Sometimes you will hear me say how much I love 'Theology'. And by this I mean that I love talking, thinking and debating about ideas of the mystery some people call God!
It used to be simple.... Everyone had the same beliefs aligned to particular cultures and countries (500yrs ago). But then we started moving about and encountering other ideas of God and life and the Spirit and the afterlife..... And we started to mix our ideas and to form our own belief systems outside of the normal religious establishments. So now there is so much 'out there', so many possible ways of seeing the meaning of our lives, of relating to others and the world around us.
Some people are happy to flow along with this without too much problem, others (like me), want to try and figure things out and find a belief system that works to live a fulfilling life.
As this view is 'from the Vicarage' it won't surprise you that the starting place for my exploration is Jesus and the religion that remembers his name, Christianity .... But I don't like to be confined and I acknowledge that ideas of God have to always be provisional.... Because we can never truly know ... if the word 'God' means anything, then it definitely means something much bigger than my tiny brain can hold! So....
With all that in mind I would like to invite you on an exploration and am starting the following evenings and opportunities. They are not courses, you will not be taught. They are not bible studies, they are much wider than that... Please do talk to me if you are at all interested and I will keep a list for numbers.
Theological Book Club... reading books, fiction and non fiction, together and sharing what we think, once a month at the Vicarage. First meeting Monday 5lh November 7pm (on the first Monday of each month after that. The first Book is 'The Shack' by Paul Young and I have some copies if you would like to borrow).
Living the Questions evening gathering, using set material to explore fascinating questions around the Christian faith... be prepared to think new thoughts! Monday November 19th 7pm at the Vicarage (and every 3rd Monday after that).
It is all about Happiness... we all want to be happy. Of course we do, but happiness is a slippery thing. There are things that we know 'make us happy' but sometimes they just don't 'work' any more. There are people we are usually happy to be around but sometimes they don't give us the happiness we are looking for. We can be happy in a new house, a new job, and a new relationship for a while but why does that fade over time?
There is a lovely little cartoon on you tube that explains this beautifully (Headspace/Happiness).
* It tells us that happiness is only found in the right here and now... how could it be anywhere else? But as we spend most of our lives and thoughts in remembering the past and dreaming about the future happiness can just pass us by.... remember happiness is a moment.
* It reminds us that happiness can't be sought or chased or forced... it just happens often when we are not expecting it.
* And it teaches that the surest way of allowing happiness to happen is to forget about our own happiness and to go and help another person be happy!!!
In our present 'me,me' culture this sounds a little odd ... but it is the absolute Truth.
This little cartoon is made by a Buddhist who is trained in meditation but the teachings of Jesus that instruct us in church are identical.
Jesus said... if you want to find your life you must first loose it... give it away to others.
If you want to find the peace and joy you are striving for…. then seek first for the Kingdom of God…. Seek first for the pleasure and joy of loving and serving your neighbour.
I know it all sounds very worthy doesn't it and a little counter intuitive.
But... as we practice this, live it and remind each other then Happiness will sneak up on us and curl up in our lap!
THE HAVEN CHURCHES THE BENEFICE OF SEAVIEW,ST HELENS,BRADING AND YAVERLAND Providing a spiritual harbour for ALL
Just to let you all know that the churches of Seaview, St Helens, Brading and Yaverland are now operating as a united team (called a Benefice in Church of England speak). The Priest in Charge is Rev Alison Morley and there is a nice big team of retired and licensed clergy who are taking services and adding their expertise and pastoral care.
The new team is called the Haven Churches and our tag line of "Providing a spiritual harbour for ALL" reflects the way that the team and the congregations are committed to keeping the churches as open and inclusive, safe places for care of our spiritual human nature. Our human nature is often described as being made up of Body, Mind and Spirit and the churches of our Parishes have a clear obligation to care for the human Spirit. We use Christian language to describe this mysterious Spirit but we recognise and appreciate others religious and non religious language and are open for everyone who would like to find a space of tranquillity when the storms of life stir up the Spiritual core of our beings or challenge us to search for a deeper meaning for our existence.
One of the things that is most obvious to us all who live and work in these parishes is the sheer beauty of the place and the most constantly voiced thankfulness that I hear is that we are so lucky to be here. Yes we are lucky but we are also responsible.
All of us have a responsibility to care for, to tend and to respect the natural world around us and in the church we add to this that this natural world is a glorious awesome gift from the mystery we name God that must be cherished. So much of what we do has an impact on creation, the way we shop, all that we consume and throw away. However this impact is mostly hidden from us and as we live surrounded by beauty, the sweat shops and factories that produce our consumables around the world pollute the environments of others and scar the earth. We are not so naive that we don't see this we just don't join up the dots. The environmental movement has lectured us again and again to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle and although we may be getting somewhere with the last two (Council obligations and Bootsales, Wightbay and charity shops!) there is no evidence that we have reduced our consumption at all.
It seems to me that our consumption is something to do with an emptiness that has crept into our lives, it is an attempt to find contentment, even love. As our sense of living worthwhile lives gets attacked by the media, social isolation and materialistic values that judge us on the size of our car or wallet, so we look for short term fixes like a trip to the shops or an Amazon session to help us feel better. I have felt this many times myself and I wonder how our churches can help to give us creative ways to address this longing.
The most fundamental thing that the church offers is the radical, society changing, life fulfilling teaching of Jesus that is preached every week... but this is not purely an advert for Sunday services! The church as a spiritual harbour for our lives gives a breathing space were we can think a little more clearly about what is truly important. Where we can pause and reflect and by offering pastoral support for people who are struggling and social gatherings for us to find nourishment in relationship, we can prioritise love and care.
With all this in mind do keep your eyes open for lots of new things that will be developing this theme. The new Eco Church Sunday afternoon gatherings at St Helen's Church, the Book Group and new house groups starting in September.
We in the West have forgotten that as human beings we need nourishment for Body, Mind and Spirit or our lives can spin out of control into a relentless unsustainable consumption. Our churches offer that food for the Spirit; come and see.
Recently the Diocese has been encouraging all the churches to think about how we grow in numbers attending church and in our love for our communities. Some members from our churches gave up their valuable time to attend a weekend course called LYCiG (Leading Your Churches Into Growth) and they hosted meetings at the beginning of this year to tell you all what they discovered. We have been thinking how we can best use some of what we have learnt, and pass on some of the really good encouragement. Because so much of what we will be thinking about affects the whole life of the church it seems that the best place to look at this is in the PCCs but also much wider than the PCCs so......
You are all invited to one of the following meetings*
Monday 9th July 6.30pm St Helens (St Catherine's Chapel)
Tuesday 10th July 6.30pm St Mary's Brading (Church Hall)
Thursday 19th July 6.30pm St Peter's Seaview (Church Hall) All of the meetings will be an hour long
with a glass of something and nibbles (PCC after)
The small planning group have been responsive to feedback already received and would like to assure you that the material that we are using is really practical and well suited to our churches and we are sure that you will enjoy it. It helps us to discuss ideas and think about positive actions that the churches can easily take and it is encouraging as we reflect on all that we are already doing.
For myself I have spoken clearly in my sermons about how I see the church as a very special place in our community, as a Haven for those in need and those seeking meaning for their lives. Growth is about letting people know that Love can have a place and a name, about welcoming all people and being visible in that welcome. This LYCiG material, appropriately used, can help us with this. See you there!
*(PCC members please attend the one in your church before your meeting).