We are a group of four Anglican parish churches who enjoy working collaboratively in serving the people and communities of Beech Hill, Farley Hill, Grazeley, Riseley, Shinfield, Spencers Wood, Swallowfield and Three Mile Cross. Our four parish churches are delightfully different in history and character, each offering a different take on what it means to be active, forward-looking, community-focussed churches of the 21st century. Each church also has its own style of worship, weekly activities and pattern of services that continue to evolve. You should find all you need to know about us as you engage with our website, but if you’d like to meet and talk something through in person… don’t hesitate to get in touch.
How to boil a lobster!
A fish cannot see water and likewise we are often blind to the culture that surrounds us. We like to think that we are free thinkers and can take an objective view as to what is happening in the world around us, but actually this is not true.
John Maynard Keynes wrote the following: “The ideas of economist and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.”
Ideas are not neutral - they have legs and walk into our minds. In fact, the bible warns us that this is the case: “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.” Col 2 v8. So not only do they walk into our minds, their purposes are sinister, trying to capture and ensnare our minds into their twisted way of thinking. The difficulty for us is that this is not always obvious; as Keynes said this is a ‘gradual encroachment of ideas.’ Without realising it, we pick up through newspapers, television, social media, popular novels and, undoubtedly, Hollywood, distorted views on the true meaning of love and freedom and faith to name but three.
Recently, there was a debate on how best to cook a lobster. Some were saying that it is cruel to boil a lobster alive. Debate then ensued on how best to dispatch a lobster, if at all? Michael Greenwald in his ‘Cruising Chef Cookbook’ suggests “...add an inch of sea water to a large pot, add the lobster and bring slowly to the boil. The lobster just keels over.” Sadly, this is like the Church of England which is slowly keeling over according to recent reports. In most places the C of E is in decline, as the ageing congregations lose 1% per year as people die or become housebound and unable to attend church. This is in contrast to the worldwide church (and pockets in this country) where the church is growing and vibrant, even in places where it is being persecuted. When the church tries to incorporate, accommodate and appease the thinking of the spiritual powers of this world, it slowly and gradually dies. This death is particularly apparent in rich, liberal, western democracies, which places humanism above God. However, where the church holds on to the historic faith of the bible, moulding itself on the teachings of Christ and the apostles, it blossoms, despite persecution.
To use one final water analogy, the church is like a lifeboat and the world is like a tempestuous sea. The church needs to be in the world on a rescue mission as the lifeboat needs to be in the sea if it is to save anybody. But if the lifeboat allows too much sea into the boat, it sinks. Likewise, if the church allows too much of the world into its teaching, it dies.
Revd David Little