We have been the guests of the marvellous Methodists here in Headingley for over a year now. One of the challenges we face is using a sanctuary with very little adaptation or provision for PA (or AV – audio visual). HMC is a building designed for acoustic music and speaking and we are in a learning process about how to (1) adapt what we do to the ambience and character of the building and (2) adapt the building to our needs.
The musicians and PA team have worked really hard to develop the way they lead worship and project sound. We have invested in some new PA kit which is helping (big thanks to the generous donors who enabled this) and we need to invest in more (let me know if you would like to give to this!). However, last Sunday we had a new experience when the all the PA sound disappeared for a while! We were unplugged. For those in charge this was a moment of stress.
However, Alex Holt, our intrepid worship leader, was not phased for even a second! This is the man who comes to the rescue when the country gets flooded by unseasonal storms so the loss of amplification is but a minor nuisance! Up he jumps with some hastily recruited assistants and leads us in some wonderful, unplugged worship. No bother.
We were able to sing our songs and give adoration to our King. His Holy Spirit came and was present among us. Sometimes worship works really well when it is like that – unplugged. There is a simplicity and accessibility which allows us to come close to Him and sense His presence in an authentic way. There is nothing wrong with plugged-in worship of course but sometimes all that equipment, mics, effects pedals, wires and computers can get in the way.
It reminds me of what Jesus is getting at when he urges us to be like little children. For example when he says, “…whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…” (Matthew 18:1-11). There are times when he directs us back to a simple faith. Paul talks about it in 2 Corinthians 12 when he debates about how God uses him most when he is weak (verse 10).
Sometimes God will take away our “equipment”, though it is not bad in itself - sometimes it’s very good, but it can usurp the simplicity of our relationship with him. Our props can sometimes con us into thinking our faith is strong when actually it doesn’t rest on his strength but ours. You may have found this if you have been made redundant or fallen seriously ill or failed an exam or lost someone – you may have realised that your “happiness”, or your faith, was leaning on your income or career, or your health, your academic success or the presence of certain people.
A couple of weeks ago we read in Romans 2:4 that God, out of his kindness and patience, sometimes “unplugs” us so that we are led to depend more on him. Then we find out quickly if we are leaning on props and have a chance to repent and return to a simple faith in him. So don’t lose the opportunity of those unplugged times to turn to him in worship and prayer anyway. You may find that he is closer than ever.
During November we are highlighting three areas of outreach: (1) Ivan & Libby in Mexico and Ruth in Asia; (2) The Vine Debt Advice Centre and (3) the Vine Child Contact Centre. We have been inviting you to sign up to support these either with gifts or volunteer time or prayer. On Sunday 30 November we have a fun-filled all-age service “The Art of Thanksgiving” when you are requested to bring any gifts you have so that we can make an offering of them on the day.
I have been trying to show the CAP video for a little while now but events have conspired against me. Here is a link to the film, it’s only 5 minutes long and very moving. I commend it to you. If you would like to support the Vine with a regular gift then please click here.
This year our Carol Service is on Sunday evening 7 December and we have a Family Christmas Service on Sunday morning 21 December (invitation cards are available from the office and on Sunday at weekly worship). We will also have weekly worship on 28 December.
Weekly worship at seven
We are beginning to build the team which will run the evening service that starts on January 25. If you would like to join this team please let Ben, Kate or me know as soon as possible.
Signs of stress
A few weeks ago I wrote about the stress that Alison and I are under after a difficult few months of loss and illness. We managed to get away for a few days, indeed we had a spectacular, beautiful, summery day at Runswick Bay. I am also hoping to be able to take some time off in February or March. Alison is less able to get away because of the need to stay reasonably at hand for her father.
So, although, as time passes, some of the pain and loss we experienced does begin to lessen, it will take quite some time before we are back to equilibrium – certainly months and maybe years. But that’s OK, many of you are experiencing equally difficult things. We live in a fallen world and wait eagerly for the new creation when all this will be behind us.
Being unplugged like this has pushed us back to leaning on Jesus, our Saviour, Redeemer, Solace and Life-giver. When we are weak, he becomes stronger in us.