Church attendance

One of the little tasks I seem to have ended up with is compiling figures for the annual statistical return to the diocese from our parish.

I have just finished processing the data for Valley Church Centre, Elmdon. Whilst I try not to get too obsessed with the figures, there is some good news – average weekly attendance is up, from 17.7 in 2007 to 18.5 in 2008!

The bad news – leaving out one special and very atypical service (at the end of the children’s summer holiday club) the total attendance by under-16s in 2008 was 2. Not an average of 2 for each service: 2 in total for the whole year.

+Alan on Eucharistic Presidency

Yes, I am still alive. Yes, it has been a while since I wrote anything.

Fascinating discussion over at Bishop Alan’s Blog on presidency at the Eucharist, following on from the vote in Sydney diocese that it is legal for deacons in Sydney to adminster/preside at/<insert your choice of terminology here> the Eucharist/Holy Communion/The Lord’s Supper/<insert your choice of terminology here>.

I loved this bit from Bishop Alan, which just about summarised my take on this:

The Eucharist is presided here by laypeople selected, trained and authorized by the bishop. We call them priests.

Of course, this doesn’t address at all the whole question of just what a Reader (such as myself) is.

On holiday last week, visiting Tywyn Baptist Church got chatting to a minister from an independent church who apparently hadn’t realised that the Church of England had any sort of lay preacher type people, and was rather surprised to learn that we have more of them than we have stipendiary priests/presbyters/elders/<insert your choice of terminology here>.

ESV Study Bible

Well, a great flood of information is coming out over at the ESV Study Bible blog about this forthcoming release.

Looking on Amazon.co.uk, until very recently you could see the Crossway edition (ISBN 978‑1433502415) with no price listed and also, more recently, a superficially very similar Collins edition (ISBN 978-0007237142) at £39.99. They are still listing the Crossway editions in fancier bindings, e.g. the bonded leather one which is actually listed as a couple of pounds cheaper than the Collins hardback edition.

It would be useful to know exactly what the difference is between the Crossway and Collins editions. The page counts seem to be slightly different. Does the Collins one use the Anglicised ESV text? (Perhaps too much to hope.)

Unsubscribing

Well, back in February I blogged about using the RSS feed of the ESV Daily Reading Bible, and the interesting graph they have on the ESV Bible Blog of how many people are using the feed.

I am about to unsubscribe from the feed! Why? Well, some time ago I ended up buying the (real, paper-based) ESV Daily Reading Bible from Amazon. Somehow paper just works better for me for this. But I kept the RSS subscription going so the ESV folks wouldn’t think I’d given up on the daily Bible readings.

But then I noticed they say that they read nearly every blog post they can find that mentions the ESV, so thought if they read this it’s probably safe to unsubscribe.

I notice that Amazon UK now has the Daily Reading Bible listed – at the time, I had to order from Amazon.com which took nearly two months. There’s some sort of complication with selling US editions of the ESV in the UK, something to do with Harper Collins having the publishing rights to the Anglicised version. There doesn’t seem to be an Anglicised ESV Daily Reading Bible, which is a shame as the format works really well (except in a very few cases where the little notes in the margins telling you what to read each day are in slightly the wrong places).

I do hope that the ESV Study Bible will be available in UK bookshops in due course.

Favourite songs (3): The Power of the Cross

I’ve been meaning to write this one for ages. The Power of the Cross is a very powerful hymn by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend that takes us back to Good Friday and to remember how Christ “became sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Oh, to see the dawn
of the darkest day:
Christ on the road to Calvary.
Tried by sinful men,
torn and beaten, then
nailed to a cross of wood.

This, the pow’r of the cross:
Christ became sin for us;
took the blame, bore the wrath—
we stand forgiven at the cross.

More…

Keith Getty & Stuart Townend
Copyright © 2005 Thankyou Music

The reason this post has been sitting unwritten for so long is that half of me loves this hymn and half of me finds it just too much to bear. There is a part of me that doesn’t want to see the dawn of the darkest day. I like to think I can avail of the cross of Christ whilst walking quickly by without thinking too deeply about exactly what was involved.

There is a wonderful little booklet by John Richardson, “The Eternal Cross“, reflecting on the sufferings of Christ and the place of suffering at the heart of God. He points us to John 14:8-9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”, and says:

Of course, these words are also comforting to the armchair theologian who looks at Jesus healing the sick or raising the dead. It is easy to see the Father there, if we have already decided that the Father is the one who always delivers when he is called upon. But the cross confronts that illusion by saying, “Look, here is also the Father. He who sees this Christ, the Christ on the cross, has also seen the Father.” Yet crucifixion is an unpalatable sight, from which human instinct turns away. Trying to look at this to see God is like trying to look at the sun. We must force ourselves into the confrontation.

And so I sing this wonderful hymn.

On the Athanasian Creed

Until today, I don’t believe I have ever had a phrase from the Athanasian Creed pop into my head while walking through a shopping centre with my children. I don’t think I have ever actually been to a church service where the Athanasian Creed was recited, come to that.

We were returning to our car after shopping at the farmer’s market in Solihull, and had stopped for a chat with Stephen Dancer and his bookstall from Solihull Presbyterian Church. We got talking about Pierced for our Transgressions, and the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity for correctly understanding penal substitution. We must not, in our thinking about the atonement, set the persons of the Trinity at odds with each other, as if the Father were demanding blood from an uninvolved, unwilling Son. The distinct persons act together to bring about the common will of God. One purpose, yet distinct persons carrying out their different aspects of the one plan of redemption.

And then, walking along through the shopping centre as you do, a phrase from the Athanasian Creed just popped into my head: “Neither confounding the Persons : nor dividing the Substance”. Exactly.

I want a reverse Lectionary index

OK, so I’m starting work a bit early on the sermon for the Sunday after Ascension Day (4th May). The Gospel reading, this being Year A, is John 17:1-11, the first chunk of Jesus’ high priestly prayer. The question in my mind was, when does the rest of this prayer occur in the Common Worship principal service lectionary? Does it occur at all? (Some bits are notably left out of the three-year lectionary, such as Revelation 22:19.)

In the end I searched through the PDF version of Common Worship for the phrase “John 17”, which turned up the answer fairly quickly. (The answer is that John 17.6-19 is read in year B and John 17.20-26 in year C.) But before that I had tried the Index of Biblical References at the back of Common Worship (pages 823-836). I’m sure it’s a very nice index, but all it gives are the page numbers. I think what I need is some sort of Biblical index to the Lectionary that tells me where each chunk of Scripture occurs – which Sunday of the year and which year of the cycle.

Of course, all my faithful readers (ha!) from non-lectionary-compliant churches will now be wondering what on earth I’m on about.

Packer threatened with suspension

So the time has come for the Diocese of New Westminster to threaten to suspend J. I. Packer. On one level inevitable given his parish’s decision to leave the Anglican Church of Canada for the Southern Cone. But if you needed proof that something was very badly wrong in a large chunk of the Anglican Communion, here it is.

I met him once, very briefly, at St. Michael’s, Aberystwyth. I commented positively on his tie, which bore the likeness of an American 4-4-0 steam locomotive. I was rather surprised when he replied “Ah, those of us who love the railways have even more in common than our shared love of Jesus Christ!”

Things I learned at the weekend

  • “Mothering Sunday” is an anagram of “unorganised myth”.
  • Our new 1:4 VGA distribution amplifier requires a male-to-female lead to connect it to the laptop, rather than the more common male-to-male lead.
  • It is a good idea to bring all possible computer leads to church, to make sure you have the right one to hand when you find that your new toy requires the opposite gender of connector to the one you expected (see above).
  • You can get from church to our house and back in around 10 minutes.
  • It is a good idea to make sure you know exactly when in the service a particular media item is required on the projector screen.
  • Getting things out of the cupboard in the vestry is easy. Getting them back in is harder.
  • The tie clip for the lapel microphone was not, in fact, still attached to my jacket following last week’s sermon.
  • It is hard to find lapel microphone tie clips when they are lost in a tangle of purple rope (such as that used for lowering a casket of ashes into a hole in the churchyard). But it is good to persevere.