Monday, 31 December 2012

Incarnation and atrocity

Of all the stories in the news this Christmas period, the news of the student who died after being raped in New Dehli, and  that of the church organist who died after an attack on his way to church on Christmas eve, must surely rate as among the most harrowing and disturbing.  I wrote earlier of the impossible message of peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, and perhaps it is to temper this message that straight after Christmas we have Holy Innocents and St Stephen's day;  human cruelty and atrocity continues to flourish in spite of Christmas.
To attack another human being, someone simply going about their business and living their life, and to so to end their life in a violent and traumatic way bringing untold sadness to their friends and relatives, creates a sense of revulsion in most people. We might wonder what the message of the Incarnation- of God with us- says to the perpetrators of evil as well as to its victims. I believe that the Incarnation dignifies humanity. God becoming human speaks to us of a God who sees in human kind, in spite of its fallen nature, a place where the divine can reside and where love can transform our tendency  to seek to have power over others, to the point sometimes of brutality and hatred.
What of those who perpetrate acts of cruelty against others? They certainly lack empathy, they lack a sense of others as human, but more than this I think they lack a sense of self, a sense of themselves as human beings and of the dignity inherent in this. My hope for this coming year is that we might have a sense of the dignity of being human and to see in all others and in ourselves whatever it is that God sees in us that makes Him love us so much that He chose to do the unthinkable and incomprehensible and make his dwelling with us.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Prince of Peace



"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6).

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

I heard this poem on Radio 4 this morning and thought about  the impossible but lovely Christmas message of peace on Earth and about how sometimes we need to  believe in and to rest in the grace of the world. The picture above was taken at  a place I go to when I need to feel peace.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Advent Prison

A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes … and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Today's reading from Philipians is so upbeat, so full of thanks, praise and confidence that the God who "began a good work in us with carry it on to completion"  that it is easy to miss the fact that Paul wrote it "in chains". There are many kinds of prisons in our lives, those we create for ourselves and those we create for others out of our abuse or privilege. We only have to read the news to see on a daily basis the fact that humans are often better at creating prisons than in allowing freedom to flourish. Part of the promise of Advent is the promise of freedom, or as Isaiah put it, " to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness  the prisoners." Light in darkness and freedom from chains when seen as metaphors for a release from worldly woes create an inspiring ideal -  one which a cynic might well reject as pie in the sky.  Paul's words are those of a man who may be physically captive but who has achieved a mental and spiritual freedom because of his dependence on God. The next paragraph goes on to explore the paradox that Paul's chains advance the gospel and might make us consider that the Good News does not promise us freedom from our difficulties but rather freedom in spite of them. Paul's imprisonment is a metaphor for Advent because he waits with hope, with trust in God and in the knowledge that ,even while held captive to difficulties and constraints, God can still complete a good work in us if we rely on Him.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Walking cheerfully

Today is the final day of Quaker Week 2012 and, although there have been various events running, I am sorry to say that I have been too busy to take part in any of them, unless you count turning up for the lunch organised at someone's house today and eating the food lovingly prepared by others, while bringing my own contribution which was rustled up on a trip around Tesco! Work, as you may gather, is very busy at the moment. I know it always is, and I am not wanting to complain, but it has been hard to fit things in of late.
Weekends are important to me, and I think it is essential that I try to do something every weekend that gives me space and time just to "be" rather than to "do". This may be a long walk,  worship, a visit to friends, a meal out with my family - anything that brings peace and joy and nurtures the soul. Friendship and fellowship today gave me that chance to feel peaceful and ready to face the week, and my mind was drawn to the following advice:
              "Walk cheerfully over the earth, answering that of God   in everyone."
                                                                                                   (George Fox)
I am not sure I spend enough time being walking cheerfully and I am not sure I spend enough time answering that of God in everyone. It is something that I try to do, but sometimes I get caught up in bitterness, or anger, or disillusion,  or a sense of the injustice or ugliness of life, or just sheer weariness. Of course, it would not  be good  for us to be oblivious to these things or to deny that we can have negative emotions. At the same time though, we  do need to balance them against the good, we need to recognise that bitterness against something means it has power over you, and we need to find a place in ourselves where we can be at peace with others and with God.
This week I shall try to walk cheerfully and answer to God in everyone, and I feel better simply at the thought that that is what I want to do!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Make your own fudge!

Some readers will remember that in a previous blog I described one of the  earlier attempts to resolve the Women Bishops legislation in terms of a classic Church of England fudge. If I were to describe this new clause in those terms, it would roughly translate as "make your own fudge" and it would go like this:






Make your own  fudge kit (respect flavour)
Can be made by both sides

Ingredients
Your opponents' theological convictions.
Your own anger and bitterness.
As much respect  as you can muster
Season with love, grace, tact

1. Try to put your own anger and bitterness to one side.
2. Place your opponents' theological convictions, whether for or against women bishops, in the bowl
3. Add as much respect as you can muster.
4. Season with love, grace, tact and pray for more if you don't have enough.
5. By this stage you should be seeing your "opponent" as your brother and sister in Christ. If not, the fudge might have a bitter taste and cause indigestion.
6. Pray that your brother and sister in Christ responds in kind -  but remember you have to set the example.

Remember the fudge is yours and theirs, you share joint responsibility for whether it is bitter or sweet.
Enjoy!

The notion of respect

I've just got home from work and have read the Archbishop's statement on the new draft legislation on women bishops. To summarise briefly, it proposes replacing the controversial Clause 5. 1(c) with the following wording, which was suggested by the Rev Janet Appleby:

"the selection of male bishops and male priests in a manner which respects the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request under section 3"

It is worth reading the Archbishop's words in full; his focus is not upon what the legal understanding of the word "respect" might be (more on that later) but upon the idea of respect as a moral and spiritual concept and a quality which will be essential if the Church is to move forward on this issue:

"The bishops were deeply impressed by the moral and spiritual and relational content of this word ‘respect’, and they were eager to go for a form of words that had the advantage of simplicity and directness about it.  They believed it was also very important that this had come not from themselves, but from the process of consulting the wider Church."

Well, it is simple and direct, it also has the advantage of the moral high ground - no-one on either side can really argue against the notion of respect. It also has the advantage that it cannot really be said to be enshrining in law the notion that discrimination against women is permissible or acceptable.

It disadvantage, it seems to me, is that it is vague. It is hard to know what constitutes, "respect(ing) the grounds on which parochial church councils issue Letters of Request" in actual legal and practical terms. It is for this reason that the opponents of women bishops will argue against it. We may see bitter disputes over what is meant by "respect" - oh, the irony!

I sense a certain weariness though about the whole matter. We need to move on and to find ways forward. This wording is by no  means ideal, but there is no ideal solution and I have an inkling that this will pass.

And perhaps we should pray long and hard for the ability to truly exercise respect for each other - more so when we differ than when we agree.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Alive and doing

The Daily Meditation (by Richard Rohr) that arrived in my inbox yesterday was worth sharing as having some relevance to today's reading and to the reminders in James that good works should arise out of faith and that faith without works is a dead faith. Rohr writes:

 It seems to me that it is a minority that ever gets the true and full Gospel. We just keep worshiping Jesus and arguing over the exact right way to do it. The amazing thing is that Jesus never once says, “worship me!”, but he often says, “follow me” (e.g., Matthew 4:19).


Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, non-violent, shared, inclusive, and loving. We made it, however, into a formal established religion, in order to avoid the demanding lifestyle itself. One could then be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain at the highest levels of the church, and still easily believe that Jesus is “my personal Lord and Savior.” The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on Earth is too great.

Adapted from the CAC Foundation Set: Gospel Call to Compassionate action

I do see so many churches involved in good within their communities, I think this is something which the church at the grassroots often excels in. I know that there is some amazing involvement in the community in the area I live in, and this work arises out of faith and love- the royal commandment- as today's reading put it. I was interested, however, in the idea that we actually create formal, established religion in order to avoid the genuine call of Christ. That challenging idea is worth pondering. It made me think of some of the Quaker ideas about avoiding hierarchy, systems and power as far as possible in faith structures, meanwhile emphasising the need for simplicity in our own lives and practical service to the world.
Dead faith is that religiosity that is wedded to power and prestige and all that the world values - hence the reminder not to favour the wealthy within church circles. Living faith looks at life through a different lens and wants to serve others, not to further its own power base.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Truths and half truths

The Archbishop of Canterbury has given an interview - or maybe several if the amount of coverage on the Internet is anything to go by. Headlines report various things, from a quote that he has "not cracked it" when it comes to unifying the Church during his office, to reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury's role will in future be divided among more than one person (this report has now been corrected as an inaccurate distortion of the ABC's words by the Anglican Communion office.)
One of the things Rowan Williams does seem to have said is that the Church got it wrong in the past on homosexuality. Presumably this means that the Church only got it wrong in the past but is bang spot on in the present? Hmmmm. Don't think so. Isn't it strange how it is much easier to be wrong in the past but never, ever wrong in the present? And we have to remember that when we were wrong in the past, we thought we were right - and no doubt said as much. You'd think someone of William's intellectual calibre would have reflected on that? Maybe he did - but just didn't mention it? Is that dishonest? Well, I dunno. I'll leave you to think about it.
On the subject of honesty and dishonesty, there's Jeffrey John's latest contribution in the Church Times - published in Thinking Anglicans with permission (Friday 8th Sept). He tells us about how a great many of the bishops  and the church hierarchy are actually gay and gay accepting but how they don't admit it in public.The article is called, "Time to tell the truth", which would be great, except that we've heard this before! We've heard it ad nauseum. We know it. Why are you telling us - again? Jeffrey John also says that he nearly resigned twice but stayed in spite of all the hypocrisy. Apparently those who persuaded him to stay said it was because they needed people who were honest. Well, maybe, but I can't help wondering if it  there is much point telling the truth in an institution which has stopped its ears while the outside world shrugs its shoulders in disbelief and gets on with life?
Perhaps I'm being harsh. I'm not really displaying much long-suffering, which, my friends, is one of the fruits of the spirit. I've had a hard week and I just think I might be fresh out of long suffering this morning.

I suppose it's good that Jeffrey John still has his, even if it is a little frayed round the edges, but I have to say that when it comes to all the worn out conflicts, lies, hypocrisy and well worn argument and counter argument you hear on this topic from the Church, he's welcome to it.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Nobody's fool

A fantastic mystery worshipper review from the Ship of Fools website. Anyone who has at some point in their lives been involved in, or coerced into, attending this type of church will find it strikes a chord. Stuart, whose blog I've shamelessly nicked it from, was particularly taken with: "What part of the service was like heaven?" Answer: The five minutes smoking outside.
My personal favourite was this:
"Toward the end of the sermon, Ian Andrews asked who in the congregation, when speaking in tongues, favoured the letter S or K. A few people raised their hands. He then asked one lady who had raised her hand to stand up and speak in tongues, but to favour the letter L. The poor lady look horrified but obliged."

This reminded me of someone who told me that his tongues strategy consisted of repeating the phrase, "Monica's got an anemone" very rapidly, just occasionally throwing in the name of the group "Chaka Khan" to add a little variation. (...I'm not sure he was joking...)

Read. Enjoy. I bet the congregation are lovely, lovely people - but just get down on your knees NOW and thank God now for all those with common sense, a dry sense of humour and a little cynicism!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Journeys of transformation

Italian Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini, who died on Friday, aged 85 years, apparently "lashed out" at the Roman Catholic Church prior to his death saying it is "200 years behind" the times. I had a read through the Cardinal's remarks and it seemed to me that, rather than being an excoriating attack, suggested by the rather salacious sounding headline "Cardinal lashes the Church", Carlo Maria Martini's words were spoken more in sadness than in anger.

He suggested that Roman Catholicism needed to be less ritualistic and pompous, and that the changes should begin with "the Pope and his bishops."
"Our culture has grown old, our churches are big and empty and the church bureaucracy rises up, our religious rites and the vestments we wear are pompous."

 He also asked that the Church adopt a more generous attitude to divorced persons and should not focus on excluding the divorced from communion but on helping in complex family situations. He also commented on the child sex scandals which have particularly rocked Catholicism but which are not entirely unknown in other churches - witness the current condemnation of the "dysfunctional" attitudes and practice in Chichester dioces. Cardinal Martini said:
                   "The child sex scandals oblige us to undertake a journey of transformation."
Sometimes people are given a message to speak to others (we used to call them prophets) and I can see nothing in the Cardinal's message that is not  wise,deeply Godly and Christian. This is why I was particularly saddened to read that the Pope is now, "faced with a difficult choice of whether or not to attend the Cardinal's funeral on Monday." Difficult choice??!!! I would suggest that if the Pope does not attend it would be a tangible proof of the truth and veracity of Cardinal Martini's remarks , whereas if he does we would see a  more Christ like humility and grace in evidence and perhaps the funeral procession could mark the beginning of a journey of transformation.

Monday, 20 August 2012

How unutterably sweet is the knowledge that our Heavenly Father knows us completely. No talebearer can inform on us; no enemy can make an accusation stick; no forgotten skeleton can come tumbling out of some hidden closet to abash us and expose our past; no unsuspected weakness in our characters can come to light to turn God away from us, since He knew us utterly before we knew him and called us to Himself in the full knowledge of everything that was against us.

A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy


Sunday, 19 August 2012

Belief and behaviour

Someone posted this on Facebook the other day. I hadn’t read it before although I am sure it is quite a well known saying. It is generally true that how we behave is much more important than what we believe. The measure of people’s Christian faith is more easily gauged by how they treat other and whether they exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control, than whether they subscribe to a particular set of theological tenets. I hold a fairly distinctive set of beliefs, some of them conventional, others less so, but I don’t see why others should necessarily subscribe to my understandings. As someone said to me today, God is so huge that it would be strange if we did not all have different understandings because we can all only glimpse a little part of God and maybe it takes many different views for us to grasp him/ her. This acknowledgement does not prevent anyone from sharing their particular view of God. There is no point believing you have good news if you do not wish to share it. Enthusiastically sharing a belief is not the same as insisting someone else must accept it is valid.


The statement about belief being unimportant and behaviour all important is not, however, that simple. It does not address the problem that what we believe changes what behaviour we consider right or wrong. One individual might see certain behaviour as inappropriate or wrong which another sees as right and good. Behaviour which in the past was seen as acceptable, such as enslaving other human beings, is now universally condemned as a moral evil. As Shakespeare’s Hamlet concludes, “Nothing’s good or bad but thinking makes it so.” To some extent a post modern world grapples with the question of whether good and evil are moral absolutes or simply social constructs, at another level it settles for the easy belief that the prevailing view is right and views held by different times and by dissenting individuals are manifestly wrong.

Furthermore, it is difficult to say that what we believe does not matter because belief and behaviour is usually linked. Beliefs are powerful. Beliefs can be dangerous. If beliefs did not matter, people would not fear and oppose them. Our beliefs can lead us to act in ways which are selfless or selfish, to perpetrate acts of atrocity or sacrifice. Even if we do not act directly on our beliefs, holding and expressing certain beliefs might create a climate in which either hatred or justice can flourish. We should generally try to respect the beliefs others hold, even when we disagree. We should always ask ourselves, “Could they be right and could I be wrong?” Sometimes we do have to oppose a belief – the wisdom is knowing when to do so.

I think Jesus taught more about behaviour than anything else. He linked belief and behaviour, because to hear his words and not act on them is like building a house on sand, not rock. His teaching was about a way of life, a revelation of the nature of God and the Kingdom of Heaven rather a list of  theological tenets. Also, if you believe that He was the Son of God, or as in today's reading, the bread of life, then Jesus himself was the embodiment that linked belief and behaviour. Jesus was a “doer”; he touched, healed and transformed. In Jesus the distinction between concept (belief) and concrete action (behaviour) melts away because he is a living embodiment of belief - the word made flesh. Jesus did not just bring a revelation; he was that revelation and its practical application in the world.

And, to my mind, still is.

Tell tale signs your parent/s may be clergy

The Archdruid reveals those Tell tale signs that you may be clergy. I was particularly amused by numbers 13 and 14. I think it would be interesting to see "Tell tale signs your parent/s may be clergy". These could include:

-Your mother thinks that one of the perks of the job is getting first pick of the jumble sale clothes. This one is perhaps not so relevant today as the church jumble sale seems to be in decline, but it was certainly true in the 1970s when my dad was a curate and  it seemed my mum dressed us almost entirely in  church jumble sale items. (Apologies to my mum if she considers this to be a calumny...)

-People whose teenagers never  ever attend church expect you to be there every Sunday without fail. (This was true in the 1980s. My dad's reply to "Where's your son/ daughter today?" was, "At home. Where's yours?")

- All your friends give you the religious Christmas card in their assorted pack and explain you got it so that they could get rid of it. (Yeah, thanks...)

- When university friends find out your parental occupation, they say, "You don't look/ seem/ act like a vicar's daughter." You feel a sense of deep gratitude.

-When they then meet your parent, they say, "S/he doesn't look/ seem/act like a vicar, does s/he?" ( Most clergy act like themselves, not a stereotype. Anyhow, to their children they are not really "a vicar", they're dad/ mum!)


Any others?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Coping with failure

The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.
Buddha

A Level Results Day can be fraught with emotion.  I still develop nerves the night before and convince myself that this will be the year of spectacular failure! During twenty plus years of teaching it is inevitable that your students will sometimes get disappointing or even devastating results, but generally the grades reflect what you expected they would achieve - although not always what they hoped they would get.
This year my nerves were exacerbated by hearing on the radio that the exam boards had been instructed to mark the papers more rigorously. Given the state I get into, this translated at some level in the less rational part of my being as, "They will all have failed". I was well aware that this was entirely unlikely! A quick check of the results at 8am this morning was reassuring. My wonderful Lit group had all done really well and the vast majority had got the grades they needed and wanted. Some of them obviously share my angst ridden approach though as a very able student told me she had been shaking with nerves and anticipating a U grade. She got an A*.
Now that I also have responsibility for pastoral and discipline, I get to see many students who really have missed getting the grades they wanted or needed. I always feel for these students (even when they haven't worked very hard) because it is very difficult to cope with failure and disappointment, especially when you are young and so many of your friends are celebrating or thrilled about  going off to university and you feel you have nothing. Failure is difficult to cope with and can provoke emotions such as shame, anger, fear, hopelessness, guilt.
I once read that failure is simply an event and not a person, it is vital to take this approach when dealing with students who have got disappointing grades because they can feel that they are summed up by their results. They may feel what they are, or what their future will be, is defined  solely by those grades. On Facebook tonight I read many messages from proud parents whose children have done well. Spare a thought for those students who will go home without good news and who will feel left out of the general celebrations.  I do find it hard to leave the memory of them behind.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Do dogs have souls (Part twenty one)



I've noticed that when Bessie does something wrong, she is able to assume a look of innocence that I am sure is contrived. Her expression says, "What! Me?"
It's the Garden of Eden all over again...

Friday, 10 August 2012

Space for self



We've just returned from a week in Corfu, a much appreciated chance to rest and relax. A week didn't seem long enough, we did manage a boat ride around some caves and beautiful coastline and a visit to the island of Paxos, but did not manage much else in terms of seeing the island. What we did do was to spend a lot of time swimming and soaking up the sunshine, something we felt quite deprived of given the UK weather this year.  Holidays are also a chance to read. I averaged a book every day or two this holiday and particularly recommend Patrick Gale's A Perfectly Good Man and Chris Cleave's The Other Hand.

Swimming around the caves
Another unexpected boon this holiday was the chance to spend time with our younger son. There is a bit of a history to this as he wasn't overly keen on the idea of coming with us. Our decision to only go for a week was partly based on consideration for the boredom factor for him and the having-to-deal-with-a- bored-teenager factor for us. He was, however, surprisingly good company, full of chat and laughter and we had several interesting conversations with him (yes, really!) It was a contrast to last year when he was polite enough but fairly uncommunicative.I thought to myself that he really must be growing up and also how good it would be to have a positive memory of what may be our last holiday as a "family" rather than a couple.

We really didn't want to return, but it was a bonus to come back to find some sunshine in the UK. I've been resisting the impulse to get on with the pile of ironing that holidays alway produce and am spending time walking the dog, reading, and pottering in  the garden while the summer lasts! Sunshine doesn't last forever, nor do holidays, or children, or  the peace and space just to be. It is important that we savour gifts like that while we can.


Thursday, 26 July 2012

Welcoming all

I like this welcome notice taken from Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Community Church:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.
We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.
If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.
We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!

H/T to E-Church blog and Stuff Christians Like.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Discrimination or fair enough?

I have to say that I am really not a fan of the Christian Institute and can't bear it when they bang on about being a persecuted minority.On the other hand,  I can't be the only person who thinks that the National Secular Society's attempt to ban free Sunday parking for church goers on the grounds that it infringes the 2010 Equality Act seems just a tad bitter and mean spirited?

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Are you low or high maintenance?


This blog post has been partly inspired by the comment by Peter in the post below about individuals living beyond their means, and partly because I've been thinking and reading articles recently about austerity given the economic crisis.

I've blogged before about the fact that my two sons are like chalk and cheese. They seem to be different in so many respects, one is always on facebook, the other doesn't even have a facebook account, one has a wide circle of friends, the other has a few trusted friends that he's known since primary school, one loves to shop, the other has to be talked into buying new clothes - and one of them is always asking for money while the other once handed his pocket money back and said, "I just don't need it." ( No, I am not making this up. Yes, I know it's not normal...)
The chair above belongs to the son who hands back his pocket money. It is very old and shabby and I announced that I was going to provide a new one. A conversation then occurred that went like this:
Son: There's nothing wrong with it.
Me: Yes, there is - look the stuffing is coming out. You need a new one.
Son: But I like this one and I don't care about the stuffing coming out.
Me: I do, it will be all over the bedroom floor. We can get you a new one.
A few hours later, said son called me to his room and proudly showed me the chair which he had "repaired" using an old pair of jeans and cotton and thread thus avoiding the unnecessary expense (and trauma?) of having to have a new chair. I am still on a mission to replace it and I still haven't managed.
Our other son is not at all averse to buying new things, he will spend more money on an item of clothing than I would. We sometimes joke that he is high maintenance and his brother is low maintenance  - you might remember the clip from "When Harry met Sally" where Sally places a complicated order,  Harry later tells her that she is the worst kind of woman - one who thinks she is low maintenance but is actually high maintenance. Are you, I wonder, high or low maintenance?

Friday, 20 July 2012

Thrift and abundance

I enjoyed this article on the BBC News website exploring the idea that  Eurozone conflicts over how to deal with the financial crisis find their roots in religion and whether, culturally as much as theologically, countries and individuals identify with Protestantism, with its emphasis on austerity, self discipline and work ethic ,or  Catholicism, with its unreformed and more indulgent approach to matters fiscal. It is quite amusing to imagine, as Stephan Richter has suggested, that the addition of Luther as one of the negotiators of the Maastricht treaty, deciding which countries could join the euro, would have solved the entire debt crisis!

Our attitude to money itself and our attitude to those without money is of great importance in Christianity. On the one hand, the management of money (stewardship as some churches like to call it) is a practical matter; despite the existence of the prosperity gospel, we are called on to treat money with caution, indeed to eschew riches, and, rather radically, give it all to the poor- not that you see many Christians. rushing to do this! So many of Jesus' parables concern themselves either directly or indirectly with the idea of money, abudance, gifts, debts, payment, generosity or lack thereof. In most of them it is not money itself which is the issue, rather money is used to illustrate a much deeper attitude to life, to ourselves, to others and to God. It is hardly surprising that money is a theological concept - at the heart of a Protestant understanding of salvation is the idea of a debt cancelled, however, beyond this, there is also a message about what we want, how much we are prepared to give, where our treasure lies.   I left school in the eighties, during the Thatcher years and the loads-a-money culture. One of our teachers gave this parting advice, "BE RICH",  he scrawled on the board, there were sounds of surprise, approval or disapproval accordingly, then he added, "in the things that matter."

 Harry Enfield and loads-a-money has now been relegated to the history books and things look much more bleak. It is impossible to determine whether Luther could really solve the debt crisis, perhaps it is really a way of saying that a return to an austere and Calvinistic scrupulosity, hopefully just when it comes to business and economics, is the way forward. But we should not forget that a Protestant work ethic can lead  to a place where we count our pennies, give cold charity to our neighbour, justify amassing great wealth in the name of religion or even see wealth as a sign of God's approval. The life Jesus lived wasn't one you would recommend to a young person starting out. Forget thrifty or  penny pinching, going into ministry without financial backing  wasn't even a sensible plan. The life of Jesus was not one of austerity but rather one combining poverty and abudance; the God who created the universe and who tears up the accounts book in favour of an amazing grace can hardly be characterised as a bean counter.

Austerity will continue to dominate the news; David Cameron has announced that he sees no end in sight (surely he's said that before...) Meanwhile, we should not forget that we are not asked to be austere, we are asked to give without counting the cost, and to be rich - in the things that matter.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Latest on the draft measure

This press release at lunchtime announced that the Steering Committee on women bishops intends to seek permission to move a motion asking for an adjournment. Synod will vote on this tomorrow and, if they vote for an adjournment, the legislation will be sent back to the House of Bishops to reconsider (although nobody seems to want to guess what they will or won't do with it then!) The earliest it will be looked at then  is November.

Frustration - and bread down the chimney

I went to York Minister this morning, a moving service in which the Archbishop preached on frustration, linking this to  the frustrations of the prophet Ezekiel, Paul's thorn in the flesh and Jesus being frustrated at the unbelief in his home town. Frustration, said the Archbishop, affects individuals, society and the Church. It was a clear allusion to the difficulties which have dogged the Church during his tenure and an allusion to the current frustrations over the women bishops legislation.
In a nutshell, Rowan Williams said that we must remember that frustration is actually a product of our human ability to think and feel strongly about issues. The human mind, he said, cannot be forced and so our frustration arises from our freedom as human beings and so should be acknowledged as having arising from a positive and not seen as something wholly negative. The human mind cannot be forced - but it can be broken by love. He reminded us that Jesus could not do work among those of his home town because of their lack of faith and belief, sometimes, he said, we too need to let go of our resistance and allow God to do his work. Towards the end of the sermon, Williams told an anecdote, which he said he had been struggling to "fit in" to the sermon. It was the story of an impoverished Welsh farmer's wife who, when asked how she coped with the frustration of struggling to make ends meet, said that, "bread comes down the chimney."
I wondered if William's "offering" of the metaphor of bread down the chimney, a strange manna from heaven, was a final consolation for a Church for which he has no solution. Williams time and time again has offered to the Church the message that a "solution", if there is one, lies in love, trust in God and consideration for each other. It is in a way a helpless message, but I do not think it is an unholy one, in some ways very much the opposite and in some ways the only way forward in the face of seemingly irreconcilable divisions. For many, Williams has been too gentle and too vacillating; he has disappointed liberals and conservatives at different times and in different ways. But perhaps his message that somehow it will be alright, just wait, see, trust and don't lose sight of the bigger picture of love, is the wisest message going.

Synod and Women Bishops!

Few will be surprised to hear that there was one topic that dominated the conversations at York Synod this weekend! Everybody is waiting for tomorrow's business on the draft legislation on the admission of women to the Episcopate and tensions are certainly running high in some quarters. Friday evening's questions saw a certain amount of , well, frustration might be the word at the increasingly centralised actions of the House of Bishops in amending this legislation at the eleventh hour.
Yesterday, after  being present at the presentation of the petition on same sex marriage, I attended the WATCH lunch where Miranda Threlfall- Holmes spoke of her disappointment and dismay at what had happened and considered some of the ramifications. I don't want to say too much about the WATCH lunch because it was a meeting essentially for WATCH members, I just want to say how very difficult and messy something which might be thought to be relatively simple - the opening up of full ministry to both genders- has been and continues to be.
Although I did witness the thoughts and feelings of those of us who long for the full inclusion of women in the Church, I did not have the opportunity to speak with anyone opposed. I was, however, handed a leaflet called Better Together which seemed very inclusive and touch feely but, when I examined it later, turned out to be signed by Bishop Ebbsfleet who is Chairman of Forward in Faith. You can look at the website on the link; it sedulously avoids any of the usual tactics and does not in any way rehearse the arguments of those opposed. Is couched in the most vague and general terms and just basically asks - well - for everyone to be a lot nicer to those who cannot recognise the ministry of women. I felt it might be an indication of how outnumbered those opposed feel if they must address members of General Synod using these tactics.
I am very sorry that I cannot be at Synod tomorrow, but I will definitely be keeping up with developments throughout the day!

Saturday at Synod- Same sex marriage petition

On Saturday morning, supporters of Changing Attitude met the Rev Ian Stubbs outside York Minister to accompany him on the last leg of his journey to present a petition to the representatives of the Archbishop of York. The Rev Ian Stubbs decided to launch the  Not in my name petition in response to the House of Bishops statement on same sex marriage which was published last month. The statement attracted criticism from many within the church.
Ian Stubbs is the parish priest of All Saints in Glossop and was reported as saying,
‘I am bitterly disappointed by the Church's shameful and outdated response to the proposals for gay marriage, it shows a lack of moral courage and risks further undermining the credibility and relevance of the Church of England in modern life."
Presenting the petition
He collected 4,000 signatures in only two weeks and said the response of the majority of people had been positive.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Being whole


This is a powerful video clip to show to students as part of a PSHE programme. It teaches the importance and power of wholeness of spirit and mind. Nick Vujicic makes his audience consider their lack of wholeness, hesays that it is "scary" how many girls have eating disorders, how many people feel they are worthless, how many of those who on the surface seem whole, lack inner wholeness.
Today's reading contains the account of two healings wrapped around each other. On the way to heal a sick child, a woman touches the hem of Jesus' garment and is healed. Jesus feels power go out of him and calls her in front of him. She is clearly afraid but he says her faith has made her whole. The news then comes that the child has died, but Jesus says she is only asleep and he raises her from the dead.
In the first healing, the woman would undoubtedly have suffered great shame and been ostracised due to her condition. Perhaps this is why she tries to get herself healed unobtrusively, without anyone knowing, without Jesus knowing. I wonder if Jesus speaks to her directly because she needs more than physical healing, she needs reassurance that her need for healing was not shameful, that she  herself was not a shameful secret.Then, after publicly drawing attention to the first healing, Jesus, having raised the child from the dead, tells people to keep that healing secret and not to tell anyone.
One of the problems is that human nature has an (understandable) propensity to be impressed more by sensational acts of physical healing than the less visible healing of the mind and spirit. The first woman went away healed of more than her physical ailment; she went away vindicated as a human being. Jesus also shows in both healings his lack of concern about being made ritually unclean, either by a bleeding woman or a corpse. As he once taught, it is the things that come from within that make us unclean, or pure, damaged or whole. The crowds had a lesson to learn from the first healing, that healing is not just about the spectacular, it is about the whole person.
Both healings involve touch and speech, and the way we reach out to others and what we say to them are a part of healing and wholeness. These healings demonstrate the way that Jesus can touch and speak to us in ways which heal the slow painful haemorraghing of rejection and shame, and reach the self which we thought was dead but was asleep and waiting for his call.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Do dogs have souls? (Part twenty)

A dog called Mugly has won the world's ugliest dog competition. At Significant Truths we are incensed - don't they know how to see a dog's inner beauty!!!? We're not going to moan too much though because Mugly has won a year's supply of free dog biscuits, which to a dog is much more important.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Learning from the heretics

Another great post from, Benny Hazelhurst, that well known heretic:) It made me think generally how the word "heresy" is a label we give to ideas which we fear because they challenge us. Perhaps what the Church objected to most about Galileo's "heresy" was that it threatened the power and authority of the Church itself. In the past, when the Church did have more power, it was inclined to kill heretics and justified this in a variety of ways. It was prepared to kill in the name of religion, not to honour God or to protect others but to protect its own interests and its own power. It is quite ironic, because as Yevgeny Zamyatin said:

 “The world is kept alive only by heretics: the heretic Christ, the heretic Copernicus, the heretic Tolstoy. Our symbol of faith is heresy."

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Strongman

a strongman you say.
home from work would stetch his arms
and hang his five sons on them
turning like a roundabout.
a carpenter who could punch nails
into wood with his clenched fist,
chest like a barrel with a neck
that was like holding onto a tree.



in the final hour
your hands between the sheets
to lift him to the lavatory
slipped under a frame of bones like plywood.
no trouble - he said. no trouble dad -
you said. and he died in the cradle of your arms.

This poem byTony Curtis explores the way the relationship between a parent and child changes through life and the way that we can often see a role reversal with the child becoming carer and the parent becoming weak and dependent. It is also a bit of a tear-jerker, especially the last line with the description of the "cradle of your arms" reminding us of the way parents cradle a newborn child.  Increasingly the concept of Father's and Mother's day is recognised as problematic because not everyone has happy memories of their childhoods or their parents, particularly those who have suffered abuse or neglect, and many children grow up with absent fathers. I am not sure that is in itself a reason to stop celebrating parents but I like the fact that this poem is about the strengths and vulnerablites we all share when we are nutured by and care for others.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Do dogs have souls? (Part nineteen)

One of the things I love about Bess is her relentless pursuit of the fundamental questions of doggie life - such as, "Is there a rabbit?" We took this picture yesterday on a walk through the lovely woods around Alderley Edge - a place that is close to doggie heaven. I am not sure this photo is evidence that Bessie has a soul, more evidence that she is getting rather broad in the beam (I was a bit worried that she might get stuck down the rabbit hole) but I think it's a cute picture and that you'd like to see it anyway.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Tallis -If ye love me


Tomorrow's gospel reading from John 15 is moving in the power and simplicity of its message - to remain in Christ's love and to obey his commandment to love one another. It is another of those deceptively simple things which we are instructed to do. Love is not something we easily achieve when we are to caught up with our own concerns and issues. The passage before stresses the need to abide in Christ,  to keep looking to him and to constantly draw from the vine if we are  are to bear fruit which will last. This beautiful piece above is well worth listening to as you think about this reading, although it is worth noting the words come from John 14 but are on the same theme : If ye love me, keep my commandments, and I will pray the Father,and he shall give you another comforter, that he may bide with you for ever, ev’n the spirit of truth.
This music  gives me a sense of the sheer peace and joy of simply abiding when on our own we might be inclined to struggle and become absorbed with our own  thought processes, conflicts and concerns.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Warning - christian counselling can damage your health!

This week is mental health awareness week and Channel Four has been featuring different perspectives on mental health as part of those short Four Thought slots. This contribution by Malcom Bowden, an Evangelical christian who believes depression is "very deliberately decided" on by the sufferer and is about self-centeredness and self-pity. A "true" christian (whatever that is) would in his view never be depressed - he does actually say that!
This clip angered me, but on reflection I found it left me saddened and frustrated as well. Bowden represents all that I object to most about "christian" counselling. Firstly, it is very easy for anyone to set themselves up as a self-appointed expert in areas of mental health. In some christian counselling, especially from a fundamentalist christian perspective, a lot of ignorance and assumptions based on religious ideology underpin the approach. The bible has much to offer us in terms of wisdom and perception, but it cannot be applied as a science textbook or a substitute for proper medical and  psychiatric knowledge or training. Some christian counselling and ministry relies on ideas about demon possession which belong firmly in the dark ages.
Secondly, what masquerades as christian ministry is often a form of emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse. I do believe that a fair amount of christian counselling is about controlling other people and exerting power over them.  There may be a disproportionate emphasis on certain concepts - such as the imperative to immediately forgive others or a focus, as in Bowden's approach, on how the sinfulness of the person counselled led to their situation. I have not had christian counselling or therapy myself, but I have met those who have and heard some horror stories about how, if they did not respond as the counsellor required, they were told this was due to a lack of faith or a rebellion against God.
Bowden accuses the depressed  of being arrogant, proud and self centred. Is this true of depressed people? Well, if it is, I would say that it is no more true than it is of someone who is not depressed. Pride and self- obsession are common to most of us, including christian counsellors! It is true that people do need to engage with therapy in order for it to be successful and some individuals are not willing, or perhaps not able to do so, but those who are depressed are generally in need of help! To call depression inverted pride is not, I think, helpful, and it does run the danger of stigmatising those who suffer from mental health problems.
As someone who was sexually abused I briefly considered christian counselling, Thankfully, after a few enquiries and reading some materials, I decided against this. My secular counsellor treated me as an adult with dignity and respect. I never felt coerced or stereotyped. This gave me the confidence to truly explore and try to make sense of past experiences for myself and later to understand what had happened through the lens of my faith as well. I am sure that there are good christian counsellors, but I am afraid that I am probably a bit prejudiced and would never, never go for specifically “christian” counselling for anything like abuse, trauma, sexual issues or depression - in fact, not for anything. My advice is to steer clear and IF you go to any counsellor of whatever ilk and feel you are not treated with dignity – leave! One in three of us suffer from some kind of mental health problem at some point in our lives and deserve proper and professional treatment, not to be damaged at the hands of those who are themselves arrogant, ignorant and egotistical.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Archdruid for Archbishop says liberal, neo-pagan blogger!

Anglican Mainstream has accused liberals of bullying tactics, which is methinks a case of the pot calling the kettle sooty arse...It has also spoken of neo-Paganism. Clearly they have somehow found out that I  would like to nominate the Archdruid as the next Archbishop. Her wealth of experience kicking ass and laying down the law to the crazies  individuals seeking spiritual enlightenment in the Beaker Community would stand her in good stead for dealing with the tensions in our beloved Communion. Plus the ABC is apparently an honorary druid, I don't see why it can't work the other way round! The writing is on the wall!



Archdruid Eileen
The Archbishop



Saturday, 21 April 2012

We've been Hermaned...

A brand new occupant has joined the M household. He sits in the corner blowing bubbles and smelling mildly yeasty and alcholic. He came with strict instructions to give him a "plenty of room to grow" and to "feed him" when he is hungry or even really hungry. I am intrigued by him but also find the demands for food slightly creepy. I snuck down to check on him this morning and he was still bubbling away like a latent volcano, quiescent but vaguely menacing.
Yes, we've been given one of those "Herman cakes". For the uninitiated (aka me until yesterday) it is a cake based on  a sourdough recipe. You leave the mixture to ferment in a bowl, you stir it every day and add ingredients when instructed. After ten days, you split the mixture into four, bake one as a cake and give the other three away. Each of your three victims  friends repeats the mixture and before you know where you are the entire nation has a sourdough cake plus surplus mix and a mini-miracle that puts the feeding of the five thousand in the shade has been accomplished. (OK, that is an exaggeration, more likely that some of the mixture is quietly festering in the bins of the nations...)
The Herman cake seems to me like a cross between a chain letter and a tamogotchi and that is not particularly auspicious. When I was about twelve I received a  chain letter which I dutifully sent to all the required recipients on the basis that I would get about a thousand postcards back in six months - I didn't. In my twenties I once babysat a tamogotchi for a week for a friend - I forgot it for one day and it phoned social services and threatened to leave home. After a few days of TLC, I forgot again. It died.
I shall let you know how Herman gets on...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Living gladly

A link to today's Sunday programme in which Colin Coward (Changing Attitude), Mike Davidson (Core Issues) and Lynda Rose (Anglican Mainstream) discuss the "Ex-gay bus ads".

If, like me, you are increasingly sickened by what you hear and reaching that tipping point where you wonder if you wouldn't rather walk away from it all - then I suggest you read and absorb the passages below on Christian maturity and how to honour God. They reflect on the generosity and empowering nature of God's love for us with real wisdom and insight and may help you to enjoy this beautiful sunny day with a sense of gladness for that love and grace.
“It’s a gift to joyfully recognize and accept our own smallness and ordinariness. Then you are free with nothing to live up to, nothing to prove, and nothing to protect. Such freedom is my best description of Christian maturity, because once you know that your ‘I’ is great and one with God, you can ironically be quite content with a small and ordinary ‘I.’ No grandstanding is necessary. Any question of your own importance or dignity has already been resolved once and for all and forever.”
                                                                                                                           (Richard Rohr)


“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

― Julian of Norwich

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Titanic - revisiting distant lives


The picture above is of my grandmother's family, she is the young woman on the far left of the photo, with her hand on her father's chair. I think this picture must have been taken about 1917 because Jennie (the baby) was born in 1916 and looks about one year old in this photo. I have blogged before about my family history and in particular Jennie and Elsie who never married but devoted their lives to Methodist mission and ministry. My grandmother's life was very different; she went on to marry and have five children. The reason I am posting this today is that before her marriage my grandmother was a fairly prolific writer of religious verse and tracts and one of the earliest poems we have is a reflection on the sinking of the Titanic which happened in her early teens and which (partly because it is fairly unsophisticated) we think may have been written at the time of the disaster. It is certainly not great literature, but it is an interesting example of religious / didactic verse and of interest to me because it is family history. It is also distinctive because many of the poems inveigh against the evils of alcohol rather than topical or historical events.

The Wreck of the Titanic

The Titanic grand sailed out to sea
One smiling April morn
Two thousand peple were on board
Swift oe'r the ocean borne.

She was the finest ship afloat
That ever eye did see
But this monster of the mighty deep
Was wrecked and sunk at sea.

She ran into some floating ice
That's what the papers say
And hundreds found a watery grave
Before the break of day.

The cottage and the mansion grand
Of grief each had its store
And mourners there in vain will wait
For friends they'll see no more.

The gospel ship is sailing now
I'm a passenger, are you?
If not, why not? Come on friends
And join our happy crew.

Jesus is our Captain friend
He'll manage things quite nice.
He'll look out for the danger points
And keep us off the ice.

He'll land us safe when morning breaks
On a bright and shining shore
      And together friends, "Hallelujah!" we'll sing
                                                   For ever and evermore!

We have no writings from after my grandmother's marriage, they all bear her maiden name. It is hardly surprising that she gave up writing given her responsibilities as a farmer's wife and the fact that she went on to have five children and faced health problems. The only writings we have from after her marriage are some rather amusing lists of household rules (keeping your fingernails clean and not wearing clogs in the house feature among them) and programmes for the Sunday school that she ran (below.)

 Needless to say, Sunday involved two trips to church, cold meals to avoid working on the Sabbath and the only book which could be read was the bible. However, my grandmother was far from joyless; she was devoted to her children and organised many  village activities and events at Christmas, Easter and Bonfire night.  I never knew my grandmother because she died  of cancer aged only forty-five when she still had a growing family to bring up, ranging from teens to a toddler of eighteen months. I think this must have caused her great anguish and I guess it felt like her personal disaster. I hope the strength of her faith went some way to steer her through those difficult waters. I am sure it did.

What price Good News?

Christians are marginalised...everbody hates us... and we're going to tell our mummies and  sue in court... and we'll all wear a cross to show you atheist scum that we've got our rights as well. Blah, blah, whinge, sob...

Meanwhile the Torygraph has apparently run a front page article about how Christians are persecuted and are fighting back (aren't we supposed to rejoice when we are persecuted and to turn the other cheek?)

It's all looking a bit, well, negative, isn't it? Frankly, I'm thoroughly fed up with it all. So here is a postive message for the day, and if you think it is has its own ideological slant ('cos it does) you can opt for Stuart's lovely message below it. Or you could make your own. Happy positive-message-about-Christianity day!

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday songs

I don't often post worship songs! This is partly because the "Oh-dear-that's-not-Anglican" part of me can find them a bit happy clappy :) and also because they can all sound the same after you've heard a few. However, I am posting the two  rather different songs below for Good Friday.
The first was sent to me by a friend recently and they told me it meant a great deal to the as it helped them make sense of suffering and difficulties in their life.  I hesitated to post it because I am very wary of  saying trite things about human suffering  (such as, "God lets us suffer because it draws us closer to him") but at the same time some of us do find redemption as much  because of pain, difficulty and failure as much as despite it. Those who really turn to and rely on God sometimes have a greater sense of the tenderness of his love.


Meanwhile, Peter Carrell at Anglican Down Under has been posting a series of Easter Hymns and  has posted  the one below for Good Friday. I am sure he won't mind me posting it too:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Peter

A lovely post about Peter, on the theme of betrayal, failure and forgiveness by Benny Hazelhurst. Benny points out that Jesus consciously reminds Peter of his former betrayal, in fact John 21:17 says that Peter was  deeply hurt by Jesus' words. Jesus does not remind Peter simply in order to hurt him though - perhaps more because the betrayal of Jesus was a defining moment of Peter's life and journey of faith. It was a memory which was too important to forget. The danger was that Peter's shame might lead him to bury or deny this memory when it was the one from which he could learn and be transformed.
Peter is perhaps one of the most transformed people in the gospels. Those who feel they have failed desperately, yet still discover they are forgiven, understand love in a way that others simply cannot. The man who chose to save his own skin and turn his back on his dearest friend  went on to be a courageous leader and a rock on which to build. He does point the way to how failure is not something that gets in the way of growth, but rather something which is central to growth, development and knowledge of ourselves and God.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Judas, Peter

Rembrant's Judas returning the pieces of silver
Because we are all betrayers
taking silver and eating
body and blood and asking
(guilty) is it I and hearing
him say yes
it would be simple for us all
to rush out
and hang ourselves


but if we find grace
to cry and wait
after the voice of morning
has crowed in our ears
clearly enough
to break our hearts
he will be there
to ask us each again
do you love me?

I have recently discovered this wonderful, simple but meaningful  poem by Luci Shaw. In it we are all  cast as "betrayers", as guilty sinners. The difference lies in  how we respond to the pain of sin-whether we choose despair or reach out for grace. The events of Holy Week "break our hearts" but it is through being broken by a sense of love that we are transformed.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Running on empty

On our own, we conclude:
that there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short
of money
of love
of grades
of publications
of sex
of beer
of members
of years
of life

we should seize the day…
seize the goods…
seize our neighbor’s goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit;

You come
You come giving bread in the wilderness
You come giving children at the 11th hour
You come giving homes to the exiles
You come giving futures to the shut-down
You come giving Easter joy to the dead
You come … fleshed … in Jesus
And we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing.

We watch … and we take
food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbors who sustain us
when we do not deserve it.
It dawns on us, late rather than soon, that
You give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

By your giving,
break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance...mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.
Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your much-ness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving, we may endlessly give,
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder
without coercive need, but only love
without destructive greed, but only praise
without aggression and evasiveness...
all things Easter new...
all around us, toward us and by us
all things Easter new.
Finish your creation...
in wonder, love and praise. Amen.

An Easter Prayer by Walter Brueggemann (Thanks to Blue Eyed Ennis)

I haven't met a single person who will admit to being one of those who rushed to the pumps to fill up their car these last few days. Or if anyone did admit to it, they explained that they were almost empty and otherwise they would have resisted. I didn't fill up, but then I'd filled up the day before the panic started. I did get stuck in traffic jam caused by a queue for petrol and sat and thought about the needless delays, not to mention extra fuel consumption, that other people's anxiety was causing me! I also thought of when Northern Rock crashed, causing a "run on the banks". Fear and greed are at the root of selfish behaviour.This Easter Prayer by Walter Brueggemann made me think of the recent fuel-crisis-that-wasn't and how it was only a symptom of what is wrong with us all.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Archdruid predicts the next Archbishop

The Archdruid predicts a riot - sorry that's a song title - she brilliantly predicts all the qualities likely to be found in the next Archbishop of Canterbury(enjoy!)
I thought the last quality on the list was a bit radical by the way... It is also worth noting that the next ABC will, of course, be a man. If it is Sentamu, given his age, that would give us eight years maximum before the next shortlist for ABC. Surely, once we have women bishops, the Crown Nominations Commission will have to include a woman as well as a man in the names for consideration? It's just a thought - but then that is something else for everyone to squabble over next time...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Thank God for atheists!

 I couldn't help but be amused listening to this little discussion between Giles Fraser and Richard Dawkins. If you haven't heard this already, Dawkins is asserting that most people who self identify as Christian are not actually so because they cannot, for example, name the first book of the bible. Then Fraser suddenly asks Dawkins to give the full title of The Origins of the Species - and it is quite fun to listen to him stutter and stumble as he is unable to do so.

I have a lot of time for atheism (honestly!) For a start, all the people I live with, AKA my family, are either atheists or agnostics. I would hate to live in a society without a diversity of views and I would hate to live in a theocracy. I am glad of a degree of secularism because I think curbs the intolerance to which societies with a religious basis are often prone. The problem is that atheism itself can become an all consuming ideology. A "fundamentalist" atheist can come across as ever bit as narrow, joyless and prejudiced as a fundamentalist of any other ilk, and, dare I say it, when atheists assert the  absolute superiority of their beliefs they can be just  as "irrational" in their aridity and lack of perspective as those they decry. The militant secularism which we observe today takes itself terribly seriously and often seems to have had a sense of humour bypass.

Perhaps that's why I couldn't resist a chuckle at Richard Dawkins expense and I recommend this clip to brighten up your day!