flagging faith


The Beloved Community

A sermon preached at the Methodist Church in Dale Street, Leamington Spa, on 8 April, 2018. A copy can be downloaded here. Fifty years ago, on a hotel balcony, MLK was gunned down by a person who believed that, because of the colour of his skin, he was inferior. But much more than that, he was killed because he was a threat to the status quo. His message of equality, peace, non-violence and love, and his ability to stir the hearts of thousands in the US and around the world, were enough to make the strongest and most powerful nation on earth tremble. So the powerful did what they always do – they sought to rid themselves of the troublemaker. It is a very familiar story to those of us who rea

Identity Crisis?

I've always been a bit suspicious of those who seem to have God's planning diary in their back pocket. It often means that they have no real need of prayer or discernment - they already know what God's wants and how God will act in the future. They would never admit that prayer was unnecessary, of course, that would be close to blasphemy. But their times of prayer/devotion are for speaking, not listening. For those who already 'know' God's will, prayer become nothing more than the spiritual icing that makes the mission cake taste that little bit sweeter. This leads churches from all parts of the theological and denomination spectrum into activity based on past successes and easy wins. When I

Reality vs Truth

I write this as I attend the 3rd annual Methodist Research Conference at the historic John Rylands Library in Manchester. For that reason, it might be easy to engage in a philosophical discussion about truth and reality, but that's not my intention. What really got me thinking about these things was an increasing unease about the nature of public debates and public discourse. It feels as if we are talking at cross-purposes even though we believe we are addressing the same issues. The campaign before, during and since the Brexit referendum shows this very clearly. Loud and passionate voices argue their cases, but from two very different positions: reality and truth. Reality can be a scary pla

Conference Call

Being part of the Susanna Wesley Foundation Team is a real privilege. I am looking forward to our work being more widely known, especially within the Methodist Church. We are committed to high quality research and theological reflection that will aid the Methodist Church to better understand and practice its mission in Britain and beyond. In a time of anxiety, and even bewilderment, within the Churches at the pace of social change and the loss of a Christian foothold in the public square, it is important to glean as clear a picture of reality as is possible. SWF's role is to offer tools and insight to the wider Church to allow it to see the lay of the land. Key to our work are conferences,

Without vision, the people perish

Easter is a hinge. It signifies very definitely the end of one thing, one phase, even one world, and the beginning of something entirely new. It is the pivot on which the life of the universe turns. Easter is laden with new possibilities. It is the feast of potential, and for that reason there is an element of uncertainty. The resurrection is so revolutionary that the past has ceased to be a good guide for the future. As a congregation, a Circuit, a Connexion, we also find ourselves at a pivotal point – the realisation that certain familiar ways of doing things are coming to an end, and the (uncertain) hope of new beginnings. In the midst of all this change and uncertainty, we need a vision,

from Good Friday to Holy Saturday in 20 years

St Patrick may have been able to drive out the snakes from the island of Ireland, but reconciliation between the traditions on the Island seems a miracle beyond even Paddy. The chaos called Brexit has brought into sharp relief what observers of the Northern Ireland political scene over the last two decades have known all along - it is possible to have peace without reconciliation. The 20 years that have elapsed since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement forces reflection on the journey travelled. The deal brokered by Senator George Mitchell was indeed extraordinary: it literally brought many antagonists into the same room for the first time. But it resembled less a magic wand and more a

Fifty years on ...

'What gonna happen now? In all of our cities? My people are rising; they're living in lies, Even if they have to die. Even if they have to die at the moment, they know what life is. Even at that one moment, that ya know what life is. If you have to die, it's all right, 'Cause you know what life is. You know what freedom is, for one moment of your life. But he had seen the mountaintop, And he knew he could not stop; Always living with the threat of death ahead. Folks you'd better stop and think. Everybody knows we're on the brink. What will happen, now that the King of love is dead?' Listening to Nina Simone sing those words, three days after Martin Luther King, Jr was assassina

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