Category Archives: Church

Merry Winter Festival – you what?? Where’s Christmas?

I often complain about the way that Christ is being dropped out of Christmas. He alone is the reason we celebrate on 25th December and if you don’t want to celebrate that then don’t celebrate Christmas. I thought I should nail my colours to the mast in case anyone reads my title and thinks I’ve gone pagan.

Of course, those who want to celebrate without honouring Christ claim that it is really a pagan festival and so they don’t have to celebrate Jesus’ birth if they don’t want to. They always seem to miss the hole in their argument, though, that if they want to celebrate as a pagan then they must adopt pagan beliefs and honour pagan gods to do so (presumably this ought to include a human sacrifice or two). As most who seem to make this claim are atheists or at best agnostics I suspect they might be very reluctant to adopt the superstitious nature of most pagan beliefs.

Then they will tell me that Christians banned Christmas anyway for a while, but fail to note that actually this was done to try and overcome the problem of those who were celebrating at Christmas time but not honouring Christ. It was the superstitions and over indulgence that was the problem  – not the going to church and singing carols. I often find it amusing that today people accuse Christians of being superstitious when we are the very ones who fought to stop people being superstitious in the first place.

But what of all this claim of pagan origins? In our modern world do these claims hold up to scrutiny? It is another irony that science, history, etc. all now accept that claims made about their discipline of study at the start of the enlightenment were mistaken  – and sometimes downright embarrassing – and yet are very happy to believe any statement made about religion at that time without question – this is where the claims about paganism come from (claims based on conjecture and not evidence).

So let’s quickly examine this question of pagan origins.

To prove this – rather than it just being conjecture – we would have to demonstrate a direct link. We need some statement somewhere by a Christian describing how they had adopted a pagan practice – for instance. We don’t have this evidence. There are Christians  – centuries after the events – who speculate that this is so but no direct evidence. There is a pope who recommends doing it but there is no evidence that his recommendation was ever adopted. I am, of course, aware that Constantine banned pagan practice and converted many temples to churches. This is some evidence of Christians becoming the main religion but not of Christians adopting pagan practice.

Another way to prove it would be to demonstrate that their is no gap in practice and that the belief could not emerge on its own from Christianity. Let’s take the Christmas tree. The Christian Christmas tree can be traced to Martin Luther (16th century). It is claimed that Druids decorated trees and so this must be where the Christmas tree originates from. But Druidism died out in Europe in about the 2nd century and it was their practice not to record any of their beliefs or practices (the only thing we know about them is what others said about them). This is a major gap during which time most of Europe became Christian. The natural superstitious religion of many rural peoples during this period was not pagan but Christian in its basis – there is evidence for this but I’m not writing a phd theses here. So there is a major gap before Martin Luther uses his Christmas tree. Then we have to ask if an evergreen tree could have come to represent everlasting life in a Christians mind independent to paganism. There answer to me is an obvious yes. Similarly holly, etc. This is just common sense and creativity not paganism.

What about the date of Christmas then? Well it is far from clear who first celebrated on the 25th December but it seems it might well have been Christians. Early Christians (2nd century) had worked out a date for Easter as March 25th. There was another belief that this was the same day that Jesus was conceived on (stems from Jewish belief about prophets dying and being conceived on the same day). Nine months from March 25th is December 25th. This predates any reference to a pagan celebration on that day (Sol Invictus is moved to 25th Dec in 274AD – possibly as a result of Christians celebrating Jesus’ birth on that day, although this part is just conjecture). There are other midwinter festivals but none on 25th December.

Of course, we will never know how much paganism influenced the Christmas celebrations. I believe the answer is far less than is often made out but I can’t deny that some practices may have come from paganism. However, even if they did, they were adopted by Christians and used to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. This does not give anyone the right to claim that Christmas is a pagan festival. It is about time serious minded people got beyond this nonsense.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Jubilee Challenge

I completed the walk yesterday without too much trouble – though I got rained on in the afternoon. It was kind of people to meet me at the churches and I certainly appreciated the refreshments. I have yet to work out a final total but it will be around £400 raised when I’ve collected it all in. Thanks for the support.

Fresh Expressions of Church

715511_22964670Fresh Expressions work! I came across this bit of information the other day – it is a couple years old now but that doesn’t mean it is not worth looking at.

What is a Fresh Expression? It is essentially a new way of doing church. The church has finally woken up to the fact that the old way of doing church is putting a lot of people off coming and so we are trying to do new things – and it is working. There are all kinds of different groups growing up where people are being given the chance to explore and express faith in news ways. Messy Church is a Fresh Expression, for instance, where families gather and do crafts together to explore a Christian theme. I am leading short Pilgrimage walks where we get the chance to walk in a beautiful place, talk and express our faith in some way.

This doesn’t mean that old ways of being church are over but that we are discovering new ways of finding and expressing faith in a new world. For those of us who are doing these things it can be very exciting, as well as challenging.

If you don’t go to church perhaps you ought to find out what Fresh Expressions are happening near you – or if you have an idea for one let your friendly local Minister know and get involved.

God is not dead, Science has not destroyed faith (despite what nonsense the media/press peddles), it is perfectly logical and reasonable to believe in God (don’t judge belief on the nutters the media/press like to talk about). If God does exist (and I believe there are plenty of reasons to think that God does) then shouldn’t we try and find out about God? I think the best way we have available is through the life and teachings of Jesus – you may think different. If there is life after death – as Jesus told us – and your immortal soul depends on God in some way shouldn’t you take the trouble to find out?

Religious people happier than atheists

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Ooops – surely this was not supposed to be true! I have heard countless Atheists banging on about how terrible religions are because they make people so miserable – all those rules and regulations weighing you down and making you sad. However, the research (once again) says different. You can read about the latest findings here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2016/02/02/office-for-national-statistics-well-being-data_n_9138076.html

Of course this is a complex subject and does not prove that God exists or which religion is better for you (although atheism does seem to be worst – dragging you below the national average of happiness). Perhaps the most amusing part of this story is the comments of all those trying to wriggle out of the terrible truth that religion is good for you. Hats off to my Hindu friends who it seems are the happiest – with Christians coming in second.

What disturbs me the most, though, is that this story doesn’t seem to have been noticed by most of the press and media. Could it be that this is a golden example of how the press/media seems dominated by an atheist agenda? People are fed such bad information is it any wonder that the churches are empty?

If you are brave enough to ignore what the press feeds you then maybe it is time you got back to church and found out why religious people are happier.

How is the church perceived outside of church?

It seems that these days the church has an image problem. The image problem has an impact on the number of people willing to listen to what we have to say. We need to find ways of redressing the problem and it will come as no surprise that there are differing opinions on how to go about it.

I found this article interesting … take a look if you want to think further.

One thing I do know is that people will judge the churches message on the behaviour of the Christians they know.

Were we not all immigrants once?

339176_1500I think if you went back in history far enough you would discover than everyone has a link to immigration somewhere. Can we really blame those who wish to seek a better life for themselves and their families – especially those fleeing violence? Of course, we feel a need to protect ourselves on the grounds that too many people in a small area can make life very difficult.

However, what is the reality of the situation? Are we just over-reacting? Will this number of new people really destabilise our country? Can we afford to be welcoming and generous? Should we be, even if we can’t afford it? Surely we need good information so we can make the right decisions; instead of over-reacting with bad information?

The church is trying to support a more informed investigation into what is happening and have produced a statement  – you can read them here …

[Response to some comments posted]

I received a few comments on this post – but I felt unable to display them because of their content. I was saddened by the lack of appreciation that the word immigrants is just another name for people and usually people trying to avoid being killed or looking for a better life.

A common theme in the posts is one of an Islamic plot to take over Britain through immigration. It seems to me this misses the point that the people fleeing conflict come from an area that is largely Muslim (do we want to insist they convert before we let them in?? – I do not think so) and that the immigrants from Europe are mainly Christian anyway. Shame on those who are so prejudiced. Our way of life is not threatened by a few thousand newcomers but by the millions who have been bought up in this country and yet seem oblivious to what being British means (and I might add those who foolishly turn their back on their Christian roots – mainly out of ignorance).

Another was the often quoted “charity begins at home”. Of course it does and no one ever said it didn’t! But note the word “begins” – that means something starts with and not that it is limited to the word home. It was once a very British thing to feel the need to support people who are not as well off as we are. This ideal went rampant through the British Empire and we ended up doing some things that we should not have  – in the name of being helpful to others (of course there were also those British people who were willing to exploit others for their own personal gain – but that is whole other subject). The saying “charity beings at home” does not mean that we just help our own but instead means that we help those who are close to us and we then extend our help out to others – begins not ends! We should help our own.

Then this theme extended into we can’t afford to help our own so how can we help others. But if we can’t afford it (one of the wealthiest countries in the world) then who can? There is plenty of money in this country to do both but sadly a good bit of that money is used in purely selfish ways (anyone want to buy a football club for laughs?). The idea that we can’t afford it is a notion put about by the wealthy to stop the poor from asking for help. Just convince the poor folk that we can’t afford something (this is pretty easy to do by the way because they can’t afford anything themselves) and they stop moaning about wanting better (even though they are confused by the images of very wealthy people on the TV – but then let them buy a lottery ticket – even though they can’t really afford it – and they get the chance to be one of those rich people too). Then create the perfect system by convincing those in the middle (who are often the voting majority) that the poor only squander what you give them anyway and they will maintain a nice buffer between the obscenely rich and the very poor as well as keeping their career politician chums in power. We are not too poor to help – although I admit it may mean the rich have to stump up some more cash to pay for it. Maybe Bill Gates could help, he seems to have more money that lots of countries do anyway? I refer you to the Oxfam report:

http://www.oxfam.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2016/01/62-people-own-same-as-half-world-says-oxfam-inequality-report-davos-world-economic-forum

Pilgrimage walk

Really sorry but I’m cancelling the Pilgrimage walk set for 22nd Aug. It seems that the holiday season is once again a bad time to try and do anything. I will re-think and maybe pick a date more suited to the church calendar.

Ministries start with a minister

I have said for a long time that any ministry the church gets involved in starts and runs with having someone who is called to lead that ministry. Too often we sit in committees seeing needs (we can all do that) and then insisting we as a church address them. This usually results in new committees and already hard pressed people undertaking something that they are only doing out of duty (or because a persuasive Clergy person insisted they should – and they don’t like letting the Vicar down).

This article by Rick Warren (founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church – a church now so big I’ve lost track of its size) says what I try to say very well:

http://pastors.com/never-start-a-ministry-without-a-minister/

Let’s let God do the leading for a change.

P.S. It is one of my bugbears about meetings that people turn up and think they are being helpful by making suggestions for all the things others (especially the clergy) should be doing. Sometimes God does prompt us in this way but my experience tells me that He usually doesn’t. We can all come up with a list of things we could do (I am often overwhelmed by the opportunities I see around us) the real work is in listening to and supporting those who feel called to undertake a particular work.

Bridgwater Carnival

032-Carnival-1907Another busy night with the church and hall full of people. It would be so good to see the church like this on a Sunday. If only we could make church as necessary as a trip to the toilet and a cup of tea on a long night of standing up then we will have cracked it.

I didn’t see anything much of the Carnival myself and neither did all those from the church who worked so hard last night. I am always very proud of them all when I see them working so hard. I left before it was all over and didn’t get home till 11pm (I’m preaching tonight so didn’t want to leave it too late to get to bed – I hope those who have to listen will appreciate this) so I dread to think what time everyone else got to bed. I look forward to hearing how much we have raised.

I heard lots of positive comments about the church. Some folks called the place a ‘lifesaver’, others  – from other churches across the UK – commented on how wonderful it was to see the church open.

Well done to everyone who helped – you made the evening a really good one.

Social division

churchI have seen a report about the cost of social division within society, apparently it will costs us billions a year  – enough to pay off the national debt no doubt.

Anyway, once again, it seems to me the answer is already there – church. Christianity has always had a belief in equality at its heart – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.Galatians 3:28.  I find it very interesting that every now and then someone comes along and works out the financial cost of the lack of support for the church in the UK.

I’m not suggesting that the church has never been complicit in the divisions within society but I am suggesting that a good strong church can break down barriers that divide. If we are going to live and work together across all barriers then we have to a reason for doing so, you can’t just pass a law or pour money into the problem there has to be a reason for people of different backgrounds to come together. Maybe this problem is also made worse by the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor – but that is a post for another day.

Once again the answer to this countries problems is simple – support your local church.