Sunday, 31 October 2010
To be absolutely fair to my parents (will my mother ever forgive me for this post?) I enjoyed several Halloween parties in my teens, and went out trick and treating with friends and my parents never really interfered with this. I really think it was more a personal matter and maybe that they didn’t think it entirely appropriate for the Vicar to be encouraging a pagan festival.
It may a reaction, or it may be a reflection on my parlous state, but I really enjoy Halloween now. I don’t have a problem with it, although I respect the views of those who do. I think it is great fun for children, it is wonderfully spooky and fuels the imagination, I love the costumes and it adds a splash of colour to the beginning of the dark days of the year.
Halloween also reminds me of the old superstitions and traditions, and of our roots in pagan beliefs and festivals. My mum grew up in a tiny hamlet, Feizor , in North Yorkshire. We often visited as children and my parents pointed out that the house she grew up in had a witches’ seat on the chimney stack. Witches’ seats or stones were simply ledges left jutting out so that the witch could rest during her journey and would not cast malevolent spells upon the household. Many of our forebears would have had some belief in witches, even if this did as usual involve women getting the blame. In 1603 King James wrote his Demonology, considered a very erudite work upon magic, witchcraft and sorcery.
I love the link to that bygone age, it is part of our heritage (yes, I know trick and treat is an American invention – who cares – you get free sweets!) Also a lot of our best literature draws on the supernatural, Macbeth, Faustus, The Crucible and The Turn of the Screw all use witches, ghosts and magic, partly as an aid to explore our moral choices and questions of good and evil. It may be a pushing it just a little to try and claim that Halloween still keeps in our secular consciousness a sense of the opposition between good and evil, but I do think that some of our modern day children’s literature with supernatural themes, most notably the Harry Potter series, often frame such questions.
So, this Sunday afternoon we shall carve the pumpkin and later light it and put it outside. Anyone calling for sweets will get them with our blessing.
Saturday, 30 October 2010
Friday, 29 October 2010
The Anglican Church is currently facing a crisis that some have likened to the Reformation, one that might well split the Church irrevocably. I have to say that I do not agree that we are facing division on this scale, our current squabbles are likely to be a blip in a graph compared to the profound and seismic shift that was the Protestant Reformation. However, I think we will see huge changes, for good or ill, in the way the Anglican Church looks and works over the next decade. The Covenant is a document spawned from fear, anger and expediency, in that something official needs to be seen to be done.I do not think the Covenant will be effective in resolving problems and I think it will have a detrimental effect upon the Church - two good reasons to oppose it.
There are ironies in the comparison of the current situation to the Reformation. The Church of England has from its inception been a church of compromise and breadth. Elizabeth 1, above all a realist, saw that, although sedition could not be tolerated, at the same the bitter divisions between Catholicism and the new religion could not be allowed to tear apart the nation. As a result the Church of England allowed a certain lattitude of quietly held theological belief, and it may explain why there is such a diversity within Anglicanism.
The irony is that the very strength of Anglicanism - its capacity for breadth, tolerance, flexibility and compromise, and sometimes even to fudge matters in the interests of a quiet life, is seen by some as a weakness. The issues of sexuality and women's ordination have brought into sharp relief the other differences that exist, different approaches to scripture and tradition, the question of orthodoxy. There have been calls in some quarters for a confessional unity, there have been cries of "heresy", we have even returned in some places to the language of the Reformation, with TEC described as "gangrenous", shades of Moore and Luther's exchanges about the "shit house of all shit." Added to this, we now have individuals who play a key role yet who come from cultures whose understanding of the key issues is so diametrically opposed that they do not share the same paradigms, they are coming from completely different premises.
The threat to Anglicanism comes not from the issue of sexuality or gender in themselves, the greatest threat comes from those who wish to impose a very narrow understanding upon the Church, to force a confessional unity and remake it in their own image. It is ironic that it is those who crow over the troubles of TEC and claim that it faces a slow but inevitable death and decline, are those most intent upon disciplining it. If TEC were dying, the question must be asked as to why the church seems intent on tearing itself to pieces over its actions and beliefs?
I think that the answer is that the big threat is not TEC, nor indeed the Church of Canada, which some see as waiting in the wings. The big threat comes from outside, from a world which is rapidly changing, where human rights are coming to the forefront. Even in Uganda and Nigeria those battles are coming. Religious belief itself is also under attack from rationalism, science and the new atheism, although religious fundamentalism is on the increase, so is opposition to it, and in secular societies religion itself is often seen as a baddie, narrow, oppressive, inimical to human rights and freedoms. TEC and its action are a symptom, they are not a cause, and the real fears of those who oppose it run deep.
I do not think the Anglican Covenant is particularly - Anglican - nor do I think it is particularly Christian. I have said before that I especially dislike the term covenant, a word which speaks of a gracious compact of love and mercy, being used to describe a document which aims to discipline, or at least to give the impression of that intent.
Inclusive Church is running this advert in the Church Times tomorrow. I must admit that, despite being the IC representative in my area - a role in which I actually do very little - I had not read this until I saw it on Thinking Anglicans, but it is well worth reading as it outlines some of the ways the Covenant could affect the Church of England. For anyone who does value human rights, tolerance, freedom of thought and belief and who passionately believes that religious belief can encompass tolerance and humanity, old style Anglicanism is well worth speaking up for and the not -very -Anglican covenant is well worth speaking out against.
Thursday, 28 October 2010
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
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
Abortion Protest Debate, featuring Andrea Minichiello Williams
Saturday, 23 October 2010
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
"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
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...
Monday, 18 October 2010
I may just cancel the whole event anyhow.
Bah humbug...and it isn't even November yet.
Sunday, 17 October 2010
Saturday, 16 October 2010
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!
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."
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
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.
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
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
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
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.