‘On the 11th February, we received the sad news that Retired Bishop Cyprian Bamwoze of Busoga had passed away. He had been battling cancer for some time. Cyprian was the inspiration behind many of the links between Southampton and Busoga, including our link with Bupadhengo, He was instrumental in setting up the Busoga Trust together with other initiatives in support of development for the people of his Diocese. The family will struggle to meet the funeral costs so any contributions towards them would be very much appreciated. You can do this by writing a cheque to Enable Busoga or, if you prefer to make a direct transfer, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you the bank details.
The last part of our 'I could never be a Christian ...' series saw retired scientist and church minister John Williams talk about how he would respond to those who say "I believe in science instead." He spoke about his personal journey as both a scientist and follower of Jesus. You can listen to his talk here.
For those who want to explore further the interplay between science and faith, there are lots of helpful resources around, including:
'Test of faith' - a series of videos including interviews with leading scientists. Watch excerpts here or buy the full course here.
"Creation or evolution: do we have to choose?" by Denis Alexander, director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge.
"Can science explain everything?" - a new book by Prof John Lennox. You can watch a trailer for the book here, or an extended interview about the book here.
"God's undertaker: has science buried God?" by Prof John Lennox.
"Inventing the universe: why we can't stop talking about science, faith and God" by Prof Alister McGrath.
And here's the video of the recent debate in Southampton: can science explain everything?
The third part of our 'I could never be a Christian because ...' series looked at how to respond to those who say 'Christians are hypocrites.' It's a fair and important criticism for us to take on board. But does it rule out a belief in Jesus?
You can catch up with the sermon online and also download the discussion guide and sermon slides here. (Please note that the end of the sermon includes a drawing on a flipchart, which we have tried to re-create as additional sermon slides - that part of the sermon will make more sense viewed alongside the sermon slides!)
For those who want to explore this issue further, you could look at:
Mark Clark "The problem of God"
Michael Green & Nick Spencer "I'd like to believe, but ..."
Amy Orr-Ewing "But is it real?"
On Easter Monday, Dan will be starting ‘Extended Study Leave’. Here he explains why …
Clergy are encouraged to have some extended time out every 7 to 10 years. I’ll have been ordained 19 years by this summer, and have been in Shirley for 7 years – and yet I’ve never had opportunity for such a break from ministry.
In days gone by, ‘sabbatical’ was the phrase used rather than ‘Extended Study Leave’ – picking up on the biblical idea of Sabbath.
My three months of time out from the parish will include both elements. As sabbatical, I hope it will be a chance for some spiritual renewal and refreshment. I’ll go on a retreat and read some books.
A sabbatical is supposed to include time for rest as well – I’m looking forward to being able to go away at the weekend (something I can’t often do!) to visit friends elsewhere.
As a family, we’ve booked to visit some missionary friends in Lebanon for 3 weeks during the schools holidays. That will be an amazing trip for us all - experiencing a different culture and seeing what it looks like to follow Jesus in the midst of Syrian refugees and Lebanese locals.
My 3 months will have a ‘study’ element as well – I’m going to be researching and trying to write another book. Whether anything actually comes to print remains to be seen, but it’s an idea I’ve had in mind for years, and it seems like a good opportunity to give it a go.
What will happen here in Shirley? I’ve every confidence in the staff and wardens to carry on leading our church in my absence – I’m looking forward to hearing what God does once I’m out of the way!
“I’m looking forward to hearing what God does once I’m out of the way!”
Back in December, we set up a stall as part of the Shirley Market. “We were well out of our comfort zone” was the general consensus!
Whilst hundreds came to our church services at Christmas, thousands didn’t. This was church inside out – giving people an opportunity to encounter the Christmas hope. The stall offered a ‘question of the week’ to help prompt conversations: what is your favourite Christmas carol? What does Christmas mean to you? What do you really want for Christmas?
A smaller feature was the ‘Say one for me’ postbox: shoppers were invited to write a prayer request, which we then included in our Sunday services.
As with any market stall, many people just walked by, but some appreciated the opportunity to chat. “I had two conversations with people who just seemed to need to tell someone that they were having a rubbish time of it,” said Cherida. Michael added, “I was encouraged to have a couple of longer conversations with people who were interested to talk about faith” (which was quite comical to watch as he was wearing reindeer antlers at the time!).
Heather was able to chat to a lady with Alzheimers, valuing her as a special person, whilst another team member chatted with her rather exasperated husband. Dan was able to chat with an ex-convict who’d grown up in church, and reassure him that ex-cons are very welcome still.
Would we do it again? Possibly - we’d make some changes and maybe link more obviously to some of our mission focus areas. Sue commented, “it was worth it for the few heartfelt conversations and for time with people from church.”
“I felt God put the right words in my heart and mouth to use. I felt passionately that God wanted us to be there,” said Jayne.
“I felt passionately that God wanted us to be there.”