Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thank God for Darwin?

Earlier this year we celebrated Darwin’s 200th birthday and next month it is 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book ‘The Origin of Species’. So it is not surprising that I keep coming across references to the evolution creationist debate when surfing Christian sites. But what I do find surprising is the number of Christian posts that are so positive about evolution. perhaps it just reflects my own interestest. I don't know.

Anyway here are a few of the links that I have found:

Here is a very positive and thoughtful review of the 2009 film Creation which examines Darwin’s relationship to the church in a sensitive way.

The review also has a link at the end to some resources that can be used to host some sensible discussions about the movie.

Nick Spencer author of God and Darwin discusses the relationship between Darwin’s ideas and the Christian faith in this podcast.

Here is an interview with Michael Dowd about his book Thank God For Evolution, which uses evolution to discuss the nature of sin.

And finally, here are some quotes from Charles Foster’s The Selfless Gene - a book that David Matthew rates as outstanding book. It makes a very convincing case for evolution that cannot be easily dismissed by Christians and sees it as compatible with the Bible. If you’re interested you can download a PDF of David Matthew’s notes too.

Of course there still are a lot of fundamentalist seven day creationism ideas out there too. But I am more and more drawn to the idea that evolution as a sound scientific basis and is compatible with a level headed view of Biblical Christianity.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Evening With A Real Live Apostle

Last week our church met with Alan Scotland. He had just returned from Thailand and mentioned how micro-industries were being set up to save children from prostitution. Alan works as an apostle and heads up Lifelink International our little network of churches.

Alan discussed with us the role of the apostle and the apostolic ministry. He looked at Ephesians 4 which talks about the ministries of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers which he saw all working together in relationship to produce growth - each ministry being like a different finger of a hand. He talked about how apostles worked together in what he called ‘apostolic companies’. These weren’t just teams working on job but companions who were also friends.

He showed that an apostle wasn’t necessarily a church planter but someone who was sent by God. This might involve pioneering but it might also involve building up the church. Alan himself spends a lot of his time in the background supporting church leaders. Having discussed this tension he went on to explain how the church itself should be apostolic. The true church is a church sent by God on a mission. ‘This mission is glocal’, he said, ‘both local and global at the same time’, as in the HSBC slogan ‘The World's Local Bank’

Alan talked about the diversity of the early apostles and discussed how today each church, he works alongside as an apostle, is unique. He mentioned Jonathon Sax’s book on diversity The Dignity of Difference and discussed how he saw this diversity in the church as being like a family – messy at times. And though it might involve fights and fall outs – it certainly did in the book of Acts – there is a great sense of purpose as we all work together for God.

UPDATE: It is worth checking out the account of Alan's recent visit to Syria with the Awareness Foundation whose work involve dialogue between Christians and Muslims. In the video Alan makes is an impassioned plea for peace in the Middle East.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Callie Enjoyed Godly Play Last Sunday

On Sunday afternoon I took my little daughter Callie to Kidz Aloud – a kid’s club/children’s church that runs once a month at Carr’s Lane Christian Centre. They alternate between Godly Play and their own form of story telling, building props and acting out the story with a rap. This time they were doing Godly Play.

Godly Play is a very specific way of telling Bible stories based on the Montessori teaching method. The stories are tightly scripted with simple carefully crafted props. This time we heard the story of Moses bringing the people of God out of captivity in Egypt.

After some starter activities we queued up to go into another room for the story. Callie helped carry the Kidz Aloud cloth that holds our badges as we process in. All the children then sat down quietly on cushions and listen to the story teller. (I wonder if by having in the other room explains why the children behave so well?)

The story teller told used a simple sand tray with wooden figures and two pieces of blue cloth to represent the Red Sea. She then led a discussion about the story with some standard question which worked well. We could then respond to the story using different forms of art materials. Callie loved this.

To conclude we had the ‘feast’ a simple meal of grapes & juice but this time also with also some matzo as we had been talking about Passover. Callie was very good helping serve the feast as well as carrying the cloth out at the very end.

Callie thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon. Could Godly Play be something we could do at our little Sunday school? I wonder.

Friday, October 09, 2009

More Thoughts On Social Enterprise

I am still thinking about social enterprise. Here is one idea:

On the notice board in the Ledbury Centre - our church’s little building - are some leaflets about All Being Well. This is a project serving Ladywood set up in partnership between Karis Neighbour Scheme - a Christian charity that we work with - and Spring To Life – which runs as a Community Interest Company (one of the relatively new legal statuses for social enterprises). All Being Well is run by Jude Greenwood whom I met at the recent Community Fun Day. Jude runs a number of courses such as stress management, assertiveness training and anger management. These look like places for locals to discuss how to overcome their problems and learn principles that they can apply to their lives.

These courses reminded me of the personal and social development courses that I've been to at Fircroft College. The idea is to discuss some really practical psychological principles and apply them to your life. On Fircroft's site there are testimonies of how they have impacted people lives. I assume at Fircroft they are funded like other college courses as we did learner agreements and achieved qualifications whereas the All Being Well courses are funded by the National Lottery. It is clear on the Spring To Life site that they are working with a Christian ethos.

Interestingly I have just noticed that the same people who taught me on the self development course at Fircroft also teach a couple of courses on bid writing and funding strategies. Might be worth doing these courses next?

I seem to remember that one of the original aims the Ledbury Centre was to run projects into the community. It’s great that now we have our Drop In Centre running there one day a week. These sound like the sort of courses that our church was thinking about running when we first got this little building. I wonder if there still are lots of things that could be set up and run in Ladywood. How would a multi-media or multi-sensory approach to such courses go down in our community? Perhaps we could incorporate music or art? A community arts project even? Just crazy some ideas!

Karis Neighbour Scheme probably knows more about the needs in Ladywood and whether there could be any need for anything like this. The examples of social enterprises from Greenbelt made me think along the lines of fair trade stalls perhaps selling eco-friendly stuff as well. But we can see from the All Being Well example that if someone knows what they are doing they might be able to set up social enterprise to get sustainable funding perhaps from a variety of sources to run courses and projects like these into the community.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Looking into Social Enterprise

I’m currently reading ‘Your Chance to Change the World’. You see, recently I've been hearing a lot about social enterprise - business ventures that aim to help society rather than just make money. This book is a step by step guide on how to set up such a social enterprise by someone who has. Though these ventures may sell products or charge for services, they also get grants both from government organisations and from charities. People may also give donations.

There was a brilliant article on this in the New York Times a couple of years back: Businesses Try To Make Money and Save The World that is quoted in Andrew Jones’s post on the Fourth Sector. Andrew has just been at the Feast – a conference for social enterprise.

There is a growing trend of people starting social enterprises. Hopefully this trend may help bring us out of recession. Many Christians are setting up such projects. Last year Nettes went to some sessions at Greenbelt about social enterprise run by NET - network of entrepreneurial talent. Christians are seeing it as part of their Christian mission to serve the world and the communities where they are based. Over the next year the Jones’s plan to travel around Europe helping to equip what they refer to as missional entrepreneurs.

Also on this topic the Faithworks site is worth checking out. For instance, their Community Audit Pack looks interesting. It is about assessing the needs in your local community. And they have links to information about funding.

You know what? This is beginning to look doable.