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."

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bashing the bishops?

I don't really want to raise anyone's blood pressure further, but my attention was caught this morning by a snippet on the radio about the huge variation in the expenses claimed by various bishops to attend the House of Lords. The highest claimant was Peter Forster (Bishop of Chester) though to be fair he probably does spend a fair amount of time there opposing gay marriage and explaining that there is no need for alarm about global warming. The Diocese of Chester website describes him as" Parliamentary Spokesperson on the Environment/ climate change"- so you can relax on that front knowing things are covered. The Archbishops of Canterbury and York claimed nothing (as in expenses, I have heard nothing of their views on climate change!)
There has already been talk of  reforming the House of Lords and there are some changes ahead anyway. It is also possible that the Government's proposals for equal marriage will lead to a split between church and state.  Perhaps there is a bit of an agenda behind the leaking (if it is that?) of this sort of bishops-expenses-scandal? The British Humanist Society in its Holy Redundant campaign has described them as "archaic and unjust" and now they can add "costly" to the list as well.  I don't mind so much if the bishops express strong views, or even use their parlimentary privilege to get them heard - although whether that privilege is right or appropriate in this day and age is debatable. What I do want is that those highest in the church should be the greatest servants of others. They should be unmaterialistic and  live modestly, have a heart for the poor and vulnerable, have very little sense of their own self importance and NOT be furnished with a chaffeur driven car, a cleaner and a gardener.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Planting the Kingdom of Heaven

I attended Quaker meeting today, it was the first time I've been for a while as we've been rather busy recently. I am not sure I have yet got the hang of what I am supposed to do in a meeting. The general idea, I think, is that you "wait on God" and then, if inspired, you "minister" to others by verbalising your thoughts/ inspirations. I have to admit that I  have never uttered a word during the meeting - although I do have some lovely conversations with people afterwards! I sometimes take a prayer list with me, or a reading, or I reflect on the  lectionary reading for that Sunday.
This Sunday I was mulling over  the reading (Mark 4: 26-34) which was about the Kingdom of God being like growing seed and like a mustard seed. I was thinking about the words, "This is what the Kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how." As I was thinking about this, someone spoke about Quaker faith being about action and relationships. They said that the way that they were motivated to act in the world was as a result of the time  in meetings spent looking within and finding God. That image of God is then transferred to dealing with the others and with the world.
     I thought about how the action of a seed could be seen as both hidden and visible. Much of the early work of the seed is unseen; it swells and it germinates, it puts down roots into the soil  and it begins to establish itself long before a shoot is seen. It cannot grow without putting down a system of roots. In the same way our faith should be both hidden and internal (the workings of God within) and visible and tangible (the way our faith translates into deeds and actions.) But our actions are also the seeds. We may think that some of the things we do and say mean nothing, but the message of the mustard seed suggests that great things can come from tiny beginnings.
In the Unitarian chapel where we meet there is a board with the Lord's Prayer on it. I was also looking at this board and the words about "Thy Kingdom come" and thinking about how the grain of corn, a source of nourishment, and the mustard tree, a source of shade and shelter, are images of things which are benevolent and meet our basic needs. The institutions of religion have not always nourished and sheltered the human spirit, they have not always brought about the Kingdom of God on earth. Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God a lot. I think we are supposed to spend a lot of our time really thinking about the Kingdom of God,  puzzling out what it actually is and how it works,how close we are to it and how we can be the means to bring it about on earth as well as in Heaven.


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.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Women Bishops legislation

This article from the Church Times describes the current situation as regards the legislation to admit women to the Episcopate.

Monday, 11 June 2012

WATCH "cannot support measure"

Watch has published a statement of concerns saying that it cannot support the amended legislation. It is fairly long but concludes,

The amendment to clause 5 means that the legislation no longer meets the objective of the Manchester Report (2008) that legislation should ‘avoid any flavour of discrimination or half-heartedness by the Church towards women priests and bishops.’

 WATCH has grave concerns about the amendment to Clause 5 and the WATCH committee cannot support the Measure as it now stands. However, it will fall to General Synod members, to make up their own minds and decide whether, in good conscience, they can support the legislation as amended.

 Our consultation suggests that the amended Measure is at grave risk of being voted down by the very Synod members who most strongly support women becoming bishops. It is a tragedy that after so much work and so much compromise, this should be the situation a month before the final vote.

It will be interesting to gauge the mood of Synod on the matter next month ; business on the legislation takes place on Monday 9th July.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Covenant? What Covenant?

I am a bit bemused by some of the Anglican Covenant news that has been arriving in my inbox and appearing on the web lately. I was heartened today to hear that the Scottish Episcopal Church has voted against the Covenant, on the other hand, I read very recently that the Church has decided that a. There will be no deadline or time limit on when the Covenant may be adopted and b. Announced it has only received notification of votes in favour and no notifications of votes against. It is also clear from the newly released programme that the failure of the Covenant to gain the required majoirty will not be discussed at Synod next month, in fact there is no mention of it whatsoever! The Covenant has been vaporised!
I'd love someone to explain this to me. I am certainly not following the Covenant proceedings as thoroughly as I did when the whole thing was first mooted, so it might be down to ignorance on my part, but I really don't understand. It looks bizarre and suspicious, words like "face" and "saving", "ostrich" and "head in the sand", and "carpet" and "sweeping under" keep coming to mind. Most of all though, how utterly pitiful and how terribly silly. What a lack of integrity and credibility. You'd  almost think we were talking about a dysfunctional organisation which changes the rules at the last moment, claims to be transparent and then does deals behind closed doors, and  steadfastly ignores anything it thinks might cause problems... hang on a minute, that reminds me of something...

Saturday, 2 June 2012


I have nothing against the Monarchy and am certainly not anti-royalist, on the other hand I am just not terribly interested. I'm not very patriotic. I sometimes wonder if this is  actually due to the fact that I spent some of my formative years in the British Army - obviously I wasn't personally a member of the armed forces at such a young age, rather my father worked as a school teacher and padre in Germany on a British Forces camp. The culture was, unsurprisingly, uber patriotic with a strong emphasis on devotion to Queen and Country. The whole mind set also revolved around what rank you were. My dad always used to tell a story about a fellow padre who told his congregation in his first sermon, "When you walk through the door of this church, there will be no such thing as rank because in the eyes of God there is no such thing as rank." By the end of the day certain members of the  congregation had organised a petition to get rid of him!
Some people undoubtedly see church and religion as part of that pantheon of tradition. Religion is used to bolster up their own sense of power, prestige, hierarchy, tradition and control.  To them, church really is institution and it offers the ability to insist that our attitudes actions, and those of our country (and sometimes the most brutal or questionable actions of our country) are endorsed by that ultimate authority figure in the sky! The values actually enshrined in the gospels, which are antithetical to all the earthly powers that be, are ignored or twisted to be about something quite different, although it is important to acknowledge that we can all interpret scripture through the lens of our own beliefs and understandings.
Judging from the number of union jacks and red, white and blue bunting around this weekend, the  Monarchy clearly does mean a lot to so many people. I don't have a problem with that, a part of me acknowledges that the pomp and pageantry is in a class of its own, and  ritual, history and tradition can play an important part in our cultural and collective identity. I've read plenty of articles enthusing about the Queen's sense of duty and vocation, her sense of service and how she seems to epitomise the values of a more decent and honourable age.I have my reservations about this , the Queen enjoys great wealth and privilege, as do family members who are not so exemplary and those good old days were in some respect the bad old day, however I can understand how she might be a symbol of stability and sound behaviour in a changed and changing world.
Finally, this is not the weekend to be churlish about the Queen! Sixty years has to be worth celebrating, not to mention some extra time off work. If you are so inclined, you can listen to Ro-Ro saying some very nice and  Archbishopy things about the Queen in a very British accent. If not, then just make sure you enjoy your bank holiday weekend!