Monday, 31 December 2007


Happy New Year everyone
Let us celebrate
Another year we can enjoy
Hope that it will be great.

Ring out the old, ring in the new
A wish I have for you
That you have a year of happiness
And a year of prosperity too.

Let us be very thankful
For the life we call our own
And thank our troops that keep us safe
So very far from home.

So as we end our party
Let us thank the Lord above
For our friends and our family
And bless them all with love.

Ginny Bryant © 2007
Journey Of Love

Wishing you good health,
peace, love, cheer,
blessings and prosperity
this New Year and always

The Book they used to burn now fires new revolution of faith in China

In China it is known as the “sacred doctrine” and it has become one of the country’s bestselling books. Yet it has nothing to do with the thoughts of Chairman Mao and its teachings have been in conflict with the forces of Communism for generations.

Demand for the Bible is soaring in China, at a time when meteoric economic growth is testing the country’s allegiance to Communist doctrine. Today the 50 millionth Bible will roll off the presses of China’s only authorised publisher, Amity Printing, amid public fanfare and celebration.

In the past, foreign visitors were discouraged from bringing Bibles into the country in case they received some heavy-handed treatment from zealous Customs officials.

Such is the demand in China for Bibles that Amity Printing can scarcely keep pace. Early next year it will move into a new, much larger factory on the edge of the eastern city of Nanjing to become the world’s single-biggest producer of Bibles.

New Zealander Peter Dean, of the United Bible Societies, bustles between the humming state-of-the-art presses. Mr Dean, who has been in China at Amity since 1991, said: “This platform has been built as a blessing to the nation. It will print Bibles for China for as long as it takes to do it.” Authorities at the officially approved Protestant and Catholic churches put the size of China’s Christian population at about 30 million. But that does not include the tens of millions more who worship in private at underground churches loyal to the Vatican or to various Protestant churches.

Of the 50 million Bibles Amity has printed, 41 million were for the faithful in Chinese and eight minority languages. The rest have been for export to Russia and Africa. Sales surged from 505,000 in 1988 to a high of 6.5 million in 2005. Output last year was 3.5 million and is expected to rise in 2007.

One of Mr Dean’s bestsellers is a pocket Bible, a version not suitable for the older generation to read and which may indicate a rapid expansion in the number of new, younger believers. He cited a surge in demand during the Sars crisis in 2003, but refrained from commenting. The enterprise has clearly flourished through its discretion and careful adherence to China’s laws that prohibit evangelising.

The Bible is not on sale in mainstream Chinese bookshops but through a distribution system managed by the official church, for example at stalls set up for people attending morning service. But it does figure on a recommended reading list of useful books in the glitzy metropolis of Shanghai.

A country where the Communist ideology has lost much credibility is seeing an upsurge in conversions to Christianity. Li Baiguang, a prominent lawyer and Christian activist who was received by President Bush at the White House last year, said: “Rising wealth means that more and more people have been able to meet their material needs, the need for food and clothing.

“Then they are finding that they need to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul. In addition, they are seeing a breakdown in the moral order as money takes over. Thus, more and more people are turning to Christianity.”

In the ultra-leftist Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, Bibles were burnt as tomes of superstition. Much has altered since the 1980s when government policy required tourists and visitors not to bring in Bibles “in excess of personal use”. Many faithful took to smuggling the book into China to meet demand.

Cases of Bible smuggling are still reported and some people have been deported and locals even jailed. The Bibles they are smuggling usually contain the accepted gospel and an additional chapter slipped in among the pages relating to a particular sect or cult trying to spread its own beliefs.

It is such a sensitive issue that Chinese officials denied rumours recently that China would ban international athletes from bringing in Bibles to the Olympics in Beijing next August. However, the official Olympic website states: “Each traveller is recommended to take no more than one Bible into China.”

With China’s economy set to boom, Amity expects even higher demand when its new factory opens.

Mr Dean gestures to a new paper-sorting machine destined for the printing plant that had to be installed in the old facility recently to cope with demand. He is unconcerned about possible excess capacity. “Our lamp is full and the wick trimmed,” he said.

The believers

31% of China’s 1.05 billion adults consider themselves religious

200m of them are Buddhists or Taoists

40m the estimated population of Christians in China

1-2% are Muslims

1949 year China became officially atheist

Sources: China Daily; Central Intelligence Agency
The Times 8/12/2007

New Year 2008

Time to come down from our high horse
Get on the straight and narrow path
Turn over all our pride and vanity
Before God throws out His wrath

Our life on earth is not forever
We know not the day we shall die
We will then meet our maker
And bid this cruel world goodbye

We now begin another new year
Knowing not what it will bring
We hope for peace and love
With improvement in everything

We go forward toward the future
With faith we face each new day
Meeting the challenge it brings
Giving encouragement all the way

Reaching out with hope and kindness
Greeting our fellowman with love
Voicing praises and appreciation
To our Heavenly Father above

© 12-27-07 Norma Duncan ~aka~ Mistymaiden

Wishing you good health,
peace, love, cheer,
blessings and prosperity
this New Year and always

Friday, 21 December 2007

Christmas Greetings and summary of my year

Christmas 2007
Christmas Greetings from Caversham to my blogger friends who will not receive this letter by any other means! I have enjoyed good health this year, apart from a severe flare-up of cellulitis that necessitated 3 weeks in hospital in August.

Here, this year has been a year of mission called Regenerate Reading, which began with a big commissioning service in January and saw many new mission projects initiated by the various individual churches in the town. On Good Friday there was an ecumenical Walk of Witness through the town centre, with a very talented actor miming the story of the crucifixion in Broad Street and ending with a service outside St. Mary’s Minster Church. Recently we had a huge Thanksgiving Service in the Globe (a large West Indian Church), when we heard reports of all these new ventures and an inspiring and challenging address by the Bishop of Reading. Speakers on the platform remarked on the very good reporting from the Methodist churches, and it is all very encouraging. We have never had all the Christians in the town uniting together like this!

It was good to be back at Easter People – this time in Blackpool - in April as a Steward and Intercessor, among so many old friends, for the 20th and Final celebration. There were huge crowds and many more than were expected, so that the morning Bible Study session became two sessions instead of one and new venues had to be found for other events. It was very exciting and the hardest stewarding I have ever done (or am ever likely to have to do) but it was a great joy to be able to do it. I am very sorry to see the end of this great festival. Many will miss it!

Now we are all very sad because (the Revd Dr) Rob Frost, its founder and principal speaker, died on Remembrance Sunday at the age of 57. His funeral was at Raynes Park Methodist Church where we were members many years ago in the early years of our marriage, and a Thanksgiving Service for his life will be held at Westminster Central Hall at 3pm on 12th January. We also mourn the death of Janice Palmer, the Lay Minister of the Reading Deaf Church in a tragic road accident.

In June we completed the 33-week Disciple 3 course, with participants from 4 Circuits, and it is planned to begin studying the Disciple 4 course in September 2008. At my own Church (Caversham Heights) we have just ended the 6-week ‘Lost for Words’ course to train people to talk naturally about their faith in their ordinary everyday conversations, and it is hoped to offer more such courses next year. It has felt good, if a little strange after a few years without doing any leading or teaching, to be sharing the leadership of ‘Lost for Words’.

I went to the Methodist Conference in Blackpool in July where it was good to be able to listen to all the debates at this time of change within the Methodist Church, and it is always good to meet old friends from far and wide.

We welcomed a new Deacon in September who is learning to sign for the Deaf, so I took her with me when I went to the Oxford Diocesan Harvest Service for the Deaf at Wendover. and to the signed Diocesan Christmas Service for the Deaf when the speaker was the Archdeacon of Oxford.

At Caversham Heights we held our ‘Back to Church Sunday’ on the last Sunday of September and were well rewarded by the number of returnees.

Recently, about 8 of us went from our church to the Southampton District Fresh Expressions Roadshow when it came to Thatcham. This was extremely helpful and we came home with much to think about. It is hoped that we can organise our own version of Fresh Expressions next year.

In October I started a one-full-day-a-month course on spirituality at Sarum College, Salisbury, so I have journeyed there three times so far. The course is called ‘The Heart of the Divine’ and I am finding it very interesting, with much of it very new to me. It is well worth the early rising and catching two trains – because I have to change at Basingstoke – in the rush hour!

A major effort this year has been helping to identify photos and other information for the book on the family history of the Emmersons (my father’s family and the Bauls (my mother’s family) being compiled by my sister Muriel’s son, my nephew John. I had not bargained for the amount of work that this would entail, but it has thrown up much that is very interesting, including an account of the D-day landing by the commandos in the War! Then the Morgan family asked for my help with their family history, but I couldn’t help so much with that, except for a few old photos.

I have continued to proof-read translations of Scripture in strange languages for Wycliffe Associates, including the Bible in the Igbo language used in Nigeria. Now I have part of the Sotho 1985 Bible to check for use in Lesotho, Botswana and South Africa.

Sunday, 16 December 2007


BBC Radio 4 is to broadcast a series of plays on Luke’s Gospel that could have the same effect as Dorothy L Sayer’s radio classic The Man Born to Be King, according to one scholar. Mike Thompson, Vice-Principal and Lecturer in New Testament at Ridley Hall, Cambridge made the claim after seeing the scripts for Witness, five plays inspired by Luke’s Gospel. The ‘eye-witness’ accounts by Peter, Judas Iscariot, Andrew, Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ mother Mary, Caiaphas and Pilate will be followed by an in-depth exploration by contemporary Bible scholars. The plays have been written by award-winning writer Nick Warburton.

Sources: Baptist Times (14/12); Church of England Newspaper (14/12)

A word in your ear…

A Word in Time, the online Bible study for daily life, was launched at the beginning of September and has been hugely successful, with around 300 visitors to the site every day.

But now the team have decided to make the studies even more accessible. An audio file of each day’s Bible study, and a bigger file with all of the studies for each week can easily be downloaded onto a computer or mp3 player, so that users can listen at a time convenient to them.

Alison Pollard, Web Writer and Researcher and the new voice of A Word in Time says; ‘People find it increasingly difficult to make time to read and reflect on the Bible in today’s busy world. A Word in Time made it easier by giving people access to a Bible study on the internet. Now we’ve taken it to the next level and you can catch up with your daily Bible study at a time most convenient to you – whether you’re cooking dinner, doing your weekly shop or on the daily commute to work.’

A Word in Time features a daily Bible reading, background and an explanation of the text, reflections and questions to ponder from that week’s contributor. It follows the readings in the Methodist Prayer Handbook bringing the 40,000 readers of the handbook together with online disciples in their search for daily spirituality.

Each audio file is available in two formats – a high quality version for those using broadband internet connections and a lower-quality file for those using a dial-up connection. The audio files for past Bible studies are available online in the Word in Time archives.

The audio Bible studies are also ideal for sharing with those who otherwise might not have access to daily Bible notes, perhaps because of a disability or simply not having access to the internet.

Source; 3/12/'07

Friday, 14 December 2007


The Bible has become a best seller in China, with 50 million copies produced so far by the country’s only authorised publisher, Amity Printing, a joint venture between a Chinese Christian charity and the United Bible Societies. As demand is nearly outstripping supply, Amity is set to become the world’s single-biggest producer of Bibles. Their move into new and bigger premises in Nanjing is scheduled for 2008, with a view to increasing their current output by a third, to one million copies a month. According to lawyer and Christian activist Li Baiguang, the success of the Bible and the rapid growth of the Chinese church – an estimated 40 million believers – in the face of growing material wealth are the result of people seeking ‘to satisfy their spiritual needs, to look for happiness for the soul’.

Source: Sunday Times (8/12)

What joyful news to hear just before Christmas!

Saturday, 8 December 2007


Most people over 50 think too many Christian practices are being ‘downgraded’ in public life out of sensitivity to multi-culturalism, The Times reports. The Saga Populus survey of 10,000 over 50s found widespread concerns about the celebration of Christmas. Some 85 per cent objected to councils replacing ‘Christmas’ lights with ‘winter’ lights and 84 per cent were dismayed by the replacement of nativity plays with non-religious productions in schools. The poll release came on the same day that MPs held a special debate at Westminster Hall. Conservative backbencher Mark Pritchard urged the government to protect public expressions of the UK’s Christian heritage.

Source: The Times (5/12)

Our local newspaper has an advertisement for our newest shopping mall The Oracle that reads 'Come and celebrate the true meaning of Christmas - the birth of Santa.' On the other hand, the same newspaper will soon be having a roundup of local schools' Nativity plays.

Christmas Stamps

I understood that this year the Royal Mail were to produce specifically Christian stamps and I was therefore disappointed when the post office assistant affixed ordinary stamps to all my overseas mail - nothing at all festive about them! Some of my letters were a 'once a year' mailing just to keep in touch with friends I haven't seen for years, and it seemed a pity that they should miss out on the festive stamps. With the Post Office bursting at the seams with the long queues of people waiting for service, I just let them go. However, when it came to requesting a batch of stamps for my inland mail, I was asked 'Do you want Christmas stamps?' Fine, I thought, until I looked more closely and discovered that the stamps merely depicted an angel!

Now I see that Richard Hall on has gone into the question of our 2007 Christmas stamps in great detail, uncovering strange things like the various angels depicted and their significance! Whoever wouuld have thought that this is a celebration of the tercentenary of the birth of Charles Wesley who wrote 'Hark the herald angels sing'!

Stranger still, it seems that we are supposed to ASK specifically for them if we want Christmas stamps and, even then, we will only get the stamps depicting angels! We have to be even more specific if we want either of the two stamps depicting the Madonna and Child! What I want to know is - How can we ask specifically for something that we don't know exists? In the rush to post before the last posting date, who is going to consult the Royal Mail's website?

If I have aroused your curiosity, please go to Richard's website and feast yourself on the array of stamps available, with the explanations and names of the angels. Thank you, Richard!

A Commoner in the House of Commons

For those who are not following the accounts of their itinerary during their year in office written by this year’s President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference, there is a very interesting and important write-up by the President, the Revd Dr. Martyn Atkins, of his visit with other Christian church leaders to the House of Commons to champion the important, vital role that the churches play in the community.

Their visit to hold a conversation with Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was to plead for greater recognition for all that faith communities do (and particularly Christian churches) in terms of developing and sustaining communities – and have done for a long time.

They made the point that most Christian churches are more concerned with who benefits from a particular neighbourhood project than who runs it. They also drew attention to the suspicion levied at ‘faith communities’ that results in many deeming them unable (by simple virtue of being faith communities) to receive any Local Authority grants for good, socially cohesive projects. The church leaders made it clear that they are committed to dealing justly with migrant workers and that they are against political extremism.

However, you would be much better reading the President’s full account for yourself on .

Friday, 7 December 2007

Passport to Peace this Christmas

Peacebuilders, IndiaRelThis Christmas, new worship material is encouraging adults and children alike to become Messengers of Peace.

Produced by MethodistChildren, the Messengers of Peace service material invites congregations to make a Christmas ‘Peace Box’ containing items including a passport, iPod and nappy pin. These items can be used to tell the story of the Nativity on Christmas morning, or throughout Advent, and to draw out its significance for our contemporary search for peace.

Steve Pearce, Children’s Secretary for the Methodist Church, says; ‘In our mixed-up world, peace can often seem in short supply. But this material reminds us in a fresh way that we can all be messengers of peace as we seek to communicate God in our daily lives.’

Using Christmas Day as a focus for peace, there are also ideas for music and prayer, including making ‘peace doves’ and using sign language during worship songs.

Steve says, ‘The use of symbol and sign language in the service will not only make it more accessible to those with hearing difficulties, it will also introduce a new dimension to worship for everyone.’

The material is based on the highly successful Peacebuilders resources, launched in March this year in India. Because each church is different, the material is flexible enough so that it can be tailored to suit the church and congregation.

Source: 28/11

Saturday, 1 December 2007

A Changing Church for a Changing World

On Wednesday most of our house group went to the Fresh Expressions Roadshow which was visiting Thatcham, a few miles from here. I liked the prayer on the front cover of their brochure. It read, 'Living God, set our hearts on fire to risk ourselves for your mission to change the world.' The key questions being posed during our time together were -
What are the loud words of Jesus to your Church community now, which speak to you of God's call to journey to new people?
What are the possibilities that are emerging for new initiatives in your situation?
What particular gifts/charisms has God given to your Church community? (What is the essential nature of your Church?)
In what ways is your Church responding to changing times?

Right at the start we were reminded that 'It is not the Church of God that has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world.'

First we were startled by a presentation that vividly depicted the situation in the UK today, where 10% are 'regular' at church (attending monthly or more), 10% are irregular at church (less than monthly), 20% are open to come back, 20% are never coming back and 40% are non-churched (who have never come). It was then explained that until now we've tended to work with those on the fringe of the church, only to come to a stop when we reach those who declare that they are never coming back. So the suggestion was that we should work anti--Church-wise and employ alternative radical new initiatives which go out to the unchurched, allowing new forms of church to emerge. This approach certainly makes sense!

The suggested starting point was loving service, and it was emphasised that there are many ways in which we can show the people in our community that our Church really cares about the community and wants to share its love for the people in it. Becoming involved with the community is vital to fresh expressions of Church, because from that loving involvement spring opportunities for evangelism and discipledhip. We explored three possible routes to discipleship - building in Christianity from the start, building in spirituality from the start or creating a separate group. We were reminded0 that there are 4 dimensions of a mature Church -
UP - towards God
IN - fellowship
OUT - mission
OF - connected to the whole body of Christ.

Then we each chose two of a number of 'taster' sessions in which we learned more about recently established forms of Fresh Expressions. I chose 'The Liquid Church' or 'Cafe Church', in which an ordinary coffee shop is used to get alongside the people and gently introduce them to the Good News of Jesus. This is what some of us in our Church have vaguely talked about and it seems to be the most likely for our community. Time will tell whether we actually take the risk and put this into practice. Then I went to the session on 'What makes a healthy Church?' to learn more of the 4 vital dimensions of a healthy church.

Other possibilities that were presented to us were,'What do they say about your church?' - and our attention was drawn to Bridge Builders, a Christian organisation dedicated to providing training for mediation and facilitation services to equip Christians with appropriate skills; Global Mission Network who can offer a trained consultant to use consultancy skills in the Church so that Ministers and Church Workers can explore their work together to find the right way forward; Godly Play which is built on the Montessori tradition of religious education and can be used in a variety of settings; the Positive Parenting Course which lasts 8 weeks and is produced by The Family Caring Trust; a 'Holiday at Home', designed for those who don't normally have a holiday and specially useful at times when the normal church activities shut down in December and August; the Essence Course, which is a 6 week course exploring contemporary spirituality at quite a deep level (a very rich experience); Hope 2008 which provides ideas and practical examples of initiatives for Christians engaging with their communities; and the faith development potential of the small group.

Fresh Expressions has so many possibilities and is so flexible that each Church should be able, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to find the right way forward for their particular community. It involves faith and risk-taking, just like the first disciples, but we are challenged to try it. The Fresh Expressions roadshow booklet ends with the wise words 'Start with the Church and the mission will probably get lost. Start with mission and it is likely that the Church will be found.'

Coming Christmas

I've heard that it is snowing
With that Christmas atmosphere.
You're planning shopping lists
For the time is drawing near.

The sales are on, you're running fast
To find just what you like,
There's more to bake, so much to buy,
The budget's getting tight.

But, knowing you, you'll pray a lot,
Commit each thought you have
In caring for the good of all
To make another glad.

God bless you at this busy time
As upon His strength you rest.
He will guide you through each day
In Him you will be blessed.

Soft Whispers from
Derry's Heart Poems ©2007
Poetry from the Heart

And yet I do love a kind of light, melody, fragrance,
embracement when I love my God; for He is the light,
the melody, the fragrance, the sustenance, the embracement
of life - there in a brilliance that space cannot contain,
a sound that time cannot carry away, a perfume that no
breeze disperses, a taste undiminished by eating,
a clinging together that no saiety will sunder.
This I love in the love of my God.

Reproduced by permission.