Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Slowly reaching heavenward

The long anticipated start to our Spire restoration has begun. The scaffolders have begun to encase the Spire in scaffolding and slowly they are reaching heavenwards. Several days of heavy rain have severely curtailled their operations and the project is already a little behind the builder's schedule but we remain hopeful that if the weather improves the work will be completed on time for our Church Anniversary on Sunday 6 June.

As this work has begun so for us we have begun our own personal journeys through the Season of Lent. Many of us are following the Christian Aid Lent giving appeal - 'Count your blessings'. We started Lent together on Ash Wednesday with a short Penitential Service where we symbolically burned slips of paper on which we had listed the ways we discriminate against others and thereby prevent them encountering the gospel - on grounds of race, age, gender or 'class'.

Last Sunday saw us welcome two new members which has very encouraging to us all. The Knitting for the Needy group is also growing as is the mountain of wool donated to keep them busy.

We've crunched the numbers necessary to prepare and send off our BU Mission Grant application for 2011 and now await to hear back from our 'visitors' who will help decide whether we remain worthy of support from the Baptist family.

We continue to plan for Easter and our collection box for Easter Eggs for our Easter Egg Hunt is brimming over.

The routine of college lectures has now returned as week three of Semester 2 draws to its close. Assignments are started with the aim of turning them in well ahead of the 1 June deadline.

Friday, 12 February 2010

What do insomniacs get up to at 5am?

When at bedtime the weatherman forecasts up to 4 inches of snow to fall overnight this insomniac starts to make plans! So with several layers of winter clothing on to ward off the chill from the strong wind drifting snow across the road work started in earnest to build an army of snowmen before the rest of the road awoke to see the blanket of snow that had fallen.
By the time the first curtain twitched around 6.30am most of the snowmen were smiling. The top hatted sentry on the church steps had returned (two earlier versions having melted after the previous thaws), the Manse sentry (see below) had also returned along with 12 gatepost sentries on the walls of my neighbours. Each sported a fresh carrot nose thanks to Sainsbury's who had kindly packaged their carrots in punnets ideal for this particular need.

This nocturnal activity provided a useful distraction from the fresh demands of the new semester at Spurgeons. Four new modules are begun each with a 1500 - 2000 word assignment due by 1 June. Thankfully the options for these already offer three attractive possibilities which should see the bulk of the work completed by Easter.

The final two essays of the last semester have come back with more than adequate marks which is a relief. The annual interview with the College Principal is now behind me.

Lent looms with a special service on Ash Wednesday and the start of our Lent Bible Studies using the CTBI materials beginning on Thursday.

By the time I return from college next week work on erecting the scaffolding on the spire should have begun a topic of conversation which dominated the local fraternal.

I have a reference to write for a friend seeking recognition for ministry by the LBA which needs careful and prayerful thought and of course there is the last Sunday before Lent with its focus on the Transfiguration to finalise. Having bought lip shaped 'post-it' notes for the children's talk I'm beginning to have second thoughts about my Valentine's Day link but we'll see.

There's no time to wax lyrical about my new friend Arwen or the opportunity to reflect on the move of a young friend from the UK to the Caribbean but those who make the connections will doubtless make their own enquiries. Oh, and it was good to see and hear Dr Haymes and meet up with Bloomsbury friends on Sunday - a bonus to the week!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Inter Semester Break!

Well, this is the official break between the two semesters of the college year. We have a week off! Of course the reality is there are always things to do and this week is no different but first a recap on the last few days.

We had our Church AGM on Saturday. The idea of having a coffee hour beforehand proved popular and by the start of the meeting we had assembled over 25 members and friends to receive the reports of the church, elect deacons and do all the usual things required at an AGM.

My report to the AGM is posted elsewhere on the church's website for you to read. We heard from the Treasurer that we had over spent a little in 2009 but with all the additional costs refurbishing The Manse, loss of Bank Interest and also paying the share of my Half-Stipend this was not unexpected. Weekly giving was rising slowly and if we remain careful with expenditure in 2010 we should survive the year.

Encouragingly, we received reports on the visits to two folk seeking membership and they were duly approved - we welcome Liz and Roger formally at our Communion service in February. Alan Cook (retired London City Missionary) was nominated for the diaconate along with two retiring deacons so our leadership team has now grown to 5 plus me. These, I trust, are the first green shoots of growth we have been praying for. We've also got a candidate for Baptism and we hope to have a Baptismal Service on Easter Day.

Following the AGM I dashed for a train and then a bus to attend the South Easter Baptist Association Celebration held at Tenterden Baptist Church. Travel connections meant I slipped into my seat in the gallery just after the beginning 'like an angel descending' I think Jonathan Edwards (BUGB Gen. Sec.) later described it when we chatted over tea. It was good to represent Walmer and rub shoulders with some old friends and tell them what was going on.

Sunday was Education Sunday and we seized the opportunity to invite the Headteacher of our local primary school to come and share her reflections on 'Faith based education in the 21st century'. She was an excellent speaker and gave us much to think about as we seek to support the school and its community in sharing the Good News with the young people of Walmer.

As I write this I am starting to turn my mind to the meeting tomorrow morning with the architect and contractors who will start work on the spire very soon. It will be good to get this long-awaited work underway. (I've pledged to the church that I'll climb the scaffold to put the re-gilded weathervane on top if the workmen will let me!!)

Our Knitters for the Needy group meets tomorrow for the first time since my appeal letter was printed in the local paper. We've already had wool donated and I bumped into a lady yesterday who said she'd like to come along. It will be great to see this group grow and build bridges between the church and the community.

I've booked my place at the Baptist Assembly in Plymouth (as well as also sorting accommodation for Bloomsbury's Team too!) and all the flights and hotels are booked and paid for for the Baptist World Alliance Congress in Honolulu at the end of July.

Studies resume on Monday with new lectures for the second semester and doubtless a new list of assignments that will need to be written so after this brief break the journey continues...