Sunday, 25 January 2015

Libby Lane and the theology of taint

It really is good news that the Reverend Libby Lane will become Britain's first female bishop tomorrow and I think that it is a really positive move for the whole church and for so many men and women, but particularly women, who have waited so long for this.I feel a bit guilty that there is a conspicuous lack of detail on my blog about the politics and events in the Church of England, it is just that I have simply lost interest. Back in November 2012 I took some time out to think about where I was going in terms of all Church related things. I decided to pull out of some of the activities I had been involved in, such as representing groups at Synod, not just because I was appalled at the impasse over women bishops but also because I could not see much hope for the inclusion of gay Christians, given the global nature of the Anglican communion and some of the tensions seen there.
I'd also become increasingly disillusioned with what institution does to religion. It is a terrible cliche to say you don't believe in institutionalised religion, I would prefer to say that I rejoice in the way that grace, the Church's best kept secret, manages to do its work despite the strangle hold of institution. From a personal point of view, the decision to bow out was absolutely the right one and , although it was precipitated by the vote of Synod, I had reached that point well before and it had been a long time coming.
Anyhow, there has been a bit of a kerfuffle (predictably) because Philip North, who holds traditional Anglo-Catholic views on the ordination of women, will be consecrated in February and Sentamu has said that he will exercise "gracious restraint" and not lay hands on the said Father North because Sentamu will have laid hands on Libby Lane and Sentamu's hands may not now be able to impart the real McCoy in terms of making North a real, genuine, no-kidding bishop in the tradition of male, apostolic succession (or some rubbish like that, I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention...)

 I suppose I should be outraged at the theology of taint or something like that but it is possibly a mark of how completely I have disengaged that I am not feeling terribly exercised over it all. It is, of course, the theology of taint, and it seems to me to be the complete opposite of what we learn from Jesus, who would touch anyone. I also think that those who believe in this sort of "pure blood bishops" stuff are a bunch of weird crazies- having said this,religions are generally full of weird crazies, it attracts them. So what did you expect? The best thing about indifference is that it lends you a wonderful objectivity and an amused shrug of the shoulders is much better for your blood pressure than getting worked up.

But indifference, rather than internal difference of opinion, is the Church's real problem at this moment in time. With increased secularisation, the British public lost touch with its faith decades ago and we now see the working out of this in falling numbers and emptying pews. The tragedy of this is that when people stop looking to and listening to the Church, they no longer hear the message of the gospel. Perhaps the Church should think harder about the fact that those it needs to reach are largely ignorant of, rather then indifferent to, the good news it has to share.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Marking the mocks

The entire weekend has been devoted to marking mock exam papers for my teaching groups. I have two weekends (plus evenings of the coming week) to get through this pile... and I allocate myself targets and try to exceed them slightly. This weekend I have marked pretty much non-stop. My target was to halve the load, so I am pleased to have whittled away at an extra ten. The slight drawback is that marking so intensively makes me feel sick. I mean this literally. I actually start to feel nauseous and can reach a point where I just have to stop and go and lie down.  Marking can be a soul destroying task. Of course there are those which are cogent, perceptive and well structured, they don't quite compensate though for the ones that make me  tear out my hair over the quality of thought and expression and wonder if I should just throw in the towel. It is also just horrible to lose the entire weekend to marking the stuff. The only down time I had was a visit to the gym yesterday evening and a walk around the park in the snow, featured below, this morning.

The snow transformed everything today. It was so cold and crisp and beautiful in the sunlight and I took some bread and fed the ducks, and also the gulls who were so hungry that they dive bombed into the water for bread and  sometimes caught the falling pieces mid air, thus depriving the ducks whose quacking seemed to my imagination to take on an increasingly indignant tone with every piece of bread which was intercepted in this way. It is sad to say that this was the highlight of my weekend.

If I can do just a few scripts every evening this week, next weekend might just be bearable.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Gym or sin?

The gym was completely packed tonight. It was full of people trying to fulfill their New Year's resolutions to get fit and/ or lose weight. I know I am being uncharitable, and I do want to see people succeed in their bid to get fitter, it is just that it can be a bit annoying when the cross trainer, the rower and the bike are all taken. "Never mind, it won't last long", the gym assistant reminded me this evening. He is right. I remember last year with the gym overflowing with hot, sweaty bodies until the end of January/ beginning of February when normal service suddenly resumed. Of course there are always one or two people who stay the course, they are like the seed that falls on good soil in the parable of the sower. The rest are not going to put down roots, or they will be pecked up by the birds, or rather the allure of a night in front of the TV with a packet of crisps.

 It occurs to me that the gym has aspects of a religion. It has it zealots who are scarily committed to the whole thing, it has the more faint hearted (that's me) in its number, then one or two people come just to socialise and make themselves feel a bit better about themselves without doing too much. The gym assistant is one of the zealots. I spent ages thinking he was called Justin (he looks like a Justin, OK?) then found he is called something completely different. Justin-who-is-not-Justin does all sorts of weight training, he badgers me to up my weights assuring me I won't put on muscle due to lack of testosterone, he exhorts me to "mix up my regime" more regularly and he is always up for a discussion of my diet, providing he can, in return, tell me about his latest regime of high protein snacks and regular meals. "I have seven meals a day", he confides, "I had scrambled egg whites this morning and some lean chicken, and a whey protein shake. You should up your protein to sculpt muscle." Justin-who-is-not-Justin is incredibly fit. He has extremely taut abs and once made me feel them to check out the muscle tone, but this aside he is a total diet and exercise bore.

 Justin-who-is-not-Justin is great if you need to get any transgressions (health related) off your chest. Tonight I told him about my various Christmas and New Year blow outs and he assumed the grieved expression I imagine would be seen on a priest hearing confession. He was keen to lead me back to a path of righteousness and suggested that my high fat, high carb overload could be purged by a detox, a sort of equivalent to a fast with penance in the form of juicing spinach with beet juice being suggested. I nodded thoughtfully while vowing to give that one a miss. In line with confession and penance, the gym definitely offers salvation by works not faith. Calories in need to equal calories out. You have to put in some effort to get results, you have to deny yourself to get to the promised land of health and fitness. You can't afford to backslide for long. There aren't any shortcuts and the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
That's why the cross trainer might just be free in a few weeks time.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Pretty much guaranteed NOT to get you back to church!

Pastor Rap - Back to Church from alegator21 on GodTube.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

In the name of God

Freedom of speech may seem more precarious, fragile and precious today than it was yesterday in the light of the terrible murders committed in France. This is not to say that we should not be aware of and respect the beliefs of others, yet the right to criticise and challenge and express dissent without fear is a touchstone of a free society. Satire, in my view, also operates within a particular and understood context that should give it a greater freedom to "offend." I was thinking about free speech today and recalling that Jesus was never afraid to speak his mind and that he too was executed for blasphemy. I was also thinking about what we mean by blasphemy, and thought of how Jesus said that whatever we do to the least of our fellow human beings, we do to him. I also thought of taking the name of God in vain, and that there is no more terrible way to misrepresent God than to carry out atrocity against human beings made in his image while claiming that we do that in his name. This, rather than expressing an individual opinion, is surely the true blasphemy?
Je suis Charlie?

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The turning of the year

I really have had a relaxing Christmas and New Year. The reason for this, in spite of family staying and having open house on New Year's Eve, was that I had less marking than usual as we have rejigged the structure of our A2 English Literature coursework and the mammoth essay marking won't take place until around February. That it will follow hot on the heels of the equally mammoth task of marking the January mock exams is something I am trying not to think about too much at the moment.
Our scaled down twenty pound Christmas worked much better- well it did for me anyhow. It was lovely to have  friends and neighbours around for New Year. We seemed to acquire more alcohol in the form of gifts of wine/ beer than we all managed to drink, as well as some beautiful flowers which are now in full bloom and which I am enjoying. Mr M likes to set out a generous table for New Year, including chilli, chicken wings, all sort of cheeses, salad and dips. A slight drawback is the need to eat up the New Year's leftovers. I hate food waste and try to throw away as little as possible and this year we have just about managed it. I am not really complaining about all the yummy food around though. Mr M baked cranberry and white chocolate biscotti on New Year's Eve and I am still enjoying "finishing it off."
Flower gifts- we rarely buy flowers ourselves
New Year biscotti

Walking the dog
You can just see the ice on the lake
 I tried to take things easy today and squeeze as much as possible out of the holiday before returning to work. Kev came to church with me this morning and then we took the dog for a walk around a local park, the lake was partly frozen and looked rather beautiful while some very hungry ducks were glad of the stale bread that we took. This afternoon I spent some time bagging up compost in the garden, our composter is full so I need to make space for more veg peelings. It will all be used as I intend to buy some seed potatoes come February and just grow them in any old sacks or containers.

On a final note, I never make New Year's resolutions. I often make resolutions (and frequently break them) but resolutions at New Year just sets you up for failure!