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

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Posted by Andrew Atherstone, 14 Oct 2019

Andrew Atherstone's 2009 St Antholin Lecture on Charles Simeon

The next few episodes of our Media Monday series will be coming from the extensive audio archives of Reform. We are working hard to be able to share those archives with you but as some of them have to be converted from old-fashioned cassette tapes, you will appreciate that it is no small task!

We begin this week with Andrew Atherstone’s lecture on “Evangelical Mission and Anglican Church Order: Charles Simeon Reconsidered” in which Andrew considers what we should do when evangelical priorities and Anglican commitments collide, and asks what Charles Simeon would have to say to our contemporary situation.

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Posted 11 Oct 2019

Church Society staff news

Lee Gatiss will be taking a well-deserved sabbatical beginning on Monday October 14th, returning to work in February 2020. Please pray with us that this will be a time of good rest, refreshing Lee for many more years of fruitful service. During his absence, Ros Clarke will become Acting Director of Church Society, supported by our two Regional Directors, Mark Wallace and George Crowder.

We are also delighted to have Sophie Barker, our Finance Assistant, back in the office, returning from her maternity leave. We are very grateful to Claire Alldritt for all her hard work over the past year, covering in Sophie’s absence.

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Posted by Chris Moore, 8 Oct 2019

Chris Moore asks whether there is still any value in rural ministry, and finds that there are enormous opportunities out in the sticks.

Is there still a point in rural ministry? It’s a question worth asking when most people live in cities, and there is a strong argument to say that scant resources should be focussed on areas of population density. And who would want to be a rural vicar? The prospect of looking after multiple parishes, with multiple PCCs, and small congregations isn’t really that appealing. Better, surely, to seek a nice suburban parish. Who would want to minister in the middle of nowhere, where evangelical ministry is scarce and the population scattered?

Me.

Ministry in an urban or suburban context is essentially attractional in nature. There may be some links to parish organisations - such as schools - but the churches are essentially congregations gathered from surrounding area. There is competition from other churches, and a regular turnover of population as couples move in and families move out. As a result a lot of energy is expended in making connections with people and building a fringe which is not stable.

Making connections in a rural area is far easier. The population of my benefice is 2,200 people, and I am confident that the vast majority of them will know me by face and by name. There are 300 children in the two church schools, who all know me, as do many of the parents. Rural populations tend to be more static, the family of one of my Churchwardens has lived in the village since the twelfth century, and so over time you get to know the entire family as you conduct their weddings, baptisms and funerals.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 7 Oct 2019

Bishop Mark Tanner gave the conference Bible reading at JAEC 2019.

Mark Tanner’s Bible reading on 1 John 3 from JAEC 2019 is a heartwarming and challenging exposition of this passage.

How to listen to the Church Society Media Monday tracks:
1. Listen to as they are posted each week here on the website.
2. Listen to all the episodes and all other Church Society audio resources via Soundcloud.
3. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
4. Subscribe to the podcast on an Android device (phone or tablet). You will need to install a podcast app and then subscribe via our RSS feed here.

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Posted by Jane Tooher, 4 Oct 2019

Jane Tooher reviews John Benton's book on 2 Timothy and resilience in Christian leadership

Book cover of Resilient
RESILIENT: How 2 Timothy Teaches us to Bounce Back in Christian Leadership
John Benton
Fearn, Ross-shire: Christian Focus, 2018 153pp £6.99pb ISBN: 9781527102101

One of the great strengths of Resilient is that it has a narrow focus. John Benton takes the book of 2 Timothy and sees what it has to say to male Christian leaders about resilience in ministry. He makes clear his book is not a commentary, nor does he seek to deal with every doctrinal truth that Paul writes about. Rather he wants to answer what 2 Timothy “has to say about finding strength, recovering from discouragement and keeping going as a Christian leader.” In this way, Benton characterises a resilient pastor as: “called to the work; crucified to self; confident in God’s grace; clear as to his priorities; conscious of his limitations; cared for by companions; and candid with a praying church.”

Anyone in vocational ministry for some time recognises how essential it is to be resilient. In 2 Timothy, we see that the apostle Paul was resilient to the very end of his life, and that he urges Timothy to follow his pattern of ministry (2 Tim 3:1–14; 4:1–8). Because each of Benton’s seven chapters work through subsequent sections of 2 Timothy, covering all of Paul’s final letter, this keeps the content of Resilient focussed on God’s achievements through Christ, not the pastor’s own abilities, and therefore on God’s grace.

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Posted by Isaac Pain, 3 Oct 2019

Isaac Pain reflects on his experiences of ministering in care homes and our approach to evangelism amongst those suffering from dementia.

This week I took a Harvest services in one of the care homes we minister in. I love these opportunities to take the gospel into care homes. To the outside world they won’t look very glitzy or glamorous occasions, but, to those with eyes to see, they are opportunities to live out the topsy-turvy gospel where it’s the last who will be first, the weak who are strong, the poor who are rich, the foolish who are wise, and where quiet, humble, secret service is what brings God glory.

In total we minister in six care homes, and each one has a number of residents with dementia. A quick google search tells me that approximately 800,000 people in the UK are formally diagnosed with dementia, that 1 in 20 people over the age of 60 will get dementia, and 1 in 6 over the age of 80.

I imagine I’m not the only one who has had that heart-warming experience where a traditional hymn, a memorable bible verse, and the Lord’s Prayer said in its traditional form has brought otherwise distant eyes into focus and transformed a closed mouth into one that mouths along with once familiar words. Jesus promised his disciples in John 10:28 that, “no-one will snatch them out of my hand.” And even the ravages of dementia will not prise open Jesus’ hands that grasp those whom have been entrusted to him by his Father.

But what about those with dementia who don’t yet know Christ? Do we have any hope for them? We know that Christ is stronger than death, but is he stronger than loss of memory and mind? What would conversion, baptism, and discipleship even look like for someone who can’t even recognise their spouse?

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 30 Sep 2019

The latest edition of Crossway is now on its way to members and subscribers.

Back in May we held our annual Church Society Conference, “Redeeming Love and Faith”. With papers from Bishop Keith Sinclair, Iain Baker, Ros Clarke and Lee Gatiss, the conference was an excellent day of being encouraged by the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality. Those papers have been written up and edited to form this edition of Crossway.

Bishop Keith begins by showing how the whole sweep of Scripture teaches that sex is a blessing and a gift, but also includes warnings about its misuse. Download a detailed handout to accompany his article, listing all the Bible passages he had in mind.  In the second article, Iain Baker, a trustee of the True Freedom Trust, looks at the principles for pastoral care as they relate to matters of sex, challenging us to love and welcome all kinds of sinners into our churches. My article attempts to broaden our horizons, seeing how sex is part of God’s self-revelation, and lifting our eyes to its future fulfilment in the consummation of our marriage to Christ. There is real pastoral value in this, offering hope and comfort to those whose experiences of sex are broken and flawed, as well as the reminder that even the best sex this life has to offer can never satisfy. Finally, Lee Gatiss gives us some historical context, reminding us that ours is not the first generation to be sexually depraved, and that this is not the first time that the church itself has been infected with such depravity.

In addition to the articles, the magazine includes a recommended list of further reading.

We hope that you will find this a helpful and encouraging edition of the magazine. If you think it’s something that more people at your church might want to read, you can order additional copies here, or contact the office for bulk orders.

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Posted by Ros Clarke, 30 Sep 2019

The uniqueness of Christ is foundational to the Christian faith and yet often overlooked in contemporary teaching. Lee Gatiss examines the importance of this doctrine in his talk from JAEC 2019.

How to listen to the Church Society Media Monday tracks:
1. Listen to as they are posted each week here on the website.
2. Listen to all the episodes and all other Church Society audio resources via Soundcloud.
3. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
4. Subscribe to the podcast on an Android device (phone or tablet). You will need to install a podcast app and then subscribe via our RSS feed here.

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Posted by Aled Seago, 26 Sep 2019

Aled Seago reviews Kirsty Birkett's little book on Resilience.


RESILIANCE: A Spiritual Project

Kirsten Birkett
London: Latimer, 2016 55pp £5.99pb ISBN: 9781906327439

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart (2 Corinthians 4:1). The trouble is, in ministry it can be only too easy to lose heart.

So begins Birkett’s short and incisive work that details her research into the idea of resilience and Christian ministry. This is much needed, given that burnout is all too common in ministry.

What sets Birkett’s work out from the crowd is that she is not writing a survival plan. She wants her readers to be able to bounce back more strongly. As a self-confessed sufferer of stress related depression, as well as her extensive research into this area, she provides a helpful read that needs to be returned to again and again to savour its flavour.

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Posted 24 Sep 2019

The deadline for the Gerald Bray Essay Prize is fast approaching!

Entries for the Gerald Bray Essay Prize must be submitted by the end of October 1st. That gives you a week to crack on with those final edits, reference checking and wordcount tweaking!

All the details plus the entry form are here.

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