Welcome to the CBM Website and Blog

Thank you for visiting. This blog of articles and resources contributed by Members of CBM will be useful for all Christian ministers especially in Baptist Churches. Explore different topics using the Menu bar above and search the site for any words using the Search box.

The Pages about CBM listed on the right  introduce The College of Baptist Ministers and include Guidelines and Policies endorsed by CBM.

CONTACT US:  If CBM can be of any help to you, or if you have any questions,
get in touch by EMAIL –  admin@collegeofbaptistministers.com

Ministry Today UK Legacy Volumes are now available as PDFs

For 24 years and 72 issues, Ministry Today (later Ministry Today UK) was the only interdenominational professional journal on the practice of Christian Ministry in the UK. It remains an invaluable resource for ministers in pastorate, in sector ministries and in training. In 2018 Ministry Today UK closed leaving a legacy of wisdom and experience in 512 stimulating articles from a breadth of contributors covering almost every aspect of ministry in practice. At the request of the Board of Ministry Today UK, The College of Baptist Ministers republished all those articles in eight volumes. Hard copies are now available from copyright libraries and in many theological libraries. But now in response to requests we are also making the volumes available as PDF files.

STUDY GUIDE

To help you find your way around this cornucopia of resources there is a study guide listing many of the key articles according to 57 themes, arranged alphabetically.  This is followed by a general index to all the articles and authors.

You can download the Study Guide and Comprehensive Index  completely free here.

Ministry Today UK Study Guide and Index PDF

LEGACY VOLUMES as PDFs

From the limited print run all the paper copies of the Legacy Volumes have now been sold and reprinting will be uneconomical. In response to requests we are happy to make the PDF files of those volumes available. All 512 articles in 8 volumes making over 2900 pages of distilled insight, wisdom and experience, in completely searchable PDF files: the price for this invaluable resource is only £10.00 for the set of 8 volumes. That is less than 2p for each article!

HOW TO BUY

Order by email to our Treasurer peter@collegeofbaptistministers.com paying by bank transfer to

“The College of Baptist Ministers”   Barclays Witham Branch        
Sort Code  20-97-40           Account Number 63038378

Alternatively send a cheque for £10.00 payable to the College of Baptist Ministers together with your email address

CBM Treasurer, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW

We will send the PDF files to your email address straight away.

The files will be yours to read, search and quote or cut and paste as you like. We trust ministers to respect copyright and not to pass the files on to other people but rather encourage their friends to purchase their own copies.

We know that many ministers will be happy to have their own copies of the articles to be able to access on all their devices at any time and anywhere. However CBM are continuing to keep the Ministry Today UK website live so all the articles will remain online together with 24 years of  book reviews.

Visit https://www.ministrytoday.org.uk/

Retirement Matters for Ministers

The new book by Paul Beasley-Murray ISBN 978-1-9165035-0-2

Order your copy from the College of Baptist Ministers – £5 plus £2 Postage and Packing. Details below.

What experiences do Baptist Ministers have of retirement?

This report brings together the analysis of 53 responses to a detailed questionnaire and 17 extensive face-to-face interviews.
Issues explored include experience of ministry, transition to retirement, housing, finance, health, friendships, family and ministry in retirement. Ministers answered openly questions about their experiences of relationships with the local church, with other ministers, with their Association and with the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
The report discusses whether more could be done to support our retired “heroes of faith” and at the same time whether their wisdom and experience could be used more widely in our churches and Associations.

Rev Dr Paul Beasley-Murray is now enjoying retirement after more than 43 years in Baptist ministry in long pastorates in Altrincham and Chelmsford. He also served as a short-term missionary in the Congo and as Principal of Spurgeon’s College.
Published in 2018 by The College of Baptist Ministers.

TO ORDER YOUR COPY at £5 plus £2 postage and packing.

 

Order by email giving your name and postal address to our Treasurer peter@pbthomas.com  paying by bank transfer to

“The College of Baptist Ministers”   Barclays Witham Branch        
Sort Code  20-97-40           Account Number 63038378

Alternatively send a cheque payable to the College of Baptist Ministers together with your name and postal address to

CBM Treasurer, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW

 

Three ideas for outreach this Christmas

As November begins and we begin to think about how we can celebrate Christmas as an outreach opportunity let me offer three simple ideas which you may well already use but need preparation now to be ready in time.

  1. Helping your congregation to send Christian Christmas Cards

Giving or sending Christian cards to family and friends, neighbours and colleagues can be a powerful witness and open up opportunities for spiritual conversations about the real meaning of Christmas. But it can be very difficult to find a good range of Christmas cards which show a nativity scene or refer to Jesus in any way. Our nearest Christian bookshop is a 50-mile round trip and few Christians will make the effort to order cards online.

So for the last 32 years early in November I have bought boxed sets of Christian Christmas cards. Even in my small church I will spend around £100 this year on these. Before the end of this month I will have set up a table in the church. I split up the boxed sets and charge the same price of 20p for each separate card and envelope, which means that I pretty much break even overall.

The card table will be out for our all-age family Christmas Crafts Afternoon. There we have crafts to MAKE including Cards, Calendars, Pictures, and Gifts such as keyrings and fridge magnets. We also have stalls to BUY Cards, Books, Pictures, Gifts and Jewellery. All with seasonal refreshments of course. Then the Christian Christmas cards will also be available at our Christingle Service, our Carols by Candlelight Service and our ever popular Carols and Cake (where we all sit around choosing our favourite carols and eating cake). The cards are also out for people to buy at Toddler Group and Drop in as well as at our weekly Haven Café. I use any cards which are unsold at Christmas to give myself to my congregation and fringe contacts.

  1. The Greatest Christmas Present – a booklet you can give away.

This simple booklet weaves together the Bible text of the nativity stories from the royalty-free NET Bible with my own reflections on Christmas. It was produced for us to give away to our fringe contacts at Toddlers, Drop In and Haven Café, for visitors to our Christmas services and events, and for members to give to their friends and neighbours and colleagues.  We bought 1000 and in bulk they cost just 20p each. You are very welcome to print your own copies, or use the idea (and any of the content you like) to produce your own version. Just remember to include the copyright notices. More details and a PDF of the booklet are online at

http://collegeofbaptistministers.com/the-greatest-christmas-present-a-booklet-you-can-give-away/

  1. Church Christmas cards to deliver

I have just finished designing the card which we deliver to our community during December as well as circulating among our contacts. With an attractive nativity image it advertises all our special services and lists our regular activities as well as giving our contact details and the all-important church website address. It contains a Christmas message and also offers everybody two free gifts. The first is a copy of the NIV New Testament (99p each if you buy in bulk) for anybody who wants one, and we have had folk contact us requesting us to deliver a copy to their house. The second gift is our little booklet The Greatest Christmas Present described above.

We will order either 2500 or 5000 of these cards from www.print24.co.uk which will cost between 3p and 4p each. I have given more details and examples of the artwork we have used in past years at

http://collegeofbaptistministers.com/church-christmas-cards-to-deliver

Church Christmas Cards to deliver

Each Christmas we create a card from the church. We give it to all our church contacts, Toddler Group, Drop In, Haven Cafe customers etc and I encourage all our members to give copies to all their friends and neighbours. With a print run of either 2500 or 5000 we deliver all the rest to local homes.

Printed backed on A4 folded to A5 on glossy 250 gsm card they stand as attractive Christmas cards. We use www.print24.co.uk. Price this year will be £100 for 2500 or £160 for 5000 copies, delivered in a week. Every year we have Christmas visitors to our services and events in response to the leaflets and we believe that the Christmas message inside also helps many to remember the real meaning of Christmas.

To give you an idea of the kinds of things we do, here are some examples. I hope you will find the idea helpful.

 

The Greatest Christmas Present – a booklet you can give away

“Read the wonderful story of the greatest Christmas present of all — God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ.”

It is hard to find an inexpensive booklet to give away widely which explains the meaning of Christmas. So I created one. In 24 pages it combines the Christmas stories from the royalty-free NET Bible with reflections on Christmas and a simple gospel message. Produced in bulk they cost just 20p each (using www.print24.co.uk) to give to Toddler Groups, Drop In and  Cafe Customers as well as for our church members to give away to their friends and neighbours and even include with Christmas cards to send to their families.

Feel free to print copies or adapt to your own situation. You will need to find a suitable front cover image. Please remember to include the NET Bible copyright information from the inside back cover and if you include bits I have written then also my copyright information from the same page.

I pray that this will be useful to you.

The booklet can be downloaded as a PDF file here The Greatest Christmas Present BOOK 4 PDF

 

What do clergy do all week?

Ministers are sometimes unkindly described as “six days invisible, on the seventh day incomprehensible.” This month I am celebrating thirty years in ministry. Back when I began, veteran ministers advised me that a minister’s time would usually be spent in the study in the mornings, out visiting in the afternoons and at meetings in the evenings. How the lives of ministers have changed! This week I rediscovered “Pulpit and Pew”, a programme of in-depth research on pastoral leadership in the USA undertaken between 2001 and 2005. In particular I appreciated the report by Becky R. McMillan discussing just how clergy use their time, available online at  http://pulpitandpew.org/what-do-clergy-do-all-week.

Half of those full-time ministers surveyed report working between 35 and 60 hours a week with one quarter less and the other quarter more than that range. I paused to reflect on the hours I work as a minister. In the spirit of openness, I share that during my first 10 years it was probably 60 hours a week. For the second decade the average would have been closer to 55. Nowadays I typically spend around 50 hours a week in the tasks of ministry and sleep ten hours a week more than I did when I first started. I am content to be average. I fondly believe that my church would rather have quality than quantity. I look back really wishing that I had taken this approach from the beginning (and so do my wife, my now-grown-up children and my spaniels).

The studies report that a minister’s typical working week is divided between planning worship including writing sermons (a median value of 33% of the time) providing pastoral care (19%) administration and attending meetings (15%) teaching and training others for ministry (13%) and denominational and community affairs (6%). Other common tasks include writing articles, fund-raising, correspondence and chaplaincy. Women ministers work the same number of hours as men but report spending less of their time in preparing sermons and more in administration and pastoral care. Ministers describing themselves as conservative (as I would) typically give more time to preaching and prayer and less time to administration. In churches with more than one minister, the senior pastors usually work more hours than their colleagues but curiously their time is used in similar proportion.

For myself, I found this analysis quite affirming, even recognising that there are significant differences in patterns of ministry in the USA. For me, still preaching two sermons every Sunday (all six years’ worth from my current church are online for anybody to read and borrow at www.pbthomas.com/blog –  you are very welcome), around one third of my time is spent preparing and delivering those messages alongside preparing for and leading worship. Similarly, roughly one fifth of my time is spent in pastoral care, although over the years an increasing element of this is expressed using phone calls, emails, texts and social media such as Facebook and Messenger rather than in face-to-face conversations.

Preaching, teaching and pastoral care have always seemed to me to be the heart of pastoral ministry. We are called to be pastor-teachers (literally “teaching shepherds,” one phrase, not two in Ephesians 4:11). By the lakeside the Risen Jesus commissioned Peter, “Feed my lambs. … Take care of my sheep. … Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17). Once could even argue from this that nourishing our flocks by preaching and teaching is the highest priority in ministry and “taking care” of them was the next. I recently found myself puzzled by an advert I saw. A church was looking to recruit an Associate Minister to join their team to take responsibility for the teaching, preaching and pastoral care in order that the Senior Minister could be released for the tasks of “leadership, vision-building and disciple-making.” Surely the principal ways that ministers lead and build vision and make disciples is precisely through preaching, teaching and pastoral care? We must guard against devaluing these vital expressions of ministry or allowing other worthwhile activities to squeeze them out. Somebody once asked old Joe what he thought of their new minister. “He’s got foot and mouth disease,” Joe replied. “He can’t preach and he don’t visit.”

In “Pulpit and Pew”, ministers reported spending an average of 10 hours a week in prayer and meditation and 4 hours on general reading not related to sermon preparation. Again, I am encouraged. My own experience would probably divide that amount of time a bit more evenly between prayer and general study, but that same weekly total has remained constant same through the decades. The Message translates Romans 12:1 “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame.” Continuing study and a commitment to prayer are vital if we are to give our best in preaching, teaching and pastoral care. Of course, different ministers bring differing gifts, skills and experience to the calling and comparing our lives with others has its limitations. I am certainly not suggesting that my own patterns are appropriate for everyone. But God calls each one of us to be the very best we can be in his service. The examples of other ministers may help us avoid the extremes of sloth and burn out, which are both just as dangerous.

The Joys of GDPR

In an earlier life I was a teacher of science and computing. I entered ministry in 1986 when personal computers first began to be affordable (anybody else remember the Amstrad PCW8256?) and we were one of the very first churches to be keeping our members’ details on computer. Ever since then, other ministers, churches and charities have been asking me for advice on such things. Since I serve on the Eastern Baptist Association Council with the brief for Finance and Administration, last year EBA sent me on a training day for charity trustees run by the BU Solicitors Anthony Collins and one of the very helpful sessions was on Data Protection. So I am the logical person to write something on the General Data Protection Regulations which come into effect this month on May 25th.

These new laws replace the 1998 Data Protection Act and are in certain areas much stricter. The BU website has a very helpful guidelines document L13 on Data Protection which you can find at https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/368695/BUC_Guideline_Leaflet.aspx  I urge you to have read this leaflet carefully, since ignorance of the law will not be a defence. This brief article sums up a few of the key things you will need to have in place before May 25 in order to comply with GDPR.

GDPR is concerned with information the church and ministers may wish to store and use about members, congregation and friends of the church. It does not matter whether you keep the information electronically or on pieces of paper – the law applies equally. For some purposes you can say that you are holding the information on the grounds of necessity for their legitimate interest. Specifically you can say your church needs to keep a list of who your members are and of ways to contact them, in order to offer them appropriate care and support. However, while that allows you to use their information for those purposes, it does not allow you to use it for other purposes. So, if e.g. you want to produce a church directory to circulate among church members and congregation, or if you want to use the data to send regular emails to folk who are not currently members of the church, then you will need to get their specific permission to do those things.

Data means not only names, addresses, phone numbers etc but also anything which can be identified with a living person, including for example photographs or voice recordings of them. So it is important to have written permission before you use any photographs with recognisable faces in church publicity either in print, or online, or even pinned up on the walls of the church (since those photos might be removed by users of the church). You need to be particularly careful about kinds of information which are deemed to be “sensitive data.” This would include information on a person’s “religious affiliation,” which you are not allowed to share, which is why printing a photo of that person in a church service would need their permission.

Other “sensitive data” would include pastoral details on a person, such as any minister’s notes of pastoral visits, or reports on their medical condition etc. Such information should never be shared without explicit permission and is better not put in print on newsletters or church/deacons’ meeting minutes or in emails.

Here come the really boring bits ☹ There is a whole page on the BU website on GDPR matters, with most of the materials you will need and a useful FAQ link, at https://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/304642/Data_protection_documents.aspx

The very legal bit – many churches will need to register as Data Controllers with the Information Commissioner’s Office. There is an exemption for not-for-profit organisations including churches, which only store data in order to establish and maintain membership. Small churches (like my own) can rely on this exemption, but many cannot. You should read the FAQ document on the BU website and then to be sure visit the ICO webpage at https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/register and take their quick self-assessment survey to see whether you need to register or not. In particular, if you use CCTV, or if you are ever keeping sensitive pastoral information (more than just membership/contact details) then you will need to register.

Below are key things every church need to do.

Each church needs to have a Data Protection Policy. There is a template on the BU page for you to adapt (it is 14 pages long!).

Each church need a Privacy Statement describing what data it holds and how it uses it. There is a sample for you to adapt, and you will probably need to vary it for the different groups of people you hold information about.

You will need a Contact and Consent Form – again the page has an example. These will need to be signed and then stored somewhere secure (e.g. a locked filing cabinet).

You can rely on the BU sample documents but you may decide you need to adapt them. Since they may be of interest, below are the versions of the Privacy Notice and Consent Forms which we are using at NSBC, together with the different versions of those which apply to our Toddler Group. We also have other versions for those who give including Gift Aid and those who pay us for use of our premises or who we pay for services from time to time.

Nobody enjoys GDPR (not even us geeks) but the Information Commissioner’s Office has big teeth and in today’s world, sadly, there are people who would enjoy making mischief for churches which have failed to follow the legislation. I will be happy to give an informal response to queries by email if you need help understanding all the documents.

So I wish you well as you prepare for May 25th. That’s just 3 weeks away!

peter@collegeofbaptistministers.com

Treasurer of The College of Baptist Ministers

 


 

North Springfield Baptist Church

CONTACT DETAILS FOR MEMBERS AND FRIENDS OF THE CHURCH

 

PRIVACY NOTICE

Under Data Protection legislation the church Charity Trustees of North Springfield Baptist Church are the Data Controller and the Minister acts as our Data Protection Officer. We are collecting this information to enable the church to keep in touch with you and provide pastoral support as appropriate. Data Protection legislation allows us to process this information as we regard it as being in the church’s legitimate interest.

Your name and contact details will be entered into our password-protected church database which is administrated by the Church Secretary and held on her personal computer, (who will also keep this form). This will be shared only with the Minister, the Church Secretary, the Trustee Responsible for Safeguarding and the Treasurer.  Your contact details will be removed from the database if you are no longer involved with the church.

The minister’s appointments diary may retain contact details for other people he has met with or visited which will not be shared with anybody else. For legal reasons this information will be retained indefinitely.

With the exception of confirming whether an individual is a member of the church and/or has been baptised as a believer, the church keeps no record of sensitive data.

NAME              ___________________________________________________________

Street Address             _________________________________________________________

Email Address             _________________________________________________________

Phone                          _________________________________________________________

Signed                         ___________________________       Date ___________

CHURCH DIRECTORY

We would also like to include your name and contact details (street address, email address and phone number and whether a person is a church member) in our Church Directory listing members and friends. This will be kept electronically in a password-protected file by the Church Secretary which will only be shared with the Minister, the Church Secretary, the Trustee Responsible for Safeguarding and the Treasurer. The Church Directory will be distributed on paper to all those Church Members and friends who have given permission for their names to appear in it. We will not give copies of the Church Directory to anyone else and those who have a copy will not be allowed to share information from it with anybody else. Inclusion in the Church Directory implies permission for the church to contact you using those contact details to inform you of church events and activities. The Directory will be renewed at least once a year and previous copies destroyed. You can ask for your details to be removed from the electronic file at any time and they will not be printed from that point. Please note – you are under no obligation to agree for your details to appear in the Church Directory. If you are happy to give us consent for your details to be included in this Church Directory please indicate so below.

I am happy for my details to be included in the NSBC Church Directory.

Signed ___________________________       Date ___________

You have the right to ask to see any information we hold about you by submitting a ‘Subject Access Request’ to the Church Secretary. You also have the right to ask for information which you believe to be incorrect to be rectified. If you are concerned about the way your information is being handled please speak to our Data Protection Officer – contact Rev Peter Thomas at the church or peter@northspringfieldbaptistchurch.org.  If you are still unhappy you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioners Office.

 

CONSENT FOR PHOTOGRAPHS AT NSBC CHURCH SERVICES AND EVENTS

We may sometimes take photographs during church services, events and activities. The original digital images would be kept secure and would never be shared with anyone except in the process of the purposes below. Adults and children will never be identified by name alongside any photographs.

1 Some photographs may be shared for publicity purposes beyond the church but only if they contain no recognisable individuals: e.g. if the photo shows a rear view of a group but with no faces or identifiable garments, or if the printed or online image is too small to allow identification of individuals. We will let you know if we are wishing to take a photo for this purpose to allow you to remove yourself from the picture.

2 We may wish to use other photographs including recognisable faces in church publicity, for example on our Notice Sheet or Haven News, or online on our website or Facebook page. We will only use photographs including you or your children for this second purpose if you have given us permission which will be specific for each occasion, by signing below.

PLEASE NOTE: you are not obliged in any way to give your consent for photographs under purpose 2.

I give permission for photographs including myself and/or my children to be used in church publicity under the terms of purpose 2 above. The consent given below applies only for the specific photographs taken on       /      /      .

SIGNED                     ___________            

 

TODDLER GROUP

Registration Form

 

PRIVACY NOTICE

Under Data Protection legislation the church Charity Trustees of North Springfield Baptist Church are the Data Controller and the Minister acts as our Data Protection Officer for all information held by the Church. We are collecting this information to enable the church to keep in touch with you and support you as appropriate. Data Protection legislation allows us to process this information as we regard it as being in the church’s legitimate interest. Toddler Group information will be kept on these forms securely in a locked cabinet. It will only be accessible to the Toddler Group Leaders, the Minister, the Church Secretary and the Trustee Responsible for Safeguarding. Your contact details will be removed from the database once you are no longer involved with Toddler Group.

You have the right to ask to see any information we hold about you by submitting a ‘Subject Access Request’ to the Church Secretary. You also have the right to ask for information which you believe to be incorrect to be rectified. If you are concerned about the way your information is being handled please speak to our Data Protection Officer – contact Rev Peter Thomas at the church or peter@northspringfieldbaptistchurch.org.  If you are still unhappy you have the right to complain to the Information Commissioners Office.

Date……………………………..

Name of Parent/Carer ………………………………..…………………

Telephone Number………………….……………………………….……..

Address………………………………………………………………………..

e-mail (please print carefully)……………………………………………………

Relationship to child/children……………………………

Child 1   Name………………………………………..…….

Date of birth………………………

Address if different from above (for birthday card only)

Child 2 Name…………………………..………….

Date of birth………………………

Address if different from above (for birthday card only)

Name…………………………………………………………..…..           Signature ……………………..

If our register is full then you will be notified as soon as a place becomes available.

 

CONSENT FOR PHOTOGRAPHS AT TODDLER GROUP

We may sometimes take photographs during Toddler Group activities. The original digital images would be kept secure and would never be shared with anyone except in the process of the purposes below. Adults and children will never be identified by name alongside any photographs.

1 Some photographs may be shared for publicity purposes beyond Toddler Group but only if they contain no recognisable individuals: e.g. if the photo shows a rear view of a group but with no faces or identifiable garments, or if the printed or online image is too small to allow identification of individuals. We will let you know if we are wishing to take a photo for this purpose to allow you to remove yourself from the picture.

2 We may wish to display some photographs including recognisable faces at Toddler Group sessions. These would be mounted on a board which would be securely locked away at all times except during Toddler Group sessions. These photos will never be shared with anybody either online or on paper. We will only use photographs including you or your children for this second purpose if you have given us permission.

PLEASE NOTE: you are not obliged in any way to give your consent for photographs under purpose 2.

I give permission for photographs including myself and/or my children to be displayed only at Toddler Group sessions under the terms of purpose 2 above.

 

Signed _________________________________

Date ________________________

 

Happy Ever After? and A Loved One Dies

We are happy to announce two new resources for ministers from CBM.

HAPPY EVER AFTER?  A work book for couples preparing for marriage

by Paul Beasley-Murray

A5 booklet – 48 pages in length. Third updated edition published 2017 by CBM. ISBN 978-1-9999301-1-0

A LOVED ONE DIES  Help in the first few weeks

by Paul Beasley-Murray

A5 booklet – 48 pages in length Second updated edition published 2017 by CBM ISBN 978-1-9999301-0-3

HAPPY EVER AFTER?

A happy and fulfilled marriage is one of the greatest of blessings men and women can ever experience. Yet it cannot be said of every couple that they lived ‘happy ever after’. Many marriages do not achieve their God-given potential: some marriages break up, while others become dull and sterile. Hence the importance of marriage preparation. For good marriages don’t just happen. Good marriages are the result of people consciously working at their relationship with one another. Your marriage will be successful to the degree that you work at it – both during the period of preparation, as also in the years that lie ahead.

The course assumes that, in addition to the initial interview with your minister, when some of the basic issues relating to the wedding day are sorted out, there will be a number of sessions when you will be helped to think though in a relaxed way what commitment to one another in marriage is all about.

A LOVED ONE DIES

There is nothing harder than losing someone you love. If only it were not so. When we have loved deeply, we hurt deeply when the object of our love is no longer with us. We ache for their presence. Our sense of loss is almost unbearable. Neither kind words from friends nor sleeping pills from the doctor seem to make much difference. Grief is something which we have to work through for ourselves.

Furthermore, it is at this hardest of times, when we have to summon up all our energies just to cope with living, that we find ourselves called upon to make all kinds of decisions relating to the funeral of our loved one. Although we differ from many other countries where the funeral normally takes place within 24 hours of the death, it still feels as if we are given little time to make those decisions. To compound matters, we find ourselves perhaps surrounded by well-meaning relatives and friends offering contradictory advice. It is not easy to deal with all these pressures when we ourselves are feeling so fragile.

At such a time we need help. We need help not just in our decision-making, but also in our coping with the first few weeks of our bereavement. This booklet sets out to supplement the help that will be given by your minister and others.

HOW TO BUY

HOW TO BUY: £2.50 for a single copy including post and packing (UK),
£7 for three

SPECIAL PRICES for CBM members: £2.20 for a single copy (incl P&P) – £4.50 for three.

Order by email giving your name and postal address to our Treasurer peter@collegeofbaptistministers.com paying by bank transfer to

“The College of Baptist Ministers”   Barclays Witham Branch       
Sort Code  20-97-40           Account Number 63038378

Alternatively send a cheque payable to the College of Baptist Ministers together with your name and postal address to

CBM Treasurer, 1 Mimosa Close, Chelmsford CM1 6NW

 

Preparing for Christmas

Encouragement for ministers from CBM Board Member Rev Dr Paul Goodliff

I have just received an email from a major DIY chain that announced (in early November, for crying out loud) that “Christmas is Here!” Already? I though Christmas was in late-December, and we have not yet endured that hell on earth that is “Black Friday”. But, you’ll have been thinking about Christmas, at least from a planning point of view, for a while already, I guess. Here’s my contribution…..

It is customary for this November CBM Newsletter to offer some sparkling fresh ideas for your Christmas sermons, or a novel variation on the traditional carol service. At Abingdon Baptist Church we try to see the Christmas story from a different perspective each year, so for the two Christmases that I have been on of its two ministers, we have looked at the song of the angels and the star that guided the Magi. Filling the sanctuary with cardboard angels and stars was fun, and it was certainly better than a Christmas tree (although that appeared too, of course) but what to do for 2017? My colleague suggested we view the story from the donkey’s point of view (and I suggested why not ‘the Christmas lobster’ — for those who know the nativity play in the film Love Actually) but I think we might just settle for Jesus’ parents. We hope it will be the final Christmas in the church sanctuary prior to our anticipated (but not yet absolutely certain) major refurbishment next year, so it will be memorable whatever character we choose. For Christmas Eve we are experimenting with a Christingle service, hoping to attract the parents from our Tots group, and there is always the pressure to make the carol service somehow ‘new.’ But as I prepared for some teaching at Spurgeon’s College — Christian Spirituality for the MA/MTh students — I was brought up in my tracks. Why this urgent need to do something new? It is certainly the spirit of our age to always be on the look-out for a novel approach, and this has more to do with the acute avoidance of boredom of our culture than any Gospel value, I fear. Researching and preparing for the lecture on Eastern Orthodox spirituality (yes, I know….. Orthodoxy in an hour is simply ambitious madness, and so we have to settle for asceticism, icons, theosis, The Philokalia and the Jesus Prayer!) I was once again struck by how Orthodoxy reverses our addiction to the novel. For us the old is out, the new is good, but for the Orthodox, the old is good — it has stood the test of time, and the new is suspect.

So, let me encourage you to do three things this Christmas. First, prepare yourself for it by finding at least a day for some retreat-like withdrawal from the rush, the urgent and the shallowness of the modern Christmas. Instead do the ‘one thing necessary’ and find space and time to sit at the Master’s feet during the Advent season and pray. If we celebrated Advent properly (and it is most definitely NOT simply preparation for Christmas) then we might find Christmas takes on its true significance. This is not simply me being in ‘grumpy-old-man’ mode (although I freely admit to some of those tendencies) but rather an appeal to find some antidote to the godlessness of our contemporary Christmas, with all of its sugar-coated avoidance of the Gospel message. If there were prophets at Jesus’ naming in the Temple, then we certainly need a few today as we attempt to name our culture for the disaster that it has become. To be able to do so we need to withdraw from its allure, and find some silence amidst all the sugary noise, some solitude amidst all of the enforced communal fun and a bracing dose of penitential cobweb-clearing of the spiritual kind.

Second, give yourself a break and return to something old and familiar this Christmas. My guess is most will not notice that you explored Christmas from the perspective of Mary, or the Magi, in living memory, and you will be returning to the heart of the message, not searching for something ‘new’ to say. You might try replacing that staple of Christmas All-Age Worship, the children’s ‘show-and-tell’ (“what did you get for Christmas?”) with asking the adults and children alike what they have given this Christmas, or during its run up. “For God so loved the world that he gave….” says the writer of the Fourth Gospel, and with plenty of ‘spoiler alerts’ for children who have yet to give their gifts, why not turn the tables in a Gospel direction?

Thirdly, don’t start Christmas too early in your Sunday programme. The Sunday before Christmas Day is quite early enough, and that allows Advent to be Advent. No carols before the Carol Service at least! I know that you’ll have school events and other groups will want to get in early, and that will mean you can hardly be strict about no carols before Christmas, but let the Sunday services at least dance to the rhythm of the liturgical season. That means you can continue the Christmas celebrations through Epiphany, and give yourself and your congregation an opportunity to really think together about the incarnation. I suggest that neither the carol service, nor Christmas Day or the first Sunday in the New Year, are the time to teach about the incarnation in depth, but as we so often move on from Christmas so soon after Boxing Day (because we have been in full Christmas mood since the beginning of December!) where do you find the context to preach this vital doctrine if not after Christmas? I guess what I am appealing for a temporal shift, to let Advent be Advent (and its penitential and ‘stripped-down’ spirit allowed to do its proper work) so that Christmas and Epiphany can be truly themselves. That new series of sermons on the minor prophets or the Letters of John can wait a week or two, surely.

 

Remembrance

From CBM Board member Rev Dr Mike Thornton, minister of Epsom Baptist Church.

We will remember them. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, on the TV and on the radio, in magazines and newspapers, in documentaries and at the cinema, at conferences and during weekend enactments, at the Cenotaph and before war memorials, in schools and of course in our churches: we will remember them.

Remembrance Sunday is not far away. Annually, we remember them. The British do remembering. After all, we have a lot of history, though not all of it glorious. As I began to think about remembrance I soon realized that I (like everyone else) bring a load of baggage to it. Memory is notoriously selective: we choose what to remember and how to remember it. Nowhere is that more obvious than in the case of the First World War, which some see as a huge disaster in term of the vast and fruitless loss of life, while others are inclined to be more generous in their estimation of its significance. We need not be surprised by that: history has a way of dividing opinion, even among those who in other respects might be on the same side.

Remembering is political. How we conceive and narrate our past – whether nationally, locally or personally – has a direct impact on the polis, on how we live together today. It matters. Specifically, it matters whether we tend towards the narrative of shared memory and collective identity, or towards the narrative of struggle and conflict, of oppression and minorities. Certainly, we need to move to a model of inclusion rather than exclusion, of unity rather than division, though sometimes that needs an acknowledgement of past injury as well as past provision.

There is an awful lot of remembering in the Bible. The command to remember is fundamental, not only to God’s people but to God himself.

God is a God of covenant, and covenant is a form of self-binding that is made real in history. Following the flood God establishes a covenant with Noah, his descendants and, importantly, ‘with every living creature that is with you’. This he promises to remember and never again let the waters become a flood that will destroy all life. (Genesis 9:10). Abraham is engaged in a similar way and God remembers his covenant with him in Exodus 2:24, as does Moses when he appeals to God to overlook the wickedness of his people in Deuteronomy 9:27. Of course the greatest narrative of shared memory and collective identity in the Old Testament is the people of Israel remembering their slavery in Egypt and their rescue from Egypt (Deuteronomy 7-8).

This motif carries forward dramatically into the New Testament, where the act of remembrance is central to the life of the young church. The Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist is the foundational act of remembrance – remembering Christ and his sacrifice for our salvation: ‘do this in remembrance of me’ (Luke 22:19; 1 Corinthians 11:24). This remembrance of Christ gives new meaning and significance to God’s promises and remembrance of Abraham, Moses and indeed David. To remember Christ in the Eucharist is to take this long-standing remembrance of God and turn it into something new.

Both Old and New Testament narratives take us on a journey of alienation, rescue and repeated, constant loving help. This is brought into sharp focus as God meets his people, all people, in the cross. As Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus, Gentile Christians ‘are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of his household’ (Ephesians 2:19). In another respect, however, that simply makes them feel all the more strangers on earth. 1 Peter makes it clear that, whilst no longer being strangers to God, Christian believers remain strangers in the world, a claim that recurs throughout the epistle. This is a cohesive narrative and provides for a cohesive identity, but one based on being an outsider in receipt of hospitality and grace.

In this sense, the biblical narrative points us to a memory of vulnerability, of shared need, of the right kind of triumph that can allow us to develop an identity and celebrate a past that humanises us in a way that gives us a hope for the future built on actions and lessons past. In that way, we can be radically inclusive in our telling of the greater story.

Translating that into our Acts of Remembrance come that November Sunday morning may help us avoid the pitfall of being radically divisive. Perhaps refocussing our remembrance on the Lord’s Supper will give greater comfort and greater hope as we also ‘remember them’.