A Year at Vicar’s School

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A year at St John’s College Nottingham has, overall, been a blessing, albeit, with a number of challenging moments.

We thank God for the space and time to study, reflect and submit oneself for formation.  All the courses/modules that I have undertaken this year are connected with issues of discipleship and mission. The content was indeed relevant to my personal and spiritual formation. This year, I did the following modules.

  • Mission of the Triune God
  • Christian Apologetics
  • Fresh Expressions of Church
  • Gospel as a relevant resource for practical theology
  • The Holy Spirit and the Charismatic Life
  • Reading Ecclesiastes for Postmodern Mission
  • Advanced Pastoral and Mission Studies
  • Dissertation – Church Response to Cohabitation in Britain

My placement church is an answer to our prayers. It provides us not only with a place of learning but a Christian family.

Studying 1 Corinthians cleared up a lot of my confusion about charismatic gifts and I found the works by Karl Barth and David Bosch particularly helpful.

I’m thankful to have this whole year of study at St John’s College, particularly with all its current restructuring. I feel I am beginning to understand how we discuss and disagree well within the breadth of the Church of England.  After this whole year, I can still describe my core theological position as a charismatic evangelical, however, my catholic background is greatly appreciated and subconsciously influences my thought. St John’s has provided space this year to learn about the liberal tradition.

I’m now gearing up for further exploration and adventure in Mission and Ministry this September.

“Chris, please don’t become a vicar!” ( the Problem with a Stereotype)

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I would like to tell you a few personal stories about what I like to call “Stereotype; could be true but incomplete”

We enjoyed our time in the Black Country and I felt we were able to integrate reasonably well into the society there (We are very happy with the prospect of coming back to the area again). This integration meant that we have a number of good friends locally; some of these friends are christians and others are not yet. Most of our friends find it easy to share their views with us while at the same time respecting our own views.

During the initial period of testing my call ( discernment process) to ordained ministry in the Church of England, one of our good friends (a christian lady), upon hearing of it, clearly told me, “Chris, please don’t go ahead to become a vicar”. In my view, discernment is about developing a passion to know God more deeply by seeking His perfect will and can come through a clear disciplined rhythm of prayer, fasting, silence, study and talking & listening to others. So I need to listen to views of others. Our friend thought that becoming a vicar would damage my interpersonal skills and keep me away from people. Our friend’s perception of vicars was that vicars are out of touch and elitists.

A few months later, upon my recommendation to training for ordained ministry, another friend (not yet a Christian) invited me for a chat about my plan to become a vicar. In his usual manner,he listened to me and then told me clearly, “please don’t go ahead with the plan to become a vicar”. He told me that he has been living on the Estate for over 50 years and no body from the Church, including any vicar has ever visited or made a contact to him. He went ahead to say that with my approach to my work, it did not make sense for me to become a vicar, – being a vicar would mean being cut off from people. I told him that one of the things the bishop saw in me and endorsed my recommendation for training for ordained ministry is how I demonstrate the love that I have for people, – the very thing he felt is why I should not become a vicar.What struck me was this: My friend ask me to promise him that if I did still go ahead to become a vicar, I would not discontinue my involvement in the community and lose love and concern for people. I simply answer by God’s grace.

What these conversations with our friends demonstrate, I think, is how dangerous it can be to make one story the only story. There might be well some vicars who are out of touch, inaccessible and unapproachable but there are many who are not. As the Church in England strives to enhance its mission and ministry to the Nation, the tabloids and the headline news do have a tendency to represent her as a negative influence.

And so I began to realise that throughout their lives our two friends must have seen and heard a particular version of the story of vicars and the Church of England as had an elder in an independent church, who once told me that the only work vicars do are baptisms, weddings and funerals. Now, I was quite willing to agree that baptisms, weddings and funerals constitute part of the work activities of many vicars, but I had not quite imagined that it is only work they do. The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue but that they are incomplete.

I believe that it is impossible to engage properly with a person without doing the work of knowing all the stories of the person – or at least as many as of those stories as possible.

So what if our friends had known about the community engagement work my vicar has been doing over 10 years in his ministry in Lye? His presence in the community certainly made our community visiting work less stressful.
What if our friends had known about the work among the homeless that one vicar of Anglo-Catholic tradition (of Church of England) where I did one of my placements does? He even open his own private home for them.
What if our friends knew of the many vicars who have demonstrated a positive and authentic Christian presence and as a result some have even lost their lives. Some have sacrifice their own personal comfort out of love for people.

I would like to end with this thought: When we strive to know a complete story of a person (or a group of persons),we regain a kind of a balance story which help us to value what God is doing in and through them.

Is it possible to stand together and work together?

I thought by now I will be able to post my post(s) on personal observation on ethnic, social and ‘theological’ divisions in the Church in the  Uk. I am still trying to ‘manage’ the joy of being recommended for training for ordained ministry in Church of  England following the 3 day Bishops’ Advisory Panel (BAP in short) I attended to see if Church of England recognised my call to ordained ministry.

I thought, to keep my thinking going, I’ll post my presentation at the early mentioned conference -BAP.  This is more related to the Church of England which I feel by extension can help my exploration for the Church in England and other parts of the UK.

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Here is the presentation:

Have you ever come across people in your local church who will tell you very clearly that they are Anglicans and others who will tell you just as clearly that they are not Anglicans ?. What this demonstrates, I think,is that as human beings, we like labels; we like to have some sense of identity and a way of distinguishing ourselves from others. But, at times, the unintended consequence of applying labels to others is our tendency to project a single, simplistic story onto groups of people whom we perceive to be different from ourselves.
As far as my own observations go, having journeyed along with many people from different Church traditions, I have come to realise just how unrealistic it can when I try to put people tightly in ‘boxes’ – creating a kind of stereotype. For example, two people could both call themselves Evangelical yet hold very different views on different issues.
Within the Church of England, we have different traditions. I ask myself how can I, as an Anglican in the English context, join others to continue to find creative ways to stand together and work together in order to enhance our Church’s mission and ministry to the nation – and how can I do so without compromising my own sense of identity? If I had to choose a label then I would say I am basically an evangelical with a charismatic influence; other traditions had shed light to my blind-spot.

I find it very comforting studying the history of Church of England – through various splendid and extraordinary research work by a number of people- to realise that at least from the 18th century onwards, the Church has been being enriched by the co-existence of the different traditions within it – the Evangelical, the Catholic and Liberal and it is worth noting that since 1960s, the influence of Charismatic Movement, has become increasingly important
An account in the scripture that resonates with me on this subject is the one found in Mark 9:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us”. (Mark 9:38- 40 NIV)

The opposite problem would be for me to pretend that none of these convictions matter at all and go to the opposite extreme of having no principles – and perhaps, even no root. It is important for me to be rooted in my tradition and be generous, not defensive, in sharing my views.

One of the things I have come to appreciate with Church of England is that sense of moderation – a holding together of different traditions and points of view often in tension yet with attentive listening to one another, with differences respected and honoured. This attitude, I think helps us in our relationship with others Anglicans Communion, with our Ecumenical partners, with those of other faith and none.

To summarised, our unity matters to God : Jesus prayed for our unity – “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. (John 17:21 NIV).
Our unity in diversity will be a witness to the world and bring credibility to our mission and ministry.

Questions to consider :

When do you draw line due to your honest theological convictions ? Would you allow provisions for those you do not agreed or familiar with their traditions ? What are things you enjoy or like from other Church traditions other than yours.

Personal note : This presentation will be a reminder to me to continue to seek Church unity even when it is hard to do so.

 

 

Divisions in the same name Jesus Christ – something must be wrong

image In Nigeria those years, it is not enough to say you are a Christian. You need to make it clearly by use of phrases such as “I am a born again Christian”, “ I am a Pentecostal Christian” or “ a bible believing Christian”. Those who are proudly catholic would use phrases such as “ I go to a real or proper Church” or “ I go to first and genuine Church”. My experience in the Uk is similar but different in some ways. The word “pentecostal” among the Christians circle I found myself in the Uk has a slightly a wrong connotation but the use of word “Evangelical” is often used and favoured. What these demonstrate, I think, that as human beings, we like labels; we like to have some sense of identity and a way of distinguishing ourselves from others. But, at times, the intended or unintended consequence of applying labels to others is our tendency to project a single, simplistic story onto groups of people whom we perceive to be different from ourselves. Sadly, we often like to use words and phrases to downgrade the significance of others, even among Christians. An account in the scripture that resonates with me on this subject is the one found in Mark 9“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us. “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us”. (Mark 9:38- 40 NIV). Jesus prayed for our unity as Christians in John 17 and promised us that our unity and love for each other will be a witness to the world and bring credibility to our mission and ministry. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ( John 13:36). Over the days and weeks, I will be reflecting on the deep divide among the ethnic groups churches in the Uk today and why we are still comfortable with this deepest stain. I might touch the ‘golden calf’ – the power of colourism . Then I would also look at the social class divide – “ them and us” in the one body of Christ. The series with end with various theological divide and how we determine who is with us and against us among fellow christians – ‘litmus test’ I am passionate on this subject and I am looking forward expressing what has been close to my heart and upon which I wrestle with day and night for the past 6-7 years.

Prayer Based on Romans 12 : 17-21

 

17)Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.

18) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

19) Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

20)On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21 NIV)

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17) Father, at times I perceive that somebody might have cheated or mistreated me. I need you in such circumstance and situation to remind me that taking retribution against such person(s) is not what you required of me to do. Give me strength not to take retribution and I need you on this narrow way experience of walking with you

18) My Lord, help me to be peacemaker always in any circumstance and situation I find myself.

19) Please Lord, cause me not to take vengeance as that belongs to you to do.

20) Lord that seems difficult to do but with you I can treat those who hate me and seeking my downfall well by providing for them. Teach my heart such experience.

21) Please Lord, help me not to fight sin with sin, hate with hate. Teach me how to overcome all these with your kingdom value.

Prayer Based on Romans 12:14-16

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
(Romans 12:14-16 NIV)

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14) Father help me to have such grace that your son demonstrated here on the earth blessing those who persecuted him. May I bless those who persecute me and not to curse or condemn them even when the pain they caused me is so deep.

15) My Lord, help me to be able to ensure I genuinely rejoice with those who rejoice. I need your empathy and compassion to identify with those who cry

16) Let my thoughts and actions Oh Lord be such that encourage and foster unity and harmony with my brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of their churchmanship or traditions. Let me not be such that will bring division and confusion. Keep me away please Lord from having a sense of superiority or an excessively favourable opinion of myself but help me to keep company of the meek and humble rather than seeking friends and approval of the powerful and mighty.

Prayer based on Romans 12: 11-13

Prayer based on Romans 12: 11-13

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
(Romans 12:11-13 NIV)

 

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11) Lord, I need your help not to lack in deep desire to love and serve you.

12) I need to take spending time in your presence seriously, oh Lord. Please keep me closer to your side all the time. Let me not to lose the sight of your promises to me and help me to be patient with myself, others, situations and with you as I partake in the light affliction you called me to share with your son Jesus Christ. Help me also to be of help to others in their trouble and myself to be able to receive help from others in the time of affliction and need.

13) Lord, all I have is given to me by you. May I be a good steward by having a good heart to demonstrate a real hospitality that focuses on the recipients and your glory not myself. Lord a lot of people are looking for someone to just listen to them, give me grace to be that listen ear to those you will bring across my way. A lot of people will need someone else to hold their hand, please Lord use me to hold hands to those you will bring across my way who need someone to hold their hands . May I share the food, space and all you have given me according to your glory.

Lord in your mercy,
Hear our prayer

Prayer based on Romans 12: 9-10

Prayer based on Romans 12: 9-10

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves

(Romans 12:9, 10 NIV)

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  1. Lord, I know it is easy for one to pretend to love others and have their interest in the hearts but I need you to help as I seek not to pretend to love but answer your call to me to love deeply and in sincerity by hating what is evil and join myself with the good that comes from you.

  2. My Lord and God, help me to remember always that all the people I come across or heard of are all created in your image and as a result may I show dignity and respect in my thought and acton towards them. My Lord and God let me in your service today, neither fearing the strong nor favouring the rich but show respect and dignity to all. Cause me please Lord to show kindness and brotherly love to my follow believers and grace to put others first in my thought and action.

Lord in your mercy
Hear my/our prayer

Prayer based on Romans 12:1-8

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,
so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
If it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;
If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully”. (Romans 12:1-8 NIV)

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Prayer based on Romans 12 1- 8

Thank you for the  knowledge that my sins have been forgiven. Lord, grant me grace to lay aside daily my desire to follow you – putting all my energy and resources at your disposal and trusting in your faithfulness.
Holy Spirit renew, re-direct and re-educate my mind and heart not to conform any longer to the pattern of this present world but transform it and keep it to the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ, so that I will be able to test and approve what your good, pleasing and perfect will is in my life and situation I find myself.
Always remind me of my identity in you and may I not evaluate myself by the standard of the world’s success and achievement. May I not be arrogant and prideful.
4-5. Thank you Lord for making me a part of your body. Help me to seek unity and work together with my follow brothers and sisters as we continue to seek ways to enhance our mission and ministry to the nation and the world
6-8. May I recognise other people’s gifts and the complement this bring to our mission and ministry. Help me Lord to work within my competence not reach beyond my ability. Sustain me in your service. Help me to use whatever gifts you have given me diligently and with gratitude in my heart for such opportunity to serve.

 

 

 

Preaching On Midday Service on 29/03/2013

Mark 7 : 17-23
Tradition can be sensitive
Appearance can be deceptive
True source of defilement

Later in private, the disciples asked Jesus for further explanation of his teaching on clean and unclean things.

“After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable”. (Mark 7:17 NIV)

Jesus addressed his disciples by distinguishing between heart and stomach.
“Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them” . (Mark 7:18-20 NIV)

He challenged the effort of man in trying to make religion about what we eat and what we do. Defilements is referring to our relationship with God – What affects our relationship with God. It is not what we eat but what comes out of our heart.

Elders and Pharisees were preoccupied with external – things that enter the digestive system from outside and forget to address what goes in and comes out of heart which is what affects our relationship with God. Isaiah made this clear in chapter 59:
“Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear”. (Isaiah 59:1, 2 NIV)
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Jesus focused on the heart and listed types of things that affects our relationship with God and these are hatched from inside an individual.
” For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23 NIV)
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In Our lives, we face with moral choices to make everyday. It will be an act of most wickedness anytime we think or say that we don’t need God in making these choices. We need to be honest to say and think we need God for everything:
I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: (Psalm 77:6 NIV)
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23, 24 NIV)
Ask God to shine in your heart and reveal to your heart and reveal to your eyes what He sees.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)
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