What is YOUR church?

I used to be chaplain at Christ Church Jebel Ali – an excellent church which I recommend to all who still live within range of Jebel Ali or Academic City (Fridays 9.30am, Saturdays  9.30am and Sundays 7.30pm – directions here)
After five months away on sabbatical, also finding a new parish, I am on a two month visit as a locum in ‘our’ church of St. Martin’s Sharjah. Of course I popped into ‘our’ office in Jebel Ali to see the office staff, and hope one weekend to see the congregation in Jebel Ali. I hope I can make it to the ‘Ways of praying for healing and wholeness’ retreat ‘we’ have next Saturday, June 13th, at 1pm with ‘our’ Diocesan Spirituality Team visiting us.
But after five months away, shouldn’t I be talking of ‘your’ church, ‘your’ diocese, and the retreat ‘you’ have next Saturday?
How big is ‘your’ church? Is your sight and care only for the network of people you talk to after service?
For myself I’m really enjoying being back now I’m refreshed from a while away. I’ve been on the bus to Abu Dhabi for ‘our’ Gulf Clergy Day (very thought provoking day with prayer for each other), and the bus to Sharjah seeing parts of Dubai I haven’t seen since I first came, when I explored many different ways to beat the traffic between Sharjah and Dubai. Buses are SO different from when we first came to Dubai 12 years ago and I recommend them too if you live near a stop. Another change I like is that the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road now seems to be called (in spoken English) the MBZ which goes well with the ‘Sheikh Zayed’ (or Sheikh Zee, for Americans ;-). Being in Sharjah at the moment I have to be careful about talking about ‘our’ buses and ‘my’ city but I’m enjoying the SZR and the MBZ and the glorious wonder of all that ‘our’ CDSNE congregations are doing. Join us: Jebel Ali, see above. Sharjah: Fridays 11am, Sundays 7.45pm. Or the ‘Ways of praying’ retreat next Saturday at 1pm.

What do you want me to do for you?

dutch_window_glassWe had a very nice retreat day today with people from our Academic City congregation and Jebel Ali congregation joining together. If you weren’t able to make it but are able to come next Saturday, Maggie Le-Roy, our diocesan retreats facilitator is doing the same again then for Holy Trinity Church Dubai.

As I sat there vaguely looking out of the window as she talked about how we fail to see so much that is right in front of us I was looking at the line of trees and bushes on the boundary wall outside and that’s all I saw. She began saying that one useful tool is to take a picture frame (at which point she handed out a bunch of small frames for us each to take) and place it over something to see it properly, isolated from the things around it. As she said it I began to look specifically through one pane of the window and captured by that one pane was a beautiful flower which I had not really seen because all I’d seen was the hedge as a whole. The 8 panes around it framed it nicely and the beauty of the view suddenly came into focus. Then I looked only through the pane next to it, leaving out the flower, and saw in that the heavily laden seedpods of a tree which again I had not really seen until then. She used this as a tool to help us see deeper into how God might speak to us more clearly if we only learned to look more closely. The same principle works for listening I think.

Five lucky people are this week having an individually guided week of prayer with Maggie. They began with a meditation on the Bartimaeus story (Mark 10.46-52) when Jesus asks him ‘what do you want me to do for you?’. Pray that their eyes may be opened to see wonderful things (Ps. 119.18).

In the week afterwards (Sunday 2nd-Wednesday 5th November) Maggie will be giving ‘taster sessions’ in different types of prayer – 10am each day in our church library in Jebel Ali, 7.30pm each day at Holy Trinity Church Dubai. All are welcome, those of big faith or small. Come and see, better.

Gitex Labyrinth


I have just had an exciting evening in what is billed as the region’s biggest electronics extravaganza: Gitex, in the Dubai World Trade Centre (Excite, Engage, Explore!), with over 30,000 different gadgets to go for! They employ lots of in-your-face sales techniques designed for the mostly male shoppers there to show the attractiveness of their product: I so wanted to please the smiling girl on the Samsung stall who looked into my eyes to entice me to juggle two tennis balls to win a new TV but, alas, I didn’t have all evening and there were two others in shimmering blue satin gowns giving out leaflets I had to see, and every stall showing off its speaker system with loud music or shouts of ‘this amazing chance to win/offer to buy is only open for the next 20 minutes’. The best product was on the LG stall – I’ve no idea what they were selling but it must have been good because the wild dancing girls on the big drums just rocked, and the bass was so boomingly cool the body just shook as we passed. We did pause a bit as we passed but Bethany wasn’t so impressed and we moved on. Of course there were hundreds of guys trying to push a forest of advertising into our hands, and the crowds milling and pushing to see the stalls and I was trying to think of what nice spiritual lesson I could bring you from it so I could enjoy telling you all about the labyrinth of noisy market stalls inside that huge hall – this is the Chaplain’s blog after all.

Hmmm. I left with ears ringing, feeling I got my money’s worth – there is an entrance fee for the privilege of shopping in this way – with our bag full of the one thing we went in for plus the half dozen freebies that came with it. We spent the same as we would have spent in our local shop, but in our local shop we wouldn’t have had the freebies or the experience – one of the freebies we might actually use. I’m now looking forward to a phone call saying I have won a very swish looking BMW, a Nikon camera, and an Opel Astra GTC.

And the spiritual lesson and application to church of life? Dancing in church, done that. Leaflets and advertising, pew sheets do that. Attractive congregation to ‘sell’ our faith, ticked that box – though perhaps we could gyrate more to the hymns? I quoted one slogan: Excite, Engage, Explore – perhaps we could do more of that. I see I mentioned a labyrinth and a huge hall. Must be something there. Labyrinth, huge hall, spiritual…Ah yes – Maggie Le-Roy our Diocesan Retreats Facilitator is leading our Christ Church Academic City congregation through a Labyrinth in the big school hall this Saturday at our service there at 9.30am. Turn up on time!

If you want to juggle tennis balls in the hope that we’ll give you a free TV, you are welcome to do so while we have refreshments after the service.

How do you know if God is talking to you?

As in previous years we are privileged to welcome Maggie Le-Roy and Judy Cannan from the Diocesan Retreat Centre in Cyprus, visiting us for a week in October as part of one of their regular ministry trips around the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf.

They will have a ‘taster day’ for those unfamiliar with personal retreats to show you how to use the time you set aside on a retreat – this will be in our St. Nicholas Church, Fujeirah on Saturday 15th from 10am-12.30pm. There’s a nice cafe nearby so you could make a day of it and explore Fujeirah – I like Fujeirah Fort and the corniche 😉 .

At Christ Church Jebel Ali Maggie and Judy will be teaching at our 9.30am service at Christ Church on Friday 14th October where they will be talking to us about ‘how do we know when God is talking to us’ – the gift of discernment.

To reinforce their teaching, Maggie and Judy will be leading our three Home Groups during the following week, which is a great opportunity for you to learn more – and perhaps to connect with one of these groups close to where you live.

If you are not in a Home Group but would like to come along (and bring a friend too!) to one of them to hear more from Maggie and Judy, please just get in touch with the relevant contact person, or call the Church Office on 04 884 5436.

Monday 17th at 10.00am
Al Safa Home Group – Jenny – Friday congregation

Tuesday 18th at 7.30pm
Marina Home Group – Neil and Sharon – Friday congregation

Wednesday 19th October at 7.30pm
Tecom Home Group – Chris – Sunday congregation

I encourage you to take advantage of this great opportunity to discover ways in which you can listen better to what God is trying to tell you!

After us, they go on to visit St. Andrew’s Abu Dhabi for a week, and then head for Church of the Epiphany, Doha.

And if any members of our congregation feels led to make a contribution to the costs of Maggie and Judy’s visit, please contact Chaplain Steve or Administrator Irene.