reciting them can make liturgy more engaging. In general, I don't see it as the most effective way to draw people into an experience of God.

But, liturgy does have one significant advantage - structure.

One criticism I faced when consistently leading an evening church service was that, without the structure of liturgy, an intentional time of confession would be omitted.

And, from what I see in many contemporary church services, intentional communal confession is the first victim once you stray from a set liturgy.

I'm sure it's not intentional.
I'm sure confession gets "touched on" in other areas of the service.
Maybe it's because the leader doesn't want to drag the mood down...

But, whatever the reason, regular, intentional, communal confession is dying out, seemingly sacrificed upon the alter of modern service structure.

Perhaps, as a church, it's something we need to confess...