New Year’s Resolutions in Church
People often make New Year’s Resolutions, regarding their own habits and behaviour. Usually they are about personal things, like “I will not eat chocolate”, “I will be kinder to such-and-such a relative”, “I will start to practise the piano again”, “I will get up half an hour earlier and take the dog for a walk” – and so on.
People also often break their New Year resolutions – perhaps because they are personal, and therefore no other person minds or even knows whether or not they have been broken. Or perhaps the resolutions are too ambitious in the first place, and therefore become too much of a burden to be persevered with.
Instead of, or in addition to, personal New Year’s resolutions, perhaps we should try making a few simple resolutions about how we conduct ourselves in Church. We can still make them now, more than a month after New Year. It does not really matter when we make our resolutions, – after all, a good resolution is a good resolution no matter when during the year it is made. And if we make resolutions about Church, perhaps we may keep them a little longer and/or a little better; especially if we keep them small, so that they do not become an impossible burden.
No one can deny that we are a Church in crisis. Congregational numbers are down, money is short, and we can afford only 1/3 of a stipend and expenses for our priest. But instead of being preoccupied with what we have not got and cannot have, let us make a resolution to thank God on a regular basis for the following blessings (you may be able to think of other blessings as well!)
- Instead of a negative comment about having to put up with artificial flowers, how about a positive comment that the flowers actually look really good; thanks to the work of the flower ladies.
- Instead of a negative comment about how poorly the congregation sings hymns, consider instead an expression of joy and appreciation that we still have music and singing each Sunday, which a few members of the congregation make a good job of leading.
- Instead of moaning about the financial strictures the Parish is under, let us instead express appreciation for long-range plans which have been made, which in the fullness of time should see the Parish being better off, even if not exactly opulent.
- We have a wonderful Priest in Bob, who shows unparalleled skill in explaining scripture to us, for which we pay him a mere pittance. Let us express out thankfulness for the work he is doing.
- We see pretty much the same people in Church each Sunday, and those same people also take the collection, do liturgy and prayers, welcoming, reading and serving. Don’t moan about it – be thankful that there are still such people who are able and willing to offer their services.
- Tea, coffee and cakes continues to be a major part of our services – again, something to be thankful for, and for the people who provide them.
In some ways, a small Church and a big Church are very much the same. Every parish, big or small, needs about the same number of collection people, liturgists, prayer leaders, welcomers, readers and servers. Every parish has a treasurer, a secretary, a vicar’s and people’s warden, and people to count the money, type the pew sheet, be responsible for outside groups using the hall, and every parish has a broadly similar sized vestry. Increasingly, every parish has to employ people to mow the lawns, and clean the Church and hall.
The difference is that in a big parish, there are people standing in the wings ready to take over these jobs when the present incumbents want to step down for a time. In a small parish, there often isn’t this surplus of people standing by, and many people feel obliged to carry on with their present roles and duties, long after they also feel they should have retired. So, –
- Instead of be-moaning the situation, instead be thankful that there are still at least the minimum number of people active and willing in our parish, to carry out all of the duties required of them.
There are people in our parish who, having constructed a roster, also follow it up and remind us we are “on”, a day or two before we are rostered to do something.
- These reminders are not made on the assumption that you will have forgotten; rather, they are merely to remind you in the unlikely event that you have! Don’t take offence – instead be happy that someone “has your back” in this way.
- And while we are about it, let’s thank God that there are people who are willing to put together, type up and maintain the various rosters that keep our Church running smoothly.
Sometimes things just get too hard for us. This may be because we feel we are not really appreciated, and it may be that an attitude of thanking God for the blessings which we realise surround us, will give us a new lease on life. But sometimes too, it is because, notwithstanding being appreciated, we just need a rest; a time to unwind, to think, to refresh.
So, take a break. No one should go on working when it ceases to be pleasurable for them. Tell others that you would like someone else to be found to do your job. Try to give as much time as possible for a replacement to be found; but take the rest you so richly deserve. So, the final blessing for which we could give thanks is:
- Don’t be negative about all the jobs you do, instead give thanks that someone else will do them if you need a break. No one should keep working, for the Church or for that matter anywhere else, when work becomes a burden to them.
Hopefully, if we cultivate the practice of giving thanks to God for each of these 10 blessings, Church will be a happy place that we will look forward to each week. I still do!
A final thought. Sometimes there will be conflict in Church; generally, because someone wants to do things one way, while others want to do it a different way.
This is healthy, provided it is handled properly. Remember, disagreements are not personal, unless you make them so. A difference of opinion is just that – a difference of opinion. It does not mean that you are valued less because you have a different opinion, unless you decide to act as though you are valued less.
By open, frank and thoughtful discussion, most differences can be resolved, without any loss of mana on either side.
Language is one of God’s wonderful gifts to us. It enables thoughts to be formulated and discussed between people, thereby broadening the knowledge of all the people involved in that discussion.
If God had decided for what-ever reason, not to give us the intelligence to form languages, we would at best be like (for example) our dogs and cats – great companions, but almost incapable of any but the most basic reasoning and thoughts. Through language comes elementary ideas, and through discussion and debate those ideas grow to eventually become more substantial knowledge.
It is also fundamental to all theories of learning (and there are several), that all knowledge is held only provisionally, until a better idea (or expression of that idea) replaces it. Almost all of the advances that human beings have made, whether in medicine or science or philosophy or religion etc., have been made through the improvement of knowledge over time, rather than through an entirely new thought.
So do not wish-away the occasional differences of opinion in Church, and do not assume that you are valued differently because you hold a different opinion to some others. Rather, present your point of view freely and without rancor, secure in the knowledge that all people, irrespective of their ideas or opinions, are valuable in the eyes of God, and should at all times be treated as such by their fellow human beings.
And also, be a little charitable to your fellow human beings, if they too seem to forget that from time to time!
Tony Poole, Priest’s Warden
What the Deuce
My young nephew emerged from his room where he had been watching TV. He positioned himself on the sofa next to his father, and asked “Dad, what is love and juice?”.
“Well son” replied his father (thinking, “looks like it’s time to explain the birds and the bees”), “when a man and a woman fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together they get married, sleep together and make love. The man’s juice enters the lady’s tummy, and then, if all goes well, along comes a lovely baby; just as you did to your mummy and me.”
Because of the bewildered look on his son’s face, his dad asked, “Er, what have you been watching?”
“Tennis”, his son replied
(With apologies to the Herald’s Sideswipe column)
Spike Milligan was a very special person. On the one hand, he was a manic depressive, and suffered bouts of deep, debilitating depression. When not depressed, he was an almost frenetically funny person, best known for writing the Goons series on BBC Radio (in the days before television!)
He did other writing too, including the universally acclaimed Children’s Book Badjelly the Witch. Here is another children’s piece he wrote:
Smiling is infectious
You catch it like the flu
When someone smiled at me today
I started smiling too
I walked around the corner
And someone saw me grin
When he smiled I realised
I had passed it on to him
I thought about the smile
And then realised its worth
A single smile like mine
Could travel round the earth
So, if you feel a smile begin
Don’t leave it undetected
Start an epidemic
And get the world infected.
Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting will be held after Church on Sunday 8th March 2020, shortly after the 9.00 O’clock service. The purpose of the AGM is to review the year to 31 December 2019, and to plan for the year 2020.
It is also part of the function of an AGM, to appoint or elect people to vestry, including two church wardens, two synods people, and between 3 and 15 other elected Members of Vestry; the number is determined by the AGM itself.
To be eligible for election, a person must have been a member of the Church for at least 6 months, and must be nominated, seconded, and have given their consent, all in writing. Elections for vestry must be by vote, even where the number of people putting themselves forward for election is less than the maximum number permitted by statute or resolution. This is to ensure that every person on vestry is positively elected onto it.
Please consider putting yourself forward for election onto vestry; forms to record your nomination, seconding and agreeing to stand will be available for the month or so before the AGM.
Even if you cannot stand for vestry on this occasion or at this time, please make every effort to be present. It is hoped that the meeting will last for not more than 1 hour.
It is likely that we will need to elect a new People’s Warden at the AGM. Please give some thought to whether you should put yourself forward for this role. Tony Poole has papers, prepared by Julie Adams, which set out the scope of the position.
In the meantime, please give some thought as to which of Julie’s duties you might be able to help us with until the AGM – either on your own, or in association with other people; small tasks like bringing milk for morning teas, cleaning up afterwards, keeping a watching-brief on toilets, phoning Auckland City Mission to arrange for food collections, setting up the Church before services, leaning where to turn the lights on, etc.
Talk to Bob or Tony if you think you could help until the AGM – or afterwards!
A Beginner’s Guide to the History of the Bible
The Bible can generally be thought of, not so much as one book as several collections of books, which when brought together make up the Bible. Three of the collections are the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Apocrypha. The Old Testament can be subdivided into the Pentateuch (the first five books), the Historical Books, the Wisdom Books, the poetry books and the Prophets. Within the New Testament there are the Epistles, the Gospels and the book of Revelation. Some of the books were written by one writer; others appear to have several writers. The name that is used in the title of a book is often meaningless; at that time, people were honoured by having a book named after them, it did not necessarily mean they wrote it. The books were not written at one time, and none of them were originally written in English.
The earliest portions of the Old Testament are thought to be in the Book of Job, written possibly as long ago as 2000 BC; however, most of the Old Testament is thought to have been written from 1600 BC onwards.
The books of the New Testament were probably all written between 50 and 100 AD, but it was not until 367 AD that a list was circulated by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, which finally established the content of the New Testament.
Put another way, the Bible in its original languages took 2,300 years to write and compile, although most of the writing was done in the 1700-year period between 1600 BC and 100 AD.
The languages in which the books of the Bible were originally written was Biblical Hebrew (an early form of the Hebrew language), Aramaic, and Koine Greek. Koine Greek is also known as Alexandrian, Hellenistic, Common or New Testament Greek; and is a later, and some say less elegant form of Greek compared to the Greek of Plato and Aristotle.
In our Christian Bible, the Old Testament consists of 39 books. These are the same books which make up the Tora or Hebrew Bible, except that in the Christian Old Testament several passages in Aramaic have been added (principally to the prophesies of Ezra and Daniel and one verse has been added to Jeremiah). Aramaic became the common language spoken in Israel in Jesus’ time, and some Aramaic words were used by the Gospel writers in the New Testament as well.
It appears surprising, therefore, that apart from those few sections referred to above, the New Testament was not written in Aramaic, but almost entirely in Koine Greek. This was because:
- Koine Greek was the language of scholarship in Israel during the years when the New Testament was being written (from 50 to 100 AD).
- Jerusalem was also part of the Roman Republic; the Republic comprised many countries each with their own language, and Koine Greek was a lingua franca (a language that is adopted as common between speakers whose native languages are different).
- Added to which, after many years in exile most Jews could not read Hebrew anymore (even though they spoke it). So, the New Testament too was written in Koine Greek.
Because the Jews could no longer read Hebrew, in around 300 BC a translation of the Jewish Tora from Hebrew into Koine Greek was undertaken by Jewish scholars, and completed around 200 BC. It became known as the Septuagint, and was widely accepted in Jewish synagogues from then on.
There is an interesting story about this translation, for which I am indebted to Rev. Bob Driver. This translation is thought to have been referred to in the Book of Numbers in the Old Testament, Chapter 10, v16 – 29. As you can see from reading those verses, there were originally only seventy translators, until two more were added late in the story. It is also thought that when Christ “appointed 72 others, and sent them two by two to go ahead of him into every town and place where he was about to go” (Luke Chapter 10, v1 – 16), he did so with the passage from Numbers in mind.
The first consciously Christian Old Testament closely followed the Jewish version, and was originally known as Septuagint LXX (LXX for is 70 in Roman numerals) because it was a translation by the 70 translators.
Christians today generally regard Koine Greek as the received text of the New Testament, partly because of the existence of the Septuagint, and partly because the Jewish writers of the New Testament freely used the Greek translation when citing the Jewish scriptures (or quoting Jesus doing so), implying that Jesus, his apostles, and their followers considered it reliable. For this reason, Koine Greek is also regarded as something close to if not actually the received language of the Old Testament as well.
Despite this, reference to the Hebrew and even Aramaic text is made in Christian translations when the Greek text appears obscure or unclear.
Remembering that most of Israel was part of the Roman Republic, and the language of Rome was Latin, there eventually became a demand for an authorative Latin translation of the Bible. In 382 AD, Jerome was commissioned by Pope Damasus I to revise the Gospels in use by the Roman Church. Jerome, on his own initiative, extended this work of revision and translation, to include most of the books of the Bible. Once published, the new version became widely accepted; and by the 13th century it was known as the “Vulgate“ (“in common use” ) Latin bible in the Catholic Church, and is still referred to in the Latin Church to this day. Jerome is now recognised as a Saint and Doctor of the Church by the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Communion. His feast day is 30 September.
The oldest copy of a Bible still in existence is thought to be an early 4th Century parchment book preserved in the Vatican Library, known as the Codex Vaticanus, although it is not a complete Bible as we now know it.
English language from the withdrawal of Roman troops in 407AD can be divided into Old English (until 1066), Middle English (1066 – 1500), and Modern English (1500 – Present). Translations of parts of the bible into both old and middle English did appear, but there appears to be no full biblical translation until the beginning of the Modern English era.
Apart from the amount of translation required, there was the practical difficulty of distributing the translated Bible or sections of the Bible, before the invention of the printing press. The earliest mention of a printing press is in a lawsuit brought by Johannes Gutenberg in Strasbourg in 1439.
Tyndale’s Bible of 1526, printed on a printing press 87 years later, was perhaps the earliest full English Bible, except that its translation of the old testament is incomplete, and its first version in particular employed Latin Grammar, which made it difficult for Britons to read.
Miles Coverdale drew on Tyndale’s translations, plus his own from both the Latin Vulgate and from German. He published a Bible in Antwerp in 1535. This bible was then adapted by Coverdale as the Great Bible, published during the reign of Henry VIII in 1539, and may have been the first English Bible. If it was, the second may have been the Bishop’s Bible, commissioned in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1568).
In the meantime, in January 1560 in Geneva, the early Protestant Reformers produced the Geneva Bible from the original Greek and Hebrew scriptures. Being reformers, their work did not meet with universal acceptance.
The King James Version (KJV) also known as the King James Bible (KJB) or simply the Authorised Version (AV) is a translation of the Christian Bible for the Church of England, partly in response to perceived problems caused by the Geneva Bible. It was proposed in 1604 at the Hampden Court Conference, and finally published in 1611 under the sponsorship of King James I.
The books of the KJV included the 39 books of the Old Testament, 14 books of the Apocrypha, and 27 books of the New Testament. Noted for its “Majesty of Style”, the King James Version has been described as one of the most important books in English culture and a driving force in shaping the English-speaking world.
King James gave the translators instructions intended to ensure that the new version would conform to the ecclesiology of, and reflect the episcopal structure of, the Church of England and its belief in an ordained clergy.
The translation was done by 47 translators working in 6 teams. The New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew (probably via Koine Greek) and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin.
In the Book of Common Prayer (1662), the text of the Authorised Version replaced the text of the Great Bible for epistle and Gospel readings, and as such was authorised by Parliament. It was extensively re-edited in 1769 into a standard text by Benjamin Blayney at Oxford. Over the course of the 18th Century, the Authorised Version supplanted the Latin Vulgate as the standard version of scripture for English speaking scholars. With the development of stereotype printing at the beginning of the 19th Century, it became the most widely printed book in history, following the form of Blayney’s editing and omitting the books of the Apocrypha. The standard version of the King James Bible, along with the Book of Common Prayer, was almost unchallenged until well into the 20th Century. Older parishioners may well still have copies of one or both on their bookshelves.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible actually began as the 1901 American Standard Version of the Bible, published by Thomas Nelson and Sons. In 1928 the International Council of Religious Education acquired the copyright to it, and in 1937 set up a panel of translators to begin revising the ASV. In 1950 the ICRE merged with the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and it was not until September 30 1952, that the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was published.
It was well received, but did engendered some controversy; most notably, over the choice of standard Greek text used; over continued use of archaic pronouns and verbs when addressing God (while using modern pronouns and verbs when addressing everyone else); over the inclusion of a Jewish scholar on the translation panel; because it left out some books of the apocrypha; and because the translation appeared indecisive over whether Mary was to be described as “a virgin” or “a young woman”. The translation sparked renewed calls by some pastors and in some churches for the “King James Version only” bible to be used.
In 1952, a later Standard Revised version was issued which does away with the archaic forms of pronoun for God, and includes more of the apocrypha.
In 1962, yet another version of the SRV was issued with a further 85 alterations made to the text of the SRV, principally to meet complaints from various Churches, and Thomas Nelson lost their monopoly to print the RSV.
In 1971 a second edition was published, which included a thorough re-editing of the New Testament, partly to meet demands for amendments, and partly to incorporate additional Greek manuscripts not previously available.
In 1973 a Common Bible edition was produced, based on the RSV, but including a number of books previously not included in it. Its goal was to help ecumenical relations between Churches; the result is that the Common Bible is now the most comprehensive Bible to date.
In 1989 a New Standard Revised Version was released. It was the first major revision to use gender-neutral language, and is claimed to have drawn more criticism and ire from conservative Christians than did its 1952 predecessor, because the modified language obscured phrases in the Old Testament that could be read as messianic prophecies.
In response, in 2001 Crossway Bibles introduced the English Standard Version. It uses only a small amount of gender-neutral language. It also modifies RSV passages that conservatives have long disputed: e.g., RSV’s Isaiah 7:14 usage of the phrase “young woman” was changed back to “virgin”!
Cutting across the RSV and NSRV was the Jerusalem Bible. It was proposed by Pope Pius XII in 1943, who encouraged French Scholars to translate the scriptures from Hebrew and Greek scripts, rather than the vulgate. It was published in 1956, and translated into English in 1966.
The translation has been admired for its literary qualities. Many of the Old Testament passages, for example, are recognised as being poetry of the day and are laid out in poetic form. The English version of the Jerusalem Bible is not really a translation from the French; rather, it is an original translation (from the Hebrew and Greek), but heavily influenced by the French. It has been described as a “thought for thought” rather than a “word for word” translation. The translation itself reflects a modern, scholarly approach. It is widely praised, admired and sometimes used by liberal and moderate Protestants, as well as by many Catholic Priests. The Jerusalem Bible is one of several bibles authorised to be used in services of the Episcopal Church and other Anglican Churches.
I bought my copy from a second hand shop in Tokoroa for $15.00. It was a good buy!
Rev Bob Driver
There is a big interest today in family trees, genealogy (not geneology!). In a world which is changing so rapidly, this is perhaps understandable; we need some sort of permanence on which to stand and after all, if we don’t know where we’ve come from, how on earth can we know where we are going?
We are, whether we like it or not, products in some sense of previous generations, summed up perhaps in the phrase, “like father, like son” or “like mother, like daughter.”
This last couple of summer holidays, Anne and myself have been visiting places in New Zealand associated with her family – Feilding, Inglewood included. This involves a certain amount of detective work – looking up records in libraries for sure, but also trying to work out what influences were operating at the time which led people to do what they did and go where they went. So economic history comes into the equation. Ethnicity too – if you were of German speaking extraction, you might well have suffered persecution during the first world war and tried to hide your origin.
Interestingly, at Inglewood, while there was a memorial to the contribution made by Polish people to the town’s development, there was no mention of the German contribution.
There is too a spiritual inheritance as well as a physical one. It’s worthwhile trying to discover what your antecedents are – in my own case the Drivers were at one time Quakers; more recently Roman Catholics. Then you can begin to understand how these have influenced your own beliefs and practices.
You can broaden all this personal history into something larger. Rowan Williams, one-time Archbishop of Canterbury, writes,” A Church that shares the widespread and fashionable illiteracy of this culture about how religious faith worked in other ages, is grossly weakened in its witness.
That witness has to do with a promise of Universal Community that is grounded not in assumptions about universal right and reason, but in a narrative displaying how communication is made possible between strangers by a common relatedness to God’s presence and acts in history – in a historical Person …. If the historical strangers we celebrate and converse with are stranger than we first thought, that underlines the strangeness of the very fact of the Church, of our belief in the Body of Christ. And this strengthens the conviction that the appropriate response to the fact of the Church is gratitude. … God cannot be reduced to the level of an agent within history among others. This God is, in other words, a stranger in the most radical way possible, yet who wills to be in communion with human agents at all times and all corners of the world.”
Rowan Williams, “Why Study the Past?”, 2005