new blog on the block

23 September, 2005 at 1:01 pm 13 comments

Just discovered that Keith Alexander, a URC minister in Manchester, has stared a blog – Thoughts of Keith – with a thoughtful (no pun intended!) piece on the privatisation of faith (or at least, that's what struck me about it). Drop in and visit.


Entry filed under: blogging theology.

a theology of contamination bob the articulate? must be some mistake, surely …

13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Keith Alexander  |  23 September, 2005 at 7:17 pm

    Let me enlighten you. Keith Alexander is not a URC Minister in Manchester. He is a former URC Lay Preacher who has just transferred his membership to a Methodist Church in Anglesey. There are no URCs on the island. The nearest is Penmaenmawr, an LEP with the Methodists and I am due to preach there this Sunday!

    Thanks for the promotion, though!

  • 2. Wol  |  24 September, 2005 at 12:28 pm

    My mistake, Keith! Every blessing for Sunday. And good that you’re blogging.

  • 3. Lucy  |  26 September, 2005 at 5:50 am

    Keith was talking about a church where a man with Downs Syndrome got up and danced, during the sermon, much to the discombobulation of the congregation. He (Keith) was wishing that more people could express their faith spontaneously and openly.

    We have someone in the place where I worship, who occasionally involves himself in the sermon. The minister, who likes fying by the seat of his pants, enjoys this and I do too. It unsettles some of us – but only in as much as it stops the flow of the service and what we were expecting to happen.

    But neither Keith’s example of spur-of-the-moment faith sharing nor mine were experienced by their congregations as “challenging behaviour”. This is because in both instances the unorthodox input came from people who are “different” and whose contribution is percieved to be forgivable because, though it is undoubtedly felt-through, it hasn’t been thought-through.

    From time to time I want to say (amongst other things) out loud in the church where I attend that I am very angry at God. There are many occasions when though I believe in him I lose faith in him. I am fairly sure that I am not alone in this sort of anger. It’s been documented as going on for thousands of years.

    But to get up spontaneously at an apposite point in a sermon, in order to share this with the minister and congregation would be perceived as much more truly damaging to our established flow than if I yelled “Thankyou for my body, God” and took off all my clothes. If I merely strip I am “different” and can be discounted.

    But because, (ha-ha), I am not “different”, any spontaneous outburst would be seen as very, very bad form, egoistic, challenging and inappropriate (not necessarily in its content – but definitely in its process).

    This leaves me wondering how one is supposed, in the sunday workings of most churches to share anything; whether one is someone new to it all, wanting to find out more – or someone like me, thoughtful, already highly involved, wanting to ask the whole church where they are and if they can contribute/help….

    Even if we could find the acceptance, where would we find the time?

    The big questions which people wish to ask need to be dealt with not on the perimeter of church life, where not everyone can join in, (bible-study, discussion-groups etc) but where the life of the church starts and ends – in church.

  • 4. Keith Alexander  |  26 September, 2005 at 6:33 pm

    I quite understand how there is a frustration at feeling you cannot interact with the congregation at worship.

    I have sometimes thought it would be good to be opposed from the pew when I have been preaching. On one occasion a worshipper walked out at the end of the service without speaking because he disagreed with me. I would have loved him challenging me.

    The last part my post was that we need to engage with the community and ask what we can do to help them. Only when we step outside the church can we do what Jesus called us to do when he said to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”

    My fear is that the church will not go into the field where the sheep are and thus the sheep will starve and the church will disappear from the landscape.

  • 5. craig muir  |  28 September, 2005 at 10:11 am

    It is very hard to get a lot of interaction – I have experimented (at evening services more than morning services) with inviting interuptions and discussion – but it is very stilted and polite – I’m not sure how someone strongly disagreeing with me would react (or how I would react to them)

    I have someone in the congregation who regularly walks out on lay preachers (not just you Keith!) but has never done so to me – with me he chunners loudly and I have been able on occasion to respond to the chunnering – but it is tricky because part of what is happenning is more to do with power issues than with constructive discussion.

    We are also experimenting with after church discussion – but it is hard to break peoples routine and encourage them to feel free to express themselves

  • 6. Keith Alexander  |  28 September, 2005 at 8:02 pm

    Having seen the last comment on my blog I guessed it was someone I knew. Spelling your name backwards threw me completely!

    Now you have broken cover why not take a look at my latest posting on this URL:

    Nice to hear W is well and still walking out on preachers. Give my regards to all at Hallfold, particularly Donald N.

    I have just started establishing myself with the Bangor & Holyhead Methodist Circuit of which I am now part after 50+ years of Cong and URC.

  • 7. Lucy  |  29 September, 2005 at 6:33 am

    Yes, but Craig, a great deal of what we bring to church is going to have elements of power issues, because we’re social mammals as well as souls, and because power-sharing is part of the ongoing tension of being congregational with a small “c”.
    I don’t mean that your “chunnering” individual isn’t destructive, he sounds it. But many of the problems of expressing our individual faith in church revolve around not daring to upset a status quo which believes we all have a place – which we should stick to and in. And that place is too fixed and too much to do with how things have tradiotionally been – which is why the churches are, understandably, emptying.

  • 8. Craig  |  29 September, 2005 at 9:12 am

    Lucy, I agree – but who breaks the status quo? How is it done?
    As a Minister, I hold a lot of power – more than I believe I should have. When I give people permission to interact with me -I’m actually exerting as much power as a Labour Party Steward (to be topical!) When they refuse to interact they are exerting their power – and on one occasion I was told in no uncertain terms “We’ve come to hear what you have to ay” End of Discussion. That is fine on the one hand but then we are stuck in these fixed places (and pews)and as you say churches are emptying.

    What I find really difficult is working from a Reformed Tradition in which the congregations traditionally have power, but which they have chosen to dump on or has been taken by the minister. And that the churches which are growing often are very front led, with very little space for self-expression

  • 9. Lucy  |  29 September, 2005 at 11:01 am

    Oh, it’s so complex, isn’t it? And I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be leadership, either, or that the minister shouldn’t be an effective leader….Sometimes gentle influence isn’t enough.

    My feeling is that most churches, local churches I mean, need their bluff calling, by their ministers, by their attenders, members, Elders, the cat – into doing something which is not self-serving. We have done what all institutions do every few years, which is swing round to serve itself. All groups inevitably have this tendency – but it’s particularly obvious and odious in us – because it’s not what’s written on the label.

    This hypocrisy and how to dissolve it is the moral high ground which the minister is entitled to be powerful about, as it comes under the heading of “What Would Jesus Do?” How and what is done can be struggled with and shared with the congregation – and hopefully the wider commumity if we’re really doing something worthwhile and therefore pressing.

    If people hate change very very much they will leave and find a sanctuary for their non-development elsewhere. But I believe most just aren’t nagged or exercised enough to begin to use their resources.
    Nasty thankless job for the minister? Yes.

  • 10. Keith Alexander  |  15 October, 2005 at 4:32 pm

    Do you remember some of the old Sunday evening religious programmes? I remember one in Rev Brandon Jackson had a discussion in his church service with Anna Raeburn where both of them took no prisoners and said it it was (according to them).

    This seems a possible way of getting debate going within the worship time. Otherwise I can see no chance of people in a congregation challenging the minister who has taken a long time to prepare his sermon for that service. What can most people offer “off the cuff” in that setting? They are not trained for it or strong enough to have a go.

    I think debate has to normally take place in a different setting. This is where the people decide such an event is not for them and you have so few in attendance.

    I don’t believe that the style of worship is what is emptying churches. It is usually natural wastage which is nowadays noticeable because of the low attendances to start with. The real question is “What will reverse this process?” The answer lies outside the worship sphere in the mission area. Worrying about losing in the numbers game is pointless. We have to respond to Jesus who called on us through Peter to “feed my sheep.”

  • 11. Anonymous  |  8 January, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    I am Harry Roberts and I would like to sell my transvestite sister as a prostiture, as i am a leukemia boy

  • 12. Anonymous  |  8 January, 2006 at 6:57 pm

    mY TRasnny sister is called cleo roberts and lives in llanrwst

  • 13. Anonymous  |  8 January, 2006 at 6:58 pm

    She sucks, men and women’s cocks, and has caugfht leukemia


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