Tuesday, 27 March 2018

A richer life than this?

It’s Easter. 

And for most of us this means chocolate, hot cross buns, Easter bonnets, time off work and the chance to get together with family and friends.  All really great stuff.

But this year let’s also remember a very special person.  A man who made a huge sacrifice for others, who cared about the poor and marginalised, who hoped to inspire a better world.

Well, of course, you may think I’m talking about Jesus – who did all of these things and more.  But I’m actually talking about John Cadbury the founder of the eponymous global brand and whose name will be on the many millions of chocolate eggs we eat this year.

John Cadbury was a Quaker.  He was a Christian and he was deeply concerned about poverty and social injustice in England in the 19th century.  He had a business selling tea and coffee and he decided to make a new product - drinking chocolate - in the hope that this would be popular and an alternative to drinking alcohol.  Which Cadbury saw as being at the root of much suffering.

And so, this was the start of Cadbury’s chocolate.  And led to Dairy Milk, Crunchie, Flake, Curlywurly and all our other favourites – not least, the Creme egg!

John Cadbury and his sons were exceptional employers for their times – building the Bourneville estate for their workers where they had schools, medical care, gardens and sports facilities (but no pubs!)  They paid good wages including pensions, maintained safe and humane working conditions and provided paid holidays.

In the light of all this, I can’t help wondering what John Cadbury would think if he were alive today – seeing how sugar consumption has rocketed in the last 150 years.  How, according to a recent survey, children in the UK receive, on average, eight chocolate Easter eggs each year.  And how alcohol consumption per capita - despite dips during the two twentieth century world wars – has stayed much the same as ever.

As we gather with friends and family this Easter, let’s remember John Cadbury – the man behind the egg – and his vision for a better, fairer world.

And where that vision came from.

Because the vision came from Cadbury’s Christian faith.  It came from his faith in Jesus Christ, who gave his life on the cross two thousand years ago - that we might have new life.  A richer, more abundant life.  And, by that, he didn’t just mean more chocolate!

A rich life is cross shaped not egg shaped. CLICK TO TWEET

Let’s have a rich, abundant life by doing more to enrich the lives of others.  Let’s remember the social injustice that continues in this country and around the world, that we are all truly complicit with – as we snap up the 3 for 2 offers.  Without questioning the work and trade conditions of those who have sold the global confectioners their chocolate and labour.

Let’s make sure we give something to charity.  Or buy Fairtrade.  Or do something to support our community and build relationships with our neighbours.

Local churches are a great place to get involved in this kind of thing.  So do seek yours out, go along to an Easter service and find out what they are up to.

At my church, St Michael’s in Elmwood Road, you can help us get ready for our annual community street party in June – by giving something for our fundraising Auction on Saturday 14 April.  Or come along to this event.  You can get involved with fundraising lunches, our community choir and the youth band we are starting up.  Do get in touch to find out more.

In the meantime, enjoy the chocolate and have a Happy Easter!

Posted by Martine Oborne

An Easter Sunday service with Easter egg hunt in the gardens will be on Sunday 1 April at 11am at St Michael’s Elmwood Road W4 3DZ.  There will also be a dawn service on Easter Day by the river – meet at 6.30am at the point where Grove Park Road becomes Thames Road and share breakfast together afterwards.

Usual Sunday services at St Michael’s Elmwood Road are at 9.30am and 11am – with groups and activities for children.
St Michael’s Church: www.stmichael-elmwoodroad.org
Subscribe to Martine Oborne’s blog here: www.martineoborne.com

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken..

Our twenty year old Youth Minister is studying for a degree in Theology and Youth Ministry and she was talking to me the other day about a lecture she’d had at college.  The lecture was about the general personality differences between the generations. 

She said that, unlike Generation X (my lot) and Generation Y (her lot), the Millennials (our youth club kids) are looking for authenticity.

I was surprised to hear this.  And pushed back on what she was saying – in a typical Generation X way.

My point was not to dispute that Millennials want to see authenticity in people around them, but to say that surely all generations want this too?

Look up authentic in a dictionary and it speaks of something being of undisputed origin, not a copy, something accurate and reliable.  Surely these are qualities we all look for in other people?

But how authentic are we really?

Or how much are we bullied by convention into being or trying to be something other than our true selves?

I remember a talk once about burn out.  And the speaker saying that the most important question to ask (and to know the answer to) if you want to avoid burn out – is the question Who are you?

Not being ourselves is not only inauthentic – it’s a huge cause of stress.

I remember, years ago, when I was my Youth Minister’s age and at university – feeling agonisingly embarrassed that I came from far less privileged background than my colleagues.  I never invited my ‘friends’ to my home or introduced them to my family.  And this was an incredibly stressful way to live.

As I grew older, I began to accept who I was and what my story was.  And I’d say that God had a big part in helping me to do this – affirming that I was loved just the way I was.  That I didn’t need to be different.  I could simply be myself.

Nonetheless, there’s still the temptation to want to fit in, to compromise, to try hard to be like others.  I remember when I was training to be a Vicar.  I had a brilliant training incumbent and I admired this Vicar so much – that I wanted to be an exact copy of him.  But again I heard God say – be yourself.  Learn from this person, of course - but be yourself.

If Millennials are truly calling people to be themselves, to be authentic, then we all should listen up.

Because being authentic is not easy.  It makes us vulnerable.  It means being unconventional.  It means inviting criticism and even being mocked and ostracised.

In the church, we are coming up to Palm Sunday – when we remember how Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  He was greeted by the crowds with great cheers.  But a few days later Jesus had upset everyone – by turning over the tables in the Temple - by not being the person other people expected and wanted him to be.  And, as you know, he ended up being crucified.

But Jesus triumphed over death.  Because he was fully himself, fully God – he could not be defeated by death.

We, of course, are not Jesus. 

But the more we are fully our true selves, the more authentic we are – the more we too will triumph over those who seek to put us down.

Trying to be someone other than your true self is exhausting and a worthless way to live.  We can never manage it.  And our attempts to do this simply diminish our lives.

So be yourself. 

Or, as my teenage daughter (a Millennial) put it to me the other day, ‘Be yourself, Mum.  Everyone else is taken.’  CLICK TO TWEET

Thursday, 3 May 2012

How exciting is this? Our Jubilee Festival @StMichaelElmwd

Monday, 7 November 2011


What would Jesus do? Or what is Jesus doing? Both good questions. But, for me, the second is more important than the first.

It really comes down to whether you live your life by 'quandary ethics' ie trying to decide what the right thing to do is on each separate difficult occasion. Or whether you focus on building 'character' so that you automatically do the right thing.

I wd argue that sticking close to Jesus, observing what He is doing day by day in everything, even little things, means that we grow in His likeness becoming more generous, courageous, tolerant, self controlled, loving etc. Then, when a 'difficult situation' arises, we will naturally respond the way Jesus would because we have grown in the character of Jesus.

Think for example of a situation where you are asked to give for some worthy cause. You might deliberate on whether this is best use of yr spare cash, how much you shd give, you might ask WWJD? Ultimately you might give and this would be an act of generosity but not the act of a generous person. The generous person would already have given. That's just the way he is.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Swimming lessons for Church..

Every morning for the past year I have been swimming first thing in the morning at the swimming pool across the road from my house. I can't say I enjoy this exercise particularly (just doing it to stave off galloping senility that little while longer) nor am I particularly communicative at that time in the day. So I get changed, get in the pool, do my thirty lengths, get out, get dressed again and go home. I don't stop and chat with fellow swimmers. I go swimming for a purpose and I'm not there, I have to admit, to make new friends.

Nonetheless, it's impossible not to notice that there are a dozen or so regulars who also go swimming daily at the same time as me. I recognise each one of them. And, in an odd way, although we've never had a conversation, I've come to know them. We generally exchange a brief smile or nod, even sometimes a 'Hi' or 'Good morning' but never more than this.

And yet, although I know almost nothing about my fellow swimmers (except they are regular swimmers), there is a strange bond between us - just because we share this same ritual together every day. I'd even venture to suggest that we all feel rather like friends.

All this has made me wonder about those church goers who really like to keep themselves to themselves. It's good to have a team of welcomers at church - most people appreciate the offer of friendship - but maybe we should be more relaxed about just letting alone those who want to be let alone. If we simply come together for the same purpose - to worship God - every week then will we not necessarily become bound together - as I have become bound to my fellow swimmers?

Maybe it's not so much about getting to know each other in a lot of detail and having a lot of conversation. Maybe it's more about remembering why we have come to church and, well, just - being there.

Monday, 12 September 2011

The vulture tweets between his meals...

And that's the reason why
He very very rarely feels
As well as you or I.

His eye is dull, his head is bald
His neck is growing thinner.
Oh, what a lesson to us all -
To only tweet at dinner!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Small is Beautiful by Schumacher

Having read Tim Jackson's brilliant book 'Prosperity without Growth' over the summer, it's interesting to see that Schumacher was prophetically saying many of the same things nearly forty years ago. 'Small is Beautiful' is still very much worth reading.

'The substance of man cannot be measured by Gross National Product. Perhaps, it cannot be measured at all, except for certain symptoms of loss...such as crime, drug addiction, vandalism, mental breakdown, rebellion etc...There are poor societies which have too little; but where is the rich society that says: 'Halt! We have enough?' Where indeed?