Prompted by Nat I feel I ought to give some news. What is it – over two week since I last posted something substantial?
I’m still getting my feet under the table, as they say around here, at Solihull Presbyterian. Two Sundays ago (16 July) I preached on Acts 6:1-7 on the appointment of the first “deacons”. I use inverted commas because, as you may know, the word “deacon” does not appear in the text. However, it was diaconal work they were appointed to and is a foundational text to the office. The need for deacons arose as a result of the problems of growth of the church and action needed to be taken quickly to solve the tensions within the church if the preaching of the gospel and prayer were to remain the core function of the apostles. The complaints of the Hellenistic Jews among them and the fact that it was specifically widows that were suffering resonate with OT failure – complaints of Israelites in the desert under Moses leading to judgement, the failure of Israel to pay attention to the law’s provision for widows, orhpans and aliens. Acts shows that the gospel has power, where law alone had failed.
Most people were appreciative, though someone said it was “abrasive”. Well, I don’t want people to be too comfy, now, do I?
In the evening of the 16th I was at Woodlands on Psalm 6 – a penitental Psalm. It is striking that there there are so few modern hymns/songs on this topic. It raises the issues of the reality of God’s wrath against sin, the consequences of death, the need to learn that only God can solve the problems that sin brings, that he brings victory and gives assurance of acceptance when he is approached.
I was extremely nerous about this. It is the first time in a long time that I have preached at Woodlands. Couple that with the extreme heat, then afterwards I felt that I had literally stood under a shower! OK, you didn’t want to know that, but it was true.
On the 19th July I finally graduated. See the picture for proof! Ten of us from ETCW attended along with 180 law students from the University of Glamorgan. It was a good day, though hot – 35C! Water-sellers were having a good day out side the graduation hall. It was quite clear that the results of the ETCW students boosted the average of the assembly, with a high proportion of 1sts and 2.1s. I think this speaks of the maturity and commitment of the students over the younger Glamorgan students. At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Afterwards we, with relatives and friends, went to Bryntirion for a buffet meal and fellowship together. We spoke of what we were each about to do, God willing, prayed and Dr. Eryl Davies, the principal (front, right in the photo) spoke briefly on Jonathan Edwards and the need for a strong personal prayer life in the ministry.
On the 23rd I was at Durham Presbyterian. Brian Norton, the minister, had asked me to go some months ago. It was nearly three hours drive away so I didn’t take the family. I had a good time. The congregation is about 45 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon. They sing unaccompanied and it was great! It is good to hear Christian voices praising God. I was impressed by Brian’s concern that the congragation love one another, seeing it as the best means of evangelism. I was also impressed by the commitment to having a well taught congregation. Members are encouraged during the week to write down any Bible or doctrinal questions they have through their own reading and bring them to tea at Brian’s house after the afternoon service. A large crowd gathers and a useful (controlled) discussion ensues.
At Solihull I have been trying to get to know some of the men by meeting up with them. I believe a core of “A Few Good Men” in a church is vital. We are going to start some Christianity Explored courses soon, particularly for the Christians. It will be a kind of training for some so that as many people as possible are confident of handling the material and will be confident in inviting friends as the opportunity arises. I’m looking forward to it.
That’ll do for now.