Marci and I are going back to England on Sunday evening for a three week visit. This was originally planned as a visit with my Mum and Dad to help my Mum celebrate a birthday of some significance, but it was not to be; as most of my friends will know, my Dad died on August 12th, and his brother John died three days later. So our first week of holiday will include my Dad’s funeral (at which I am to preach) on September 3rd and Uncle John’s funeral on September 5th. After that we hope to have some holiday time, help Mum celebrate her birthday, and visit with some other friends and family.
We will be spending most of our time in beautiful Oakham, where my Mum lives, but will have a couple of other short trips as well.
Here’s a picture of Oakham that i took in May 2009.
…and here’s a 4th of July song for you from one of the greatest songwriters of the twentieth century.
On Monday 30th Marci and I are heading up to Jasper for the week, and we won’t be back until Saturday afternoon some time. Then the following week we’re off to visit friends in Saskatchewan. The daily traditional folk song will continue since I have a few cued up and ready to go, but I likely won’t be responding to comments or posting anything extra, as I’m not taking a computer with me.
So yes, for the next couple of weeks I’ll be suffering from Internet withdrawal symptoms in places like this…
For the last week I’ve been traveling around England researching the work of licensed parish evangelists. A number of dioceses in the Church of England have licensed evangelists (the title varies from diocese to diocese); they are volunteer lay ministers who work on the edges of the church community, trying to spread the gospel and share the joy of faith in Christ with others. There is an enormous variety of ways in which they do this: Alpha and other Christian Basics courses, baptism and marriage preparation and follow-up, youth and children’s work, Messy Church and (in one case I discovered) Messy Church for Seniors, street pastors, door to door work, drop-ins for youth and seniors and everyone in between, and good old-fashioned relational evangelism. This is just scratching the surface of what is going on.
I have visited the dioceses of Rochester (in Kent) and Chelmsford (in Essex and East London), as well as Peterborough Diocese where my Mum and Dad currently live. I have been very impressed with the thoroughness of the training given to all lay ministers. In our Diocese of Edmonton geography is very much against us (distances being so huge), but everyone I have met has been very surprised to hear that a person can become a lay reader in our diocese on the strength of five Saturday workshops. In most dioceses in England, Readers (as they call them) take a three-year course requiring them to commit at least one evening a week and several weekends a year. Evangelists usually go through a two year program; some of the course work is general and is done in common with other lay ministers in training, while other modules are more specifically directed toward the evangelists in training.
One of the pitfalls, of course, is that a parish with a licensed evangelist can say, “Well, we’ve got someone to do the job now, so we don’t need to share our faith with others – we can just leave it to Julie, who’s been trained!” Chelmsford diocese is about to change the designation to ‘evangelism enabler’ in order to underline the point that a licensed evangelist is not supposed to be a lone ranger, but a leader and equipper in the mission efforts of the parish as a whole.
I love the idea of licensed evangelists and I’m very much impressed with the quality of the training programs I’ve seen. My job now is to go back to our diocese and have some conversations with people (including, of course, our own bishop) about whether this would be a beneficial thing for us to think about as part of our intentional efforts to be more missional and evangelistic.
On Monday and Tuesday I spent a couple of days with my Aunt and Uncle in Leicester. While I was staying with them we went down to Lutterworth and nearby Bitteswell, which is where my Reynolds ancestors lived from the early 1830s to about the turn of the century. I saw the churches where they were baptized and married and the churchyards they were buried in (although I didn’t find any gravestones, which did not surprise me as they would probably not have been wealthy enough to afford them). In the 1841 census my 4x great-grandparents William and Jane Reynolds were living on a street called Woodmarket in Lutterworth; I walked down that street and saw many buildings they would have seen a hundred and seventy years ago when they lived there. Facebook friends of mine can see the photos on my Facebook page.
I’m nearly done my visit to England now. My Mum and Dad and I have a couple more days together, and then I will be travelling down to Maidenhead Sunday afternoon to spend a few hours with an old school friend before catching a plane Monday at about 4.15 p.m. to fly back to Canada.