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Melting Pot Notes

Melting Pot logoThe views contained in these pages are of a group of people within Christchurch who wish to express progressive Christian ideas as an alternative to the more 'traditional' formal views of the church.

Melting Pot 55 - Climate and Extinction
Melting Pot 54 - People Like Us
Melting Pot 53 - Know Your Bible Quiz
Melting Pot 52 - Leadership
Mlting Ppot 51 - Covid and Faith
Melting Pot 50 - Consuming

Melting Pot 49 - God's Words? - Language
Melting Pot 48 - God's Words? - Bible Translations
Melting Pot 47 - God's Words? - The Dead Sea Scrolls
Melting Pot 46 - God in Love unites us: Marriage & Relationships Report
Melting Pot 45 - What are the Beliefs that Divide?
Melting Pot 44 - Creating a world Beyond Beliefs that Divide
Melting Pot 43 - Communion: Bridge or Barrier
Melting Pot 42 - Living with Contradictory Convictions
Melting Pot 41 - Sharing our ideas about God and Faith
Melting Pot 40 - Saving Jesus from the Church (part two)
Melting Pot 39 - Saving Jesus from the Church (part one) - video of Rev Dr Robin Meyers
Melting Pot 38 - Purpose and Mission
Melting Pot 37 - How to read the Bible and still be a Christian
Melting Pot 36 - The Open-ended Bible - what would you like added?
Melting Pot 35 -
The Theology of Worship
Melting Pot 34 - Why do you go to Church?
Melting Pot 33 - How to Read Bible Stories - the Easter Story
Melting Pot 32 - Life's One Certainty - Death
Melting Pot 31 - Jesus is Late - the 'Second Coming'
Melting Pot 30 - What About Hope?
Melting Pot 29 - What About The Women?
Melting Pot 28 - How To Read Bible Stories - the Narrative Analysis technique
Melting Pot 27 - What Do We Teach Our Children?
Melting Pot 26 - Jesus and First Temple Theology - the Bible Jesus knew
Melting Pot 25 - Migration and the Bible - welcome the stranger
Melting Pot 24 - The Fifth Gospel: Thomas, Gnosticism & The New Testament Canon
Melting Pot 23 - The Iona Multi-Faith Experience
Melting Pot 22 - Our Place in the Cosmos 
Melting Pot 21 - The Old Testament - Who Wrote It and When?

Melting Pot 20 - Love, not Atonement - the three Pauls (part two)
Melting Pot 19 - Women and Hats - the three Pauls (part one)
Melting Pot 18 - What's Left? - what do you believe and why?
Melting Pot 17 - I Agree With Dawkins - the continuing irrelevant Science & Religion debate
Melting Pot 16 - Heaven And Hell - is there really 'Eternal Life'?
Melting Pot 15 - Zealot or Messiah? - exploring the messianic claims in the first centuries
Melting Pot 14 - How Green Is My Faith? - are we living in tune with the environment
Melting Pot 13 - How Green Is The Bible? - what does it say about the environment?
Melting Pot 12 - The Eight Points - the Progressive Christian Network, Britain
Melting Pot 11 - Prayer - what is it, is it any use, does it work?
Melting Pot 10 - Worship - what is it & can we make it relevant?
Melting Pot 09 - Are You Saved? - seven theories of 'Atonement'
Melting Pot 08 - The Easter Parables - what does 'Resurrection' mean?
Melting Pot 07 - When Jesus Became God - from itinerant Galilean healer to divinity
Melting Pot 06 - Ways to God 
- Christianity & other world religions
Melting Pot 05 - Imaging God - how do you 'see' God?
Melting Pot 04 - The Christmas Parables - where's the donkey?
Melting Pot 03 - Can We Trust The Bible? - where did it come from?
Melting Pot 02 - Synoptic Relationships - Mark, Matthew & Luke - why so different yet similar?
Melting Pot 01 - What Do You Believe? - a gentle introductioin to 'the Creed'


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Melting Pot 55 - 14 February 2021
Climate and Extiction

The Progressive Christian Network Britain has commissioned a series of short films under the title ‘made of stories’. The films are about six minutes long, and for this discussion, we will be using ‘Holly’s story’ - it can be found at  https://madeofstories.uk/holly/.

You can read the introductory notes for Climate and Extinction, as well as the Climate and Extinction Notes.

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Melting Pot 54 - 10 January 2021
People Like Us? - White Middle-Class Privelege

  • Do we recognise that we all have privilege?
  • Look around our church community; is everyone ‘like us’? Is this an issue?
  • How much contact have you had with people NOT ‘like us’?
  • How do you react? Do you stereotype people in a different group to your own? How do you overcome this trait?
  • Can we examine our attitudes to race, gender, class, faith, sexuality, . . . (mostly instilled into us as children as part of our cultural inheritance) and seek to overcome the barriers it perpetuates?
  • Do you actively seek out cross-racial, cross-class, cross faith, relationships if you don’t currently enjoy any?
  • If you come across racism, homophobia, misogyny, . . . do you call it out (not to change the person but for your own integrity)?
  • What should ‘the church’ be doing?
  • What should our church be doing?
  • What should we be doing?

You can read the introductory notes for People Like Us?, as well as the notes from the meeting for People Like Us? Notes

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Melting Pot 53 - Christmas 2020
Know Your Bible Quiz

How well do you know your Bible? Here are are twenty questions to sort out the Bible stories from the popular tradition.

You can read the Bible Quiz Questions and also the Bible Quiz Answers.

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Melting Pot 52 - December 2020

  • What qualities do you look for in a leader?
  • What conclusions do you draw about Leadership from the statement by Biden and the letter from Trump?
  • What qualities would you like to see in our political leaders?
  • What qualities would you like to see in our national church leaders?
  • What leadership qualities did Jesus have?
  • In what ways was Jesus a ‘good leader’?
  • Why might you follow him?
  • Do you like being led?
  • What makes a good follower?

You can read the introductory Leadership Questions, the document containing information about Biden and Trump, as well as the notes from the meeting: Leadership Notes.

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Melting Pot 51 - November 2020
d and our Faith

  • What do you miss due to the Lockdown?
  • What are you happy missing?
  • What do you value most due to the lockdown?
  • What new things would you wish to take forwrd?
  • How has the pandemic affected you spiritually?
  • Waht will the long-term impact be on your behaviours?
  • What needs to change further?

You can read the notes taken at the meeting: Covid and our Faith.

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Melting Pot 50 - October 2020

How do we spend our money, what do we spend it on, and how this is impacted by our views on life, living and faith? We looked at:

  • Avoiding Products
  • Positive Shopping
  • Giving
  • Living Simply

You can read the notes at: Consuming.

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Melting Pot 49 - March 2020
God's Words? - Language

This was the third and final part on God's Words? looking at Language and how words change meaning over time. Part quiz and part information this was a fun evening covering 

  • The definition of Words
  • Faith Languages
  • Jesus' Words

You can read the notes at: God's Words? - Language.

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Melting Pot 48 - 09 February 2020
Gods Words? - Translations

The second in our series looked at the process of translating the Bible and the extensive notes covered:

  • Original text - Hebrew Bible
  • Original text - New Testament
  • Ancient translations - Aramaic Targums
  • Ancient translations - Greek Septuagint
  • Ancient translations - Middle Ages
  • Introduction of chapters and verses
  • Reformation and Early Modern period
  • Types of Bible Translations - from literal to paraphrase
  • Bible Translations and Equivalence - placing different translations on the spectrum
  • Alternative approaches to translation
  • Single source translations
  • Gender Inclusivity
  • Doctrinal differences and translation policy
  • Popularity

You can read the notes at God's Words? - Translations. There is also a detailed piece giving notes on Fifteen popular Translations, where they are on the equivalence spectrum, and with perceived pros and cons (edited from the Bible Society website).

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Melting Pot 47 - 12 January 2020
God's Words? - The Dead Sea Scrolls

Robin Hamon led this session which looked at

  • History and Geography of te Dead Sea Scrolls
  • What are the Dead Sea Scrolls?
  • Why are the numbers unclear?
  • When were the Dead Sea Scrolls written?
  • Who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls?
  • Accuracy

The notes from the session can be read at The Dead Sea Scrolls.

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Melting Pot 46 - 08 December 2019
God in Love Unites Us: Marriage and Relationships Report

Following on from the Melting Pot 42 session, Roberta Topham, who had been Convener of the working group which compiled the recently published report for the Methodist Church (God in Love Unites Us: Marriage and Relationships Report) talked about the group, the process, the timeline of the Methodist Church's deliberations on marriage and relationships, and some of the findings.

Notes from the session can be read at God in Love Unites Us.

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Melting Pot 45 - 10 November 2019
What Are The Beliefs That Divide?

In trying to come to terms with ‘Contradictory Convictions’ we had an open session on what are seen as the ‘Beliefs That Divide’. The topics discussed were:

  • Meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection
  • The supernatural view of God
  • Modern theology and traditional Christianity
  • Truth – one or many (and the place of fundamentalism of all sorts)
  • The ability to lovingly respect ‘difference’
  • One God or many
  • The power of God and intervention

Unfortunately, the notes from the session have yet to be located, although the list above can be downloaded at What are the beliefs that Divide?

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Melting Pot 44 - 13 October 2019
Creating A World Beyond The Beliefs That Divide

This session was based on a DVD recorded at ‘Lectures at the Church’ Carrs Lane, Birmingham October 2017 (linked to the Progressive Christian Network, Britain), given by Gretta Vosper, an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada (West Hill Toronto) who is a self-professed atheist.

A summary of the lecture can be read at Creating a world beyond beliefs that divide, which includes some questions.
The Notes from Beliefs that Divide can also be read and downloaded.

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Melting Pot 43 - 08 September 2019
Communion: Bridge or Barrier

This session is based on an article published in Progressive Voices 28 (March 2019), the publication of PCN Britain, written by Edward Hulme. He was ordained as a Baptist before joining the URC.
ls Communion a bridge or is it a barrier to spiritual growth, to Christian faith, to God?
His article was in four sections:

  • a hallowed bridge
  • Is it really vital to discipleship?
  • what did Jesus intend?
  • a barrier to faith?

You can read his article, along with some relevant Bible passages, at Communion: Bridge or Barrier.

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Melting Pot 42 - 12 May 2019
Living With Contradictory Convictions

In April, Roberta led the Circuit Service in conjunction with Melting Pot.
The Methodist Church produced a report a few years ago (2006) under this title as an element of its “Pilgrimage of Faith”. The Pilgrimage of Faith was begun in 1993 to enable people with different understandings of human sexuality and relationships to learn from each other and continue together as part of the same Church. This issue still challenges people but it is only one of many issues about which followers of Jesus differ.

You can read her letter from the June edition of our church magazine Wider Horizons Living with Contradictory Convictions, which summarised her talk.

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Melting Pot 41 - 10 March 2019
Sharing Our Ideas About God and Faith

Following on from the Housegroup theme (talking about our faith), and with Robin Meyer's talk in mind (see Melting Pot 39 and 40) where 'being' trumps 'believing', we tackle ‘sharing our ideas about God and faith’.

  • How do you put this into words?
  • What are the key elements?
  • How well formed are your ideas and understanding?
  • Can you share them?

Here are some notes taken from the meeting - Sharing our ideas about God and faith.

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Melting Pot 40 - 10 February 2019
Progressive Christianity and Saving Jesus From The Church - Part 2

We watched the second half of the lecture. A highlight was the statement that early Christianity was not a belief system but a way of being. In Matthew's collection of Jesus sayings, his manifesto known as the 'sermon on the Mount' (Matthew 5:1-11), there is not a single word about beliefs - it's all about what to do, how to be. When Constantine brought together the quarrelling bishops in 325CE at Nicea, the result was the Nicene Creed in which not a single word is about what to do, but instead what to believe. We need to recognise this and reverse this reversal.


The full notes can be read at Saving Jesus from the Church (part two).


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Melting Pot 39 - 13 January 2019
Progressive Christianity and Saving Jesus From The Church - Part 1

We started this 2019 season watching a video of the inaugural Progressive Christianity Lecture at Pitt Street Uniting Church in Sydney Australia 2016 given by Rev Dr Robin Meyer based on his most recent book.
It can be found at https://www/youtube/watch?v=cnfJcZkZ2OU&t=56s, or by searching for ‘Robin Meyers – Saving Jesus from the Church’ in the YouTube app.

The Minister, Rev Dr Margaret Mahman, in her welcome gave a useful description of Progressive Christianity as characterised by

  • a willingness to question tradition
  • a celebration of human diversity
  • a strong emphasis on social justice
  • care for the poor and the oppressed
  • seeking environmental justice for planet earth

It embraces multiple theological streams (including liberalism, post-modernism and liberation theology), and is an imaginative and creative re-expression of our inherited tradition in ways that resource us to live well, open to the sacred, and in loving one another. It brings together our heads, hearts and hands; it is theological, spiritual, justice-seeking and compassionate.

Robin Meyers went on to highlight a number of things taught in seminaries that rarely sem to make it to a sermon. You can read the notes from te first half of the lecture at Saving Jesus from the Church (part one), including a comment from our own minister, Rev Dr Roberta Topham.

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Melting Pot 38 - 11 November 2018
Purpose And Mission?

An open discussion about what are our priorities:

  • What is the way of Jesus?
  • How does it define our lives?
  • If some of us find the established church structure uncomfortable, how do we live with integrity to our 'beliefs'?
  • What purpose do we see in our lives, and the actions that shape them?If we have a 'mission', what is it?
  • Is there a story to tell?
  • What story do we tell?

You can read the notes from the session Purpose and Mission.

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Melting Pot 37 - 14 October 2018
How to Read the Bible and still be a Christian

This session was based on the book by John Dominic Crossan.
We are NOT the people of the book – God did not so love the world that he gave us his only book! We are the people of ‘the Way’, followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and his ‘Kingdom of heaven/God’.

We looked at a number of 'difficulties' that can be found in the Bible:

  • The Bi-modal God
  • But which Jesus?
  • The Message of John the Baptist
  • The Message of Jesus
  • Escalation of Violence: Violence of Rejection and Violence of Proof
  • Paul: on Slaves & on Women

We must read the Bible with an understanding of its own time and place.
The radicality of God is tempered by the normalcy of civilisation.
There are no divine punishments, only human consequences.
God of justice and love: not justice as vengeance and punishment, but justice as distributive fairness (or ‘enough-ism’).

The full set of notes can be read at How to read the Bible and still be a Christian.

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Melting Pot 36 - 09 September 2018
The Open-Ended Bible

Although many see the Bible as ‘the word of God’, it was a humanly written, edited, redacted and translated document, with different versions in varying traditions. At our last meeting, the idea was raised that there are many examples in all categories of literature, art, film and music that can have an impact as equally powerful and compelling, in effect a ‘divine revelation’. we asked the question ‘What would you wish to add to ‘scripture’ if the Bible was ‘open-ended’.
Here are a number of contributions in The Open-ended Bible.

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Melting Pot 35 - 20 May 2018
The Theology Of Worship

Following on from the previous session, it seemed from what lots of us were saying that ‘worship’ was a central reason for us to go to church, but each of us had very different understandings and experiences of worship. We explored:

  • What is Worship? What does worship mean to you?
  • Why do you worship?
  • What happens when you worship?
  • Where do you worship?

Robin Hamon's notes can be read in full in The Theology of Worship.

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Melting Pot 34 - 08 April 2018
Why Do You Go To Church?

Following an article in the Methodist magazine 'Connexion', written by Rev Graham Thompson, Chair of the Plymouth & Exeter District, one member from Christchurch wrote an item for our own church magazine, Wider Horizons (March 2018), to start a debate.

Worship is the central activity of the Church and – perhaps – we could do better? was Graham Thompson's theme. You can read his article, reproduced here as a starter for our debate on Why do you go to Church? In general we didn't agree that worship should be central, and yes, we could do better.
Two folk from Melting Pot put their ideas on paper, Why they go to Church.

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Melting Pot 33 - 11 March 2018
How To Read Bible Stories – The Easter Story

We followed up on Melting Pot 28 and once again used the technique of Narrative Analysis, or Literary Criticism (reading the Bible passage as literature - just as you would critically analyse Shakespeare) on the Easter Story. A better title would be 'How To Interpret Biblical Texts'.
We looked for

  • Settings - When & Where
  • Characters – Who, What and Traits
  • Plot - Events
  • How The Story Is Told
  • Themes

The introductory page from Melting Pot 28 gives the Narrative Analysis colour codes we used, and the Easter Story Coding (from the NRSV) has the colour coding started.

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Melting Pot 32 - 11 February 2018
Life’s One Certainty – Death (an open discussion)

We recognised that we have sanitised the end of life, and few people (unless it is part of their job) have much experience of death, seeing a dead body, or dealing with one - it's all done for us.
One way we keep death at arm's length is to have a wealth of euphemisms to describe it (popping your clogs, gone away, passed on, and so on) rather than being more direct with our language.
No one knows what happens when we die, other than the return of the body to the elements it came from. Anything else is a faith position, and might matter more for some than others, but we recognise that we would rather live than die, but death is inevitable. We ought to be more prepared for it and we should talk about it more easily than we do.
We explored a number of other aspects of death: euthanasia and assisted dying; a funeral 'service' being for the living left behind; the morality of expensive treatments for minimal life extension; the environmental aspects of dying (burial vs cremation); preparing a living will and planning for death; hospice care; the practice of praying for the dead; inequality in death (as in life) due to (financial) circumstances; litigation culture.

You can read all the notes, including our resolutions about what we were going to do after the meeting in preparing for our own death, in Life's One Certainty.

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Melting Pot 31 - 14 January 2018
Jesus is Late - the 'Second Coming'

We explored

  • the Old Testament idea of ‘the Day of the Lord’ when it was thought God will finally visit his people in history to judge the wicked, redeem the righteous, and purge the earth of evil.
  • Apocalyptic literature (a revelation through dreams or visions) filling the vacuum after the last post-exilic prophets, with no-one speaking in God’s name.
  • Early followers of ‘the Way’ interpreting Jesus’ first coming as the fulfilment of prophesy (the ‘Messiah’, anointed one, or ‘Christ’ in Greek) with his second coming the consummation of that prophesy.
  • Synoptic gospel passages which speak of the ‘the end times’: some interpret this as ‘the Rapture’ when “the Son of Man will appear, coming in the clouds with great power and glory. He will send the angels out to the four corners of the earth to gather God’s chosen people from one end of the world to the other” (Mark 13:26,27), tying in the ascension story with a second coming.
  • Early followers clearly anticipated Jesus’ return as the ‘Day of the Lord’ as something imminent. Paul did as well (1 Thessalonians 4:13 – 5:12) but some years later with no Jesus (1 Corinthians 15) he now attempts to explain resurrection in a more spiritual way and as a fundamental of faith.

This material can be seen as a primitive understanding based on ancient Jewish ideas of good and evil and the ‘end of the world’, and prefer to consider Paul’s later spiritual understanding about Jesus’ life and teachings and how we live our lives of faith in community, with no expectation of any existence beyond death. Jesus is here now, in spirit, and we live our lives in God’s kingdom love!

The full set of notes on Jesus is Late can be downloaded.

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Melting Pot 30 - 10 December 2017
What About Hope?

Gary & Chris Knamiller led the evening in five sections:
1 What has caused you despair?
2 What has caused you hope?

3 What is hope?
4 What are you hoping for?
5 How do we get there?

You can read the notes from What About Hope?

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Melting Pot 29 - 19 November 2017
What About The Women?

Helen Singleton examines the role of women within the Bible, both Old and new Testaments. How many stories about women in the Bible do you remember, and when was the last time you heard about them from the pulpit?
How many are still marginalised because of the patriarchy still prevalent within the Church?

You can read the notes from What About The Women?

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Melting Pot 28 - 17 September 2017
How To Read Bible Stories

‘How to read’ suggests, wrongly, that there is a ‘correct’ way – we bring our own ideas and contexts to our understanding -  ‘Interpret’, which must be recognised as subjective, has a better meaning, recognising there is not one pure Christian understanding; the ‘Bible’ will depend on the translation and denominational collection, which strongly impacts on the interpretation before you even start to read; ‘Stories’ – the Bible consists of many styles and genres of writings (eg poetry, songs, erotic literature, history, myth, letters, discourses or sermons, gospel and apocalyptic literature, the latter two examples of particularly common styles of their time). A better title would be How To Interpret Biblical Texts.

We were introduced to Narrative Analysis (or Literary Criticism), an academic technique where we were asked to read the Bible passage as literature (just as you would critically analyse Shakespeare). So you would look for
Setting: When is it set? Where is it set - what is the location?
Character: Who is in the story? What do we know about them (name, gender, age, occupation)? What personality traits to they have, how do they behave?
Plot - What events happen in the story (list the details)?
How is the story told? - What is the basic structure of the story?  Can you break the story down into smaller sections? Who is the narrator? Is it a character? Is the narrator anonymous, reliable? Is s/he omniscient or do they find things out with the reader? Are there any underlying themes, abstract ideas or ideologies?

It is important to ‘forget’ any preconditions or prior knowledge of the reading and treat this as if it was the first time you have read the text and met the characters. This was initially quite hard to do!

We looked at the second creation story in Genesis 2 and 3, and there were some surprising outcomes as a result of the technique. We were able to read the story in new ways, and even pick out where later additions had been made to the original text.

We were so enthused that we will repeat the session with a different text next Spring.

Here is a copy of Robin's talk on How To Read Bible Stories - Narrative Analysis.

There is also a set of Additional Notes including an example of annotated text.

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Melting Pot 27 - 23 April 2017
What Do We Teach Our Children?

If you do not hold a literal reading of the Bible, how do you approach Bible stories with children? How do you prevent children from putting Jesus into the same basket as Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy? Jude Hamon gave an overview of recent (this century) research into how children learn with some surprising results which challenge long held perceptions. We followed her introduction with a general discussion.

Here are the full notes that Jude collated for What Do We Teach Our Children? or there is a two page Summary Document.

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Melting Pot 26 - 19 March 2017
Jesus and First Temple Theology

A sessison led by Rob Hilton, based on Margaret Baker’s book 'An Introduction to Temple Theology'.

In Jesus’ time, people followed First Temple theology based on the tabernacle, God with us.
Early Christians believed Jesus was that Temple, and the physical Temple in Jerusalem was the Third Temple.
The Second Temple was informed by Aaron and the Levite priesthood tradition including rules and laws, and sacrifices for sin.

Here are the notes from The Bible Jesus Knew.

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Melting Pot 25 - 19 February 2017
Migration and the Bible

We looked at the highly topical issue of migration and how it relates to the Bible discussing what migration is, noting that the Bible is a collection of writings written largely by migrants, and focussing on particular texts about migration.
Of particular interest was the information concerning the two Hebrew words which describe a migrant (with reference to how integrated they were) which modern translations do not always translate consistently and use words (such as alien) which have a different meaning to that of the original text giving a very different interpretation than that intended.

Here are Robin's notes on Migration and the Bible.

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Melting Pot 24 - 22 January 2017 
The Fifth Gospel
: Thomas, Gnosticism & The New Testament Canon

We look at the development of the Early Church as well as the New Testament Canon with books and letters bouncing in and out of the approved (Orthodox) list until finalised in 379CE.

One of these was the Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered last century amid the 'Dead Sea Scrolls'. Tied in to a Gnostic approach to faith, we explore the idea of Gnosticism which, in it's early form, can chime with modern thinking.

Here are the notes for The Fifth Gospel.

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Melting Pot 23 - 11 December 2016
The Iona Multi-Faith Experience 

During the Year of Listening at Christchurch, Chris and Gary Knamiller had spent a week with te Iona Community where the theme had been 'Multi-Faith'. They wanted to put their experiences into te Melting Pot and had a series of questions to get us thinking: basically - What Is Religion?

Here are the questions from the Iona Multi-Faith Experience and also notes from the session.

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Melting Pot 22 - 13 November 2016
Our Place in the Cosmos

Bob Brunswick challenges us to consider how small we are. Where is God amidst the Chance of Evolutionary Creation?

Here are the notes for Our Place In The Cosmos

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Melting Pot 21 - Sunday 09 October 2016 
The Old Testament – Who Wrote It And When? 

Robin Hamon led the session giving background to the language and formation of the Hebrew Bible and the cultural context of it's writing. 

Here are the notes from Who Wrote The Old Testament? which includes additioanl material about the canons of various versions of the Old testament. We also had a copy of the notes from the Introdusction to the Old Testament from the Good news Study Bible © United Bible Societies 1997.

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Melting Pot 20 - 22 May 2016 
The Three Pauls (part two)

Because we didn't get to the end of the notes at our last session, we spent more time looking at the material. In particular we looked at some texts in the Letter to the Romans.

We also considered some material from Richard Rohr about Easter.

Here are the extended Notes for The Three Pauls, along with the notes concerning Love Not Atonement

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Melting Pot 19 - Sunday 14 February 2016 
Women And Hats – The Three Pauls 

Of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 are attributed to Paul. Scholarship suggests that seven books are genuine, three questionable, and three unlikely to be by Paul; modern scholars are moving to a seven six split. 

Radical Paul – 1 Thessalonians (<54CE), 1 Corinthians (54CE), 2 Corinthians(55/56CE), Galations (56 or 54CE), Romans (56/57CE), Philippians (55-62CE), Philemon (61-63 or 58-60 or 56-57CE). 
Reactionary (Pseudo) Paul – Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Colossians written in the years following his death (at the hands of Nero in 67CE). 
Conservative (Anti) Paul – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus written in the first half of the second century, perhaps fifty or more years after Paul’s death. 
There is a fourth ‘Narrative Paul’ found in Acts, written by Luke some thirty years after Paul’s death, but it does not always harmonise with the Radical Paul. 

Here are the more extensive notes for The Three Pauls (which includes part two). 

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Melting Pot 18 - Sunday 17 January 2016 
What’s Left? What do you believe and why? 

Following many of the previous Melting Pot sessions, where we have deconstructed much of the ‘traditional’ view of the Christian Faith, we now seek to distil what it is we do believe in. 

  • What is it about the mystery of existence that draws us to some understanding of spirituality we call God?
  • What is the reality of the unseen?
  • What’s so special about Jesus? 

Here are the template notes from the What's left? session. 

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Melting Pot 17 - 13 December 2015
I Agree With Dawkins (well not completely . . . )
The continuing irrelevant Science and Religion debate!

We explore our understanding of faith in a Scientific world, trying to probe the mystery of existence whilst avoiding the supernatural. We delve into Dawkins' book 'The God Delusion' and wonder at the psychology at play when looking at faith.  

Here are the notes for the I Agree With Dawkins session.

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Melting Pot 16 - 15 November 2015
Heaven And Hell - Is there Really 'Eternal Life'?

Exploring our ideas around two quotes:
God Loves Us. Here’s how the traditional story goes . . . God offers us everlasting life by grace, freely, through no merit on our part. Unless we do not respond in the right way. Then he will torture you forever. In Hell. What?
Rob Bell – Love Wins (2011)

There is no supernatural God who lives above the sky or beyond the universe. There is no parental deity watching over us from whom we can expect help. There is no deity whom we flatter into acting favourably or manipulate by being good. There are no record books and no heavenly judge keeping them to serve as the basis on which human beings will be rewarded or punished. There is no way that life can be made fair or that a divine figure can be blamed for its unfairness. Heaven and Hell are human constructs designed to make fair in some ultimate way the unfairness of life. The idea that in an afterlife the unfairness of this world will be rectified is a pious dream.
Eternal Life: a new vision, beyond religion, beyond theism, beyond Heaven & Hell - Bishop John Selby Spong 2009.

Here are the Introductory Notes used at the meeting.

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Melting Pot 15 - 18 October 2015
Jesus - Zealot or Messiah?

Taking our information from the book Zealot by Reza Aslan, we explore the historical contect of the times when Jesus of Nazareth was alive, trying to understand the ruthless political situation, the power of the religious authorities, the huge social inequalities and the ferment of messiahanic expectation.

You can download both the Introductory Notes as well as a Historical Timeline which seeks to give that context of the times and asks how we might respond to this information within our own understanding of Jesus. 

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Melting Pot 14 - 13 September 2015
How Green Is My Faith?

A follow-up to the previous session, recognising that being a 'Green Christian' is not abn opt-in, and attempting to challenge ourselves regarding our 'Green-ness' under six headings: Transport & Travel, Energy, Food, Consumerism, Finance, Waste.
The results of our hour together can be found in the How Green Is My Faith notes, which formed the basis of the On-Line Harvest 2015 service.

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Melting Pot 13 - 05 July 2015
How Green Is The Bible? - What the Bible really says about the environment.

Robin Hamon led our thinking on ‘How Green Is The Bible' giving us a fascinating insight into the research he has done in recently completeing his Masters Degree in Biblical Studies. We looked at three passages from Genesis, Romans and Revelation to explain previous Christian thinking about the subservient role 'Nature' has played within creation. Detailed notes from his How Green Is The Bible talk, effectively a transcript, are available. 

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Melting Pot 12 - 07 June 2015 

The Eight Points of the Progressive Christian Network Britain.

The following is taken from the Progressive Christian Network Britain website at http://www.pcnbritain.org.uk/about/the_eight_points, dated February 2015.

PCN Britain offers these Eight Points, not as a creed, but as an expression of the Christian life. We are people who

1  Seek God, however understood, guided by the life and teachings of Jesus
2  Affirm that there are many ways to experience the Sacred and that we can draw on diverse sources of wisdom on our spiritual journeys.
3  Recognise that following Jesus leads us to act with compassion and to confront evil.
4  Place hospitality at the centre of our communal and worshipping life and see the sharing of bread and wine as an expression of our common humanity.
5  Seek to build communities that accept all who wish to share companionship without insisting on conformity.
6  Know that the way we behave towards others is the fullest expression of our faith.
7  Gain more insights in the search for understanding than we do in certainty.
Work together within and beyond the Church to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.

We discussed these points with interest. You can download the Eight Points Handout which lists the Eight Points along with some background, as well as the Eight Point Notes taken from the discussion.

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Melting Pot 11 - 20 July 2014
Prayer – What is it, is it any use, does it work?

We asked ourselves six questions.

1   What categories / types of Prayer can you think of?
2   What is Prayer?
3   To whom do we pray (& does it matter)?
4   Jesus Praying
5   Jesus teaching on Prayer
6   Is Prayer Answered?

You can read the notes and comments in the Prayer document.

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Melting Pot 10 - 15 June 2014
Worship - What is it and can we make it relevant?

Once more, religion gets in the way, and our formalised Sunday rituals become more and more divorced form everyday reality, the 'being' that is the real meaning of worship.

You can read the introductory notes and a brief report from the meeting in the Worship document.

Melting Pot 09 - 18 May 2014
Are You Saved? Seven Theories of Atonement - what is it and what does it mean?

Our minister, Rob Hilton, explores seven of the theories of 'Atonement' - what meaning is there in the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross? The reaction of one person at Melting Pot: "I think the thing that really got to me was the dominance of what I would term 'negative' approaches which I found very depressing. When the message of Jesus' love and example is so positive and affirming I find it truly amazing that the church has been able to 'twist' this and make something so positive into such a negative force. Not how I want my religion / faith to be".

Many see the intervention of Anselm, Bishop of Canturbury across the turn of the twelth century, as a sad day for our understanding of the meaning of Jesus death. The 'Jesus died for my sins' idea was formalised by him.

Many today would simply say that Jesus died at the hands of the Roman authorities, with the active support of the Jewish temple authorities, because he spoke the uncomfortable truth about privilege and power and how God's love should be seen in (distributive) justice. He was upsetting the applecart! He was a troublemaker; he was a dissident.

An understanding of the post-Easter Jesus comes from a reading of the Easter stories as parable, and that makes sense of how we can have relationship with God, without the need for guilt or sin or wrath being appeased that are spoken of in more traditional understandings.

You can download and read Rob's precis in the Are You Saved? document.

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Melting Pot 08 - 13 April 2014
The Easter Parables - what does 'Resurrection' mean?

An invitation to examine the Easter stories in each of the four Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke and John) and to identify  details in common or differences. In fact, there are only two details that are common to all four Gospel stories.
Although we can attempt to reconcile the stories as if they were recorded history, it is better to try and see beyond the stories to the truth underlying them: what is it that took Jesus' followers from the despair of the crucifixion to the joy of Easter and the power of Pentecost?

Resurrection does not have to be about believing the unbelievable: if you find the idea of a corpse being ressucitated difficult to accept, or if you are OK with that supernatural idea, it is in the past - simply ask the question 'what does it mean for me today' however you understand the new life of 'resurrection'.

You can download the The Easter Parables document which includes a grid which examines the four Gospel stories, along with the 'answers' on page 3, and some introductory and closing comments.

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Melting Pot 07 - 16 March 2014
When Jesus Became God - the Creation of the Trinity

Although we never quite reached the trinity, we did thoroughly explore the history of the early church and it's elevation of Jesus from humanity to Godhead. The debate recognised that the divinity of Jesus came with a package of other ideas connected to 'salvation' and that it was a scary prospect for some to move away from the 'traditional conservative' teaching of the church. The question was asked 'What do we gain (or lose) by accepting the divinity of Jesus?' - and some saw the arrogance of such a position as a significant barrier to community with those of other faiths, and also to those who see the supernatural as fantasy.

"A really good liberating discussion. I didn't ever think I would be able to say I didn't think Jesus was divine under a church roof and not be shot down in flames. What a relief!"

You can download the paper: When Jesus Became God which explores the early history, along with two book reviews attached to the topic.

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Melting Pot 06 - 16 February 2014
Ways To God - Christianity and other World Religions

After trying to list the world religions with the most adherents, we explored two extremes views of religion (absolutism - one's own religion is the absolute and only truth; reductionism - all religion is man made) and then sought an understanding that contained more contemporary thought.
Finally, we asked the question: "Why become a Christian?"
A challenge for all of us is to celebrate our differences rather than to seek out and the security of our similarities.

You can download the notes: Ways To God.

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Melting Pot 05 - 19 January 2014
Imaging God - our understanding of the Creator

We explored a number of issues:

  • The names of God in the Bible
  • Where is God (up there or within)?
  • Contemporary understandings of God
  • Understandings dominated by images of either Power or Spirit.

So what image of God do you have? How does it impact on your life and your lifestyle? What is worship?

You can download the notes: Imaging God.

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Melting Pot 04 - Sunday 08 December 2013
The Christmas Parables

We started the evening with a quiz - which of the items were included in the gospel stories, and which were later additions or fabrications through 'tradition'? You can play this yourself by downloading both the Christmas Parables Quiz and the Christmas Parable Answers (which also gives the Bible references for each item).

We then explored the two birth accounts, recognising them as parables, metaphoric prologues to each of the Gospels, each with their own truth within the fiction. The Christmas Parables explained is a summary of that background explanation.

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Melting Pot 03 - Sunday 17 November 2013
Can We Trust the Bible?
Where did it come from, and how to read it?

The group looked at part of the process that led to the formation of the modern Protestant Bible.
We explored some of the likely changes over time, and some errors of translation and transcription that have occurred over the centuries.
Where Did It Come From details some of that information.

We compared the literal-factual against the historical-metaphorical paradigm for reading the Bible and checked out two 'classic' stories - doubting Thomas and Peter walking on water - to find that we need to be more careful in our interprtations as the Gospel writers had particular agendas underlying there versions of the stories.
How To Read The Bible details some of that information

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Melting Pot 02 - Sunday 13 October 2013
Allan Barr's Diagram of Snoptic Relationships

Allan Barr published his Diagram in 1938, this diagram enabled any bible reader the opportunity to see at a glance the parallels between Mark with Matthew and Luke, and also the parallel material in Matthew and Luke not found in Mark, often referred to as Q (from the German word Quelle, meaning source, although sometimes referred to as ‘Sayings’).

You can read (and download) the Synoptic Relationships Diagram notes, which includes a picture of part of the Diagram.

Melting Pot 01 - Sunday 15 September
What Do You Believe? A gentle introduction to ‘The Creed’

The four meanings of faith:
# Assensus – Belief, giving mental assent to a proposition, believing a claim or statement is true
# Fiducia – Trust
# Fidelitas – Fidelity, loyalty, allegiance, commitment at the deepest level
# Visio – Vision, a way of seeing (the whole)

Credo (I believe) does not have to mean agreeing to the literal and factual truth (although this is the understanding for many/most today), but rather commit to, give my heart to. The words believe and belove are related.
(Ref: The Heart of Christianity, Marcus J Borg).

Those present were asked to consider the Apostles' Creed and try and decide whether they could answer: Yes, No, Don't Know or Need to Define, against the twenty five statements in the creed. With a range from 2 to 23 in the 'Yes' column, a good discussion followed.

This was very much an introduction to some of the ideas of Progressive Christianity, which gave permission to folk to step away from an earlier understanding of their faith and towards the emerging paradigm with a historical-metaphorical reading of the Bible.

You can see (and download) the Introductory Notes and also The Creed for your own use.

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