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.

The Last Day

three-wise-men-hiWe’ve come to the last full day in Dubai as residents! What a year it has been! This morning driving to K9 Friends to give Bethany one last morning helping out there was a magical view of a line of lorries leaving the industrial area, silhouetted against the sky in the thin mist that was over everything. When I got to the Green Community Roundabout on the way home there in front of me was two tiers of lorries sillouetted against the same background – one on the roundabout, on on the left turn bridge above, the business of Dubai continuing on while people sleep (in the case of some of our family) or work (probably you, dear reader). I’m not working. I’m waiting for the men to come and pack our belongings up. They are just over four hours late so far but assure us that they will come. It’s why I’ve got time to write a last post on ‘Steve’s Blog’ on the Christ Church website, with the sound of birdsong in my ears, the balcony doors flung open this beautiful December afternoon :-) . The chaplain’s laptop, with email address and facebook is now behind me, handed on. When I log off this entry, the website too will not have me logging in again. I am so glad that Tim and Diane are coming here – they will be good for this place, of that I am sure. Do pray for them as they take January as a break between Holy Trinity and Christ Church – they sorely need it – although they are not leaving Dubai or the chaplaincy, they do need now to rest, let go, refocus and take up the new task ahead.

There are many uncertainties here. There are a number of people here who are being called on to exercise a trust in God that goes beyond normal everyday faith. May they find the peace which passes all understanding, and a focus in prayer that brings them close to God as they so sincerely pray for the different uncertainties to be settling where it will be good for the gospel.

Memories of that last party linger on. What a laugh! There is so much good about Dubai and the churches in this place. We are part of the fabric of what makes Dubai good – This has been my motto all my time here, and I pray that the colour of our skein may be visible and delightful in the finished cloth. Each person of each congregation working in so many different places in our city gives a little light to each person they come into contact with. We are together the body of Christ, but you who work out in town have a greater opportunity to show your faith to those who do not know what a devout Christian believes, and talk to those who ask you about it. You will often find you have much to learn from those around you, and common cause with those of other faiths who find increasing secularisation so distressing. I have been doing my part too to be part of the fabric of what makes this place good and to try to stir others to think about God and to turn their lives towards him – it has been my delight to have more services filled with non-church people than many an evangelist could dream of, in baptisms, weddings and funerals! Welcoming those who have requested Christian prayers, we welcome also their friends and family who often as not haven’t a clue as to what to do in church.It is a time to open their eyes to a peace that passes all understanding, and the repentance necessary for some to benefit from it.

To all of them, and to you, I say, come to church more often! Church going isn’t what saves you or what God particularly delights in, but it reminds you of what you want to be and teaches you how to do it. You, who were so beautiful that God created you, surely would want to be a delight to him as he looks down from heaven and watches you live, and love, and forgive. Come to church and find out how and see it modelled for you 😉

This next weekend we are celebrating Epiphany, the feast day celebrating the wise men who came to Jesus. Wise men still do of course, on Friday mornings 9.30am Jebel Ali, Saturday mornings 9.30am Academic City, and Sunday evenings 7.30pm Jebel Ali – directions are here 😉

I hope the packers have come by the time we leave. It’s now 5 hours late and we leave in 12 hours. I guess I should get off this wretched screen and give them another call.

See you in heaven if not before.