Prosopal presence: our current conundrum

When we meet online, are we meeting ‘face to face’? My colleague Elizabeth Shively gave us an excellent sermon this morning in our series on 1Thess.; I won’t repeat what she said (its on our church FB page, and well worth the watch), but before she began my attention was caught by a word in the reading. Throughout the letter Paul expresses his regrets that he is absent from the Thessalonian believers, his longing to see them, and his eagerness for news of them. In 3:10 he prays ‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face’ (NRSV) ‘May see you face to face’ translates τὸ ἰδεῖν ὑμῶν τὸ πρόσωπον; it was the word πρόσωπον that caught my eye (I was following the reading in the original, as I usually do); it’s a word I’ve thought about a lot....

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On not having closed our churches

Language matters. It matters more in how it is heard than in how it is meant. If we want to communicate certain things, then disciplined use of language can help us, because it will improve the chances of what we want to say being heard, rather than being misunderstood. There was a time when we British Baptists would not have thought of calling the building we met in for worship a ‘church’. We knew that the church was the congregation, gathered together by God, covenanted to each other before God. If the church habitually met in a particular building, we called that a ‘chapel’. ‘Church,’ we once understood, meant people, saved by grace, making expansive vows to each other because God has called us together. ‘Chapel,’ we used to know, meant a building, where the...

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On ‘Kitchen Table Eucharists’: a plea to my Anglican friends

It is, to my regret, nearly ten years since I last joined in worship with the small fellowship at Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church in Cumbria. My memories of the fellowship are warm; my memories of the building in which they meet, and of the garden behind it, are vivid. The building is an ancient cottage, registered for worship in 1709. There is no historical record of what changes were made as it was registered for worship, but very probably the kitchen table was the only table, and so became the place where the Eucharist was celebrated for those people. The Baptists had begun in Hawkshead in 1678, at a time when the Church of England was aggressively devoted to persecuting anyone who would not worship according to its formularies (even though then, as now, it...

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