Building Project under way!

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Everyone associated with Didsbury Baptist Church knows that we have been fund-raising for a decade in order to improve our buildings. We want to make the space more accessible and welcoming to the wider community. We want to bring the main entrance round to the  School Lane side of the building (shown above) and make much-needed improvements inside.

We are pleased to announce that just last week we submitted a planning application and we hope to be in a position to start work at the turn of the year. While we await planning permission and discuss the reordering of the inside of the building, we need an extra fund-raising push in order to meet our target by the end of the year.

We are holding an open day (open morning, really) from 10.00 a.m. till 12 noon on Saturday (27 June) and a Gift Day on Sunday (28 June). I don’t usually get excited about buildings because, for me, church is about people. Yet what we can offer our community is so limited by our building that I can hardly wait for the work to begin. We believe that the changes will greatly enhance what we can do in Didsbury and we are praying for God’s help to accomplish it.

If you are near Didsbury on Saturday, pop in, enjoy a cup of coffee and see what we are up to. I look forward to seeing you there!

Pendle Hill Walk

Pendle 01A few of us from Didsbury Baptist Church spent Sunday afternoon and evening walking up Pendle Hill in East Lancashire. We took the 6 mile circular route from Barley, over the hill, past the Ogden reservoirs and back to Barley. We took our time about it and, in perfect weather, enjoyed a great afternoon together.

Besides the beauty of the largely undiscovered area, Pendle is known for its historical associations. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is that it was the home of the so-called ‘Pendle Witches’. In 1612, ten of them were publicly hanged for their ‘crimes’. They were convicted on the evidence of a nine-year old girl who had been carefully coached by the prosecution. Whatever the ‘witches’ were guilty of it was nothing deserving of death. Some Christians occasionally decry the association of Pendle with witchcraft. Still, the executions of 1612 remind us of the potentially disastrous consequences of religious intolerance, confusion of Church and State, and the misuse of the Bible (Exodus 22.18). Baptist Christians will recall that at about the same time that the Pendle witches were being tried Thomas Helwys, a leader of the first Baptist church to be formed on British soil, was writing his treatise on religious liberty, perhaps the first printed argument for religious freedom to be published in England.

GeorgeFox225Some years later, in 1652, George Fox, the founder of the Quaker movement, visited Pendle. There he had a vision that guided him to the villages he was next to visit and that would be particularly receptive to his message. He writes of Pendle Hill in his journal:

As we traveled we came near a very great hill, called Pendle Hill, and I was moved of the Lord to go up to the top of it; which I did with difficulty, it was so very steep and high. When I was come to the top, I saw the sea bordering upon Lancashire. From the top of this hill the Lord let me see in what places he had a great people to be gathered. As I went down, I found a spring of water in the side of the hill, with which I refreshed myself, having eaten or drunk but little for several days before.

On Sunday I took a drink from what is purported to be the same spring, now known as George Fox’s well. I grew up near Pendle Hill and have loved it all my life. For me, it is one of the very special places in God’s world:

Old Pendle, old Pendle, thou standest alone
twixt Burnley and Clitheroe, Whalley and Colne,
where Hodder and Ribble’s fair waters do meet
with Barley and Downham content at thy feet.

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Psalm 23

Psalm 23 Hebrew verse from Jerusalem Pottery

Psalm 23 Hebrew verse from Jerusalem Pottery

In our Sunday morning service yesterday we organised our worship around the 23rd Psalm. We read the Psalm, our singing group gave a beautiful recital of Goodall’s, the Lord is my Shepherd and we sang Townend’s version of the Psalm together. I spoke about alternative ways of reading Psalm 23 and I concentrated on the image of God as travelling companion. My approach was greatly influenced by that of Dr Tom McDaniel whose brilliant Psalms course I attended at Palmer Theological Seminary in the early 1990s. In preparing for my sermon I also found these resources from James Charlesworth, Karl Jacobson and  Rabbi Harold Kushner to be very helpful. Have a look for yourself and let me know what you think.

Northern Baptist Learning Community Open Day

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Today I will be attending the Open Day and AGM of Northern Baptist Learning Community (the new name for Northern Baptist College) at Luther King House. Didsbury Baptist Church is a member church. I am getting mixed reactions to the change of name. Still, I am looking forward to a great day.  I have enough connections with NLBC to be entirely biased but I think they do about as good a job of an annual meeting as it is possible to do. There will great people to meet, opportunities to learn about the college, worship, the annual meeting and lunch. Sounds pretty good to me.

Didsbury Fun Run 2009

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Preparations are now under way for the Annual Didsbury Fun Run organised by Didsbury Baptist Church. The date is 12 September, the distances are 1.5k and 5k, and the proceeds will be divided between our building fund and Francis House, the local children’s hospice. It is usually a great event (though last year it was muddy!) Perhaps you would plan to join us. Further information and application forms here.

Getting ready for Didsbury Festival

The 30th annual Didsbury Festival is to take place this Saturday (6 June) and I have been busy preparing some church publicity for use on our stands. Didsbury Baptist Church will be running a Bouncy Castle (proceeds will benefit our building project) and a plant stall to benefit Christian Aid. The churches of Didsbury will run a Fair Trade Cafe and members and friends of our church will be helping to sell refurbished tools at the Tools for Self Reliance stand. Two of the event organisers are members of Didsbury Baptist Church so we all take an interest in the event. It is usually extremely well supported and is one of the highlights of the Didsbury year.

Publicising one’s church at the festival (or any other event) presents its own problems. Many of the churches of Didsbury will be involved in the festival and I don’t want our publicity to be seen as competitive. I think in future years the churches ought to share in some united publicity. Still, it is no bad thing that people using the bouncy castle know who organised it; and the people we would like to attract to the church are not those already worshiping elsewhere but those who are not part of a church at all. Those of us who have come to believe in God and are learning to follow Jesus together in community are discovering a life worth promoting. We want  others to make the same discovery. I hope the postcards and posters I am putting together convey this sense, without being too cheesy.

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Pentecost, European Elections and the BNP

Last Sunday, Christian churches of all denominations celebrated Pentecost. Most churches will have heard again the reading of Acts chapter 2. It tells how, during the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Shavuot, the followers of the risen and ascended Christ were overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit experienced as wind and fire. Empowered and transformed, they began to proclaim the good news of Jesus to a multinational gathering.  Representatives of the world’s peoples heard the disciples speaking in the mother tongue of each nation. The church, a new humanity made up of people from all the nations of the known world, was born. Surely, no one hearing such a story and believing it can leave worship on Sunday then vote for the BNP on Thursday.

The problem in Didsbury is that people may just not vote at all. The proportional representation system used for European Parliamentary elections is such that, if the turnout is low, parties like the BNP can gain enough of a percentage nationwide to win some seats. Thus every vote cast for a mainstream party is a vote against the BNP.

Leaders of the mainstream Christian Churches of Greater Manchester, including the Baptists, have joined together to issue a statement in support of the Hope not hate campaign and to “urge all followers of Christ to use their vote wisely, and not to vote for any political party or candidate promoting division, exclusion, and blame, or in any other way seeking to stir up racial and ethnic hatred”.

At the moment, I am every bit as disillusioned with politics as the next person. I have never been more tempted not to vote but on Thursday I’ll be walking down to Ivy Cottage to cast my vote against the BNP.

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