At 14.13 today in Aberystwyth my first grandson Gwilym Arthur safely arrived. Apparently he's a whopping 9lb 5ozs and he has timed it to be two days overdue (stylishly late) and on the day before his mother's own birthday. The names were agreed on for various reasons but it is the Welsh form of William (the name of my grandfather, dad and nephew, etc) is popular in my family. One of my sons also has it as a second name and it was the name of the first boy I met in infants school. Llongyfarchiadau to the proud parents.
Bonhoeffer uses a similar phrase 'worldly Christianity'. It's J Gresham Machen that I want to line up most closely with. See his Christianity and culture here. Having done commentaries on Proverbs (Heavenly Wisdom) and Song of Songs (Heavenly Love), a matching title for Ecclesiastes would be Heavenly Worldliness. For my stance on worldliness, see 3 posts here.
I was in Tollington Park Baptist Church on Sunday. Again, this is a church slightly outside our area but I know some of the folk there and have had connections with them for years - yet another church where they have been praying for me over recent months. I was kindly invited to take part in the communion service at the end of the morning meeting. They use Praise! hymn book but have recently installed a projector too. I notice they have also retained the hymn board from the old building (I have mixed feelings about them but in combination with a book you can make some preparation for the singing part - with a projector and no printed order you have no idea of the shape of the service if you are a newcomer). A unique feature on the music front was the use of piped music to accompany us and that worked pretty well except that for some reason there was a power outage on it by the time of the last song of the day and we had to sing unaccompanied - thanks to a fine deacon we sang a capella and that was clearly the best. The church are currently without a pastor but praying fervently for one. Church officer Kevin Green preached morning and evening from Hebrews 3 taking 1-6 and 7ff in reverse order. Another officer gave a lively talk from Pilgrim's Progress as a sort of embryonic children's talk. We were around 25 in the morning and less than half that come the evening. There were a good range of people of all sorts though a little on the grey side I guess. Good to be there both times.
I've spent the last couple of days in Oxford looking out the Beddome archive at the Angus Library in Regents park College. It is easy enough to get a coach to Oxford from Baker Street and be in Oxford in about 90 minutes. I've done it before. This time I popped into Lincoln College where I once spent a night many years ago exploring being a student there. I hope to get there again soon.
I popped over to Highbury last Sunday. It is six miles away so it's slightly outside our area but I have long been aware of the church and the present minister, Andrew King, has always been very friendly. Like most of the churches I've been to recently they have modern building (like Highgate Rd they meet upstairs). Again there was a pretty diverse and friendly group present. Andrew led the whole thing and they used hymn books (Praise! and a supplement - nearly all modern hymns). There was piano accompaniment and again an African drum. A young woman sang with the instrumentalists but without a microphone. There was no formal collection. The order of service was straightforward, the only unusual feature being an interactive section with a whiteboard in preparation for the sermon, which was a six pointer (the points were written on a sheet for us) in the third in a new series on Ephesians 1. Andrew also tried to sell us some good books (I bought one!) which was refreshing. We had a cuppa to follow and they then had lunch and communion as it was the first Sunday of the month. I had some nice chats. How encouraging.
Highbury normally have a Bible study in the evening, which I might have gone to had it been on. Instead I went to Childs Hill where Robert was preaching again on Abraham from Genesis. We were only about 16 but it was good to be there. I enjoyed the hymns this morning but tonight (God of the covenant, a Horatius Bonar hymn on justification and Wesley's 'Tis finished! The messiah dies - superlative!).
I went along last week to the John Owen Centre last week (my privilege as a graduate). The lecturer was Lane Tipton and around 8 or 9 of us were there for the lectures Monday to Friday (I had to miss Wednesday afternoon). Most are taking the course and are a good bunch. Dr Tipton's way is to lecture and allow questions and discussion with a session at the pub at the end of the day for those who wish. I got along twice to The Dignity in Church End, Finchley, and enjoyed the banter and the theology with a number of useful things coming out. I'm still getting the reading done so I was not best placed to benefit from the course. We hung quite loosely to the subject with lectures on systematics, Karl Barth and a lot of time on historical Adam and creation approaches but that was fine. It was a privilege to be there. The JOC has new drinks machines and that added to the ambience.
It was good to be at the school yesterday night for a production of Midsummer Night's Dream, in which my son was Oberon. He did very well, as they all did on the whole, especially a very funny Bottom. The setting was the eighties for some reason. My son looked like a cross between David Bowie and Michael Jackson. Bottom wore Freddie Mercury gear. I thought the best joke was the girl taking the part of wall in the play wearing a Pink Floyd The Wall T-shirt. They're at it again tonight.
I went on Sunday to West Kilburn Baptist Church. This would be one of the churches that like Childs Hill was once in the LBA and the BU but has now left. It subsequently became quite Arminian but has gone in a Reformed direction more recently. I was especially friendly with the previous minister, Paul Pease and know the present minister well, Peter Law. Like Childs Hill they have a 19th century building but with chairs where there were once pews. They have a gallery where some sat.
Peter preached very helpfully morning and evening from Acts 15 and the first part of Luke 14. He was giving us systematic exposition but to the people before him. There were more of these in the morning (about a hundred or more) and less in the evening (twenty or so). The congregation is predominantly "African" but quite mixed ethnically. Like other churches I have attended recently they project their hymns on to the main wall (quite old fashioned ones this time around, although including the calypso carol!). There was a drum to go with two of the morning hymns and a little guitar band in the evening. Things were a little more laid back in the evening with an open time of prayer and I noticed that Peter preached from the pulpit in the morning. There was no collection. I liked the way Peter sought to tie together the different parts of the service with some comment.
It was good to be at the end of year service of the London Theological Seminary once again as leaving students spoke and there was a report on the year just gone. Spencer Cunnah who is the pastor of the church that meets where we were assembled chaired. Vice-Principal David Green gave the report this year and interviewed the students because the Principal Robert Strivens is on Sabbatical. Students were leaving for Germany, South Africa and other places, some not being clear exactly what was next, as ever. The preacher was my father-in -law, Geoff Thomas, who took us to Isaiah 6, very powerfully. Now entering his fiftieth year in ministry, he mentioned with pleasure the fact that I had studied at LTS and that my son and his grandson starts there next term. Unusually, the weather kept us off the lawn for tea in the main but it began to brighten up, chiming in with the good prospects next year when several new UK students join the seminary. David Green also drew attention to the new church planting course that begins in October. See more on the LTS website. There were about 160 present.
Bottom of Brynhyfryd, Croesyceiliog
The last two weeks have seen me making trips to Wales to collect two of my sons from Wales. First, it was Dylan, who's just finished at Cardiff. I stayed with my sister in Cwmbran and enjoyed being back home. Croesyceiliog has a million memories for me - where the man used to keep his goat, places where kids I remember lived, etc.
I went for a coffee in the town centre and enjoyed hearing words like skinny latte, cappuccino, Americano, etc, in a Cwmbran accent. It had never struck me before that those words aren't London words as such but words I first heard here.
I also fitted in a meet up with my old LTS friend Bernard Lewis (minister of Emmanuel) in the massive new Sainsbury's in Crindau. Crindau is where my mother grew up so it's slightly weird, it having a massive superstore in the middle of it. Dylan is now in California with friends.
Next it was Dewi from Swansea. This time I was much quicker and made a very short stay with my sister-in-law and family in Cardiff. I missed most of the England game but that was probably for the best. I brought Dewi back with his friend Tom. They were in (Welsh) Junior School together and have now linked up again on the same course at Swansea. They are at Wimbledon today.
This Sunday morning I went over the hill to Highgate Road Chapel. Their very old building was transformed some years ago and they have quite attractive modern facilities. The auditorium is upstairs.
Things are a little transitional there at present as the present pastor, Andrew Hill, is leaving to work with SASRA next month. As it turned out Artur Piotrowski, his assistant, led and the preacher was George Platt (on 1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10). The format of the service involved several leading and included a testimony from George, an open time of prayer and some more liturgical elements. The hymns were projected on to the wall and seemed to be drawn from different sources. Their youth pastor Simon played the piano and Andrew played a soprano sax from the front. We were around 30, a third being under-10s who had their own programme - a good range of people.
There was coffee to follow and a barbecue was also arranged. They have no evening service as such (though there was a 4 pm meeting) so I was glad to go along to Childs Hill where Robert Strivens was preaching on Abraham from Genesis 12. Excellent stuff. We were around 26 I think.