Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Lakes

We headed up to the Lake District on Tuesday in the pouring rain. The weather was truly awful! Forget lakes and mountains, low cloud, driving rain and poor visibility put paid to that. We stopped off at Sizergh Castle, which was absolutely packed with damp people who might otherwise been walking on the fells. It really was standing room only, but we fought our way through and decided to give the National Trust tea room- crammed with people in raincoats eating butternut squash soup - a miss. As I was explaining to someone, the place we were staying at fortunately has a spa and fitness centre attached. After the gym, sauna and swim, we headed out to a local pub, which is a proper old fashioned type pub, with real ale and a fire (although I haven't quite forgiven them for introducing deep fried milky way and ice cream onto the menu last year.) Yesterday was much brighter and we managed a scenic ride and short walk in the morning. Later we visited Brantwood, John Ruskin's house. Matthew is very keen on art and actually showed what might have been described a glimmer of interest in Ruskin's paintings and gardens. We spent quite a while in the house and longer in the gardens, where we took some pictures. Pictured below is the Zig-Zaggy , a garden which is meant to represent the journey of the soul through purgatory - don't ask me, I never understood those weird inventions, sorry doctrines, of the Roman Catholic Church. Anyhow, you can read it all on this helpful poster. After we had escaped through purgatory, we went to the tea room, where people without raincoats were eating bowls of butternut squash soup...
We would really have liked to go for a walk this morning, but Matthew talked us into the gym and swim option again. Just as well really, it had been quite bright but the clouds soon threatened and we came home the way we set off - in the driving rain. A description of purgatory above,and the purgatorial garden below (looks nice, doesn't it?)

We returned home to find that our elder son(whom we had daringly/ trustingly/ rashly left behind on his own) had survived and so had the house. Result.

Monday, 25 October 2010

CCFON- Stop and think campaign

Wednesday will see the forty third anniversary of the Abortion Act, which gave women access to legal abortions. Christian Concern for our Nation is marking this day with adverts on London buses urging people to “Stop and think”, other events, including a prayer vigil are being planned.
I hesitated to blog on this issue as it is one which I find so harrowing and on which I have such mixed feelings. I think that it is a terrible thing to end the life of an unborn child; equally I think it is a terrible thing to compel a woman to give birth to a child against her wishes. I sometimes wish all moral issues were black and white, but so often they are not, they are grey areas, full of complexity and also full of human pain. There are of course those who wish to reduce such matters to a simple case of black and white, but that is another issue.
A teacher friend once told me about a student in her class who was bleeding heavily as a result of a termination and was frightened that she was haemorrhaging. She had been accompanied to the clinic by another student in the class. The first student had kept the termination from her parents, she had told them she was staying the night at her friend’s house. A medical examination reassured the girl that she was not in danger, she was advised to go home and rest, but would not do so for fear of discovery. Neither girl could be persuaded to confide in a parent; both girls were in a state of absolute terror.
I think this is a tragic, harrowing story. It gives a glimpse of the pain, terror, fear, guilt and shame surrounding the issue of unwanted pregnancy and abortion, and, although it was told to me some twenty years ago, I guess such scenarios do still occur – abortion is still taboo, women do not discuss it openly, even among themselves. Those who are pro life can tell horrific stories of what abortion involves, but there are also horror stories of botched back street abortions and I for one would not want to return to those days.
I can understand that the subject of abortion raises strong feelings, it does for me. However, I do not understand the mindset of anyone who can judge others when they have never been in that situation themselves. I can understand that the slogan of this campaign is “Stop and think” because the high number of terminations carried out does give grounds for grave reflection, but at the same time I worry that the implication might be that women who terminate do not “stop and think.”
Perhaps there are women who end a pregnancy with little thought or concern, but I suspect that there are many more for whom it is a source of intense anguish and one of the most painful, if not the most painful decision they will ever face. Someone once said to me that abortions are often carried out for trivial reasons; I can understand it might seem that way, but carrying a baby, giving birth and supporting a child for eighteen years is itself not a trivial matter either.

I wish I had an easy answer or conclusion to this blog post, but I don’t. I wish I could resolve the moral dilemmas, but I can’t. The truly awful numbers of abortions performed should make us stop and think, but behind those statistics there are many different stories; the fact that we never can and never will know all those stories should also make us stop and think.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Women's Hour article

Charges against two women who protested outside an abortion clinic are to be dropped. The issues around the case were debated on Radio 4, and can be heard below:
Abortion Protest Debate, featuring Andrea Minichiello Williams

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Beer and a bible, prayer and a pint

Phil Ritchie in his Treehouse Blog writes about a new initiative he is organising called a beer and the bible (possibly followed by the equally alliterative prayer and a pint?) Timed to coincide with bible Sunday, tomorrow, Phil aims to encourage us all take bible study out to the pub, a venue which is often more popular than the local church.
In the light of the post below, the beer and bible initiative did bring to mind a William Blake poem in which the eponymous little vagabond suggests that the church might do worse than emulate the ale house. It begins,

"Oh Mother, Oh Mother, the Church is cold
But the ale house is healthy and pleasant and warm."

Fair point that, you have to admit? The little vagabond continues to outline the advantages of a session down the pub over a stint of bible bashing with your bum on a cold seat,

"But if at the Church they would give us some ale
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale
We'd sing and we'd pray the livelong day
And never once wish from the Church to stray."

I think this could just be the way to bring in the punters - but remember that Blake thought of it first!
I hope Phil Ritchie's venture is successful - that's what I call fresh expressions!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

How many layers do you want on that?

One has to feel a pang of sympathy for Rowan Williams in the midst of all the squabbling and division. He is in India at the moment (who can blame him) and gave an interview in which he said that the Anglican Communion might have to become multi-tiered (it seems we're a step further on from the two track communion he was once describing.)

"I don't at all like, or want to encourage, the idea of a multi-tier organisation. But that would, in my mind, be preferable to complete chaos and fragmentation. It's about agreeing what we could do together."

In other words, if the Anglican Communion was a cake, it would be a lot better if it looked like this:

than like this:

But if we are going to manage to be a many tiered communion, we might just need something... something to bind the layers together. Now what could that be?

(Hint: the answer is NOT "an Anglican Covenant"!)

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Doubts and deliberations

There seems to be some level of confusion as to whether the composition of the new Synod is likely to favour traditionalists and be prejudicial to the cause of groups such as WATCH, who are in favour of a code of practice as provision for those opposed to women's ministry.

We always knew that the composition of this Synod would be crucial, so it is hardly surprising that we are seeing anxiety and speculation. I remember that the different sides were recruiting supporters in July. I had to explain to one or two people that a. my job does not allow me to have the time off that is required and b. I was present at Synod as an exhibitor, but I am not currently an official member of the Church of England, not being on any electoral roll.

Now the reports have been published and there are claims of a recruitment of evangelicals to the new synod ensuring that 66% of the clergy, and almost 36% of the laity would vote against legislation if all that was offered was a code of practice. ( if you remember, the legislation in favour of greater provisions for those opposed to women bishops was only narrowly defeated in the House of Clergy in July.) However, this press statement from WATCH seems to suggest that the situation is not so clear cut, although how far this may be wishful thinking is yet unclear.
Damian Thompson suggests that the Bishop of Fulham's departure for Rome may be premature; I think not as I suspect that some opposed are leaving for the Ordinariate because they cannot accept women bishops at any price.
Meanwhile, Rod Thomas of Reform, has released this document describing the "increasingly uncertain" future of those opposed to women's ministry. He seems to give further credence to the likelihood that there will be an evangelical equivalent to the Anglo Catholic society St Wilfred and St Hilda, obviously for those opposed to women bishops on the grounds of male headship rather than sacramental assurance. Julian Mann (Cranmer's Curate) writes of the society having as its basis a group of about twenty Gafcon-supporting churches and saying this could be set up before 2012. Mann also says that they would bring in some missionary bishops to show that the new society means business. It looks like they are going to attempt that manly thrust after all!

Finally, my attention was particularly caught by this sentence in the Reform document,

"We must encourage people to keep offering themselves for the ordained ministry for as long as it is possible."
Presumably by "people" Reform actually means "men"? I am assuming they do and that this was an error, as otherwise the implication would be that Reform do not consider women to be "people"?

I hope they are not going to go back to the days of debate about whether women have souls...

Christina Rees

Christina Rees discusses some of the recent development in the movement towards the admission of women to the Episcopate.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Please pray...

">Church Mouse informs me that Cranmer ( the blogger, the other one is dead) hopes that Cliff Richard's song "Little Town" makes it as a Christmas number one this year. With memories of the truly awful Millennium Prayer playing in my mind I reluctantly typed "Little Town" in to youtube. I was not sanguine , but after only about forty seconds I switched it off. I have to say that I loathe this song , yes, it might grow on me, but I don't want it to. Please pray that nobody buys it, because if I have to lisen to this over Christmas, or worse still I find myself humming it by the 22nd December, I may just cancel the whole event.

I may just cancel the whole event anyhow.

Bah humbug...and it isn't even November yet.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

How do you wear yours?

I love this post from Benny Hazelhurst's blog, which takes a look at the phenomenon of Christian bumper stickers. I have to admit that I do not advertise or visit my views upon all and sundry on the back window of my car, on T shirts, badges, mugs or key fobs. A blog does it quite nicely instead.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Time for action (yawn...)

According to John Richardson in his Ugley Vicar blog, the evangelical organisation known as Reform is in trouble and needs a good shake up at its annual meeting, which is next week or something (couldn't be bothered to read it all.) For a variety of reasons, which I am too tired to explain, Reform has failed to deliver a manly thrust in its bid to stop the monstrous tyranny of women in the Church of England.

In short, Reform has not managed to reform anything at all and needs to be reformed, or something like that. It may also relate to something Chris Sugden has set up, a society for evangelicals called after St. Augustine. Naming the society after this macho saint seems to me a lot more auspicious than calling it St Wilf and St Winnifred - or whatever the Roman Catholic / Anglo Catholic/ do-they-know-what- they-are- anymore one is called. There are two St Augustines, St Augustine of Hippo was allegedly a bit of a goer and associated with a group of young men who liked to boast of their exploits with women. He had a lover for thirteen years and even managed to get her up the duff- honestly, read Wiki. He is also the patron saint of brewers due to his love of a couple of pints with the lads down the pub. The other St. Augustine was the first Archbishop of Canterbury... enough said then. Apparently, St Winnifred, or Hilda, or whatever her name was, was the patron saint of feisty women. Well, Reform aren't going to make that mistake, they know that women are supposed to submit! The picture of St Augustine has a serious beard, and doesn't look like a wilf.

Now perhaps they can all show us what they're made of and stop fannying around like a bunch of girls.
I'll drink to that!

Finding new homes and going new places..

A few announcements this morning have caught my eye. The first is that Bishop John Broadhurst has resigned and is going to join the Ordinariate. This really should come as no great surprise given his long standing involvement in Forward in Faith. Full marks, by the way, to anyone who can explain to me why FIF apparently is not- and presumably never has been- an Anglican organisation, and if so why we should have listened to all those speeches from its members in Synod about changes to the church to which they belong?

The second announcement is that a parish in Kent is to become the first Ordinariate parish. I, for one, will be interested to watch how this develops and pans out. There are key questions about whether those joining the Ordinariate will still remain loosely within the Anglican fold and whether they will be allowed to keep their properties and buildings. I confess that I do not know who will decide these matter and how, or indeed how long such matters will take to resolve. I will say that although I find it incomprehensible that anyone sees fit to exclude women from full ministry for any reason, theological or otherwise, I do hope that there will be a degree of generosity. I do not want to see squabbles over land and property, I do not think the numbers will warrant the conflict involved, and I think it neither very Christian, nor British to engage in such action. (Come on, chaps...)

And finally Bishop Nazir Ali, never a particular favorite of mine, has upped and gone to help out dissenting churches in South Carolina. He will join the diocese as Visiting Bishop for Global Anglican Relations( about fourth paragraph down.) I will refrain from too much comment on this, other than to say that he did announce that he was resigning in order to help persecuted Christians around the world, and there is a class of Christian that thinks that being infiltrated by gay people constitutes persecution... To be fair, his work there will only be part time, so maybe he will spend the rest of his time helping those who actually do face daily threat, violence and persecution because of their faith?

It still looks to me like a case of moving heaven and earth to ensure "no women, no gays."


It has been a really busy week, and although I have made it to the gym twice, I have simply not found the time or inspiration to blog. I have even struggled to find the time to read or comment on other blogs, rare for me as I am a fairly keen reader of other blogs with favourites that range from the well known, widely read, such as OCICBW and Church Mouse to blogs that really are more personal, sometimes written by friends, or by individuals who have started to comment on my blog, thus letting me get to make a new cyber acquaintance. Examples include Freya’s, What’s the Story in Dalamory, Stephen’s The Problem with Religion and the wonderful Cantos of Mutabilitie, with its wonderful discourse on art and literature.

One of the problems I have with making a blog list is that the blogs I read can vary over time. It is frustrating to discover a favourite blog only to find the author is not as keen on it as you are and either stops blogging altogether or starts to post so infrequently that you forget their blog actually exists! Blog reading is also dynamic rather than static; I will have a spate of discovering new blogs, and sometimes the number of blogs I am reading becomes unmanageable. At the same time, certain blogs do have a long shelf life, especially if you get to know the people writing them. I have certain blogs that I check practically every day, Thinking Anglicans, for example, because of its comprehensive coverage of everything to do with the Church of England, Church Mouse for its sensible, moderate comment on a wide range of Anglican news stories, Lesley’s blog because I love it and the ideas and thoughts are so varied and touch on topics I care about and interest me.
I also have certain blogs that I read when wanting to understand different perspective on a story – for example Anglo Catholic, evangelical, fundamentalist or even atheist or agnostic blogs. For example I enjoy reading Re-vise Re-form for an evangelical perspective that is pro women’s ministry. Sometime I like to read on other related issues, Islamophobia blog when something about banning the veil in the news. One of my favourites is Heresy Corner, not because I always agree, but because it can be interesting and topical - and I have been known to argue my corner with the Ugley Vicar! I also have certain blogs that I read because they feed me spiritually, Bosco Peter’s Liturgy often does this and the Colophon Monastery blog is a haven of good thoughts!
The other day I counted the blogs listed in my “favourites” and found they numbered seventy four and the list is showing no signs of reducing. I hope you will find the ones listed here are worth reading.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Sunday evening prayer

In peace we will lie down and sleep;
For you alone, Lord, make us dwell in safety.
Abide with us, Lord Jesus,
For the night is at hand and the day is now past.
As the night watch looks for the morning,
So do we look for you, O Christ.
Come with the dawning of the day
And make yourself known in the breaking of bread.
The Lord bless us and watch over us;
the Lord make his face shine upon us and be gracious to us;
the Lord look kindly on us and give us peace.

Bessie and broccoli

I have had a bit of a strange weekend, most of it has been wiped out by a virus or exhaustion (not sure which), but this afternoon I felt a bit better, and I took Bessie out for a slightly less strenuous version of our customary weekend trek.
It is important that Bessie is exercised as she is currently under strict vet's orders to lose weight. Bessie seems to suffer from a propensity to gain weight easily. When we first took her home, she weighed a whole pound more than the other puppies in her litter, and has always been ... sturdy. The fact that we might be in denial about the fact that she has turned into a bit of a butterball was brought home on a recent walk when a small child greeted her with the words, "Hello, little fat doggie." A trip to the vet confirmed the worst - it was time for a diet.

The vet recommended that we give her no scraps or extras, walk her vigorously, cut her portions down and bulk up her food with plenty of vegetables. Bessie is not exactly impressed with our austerity measures, and the picture above shows her response to vegetables - pick them up and chuck them out of the bowl, especially broccoli, which she seems to consider inedible.
I had considered whether Bessie is a supertaster, but this weekend the hunger pangs must have reached a new level. After throwing her broccoli out in disdain, wolfing her food and licking the bowl all around the kitchen, she did the unheard of. She returned to the broccoli and ate it.
Times must be hard!

Friday, 8 October 2010

The children of man

Given the post below, I thought Dicken's depiction of want and ignorance as suffering children in A Christmas Carol might be relevant.

The undeserving child

The recent announcements about the capping of child benefit and the slashing of allowances to dissuade benefit-scroungers- plus -sprogs has caused quite a lot of heat, and not surprisingly as it touches on several emotive areas. Many British people feel outrage at the idea of people who produce a large number of offspring and then expect "the tax payer" to fund them for doing absolutely nothing other than bringing up said offspring to be unruly and as unemployable as they are. At the same time, most of us are aware that many who turn up in the dole queue do not fit this stereotype, they are simply people who are willing to work and have lost a job. At the back of our minds is the thought, "what if that happened to me?" and there is nothing like smelling the fire in your own kitchen, particularly in times of hardship, to suddenly make us all hesitate...

Another image that should make us hesitate is that of the impoverished child. As has been pointed out, there is no such thing as an undeserving child. When poverty knocks, it is often children who are the victims, not just in lack of food and material goods, but potentially as those who bear the brunt of increased tension. When parents are under intolerable stress, children are more likely to be neglected or abused.

These are thoughts that tug at my heart strings in this economic climate. When I heard some of the pronouncements of the coalition goverment this morning on the radio, I got this vivid and chilling image of children going to school with no shoes, without having had a meal, or without a coat in winter. I know Thatcher spoke of Victorian values, but will we see a return to raggamuffins and workhouses? Moments later I heard of outrage about bonuses for bankers, and someone asked why there is not so much talk about the undeserving rich- perhaps this is because we feel that they are out of our reach? Like the parent who goes home and hits a child, we vent our spleen on those who are vulnerable and not insulated against our hatred and contempt?

This is emotive, arguably irrational stuff, I know -and I do not like the idea of benefit scroungers any more than any of the rest of us. But I do know that Christ was unequivocal on the need to care for the poor and not to hoard riches to ourselves and that he also said that it was better to have a millstone around our necks than cause a child to stumble.

I wonder what that might have to say to us today as we try to resolve these issues with wisdom, justice and humanity?

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Southwark appointment

Congratulations are due to Christopher Chessun, the newly appointed Bishop of Southwark. I am sure he is very amply qualified for this post, and an excellent choice. I hope the wounds caused by the fact that Jeffrey John's name was reportedly put forward and then vetoed will not mar the sense of celebration over this appointment.
Colin Coward in this post on the Changing Attitude blog has written about an apparently not -very- well -publicised change in the way the Church of England appoints bishops. His point is that is unlikely to get any easier for gay priests and bishops, or at least for openly gay priests and bishops to be appointed.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Which planet are they on?

We all know the Anglican Communion is in a pretty dire state and that we are beset with divisions and conflicts (apparently over the issue of homosexuality, although some say this is just the presenting issue.) We have seen some monumentally unchristian behaviour, ranging from outright cruelty to cowardly hypocrisy. There has been a lot of petty and uncharitable behaviour, but David Anderson seems to have taken this to a new level. In his advice to those considering absenting themselves from the Primates meeting in Ireland he suggests that they do attend but that they vote Jefferts Schori off the island, or that they go into a room and stop her coming in! I have this bizarre image of a group of supposedly Christian divines leaning against a door. "You can't come in", they say, "we don't like you, so there."

I really have met four year olds who are capable of more grown up behaviour. I was torn between embarrassment and amusement when I read it. If, as is the case for me, you have great respect for many individuals within the church, but have almost entirely lost faith in the institution as a whole, it does have some comic potential.

One thing Anderson said did ring true. He wrote that Rowan Williams is not on the same page as he is. Well, that is for sure! The question is whether they even on the same planet! I would not like to be Rowan Williams at the Primates meeting in January. Unfortunately he has gone down the road of trying to appease those who are not amenable to reason, will only accept things on their own terms, and who will throw tantrums (quite literally) when others differ from them.

If you will appease the crazies, don't be surprised when you find that the lunatics are running the asylum.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Dr. Faustus

We went with friends to see Dr. Faustus last night at the Manchester Royal Exchange.
It was an excellent production, with Patrick O'Kane brilliantly cast as a tortured but inspired Faustus. Faustus has been described as a "Renaissance man who had to pay the medieval price for being one", and I don't think I was too fanciful in seeing in the play our current day conflicts between religion and science. Faustus thirsts for power, but more than that he craves knowledge. He is enquiring, challenging and contentious in his quest to truly know; so much so that he rejects the scriptures, and sees a circular element in theology, as though it is a closed loop (hmmmm...)

I am full of admiration for just how well many plays are staged these days. The stage craft was superb with excellent lighting, sound and delivery. The use of zombie like demons (see picture) was very effective, even though Kev said his overall impression was Harry-Potter-meets-Pirates- of-the-Caribbean. The play was three hours long, but even after an exhausting week I was enthralled throughout.
We had a devil of a time!