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I hope you find material here to enrich, resource and inspire you as you learn and grow in your own discipleship and ministry.

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carol singing

Should we preach at Carol services?

A couple of years ago, David Walker, the bishop of Manchester, conducted some research on the distinctive needs of occasional attenders who might come to Christmas services, but don’t attend the rest of the year. This appears to be an important group; I have noticed each year how many people are reporting increased attendances at carol services, and we saw the same at St Nic’s in Nottingham.

Some things were slightly surprising about this group.

Typically, two-thirds positively believed in specific details of the Christmas story: the shepherds, stable, and Wise Men. All but a tiny proportion of the rest were unsure. Only 13 per cent, however, felt that the facts were more important than the mystery. Half felt closer to God at Christmas, and yet more thought Easter to be, for them, the more important festival.

But other things were less surprising.

They were noticeably pluralist: they were far more likely to agree that all world faiths lead to God than that Christianity is the only true religion…On moral issues they were progressive: only 28 per cent disagreed with ordaining gay men as bishops.

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Should we change the Lord’s Prayer?

Pope Francis hit the headlines last week, not by offering comment on politics or economics, but by suggesting that one line of the Lord’s Prayer in Italian should be translated differently. One of the better accounts appeared in the Guardian (ably assisted by yours truly):

It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation. I am the one who falls; it’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen. A father doesn’t do that, a father helps you to get up immediately. It’s Satan who leads us into temptation, that’s his department.

One of the immediately fascinating things about this is the way that it caught the headlines. I was contacted for opinion by the Guardian, Sky News and the New York Times, and there was some quite technical comment on Christian Today and The Conversation. Though a friend of mine bemoaning online that people prefer to spend more time debating the prayer than actually praying it, it is worth reflecting on why such a change might provoke a reaction. Even for those for whom faith is a whispered hope rather than a reality, there is something significant about the familiarity of something learned in childhood, which is why many people long to hear ‘traditional’ carols at Christmas. Though this can be an inoculation against faith, it can also (if used well) be a bridge into it.

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(May 27, 2011)  Bishop Robert Hermann elevates the Blessed Sacraments of the Eucharist and Precious Blood.  (Photo by Lisa Johnston)

Can Anglo-Catholic churches grow?

Richard Peers writes: Not so many years ago it was generally accepted that the Church of England was a finely balanced three-legged stool of Anglo-Catholics, evangelicals and the liberal establishment. The debate about the ordination of women has diminished Anglo-Catholicism both in numbers and in the diversion of energy – particularly of our best leaders and organisers. […]

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What does a good sermon look like?

When I was teaching homiletics (preaching) in a theological college, I used to start by exploring the issue of what good and bad preaching look like. I did this indirectly—not by asking the question ‘What does a good sermon look like?’ since this could easily have led to theoretical answers. Instead, I asked in turn for […]

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Can Meghan Markle marry into monarchy?

Everyone is delighted at the news of another royal engagement—and with the anticipation of a royal baby in the new year as well, it is bound to lift our spirits. Most people feel that, amidst the gloom of Brexit and the slow economy, we will have something to celebrate. Most—but not all. Melanie McDonagh in […]

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Is David Bosch’s ‘missio Dei’ an error?

Michael Lakey writes: If the literature is any guide, the work of David Jacobus Bosch constitutes for many missiologists one of the major recent theological loci of critical reflection upon the nature and ends of Christian mission.[1] A Dutch-heritage, Protestant scholar, whose adult life coincided with the apartheid era in the Republic of South Africa (RSA), […]

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What is going wrong with theological education?

By some measures, theological education and ordination training in the Church of England is in a state of rude health. The Renewal and Reform programme set a target of increasing the numbers coming forward and training for ordination by 50% over the next five years, in order to address the large numbers of clergy retiring, […]

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Is God a ruthless exploiter of our talents?

Last Sunday’s gospel reading in the Revised Common Lectionary was the Parable of the Talents from Matthew 25.14-30. The most popular interpretation of this is that God’s gives us abilities and gifts (‘talents’) and leaves us to get on with using them in fruitful and enterprising ways as responsible stewards until he returns and asks […]

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