Monday, February 23, 2009

Selected Writings of Martin Luther

Martin Luther is one of the most important figures in Protestant history, but one of the most misunderstood, and one of the less read in Reformed circles. The best way to get to know the real Luther is to read Luther, but the fifty-plus volumes (and more to come!) of the American Edition of Luther's works are rather intimidating, and impractical for most people to read. On the other hand, having read the Bondage of the Will and the Commentary on Galatians (the best place to start with Luther, the former in the edition by J.I. Packer), the reader may well want to read more of Luther. This collection, edited by the Luther scholar Theodore G. Tappert, gives a bird's-eye view of Martin Luther's writing career in four beautifully-presented volumes. Tappert has selected representative writings from Luther's career from 1517 to 1520, ranging over the full variety of Luthers writing. First published in the 1960s, it is now reprinted in a new edition by Fortress Press. The edition itself is a beautiful thing, presented in a slipcase, with each volume adorned by a full-colour portrait of Luther from the era covered inside. Not only will this be a joy to read for anyone interested in exploring the writings of Martin Luther, but it looks good on the shelf! This is one for anyone interested in exploring the Reformation in the writings of the period. These four volumes are full of gems of Luther's thought, and more than worth the price!

Selected Writings of Martin Luther (Fortress Press, 2007) is available from at the low price of £22.43.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Monument in Llantrisant

This is a monument in the old Penuel burial ground in Llantrisant. The verse on the side, a quotation from John Henry Newman's hymn 'Lead, Kindly Light', is perhaps unusual for a monument in a Welsh burial-ground, even one so late as the date on this one.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More of Llantrisant - the other old chapels

This is the Old High Meeting (Independent). Dating back to the early years of the nineteenth century, it is now the Church Hall for the Parish Church (which is just out of shot behind the house corner on the left). It has been in the possession of the Anglicans for many decades now, but it was built as a congregational chapel. Internally no trace of its former function survives, but its little burial ground survives, now merged with that of the Parish Church.

The Old High Meeting was replaced by Zoar, this rather elegant striped building that dominates the approach to Llantrisant. Sadly it is no longer used for worship and has been converted into flats. It is built on the site of the home of the eccentric Dr. William Price, a 'free-thinker' and self-proclaimed druid who called his son 'Iesu Chryst' (Jesus Christ). After Dr. Price' death the Congregationalists bought his house, pulled it down, and built a chapel where the real Jesus Christ was worshipped for many years.

The former Trinity English Presbyterian Church in the High Street is now a house. It was originally established as the English congregation connected with Penuel Presbyterian Chapel. The Trinity congregation merged with Penuel before Penuel too closed. The building was occupied for a while by a Pentecostal congregation.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Theological Feline

This is Mischief. She turned up out of the snow last week, looing very thin, and has decided she likes it here, and she's staying, thank you very much. She is exhibiting interesting tastes, not so much in food (she likes cat food, which isn't surprising, but in books. Here she is considering some Christian biography, contemplating whether or not to read the memoirs of Charles H. Kelly, a Victorian Methodist minister. Sometimes a cat has to make tough decisions.

Theologically-minded cats have a tough time sometimes. Here Mischief considers the utility of Thayer's Greek Lexicon. Apparently she finds the old Grim-Thayer is still useful, at least for cats. As an orthodox Christian ought to do, she takes her stand on the Greek, not the English translation.
She likes Lloyd-Jones too, but I don't have any pictures of her with that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Last Tuesday's snow in Llantrisant

Last Monday night it snowed heavily in Llantrisant, and it snowed more during the day. It looked nice, and the local children enjoyed it, but the pavements were extremely icy. Our first picture is looking up towards the Castle, which is all but reduced to its foundations now, save for part of one tower, and so not visible in this picture. What is obvious is the height and steepness of the hill. A good defensive position.

A ruined cottage in the old town. Picturesque decay. This and the castle - and the derelict Penuel chapel- bring to mind a verse of Neander's:

Human pride and earthly glory,
Sword and crown betray His
What with care and toil we fashion,
Tower and temple fall to
But God's power
Hour by hour
Is my temple and my tower.

The parish churchyard. Crowded with gravestones it takes up the same refrain, that what we do passes away,
"The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2.17

The former Penuel Calvinistic chapel. The ruined castle speaks of man's towers crumbling, this derelict chapel is one of man's temples. When God withdraws the preaching of His Word it is a great and terrible judgment. Man cannot keep the chapels open, only God, for only those who are drawn by the father can come to the Son.

The Guildhall, close by the castle, and the old town centre beyond. God alone has 'the treasures of the snow'. We cannot cause a snowfal like this one that has blanketed everything I can see around Llantrisant.

Looking up towards the Parish Church. The hills are covered in snow, and the world has turned white. Martin Luther is said to have used the illustration of a dunghill being covered by snow to describe our justification by Christ's righteousness imputed to us. Food for thought.

This is the scene that greeted me on Tuesday morning. And, I'm afraid, the way that I prefer to look at snow these days - out of the window when I'm inside in the warm! Actually I don't mind the snow itself, it's the slippery pavements. Stay safe in the snow!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Norwich Christian Resource Centre

The city of Norwich is well-supplied with bookshops, but not Christian bookshops. There is in fact only one Christian bookshop in Norwich, the Ecumenical Norwich Christian Resource Centre. Here one may find anything from John Stott to Bishop Spong, from candles to CDs. Since the shop is ecumenical, it caters to all tastes and none, but what can you do? There simply isn't anywhere else in Norwich where you can find Christian books routinely on the shelves. The staff are friendly and helpful, and will order in books if asked.

The Norwich Christian Resource Centre is located in the old church of St. Michael-at-Plea, and the building still retains some ecclesiastical fittings, including the chancel screen, the font, and paintings of Moses and Aaron either side of the tower arch. The chancel now houses the Forget-Me-Not Cafe, which is named for the inscription on the old church clock.

Really St. Michael's was a good choice for a church to turn into a bookshop, if one had to be. It actually has a literary connection of its own. For within these walls, at the very font shown here, the 19th century religious writer Dr. John Stoughton was baptised according to the rites of the Church of England. He probably never came in here again, as his father disliked the vicar and went to the Methodists, and his mother was a Quaker. Stoughton himself became a Congregational minister, and was a member at the Congregational chapel located directly behind the church as seen in the photograph above. His maternal grandfather was the Master of the Bethel Hospital for the insane, and died as the tragic result of someone thinking that one of the inmates could be trusted with a scythe to cut the lawn.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Zoar Chapel, Norwich

Zoar Chapel, St. Mary's Plain, Norwich, is an historic Strict Baptist Church. Its site, practically next-door to Norwich Central Baptist Church (formerly St. Mary's Baptist Church) is entirely an accident of where a suitable site happened to be in the 1880s, when the present chapel was built.

The church meeting at Zoar has a long and complicated history. It originated in a secession from St. Mary's over the question of closed communion, and suspicions that the St. Mary's pastor was inclining in an Arminian direction. After long wanderings, and a brief union with another church, the church meeting at Zoar was formed. Alfred Dye, a rather eccentric Norwich minister, ministered to the church in the Tabernacle, a building constructed during the Great Awakening of the 18th century, but finally they were able to build a chapel.

The church today is small, but the minister, Pastor P.B. Pont, maintains a faithful pulpit ministry in a city where many churches are either liberal or seeker-sensitive. The high pulpit inside is symbolic of the place of the Word of God in the services. Lord's Day services are at 10.45 and 6.30.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Bethel Chapel, Guildford - part 2

Continuing my photographs of Bethel Chapel, Guildford.

Before the first Bethel Chapel, a 'tin Tabernacle', now demolished, was built, the church first met in Ward Street Halls, now occupied by part of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The elegant Gothic exterior should not fool readers, as the Strict baptist Church met in the basement hall, a room described as 'quite underground'. What interests me is that this secular building (opposite the Quaker Meeting-House) should look much more ecclesiastical than Bethel Chapel.

This is the official stone set into the wall at Bethel Chapel, identifying the building. It was architect-designed, but that much is obvious from its unique appearance. The chapel sign no longer has the 'Strict and Particular' identifier, as people do not generally understand what that means, and it sounds less than welcoming.

And here it is in all its glory, hipped roof, round-headed windows, large dormer and all. A really nice little building, and best of all, dedicated to the worship of God 'in Spirit and in Truth'. The blue thing at the extreme right of the picture is a large and unsightly skip.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Bethel Chapel, Guildford

In final answer to a request, I post modern pictures of Bethel Chapel, The Bars, Guildford. They were mostly taken last Lord's day, and so it was rather overcast.

The front of the chapel. In summer the trees effectively screen much of this. It's a beautiful piece of Edwardian design, with hints of the Arts and Crafts movement in the round-headed windows and the employment of vernacular rather than Gothic design. Remember London Road Congregational church, Kettering, is just ten years older than this. Unlike Pollard, kettering, there is no attempt to make the building look imposing and public - again, an arts and Crafts influence. Because of the buildings on either side, the large dormer window is a necessity as well as an architectural feature.

The gloom inside is a result of it being a very overcast day, nothing else. As you can see, Bethel Chapel has changed little since it was built in 1910. The main changes are the memorial to the first pastor, the microphones, and the organ. Until a few years back all singing was unaccompanied. The books in the pews are of course Bibles, psalm-books and hymnals.

The most important part of a Baptist chapel is the pulpit, usually located behind the Communion table. This is the pulpit at Bethel. As you can see (barely, even though I used the flash), the pulpit at Bethel, and the reading-desk on the communion table, where the deacon leads the service from, are both Gothic in detail, as are the chairs behind the Table. If you enlarge the picture you may just be able to read Mr. Wiltshire's memorial tablet.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Kettering - Part 3

The final pictures from Kettering deal with the actual reason why I was there. Namely to preach at Pollard Evangelical Church.

Pollard Evangelical Church, originally called London Road Hall, was opened for the preaching of the Gospel in 1891. It is therefore roughly contemporaneous with the London Road Congregational Church - and yet what a difference! If everything about the Congregational Church screams 'Church!', Pollard is designed to look like a public hall. Indeed, it might be a temperance hall as well as it might be a church-building. The non-church design is presumably intended to make those unused to church comfortable.

This is the reason why it is called Pollard Evangelical Church -after Charles Pollard, the man who built the church. I know nothing about Charles Pollard beyond what this plaque says, but presumably he was a Christian man with enough money to build and run a mission-hall. Since the establishment of the hall a proper Church has been constituted there.

And finally: farewell to Kettering. The cast-ironwork of the railway station. For something that played an important part in the town's history, the station is remarkably quiet, built of red brick and biscuit-colored. terracotta. This is the view from Platform 4, looking towards Platform 1. It was very cold there, despite the sunshine.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Kettering - Part 2

Continuing the pictures of Kettering taken on my recent visit to the historic Northamptonshire market town.

If Fuller was the Little Meeting, what was it Little in relation to? The answer is this, the Great Meeting, now called Toller Church. Now part of the URC, it was originally a Congregational Church. As can be seen from the photograph, it was not as wealthy as Fuller by the 19th century, as rather than building a new structure, they merely put this new facade on. To my eyes it looks more like part of a railway station than a church! But it does have a cross on the front, in case you wondered what the building was. Not the most elegant re-fronting job!

The former London Road Congregational Church (now URC) is another matter. Built in 1898-9, it is in the Gothic style, by this time all but universal as the Church style. The building is galleried on three sides, the turrets presumably containing the gallery stairs. This is very much, at least on the outside, a comfortable middle-class church declaring that the nonconformists were themselves an institution. The great West window of London Road chapel is on a line with the East window of the Parish Church. Make of that what you will.

Kettering Central Methodist Church. Built in 1932, it looks back to the earlier part of the 19th century, when this sort of neoclassical design was typical of nonconformist chapels. The use of the older form has, however, been modified by the 1930s architect. The proportions of the facade are slightly odd, and few 19th century architects would have had the first floor windows smaller than the ground floor. Although it looks back to the 19th century, the building, in its position on a side-street, suggests that Methodism was not as wealthy as the oder nonconformity in Kettering, and perhaps it speaks of the forthcoming decline of the nonconformists in England.