It's been quite a long time since the last edition of Prayer News and much has happened since then. I suppose one of the most significant things was the finishing of the revision of John Stott's Issues Facing Christians Today which I sent off to Zondervan in the US. Actually I inadvertently sent it four times. I had a friendly reply from them protesting that four copies was quite enough. I think both John and myself felt a mixture of relief and anticipation as we concluded the project. Towards the end the work was quite intense as we discussed revisions and debated some of the finer points, but we both hope that this edition of the book will go around the world as others have done, be translated into many languages and be of great use to people as they try and address the issues of the day with Christian minds. As with all books, the end of the writing is only the beginning of the story and it's important for us to keep praying for those who are involved in the process of editing and production, for the distributors and for those who read the book.
One of the other subjects which was key over the period before the summer was 'work'. I worked with David Runcorn from Lichfield Diocese for two weekends on the subject of work with the curates of the diocese. We had met when David was lecturing at Trinity College, Bristol and it was good to renew our friendship and to meet with two groups of people who were both talented and committed to their calling. It's easy to assume wrongly that when you are talking about the subject of work to a group of ordained ministers, that they have left the world of work in some way. I think they also feel that they are sometimes patronised by lay people, yet many of them had a great deal of working experience whether it was in stockbroking, commercial management, probation work or as doctors. Others of course were working as chaplains in prisons or hospitals and still others were continuing in employment as well as working as an ordained minister. It's a subject I'm very aware of when I teach at St John's. It's important always to be aware that the students to whom one is talking may have a great deal of experience in the world of work and to draw on that and affirm it rather than to give the impression that they've moved on now to another world!
As you may remember, I'm writing a short book for Lion Hudson for young adults on the Christian faith, introducing them to the Christian faith but focusing also on the issues of the day. I was recently in London to speak at the prayer meeting of All Soul's, Langham Place and realised that I did not have the opening of the book written. I decided that instead of giving a report to them which included the fact that I was writing a book, I would write the first chapter there and then, read it out and get them to vote on whether it should stay in the book or not. So I sat in a cafe, got my faithful black-covered notebook out and feverishly wrote a short first chapter. As I did so I was very aware that J. K. Rowling wrote the first book or so of the Harry Potter series sitting in a cafe, in her case because, I think, she couldn't afford to heat her flat. I hoped that both the Holy Spirit would descend and inspire me but also perhaps that the muse of J. K. Rowling would descend since it seemed to have done her quite a lot of good materially to sit in cafes and write. It would be nice to write to you and say 'thank you for your donations but my book has now sold a million copies - we have too much money'. I'm not going to reproduce the first chapter here, but I do like the first sentence which intriguingly says, 'To read this book you will first need a torch, a rug and a starry night.' Those of you with time on your hands will, I think, with the aid of Romans 1, be able to construct a scenario which gives some idea of what the first chapter is about. I am currently spending most of my time writing the book and although I am writing easily, I am aware of the need for the quality of the writing to be maintained throughout.
I have taken on a new role at St John's College. As you know, I have been teaching ethics and social theology there in one form or another for many years as a visiting lecturer but have now taken on the role of being a tutor, which means that I have a group of nine students and have responsibility for guiding them through their college life, not only meeting with them in a fellowship group twice a week and in morning prayer once a week but also pastorally. This has meant that I now have a study at St John's and will be working for some of the week there. I am looking forward to this enormously, not only because I like the staff and students of St John's and get on well with them but also because it will be good to be part of a community, not only intellectually and in terms of friendship but also part of a worshipping community which meets regularly for corporate prayer and whose raison d'etre is growing in Christian maturity. It's very easy when one is writing or researching or even travelling around the country speaking to become isolated, which is not a good thing as there is a wide gulf between isolation and solitude. So do pray for me as I settle in and try and find my feet in the new role.
I am just starting a project with the Shaftesbury Society which is an organisation I've admired for some time and am now working with them on a project which is about theologically reflecting on their Christian distinctives and finding ways in which they can be practically worked out in the way they operate as an organisation. This piece of work will consist not only of writing papers for them but in holding workshops for each of the different divisions as well as the Senior Management Team and the Board. It is a piece of work which will have practical outcomes for the way in which Shaftesbury operates. It is a very large organisation and is already well-known for its Christian vision. One of the really positive aspects of Shaftesbury's work is that it is a 'doing' organisation or as somebody once remarked, 'It is Christianity with its sleeves rolled up.' So do pray particularly for 4th October, as I meet all day with the Senior Management Team and we begin to reflect together on the issues facing us.
Some of you will have noticed that the website is very out of date and a copy of this newsletter and some prayer points will be posted to the website but I am considering having a 'blog' (short for a web log) either as well as the website or instead of it. Blogs are much more flexible and I can add to it on a daily or weekly basis and you can interact with it and comment on what I'm doing or saying, either privately or openly so that other people can see. I'm currently exploring this and everybody around me says that this is very easy but either my neurons are not working or they are having me on. Anyway, watch this space and if I get one up and running, I will email you to let you know. I think it could be quite an exciting development, if and when I can get it off the ground. Also thank you very much for your giving, a core of you do give very regularly and generously and we are very grateful for that. Do continue to give - the autumn is particularly stressful in terms of balancing the books, yet we are grateful to God that we are still here and working away, although sometimes we have no idea how we continue to exist. Thank you also all of you who send notes or phone calls or emails which are encouraging. It is wonderful to have feedback.
In terms of family, we've had a great summer, not only addictively watching the test match series but also being able to get away on holiday. We live 100 metres from Trent Bridge cricket ground, so frustratingly could hear the roars but could only watch it on television, although I do think that having watched matches there, you know far more what is going on watching television than you do sitting in the ground, and it costs less money. Helen and I were able to get away for two weeks to Languedoc, where we were ensconced in a one bedroom gite, halfway up a mountain. Apart from getting lost in the briars and brambles on one of the mountains and having to be rescued, it was a restful time which we really enjoyed.. Lauren finished her A levels and could not have done better than she did, for which we're all very grateful. She is now going on a gap year and has got a job as a 'snow ranger' working on the ski slopes doing childcare for five months. Basically she wanted any job which would give her free ski passes, food and equipment and she seems to have found it, but only after applying for around a hundred jobs. Lizzie had a wonderful holiday with three friends of ours in Greece and is now back in her work experience programme in the NHS. Her health is still not good and she has recently been having difficulties with her epilepsy which refuses to come under control, yet she is remarkably resilient. Joanna continues to live in Brighton which is now her home and is just about to start a Masters degree in English, having worked in teaching and student support for a year. Helen continues to manage Rehabilitation and Intermediate Care for Nottingham City and enjoys it, although she is extremely busy, especially in the middle of constant change in the NHS.
So that's my news. Thank you for reading this. It's always difficult to know how long to make these emails and I hope you've got to the end. I remain very grateful to all of you who receive this and support my work: not only to those who give but to those who pray. I hope that you are also knowing something of God's blessing on your lives.