Calendar aims to recruit Catholic priests

I saw this article on the BBC news site – I have some concerns over this – yes a bit of marketing is a fine thing to do but surely we should be spending more time talking about calling and encouraging teenagers to find their own calling be that in the church, teacher, football coach, police man etc.

Twelve Catholic priests have swapped their pulpits for favourite pastimes in a calendar designed to try to recruit young men to the priesthood … The priests, from the Diocese of Leeds, are pictured in an array of activities, including reading celebrity magazines, watching baseball and DIY … Each featured priest also reveals what inspired them to join the church … The calendar has been created as part of a drive to encourage teenagers to take up Holy Orders.

Malaysian row over word for ‘God’

The BBC are reporting that a church and Christian newspaper in Malaysia are suing the government after it decreed that the word “Allah” can only be used by Muslims:

In the Malay language “Allah” is used to mean any god, and Christians say they have used the term for centuries. Opponents of the ban say it is unconstitutional and unreasonable. It is the latest in a series of religious rows in largely Muslim Malaysia, where minority groups claim their rights are being eroded.

There has been no official government comment but parliamentary opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said the decision to ban the word for non-Muslims on security grounds was “unlawful”. “The term ‘Allah’ was used to refer to God by Arabic-speaking Christians before Arabic-speaking Muslims existed,” he said.

Religious issues are highly sensitive in Malaysia, which has a 60% Muslim population. Religious freedom is guaranteed in the law but minority groups have accused the Muslim Malay majority of trying to increase the role of Islam in the country.

Books I have read: An Hour On Sunday

Over the last month I have read Nancy Beach’s An Hour on Sunday. This was an interesting book – at times it was hugely helpful and practical, at other times it seemed to be so focussed on the way that a mega-church runs with huge artistic teams, and people who seem to be able to commit masses of time – things that just aren’t realistic in my setting. As you would expect the book was very arty, and well designed with lots of lovely quotes throughout. The general theme of her book could be summed up by this:

Something very significant can happen when the body of Christ gathers all together on a Sunday morning. Those weekly services define what matters to a church and its leaders. (p 23)

Books I have read: Confessions of a Pastor

Following on from my post about Craig Groeschel’s 40 Leadership Tips for Young Pastors I have read his book Confessions of a Pastor. It was an enjoyable read – not at all heavy, and flowed nicely, yet dealt with some challenging issues. I read it in a few hours whilst at the hospital for various blood tests and X-rays.
What I liked most about this book was Groeschel’s honesty – it is very disarming and refreshing to read his thoughts. I think this book should be critical for all new pastors, children’s or youth workers to read. It certainly hits home the theme on not faking it, and the importance of being ourselves in front of God, our congregations and our friends and family.

Books I have read: Going the distance

Continuing to review the books I have read in the last few weeks next on the list is Peter Brain’s Going the Distance. This book was fantastic – it is certainly one having read it through fully, that I can see myself going back to time and time again. The topics include:
  • Burnout – friend or foe?
  • Depression doesn’t have to be depressing
  • Anger: using it constructively
  • The pastor’s family
  • Friendship
  • Principles and strategies of self-care
It contains a lot of down-to-earth practical wisdom for church leader, but also their congregations to develop longer and lasting relationships. I thoroughly recommend this book.

Books I have read: Joy to the World – Preaching the Christmas story

Paul Beasley-Murray has written a helpful book looking at the issue of preaching so many sermons over Christmas – but trying to stay fresh and relevant given that it is the one time of the year that so many non-Christians are willing to come to church.

The book contains notes linked to 29 different passages that we are often called to preach on during the Christmas period. As I prepared to preach on Luke 2 and the Shepherds last Sunday I found it helpful to read some of his insights.

Well worth glancing over in the autumn as you prepare for Christmas sermons.

Beating The Post-Christmas Blues

Stephen has blogged on Beating The Post-Christmas Blues. Here are a couple of snippets:

It’s two o’clock on Christmas day, you’re sitting in your living room surrounded by approximately 2.4 miles of wrapping paper, and you start to get this sinking feeling. You slowly begin to realize that Christmas wasn’t all you thought it was going to be. You got some nice gifts, ate some suh-weet food, and got a slight tear in your eye when you watched “It’s a Wonderful Life”, although you never would acknowledge that you were actually crying. But in spite of all this it seems like a let-down.

So how do you give the Christmas blues a big kick in the pants? Follow the advice of the Psalmist. In Psalm 43:4 we read, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you…” Do you want to avoid feeling deflated after Christmas? Go to God your exceeding joy. Be very intentional about finding your deepest and sweetest joy in God himself. Don’t look for joy in family, friends, presents, Christmas dinner, or anything else. Find your joy in God.

Mystery worshippers

The BBC seems to be making a massive deal (on the website and the 6:00pm news, as well some radio stations) of the fact that some churches across the Midlands are being checked by “mystery worshippers”. I am surprised by the way in which this has been reported. Mystery worshippers have been around for a couple of decades at least. I guess it could be seen to be different in the sense that it is buying in the perspective of non-Christians.
13 people have been hired by the Heart of England Christian Resources Exhibition (CRE) to report on issues such as sermons, music and the warmth of welcome. The idea of the visits is to find out how people’s needs can be better met by churches in the region.

Zeffirelli wants to makeover the Pope

The BBC are reporting that Franco Zeffirelli, the Italian film, stage and opera director, has said Pope Benedict XVI needs a makeover of his “cold” image and “showy” clothes:

Zeffirelli told La Stampa newspaper that the Pope communicated in a cold way that was little suited to what was happening around him. These are not times for high tailoring in papal vestments, he said. He contrasted the relaxed attitude of the late Pope John Paul II to his official attire with that of Benedict. Lacking his predecessor’s charisma, Pope Benedict has taken to wearing some eye-stopping outfits in public, such as a red velvet cape trimmed with ermine, not worn in public since the death of John XXIII in 1963. When he donned a fur-trimmed red cap, some people mistook it for a Santa Claus hat.

Zeffirelli, a Roman Catholic, was employed several times by the Vatican during John Paul II’s reign as a designer for the staging of major papal ceremonies. He told La Stampa he would relish being Pope Benedict’s image consultant. “If they gave me an official supervisory role, I would dedicate myself to it full time,” Zeffirelli said. “I know [Joseph] Ratzinger personally,” he added, using the German-born pope’s name before he became pontiff. “He is very attentive to the importance of how the sacred is represented.”

So far there has been no reaction to Zeffirelli’s offer from the Vatican.

EA documents re: Charity Commission changes to churches in the UK

Adrian has blogged about the UK EA releasing freely some some legal framework documents that could be really helpful if you are a church which is lead by one of its employees and/or decisions are not taken by a vote of the full membership. The Charity Commission has some big changes for churches, and the EA has been working with them:

The Evangelical Alliance and the Charity Commission have announced the completion of three model governing documents that provide guidance for independent churches. These documents are the culmination of four years of work.
The documents set out the proper checks and balances required to allow paid church leaders to take appropriate leadership responsibilities as church charity trustees, manage any potential conflicts of interest, and offer churches a legal structure to help govern their charity.
The work, initiated in 2003, was primarily designed to strengthen accountability and governance of new independent churches. The model governing documents have been drawn up by the Evangelical Alliance, African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance, Anthony Collins (solicitors) and Stewardship, in partnership with the Charity Commission…