Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014



 I don't make New Year's resolutions any more. This is because I think that the things we ought to do and which form the basis of most New Year's resolutions (eat healthily, exercise, don't smoke, invest in our relationships, seek job satisfaction, manage our money well) require us to resolve to do them on an almost daily basis rather than once a year, furthermore, and this will sound contradictory, radical changes such as getting up at 5.30 to go for a jog each morning are just so much more likely to fail when begun in the grim and arduous month of January. So, it being nearly January, as I always do during that month, I will aim to cherish myself a little more, take the opportunity for some extra hours in bed whenever I possibly can and not to worry about any extra pounds gained over Christmas as these can sort themselves out in the spring.

  But if I were to make a resolution, then it would be to try always to feel grateful for all the good things in my life and to savour them.  You can read here of gratitude currently in the news, and it maybe won't tell you anything you weren't aware of - but then remembering the vital lessons we've already learned is as important as learning new things.
I already know that 2014 is likely to bring fairly major changes in my circumstances. These changes may be daunting but they will also offer opportunities and it is vital that I hold on to the important things, the central things, those things that really matter, not money or status or even stability, but faith and love and hope and a sense of gratitude which goes beyond "counting your blessings" to something more profound (listen to video above.)
I wish you all a blessed start to 2014.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

The real meaning of Christmas



Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift. 2 Cor 9:15

Registering the birth

Love takes the risk of birth



This is no time for a child to be born,
With the Earth betrayed by war and hate,
And a nova lighting the sky to warn,
That time runs out and the sun burns late.

That was no time for a child to be born,
In a land in the crushing grip of Rome,
Honour and truth  were trampled by scorn,
Yet here did the Saviour make his home.

When is the time for a child to be born?
The inn is full on the planet Earth,
And by  greed and pride the sky is torn,
Yet love still takes the risk of birth.

Madeleine L'Engle

Sunday, 15 December 2013

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the 
Most High,
Reaching from one end to the other mightily,
And sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Tomorrow marks the start of the Antiphons of Advent, the first is on the theme of wisdom. The process of waiting expectantly for something means that we yearn for and wonder about it. To ponder the nature of the God brings greater understanding and wisdom.
One of our wedding hymns was “Now thank we all our God”, and we chose it to represent our thankfulness on that day but also because it has a lot to say about the role of faith to guide us,

O may this bounteous God through all our lives be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us
And keep us in his grace, and guide us when perplexed
And free us from all ills in this world and the next.

Now some of the sentiments of that verse I cannot agree with- God never offers to free us from all ills, a very misguided idea indeed, but the upside is that He does guide us when perplexed if we turn to Him.  I have certainly had times in my life when I have been perplexed. I remember at one time I was facing a challenging situation and, the church I then attended had as part of the liturgy a phrase along the lines of,
“Be with us Lord when the situation is so difficult that nothing we do seems the right choice
Throughout that difficult time, this single line was something which helped and sustained me and I began to listen out for it each week and felt that I was understood and spoken to through those words. I am glad to say that I was able to find a way forwards and believe that God was with me.
I am not laying claim to being a particularly wise person. I make plenty of stupid decisions, do, think and say foolish things, and behave in ways that are selfish, petty or short sighted. But I do know that the part of me where the greatest wisdom resides is also the part of me where God resides. It is when I seek answers from God, and when I look to that within me that is most Godly, that I find the truest answers and the clearest guidance.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Advent Freedom


Reconciliation seems to be emerging as my Advent theme this year. Advent brings hope, a promise of freedom for the captive, but Christ did not come, as many thought he would, to take sides and overthrow the external oppressor. He came to free us from the prison of ourselves. This does not mean we should not fight injustice and oppression, but to be truly free we must be prepared to be reconciled. As the quote above shows, Mandela's ability to facilitate the process of reconciliation for a nation began first within his heart and soul.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Beautiful variation on a lovely hymn.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Ex-pats and the stiff upper lip


Wonderful! As someone who spent so much of her life in British Army overseas postings this makes me feel almost proud...

Q and A session

At least we've got the Archdruid to answer all our deepest (?) questions about life, the universe and the C of E's (ahem) position on these matters. Enjoy!

Pilling- initial thoughts

It's been a long day today and I've had about 20  minutes to skim read  the Pilling report and form some thoughts. So the following may turn out to be completely wrong! For what it is worth:

- Overall, Pilling's recommendations, if adopted, would be a positive step for any LGBT people in same sex relationships who remain in the Church (and why, oh why  anyone in that position is still there sometimes puzzles me...)


-Thank God, and I mean that fervently, that it recommends there should be no "intrusive questioning" about the sex lives of clergy in same sex relationships. THANK YOU- let's hope this sensible recommendation is adopted. Questioning clergy in civil partnerships about the exact nature of that relationship is clearly cruel and bullying, not to mention surely being a toe-curlingly embarrassing task  for any bishop with half a grain of decency.


-If I've read rightly, Pilling recommends that the blessing of same sex relationships (something which does already happen in parts of the Church) is now acknowledged and permitted. However, it steers clear of anything that would smack of an official sanctioning (such as a formal liturgy of blessing) for same sex relationships.It seems to recommend that  stable, permanent, committed same sex relationships should only be half-recognised (if that) by the Church - that positive pastoral support should be tolerated and allowed. To me this is rather half hearted, but I can't imagine anything  more than this given the situation and context  of the Church and the bitter divisions.

-The word "bitter" brings me to my last reflection, which is a fear  that this report, which at the moment is just that, a report, an analysis of the different thinking and tensions and  a set of recommendations for a way forward, will provoke strong opposition from some conservative elements, more in-fighting between different factions, and the type of language and behaviour which is far from Christ like. Let's hope it doesn't!


Finally the Pilling report is very long and once again you find yourself wondering  if we really  need to expend so  many words and so much energy on this issue.

 Perhaps we should just go back to Wordless Wednesday?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Sexual abuse and gender stereotypes

There has been quite a lot of coverage today about the judge who described a 13 year old girl as a predator. It is a depressing case but the ensuing outcry has at least reassured me that there is a greater understanding today of the complex effects of sexual abuse and a clearer understanding that culpability has to lie with an adult rather than a minor. It is not uncommon for children who have been abused to display sexualised behaviour and I would expect a judge who deals in abuse cases to understand this and exercise caution in the use of his or her language.  I remember a conversation I had over twenty years ago with a survivor of abuse who told me that one of the effects of her abuse was that she would "target" men, not, as she explained, because she particularly wanted them but more because this was all she knew and also because she was "testing" them to see if they would take the opportunity to abuse her.  I think this made her lost and damaged rather than a predator.
Many commentators have expressed an opinion  that the judge's language reflects sexist attitudes, whereas others claim the comments do not reflect misogyny and  if a teenage boy had been sexually provocative with an adult woman would it be misandry to call him predatory? I think this misses the point and I feel that gender stereotypes and expectations do play a part in this case. Firstly, it is  less likely that a teenage boy would be described as predatory (and equally wrong if such language was used about a male victim), secondly  boys who are abused are also often described in ways that reflect gender stereotypes - arguably more so than women are.

When girls are abused, it is not uncommon, although thankfully rarer than it was, for them to be depicted as temptresses leading men astray, or as one judge put it, "no angel." I think this does reflect the idea that women should be moral guardians, that men can't help themselves and that women are more culpable if they are involved in a sexual act that breaks social mores. However, boys and men who are sexual abuse survivors also suffer from terribly damaging stereotypes based on notions about gender. It is not at all uncommon for men who have been abused to be told that they should consider themselves "lucky" because a woman initiated sexual contact and that this was an exciting opportunity. So, some men who come forward about abuse are dismissed, if they are believed, they can then be regarded as "weak" for not having been able to control or prevent the abuse. 

 A man seeking help because they were  abused as a child  will typically describe the same feelings of shame, self loathing, loss of identity, as well as anger and rage which can result in depression, self destructive behaviour and the abuse of drugs and alcohol to blot out pain. As a society, we are not particularly aware of the abuse of  boys, or of the fact that gender stereotypes contribute massively both to the fact that men are much less likely to report or seek help for abuse or to be able to speak about it freely.  Is misandry to believe that men must always be tough, in control and sexually voracious? Well, yes, just as much as it is to believe that women must be either whores or angels and must be sexually inhibited. We will not achieve gender equality until we challenge our stereotypes about men as seriously as we do our stereotypes about women, and until we teach men that it is alright to be vulnerable and that they need not be afraid to be tender.

Fortunately, attitudes to those who have been abused are changing, although this case does make you wonder if we will ever quite get there... A further point I do want to make though is that adult survivors of abuse can face to a range of stereotypes and misapprehensions. People can be suspicious when they find that someone has been subject to sexual abuse and may fear that they will be scarred for life, volatile and unpredictable, manipulative, needy, have broken relationships or mental health problems. All of these are, of course, common effects of childhood abuse, however people are sometimes less aware that survivors, if they have had support and love, can often be very stable, resilient, empathetic, and even display post- traumatic growth - something I have become very interested in recently although it is perhaps the subject of a different blog post.

In short, there is little room for stereotypes or for sentimentality but a great deal of need for sensitivity and common sense when dealing with and talking about this difficult and painful issue.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Doctor Whoess?

I was deeply shocked today to hear rumours that the next Doctor might be a doctoress. I hope that readers will join with me in strongly opposing this complete redefinition and consider the dangers and unforeseen consequences which this tampering may bring. For a start a female doctor goes against all our established understanding of time travelling itself. A dashing, deep voiced male is the right and proper figure to be striding across the centuries, not some girl batting her silly curled eyelashes. This ridiculous pandering to contemporary ideas will not do; how is some female going to have enough natural authority to command the respect of previous generations or to quell alien races. I think she'll be too busy putting on her make up!

Readers can all observe the clip below in which  the doctor regenerates properly into a man. He does have a  moment when he thinks he might be a girl and his distress should be enough to demonstrate that Doctors, just like the rest of us, are happier when they don't face any nasty surprises which go against the natural order. I sincerely hope that, should the unthinkable ever happen, there will be proper provision for those of us who know that the Doctor can only ever be a man. By proper provision, I mean a completely separate programme on another station so our world can stay unchanged.

In any case, you can't change the rules of regeneration. Tradition and experience tells us that the Doctor always comes back male. We'll completely open the floodgates once the Doctor's  meat and two veg morph into lady bits and there will be no going back and no knowing where we are. And if the Doctor can become a girl, what's to stop him regenerating into two Doctors, or three, or four? We could have poly-Doctorism on our hands before we know it. Just imagine the confusion and the potential for disaster.

 We rely on the Doctor! He has saved the world in the past. Don't let them do this! It could be the end of life and the universe as we know it...



Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Remembering



Dunno about you but the death of MT has had two effects so far in our household. Number one is that I've had to say "Calm down" to Mr M on an even more frequent basis than usual as he rants angrily at the radio (he didn't like her...) The second effect is that hearing about the miners' strike, the Brighton bomb, the Poll Tax and so on has brought back vividly what was happening in my life at those particular moments. It is a weird thing the remembrance of things past. So for anyone feeling nostalgic - enjoy the above.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Sorrow and Love


Good Friday is the day on which my faith makes most sense to me. This is because, although I have never heard a completely satisfying intellectual argument as to why a loving God would allow so much human suffering, the image of a God who suffers along with us seems the most compelling emotional answer to that question. The cross is a rich metaphor; it does not really matter that it means different things to different people, more that we are prepared to search for meaning in it. In the clip above, Justin Welby describes how when he faced his daughter's death, he had a strong sense, alongside his grief, of the presence of Jesus that filled the room. That image of the simultaneous presence of love and grief recalls the words of Isaac Watts:
See, from his head, his hands, his feet,
sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
or thorns compose so rich a crown.

Or as it says in the liturgy,

“He opened wide for us his arms on the cross.”
Or in the words of William Blake:

“Until our grief is fled and gone
He doth sit by us and moan.”

The type of love which stays with us when the chips are down, when have reached rock bottom, when nothing can really be said or done other than to offer love itself, is something very precious. It is precious because it is then that we realise that love is valuable, not because it can sort our problems out, but because love affirms our dignity as human beings. Love asserts that our human life, even in its last futility of weakness, pain, despair and death, still has meaning and value.

The triumph of the cross is not a triumph over weakness but a triumph through weakness. It holds the message that an all powerful God loves us enough to be totally defenceless and that this in itself is triumph and power.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Brick walls

Giles Fraser, who only recently announced he was giving up anger and moving on, has now managed to upset a lot of people with an article about banging his head against a brick wall over "Cheesus Christians" which shows a level of evango-phobia which unfortunately doesn't seem to be tongue in cheek or satirical. I have to say that I do think the offence Fraser has caused is justified in this instance, he does peddle some appalling stereotypes about evangelicals, describing them as, "patronising, superior and faux caring all at the same time." Perhaps even more toe-curlingly, Fraser makes some apallingly sweeping statements about what he refers to as the theological illteracy of evangelicals, saying that their theology has no capacity to address suffering and pain.
 I suspect that Fraser fully intended his readers to understand that he is talking about a certain type of evangelical or a tendency that can sometimes be found in some strains of evangelical thought. If so, he doesn't make it clear, he just seems to lump the whole evangelical world - which is a very broad spectrum anyway-together as Cheesus lovers. I also didn't feel that Fraser's observations were particularly theologically literate themselves. He criticises evangelicals because  "the cross of Good Friday is actually celebrated as a moment of triumph", and not, as Fraser describes it, as failure and crisis, without pausing to take breath and consider whether the work of the cross, a work that involves embracing the failure and despair of humanity, is not the paradoxical strength-in-vulnerability that lies behind the power of the Resurrection. Seeing the cross as a work of triumph is not necessarily theologically illiterate.
But leaving aside the fact that the theological comment might have been more nuanced and astute, what that really made me want to  bash my head against the wall is that Fraser is president of Inclusive Church - and God loves and uses all sorts of people, not only men and women, black and white, gay and straight, but also liberals and conservatives. Also most people really do defy labels. Most people who might be described as "liberal" (such as myself) don't like to be characterised as not-beliving- in-the-bible, anything-goes-types any more than most evangelicals like to be characterised as either ranting -bible-basher or cheesy-fake-and-shallow.We have to get beyond the sort of "them and us" labels that can cause us to fail to see and relate to others, because that way we might just have a chance of bringing down the walls that can divide us rather than just bruising our heads on them.

Prayer for Holy Week

God as we walk through Holy week may we remember,
Beyond sin there is love inexhaustible,
Beyond death there is life unimaginable,
Beyond brokenness there is forgiveness incomprehensible,
Beyond betrayal there is grace poured out eternally,
May we remember and give thanks

From Godspace

Monday, 11 March 2013

Down memory lane



I was a Forces child. I was born in Singapore in 1966, my father had gone there to work as a teacher in a forces school. He may well have  gone as a response to seeing this video or one similar to it. Life was pretty good for British Forces personnel in Singapore; I think the pay was quite good as was the social life. I still have faint memories of the place, in particular my Amah (who was called Ar-Wah, although I guess this means her real name was “Wah”.) The Amah looked after the children, rather like a nanny nowadays. My husband always teases me about this and says I was born into the twilight of Imperialism.


When I was five, my dad decided to train for the priesthood and we went to a deprived area of South Wales with high unemployment, we lived in an icy cold house with no central heating. Only a few years later though he decided to return to work in a Forces school, this time in Germany. The above promotional video will be of little interest to anyone who was not a Forces child, but for me it features many of the scenes of my childhood, for example I remember the rubber plantations and I am sure some of the later clips show my school in Germany.

My mum will also no doubt be interested, so it could be a sort of belated Mother’s Day gift... Yeah, we did get flowers as well...



Rubber plantation

Street scene Hong Kong


Slums close to where we lived. There was great poverty for many

Street altar in Singapore
My Christening day- the ears are still the same!



Saturday, 9 March 2013

Women Bishops Plan B

As I understand it, Parliament is  to debate whether it should force through a bill which will enable women to become bishops- presumably simply on equal terms to men- but I have to say I am unsure on this point.
A report from WATCH runs thus:


On Wednesday 13th March Diana Johnson, MP for Kingston upon Hull, will introduce a bill under the ten-minute rule that would enable women to become bishops in the Church of England. In this way she will remind the Church of England that it lies within Parliament’s power to legislate for this, if the Church cannot do so quickly and in a way that is acceptable to Parliament.

After the disastrous vote last November when General Synod failed to support women bishops legislation, bishops were called to Westminster to explain to MPs how they planned to bring a speedy resolution to the problems this vote had caused. A House of Bishops Working Group has now consulted widely, and from the responses to the consultation that have been made public it appears that there is even less common ground than before between those in favour and those against women bishops. Nevertheless WATCH remains committed to the Church of England’s process of reconciliation and continuing conversations.

WATCH believes that Diana Johnson’s bill is timely in reminding the Working Group, and the House of Bishops, that legislation for women to be bishops must be passed by the Synod sooner rather than later, and in a form that allows no discrimination against women.

I am so out of patience with the Church of England on this point that I hardly care whether Parliament force through a bill or not - except that I would be glad for the women I know who are priests. For the Church it would be humiliating and embarrassing. Why can't it see that the writing is on the wall?

Friday, 22 February 2013

Tempation of Christ

 Pictures sometimes convey more than words and this depiction of Christ in the Wilderness by Eric Armusik is one I find compelling. As a child, I had an illustrated bible with a fantastic picture of Jesus and the devil. Jesus, blond, blue eyed and clad in white robes was standing on top of a cliff looking very disapproving and the devil, a magnificent winged creation, was hovering in the air, gesturing to all the dominions of the world, or perhaps making the suggestion about Jesus chucking himself off the cliff. The devil really did look to be having more fun, and maybe that was partly the point of the picture! The more subtle depiction of the devil in this picture is as a dark and corrosive presence whispering in our ear, more like the brooding inner voice, an aspect of ourselves, than a discrete enemy we can easily banish. This picture also has strong connotations of death, the hooded figure, the ravens in the background, the darkness with only streaks of light. It makes me wonder how much the wilderness is about God coming to terms with mortality and of the ways in which Lent and Easter asks us to look at our mortality, and then perhaps beyond it. The temptation Christ rejects in the wilderness is the temptation to cast off mortality, the choice he makes is to embrace the human condition fully, and all it says about hunger, insignificance, vulnerability, failure and death.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Wilderness

 I'm not too keen on the wilderness, don't know about you?
I do understand the principle, the idea that in the wilderness we have to completely turn to and rely on God just as the children of Israel did, and to be tempted and resist, just as Jesus did. I just think that most wildernesses, not the ones we play act in Lent but the  real ones such as  loneliness, pain, depression, bereavement, poverty or failure aren't actually that good for us. When you are going through a real wilderness, I suspect it is as common to feel abandoned by God and fairly useless as it is to experience any great deepening of faith ( though I think when we look back on a wilderness patch, we can sometimes learn from it.)
It was interesting this morning to think about the idea that Jesus was baptised just before going into the wilderness and how much he would have needed to hear that he was God's beloved son with whom he was well pleased. Maybe the biggest danger when going through a wilderness is that we can forget we are beloved and that God is still with us?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Confession for dogs



Anyone who thinks dogs are not capable of guilt has never owned one. A Lenten video for all dogs with souls:) It's also hilarious!

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Women Bishops and new ways forward

The Church of England has published, for those who still have the heart to engage with it, a consultation document called Women in the Episcopate: a new way forward.
It acknowledges that a way to admit women to the Episcopate must be found as a matter of urgency and that outcome of the 20th November vote has left the Church of England in a profoundly unsatisfactory and unsustainable positionThe majority of the rest of this document set out the considerable problems faced in resolving the differences over the proposed legislation.It was only published on Friday and I've already read frustrated comments that the working group don't seem in a position to get things any further. One section did really make me sit up and read more carefully though. It was this line:
"It was recognised in those conversations (of the new working group) that a different mode of discourse was now needed, to avoid the mistake of expecting Synodical processes to be able to carry all the weight. "
It is quite clear that whatever legislation is placed before Synod will be unsatisfactory either to traditionalists opposed to women bishops or to those in favour and so will be in danger of not being voted in. Perhaps the Church will say, "We have to have women bishops. These are the three proposals on the table. One is more suited to traditionalists, one more suited to those campaigning for women bishops, one is a middle way. You can vote for which you prefer, or you can abstain. The way with the most votes wins. Period."


Such a solution would, of course, have its own serious pitfalls, not least the danger of split votes, very close votes and of something voted in that the majority in the church had not agreed to. Really a simpler option might to change the way Synod works and not require a two-thirds majority and I wonder if this is what is being considered? One thing is sure and that is that creative and genuinely new ways forward need to be found if there is not to be a repeat of November's fiasco.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Start as you mean to go on

When I say, "start as you mean to go on", I refer to the media and not to Justin Welby. We are told that Welby used his first public address to confirm his opposition to gay marriage ; I rather think he had little choice but to speak on the issue given that he was immediately asked this question by journalists. I do wonder what they expected him to say? Maybe something along the lines of, "Actually I rethought that one last night, and d'you know what, I'm pretty cool with it." (Now that would be fun! Can you imagine the fuss?)
A much more thoughtful journalistic response to today can be found  this article by Robert Piggot which considers the burden of this role. The idea of him as taking a huge burden on his shoulders made me think of someone taking up their own particular cross- perhaps a daunting and lonely task. I really think a constructive thing the  church could do is pray a bit more. In particular they could pray for Justin Welby as I suggested here . God knows he might need it.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Forgiveness and emotion

 I have been looking at a video about the mass shootings at Sandy Hook entitled, Forgiveness doesn't happen overnight . Forgiving others is an important part of christian teaching yet there is often not enough understanding that forgiveness is a journey. When people have been on the receiving end of  very serious hurt or atrocity then to demand or force forgiveness is extremely unhelpful. It also puts us in danger of judging - how many of us would find it easy to forgive if we were a parent whose child had been killed?  I've known people who have told me that forgiveness is not so difficult because forgiveness is not an emotion, it is simply an act of will. All I know is that the way I forgive is from the heart, so this doesn't make much sense to me. Indeed we are told in the bible that forgiveness must come from the heart.
The problem with forgiving from the heart is usually because those trying to forgive are experiencing extreme anger or even hatred. Most of us can relate to this. A problem people are less aware of is that sometimes it can be hard to forgive due to a lack of emotion. This can be particularly true of some survivors of childhood abuse  because it is common for abused children to build up a barrier between themselves and their emotions as a coping mechanism. As an adult it may be hard for a survivor to identify any emotion connected with the abuse- let alone say whether they have forgiven.  A social worker I knew told me that one of his clients had been so damaged by a childhood during which she both witnessed and was on the receiving end of appalling physical and sexual abuse that she would laugh quietly while recounting horrendous events and once told him that, "she didn't give a shit" about what had happened to her.  Some survivors of abuse have had their own identity and emotional foundations so damaged that naming or even completely "feeling" emotion can be difficult. It is  also quite possible to be generally emotionally literate and functioning but to find that you experience an emotional void when it comes to the area of the abuse.

So what should be the attitude toward  forgiveness in christian thought and teaching? It is important that we do not sideline forgiveness. The ability to know ourselves as forgiven and forgiveable, and in turn to forgive others, is the huge liberation at the heart of Christianity. When we can truly forgive from the heart then the thing we have forgiven has no more power over us and we begin to bring about healing in others as well as ourselves.

Any teaching of forgiveness must though be handled with care and sensitivity. Perhaps we cannot forgive from the heart until we have reached a place where we are emotionally secure enough to do so and the journey is a learning and healing process that needs to run its course.

Simplicity


I Taught Myself to Live Simply

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops
I compose happy verses
about life's decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966)

I've thinking recently about simplicity and mindfulness. We cannot dismiss or turn our backs on all the issues and stressful things that we hear about on the news and experience in our lives, however we can achieve a distance from them and let go a little more. This poem seemed to sum it up.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Arch definitions

The Archdruid and her words of wisdom this evening. I do quite like what I've seen and heard of Justin Welby but I still think the Archdruid as ABC would be more fun. And we're a bit thin on fun.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Room at the Inn

Someone told me recently that they were involved in the Inn Church project. I googled it and was interested to read about it here. No doubt I will be told about the drawbacks and negatives and ifs and buts of this type of endeavour, I have to say though that I am always impressed to see and read about the level of service that people of faith offer to communities. I was talking the other day to someone whose partner is struggling with various problems as a result of having had a very difficult life and how the church has supported him and how someone in his congregation acts as an advocate on his behalf. Many years ago, I used to sometimes attend a Gurdwara (Sikh temple) with a friend. The temple always served a meal to its worshippers and I was struck by the considerable numbers of homeless people who arrived and ate at the temple. They were never turned away and they were always treated with the utmost courtesy.
Much of the work done by people and organisations of faith is done unobtrusively; this is as it should be and  yet it is a shame we do not see and hear more about it  it as that might lead to a greater appreciation of faith as a gift to society.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Evango-phobia

A while back, I attended a gathering of some Christian friends. Quite a few were from London and attended Holy Trinity Brompton, but one told me that he went to "Steve Chalke's church". I could tell by the way he uttered the words, "Steve Chalke" that this was something momentous and I was meant to be impressed.
" Oh yes", I said, "he's some sort of evangelical pastor, isn't he? I've vaguely heard of him."
"He's Steve Chalke", said my companion looking aghast, "you know Steve Chalke!"
"Right", I said, "That's good then."

The fact is that I'm not very up to the moment on evangelical writers and pastors. I've heard of Nicky Gumbel, of course, and of Rob Bell and of a few others but I'm just not really terribly interested. The reason I  even mention this at all is that Steve Chalke has written an article saying how he now supports same sex relationships-  and this has caused waves in the evangelical world.  I just mention it in case you happen to be interested in things evangelical.
Now, I actually know quite a lot of gay evangelicals. I find this a bit weird and freaky (them being evangelical, not the gay bit...) but that doesn't mean I'm prejudiced against them. In fact, some of my best friends are evangelicals and even some of my family. As long as they keep it private and don't go flaunting it by saying things like "Praise the Lord", I'm just fine! I wish that they would change their ways, of course, in fact I used to be in that sort of lifestyle, I left it and so anyone can. I just wish they'd realise that they could sing psalms in a dirge like way and avoid mentioning Jesus outside of the actual service if they would only make the effort to control themselves.It's not that hard  if you only try.

 I have to admit that I might have some teensy prejudices -  as a 100% solid Anglican (ex-Anglican?...it's the same thing anyhow!) I find the thought of people waving their hands in the air and speaking in tongues rather repulsive , but you don't have to think about it- that's the point. Most of what they believe is utter nonsense, of course, and they've got quite an agenda going on,  but for me it's a case of love the believer, hate their beliefs. I'm also fascinated by the way that they have their little signs to tell each other who they are, the fish symbol in the car, the use of a strange lexicon including words such as "sanctified" and "backslidden" and "convicted". We might also think they are so full of themselves and their bloody status-among-the-elect / saved-by-grace/ washed-in-the-blood/ baptised-in-the-Holy-Spirit or whatever term they use to make it clear they are a better class of Christian - but in reality they also feel quite beleaguered, a persecuted minority facing prejudice and misunderstood in larger society. So, just think about what that feels like that next time you are tempted to judge! Finally, they're not all bigots who hate women and gays, in spite of what you've read in the papers. It's a stereotype and a lot of them are as tolerant as the average middle of the road Anglican and generally a lot younger and they give a lot more to the church.

So, next time you are about to make some shallow, prejudiced assumptions - don't! Remind yourself that, despite your instinctive disgust, lots of them are lovely, lovely people and remember that it's just the way they were born again!

With heartfelt apologies to any evangelical readers...:)

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Epiphany

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come,
the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth,
and thick clouds cover the peoples;
but upon you the LORD shines,
and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light,
and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about;
they all gather and come to you:
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see,
Your heart shall throb and overflow,
for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you,
the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you,
dromedaries from Midian and Ephah;
all from Sheba shall come
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
Isaiah 60 v1-6

Bishops and butlers



We found out earlier this year the amount some bishops claim for their expenses, and the perks of the job can include gardeners, cleaner and chaffeurs. I hope they can't hire butlers, or else, given the rules on same sex partnerships and celibacy, it could well lead to this kind of misunderstanding...

Well, we all need cheering up at the moment, and I do love Mitchell and Webb!

Friday, 4 January 2013

Epiphany

 It is wonderful that Epiphany coincides with the time that the secular world is taking down the Christmas lights and ornaments and packing everything away until another year. Epiphany is just not marked at all except by those of faith, and so it is a reminder to Christians that Christmas does not end with January and the return to the work day world, rather, as Howard Thurman said, it is only after Christmas that the real work of Christmas begins.
The people who travel to the stable at Bethlehem show us the breadth of those that God calls  - the rich and the poor, those near and far, foreigners and locals, Gentile and Jew, the ignorant and the learned. We also see the different ways in which God draws us to Him. The shepherds are stunned by the sudden appearance of the heavenly hosts telling them to get down to Bethlehem- they must have been in a state of shock. The magi probably took their time debating and pondering the star, applying knowledge and lore and planning their journey, drawn by the questioning within. Revelation can come in different forms and God draws us in ways fitted to our understandings. Finally, although we make different journeys, sometimes even with different perceptions, all of us encounter in the stable an event which is personal to us and bigger than us. We leave, and return, with questions as well as answers,  At Epiphany we see that  we are united not by our background, theories, beliefs or even doubts but by the fact that our end goal is the same, and  awe and worship is our most profound response.