Church Society logo              
    Equipping God's People to Live God's Word  
Twitter Facebook
Podcast Youtube

We update our blog several times a week, with news and comment on ministry, theology, the Bible, liturgy and issues of the day.

  The Blessed Life Lent devotional series   JAEC 2020   Priscilla Programme  

Please consider supporting the work of Church Society

Photo of contributor

Posted by Ros Clarke, 31 Mar 2020

Ros Clarke recommends the top five Church Society books to prepare for ordination.

Whether you are due to be ordained this year, currently in training, or consider the possibility, there are some important questions to consider first. At Church Society, we publish a wide range of resources for clergy and lay people, including books, a magazine and a journal, and online resources including a podcast and videos as well as blogposts and even some children’s resources. We hope there’s something valuable in everything we publish, but these are our top recommendations to help those who are considering or training for ordained ministry in the Church of England.

1. Foundations of Faith

Anglican pastors and theologians from around the world reflect on the foundational teachings of global Anglicanism. Putting the Thirty-nine Articles in their biblical and historical context, they navigate some of the difficult terrain with clear and compelling application for today. There is a commentary on each of the 39 Articles, together with relevant scriptures, questions for reflection and a prayer. The book is thus a devotional guide as well as a doctrinal one. This is essential reading for every Anglican minister.
Paperback | Hardback | Digital

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Fiona Gibson, 31 Mar 2020

Fiona Gibson considers the next of the seven deadly sins for our Lent series, The Blessed Life.

Is being slothful really all that bad?

If you’ve ever had occasion to stay in a hotel you’ll be familiar with the ‘do not disturb’ signs provided for weary travellers to hang on the outside of the bedroom door to ensure the housekeeping team don’t burst in with vacuum cleaners while the occupant is attempting to slumber. One such example frames the request very politely indeed: ‘Please don’t wake me. I want to sleep a little longer.’

Perhaps that’s the image you conjure up when you hear the word ‘sloth’. Of all the deadly sins we are being challenged about in this Lent series, sloth is the one most of us know least about. Sloth is usually reduced to the idea of laziness and what, really, is so deadly about being a bit lazy? Laziness isn’t really seen as much of a problem these days. It might be a minor character flaw, but is it any more serious than that? Can sloth really be called a sin — and a deadly sin at that? 

The Church Fathers certainly thought so. And, whilst they might not have used the language of Seven Deadly Sins, Luther and Calvin thought so too. So what is it?

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Dave Clancey, 30 Mar 2020

Dave Clancey continues our Lent series, The Blessed Life, with the next of the seven deadly sins.

What has made you angry in the past two weeks?

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
(James 3:17-4:3)

All sin is ugly, but some sins seem uglier than others. Surely wrath is one of the ugliest. The word conjures up images of red-faced rage, of fist-clenched fury, of an out-of-control offensive to crush and destroy. And when described that way, most of us can put this ugly sin far from us. We’re happy to condemn wrath as an ugly sin, we’re also happy to thank God that we’re not like ‘other people’ (Luke 18:11) who are afflicted with it. 

And yet, the sin of wrath may be closer to us than we imagine. Wrath lives in the same semantic world as anger, and anger is complicated. The Bible instructs us to rid ourselves of anger (Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8), assumes that we will be angry (Ephesians 4:26, James 1:19), and is happy to recount the Lord Jesus’s anger (Mark 3:5). 

Anger is complicated because it’s good and appropriate to be angry against sin. To hear of the vulnerable being abused and taken advantage of, or of Christian brothers and sisters persecuted or oppressed because of their faith — these things should stir in us a response of ‘that’s not right!’ Anger directed towards sin is good and appropriate. God’s people are themselves condemned by the Lord when they are indifferent toward such evil (Amos 6:6).

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Mark Wallace, 27 Mar 2020

Mark Wallace discusses the deadly sin of gluttony.

Can you have too much of a good thing?

Listen, my son, and be wise,
and set your heart on the right path:
Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,
for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Proverbs 23:19-21

For most of us, the word ‘gluttony’ probably brings to mind a picture of someone working their way through a dozen pizzas, several packs of doughnuts, and multiple fizzy drinks. It’s a reassuring picture, because few of us are quite that bad. ‘Thank you, Lord, that I’m not like that’, we say, all the while uneasily wondering where we’ve heard that prayer before (see Luke 18:11).

Food is great. It’s a wonderful gift of God, to be enjoyed and used in his service. It can be used as the basis of hospitality, to minister to others. It can be used in a feast, to celebrate achievements and blessings and anniversaries. And it keeps us alive, all the while reminding us of our dependency on the God who gives all we need.

Read more

dotted rule
Photo of contributor

Posted by Andrew Atherstone, 26 Mar 2020

Andrew Atherstone reviews Emma Ineson's book, Ambition: What Jesus Said About Power, Success and Counting Stuff, (London: SPCK, 2019).

Ambition book cover

Like our wider culture, the Church of England is not only sex-obsessed but success-obsessed. Unless you’re content with an ecclesiastical backwater, targets for growth are now de rigueur. All our energies are absorbed by ‘renewal and reform’, ‘strategic development funding’, a ‘talent pool’ of superstar clergy on the upward trajectory to episcopal office, ‘value for money’ in theological education, diocesan league tables, streamlining and efficiency. Growth, growth, growth is the name of the game. In that context, Emma Ineson’s new book comes like a breath of much-needed fresh air. She, of course, is herself highly successful, one of the Church of England’s most prominent evangelical women leaders, Bishop of Penrith since February 2019 and no doubt set for higher office still. Out of her own personal wrestling with ambition comes this set of theological reflections – chatty, humorous, peppered with bon mots, autobiographical in places, but deeply thoughtful and challenging.

The Apostle Paul warns against ‘selfish ambition’ (Philippians 2:3), but what does ‘godly ambition’ look like? At heart, Ineson argues, it all hinges on our motivations, which are so often warped in an ungodly direction. Are we ‘approval junkies’ or living for an audience of One? Are our measurements of growth honestly driven by a desire to see God’s kingdom expanded, or ‘thinly veiled power trips by self-obsessed church leaders’? Paraphrasing Matthew 6, she observes: ‘Where your graphs are, there your heart is also.’

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Katharine Swartz, 26 Mar 2020

Katharine Swartz examines the deadly sin of envy.

How might envy be the opposite of peace?

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. Proverbs 14:30

Envy tends to be one of those insidious, secret sins that is far too easy not to acknowledge or even be aware of. It can be a creeping thought, a vague state of mind, a general malaise with what your home, or job, or body, or marriage looks like. It’s fifteen minutes on Facebook, putting your phone down with a grimace of dissatisfaction you might not even realise you’ve made. And yet what is the result? It rots your bones.

The destructiveness of envy
That is because as ephemeral as envy may seem, it is utterly destructive. As James admonishes in his letter, ‘where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice’ (James 3:16). Envy might start as a simple question. Why don’t I have… why can’t I be like… Yet that seemingly innocent question has, at its root, a lack of faith not in just God’s provision, but his entire character.

Envy often starts out small. A dictionary definition is ‘a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.’ Someone at work gets a promotion. A neighbour’s house is bigger than yours. Or maybe it’s not about material possessions, which can make envy even more insidious and harder to recognise — your friend’s children seem to have it more together. Your colleague’s ministry is so much more fruitful. Yet instead of being encouraged or perhaps necessarily convicted by their blessing, you feel bitterness that you are not having the same experience. Resentful longing takes root. And from that terrible little seed, a terrible, destructive vine grows and twines around your heart, choking everything.

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Ros Clarke, 25 Mar 2020

The latest edition of Churchman is now on its way to subscribers.

In the Spring 2020 edition of Churchman, we are delighted to publish the winning entry from the Gerald Bray Essay Prize: An Inferior Cause: The Role of Works in Final Judgment Using Calvin’s Aristotelian Framework of Causation, with Special Reference to Romans 6:19-23, by Paul Young. Paul studied at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia and is now a pastor at Providence City Church in Perth, Australia. Professor Bray’s comment on Paul’s paper was that he “tackles a little known subject with great erudition and thoroughness.”  We hope readers will agree!

The journal also includes an article on Martin Luther as educator, by Christopher Beckham and a discussion of soteriological speech acts, in which Andrew Hollingsworth considers what it means for justification to be understood as a divine performative act.

Peter Jensen’s editorial answers the question “Why I Am Still A Christian” after more than 60 years of faith, and numerous challenges to it along the way.

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Lee Gatiss , 25 Mar 2020

Lee Gatiss shares some prayers that we can all use during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Prayer is the cry of a heart to God, through our merciful Lord, Jesus Christ. The heartfelt, spontaneous prayer of Christians is always acceptable to God. But sometimes it is also helpful to have words ready to pray at particular moments. So this is a small collection of some ready-made words which you might want to consider using or adapting (it’s not really “stealing”!) during these unusual days. In turbulent times the simplest things are often the best anchor, which is why I am sharing a daily 2 minute video of a brief reading and some prayers on our YouTube channel each weekday at the moment. Some of the prayers I am using there are also below.

I have written a “corona collect” which several churches have already started using, and which we are praying regularly as a family.

Heavenly Father, our ever-present help in trouble, our fortress and our God: calm the anxious fears of all who turn to you; give strength and healing to those who are sick, and courage and skill to those who care for them; grant wisdom and clarity to those in authority; and humble us all to call upon you that we may be saved not only in this life, but also for that which is to come, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Here are some more prayers, focusing on the impact of the virus and our response to it, which may be useful:

Loving heavenly Father, at this time of great uncertainty in our country and around the world, we pray that people would turn to you for stability and comfort. We pray particularly for those who don’t yet know Jesus, that through some means in the midst of all that is happening they would hear the good news of him. Grant them repentance and a knowledge of the truth, that they may know you and the secure joy of eternal life in him. For we ask in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Our gracious Father, thank you for all those working in health care, and especially those in our congregation who are serving the community within the NHS and public health bodies. Grant them, and all who work in essential services, protection and strength for each day’s challenges, and to work with skill and patience. We also pray for the Prime Minister, the Health Secretary, and the chief medical and scientific officers that they and those who work with them will have wisdom and insight sufficient for the decisions they need to make at this difficult time. We ask in Jesus’s name, Amen.

Sovereign Lord, please humble us all under your mighty hand, that we may use the opportunities given to us now for reflection, repentance, and thanksgiving for all the good things you have given us but which we often take for granted. Throughout these strange days, please fix our hearts on heaven and our minds on pleasing you in everything, so that whatever the outcome we may rest secure in Christ, in whose name we pray all these things, Amen.

Read more

dotted rule

Photo of contributor

Posted by Helen Thorne, 25 Mar 2020

Helen Thorne considers the next of the seven deadly sins.

a moment of comfort, a chance to indulge. ‘And why shouldn’t I?’ he thought to himself, ‘I deserve to have what I want.’ And so, he acted. He gave in to his sordid and sinful desires. Fully aware his actions were wrong. Far from ignorant of what the consequences could be. In the moment, he didn’t care about godliness, respect, dignity, or love — lust won the day and what he saw, and wanted, he took.

It’s the story of a King reigning a thousand years before Christ — adulterous, abusive, reckless with the responsibility of his role. It’s the tale of a businessman in a 21st century town, logging on to porn at the end of another frustrating day. It’s the narrative of a woman, sitting alone, running headlong into a fantasy that pretends to offer the intimacy she so desperately desires. The reality of many a Christian — male, female, young, old — whose glance lingers a little too long, whose imagination plunges into depths so dark, whose text messages flirt with leading others astray. We know it’s not right. We proclaim that purity is best. But somehow, some days, our sexual drives win and we hate ourselves for our rebellious ways.

Read more

dotted rule

Picture of bread being broken at communion

Photo of contributor

Posted by Marc Lloyd, 24 Mar 2020

Given the current restrictions on gatherings and travel, Marc Lloyd asks whether we could have Communion at home.

Here I want to continue to reflect on Communion and the Coronavirus following on from my previous post.

Someone might ask, “Could I have Holy Communion at home?” Here, as elsewhere in theology, the answer is: it depends! Or if you like it in posh words: we must cry, “distinguo!”, “We distinguish!”

I think we all know what Holy Communion ideally is: a multi-age, multi-cultural church family are gathered together physically at their Lord’s Day service of Holy Communion and the Pastor preaches the Word of God and administers the sacraments faithfully to the faithful. Glory!

But other things are also Holy Communion. You can have mid-week Communions and informal small group Communions, though they fall short of this ideal. The Communion is more limited. The gospel is less on display amongst the variegated people of God. This is less of The Command Performance that God has summoned us to in his presence on his day. But it is still undoubtedly the Lord’s Supper.

If someone is unable to get to the church gathering, for example, through long term sickness, it is entirely appropriate for the minister to take the Lord’s Supper to their hospital bed, but even in this we know it falls short of the ideal. Of course, we wish that person were well and could congregate to Commune with her brothers and sisters. The body of Christ is somewhat separated and we long for it to be whole, even as we break bread together to represent our unity in Christ.

Read more


Church Society blog

March 2020
February 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019