Size *does* matter

So, a sermon.  How long should it be?  Until my move to Düsseldorf, I was used to an average of 10 minutes for a sermon, reasonably succinct.  At Christ Church Düsseldorf the average length is 20 minutes.  That’s generally ok for me, but I’m nto sure the average person can nowadays sit and listen effectively for that amount of time.  (Think: the three-minute culture.)

So, I’ll keep it short.  How long should a good sermon be?

Have a succinct day, won’t you!


“Ich bin zu schwach”

Even when John Denver was not trendy, I still liked him and his easy-listening music.  Mind, I like Jürgen Marcus and Eine Neue Liebe Ist Wie Ein Neues Leben.  (Hey, I’m a natural redhead.  I’ve always been the un-trendy outsider.)

My favourite John Denver song is Leaving on a Jet Plane.  Since early April, I’ve been working and staying in London, while Schatz, my friends, my mountain bike, my books, house group, etc, etc, are all back in Düsseldorf.  (Actually, Schatz lives up the road from DUS, but that is by the by.)

It’s a compliment, in many a way, but Schatz often has a bit of a cry in the evening after we’ve said goodbye each time she drops me of at DUS airport for my Sunday PM flight back to Heathrow (bis zum nächsten Mal).  (She’s not British, so wasn’t born with our stiff upper lip.)

Incidentally, to digress a bit.  Two days too late for Yorkshire Day, I like this picture.

British by birth.  Yorkshire by Grace of God.

British by birth. Yorkshire by Grace of God.

Enough patriotism.  (God Save Yorkshire!)

Sometimes Schatz will tell me, “I am too weak.”

Nein, Schatz, ‘bist Du gar nicht.  It’s just that we pads brats have trained for years in the nomadic lifestyle and taking it all in the chin.  Freemasons have secret handshakes.  Pads brats: probably the secret shoulder shrug to say, “Well, we are where we are.  Fancy a brew, anyone?”

Somehow, instinctively, I feel my time to be “back at base,” in DUS is round the corner.

Have a strong day, won’t you!

We’re Protestant, we’re Proud…

Actually, relieved might be the more appropriate adjective, rather than those words from Billy’s Boys.  Today I attended the Roman Catholic first communion of the son of the Lovely Doctor’s cousin.  Does that make him a first cousin once removed?  Irrelevant…  Nice church, big.  Far bigger than my own Anglican church in DUS.  But, boy, was that service/mass long.  Nearly two hours long.  And standing room only.  Not my cup of tea.  But I’m glad I went.  Interesting to see how the other half live, how the other half worship.

  • Did the mass “add value”?  (A bit of business jargon there.)
  • How many of the first communicants and their families will worship there again (at least, in the near future)?
  • Given that the attention span of most children and even most adults is finite, why allow it to last so long?

It all seems to me, a practising low-church Anglican, a bit odd (British understatement) to make a child’s first exposure to church such a long, drawn-out, not exactly “user-friendly” event.  Roll on the next Anglican “espresso” service at Marktkirche next Sunday, to last, tops, one hour.

Meanwhile, enjoy this excellent clip by Dara.  Prod hymns may be lengthy, but that is as nothing compared to Catholic services. 🙂


Shocked, but surprised… nonetheless, shaken and more than a little bit stirred

So, last night I climbed into bed, grabbed my Kindle to put internet radio on and catch The Westminster Hour on Radio 4.  I decided to check my Hotmail for any late emails.

A mail from the church warden.  Due to ill-health, Stephen, our chaplain at Christ Church Duesseldorf is retiring in April.  Double-take time.  I re-read the mail.  Yes, I did read correctly.  It all makes sense now, and early retirement will be the best thing for Stephen and his longevity.

How do I avoid this article sounding like an obituary?

I remember:

  • Stephen’s caring and encouraging email to me at Christmas 2007, after I’d lost my job.  He reminded me of the story of Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers, yet through his faith, ended up being the Pharoah’s right-hand man.
  • December 2011 – telling him joyfully that he was going to have a new member of his congregation – Ginge is back in town!
  • His personal finance tips
  • His tea, sympathy and listening ear during the hard times of late 2012

What now?  The show must go on.  It will go on.  Anglicanism is resilient.

  • We must find a new chaplain.  Folks, it’s a great posting, it really is.
  • We must find locum chaplains during the interregnum.  Let us hope and pray it is less than the eight months that Abingdon had.
  • We the laity and church council must apply our wisdom to stay strong and grow stronger.

We will grow stronger.

  • We have our church plant in Essen at the Marktkirche.  We show the locals what tea and biscuit ministry is all about.
  • We have a very healthy young people’s ministry.

Thank you, Stephen, for you have been a real blessing to Christ Church Düsseldorf.

“New Year, New Me”

So, a copy and paste from last year?  Yes, probably.  But to quote from the grafitti in the men’s toilets,

“Man without target hits nothing.”

This year’s resolutions…

1. To lose weight.  Got to be done.  “The same procedure as every year,” to quote from Dinner for One.  Who wants to live forever?  Well, who wants to die early?  Not me.

2. Pay off the overdraft.  Making good progress, I am pleased to say.

3. Build up savings.  Germans are big savers, and I think it is a commendable habit to be a saver.  I still have my Postbank Sparbuch.  This week I’ll pay a few € into my account.

4. Travel.  I think it is over two years since I called in on my folks.  Oh well.  Maybe this year.  However, my main destinations are:

  1. Wolfenbuettel to take the Lovely Doctor along and show her old stomping grounds, the old pad and the barracks
  2. Berda in the Netherlands and attend the redheads jamboree.  Got to be done.  I promise to bring my personal favourite brunette along. 🙂
  3. The UK, even if only for a flying visit.  London, maybe even Yorkshire (God’s Country)

5. Job security.  Oh please, God, I know I’m a sinner, but would it spoil some vast eternal plan, if I were a moderately well-off man.

6. Address book clean-up.  A purge is always cathartic.  Ditto Facebook.  Ditto Linkedin.

7. Take part in the stand-up comedy course.  (Joking aside, it should help with developing general public speaking skills.)

8. Keep a daily diary.  So far, so good this year.  A5 seems to be the right size for me.

9. Join a chess club in the warmer, lighter months.

10. Can we do it?  Yes, we can.  Will we do it?  We can but try.

Bullsh1t?  Well in army-speak bullsh1t is about putting in that extra bit of extra to achieve the highest standards.

Being a Care Bear

So, Thursday evening I’m in the church vestry, doing unpaid parish secretary work for the chaplain, folding order of service booklets and stuffing envelopes, WDR Kultur radio station on in the background, a bit of “music while you work.”

Meanwhile back at the ranch church hall, our chaplain, counselling Simon (not his real name: German – Deckname), an extremely troubled soul.  After over two hours of admin work on top of a hectic day in the day job, I walk into the church hall to see Simon alone on the couch.  His urge to talk is irrepressible.  My desire to go home is also irrepressible.

Simon tells me of the excruciating physical pains he is going through.  He then tells me he is contemplating suicide to end the pain and that he feels God wants him to be with Him.  I tell Simon of my own experience of severe trapped nerve pain combined with joblessness and poverty in recent years.  I then tell him I know a doctor very well who is not a specialist in Simon’s area of need, but will ask my doctor contact to recommend someone.  I cannot help wonder if Simon’s problems are more than his physical pains caused by recent surgery.

  • What can I do to help him?
  • What can I do to move him onwards and upwards?
  • What can I do to get myself home?

So, we talk several more minutes.  I think I give him a pep talk.  He seems cheerier and more positive.  While I go to get my mountain bike to head home, Simon heads off down along the embankment of the river Rhine.

“Please, God, don’t let him jump into the river,” I pray.

Guiltily and with a heavy heart, I cycle off from the church, pass Simon on the other side of the road, choose not to call out to him or acknowledge his presence, and I disappear into the night, back to my nice, warm flat on the other side of the city.

“Have I done the right thing?” I ask all the way home.

I’m not Catholic.  I’m Anglican, Protestant and proud.  I hold the Lutheran view that works are not to be viewed, in any way, shape, or form, as the means to justification and grace.  I won’t get to heaven, just by helping old ladies cross the road, giving money to Third World charities, etc, but only by faith in God and by His grace.

But on Saturday I felt so, so, so bad, so sad.  I felt the same this evening.  On both occasions, it was a cocktail of factors.

SAD: seasonal affective disorder.  Now the days are getting shorter, I can feel those winter blues creeping in.

Money worries: why does paying the bills have to be such an uphill struggle?  Why, oh why, didn’t I save more money when i was younger?  If only, if only…

Simon: My (ginger) head tells me, he’ll be fine.  You did your best.  Both you and the “padre” gave him quality time listening to him, praying with him.  No more can you do.  The heart thinks, was I being heartless and selfish in wanting to leave Simon, wanting to get home?  Was I the last person to see him alive?

Diabetes type 2: Was I feeling down due to being a bit low on blood sugar?

Today, while pushing my trolley round the supermarket, I remember the talk by the British Army Intelligence Corps major who told of his experience after serving in Bosnia, where his orders were to observe war crimes taking place, but under no circumstances intervene.  Witnesses, or spectators?

Son: “Hey, Dad, you did really well today.  You only cried once while you were doing the shopping today.”

Today, I didn’t blub.  I just allowed my British stiff upper lip to wobble a bit.  On Saturday, I had my doctor with me to console me as it all got “that little bit too much,” and the doctor gave me a great shoulder to cry on as I opened up the floodgates and told her what was on my mind.

And for that, Schatz, ich habe dich, sehr, sehr lieb.

Not just shopping…

All in all a most satisfactory day, albeit slightly marred by waking up a bit early and having to leave the lovely Essen lady.  Weekends are but too short.  Naja…

So, my plan had been to finally attend a German Evangelische Kirche service, part of soaking in the whole German experience.  Yet again, foiled.  Green Leader, my friend from Zimbabwe, told me this morning there was to be a talk at Christ Church Duesseldorf all about the situation in Zimbabwe.  I turned up at CCD.  It was a communion service.  Superb sermon on Titus Chapter 2, very thought-provoking.  Good turnout too.  Nice cakes after service, too. Always a bonus.  But no show from the speaker.  Never mind.

So, then onto curry house with H.  Great food, great company.  Such an inspiring bloke, great sounding board and all-round great witness for Christianity.  Then Hbf, dm, for a British-style shopping experience.  Most German shops are no-nonsense, pile it high, sell it cheap, no frills.  But dm is properly-lit, with bright packing, wide aisles, and their Hbf branch is open Sunday.  I now have plenty of cleaning material to give my bachelor pad a good cleanse from top to bottom, and the cleaning has started this evening.  Stage 1 will be complete tonight, stage 2 tomorrow evening.   Dusting will be the final task for tomorrow.

Home, unpacked.  Blast of hypno.  Paul McKenna on the Kindle… 299, 298, 297…  We’re gone.  Now for some TV time.