Friday, September 20, 2019

An Akenfield Baptist

A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a copy of 'Akenfield - Portrait of an English Village' (1969) by Ronald Blythe.  He said that I would be intrigued by its many village characters who tell their stories on its pages. Featuring a small Suffolk village in the 1960's it comprises direct speech monologues from forty-nine residents linked togther by the author's insights.

In the section 'God', we hear a deacon of the village Strict Baptist Chapel describe how he became a Christian (at a village tent mission) and his life in the church ever since. Warmly and positively he details how the chapel works and how making an open confession of Christ in baptism is essential.  He explains that the church chooses its pastor and needs to pay him as well as maintaining the church and manse.  At that time it had no pastor (because of the 'money problem').  However he reflects that twenty-five years before they had a full-time pastor and ran the church for just 3 shillings a week.

We could do this because the pastor was, well, a saint you might say. He was Akenfield. Ask anybody. Nobody ever did so much good or was so kind. A rich friend from Ipswich, a rare big businessman who wasn't one of us, gave him a car -this was when cars were rare in the village - and he never used it for his pleasure.  Only for others.  It was known as the 'hospital motor' because he used it to take patients and family to Ipswich and Melton hospitals.  It never mattered what time of day or night it was.  We don't quite know where this man came from.  Anyway, he stayed and cared for us, and none better.  He stayed thirty years and was one of us. 

What a tribute to an 'under-shepherd' of the Good Shepherd! I have been privileged to know a few saints like this - I hope you have too.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Visiting family

Over the last few days Carol and I have been on the road visiting ailing family on both Carol's and my sides. This accounts for nil postings recently. Such visits are rarely easy (many of you will readily recognize why!)  Fitting in with family who are much older or, in my brother's case, younger but dogged by ill health, requires sensitivity....which I hope we showed.

We return home glad to have completed the trip.  Though it involved less than 500 miles the 'being on the road' aspect proved to be exhausting....particularly the hours spent on the M 3 onto the M 25 and up the A 1M on the way home.  Often at walking speed (it seemed) the sheer volume of traffic, complicated by road improvement schemes fueled exasperation.  Really - what a surprise?!

Returning home late we planned a major shop the next morning to replenish stores.  Travelling towards the store we found that the entry to the main approach road was closed.  No warning anywhere!  Joining a lengthy diversion we arrived much later, rewarded ourselves with a coffee, shopped for provisions and then set off for home.  Except, that as we joined the line of cars leaving the car park we found ourselves stationary.  Normally, it takes about 12 minutes to reach home.  But we were in a monster queue that took 50 minutes to clear the store with a further 10 minutes of journey.  Another hour in the car again!  I commented to Carol about the Christian gift of patience....but I am not so sure it was helpful.

Anyway, I have had a little moan....forgive me.  We've all been there!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Gen Z values

It is obvious that this latest generation is highly tech savvy and obviously this was vital in explaining the wildfire way that Jordan's vision (see last post) spread across the US and into Europe.  As I listened to him describe what he sees as some of the distinctive features of Gen Z I noted some contrasts.

   -  They want to see change.  I suppose Greta Thunberg is the poster girl for this characteristic but this new generation is reckoned to be more highly charged about wanting to make a difference.  They desire to get involved in big issues.
 -    They want community.  Belonging to small groups is deemed valuable especially when they are involved in change. Collaboration matters.
 -    Story and conversation are valued strongly and are key to enthusing others of their own age.
 -    They can be wide-eyed with wonder when confronted by the new.

However, alongside these characteristics Jordan mentioned:
   - They are troubled by mental ill-health in larger numbers.  Anxiety is common - a recent survey found that 23% of this group was in depression.  Some of this is likely provoked by comparisons and trolling on social media.
  -  They are much less likely than previous generations to have a Christian world view.  He mentioned a Barna survey in the US found that less than 4% of this group had a Christian world view. For most Gen Z the Bible is a closed book and church is alien.

I am left with real concern for this latest generation - it seems with so many positives yet serious negatives. How we oldies need to keep praying for them, especially when they are in our families and churches!