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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Re-enchanting the Rainbow

Once again a day of sunshine and showers. Glimpses of rainbows, but never quite a real rainbow.

I dream back to a hallowed day on the North Cornwall coast, heading towards Tintagel, Boscastle and - most important of all - St Joliet, where Thomas Hardy met the wild sister-in-law of the local vicar, ravishing as she was in her original air-blue gown. And down in the sea, half a mile from the shore, was the base of a rainbow. Not when Tommy H was there. When I was.

A strange site, just the part of the rainbow where it hit the sea. A many-coloured glowing over the sea surface. Like Lyonesse was having a street party.

And the thing is, I know the physics. I know it's all about refraction and reflection, and it could only have happened with the sun behind me yada yada yada. It's all great and it's all scientific and it's good and predictable and - don't you think a rainbow in the sea off Cornwall shouts "sunken city of the Little People" at you? Doesn't it make you want to go "God, you ride on the waves and your glory is so great that, frankly, it would only take the inclusion of octarine to make my life complete"? 

Or is that just me?

Letters to the Church Magazine

Once again the monthly letters page is available in the Trim Valley Benefice. I quite like the old place. Makes the Beaker Folk look normal.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

How Hard Working is Your Family?

It's going to be one of those key phrases over the next six weeks. The battle-ground over which Tories and Labour will fight. And it's actually, whatever John Prescott or Michael Gove or whoever might say, down to the fact that you can get barely a fag paper between them. They're both going to cut the State and they're both gonna blame the other party for it.

The other parties have less of a problem. The Plaid message is "Free Wales and Socialism". The SNP "Free Scotland and Socialism". The Greens, "Let's all starve while huddled round the last stick of firewood in Britain". UKIP, "Let's go back to Enid Blyton's 1930s". And the Lib Dems are going with "If any us are left in Parliament, maybe we can be in coalition again".

But for the big two parties, it's down to "hardworking families". I guess this is based on the following assumptions:
- Except in North London, rich people will vote Tory, regardless.
- Old people will vote how they've always voted.
- Poor people don't vote.
- Students get up so late the polls will have closed.

So that leaves hardworking families. They may think that there's a chance that voting for one party or the other may make a difference to their lives. They may not have twigged that the difference between Labour and Conservative is that Ed Balls will tell you he's taking your money for your own good, whereas the Tories are taking your money for their own good.

But how hardworking is your family? Do you, especially, qualify for that tag? Here are the questions you must ask yourself.

Do you, or your partner, have a job? If you're a traditional family and the man works and the woman doesn't - what's the matter with her? Life isn't all milk-vomit on your shoulder and Loose Women, you know. Get out and pay taxes - we mean, work. Have you never heard of feminism?

If you're a traditional family and both parents are out at work - what's the matter with the woman?  Going out to work, leaving the children with childcare or the grandparents or asking passing glue-sniffers to keep an eye on them - irresponsible. Don't you know studies have proved that children whose mothers work are 90% more likely to like One Direction and hassle strangers outside Tesco Express? You people make me sick.

If you're a traditional family and the mother goes out to work but the father doesn't - don't you worry there's something odd about that? I mean - it's not what anyone else does, is it? Are you sure you're traditional at all? Who's wearing the flat cap in your family?

If you both have flat caps, as well as bizarre beards, fixie bikes and you work as barristas, you are strictly speaking a hipster flat-share. Politicians don't care about you.  You'll be drinking your two-thirds of a pint of lambic steam-malted cherry rye-beer when you should be voting. And standing about asking if people want squirrel milk with their Somalian Red Ferret dark roast doesn't really count as hard working, does it?

If you are gay, bravo. Nobody wants to get into the question of who goes to work, who looks after the children or what you spend your money on. It's best for the party's rep if you are just quietly approved of.

But those families with kids - not the babies.  The spotty ones. They're old enough to work aren't they? If they are over 13, the least you can do, now all the mines are closed, is send them to work in McDonald's. It won't help the spots, obviously. But still - it all keeps the economy moving. And the stumpy ones - even if they're not old enough for paid work, can't you get them knitting?

And Granny needn't think she can just sit there in front of the telly, dreaming of when London was so friendly you could leave your doors open and friendly Kray twins were on every corner, directing traffic while bobbies, two by two, gave cheery waves. Surely she can do a bit of cleaning?

So add it up. If 45% or more of the waking hours of your family, ages 13 and up, is spent in gainful employment - congratulations. You are a hardworking family.  You will be the most important people in the country for the next six weeks. And, after that, if you can just shut up, work hard, and pay your taxes?

Monday, 30 March 2015

Church Profiles Explained Some More

In my previous blog to you, O blog-lovers, I discussed some labels of church traditions that are used in church profiles - those documents generally used to sell churches to potential ministers - and what they meant in reality. Some people laughed, some tutted, some resigned their ministries, and some wondered where the Charismatic Catholics were.

But that's only part of the story. There are also the words that the churches use to describe themselves, apart from the labels. The softer words. The words that can convey positive meanings to potential ministers, while hiding or foreboding an inner despair.... Here's a sampler.

A Sense of History - The Memorials get more attention than the members of the congregation.

Ambitions for Children's Work - You or your partner  must be good with children. As none of us can stand them. But apparently they're "the Future", whatever that is.

Architecturally rich - People will come from all over the country, demand you open up the church so they can spend five minutes admiring the stained glass, and leave nothing in the donations box.

At the Centre of the Community - Controlled by the Lodge.

Buidling Relationships - The last minister got 10 years.

Church Magazine needs reviving - How's your writing, editing, printing and door-to-door distribution skills?

Close-knit - You know that Table of Kindred and Affinities you townies have? We've shortened that.

Conservative - We ducked the last witch in 1986. She's now the organist, as it gors.

Dedicated congregation for Daily Prayer - Doris does get a bit fixated on the minister.

Diverse - The organist is Welsh. And the Church Warden's wife is from the next village.

Ecumenical activity - The Baptists have stopped swearing at the Methodist minister. At least, on Sundays. That's an improvement, isn't it?

Everyone knows everyone else - There's only four in the congregation.

Historic Building - Are you a good fund-raiser?

In need of a Hands-on minister - The boiler's constantly breaking down.

Inner City - Look, we know it's what Jesus might be wanting. But that doesn't necessarily make it easy. You will be the only professional on the patch who doesn't go home to the suburbs at night. And possibly the only church member in that situation as well.

Many baptisms - Well, they're cheaper than weddings.

Many funerals - When they cleared people out from the Old East End, they didn't completely lose the culture.

Many weddings - Mostly between people from the EU, and people from the developing world who can't seem to remember their partners' names.

Messy Church - Pigeons and bats keep getting in.

Mix of Traditions across the Benefice - Little Tremlett has declared war on Woodby Chapel End.

Paid 75% of the Parish Share - Next year we're aiming for 50.

Patron is greatly interested in the work of the Parish - Imagine you're Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice. But will you please stop simpering?

Quarterly Benefice Service - Every 5th Sunday of the month, the congregation of 5 out of 6 parishes stays at home.

Reverent - No children.

Rich local history - There's a coven meets on the downs. Not one of the nice ones. And two of the members are on the tea rota.

Rural - You'll be accepted in about 20 years.

Strong pastoral commitment - The entire congregation needs bussing to hospital on a weekly basis. Apart from the ones in the residential home, obviously.

Solemn - See "Reverent"

Thriving village social life - Wife-swapping.

Varied Worship Tradition - After three ministers of different enthusiasms, we're liturgically and theologically bankrupt. And financially, obviously. Financially goes without saying.

Very Rural - We'll give your car a year. And the local mechanic - whom you will have to go to, as he's one of the Wardens - really only "gets" tractors.

Vibrant - Noisy

It's Not Easy Being Orange

Yeah I used to make good money, selling fruit juice at Mind-Body-Spirit conferences.

Whole, natural, organic.

I used to call it Kia-Aura.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Even the Solar Stone-Lights Cry Out

Last time I get talked into staging a "Palm Sunday" event in a shopping complex. It was meant, from our perspective, as an outreach.  And from theirs as a community event / street theatre / marketing opportunity. So in theory we were all happy.

Till Milton Ernest, in the lead role,  got carried away. Overturned all the tables in Costa.

And I dare not go back to the garden centre. Not after what happened to their fig trees. I'm sure that's not how it happened in the Bible.

Drivel

"Christianity didn’t begin until a century after the crucifixion; Jesus and all his apostles died Jews"

So a takedown by Brook Wilensky-Lanford of a life of Jesus.

I guess it depends what he thinks he means by "Christianity". The early Church was all Jewish, but it wasn't long before they agreed that Gentiles could be followers of Christ without circumcision or adopting Jewish food laws. Within the lifetime of Peter, for instance, members of 'The Way" were already being called Christians.

So as long as by Christianity he doesn't mean "a movement of people who followed the teaching of, and were accepting the name of, Christ" - then what he's saying isn't necessarily drivel.

I'll leave it to you to decide.

What do we want? Better Auras. When do we want them? All Time is Now

With gratitude to the Chairman for sharing this leaflet on a Spiritual Fayre in Chipping Sodbury.


The things that worry Chairman Bill are the random apostrophes. To which the person who made the flyer would no doubt say "don't come down heavy with your Judaeo-Christian-Enlightenment ideas of grammar. This is properly spiritual. And mindy-bodily."

No. There's other things that worry me.

The Chakra Dancing Demo's - what are they demonstrating against? And if it's poverty or Giles Coren or Iraq or something - are they sure that Chakra dancing is the most efficient way of getting from the war memorial to the town hall, or whatever the route is?

Native American and Dowsing - in what way do these go together? I thought dowsing was meant to be an olde English - or, at least, German Magickal - method for finding imaginary streams under people's gardens. Let's not lump People from the First Nations in with blokes called Hans with twigs of willow.

Manicures and Waxing - Now this is meant to be a mind, body and spirit show. And yes, manicures and waxing are used on parts of one's body. But I can't help worrying that people shouting in agony as they experience the worst pain they've known since childhood is not going to help the spiritual ambience. Gosh, I've had some terrible manicures. That's why we let Hnaef wear the nail varnish these days. And the waxing is going to be even worse.

"Holistic healing" I approve of. As long as people are encouraged to use prescribed drugs as well. And tell the doctor what they've been up to. And appreciate that, given the roots of the two words, "holistic healing" is a tautology. "Atomic healing" shouldn't really exist.

"Wheelchair friendly" worries me. Do wheelchairs, in the world of mind-body-spirit, have feelings? Should we be welcoming them? Isn't it more important we care for the people in the wheelchairs? After all, if the holistic healing isn't any good, they won't need the wheelchairs on the way out. It would be very wheelchair unfriendly. Suddenly these anthropomorphised wheelchairs would have no purpose.  They'd need some herbal tea's. Because, let's face it, the Indian Head isn't going to help them.

And how can you read angels? Is it like a "YMCA" thing? Do they spell out letters? Do the "mystic stalls" come and go at will, depending on the colour of the astral plane?

But most of all, I think the Chairman is right. It's the apostrophe's. I'll have three crystal's and a gross of scented tea light's.

Liturgy of the Clocks Going Forward

Archdruid: Peace be with you.

All: And with you.

Archdruid: Are you leaving already?

People leaving Dawn Service: Yes, we're from "Dancing in the dews of Dawn".

Archdruid: Sooner you than me. So who are you?

People arriving for Pouring out of Beakers: We're for "Pouring out of Beakers" at 9am.

Archdruid: And who are you with the Andean Pan Pipes?

Andean Pan Pipers: We're the Andean Pan Pipers for last night's Earth Hour. We're late because you made us hitch-hike from Paddington to "save the planet".

Archdruid: And a few quid, conveniently. So that leaves you over there - who are you?

8am BCP people: We're here for the 8am BCP communion.

Archdruid: But we're a post-modern, pre-watershed, post-Christendom worship community. We don't have an 8am BCP communion.

8am BCP people: Neither does the parish church. But at least you're open.

Archdruid: Ah well. If we're quick. 

ALMIGHTY God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid....