Ich habe genug – celebrating Candlemas

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Today is Candlemas – the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple.

As Mary and Joseph take their son to the Temple for his dedication, two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, get a glimpse of the saviour of the world and share their prophecies of hope, pain and joy.

Simeon sings a hymn of praise which we now sing at Evensong or Compline as the Nunc Dimittis.

Bach put this song to music in perhaps its most beautiful setting, sung in German, Ich habe genug – I have enough. Here are the lyrics and translation:

Ich habe genug,
Ich habe den Heiland, das Hoffen der Frommen,
Auf meine begierigen Arme genommen;
Ich habe genug!
Ich hab ihn erblickt,
Mein Glaube hat Jesum ans Herze gedrückt;
Nun wünsch ich, noch heute mit Freuden
Von hinnen zu scheiden.

I have enough,
I have taken the Saviour, the hope of the righteous,
into my eager arms;
I have enough!
I have beheld Him,
my faith has pressed Jesus to my heart;
now I wish, even today with joy
to depart from here.

The rest of the arias can be found here.

A wonderful 30 minute exploration of this cantata can be heard on BBC iPlayer, perfect to listen to after your Sunday lunch today:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09l07ly

Painting of Simeon holding the baby Jesus

By Aert de Gelder – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=467320

The whole encounter with Christ in the Temple is filled with wonder and beauty – as often happens when a new born child is brought into a room. 4th century saint Ephraim of Syria imagined Simeon and Anna’s songs as a lullaby. Meditate on these words:

Praise to you, Son of the Most High, who has put on our body.

Into the holy temple Simeon carried the Christ-child

and sang a lullaby to him:

‘You have come, Compassionate One,

having pity on my old age, making my bones enter into Sheol in peace.

By you I will be raised out of the grave into paradise.’

Anna embraced the child; she placed her mouth

upon His lips, and then the Spirit rested

upon her lips, like Isaiah

whose mouth was silent until a coal drew near

to his lips and opened his mouth.

Anna was aglow with the spirit of his mouth.

She sang him a lullaby:

‘Royal Son, despised son, being silent, you hear;

hidden, you see; concealed, you know; God-man, glory to your name.’

The barren woman Elizabeth cried out as she was accustomed,

‘Who has granted to me, blessed woman,

to see your Babe by whom heaven and earth are filled? Blessed is your fruit

that brought forth the cluster on a barren vine.’

Praise to you, Son of the Most High, who has put on our body.

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Beginning to blog – a session run by Bryony Taylor at #cnmac13

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Here is the presentation I gave at the Christian New Media Conference 2013 on 9 November:

It is difficult in a presentational format to teach people how to blog so I focused in this presentation on looking at some examples of different types of blog, the platforms they use and pointed out some tips for getting traffic and interest in your content. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments section below.

Is baptism the new wedding? Responses to reports that by 2016 most children will be born outside of marriage

By National Library of Ireland on The Commons (Christening Day Uploaded by russavia) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons
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The BBC reported today that the majority of babies born in three years’ time will have parents who are not married. This is a trend I noticed two years ago when we ran our first Wedding Fayre at Pudsey Parish Church. Incidentally, this triggered an idea for the presentation I needed to give at my BAP (Bishops’ Advisory Panel) for selection for ordained ministry. I thought I would share my presentation here as it explores what this new trend might mean for the church – and especially the Church of England.

By National Library of Ireland on The Commons (Christening Day Uploaded by russavia) [see page for license], via Wikimedia Commons

Is baptism the new wedding?

Last year (2011) at our church we ran a Wedding Fayre. The idea came from a member of the congregation who is a local florist and wanted to help us to find a way in which we could make better connections with the local community. It happened to be the 5th anniversary of the reordering of the church interior and seemed like a good way to celebrate that. So in running the Fayre we were both supporting local businesses who exhibited their services and promoting getting married in church. I was on the door welcoming people in. Something happened that surprised me but shouldn’t have. The vast majority of couples coming through the doors arrived with their children. As we were planning the event, I and I think the rest of the team, was imagining young couples in their twenties and thirties and we provided facilities for that demographic. We didn’t factor in children! We realised that when we run the Fayre again this year (2012) that we’ll need to provide a crèche and some other facilities for children.

What happened on that day is perhaps symptomatic of the church’s response to societal change. We can go about in our own church bubble completely unaware of the changes around us. As I said, I was surprised by the number of children coming in but I shouldn’t have been, really. Traditionally, couples who had decided to stay together first got married, then moved in together, then got a mortgage and only then had children. An awful lot of people are now reversing that model – without any controversy – couples move in together first, then perhaps get a mortgage, then have children and then get married – perhaps some years later.

There is a parallel trend in that baptism parties are becoming more and more elaborate – in some ways you might say that baptism is the new wedding. People are sealing their relationship by having children, rather than by getting married, and want to celebrate that. You can see it in a lot of the baptisms at our church – people are dressed as if they’re going to a wedding and you hear that the family has booked a function room for a big party.

If we approach this in a sensitive way, this cultural shift could be a real opportunity for the church and more importantly for the Kingdom of God. I had a conversation on Twitter with a priest friend of mine and he told me that recently he did a baptism with a surprise wedding in it, and a wedding with a surprise baptism! Two sacraments for the price of one! These were examples of people wanting to involve their children in some way with their wedding day and bring the whole family into Church together – perhaps we’ll see more of these kind of requests.

How should the church respond to this change in the way people are starting families?

  • One response or idea I had was that we offer marriage preparation classes for couples, should we offer family marriage preparation? Should we be talking to children of couples about what it means that their mum and dad are getting married?
  • The second thought, is should we be making a more deliberate connection for these families between marriage and baptism?

Social Media for the Scared/Sacred – for Bradford Diocese – presentation and resources

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I had the pleasure of leading a workshop at Bradford Diocese today introducing the delights of social media to a group of clergy and lay people from the local area all keen to get their heads around new media. Bishop Nick Baines gave us a useful overview of how he uses social media and encouraged everyone to get involved with it.

One of the delegates, Mark Waddington, has written an excellent summary of what we discussed with some reflection on what it means for churches.

My presentation is here:

If this has whetted your appetite you might find these articles helpful:

My guide to Facebook for Churches

My guide to Twitter for Christians

How to build a following on Twitter

Choosing a blogging platform

If you’re interested in the interface between faith and social media I can recommend following the Big Bible blog where I, among others, write regular articles.

As ever, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like any support in this area, I’m happy to help.