Sunday, 30 May 2010

Trinity Sunday

I am not going to explain my understanding of the Trinity, not because we are averse to heresy on this blog, rather that it is liable to bore you rigid. I was rather taken with this sermon from the wonderful Liturgy blog. It really clarified things for me, especially the blah, blah, blah bit at the end. On the other hand, there is the reassuring thought of Henry Brook Adams,
"I tell you the solemn truth, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so difficult to accept for a working proposition as any one of the axioms of physics."
The trouble is I never understood the axioms of Physics...

Saturday, 29 May 2010

That don't impress me much!

Well, I told you it wouldn't be popular (Rowan William's Pentecost letter below.) Ed Tomlinson and John Richardson are not impressed. What on earth did Rowan Williams mean when he said that his decision to exclude those who had broken the moritoria should not be a cause for celebration?

"no-one should be celebrating such public recognition of divisions" (section 5)

Do you see mass rejoicing? Any rejoicing? No? Me neither!

Rowan William's Pentecost proposal

There has been some level of speculation concerning the Archbishop of Canterbury's Pentecost letter . Much of the missive is comprised of the usual hand wringing about how we can’t all seem to get on , wrapped up in a lot of language about finding a common voice and those who have chosen a different direction. Much of the letter is also very descriptive, no surprise there, I have said before that Rowan Williams sees his role more as one who describes to us the various conflicts and then offers God’s grace, than as someone who manages or dictates. I have some sympathy with him here, for a start I think he is trying to model a Christian rather than a worldly response, and anyway who could manage this situation in a way that is going to please everyone?

What is new is that the ABC is going to take action this time (I know, hold onto your seats, now!)
As usual, you have to search to find it, but there it is in section four:
“I am therefore proposing that, while these tensions remain unresolved, members of such provinces – provinces that have formally, through their Synod or House of Bishops, adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently reaffirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) – should not be participants in the ecumenical dialogues in which the Communion is formally engaged. I am further proposing that members of such provinces serving on IASCUFO should for the time being have the status only of consultants rather than full members. “

He does note that other bodies, such as the Anglican Consultative Council and the Standing Committee are governed by constitutional provisions which cannot be overturned by his decision alone and so will be “inviting the views of all members of the Primates Meeting “ in January 2011 (well, that will be fun...)

Now, if those who have breached the moratoria are to have their powers in the Communion diminished, this will not affect just TEC but also provinces which have engaged in cross border interventions. Simon Sarmiento named Rwanda, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and the Southern Cone on Thinking Anglicans.

Overall, I do not think anyone will be particularly pleased with the ABC’s decision- sorry –proposal. Liberals will feel aggrieved that he has bowed to pressure to “do something”, traditionalists will feel aggrieved that it does not go far enough and angered that their own are subject to the same slap on the wrist as TEC.

I do also wonder (I really don’t know) how far TEC will actually be bothered by being excluded from “ecumenical dialogue in which the Communion is formally engaged”, I suspect some of the traditionalist provinces will be more hurt.

The ABC has finally acted, but I cannot quite decide whether his intervention is a wily move – “if you can’t play nicely, both sides will suffer” that will have the desired effect of making provinces reconsider their behaviour (though I can’t see this), whether it will appease the moderate middle ground, or whether it will just accentuate the divides that already exist.

I would plump for the latter; whether this is an attempt to rebuke or pacify, it will not work. It is futile to rebuke those with a strong conviction of the rightness of their cause and I suspect it is too late to pacify and heal, unless we can access that grace which Williams continues to hold out to us as our only real hope.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Tired all the time

I was going to blog on something topical, but I have contented myself with the link below on the basis that half term has arrived!
These last few weeks have not been easy and I have resolved that, now that things are looking a bit more settled and work is less demanding, I am going to look after myself. I have been suffering recently from tired all the time syndrome. You know the one? You wake up tired, feel tired most of the day, come home tired, fall into bed exhausted...wake up tired.
The looking after Sue plan consists mainly of eating well, going to the gym more regularly, spending some time with family and catching up on sleep. It has started this evening with a ( gentle) session down the gym, a glass of wine and a delicious chicken and chickpea curry, courtesy of Kev.
I recommend it to everyone!

Link to Cranmer's blog

It is not often I agree with Cranmer, but I did think this post showed a lot of sense and the courage to speak his mind when some of his readers might not agree.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Growing flowers

I enjoyed this contribution from Lesley's blog about Richard Holloway's book Doubts and Loves. I first read this book in 2003 when I joined PCN ( Progressive Christian Network) a group that I joined largely in response to the Jeffrey John affair. PCN turned out not to be quite the right organisation for me (not sure I was progressive enough!) but I did thoroughly enjoy Holloway's book.
Yehuda Amichai's poem, from which the title Doubts and Loves is taken , speaks to me about how the doubts in our faith can lead to growth.

From the place where we are right
flowers will never grow
in the Spring.

The place where we are right
is hard and trampled
like a yard.

But doubts and loves
dig up the world
like a mole, a plough.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
where the ruined
house once stood.

Yehuda Amichai

I have some distaste for the sort of faith that aggressively proclaims, "I am right and you are wrong", it is hard and trampled like a yard. Doubts, not necessarily just about doctrine but about our approach to faith or our ability to use faith to reduce complexity to simplicity, seem to me to truly revolutionise and bring growth. Doubts do "dig up the world" , but only when our doubts are coupled with love.

I do doubt more and more these days , I am not sure I always love more and more - but I try!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

All the lonely people

A report from a leading mental health charity confirms that loneliness is a common human experience and suggests it may be more common than ever in today’s society. One in ten participants suffered from extreme loneliness and most were “too embarrassed” to admit to this emotion.
I have to admit that I am always a bit cautious about studies that say we are lonelier than ever, because how do we actually know? Do we have reliable data from the past and might it be that previous generations were even more inhibited when it came to owning up to loneliness, or that we have different expectations than we once did?
However, I am not at all sceptical about the reality of loneliness, I can well believe that one in ten of us is “often lonely” and when I read that only one in five lucky souls is “never lonely” it makes me wonder many of them were too embarrassed to say so?

For the record, I will admit that, although I am not exactly a party animal, I do thrive best if I have regular contact with other people. I have been really busy at work this year and so I have neglected to keep up friendships and social activities (I am aiming to rectify this now that we are at the slack end of the academic year.) I also find that the summer holidays can be a time of intense loneliness. I always feel incredibly selfish about this when so many people would love a six week break from work.

Now, for all you bloggers and internet addicts out there - the report also concludes that technology can be positive in alleviating loneliness, but it is no substitute for real relationships. I once read a quote by someone famous (think it was Ghandi, but I can‘t find the quote) along the lines that,
“In the future we will be able to communicate at speed around the world, but we will have less of any worth to say to each other.”
Hoping this post had something to say to you...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Tom Butler's Thought for the day

An interesting contribution from Tom Butler as he asks what price unity in the Anglican Communion here.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Giving away

Anyone wanting a bit of light relief from the conflicts within the Church of England may be interested to read this article about the dispute over misogyny is the Church of Sweden. The Crown Princess Victoria wants her father to give her away, but the Church of Sweden is uncomfortable with this as it seems to them against the principles of equality and, to be fair, it is not part of Swedish tradition.
Now, as you know, this blog eschews misogyny in any way, shape or form, and, yes, of course the concept of a father "giving away" his daughter is potentially offensive and rooted in a cultural mindset that saw women as possessions , but is this really such a threat to equality?

And what about the traditions we have in Britain, should women be discouraged from being given away? Should women have the right to promise to "obey" their husbands? What about the tradition of a bride wearing white to symbolise virginity, or wearing a veil ( same kind of idea.) Couldn't we argue that marriage in itself is a patriarchal construct - maybe some readers think it is and should be banned?
Now, I'm starting to sound a bit too much like the Daily Mail ( ...Liberal Lefties ban marriage...) so I'll stop now, but you might like to complete the poll below or comment if your option isn't included ! ( I really just wanted to post a poll...)
Do you consider any of the following to be offensive?
Father giving bride away
White wedding dress
The woman promising to obey
All of them
None of them
Maybe - but it is a matter of personal choice free polls

Monday, 17 May 2010

Captcha Coincidence

Captcha coincidence is the term given to typing in a comment on a blog post and discovering that the wobbly word verification, the captcha, is uncannily apposite. I know that this happens to everyone sometimes, but it has been so noticeable over the last few weeks that I am beginning to develop a paranoid suspicion that at the heart of the vast universe that is cyberspace there just might be SOMEONE watching us...

I have been jotting my latest captcha coincidences down in my blog book and this is the sum total of the last few weeks:

Nonsibs and trashi = both when I was (politely) disagreeing
Holytiam = comment on spirituality
Slyeeze= comment about David Cameron
Loutcro = Nick Griffin
Bluet = Avatar
Luber= (you can use your imagination for that one)

It can be hard not to take the wobbly words to heart, I really felt quite good when the captcha approvingly proclaimed “Abbess” at a recent post, but “sicko” seemed a bit harsh.
Of course, rationally speaking, what actually happens is that our minds “make meaning” over the captchas, the ones that are simply a jumble of random letters are soon forgotten, but those that by chance spell an actual word are remembered, especially if it is in any way relevant, complimentary or insulting.

I am almost certain that everybody experiences this phenomenon at some point and a quick google suggests this is so. The one featured below is not mine - but I do sympathise...

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Do dogs have souls (part nine)

I rest my case on this topic...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Shepherd me O God

"Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears..."

The idea of Jesus as the Good Shepherd works at so many levels. A shepherd guides the sheep, nurses them back to health, rescues them, searches for them when they are lost,carries them, leads them to rich pastures, watches over them in vigil and ultimately lays down his life for them.

So, this is for anyone who needs some shepherding.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

For dad


What seas what shores what grey rocks and what islands
What water lapping the bow
And scent of pine and the woodthrush singing through the fog
What images return
O my daughter.

Those who sharpen the tooth of the dog, meaning
Those who glitter with the glory of the hummingbird, meaning
Those who sit in the sty of contentment, meaning
Those who suffer the ecstasy of the animals, meaning

Are become insubstantial, reduced by a wind,
A breath of pine, and the woodsong fog
By this grace dissolved in place

What is this face, less clear and clearer
The pulse in the arm, less strong and stronger—
Given or lent? more distant than stars and nearer than the eye
Whispers and small laughter between leaves and hurrying feet
Under sleep, where all the waters meet.

Bowsprit cracked with ice and paint cracked with heat.
I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.
The garboard strake leaks, the seams need caulking.
This form, this face, this life
Living to live in a world of time beyond me; let me
Resign my life for this life, my speech for that unspoken,
The awakened, lips parted, the hope, the new ships.

What seas what shores what granite islands towards my timbers
And woodthrush calling through the fog
My daughter.


My father died five years ago today and I am posting this poem because it reminds me of him. Marina was the daughter of Pericles and was lost at sea, so the poem is about fathers and daughters anyhow and the longing for a father and daughter to be reunited.
Although this poem is about a search or quest for the living, I think it is also about death. Death might be seen as the ultimate end and goal of all our quests, searches, endeavour and human longing. The futility of human endeavour seems to be suggested in the narrator’s half memory of making a boat,
“I made this, I have forgotten
And remember.
The rigging weak and the canvas rotten
Between one June and another September.
Made this unknowing, half conscious, unknown, my own.”
How much of our life and effort is “unknowing”, our work eroded by time? At the end of the poem, the material ship the narrator has built does not last and the physical world and the material things we cling to have to be “resigned” for new life, new hope, new ships, the journey that is death, through the mist to new and unknown shores.

Good and Evil or God and the Devil?

I have recently been reading some posts on Lesley and Red's blogs about whether they believe in a personal devil. As a child, I was fascinated by a wonderful illustration in my children’s bible of the devil tempting Christ in the wilderness to throw himself off the highest mountain. Christ was rather conventionally depicted with flowing hair and a white robe and he wore an expression of disapproval, like a severe school teacher who is not amused by the latest attempts to disrupt classroom discipline. The devil was a rather glorious figure; he was hovering majestically in the air indicating all the cities and temples of the world, with wings outstretched. You could definitely see the appeal, and later helped me to understand Blake’s assertion that Milton wrote in chains and fetters when writing of God and at liberty when he described the Devil.
I think there are dangers associated with believing in a "personal devil", such as the tendency to demonise others or to simplify human complexity or fail to seek for the human rather than supernatural reasons that lie behind evil. However, I think there is also a problem in discarding the idea of a personal devil. We might argue that once the Devil loses the "D" and becomes "evil", then God may just pick up an "O" and come to equal all that is "good". I am not saying that this view of good and evil is wrong, but it is not really a personal faith.
So, what is my view? Well, I am not saying it is necessarily correct, but I do see the devil as a metaphor. I find it hard to believe the devil is a created being, an angel who fell and set himself up in opposition to God. I see that story as a myth, one which tries to explain that evil exists as a result of creating a universe in which choice and free will exists. However, I do believe in the existence of pure evil and in a source of pure evil which is contrary to all that is holy and Godly. I also believe that that source of evil can influence our thoughts and actions, if we open ourselves to it; is that close enough to "the devil"? I think it is.

(You may like to read a Ugandan perspective here at the Ugandananglican.)

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

I am Vertical

But I would rather be horizontal.
I am not a tree with my root in the soil
Sucking up minerals and motherly love
So that each March I may gleam into leaf,
Nor am I the beauty of a garden bed
Attracting my share of Ahs and spectacularly painted,
Unknowing I must soon unpetal.
Compared with me, a tree is immortal
And a flower-head not tall, but more startling,
And I want the one's longevity and the other's daring.

Tonight, in the infinitesimal light of the stars,
The trees and flowers have been strewing their cool odors.
I walk among them, but none of them are noticing.
Sometimes I think that when I am sleeping
I must most perfectly resemble them--
Thoughts gone dim.
It is more natural to me, lying down.
Then the sky and I are in open conversation,
And I shall be useful when I lie down finally:
Then the trees may touch me for once,
and the flowers have time for me.

Sylvia Plath in I am Vertical manages to convey depression in a way that is moving and beautiful. I also find the beginning of the poem almost humorous, the title, “I am vertical” followed by the witty rejoinder – “but I would rather be horizontal.” Plath spends most of the poem describing what she is NOT, and she most emphatically feels she is not a part of nature, part of mankind’s pain is to be separate from nature, lacking its beauty and simplicity.
Plath’s sentiments remind me of the line in The love song of Alfred. J. Prufrock, “I should have been a pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” Plath does not feel she belongs or fits in, only when she is asleep with “thoughts gone dim” does she “most perfectly” harmonise with nature. The most heartbreaking part of the poem is surely the line, “I shall be useful when I lie down finally.” The conviction that your life lacks meaning, that you will be more useful and natural as manure than as a living human being, conveys the two ingredients which fuel any depression, a sense of worthlessness and a sense of hopelessness. To feel either of these you must be able to grasp the idea of being and of time; the gift of acute consciousness, our human ability to think and feel in a way that no other part of nature can, is, so often, a curse and not a blessing.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

What price your soul?

I'm sure I wasn't the only person immature enough to be mildly amused by the April fools trick played by GameStation , reported by Church Mouse .
Apparently, 7,500 customers blithely signed their immortal souls away in return for a five pound gift voucher. I decided to do some research and discovered that ebay banned people from selling their souls after a singer, appropriately named "Dante", offered his immortal soul to the highest bidder in 2008.
The article also brought to mind that wonderful line from A Man for All Seasons, in which it becomes evident that Richard Rich has committed perjury in return for the Governorship of Wales and Sir Thomas Moore says, "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world - but for Wales!"

So, Wales or a five pound gift voucher? If the answer is "neither" , check the small print!