Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Catch up blog

In the good old days at Spurgeon's (when I said i was busy) I used to blog about most things, but since I moved to Huddersfield and started at Milnsbridge things have lacked a bit on the blog front.
Well, here's some news about me today, and then a church update asap.
The wedding is now ten weeks, three days away. I've been measured at Moss Bros for my suit, along with ushers, bestman, and fathers etc. I ate at the reception place last night. The Table D'hote menu was fillet of beef in a stilton sauce which was gorgeous beyond belief. Though Helen had Ostrich, which was great. It's been ages since i ate ostrich and i had a taste last night and decided i must go to the big butchers and find some in Leeds or Huddersfield. I get quite a lot of ribbing from Sarah and her family over how rare i like my meat. Apparently good ostrich is only cooked for 45 seconds per side.
Most things are in hand for the wedding, though this is the last time I'm in Plymouth until the wedding now. Sarah is having a shoe crisis. She found "the" shoes a while ago, ordered them and now the shop is saying they aren't available. I think i get into trouble occasionally for not understanding how important shoes are. The dress fittings happen next weekend.
Away from life at the wedding things are good. I'm going through a couple of really touch situations at the moment at church, which make life interesting....and next Tuesday (as a birthday treat) I'm getting to do my first funeral. It's a lady who i never knew, but had links years ago to a local Baptist Church (since closed) and it's a challenge for me to know what to do really and what to say.
Anyway, I have another two days in Plymouth with Sarah (fly back to Leeds tomorrow evening) and then a day in York with Matthew and Margaret (my best man and family) which will be good. The 'stag do' is only a few weeks away. Matthew's organising that and I believe that people are descending on Huddersfield for it. Will the town cope.
On a sporting note the Giants ( are having a mixed season. We've lost a few lately, and had a few let offs (let a 22-0 lead become 22-22 before scraping a win). I'm going to the Galpharm soon to see the Giants hopefully win. Lost against Hull at the weekend.
I'm off now to read Sarah's dissertation on The Institutionalisation of Shakespeare. Not sure i'll understand it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Happy Easter everyone! I've been having some thoughts about Easter and specifically about whether we celebrate our salvation through Good Friday only, and what place the resurrection has in our theology of the atonement.

Been reading some interesting Tom Smail who says that we have replaced a theology of the cross with a theology of Pentecost, which i think is an excellent point. Too often our mind wants to focus on the experiential side of the Holy Spirit, leaving behind the call and cost of the cross.

Tomorrow (after Sarah has broken her chocolate/crisps/desserts/snacks/biscuit Lenten fast) we'll be heading to church to celebrate the resurrection. Recognising Jesus' death, but also celebrating the authority over all things that God showed in the resurrection. Sometimes I wonder what answer we'd get if we asked most church people what the point of the resurrection some theologies of the church it wouldn't seem to change the message if Jesus had stayed dead.

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed - Alleluia!

Friday, April 07, 2006

What I'm reading

Well, I've got a few books on the go at the here's a quick run down and whether (or not) I'd recommend them to you:

Intelligent Church...Steve Chalke's latest offering (with far less scope for causing theological controversy) is a really good book. It's not groundbreaking, but has a good series of theological discussion alongside practical examples. Excellent quotation on p.170 from Gary Streeter MP (Con, Plymouth) about the church's social responsibilty (which I will blog further on)

Mealtime Habits of the Messiah - I was introduced to Conrad Gempf by Arthur Rowe in my last year at Spurgeons, but I found this book quite by accident. It's a story of 40 encounters with Jesus and is an (occasionally off the wall) look at some of the meetings Jesus had, mainly in the gospels. Gempf is NT lecturer at LST so it's grounded in good biblical scholarship, but is so well written he disguises the theology sometimes into digestable chunks. It satisfied me from a theological student's point of view, but i'd recommend it to church folk too.

The Drama of Scripture - An American title, telling the metanarrative of scripture. The book borrows from NT Wright's "Five Acts of Scripture" adapting it into six acts with an "interval" otherwise known as the Intertestamental Period. The book is accessible, and I've started recommending it to people to get a grasp of the bigger picture of scripture. It's a book that is far more than the sum of its parts though...It's a book which challenges us about 'our place in scripture'. eg the discussion about the Pharisees, Saducees, Essenes and Zealotes is an excellent part, with the challenge to examine ourselves in the light of their motivations.

Monday, January 09, 2006

A New Creation

Genesis 2&3 - Milnsbridge Baptist Church: 8th Jan 05

So this Sunday was Family Service, which is always a bit different to normal. We looked at the characters of Adam and Eve and looked at three aspects, creation, the fall, and redemption (redemption came from skipping ahead to Jesus).

In the service we had some young people making people out of Salt dough and talking about how God created out of nothing where as we need something to make something else out of! (I avoided the term Creation Ex Nihilo tho) Regarding the fall, we focused on how good the tree looked and how enticing whatever is wrong can be, before bringing in redemption.

I ended by a great bit of eisegesis (Don't shoot me!) where we used the illustration of man walking in the garden with God and talking about being passionate about rediscovering that relationship where we walk with God, like a young baby toddles along holding its parent's hand. Shall we toddle with God, supported by God this year?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Finding God at 22,000 feet

Today I got a plane from Exeter to Leeds Bradford. It was an unremarkable, grim and grey day at both airports and I got on my plane (50 mins as opposed to 8 hrs on Virgin Trains) and we took off. Despite the very thick, low cloud cover, after not many minutes we broke through the top of the clouds into glorious sunshine.

Not being an experienced flyer this surprised me. I guess I figured if the Sun wasn't shining it wasn't shining anywhere. It really was so bright. And it set me thinking...when we get our own grey skies we think that God has disappeared for the winter, not realising that he's still there, shining as brightly as ever.

In the clouds and murkiness of our lives, we can feel as though God's not there, but he is, and he's the same yesterday, today and forever. He's still shining. He's still there! He's still God.

Monday, January 02, 2006

"A New Year and A New Start"

Joshua 1:1-11 - Milnsbridge Baptist Church: 1st Jan 05

This Sunday was the first time I've preached on New Years Day. It's also the first new year I've started at Milnsbridge, so I spent a long time thinking around the theme of what it means to start a New Year with God.
Eventually I settled on this passage from the beginning of Joshua, where the people of Israel are looking towards the promised land. It's a fantastic picture and the theme that runs through the passage and the book of Joshua is God's commandment to be "strong and courageous" and that He will go ahead of them into the places He calls them.
I chose Josh 1:9 as the text for the church this year. "Be strong and courageous...for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." I think the reason for this is that I kind of don't know where we're going. I've been writing a statement for the Yorkshire Baptist Association to go with our application for funding for next year and I kept coming up with the conclusion that I don't know where we're going, but God's asking us to go into new places this year, to do new things, and it's right that we should be excited cos 2006 is gonna be great.
I talked about spending time in the presence of God, which has to be first before we go out in His name , and also about believing in His promises.
Ask me in 12 months how we've done...
The book of Joshua ends with this verse "Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel." and it struck me that's an awesome thing to say, and it was a challenge to us all yesterday. Are we serving the Lord for all of our lifetime....

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The year of the iPod

It is just over a year since i bought my iPod and ever since I've listened to more music than in any previous year.

I was asked by my sister over Christmas what my five top albums that i was listening to in 2005 were?
  • James Blunt Back to Bedlam. By a long way this is the album of 2005 for me. The first five tracks are amazing and it's head and shoulders above anything else on my iTunes play list. (I do prefer the single version of the first track though - Flying High seems to fit so much better.)
  • Nizlopi's Half these Songs are About You. There is more to this band than the JCB song. It's a great and fun album which i didn't download until November but managed to soar up my most played list.
  • In Between Dreams by Jack Johnson. Phil Hornsey introduced me to him during a drive at some point and described it as a CD that "you can't manage to be anything but happy to."
  • Coldplay's X&Y has proved that sometimes, just once in a while, an album can live up to the hype that builds it up. Yesterday I caught Coldplay doing a Radio 1 set at the Maida Vale studios on Digital TV at my parents house.
  • Finally something a little different with Living a Dream by Katherine Jenkins. This is the odd one out certainly, but i think also the best of her three albums. It's a mix of the classical and her interpretation of some far more contemporary works but it's a great album. Sarah took me to see her perform live in Manchester in December. (Rhod - when was the last time the top 5 of something included a welsh entry!)

I wonder what 2006 will offer?

O Little Town of Bethlehem

Well, incase you missed it, it was Christmas. I was watching the Midnight Communion on Christmas eve and when they sang O Little Town of Bethlehem they added in an extra verse that I'd not heard before...

Where children pure and happy, pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where God's true love stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

It set me thinking why do we 'lose' verses to certain carols or hymns. I think that this verse has some fantastic Christmas language in it and the idea of the dark night waking (very biblical) adds something else to the carol. I'll (try to) remember it next year.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

More from the Archbishop

A year ago today, listening to the Carols from Kings Concert on BBC2 I discovered Archbishop Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador until he was assasinated in 1980. Here is another of his great quotes I love...

‘If we could see that Christ is the needy one, the torture victim, the prisoner,
the murder victim, and in each human figure so shamefully thrown by our
roadsides could see Christ himself cast aside, we would pick him up like a medal
of gold to be kissed lovingly.We would never be ashamed of him. How far people
are today – especially those who torture and kill and value their investments
more than human beings – from realising that all the earth’s millions are good
for nothing, are worthless, compared to a human being.The person is Christ,
and in the person viewed and treated with faith we look on Christ the Lord.’
Archbishop Oscar Romero (1917-1980)

Shortest Blog Post Ever?

Happy Christmas

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Historical and Theogical Reflection...ON CHAIRS!

Over the last three weeks we've had the chairs in three different arrangements at church. It made me thankful that the people at Milnsbridge are open enough to let me 'mess around inside church' without telling me off. At Tamworth where i was the arrangement of the chairs used to be the focus of heated arguments at church meetings (rather pointlessly) to the point where no one dared to move a chair for anything.

A church isn't a place which has to be kept one way to keep God happy. A church building is a resource to be used. So i made a stain on the carpet at church, but who cares. A dirty mark or dozens of kids in the church on a weekday afternoon. We've had them around tables last week for a breakfast service and in different directions for different things, and no one has complained (yet)

So, please, to anyone in a church...let your minister move the chairs, let him or her make a mess - they've probably thought about it beforehand.

"Tis the season to be jolly and joyous"

Several things happen to make Christmas what it is. Everything from the carol services, to the kids services, to watching the Muppet's Christmas Carol.
Christmas is something I never really appreciated. This year however, having for the first time taken a church through the Advent and Christmas story, I think I've taken it in in a new way. At the start of Advent I cut out letters for the church wall that say EMMANUEL and underneath (smaller) God is with us [I'm not starting a debate on Immanuel or Emmanuel).

Each Sunday we've talked about Jesus Christ, God with us, and rejoiced that the Word became Flesh and dwelt amongst us.

Now if that isn't a reason to be jolly and joyous i don't know what is!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

"This really is a big wardrobe"

A couple from church just took me to see The Chronicles of Narnia. I was completely amazed by it and loved the whole film. In a way it surprised me with how emotional it got and i think I found the death of Aslan (I'm assuming that's a plot twist everyone knows - sorry if you didn't) more intensely moving than The Passion of the Christ. I guess I'm biased but i can't see how people can't miss gospel parallels. "It is the truth that when one who is without wrong sacrifices himself for them, then they are free!" (paraphrased) are the words of Aslan....sound familiar.

I can't remember the last time I called a film a must-see but this really is. I'm already counting down the days to the DVD. If we said half of what the film does in schools we'd be proselytising but here the film does the communication of the gospel for us...

Home from Home

So this is the church at Milnsbridge where I am now! It's a little different from the outside but it is quite simply the best church building I've been in. There are no steps at all, the building has no problems so we don't have a building committee.

It was opened in June 2004 and getting used more and more by the church and the community. We had over 200 kids though in school assemblies last week!

Check out our community website.

Social Capital

Ann Morisy said that if you're walking down the steps at Brixton tube station and there's a woman struggling with a pushchair you're likely to pick up the front and help her down the steps. It's human nature. This is social capital. The fact that someone naturally will help someone else in need (unless you're selfish and a bit of a pain).

In this world the church posseses huge amounts of social capital. (Even with the worst predictions of church attendance 5% of the UK population is still a big number. What we do with that is up to us. Are we happy to allow it to keep our buildings clean, and to sort ourselves out, while we are (as a church) letting [to use the words of James] Widows and Orphans to carry pushchairs down tube station steps.

The lesson i learned recently is to stop working out what the church can offer to a community and ask the community what they want. Odds are it's not what you think!

"I'm different"

Thursday mornings are a ritual at Milnsbridge Baptist. I go down and open the church up at about 9.15 am before Helen (one of the local residents and newer church attenders) comes across and helps me set up for coffee morning. It's usually closer to 10am before any local folk arrive so we end up talking about the week, and in particular today we talked about all that had gone on in the last week (One church member pointed out we'd had between 350-400 different people through the church in the last week!). We have had several of the local residents in church this week (mostly from the road that the church is on) for our quiz evening and then again for the carol service.
The interesting thing is that they've become recently very positive about church, and we're seeing them get more and more into coming to church events. "It's because you're different" I was told this morning. Apparently I'm very different from their preconceptions of "vicars" (though i did wear a clerical shirt for the carols on Sunday) and I assume by different they mean not fifty and grey (Rhod - you're safe!)
This challenged me. As a church we have a calling to be different. We are called firstly to be different to the world, but also to be differnt to everything that people preconceive about the church. It's about sincerity and genuine relationships. If I try to care about people they'll notice, if I actually do (deep down in my heart) care then this is gonna show. When Jesus is asked the question by the Pharisees "who is my neighbour" i think if he was in Milnsbridge he'd have pointed around the houses from the church and said "come on lads, you know who your neighbour is."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Long time no post

Well, it's been a long time since i last posted mainly due to (a) laziness in blogging (b) church life here being far busier than i thought and (c) having forgotten about this really...

I'm loving life in Huddersfield having moved in August and been inducted as minister in September. There have been some real joys of ministry here including my first baptism in November, working in the local schools and getting to know people.

I'll write some more about my experiences here soon. Just wanted to say to anyone who has this on their feeds HAPPY CHRISTMAS and do watch this space....

Monday, July 11, 2005


Well, it has happened. I think, on reflection, I wasn't sure it would ever happen. But on Saturday I was ordained to be a minister of the Baptist Union. It's a strange day and I found that I wasn't really allowed to do anything. The church did a fantastic job of getting the weekend ready. My regional minister and one of my college tutors did a great job with the service and it was great to see so many of my friends come up for the service and to share in what was happening.
I'm still none the wiser about what exactly happens at ordination, whether it's about a change of nature or a allocation of function. I like the sacramental and am beginning to be able to defend it, but who knows...
So, I'm now Rev Mike Roberts which scares me in a way. It suggests maturity, responsibility and that I'm about 40. I'm still 24 and my future mother in law found it hilarious that just hours after my ordination service I was walking around a petrol station in Worcestershire in shorts and bare feet. (Not quite sure why it was hilarious but she said it seemed so different from just a few hours before...
Well, my first act as an ordained minister was to baptise Sarah, my fiancee, which was a great service on Sunday, and the second is to go to Plymouth on holiday for a couple of weeks. It's a good life!

Friday, June 17, 2005

It's finished

It was brought to my attention that my blog has been playing up a bit recently and because I'd not been posting I hadn't noticed!

Since i last blogged i have finished my final exams and found out I got my degree (2:1 if you're interested!) I graduate tomorrow, so I'll be donning the black and purple gowns and finally getting my picture on the sideboard at Mum and Dad's alongside my brother and sister.

After deliberately choosing final year modules which didn't have exams I got my only two 70+ marks in the two exams i did so who knows what would have happened if I'd chosen more exams. My dissertation came back and was a really positive experience and looking foward to learning from it when i start ministry in Huddersfield.

Speaking of which, Mark and I drove up north (15 hours in a transit van in the space of just over 24 hours) and my library has now got a new home, albeit still in boxes, waiting for my arrival in about six weeks time. Now i just need to plan ordination (July) and my induction (September).

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Election Fever

Andrew Neil, Michael Portillo and others (inc some look-a-likes of Blair, Howard etc) doing an election version of Tony Christie's (Is this) the way to Amarillo. Right up there with Paxman on Newsnight's Weather.

Click on then select 'Watch the titles' underneath the picture of Andrew Neil and his dancers! It's worth a watch! Definately.

The must watch video of 2005 so far

If you saw Jeremy Paxman's dip into giving the weather on Newsnight (mentioned on Have I Got News for You) then you'll have laughed. If you didn't (or if you loved it!) then click on the link to watch Paxman's first weather broadcast. I laughed so much.

Paxman: "Tomorrow's weather - well, take an umbrella" One BBC chief described it as weather you can use! It's seriously worth a watch.

Check out

Friday, March 18, 2005


I've just published my first attempt at a website. It's online at and you're very welcome to check it out. It's very basic to start with, and I just wanted to put something there as I had the webspace. I'll start doing something more adventurous with it once my final exams are out of the way in early May. Thoughts welcome.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


I finished my hospital placement today. There was a quote in a book that said the following about prayer, written by an oncologist dealing with the worst cancers all day every day. Some find this quote disturbing, others (me included) find reassurance in this...

I pray to a God I cannot begin to understand, whose voice I cannot always hear, but whom I believe is crying along with me in the midst of all this suffering.

Thoughts anyone?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Elephant of Death

As some of you will know I've been doing a chaplaincy placement in London, and today I was having a chat about bereavement with some people at the hospital. Having spent lots of time with people that have been bereaved over the last few weeks I wondered about letting myself blog about how the church responds to death and grief. But then I found this poem which says far more than my blog possibly could. It's a poem written by Terry Keating after the death of his wife.

There’s an elephant in the room.
It is large and squatting, so it is hard to get around it.
Yet we squeeze by with "How are you?" and "I’m fine" …
And a thousand other forms of trivial chatter.
We talk about the weather.
We talk about work.
We talk about everything else – except the elephant in the room.

There’s an elephant in the room.
We all know it is there.
We are thinking about the elephant as we talk together.
It is constantly on our minds.
For, you see, it is a very big elephant.
It has hurt us all.
But we do not talk about the elephant in the room.

Oh, please, say her name.
Oh, please, say "Barbara" again.
Oh, please, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.
For if we talk about her death,
Perhaps we can talk about her life.
Can I say "Barbara" to you and not have you look away?
For if I cannot, then you are leaving me
Alone . . .

In a room . . .
With an elephant.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


I've not been on here posting anything for a while. I'm finishing off work and it's been a mad few weeks with time at the hospital for Chaplaincy and then time at home etc. I managed a post today but it's a bit chaotic really. I am trying to work on my dissertation which is a bit like pushing water uphill with a sieve. I also am working on a website design now I've got some webspace and a new email address.


Today, I started to realise something very worrying. After three years at Spurgeon's I'm going to be a minister. It all came to me this afternoon. I was sitting at my desk whilst starting to think about Chapter Three of my dissertation and was tidying up a bit and found a pile of photographs from the last time I was in Huddersfield. The church have given me photos of the congregation with names so I can start to learn peopl'e names. As I was flicking through the pictures I got an email of the newest member of the congregation - a little girl born on Tuesday this week. Then it dawned on me, that I'm actually going to be the pastor for these people. I'm actually being given a responsibility to serve these people, and be a pastoral carer.
Yesterday I was on a course about caring for people spiritually who are suffering from Cancer and I told a lady that I wanted to journey with people, sharing the highs and lows of each of them and going with them in what they are going through. The lady seemed to not believe that was possible.
Ministry is about what is unseen. Eugene Peterson's book 'Working the Angles' is a fantastic book which talks about a triangle, and the sides of administration, preaching and pastoral work are visable to all, but what holds the triangle together is a series of angles of prayer, scripture and devotional time. I found that really helpful in working out what it is that makes a ministry 'work'.
I'm quite nervous about going to this church, and I know they're looking at it as a partnership, but it's still intimidating really. I'm nearly a grown up!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Getting there!

It may seem small, it may seem insignificant to the rest of humanity, but the great thing about a blog is it's all about what I want to write:

Having just handed in my essay on lessons for the church from cancer chaplaincy I've now only got TWO essays to go (EVER), and my dissertation (but we won't speak of that) still to write. I would say it was an emotional moment going to the tray at reception and signing my essay into the tray for the pre-penultimate (?) time, but I wouldn't be telling the truth. Two more to go....HUDDERSFIELD HERE I COME!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Why I am an evangelical! (I am!)

I've got a question (and it's not to do with Brian McLaren). It's all arisen out of writing my dissertation entitled "Towards a Baptist Understanding of Community Ministry" based on Ann Morisy's work on Community development in her book Beyond the Good Samaritan and this week I've got into a discussion with some of my college friends (including Mark G) about what impact a focus on community work has upon my place as an evangelical.
I was challenged about my willingness to separate mission from evangelism and mission's good name was accused of being a shield for church's who want to avoid "the e word".
The more I read for my dissertation the more I am convinced that not only is social action and concern a necessary element of evangelical life but that mission is separate in cases from evangelism and that evangelism is only a part of missionary work. I was asked if I could give someone a hungry man either salvation or a loaf of bread which would i give, and it challenges me that I can't see him go without either.
There's a great book by Tim Chester (which is Out of Print, but legally available to download free here) which talks about the evangelical church "awaking from its slumber" of social concern and I'm convinced if we effectively want to reach people in communities and transform those communities we need to be do-ers of the good news rather than just speakers.
I am totally committed to the authority of the Bible above all else and the priority of evangelism within mission but not necessarily exclusively - there I've said it -but I would certainly say I'm evangelical. I don't think I'd be at this college otherwise. Maybe where I'm being misunderstood is that I'm not a Conservative Evangelical anymore.
(Oh, and the other reason my evangelicalism was questioned was that I'm not entirely satisfied by the model of penal substitution...but that goes back further than Steve Chalke's Lost Message!)
There is an Evangelical Alliance group called the Alliance Committee on Truth and Unity, but (and this thought is stolen from the Steve Chalke debate) it seems these days we're only bothered with the Unity and making sure we all agree nicely.
Am I really that bad?

Friday, February 18, 2005

Rowan's best friend?

Today we prayed in college chapel prayers for those who have the task of appointing the new Archbishop of York. For those who read my blog in December will remember some posts I made when I read the current Archbishop's biography. The new Archbishop enters a church in a period that some have described as the most crucial since the reformation. When I read David Hope's biography I warmed to him immensely and now wonder who will succeed him at York when he retires and returns to Parish ministry - not all that far from where I'll be settling.
Some would like a scholar, like Tom Wright (only just started at Durham though (evangelical too)) as it's traditional that York has an academic, some would like James Jones from Liverpool as an popular level evangelical though (even though a lot of the evangelicals worries about Rowan Williams seem to be unfounded) and names like Michael Nazir Ali (Rochester) are being bounded around. (The rank outsider is Spurgeon's own the Extremely Rev Ian Randall)
York is the second most senior post in the church and this decision is clearly crucial and could affect the direction that the Anglican communion takes. Personally (alas, I don't get a vote on this) I like James Jones, whenever I've seen him in public (at Spring Harvest, on Question Time etc.) he always seems a gentle and humble man with the ability to think and reflect and understand where all the sides are coming from. He really seemed to do a lot of good things when he was in Hull and now in Liverpool, but I'm sure other names will come forward equally well once the process gets into full swing.