24th May 2024

“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans – I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18; NLT).

These words of Jesus provide the background to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which we celebrated last Sunday. They are part of Jesus’ final words to his disciples on the night of the Last Supper. He has spoken of Judas’ forthcoming betrayal, Peter’s denial of him before the cock crows and, more generally, of the persecution that will come to all those who follow him. Jesus sees his own death looming and promises that his disciples will not be alone. Almost a “last will and testament”; a father providing for his children after his death.

This vivid human picture of Jesus as a loving father is quite different to the image of him that opens John’s gospel – the Word who existed at the beginning, through whom all things were made, the one who gave life to everything and is the light that cannot be extinguished (John 1:1-5). But hold these two images together and we see the Jesus who loves each of us individually is also the one who has total power over the things of the world. His Spirit is with us, if only we would pause in our busy lives and seek his presence.

Ian Waddington

22nd May 2024

I am currently reading the biography of a 20th century prime minister. In the first chapter the biographer writes about one of the future prime minister’s schoolmasters who had a profound influence on him, as he himself acknowledged. This school master also happened to be a great friend of my father. Sadly he didn’t live to see his pupil lead a successful career, as he was killed in a tragic accident soon after the pupil left school.

I recently read in a newspaper the obituary of a man whose father had been a Baptist minister. I had had contact with this minister twice – the first time when he was the chaplain on the RAF station where I did my “square-bashing”, the second time, years later, soon after he retired and happened to be in the congregation when I was conducting a service. Shortly afterwards he told me that something I had said in my sermon that day had helped him make an important decision about how he would spend his retirement. That was a very humbling experience.

These two stories remind us that we can often have more influence on other people’s lives than we may realise at the time. They remind us too that we should be grateful to those who have helped and influenced each of us, and give thanks to God for them.

David T Roberts

Sunday 19th May 2024

Join us in person or online for a streaming service via Zoom at 10.30 am – check your email or contact us for the details.

A recording of the service should be available here this afternoon.

After starting the video, there will be a full screen button at the top right.

17th May 2024

BABEL AND PENTECOST

One of the mysterious but powerful figures in the early chapters of Genesis is Nimrod, great grandson of Noah [Genesis 10, 8-12], perhaps more familiar to us through Elgar’s stirring music from the Enigma Variations than from scripture.

Described as ‘mighty upon the earth‘ [1 Chronicles 1, 10], Nimrod’s name in Hebrew translates as ‘rebel’, forewarning that this powerful ruler tragically set himself against God. In earthly terms he certainly established a significant empire, with ‘the beginning of his kingdom, Babel‘.

Babel’s story is one of godless human endeavour – the construction materials are clay bricks baked by human hands, and bitumen, rather than God-given rocks and mortar, with the builders’ motivation, ‘let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens so that we may make a name for ourselves’. Josephus saw Nimrod as archetypal of the unbelieving tyrant in human history, and reckons the height of Babel’s tower as ‘too high for the waters to reach’. Thus Babel stands for wrongly-conceived urban life, whilst Jerusalem is the symbol of the contrasting ideal. The divine response to this misplaced human ambition was not another flood, but rather to ‘confuse their language so they will not understand one another’. Consequently construction ceased in a world of total incomprehension. Babel [babble] was the name of this ill-fated endeavour.

Pentecost is the New Testament contrast, as Luke describes the possibility of reversing the confusion of language consequent upon the misplaced endeavours of the men of Babel. Pentecost, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, reverses things: defiant ambition is replaced by the glad reception of God’s gift, making it possible for women and men of every race and language to hear what God had done through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, each in their own tongue.

John Briggs

15th May 2024

Finding God in the Small Things

I love this time of year. As I write the sun is shining and it makes me feel good. Some of my favourite wildflowers come out in spring. Near where I used to live there is a field that is covered in Cowslips in the spring. And a short drive away there is the most beautiful bluebell wood. I love those sunny days when shafts of light shine through the trees onto the bluebells and you get the range of colours from pink to blue and through to purple. I would just like to sit and be still, listen and observe all that was around me.

I remember as a child my family would spend time at the coast. My father would get my brothers, sisters and I looking for living things in the rock pools. Crabs, shrimps, limpets etc. Most of us would run from one rock pool to another in the hope we would be the first to see everything. However, one of my brothers would sit by only one rock pool and wait. He would usually be the first to see everything that my father had challenged us to find. All this reminds me that in this busy world, taking time to be quiet, listen and observe enables us to experience far more of God – often in the small things. God calls us to the small things to find his presence there.

Sam King

Sunday 12th May 2024

Join us in person or online for a streaming service via Zoom at 10.30 am – check your email or contact us for the details.

A recording of the service should be available here this afternoon.

After starting the video, there will be a full screen button at the top right.

8th May 2024

It is now five months since the coffee shop relaunched as a Renew Wellbeing café. We have done this following the work of the Renew Wellbeing charity run by Ruth Rice, a Baptist minister based in Nottingham. One important part of the philosophy underpinning the work of the charity is that it is not something that “we” do to “them” but that we meet on Tuesdays for mutual support. So a question I could ask about these early days is “what has God said to me”?

One practice that the Renew Wellbeing process has refreshed for me is the practice of “simply rewinding the day with God and spotting signs of his love and being thankful”. It is a simple but very effective form of prayer. I often think that being grateful is one of the defining characteristics of the believer. Taking stock daily and counting my blessings, spotting the places where God has spoken to me, is keeping me grounded at a time when life has its challenges.

Nick Parsons

“Slow down, show up and pray” by Ruth Rice (Authentic, 2021, ISBN 978 1 78893 183 0)

https://www.24-7prayer.com/prayer_guide/try-ancient-prayers/

Sunday 5th May 2024

Join us in person or online for a streaming service via Zoom at 10.30 am – check your email or contact us for the details. The service includes communion.

A recording of the service should be available here this afternoon.

After starting the video, there will be a full screen button at the top right.

3rd May 2024

It will be 20 years tomorrow, 4th May, that I moved into my flat. In a short while it will become the place where I’ve lived longer than any other in my life. It’s my haven; it’s quiet and cosy; somewhere I can relax completely; where I can read, study and write without interruption; and surrounded by things that have important meaning and memory for me, plus quite a few plants, and lots and lots of books!

When I wake in the morning, I often say a ‘Thank You’ for this home of mine – the roof over my head, a comfortable bed, clean water in the tap, food in the fridge, and clothes to wear. We hear of so many who do not have these things; who are prepared to leave all behind, sometimes even their loved ones, in order to be free from war, persecution or poverty.

When I was training at Bristol Baptist College, the college community – tutors, admin staff, and students – gathered for worship and Communion every Wednesday evening. I remember one occasion when we were invited to come forward and ask for prayer for someone or somewhere in the world, whilst putting a lighted candle on that place on a world map. As others named different situations and positioned their candles, who might I name? When I placed my candle, it was nowhere on the map, but off to the side. And my prayer?… for all the ‘stateless’ persons in the world, who tonight, and every night, have nowhere to call home.

David Bell

1st May 2024

Have you watched “Saving Lives at Sea”? Stories of RNLI rescues round the coast of Britain, many very moving. Why do people volunteer for this (and mountain and cave rescue)? Not just for the adrenaline rush, but to feel they have helped people in danger. But they also cope with the down-side. The commonest call-out for Portishead RNLI is to search for suicides from the Severn bridges. Loyalty to each other and the feeling of doing something good keeps them together and helps on the bad days.

Ever since the days of Paul Christians have met together for worship in various forms and in times of good and ill. It had always been thought necessary to gather for worship with others and to work together for God not just alone.

But what about medieval anchorites? These were men and often women who chose a solitary life of prayer walled into a cell attached to a church, never leaving it. To do this they had to have permission from the bishop and show they had a true call and had the capacity to cope. (They had a servant to bring food and often a shuttered window to the street through which they could give spiritual counsel and receive requests for prayer.) They ALWAYS had a small window looking to the altar of the church so that they could take part in worship – say prayers and sing. They could only see those leading worship, not the others present.

Does this sound like medieval Zoom worship?

Well, may be, but their prayers were valued and they were still, in some sense, part of the community.

Margaret Clements