what’s the point of Church Anniversaries?

Happy Birthday to us
Happy Birthday to us

It’s our Church Anniversary this weekend. We are celebrating the 324th Anniversary of the founding of Colchester Baptist Church. No founder members will be in attendance!

But as I prepare for Sunday I ask myself what the point is of having an Anniversary? Why celebrate 324 years of our church being in existence? Actually that’s one reason already – we celebrate God’s faithfulness and goodness to our predecessors and to us for 324 years, which encourages us to trust him now and in the future.

In 1689 the Act of Toleration was passed. Prior to this all churches other than state Church had been declared illegal and nonconformist Ministers were arrested, thrown into prison and worse (John Bunyan being one of the most well-known example of this). But the Act of Toleration said that if oaths of allegiance were sworn and church buildings registered the prohibitive laws would not be enforced against nonconformists, including Baptists. Very rapidly a church was formed in the same year.

This reminds me that we should not take for granted the freedom we have to be followers of Jesus. It reminds me that there are still many believers around the world who are oppressed, persecuted and martyred for their faith in Jesus. It drives me to my knees in prayer for them and encourages me to make the most of what God has given us as a church.

I am also reminded that we are the current trustees of the premises and mission of this church. We have several plaques on the wall of our church dedicated to the memory of some special people in the past. My favourite is of Mr Benjamin Nice who is described as ‘an ornamental member’ but who was active, generous and committed. In fact the central core of the premises we occupy today were built thanks Benjamin Nice’s generous donation. May God help us to be as faithful and as generous today so that generations to come may continue the task we have been given.

George Carey was quoted this week as saying that ‘the church is one generation from extinction’. Well, that’s always been the case. He was not saying anything new, even though he was portrayed as being a prophet of doom and gloom. So I am reminded at an Anniversary that the mission task to which we are called is vital – not so that Colchester Baptist Church will continue, but so that the story of Jesus can be passed on to as many people as possible and so that as many as possible may receive his good news for themselves. Back to being ‘free samples of Jesus’ I suppose!

It seems that there is something innate within us that likes to celebrate anniversaries. Some are ‘natural’ (birthdays, weddings…) and some seem to be more ‘forced’ (I am afraid I am struggling to generate enthusiasm to mark the anniversary of the start of WW1 next year when it was one of the most horrendous episodes in human history. Perhaps it should be marked by a collective shudder). And I wonder if that is part of being created by God. We live within time (unless we are a Time Lord (50th Anniversary of the first broadcast of Dr Who this weekend) and as such mark the passage of time as something significant and special. Anniversaries are a way of recognising that we live in a continuous present – moment after moment after moment. We cannot return to the past or move forward beyond the present. We only live in the present. And in itself it is a gift from God for which we can give thanks.

So, Happy 324th Anniversary CBC!

Be blessed, be a blessing (each moment God gives you)

P A R T Y! Why? Because I gotta!*

According to WordPress, this is my 500th blog post. 500 bloggages?! That seems incredible to me. Of course, to those who have read them, it seems incredible that there are only 500 interminable entries…

I have been reflecting on this fact for a while, anticipating what brilliant bloggerel I should post on here to mark the occasion. And it struck me how arbitrary it is that we celebrate specific landmarks in time and events. We make a special thing of celebrating 18th and 21st birthdays, and then any birthday that ends with a 0. We particularly celebrate 25th wedding anniversaries, and then some of those ending with 0. This year we celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee – 60 years on the throne – and all sorts of celebratory malarkey is planned.

But why don’t we celebrate as much for the intervening events? Why is the 22nd birthday less significant than the 21st? Or why don’t we make as big a deal of a 26th wedding anniversary? And why is no massive nationwide jamboree planned for the Queen’s 61st year on the throne? After all, these are one year better than the previous ones, so surely we should be celebrating even more!

I am not sure I have an answer to that, except that if we ramped up the celebrations each succeeding year we would reach a point where the scale and energy of the celebrating exceeds our ability to participate in it.

The Bible is full of celebrations. Festivals mark the whole year in the Old Testament, and these punctuate Jesus’ life too. Christians add a couple of special ones of our own (Christmas, Easter…) and celebrate what they mean. But perhaps we should cultivate our attitude of gratitude to God and celebrate each day that he has given us, and all that it may bring. This is one reason why praying at the start of a day can be a blessing to us. And perhaps we should make more of sharing bread and wine at Communion / Eucharist / Mass / Lord’s Supper – remembering Jesus’ death and celebrating not only his resurrection but also our new life that is freely offered as an act of loving grace.

So the 501st bloggage should be as significant as this one… but don’t count on that reflecting in the quality!

Be blessed, be a blessing, celebrate!

*first one to say where that quote is from can give themselves a celebratory pat on the back.

A man was very much in love with a beautiful girl. One day she told him that the next day was her birthday. He told her he would send her a bouquet of roses… one for each year of her life.

That evening he called the local florist, his best friend, and ordered twenty-one roses with instructions that they be delivered first thing the next morning.

As the florist was preparing the order, he decided that since the young man was such a good friend, he would put an extra dozen roses in the bouquet.

The poor fellow never did find out what made the young girl so angry with him.

 

anniversary time

 

This year marks some significant anniversaries.

It is 400 years since the King James Version of the Bible was released. It was the first widely accessible version of the Bible in English and the impact on churches, the Christian faith and believers is impossible to underestimate. I am slightly concerned about how it is being venerated at present as remarkable literature. Yes, it IS remarkable literature, but it is so much more than that. I am also a bit concerned that the veneration is also leading to a belittling of modern translations. I heard on Radio 4 on Sunday morning (it was on because my wife had been listening to it, honest!) a VERY senior bod in the Church of England mocking a modern translation in favour of the KJV. That is sad and dangerous. The very reasons the KJV was commissioned and written are valid reasons why we need contemporary translations today.

It is 300 years since Colchester Baptist Church bought the site on which we have our premises today. That was marked his Sunday by Rev Alan Rootsey preaching at our church. He is a descendant of the Minister who was called to lead the church 300 years ago – Rev John Rootsey. In actual fact our church is 321 years old but met in other places before our spiritual ancestors settled on the place in the middle of town.

It is 22 years this year that Sally and I have been married, but 25 years since we first got together as a couple, so it is our semi-silver anniversary.

It is 15 years since the Paris Opera House was destroyed by fire.

It is 10 years since TV Channel E4 was launched.

It seems that there are thousands of possible anniversaries that we can mark. Some are important and significant. Some are trivial and seem contrived.

Why do we mark anniversaries? I think they help us to remember the past. They help us to reflect on the present. They may even anticipate the future (as we move towards them). I guess we all have spiritual anniversaries as well. Do we mark them in a similar way?

This year it is 38 years since I decided to follow Jesus.
It is 31 years since I was baptised.
It is 17 years since I was ordained as a Baptist Minister.

I hope and pray that there are some anniversaries I will never mark. Let it never be one week since I last read my Bible. Let it never be one day since I last prayed!

Which anniversaries will you mark this year, and which ones do you hope not to mark (not because you are ashamed but because you never want them to come around)?

Be a blessing, be blessed.

A man and woman were recently celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.
While cutting the cake, the wife was moved after seeing her husband’s eyes fill with tears.
The wife took his arm, and looked at him affectionately.
“I never knew you were so sentimental.” she whispered.
“No . . . No . . .” he said, choking back his tears, “That’s not it at all. Remember when your father found us in the barn and told me to either marry you or spend the next 50 years in jail?”
“Yes,” the wife replied. “I remember it like yesterday.”
“Well,” said the husband, “Today I would have be a free man.”

 

21 today!

Why are people reticent to reveal their age? After we reach 29 it seems that we would rather not tell people how old we are. We may say we are ‘twentyteen’ or cough violently as we are revealing our age. Or there’s the good old fail-safe ’21 again’.


happy birthday
I am 21 today.

Honestly.

Okay, it’s my 21st Wedding Anniversary, not my birthday, but at the age of 43 that seems to be more a more significant and important celebration to me than my age. 21 years of being married to the wonderful Sally! 21 years of seeing her gorgeous smile. 21 years of … you get the idea. This would be a long, self-indulgent and perhaps nauseatingly sentimental blog entry if I kept going! It struck me this morning that I have been married to Sally for almost half of my life!

Running on EmptyThe Bible encourages us honour and venerate those whose personal odometer is clocking up impressive numbers.We are to recognise and draw on their wisdom and experience. We are to take care of them. We are to consider them blessed by God.

There’s a verse in the Old Testament (and quoted by Peter in his first sermon) that both amuses and puzzles me:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.

(Joel 2:28)

Dreams seem to be aspirational and ephemeral. Visions seem to be dynamic and, well, visionary. I like the idea that dreams are our minds way of organising and filing the thoughts and activities that we have – helping us process them and make sense of them. Visions seem to be more about looking to the future than reflecting on the past.

Is this how we work out whether we are young or old? Do you dream dreams or do you see visions? If you have both, perhaps that’s middle age!
The significant aspects of that passage are not musings on the differences but recognition that God pours out his Spirit on ALL people. How he speaks to us and through us is not as important as what we do with what he says. To pre-empt any Harry Hill-esque evaluations of dreams and visions (which is better?) it seems to me that in God’s wisdom he is telling us that we need young and old – those who can look to the future and those who can reflect on the past.
It’s my wedding Anniversary today (did I mention that?). Sally told me this morning that last night she had a dream that I gave her an expensive necklace to celebrate our anniversary.
“What do you think it means?” she asked.

This evening she will find out.

I’m going to get her a book on interpreting dreams!