President Obama’s Ulster family

For the benefit of my North American friends, and by way of celebration of the 100th day of the Obama presidency, it’s worth pointing out that President Obama has not-so-close family connections to Co Fermanagh. The family resemblance is not that obvious, but it doesn’t stop them from claiming the connection!dsc01385

It would be great if the President and First Lady came to this part of the world in the next twelve months. It’s probably my only chance to meet the most famous couple in the world. Failing that, I will just have to make do with the cardboard cut-out which I spotted in Union Station, Washington D.C. last summer.

The Methodists are the best

So says Gerry Adams, President of Sinn Fein, in a recent RTE interview on The Meaning of Life. It was a really intriguing interview. Gerry says that some time ago he resolved to remain a Catholic, but admits that some of his beliefs are a bit “Protestant”. He doesn’t think he needs a middle man when it comes to God and he hasn’t gone to confession for years. And when asked if the host at holy communion is the real body of Jesus Christ, he replied, “Who knows?” He thinks the Methodists are the best. I have a lot of friends who would agree with him on that point! But he likes the democratic nature of Presbyterianism. And the fact that Christian denominations are divided he reckons is “madness”. “I like the gospel. I think that Jesus Christ was a mighty man,” he said. Continue reading “The Methodists are the best”

Seeker sensitivity

It’s some years now since the seeker-sensitive approach to worship in particular, and to church life in general, gained a following in the UK. Even though many pastors and churches claim to have benefited from re-thinking their approach along seeker-sensitive lines, it continues to attract criticism. Witness this classic piece from R.C. Sproul who could never be accused of sitting on the fence. He is ably supported by Albert Mohler.

The bigger question for mainstream denominations like the Presbyterian Church in Ireland is how to re-connect with both the un-churched and the de-churched. It’s easy for ministers and elders who see their congregations declining to attempt a quick fix. It’s worth remembering that there is both a vertical and a horizontal dimension to worship, and that in the planning of worship, as well as being God-centred, we must seek to be intelligible to those who attend. There is no excuse for music and preaching that are meaningless and dull. But it may be that, as one of my former colleagues used to say, being seeker-sensitive is simply trying to arrange a coffee party for people who don’t like coffee.