Wednesday, January 02, 2019

So, that was 2018 then

Just a brief retrospective from me this morning.

Personally, 2018 has held a number of challenges.  Many of these have been related to my position at Cowley Church Community (although on balance this continues to be a joy!), on which see below.  The year ended with a bit of a shock, as I had a curious episode which has been diagnosed as a probable transient ischemic attack (TIA) - essentially, a mini-stroke.  The episode was very brief, and no harm done, but it's certainly a shot across the bows from my own mortality.  So, roll on the statins, roll on the low-dose aspirin, roll on the 'lifestyle changes'.  I can report, having been forced to take a closer interest in such things, that all the food you like eating is poisonous, and that it is a sad business to have to moderate one's cheese intake over Christmastide.  Most fundamentally, I'm happily surprised to find that I really do look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come; one never knows, it seems to me, how much one really believes something until pressed a little to put some practical weight on the belief.  I am reassured.  However, I hope and intend to be with you all for a long while yet.

In terms of ministry, 2018 has been a mixed bag.  I continue to feel the fragility of our little church in Cowley - we are too small to be sustainable, and that comes with a degree of financial uncertainty - but on the other hand I see spiritual growth in so many of those who gather with us regularly.  The year has hit many of our church members with really hard things, and in the midst of them it's been a privilege to minister the gospel and see the Lord supplying faith, and with faith comfort and the ability to endure.  But whilst genuinely rejoicing at God's work amongst his people, can I be honest and express frustration with the slowness and difficulty of our evangelistic efforts?  Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?

In wider culture, I think one of the most important currents of 2018 surrounds the transgender debate.  It is striking that the elimination of the Christian doctrine of creation, having wreaked havoc in the sphere of human sexuality, now seems to be eroding something more basic: the idea of gender as a given, and thus human 'nature' at its most foundational level.  David Robertson at the FIEC Leaders' Conference opined that Satan may have over-reached here; certainly the reaction is interesting, and places biblically-oriented Christians in odd alliances with radical feminists and others.  One thing to note about the wider cultural debate is the effort to create an ideological space for those (particularly feminists) who disagree with the transgender agenda (so to speak) but do not see themselves as 'transphobic'; one wonders whether a similar space might not have been created in the sexuality debate, except that it was not politically expedient at the time for anyone to allow it.  We will see whether there is greater success here.  For the church, it is important to distinguish the wider debate - into which we must be free to speak boldly - from the pastoral response to gender difficulties which will inevitably crop up in a fallen world.  The church needs to learn to speak at two levels, but with one essential message.

Politically, 2018 has been a depressing time to be a British subject.  It is hard not to feel that the Lord gives us the leaders we deserve.  The interminable negotiations around Brexit seem to have reached a conclusion which is designed to aggravate all parties, and meanwhile much bigger issues (like domestic poverty, or the need to respond to a changing balance of global power) are ignored.  Personally, I've gone and joined a political party, for the first time since my teens.  (I think I recall then briefly being a member of the Conservative party, although I may be mis-remembering).  The SDP is looking to push its way back onto the political scene, and I felt inspired to join up.  The reasoning?  Well, it seems to me that when everything in politics is going to pot the responsible thing for concerned folk to do is not to disengage but to lean in, to put a shoulder to the wheel.  I don't think it's appropriate for a Christian minster to make too much of party politics, but I'll just take this opportunity to suggest you read through the SDP's New Declaration and see what you make of it; for me, the explicit rejection of intersectionality/victim discourse, coupled to the effort to find a sensible and pragmatic economic model, is compelling despite my doubts about some other elements (I remain, for example, unconvinced about PR).  But if not this party, could there be a party that you might join, and seek therein to have an active influence?

One thought I have going into 2019 is the importance of relating the passage of time to eschatology.  That is to say, to explicitly recognise that the sands of time are sinking; whether we're talking about personal endings or the grand ending of all history, each passing year (and month, week, day, hour...) is another step towards the breaking in of that dawn of heaven.  It is not in the past, nor the present, nor even the conceivable human future that we find our hope, or solutions to the great problems and issues of our times; but our hope is in the "fair sweet morn" of Christ's appearing.

Dark, dark hath been the midnight, but dayspring is at hand;
And glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel's land.


  1. Adam Carpenter12:17 pm

    Had a read through the sdp statement Dan. Lots of food for thought. Happy New Year to you all.

    1. Thanks Adam - a very happy new year to you and yours also! I hope you approve politically of my gentle drift leftwards. I realise there is a long way to go...

  2. Greatest summary of 2018, always enjoy reading your blogs.

  3. Congratulations on being inspired to join a political party! I also joined one (a different one) this year and agree it would be a good thing if more people were involved in one way or another.

    I agree about there being some good stuff in the statement but I'm curious about what made you decide to join such a small party (or even what brought them to your attention)? Is it that they are active locally in your area?

    1. They came to my attention on Twitter - they were briefly very much in the public eye after gaining an MEP. I don't know that they're active locally - I rather think not - but the Declaration struck a chord with me. I've been very disillusioned with the Tories of late, who don't seem to be actual Conservatives at all (actually fairly radical economic and social liberals and individualists...)

      We'll see how it develops, I guess!

  4. I'm sorry to hear of your health issues, but glad that things are okay.

    I enjoyed these reflections. I didn't realise the Gang of Four's legacy still lives on. I'm sceptical of them being 'Free from vested interests'... or at the least, that they could remain so once in power and therefore forced to compromise with capital.

    If you want to read something that may drag you even further left, Ben Reynolds's The Coming Revolution is fascinating (even if I don't share his this-worldly utopian hopes). A good review here: