CODEC’s MediaLit Conference 2017

Can Artificially Intelligent Machines go to heaven? Can you take Eucharist on the internet? Is Facebook a good thing for our churches? These questions and many other issues and themes which arise from the increasingly digital world which overlaps onto and into our lives have been explored at the CODEC MediaLit conference this June 12-16 2017.

It has been an interesting experience and I’ve entered into the experience by blogging and tweeting throughout. I’ve posted blogs on each session on Medium and I’ve gathered them all together in this post here. The Chronicles of the CODEC Conference.

View story at Medium.com

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The Son of Man will come with Glory

This week I’ve been in a block teaching module called Preaching From the Synoptics. 

It’s been a great, if long and somewhat intense, couple of days looking at some of the background of Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospels with a particular eye on how this might influence the decisions which we have to make when we plan a sermon.

At the end of the first afternoon we did a workshop exercise together called ‘Ten to Two’.

The premise was simple.

We would have ten minutes to pick a point from Mark 13 (which we had just been discussing) and plan a two minute reflection on it. However it had to be in keeping with the rest of the chapter. That is, we couldn’t just pick the word ‘temple’ and talk about Churches etc.

This was more than just a creative writing exercise as we then each took it in turns to present our reflections to the group! It was truly fascinating to get a glimpse at the sheer variety of ways that people could engage with the passage and of the wealth of approaches and methods we might take. Some presentations were profound, others inspiring and some were even quite funny. Mine, well I’m not quite sure how I would categorise mine. Perhaps as a mix between the imagery of Mark 13 and the Lord of the Rings?

Let me know what you think in the comments below; either about my reflection or of anything which has stood out for you from mark 13 before.

The Son of Man will come with Glory 

There will be death,
and destruction…

A shadow of despair shall permeate the land.

The temple will fall. Families will breakdown and the sound of singing will become as a forgotten memory – belonging more properly to the legends of old.

“When will this happen?” They asked.

Jesus casts his eyes down at the still standing temple and replies almost wistfully…

Many will come claiming that they are the messiah…

They will walk in the darkness with strips of cloth bound across their eyes.

They will shout loudly, but their voices shall be muffled in the tepid air.

Yet more will come…

Ones with their own vain promises,
others with foolish desires and ambition.

But when the Son of Man comes…

When the Son of Man comes he shall come with great power and glory on the clouds. 

And the dawn shall break forth on a new day; shedding the shadows of Death, dispelling the fears of the hopeless. There will be such a light as has never been seen while the birds start to sing when the Son of Man returns to what is his.


 

Stephen Motyer has written a great book on the return of Christ which actually examines Mark 13 in detail. Read my review if you’re interested to know more. 

Invaded by Light 

“It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his son from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not to be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkingly horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! 

– Bonhoeffer, Life Together. 

This last week has been filled with induction sessions to Cranmer Hall. One of those sessions was to introduce us to the importance of discipleship, and to explain how discipleship groups work at Cranmer. During the session we reflected in small groups on a couple of quotes, including this one from Bonhoeffer. 

It was fascinating to hear the variety and depth of interpretations and meanings that people drew out of this piece. Reflecting on this relationship between “the devout” and “the sinners” my mind wandered through my imagination to describe it metaphorically. 

The picture which came to mind was of campfires. 

Jesus is the light of the world, a light which shines in the darkness. 

In turn we are told to be the lights of the world, shining like stars. 

Often, we gather around one another and look in – content to be warm by the campfire.

There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact if we are finding that our spiritual lives are getting tired, or that our light is growing dim then being refuelled by the fire is a good thing in order that we might shine brighter. 

The problem is not with gathering as a community of light. 

But Jesus is a light who shines in the darkness… 

… and the darkness shall not overcome it. 

Light shines in darkness, as the stars hang on the empty canvass of space. 

The light is not dependent on the darkness to be light, but it finds its truest realisation when it uncovers that which has not been seen; both revealing what is in the darkness, and bringing into the darkness something quite different. 

It can be easy to think of it as “us and them”, devout and sinners, light and dark. The truth is that it’s not as simple as encouraging the righteous to go and evangelise to those in the dark and bring them into the light- though we should do this. 

The more complex, and I would suggest richer, reality is that this contrast of light and darkness can be found within ourselves. “If we say that we have no sin then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. 

None of us are pure light, none of us are purely good. Infact all of us have our own hidden sins, our secrets and inner darknesses. Though outwardly we may have fellowship, inwardly we can remain trapped in loneliness, as Bonhoeffer aptly observed. To hide this darkness means to restrict where the light can shine, or else the darkness will be seen. 

Growth, then, means to allow the light of Christ to expose our sins first to ourselves and then to confess them before God and, where appropriate, with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The hoped for transformation and renewal of our hearts, bodies, minds and even our lives is therefore nothing less than an invasion of our darkness by light. A single flame stands in the dark as a trained swordsman in a ramshackle fort of bandits. 

The darkness shall not overcome the light, nor shall ‘the gates of hell’ prevail against the steady march of the kingdom as we find ourselves claimed by the Lord of Life to be his beloved children. 

Let us not live in loneliness, sin and darkness. 

Let us live in fellowship, freedom and light – to the glory of the name of Jesus. 

A Personal Update: Starting Ordination Training

Naturally, any blog involves the instantiation of one’s self into the posts. It’s impossible to write meaningfully and to not at the least imply something of yourself and your thoughts through the words. However, while I have written about my experiences in a couple of posts (like my recent reflection on my deafness and sense of identity or what I remember of 9/11) I have generally written about a topic or an event (like my Lent Reflections , thoughts on the Cross or Justin Welby and Identity), rather than myself.

Today is different though.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve just spent the last two years working as a Pastoral Support Worker at the London School of Theology while studying for a masters in Theology part time. This followed three years  of studying for my Bachelors of Arts in Theology.

Whilst there, a sense of calling which I have avoided most of my life became increasingly hard to ignore. Having grown up as the son of a Vicar people had always assumed that I would be a Vicar like my Dad (with more than a joke or two made about some day being the Archbishop of Canterbury!). I had always disagreed. That was not to be my life – I would be my own person thank you very much.

My philosophy ever since I had to choose my options of my GCSEs has been to study what I’ve found interesting and enjoyable and I would hopefully find myself qualified for a job I would find interesting and enjoyable.

This led to choosing my sixth form in order to do Philosophy and Ethics.

In turn I then chose to study theology at the London School of Theology. I wanted to engage with scripture and the philosophies of faith from a believing Christian perspective, but I didn’t want to go to a denominational college as I was aware that I was, then, Anglican by virtue primarily of having grown up with it. The London School of Theology is both interdenominational and international and intercultural. This broadened my horizons on many levels. A story for another time would be my experiences of my first year where I began to recognise that I with my growing and developing theological understandings fit best into the Anglican system of beliefs (despite my baptist roommate passionately explaining his various perspectives until 4am on several occasions; and vice versa!).

During my time there  I underwent a lot of personal transformation, much of which was a direct result of the Gospel which was ministered to me continuously through studies, friendships, the community, prayer and worship.

As a result of many conversations with different people I spoke to my Dad to ask what the process was of exploring the possibility of ordination. He pointed me towards the Bishop’s Officer for Ordinands and Initial Training (formerly the Diocesan Director of Ordinands; DDO). At his recommendation I spent probably the best part of a year, if not more, having conversations with a vocations adviser.

It was these conversations which really guided my reflections on my faith, abilities and sense of calling. There were a couple of moments in particular which spiritually resonated with me and gave me the confidence to knock on the door and see what would happen.

A few more chats with the DDO, a couple of interviews with examining chaplains and a Bishop and I was off to the Bishop’s Advisory Panel in May of this year. For those who don’t know, this is a residential few days of a variety of activities. There’s presentations and group discussions, and there’s a series of interviews. These are the Pastoral, the Educational and the Vocational. Over the course of the few days (I keep thinking of it as a weekend but it was a mid-week thing) they assess you against the nine selection criteria  and write a report which advises your Bishop on whether or not they recommend you for training. It was both an intense but oddly comfortable experience which raised about as many doubts as it settled nerves.

I had a visit to speak with the Bishop a couple of weeks later and he was satisfied to send me for training.

A few more interviews and a busy summer of studying and paperwork and here I am! Sitting in my office in my house in Durham (which I’ll be sharing with some fellow ordinands) getting ready for the induction days which start tomorrow!

I am now here and about to spend a couple of years at Cranmer Hall training for Ordination and ministry in the Church of England. It’s an exciting place to be emotionally and spiritually. I imagine that I have no idea what I’ve let myself in for! One of my lecturers at the London School of Theology gave me this small poster of encouragement a year or so ago and I’ve placed it on my door here as a reminder and encouragement to myself to fix my eyes on Christ as I find myself pursuing this path of obedience to the Lord who has called me to follow him.

I look forward to blogging more often, reflecting on the topics we study and, where appropriate, of my experiences here in this next chapter of my own pilgrim journey seeking after God! I also have some side projects in mind which will hopefully be appearing in the near future!

May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your Spirit,

Samuel S. Thorp 

Evangelical Leadership, by Ian Paul – A Review

I recently had the opportunity to read Ian Paul’s Evangelical Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities, a grove booklet in the Leadership Series.

I have reviewed it for Illuminate Magazine, the student publication for the London School of Theology – where I live, work and study.

Check it out:

 The London School of Theology’s mission statement declares that ‘LST is an evangelical academic learning community called to equip and encourage one another to be disciples of Jesus Christ.’ Students go on from LST to ‘wherever Jesus calls them and in whatever task’. Many find themselves heading on to positions of leadership in various denominations and contexts around the world. The questions posed by the responsibilities of leadership are ones which much has been written on, but Evangelical Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities provides a clear and engaging dialogue on leadership, with guided reflections to aid the reader which many will find beneficial to consider seriously.

Read the rest of the Review at Illuminate

The General Synod of the Church of England meets this week. On Monday 15th February Archbishop Justin Welby used his presidential address to reflect on the outcome, and response to, of the Primates meeting earlier this year.

I would love to spend time reflecting further on his response and offering some thoughts but sadly I don’t have time to do so.

However, I would encourage you to watch and listen to it here below, or to read the transcript available here.

Ian Paul, who writes at psephizo.com, has recently been been appointed to the Archbishop’s Council and is present at the General Synod this week. He shared some of his reflections on this address during his reflections on day one of the General Synod.  I personally found it interesting and if you’re interested in the address then give it a read!

The Archbishop of Canterbury concluded, saying:

Life will not be perfect, or even anything remotely approaching it. That kind of over-realised eschatology is a nonsense. There are no quick fixes, magic wands or perfect spells. There is no church order that ensures perfection, nor one in which human sin does not add to the problems of the whole.

Yet there is a way forward that reveals the unity that we are given, and that celebrates the strength that we can bring each other; that enables us to love those who oppose us, and that focuses on human flourishing and on the setting free those who are bound by rules which Jesus could never have imagined, nor Paul (let’s put that old idiocy to rest), and which have emerged out of a desire for power rather than the expectation of the kingdom of God. There is, in short, a way forward in which we look like the people of Christ.