Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Cider Vinegar "Can Cure Death"

You know, ever since that mould grew in Number 1 Vat in the Beaker Cider Shed, we've been asking ourselves the all-important question: how can we make the most money out of this? And we've realised that the obvious answer is, people don't much like doctors and can be persuaded that everyday food products are actually medicine. So,  with a flu epidemic and colds ravaging the country and Storm Boris about to bring in giant winds, here's a quick run down of what cider vinegar can do for you.  Note that Beaker Cider Vinegar (£4.99 for 100ml at the Beaker Bazaar) is 100% organic. As if we'd kept everything clean properly with sulfite, we'd still have drinkable cider.

  1. If you're already well, a glass of mixed cider vinegar and apple juice can make you feel all virtuous.
  2. If you're feeling the cold, or "a bit nesh" as the physicians say, the juice of half a lemon and a thimble of cider vinegar is repulsive.
  3. Add cider vinegar and salt to fish and chips to make them nearly as nice as using proper vinegar.
  4. Using cider vinegar as a topical application for piles will make you wonder why you ever complained about the pain before.
  5. If you dilute cider vinegar to homoeopathic proportions it is invaluable for hydration. Or washing the car. 
  6. A teaspoon in half a glass of orange juice can remove all symptoms of the common cold within 3-4 weeks.
  7. Used neat on stains on clothes you can give them a nice "apple vinegar" smell.
  8. A broken leg can be treated by drinking a couple of glasses of cider vinegar, and then going to hospital.
  9. A cup every day (UK size "Sports Direct" mug) will make you invulnerable to the ageing process.
  10. Add a drop of elderflower cordial and it will save your eternal soul as well.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Blue Monday

Now the sun has set on another Blue Monday, a few thoughts.

First thought - Grolz, responsible for our PA, got rather confused. Piping "Happy Mondays" throughout the Community instead of "Blue Monday" just confused everyone.

The Blue Act of Worship had its own issues. First up, because it attracted a load of "worshippers" in black macs that we thought had died out in the 80s. Secondly because with blue vestments, blue voile
swathing the Worship Focus, the Husborne Brook died blue, and the roof of the Moot House painted blue to reflect the sky - we wish - everything was just too peaceful.  The idea of Blue Monday is a time of existential angst that all the good stuff is gone from our lives and we've got Eurovision and the Boat Race to stagger through before we get to the Summer. Not for people to rock off to sleep surrounded by happy colours. Next year we're changing to "melantonin blue", the colour they try to screen out in phones.

And now it's all over, what are we left with? As ever, a sense of emptiness and disappointment. Once again we've suffered from the way that Blue Monday - originally a Pagan festival, which was Christianised under St Disgustin', has become over-commercialised. When all you see for weeks in advance is Blue Monday adverts, and reruns of Summer Wine "Blue Monday" special episodes. When the satellite channels switch to be "Blue Monday Gold" and "Blue Monday Movies 2". When Jeremy Corbyn and his Smurfs have visited your house, to take away an unexpected amount of your earnings and leave you with some Islington Spa mineral water and a hollow sense of having done the trendy thing - when it's all over bar recycling the blue wrapping paper and shoving the last remaining Smurf into the Sin Shredder. Well, Blue Monday is over for another year. As John Lennon said, "And so this is Blue Monday - and What Have we done? Written a hypocritical song about no possessions and pranced around in the Buff". And I think we can all learn a lesson from that.


Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Stairway to Heaven

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’ (John 1) 
Strange little encounter. And in Nathanael's case, a strange identification. Based on some simple elimination, it's been deduced that Nathanael in John's Gospel is Bartholomew. Maybe, maybe not. I suppose it doesn't really matter. Except to Nathanael, and maybe Batholomew. As Eric Mascall apparently said:

Beneath a fig tree once
there sat a very pious Jew
And if you then had asked his name
He’d say “Bartholomew”
But then the higher critics came
with “L” and “M” and “Q”
And if you now would ask his name
He hasn’t got a clue.


Sitting under a fig tree sounds like a nice thing to do. On a drowsy day, down by the sea side. And Nathanael is, it seems, musing on the story of Jacob's Ladder. In that passage in Genesis, you'll remember that when Jacob with travel was weary one day.... he had a dream and saw the ladder that went up to heaven and the angels of God going up and down.  One of those very - for want of a better word - pagan bits of the Old Testament. Full of awe and numinousness. If that's a word.

I always wondered about that expression - is it a stairway to heaven? Or is it a ladder? Then I visited Thomas Hardy's birthplace. And saw the second staircase they put into the house, when they extended it for Hardy's parents' growing family. They put it in so the lads could go dowladders without traipsing through their parents' bedroom. And it's not quite a ladder - the steps are bigger - but then it's not quite a staircase - it's too steep. If you're going down it, you have to turn round as if you were climbing a ladder. I guess, when you're saving space and health and safety hasn't really been invented, it makes sense.

And so when Jesus sees Nathanael he makes a really strange identification.  He tells him that he is Jacob's Ladder. He is the one who will make the bridge between earth and heaven.

Nathanael seems shocked by Jesus knowing the obvious thing - that he was dreaming under the fig tree! Yet he's not surprised when Jesus tells him that Jesus is the ladder to heaven - because, for some reason, Nathanael has already made that jump - already recognised him as the Son of God.

What they will all discover, as the story unwinds, is the way in which Jesus is that ladder to heaven. The way he will join heaven and earth is by hanging on a cross. The ladder by which we can be carried up to heaven is by his body - hanging there.

And the ladder that God puts in place breaks forever the gap between earth and heaven. The route to heaven is clear - and yet the angels go down the ladder as well as up. So heaven is here - in believing hearts, in those moments when we know we are reaching beyond what we thought was ordinary, in bread and wine. We are not cut off from God - because God himself has made the route from heaven to earth, and earth to heaven. Maybe we need to take some time out - maybe not sit under a fig tree, in this weather - but heaven is here. Because Christ has brought it here.


Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Can Nigel Farage Ever Find True Joy?

Fascinated by Marina Hyde's piece on Nigel Farage.  Obviously, and rightly, she focuses on the likelihood that his sudden declarations about a second referendum are down to people no longer caring about him; his removal from the spotlight.

But she also says the following, which I reckon is really interesting:
Few people are more nostalgic than Nigel Farage. He used to get misty-eyed about the early days of Ukip – “Bomber Command ties” … “you look back and think, God, how did we get away with that?!” – and now he gets misty-eyed about the referendum.
I can’t help feeling Nigel would like to somehow recover a single elusive instant from the past and dwell in its perfect stasis for ever. 
And immediately I'm thinking of CS Lewis, remembering the time when he was a child, looking at a tiny garden his brother made out of some sticks, plants and a biscuit tin lid, and suddenly knowing a longing for something beyond that garden. Lewis called that sense of something missing, and yet calling, "Joy". It's a longing beyond anything that can be satisfied in the earthly things of this world, beyond love, sex, music or great art. And yet all of those things can give you the sense of Joy and the thing that can't quite be reached.

Maybe that's where Nigel is. Sensing the thing that gold elevators, Fedora hats, Referendum results and having your wages cut can't deliver.  Maybe all this has been a desperate attempt to find the Love that is beyond all loves, the longed-for behind all longings, the pearl beyond price that gives us all worth. Is this why Brexiters are still so angry, despite winning, and can't get over it? Because the thing they thought they wanted isn't the thing they are really longing for?

Just a thought.  Pray for Nigel.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Not Opening the New Moot House

I'd like to thank the Archdruid of the Iron Age Folk of Ironbridge for the invitation to open their new Moot House. Though sadly I'm not going to make it.

I heard about the Ironbridge Folk putting up a giant sign across the A5, saying "Eileen is a Really Useless Druid". And I know their Deputy Druid said "if Eileen comes this side of Daventry we're going to get every Druid in Droitwich to turn up and protest. But hey, that's just letting off steam.

But I'm going to have to turn it down. Not because everybody there hates me. But because, let's face it, they put it in the wrong place. I blame Archdruid Elsie, who sold off the old one in Telford for peanuts, six months before she was Archdruid, and massively overpaid for the new one.  So stuff them I'm staying in my Archdruidical Complex, with a burger and my giant telly.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

90th Anniversary of the Death of Thomas Hardy

1st Yokel: That Thomas Hardy's been dead for 90 years then.

2nd Yokel: Dead and gone, as we all shall be.

1Y: Shall us sing sad folk songs, Henery?

2Y: We normally do, Jan.

1Y: And shall us het a gallon o' cider in our insides?

2Y: Wi' all my heart.

1Y: I've not had a wet since nammet time yesterday.

2Y: And I'm as dry as a lime kiln on a hot day on Egdon Heath, i'faith.

1Y: Shall we go down to the King's Arms in Casterbridge?

2Y: Nay, it's still closed.

1Y: Or the Dree Mariners?

2Y: Closed for years.

1Y: The Quiet Woman on the edge of he'th?

2Y: Never existed.

1Y: And what of the fine Casterbridge Ale?

2Y: Eldridge Pope gone and redeveloped as a trendy retail development.

1Y: Cup o' tea?

2Y: Yeah, whatever.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Bible is a Library

Great excitement as a minister in a Free Church in Scotland, David Robertson, attacks Steve Chalke's views and is then in turn savaged by a Mouse. All fairly fractious stuff.

I was struck by one of the themes of this argument, which I quote from Revd David's blog:
 For example if you say “The Bible is a library and not a book – that’s what the Bible literally means… the church over time has come to regard as sacred. It reflects the moral values and consciousness of each author” then you are saying that the Bible is not the word of God. You are saying it was the Church not God who over time said it was sacred. You are saying that it reflects the values and consciousness of each author not the values and consciousness of God.
If you say that the Bible is a library, are you saying that the Bible is not God's word? And if you say that the Church said the Bible is what it is, are you saying that God didn't? If you say the Bible reflects the values and consciousness of its authors, are you saying that these values and consciousnesses are not those of God?

These are false dichotomies surely.

First up - let's take the definition of the Bible as the Word of God. If you believe that, where do you get that from? Can you get it from the Bible itself?  Well, Paul tells Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed. But that's the Bible itself telling me that. Can I accept the authority of a book because it tells me it should? That doesn't make sense - otherwise I'd accept that Moby Dick is the true story of a whale-hunter, or that the Blair Witch Project is the true story of how three students lost their lives in the woods. Whether I accept the authority of a piece of writing depends upon the context around it.

Why do modern Protestants believe that the Bible is God's word? Because earlier Protestants told them it was so. Or because they read it themselves and conclude it is true. So if David Robertson tells me the Bible is God's word - I have to take his word for it, or I have to read it myself and agree with him. Either way, I have applied somebody's critical faculties - my own, or David Robertson's, or Luther's, or the Early Church's - and/or somebody's lived experience - to the text and concluded that it is indeed God's word. So this is a classic Anglican both/and. If the Bible is God's word, the reason we know it is, is because the Church, acting through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has confirmed that it is. And then part of the Church changed its mind and had another bash.

Now the Bible is a library. It is clearly not "a" book - that is why modern translations contain a list of the books in the Bible. That's why there is a popular Pub Quiz, "How many books are there in the Bible?" to which the incorrect answer that is given is 66, when the real answer is "depends what you think is in and out, and how many books you think Chronicles is."

And if the Bible is a library, then it begs the question of whether the individual books reflect the "values and consciousness" of God, or the authors. To which the only logical response, if the Bible is God's word, is "both", surely. If the Holy Spirit wrote the books of the Bible using the authors as robots, simply inscribing God's words, then there ain't much point putting an author's name on them. God could have just written the whole lot, like the tablets on Sinai. The fact that there are authors attached - some of whom we argue over - tells us that it matters whose point of view that particular book was written from. It matters that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians; it matters that Luke wrote Acts, as it tells us who the "we" are when we read the narrative, lets us put the story of Acts into the context in which the story exists. And given these authors are regarded as saints or prophets, priests or holy men, then the fact that they reflect God's "values" (can God have values?  Or do all human values merely proceed from the nature of God. Discuss.) should mean they also reflect the consciousness and values of the ones who wrote them.

I guess I'm saying this. That the Bible is a reflection of God's nature, and of its authors' lived experience. That because the Church came to define what was in the Bible, does not mean that it was not acting within the will of God. In fact, given the Bible tells us that God was incarnate, the fact that the definition of the Bible is the common work of Church and God is exactly what you'd expect from this kind of God.

But most obviously, most clearly, most unarguably - because  this is built into the structure of the Bible itself - the Bible is a library.



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

Monday, 8 January 2018

Leadersmithing

My friends in the East of England tell me they're invited to a course on "Leadersmithing".  Naturally I looked it up and it turns out it's the name of a book, so it must be a thing.

Now I realise that this is following on from other trendy non-verbal nouns such as "Wordsmithing". But I do wonder. What a smith does is to heat up the raw materials of the craft, to the point where they are semi-molten, and then bang them with a heavy hammer. Is this really the way the church should be developing its leaders? I reckon it could be pretty painful.

Still, I look forward to the follow up books and courses. Instead of writing services, worship leaders will engage in Liturcraft. Minesterial training is now Pastorhewing. Using tea lights and pebbles in worship will now be Artisanal Worship.

The training for Pastoral Assistants will now be  Sympacrafting. Methodist Local Preachers will be produced by HymnSandwichCarving. People being called to episcopal office will be Talentpooled. Anglican people responsible for the buildings will be Wardensmelted.

Meanwhile, in the Beaker Folk, we're having no such verbal ingenuity. This afternoon's seminar on developing a sense for God is leading. No trendy terms. We're keeping it nice and simple.

We're calling it Prophet-earing.




Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.

The Fifth Horseperson of the Apocalypse

A Roman Catholic diocese in Northern Ireland has suspended the sign of peace and sharing from a common communion cup as part of its response to the H3N2 flu epidemic.

Very wise - especially the sign of peace. Although a Californian diocese has said "nodding and smiling are enough", I can't help thinking that is terribly un-English. If churches in England adopt these measures - and obviously they should - the obvious approach is for people to look at their own feet.

But what is this?  "Other churches told parishioners not to hold hands during the Our Father". Who introduced this? Who thought this a good idea?

Every now and then I have to sort out the Beaker Folk's tendency to touchy-feeliness. But the worse anyone has ever suggested in the line of holding hands during services is at the Dismissal. The Our Father?  No wonder the Catholics drop the last couple of lines. Otherwise surely that would be too much to bear.

In these flu-ridden times it is clear that too much bodily contact is to be discouraged. I mean, when you've got Burton Dasset around it's to be discouraged at the best of times. But from now on, the Beaker official worship dress code is "bio-hazard". Then people can hold hands as much - or little - as they want. There's nothing getting through.

"And also with you"



Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.