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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Can we celebrate an online Eucharist? A Baptist response 2: Some possible objections

I argued in the previous post that an online Eucharist could be a theological possibility for Baptist Christians. I here want to consider and forestall some potential criticisms: The need for ‘physical’ presence Do we need to be physically together to meet around the Lord’s Table? Yes, but let me interrogate what that means. Too much recent writing in this area has worked with a ‘physical’/’virtual’ dichotomy, which makes no sense. Signals in fibre optic cables and electromagnetic waves are physical realities; our shared presence together in an online—virtual—meeting is therefore a mediated physical presence. What it is not is a somatic presence; we are not together bodily. This distinction is important. There may be eucharistic practices that require somatic...

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Can we celebrate an online Eucharist? A Baptist response 1: A positive argument

For us Baptists, I think that there are two possible ways of asserting that an online/scattered Eucharist is possible: one is obvious but bad, and one less obvious but better; both are completely dependent on distinctives of Baptist ecclesiology.

The first is the suggestion that we can have many household communions at the same time; the second the idea that we might celebrate one communion, even if we are in separate homes as we do.

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Two great Christian resources for International Women’s Day 2018

I spent a good chunk of Thursday (International Women’s Day 2018) at the launch of two excellent resources. One is the Sophia Network Minding The Gap research. This is a survey of 1200+ women in the UK church, asking them about their experiences. There was much hope in the stories uncovered, and much darkness too. My friends at Sophia were kind enough to ask me to respond to the research at the launch (my first time speaking at an event in the House of Lords…); what I said will appear on their blog soon, and I don’t want to pre-empt it here, but I do want to honour them for doing the work so well, and for their ten years now of advocating for gender justice in the UK church. The second is the Project 3:28 Database. This is, simply, a database of...

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The Preacher as Antichrist: a sonnet

The Preacher as Antichrist To seize the flesh and make it word instead, Dissecting lived perfection to display Cold concepts, or trite lessons—mere cliche— I block th’ incarnate Word in printer’s lead, Make husk and dry chaff of the living bread, Turn laughter, tears, and blood, to an essay— Mere cleverness—affront to those who pray. To those who come, desiring to be fed And given hope, is all that can be said A worthless, weak, and cheap call to obey? Alliterated numbered points convey A dreary discourse, dull as it is dead. I look up to the Spirit that me owns, And ask, can life be given to these dry bones?   (Certainly not a theorised criticism of preaching; more a confession that, too often, this is what it feels like I am...

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A ‘Larbert Statement’ (memoirs of a gift of grace)

Yesterday morning I left home early, apologising to a neighbour for the state of one of the children I was leaving with her, and drove to a nondescript dormitory community in central Scotland called Larbert. I had agreed to spend a couple of days there in a confidential meeting with a group of church leaders helping them to talk about sexuality. I traveled with a heavy heart. My ears and mind were full of deadening words and shrill responses that had echoed across the Atlantic the day before. I knew just one of the people I was going to meet—liked and respected him, to be sure—but wondered if I was going into another blue-on-blue battle that would leave us all exhausted, wounded, and discouraged. I prayed as I drove, parked, pushed open a dark wooden door, and...

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Reni Eddo-Lodge on understanding race and white privilege in the UK

I have been involved in several social media conversations over the past couple of weeks which have started with someone in the UK sharing a helpful US perspective on understanding and responding to racism/white supremacy, and have gone on to ask where the equivalent British analyses were. I received Reni Eddo-Lodge’s new book, Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race (London: Bloomsbury, 2017) yesterday lunchtime, and finished reading it before lunch today. It is at least one answer to that question, and a compelling one at that. I want to write a decent summary, but here are the quotations I took down as I read: [On slavery] ’…unlike the situation in America, most British people saw the money without the blood.’ (5) ‘…many Brits lived...

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