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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Liturgy for the re-ordering of Stationery

Charlii: Behold, for the time is at hand.

All: For the A4 runneth low. The stapler staggers, hungry and reeling from lack of staples. And the Markers have lost all their magic.

Charlii: I wander through the Beaker Office, yet can I find no toner. The Tippex has been poured out like water, and all the Post-its are as Sodom and Gomorrah.

Young Keith: Let us go down, oh Beloved, to where Burton keeps the order form. And there let us place a whopping great order.

All: Sweeter than honey on the tongue is the chance to get in some decent office supplies.

Young Keith: So they placed their order:

Burton: Unto the users of staples, eight packs and two new staplers. And unto those that still use correcting fluid, 3 bottles. And for those that use dry-wipe whiteboards, 30 dry-wipe markers. And unto those that understand not the concept of "dry-wipe", a new white board. And unto the "Agile Worship Planning Team", many packs of 3x5 cards. For it is made known only to those with ears that hear to know, that Agile project management was a last, desperate invention of the index-card industry.

All: And so the ordering went on day and night, and a ton of supplies arrived,  and for forty days and nights did they stock up the stationery cupboard. Until the day arrived that brought the Treasurer the invoice. And there was a great wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Reclassification of Mythical Creatures

You may have noticed over the years, Dear Readers, that the Beaker Folk community is surprisingly well-stocked with mythical creatures.  Every four years,  we have to ensure they are correctly categorised, to ensure they qualify for the appropriate Arts Council grants - especially important when you consider that this Government has cut the Mythical Creatures budget by 46% in real terms   We have spent the last two weeks re-assessing our imaginary friends, and the results are below:

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn - Grade 1 decayed former nature god. Since he is Greek, he will be applying for funding to the German Government.

Herne the Hunter - Authentic folk revival, entitled to a grant from English Heritage.

Various unicorns - Standard mythical creatures preservation grant, provided we manage their woodlands organically.

Wodewose - as a ferocious wood-dwelling creature with the strength of ten, and a 1000-year history in English Folklore, we are hoping to get funding for the next Olympics.

Various talking badgers - laying low.

Nymphs, dryads and hamadryads - have given up on getting anything out of British Waterways or the Forestry Commission, in the current financial environment. Thinking of getting jobs with the Met Office.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Imprecation on the Stella "Cidre" Advert

Allegedly French Bloke: C'est "cidre". C'est pas "cider".

Charlii: But it's not "cidre" is it?

All: No, it's "cider".

Burton: In French it's "cidre". Wonderful, is proper French cidreCidre bouché - sparkling, and gentle. The produce of Loïc Raison: mass-market yet wonderful. A thousand little orchards, scattered over Normandy and Brittany. The smell of crushed pomace, fizzing and popping on an autumn day... [He falls over, drooling]

Charlii: But you, oh Stella Artois, aren't French, are you?

All: Oh no.

Charlii: You're not even Walloon, are you?

All: Oh no.

Charlii: The people who make your products don't even call the town where you make them "Louvain", do they?

All: Oh no.

Charlii: Oh no. They call it "Leuven". Because....

All: They're Flemish.

Charlii: They don't speak French, except under protest. Because...

All: They speak Dutch.

Charlii: And the Dutch for cider is...

All: "Cider".

Charlii: So, Stella Artois, I put it to you that you don't drive around in a 60s French nouvelle-vague film set. Oh no.

All: (sing) You wear clogs, and you're all called Jan. You wear clogs and you're all called Jan. You wear clogs and you're all called Jan. You're not French - you're Belgians.

Charlii: Stop that. It's very slightly racist.

Young Keith: People of Britain, if you want to drink cidre, make sure it's French. If you want to drink cider, make sure it's from Richs or Thatchers or Westons, Broome Farm or Sheppey or Whin Hill or by Rosy, any of a host of decent manufacturers. But don't drink fizzy, fermented Belgian apple juice and go thinking it's French. That's just silly. Let the Belgians make beer. They're good at that.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Usury Suspects

We suffered quite a surprise last night, Dear Readers. Charlii had set out her stall quite clearly. The local "Payday Loans Company", "Crawley Cash Dot Com", has been lending money to people at stupendous rates of interest. To be honest, they are more of a loan shark than a legitimate lender, hence their slogan - "Money back on payday or you'll wonder where the kitten went".

So Charlii's big idea was to set up a Credit Union, which the Beaker Folk would host. Thus undercutting these people with extortionate rates, while offering debt advice.

Ahem. On deeper investigation, it turns out that "Crawley Cash Dot Com" is a wholly-owned subsidiary of "Fitzroy Finance Ltd" - which in turn belongs to a British Virgin Islands company, "EFR Loans", which is in turn part of "Beaker Folk Pensions (IoM) - the very company that I, and all the senior Druids, have our pensions invested in.

The UK office of Fitzroy Finance is, it turns out, the Moot House. So the good news is, we have technically already achieved our objective!

We have agreed that it's best if we leave well alone.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Ritual of Circling

There's an old Beaker tradition (which I believe, though Eileen would never admit it, she stole off the Celtic Christians) of dancing around in circles. She refers to protective actions, marking out of sacred space, the symbol of perfection, etc etc etc.

Just a little hint, though. Having marked out your circle, lined up the dancers, arranged the Quire and set everybody going - try and make sure they all face the same way. When the anticlockwise group slammed into the clockwise one, it caused some fairly severe bruising.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Church Services Automated Switchboard

"Welcome to St Leodegarius's Church Switchboard. You will now be presented with a number of options.

For baptisms, press 1.
For funerals, press 2.
For weddings, press 3.
For christenings, press 1 - that's the same as a baptism. Honest.
For all other enquiries, press 4.

[1]

For an adult baptism, press 1.
For a child's baptism, press 2.
For a naming service, press 3.
For a baptism service that's a surrogate wedding, press 4.

[2]

For a baptism during the main church service, press 1.
For a baptism at 11.30, after the main service, press 2.
If you've phoned up thinking we can deliver baptisms to order within an hour, press 3 to be disappointed.
If you'd really like a non-religious kind of thing, you've probably phoned the wrong number. Press 4 and we'll see what we can do.

[1]
How many children are you having baptised? Enter the number on your keypad, and then press the hash key.

[2#]

How many guests are you expecting at the baptism? Please enter the number, followed by the hash key.
[46#]

Did you know it's the vicar's day off today?
Press 1 if you did, but don't care.
Press 2 if you didn't, but you've got this far now.
Or you could phone back tomorrow?

[2]

Thank you for making your selection. You will now be placed into call with our parishioner-service representative."

.................................................

Hello, St Leodegarius's Vicarage - Revd Sheena speaking?

Monday, 22 July 2013

Rogue Intercessor

Obviously, I knew that as the new Archdruid on the block I was always liable to stir up some kind of dissent. But thankfully we had the video equipment running, so we've been able to transcribe Oric's prayers of intercession from last night now, so I can share it with you. You tell me - is it me, or is it him?

"Dear God, you who above all stand for the purity of the faith, we pray for our Acting Archdruid, Charlii. We pray for her to overcome her inexperience, and limited intellectual ability, and for her to understand the truth of your faith. 
Help her to overcome the inevitable distractions that such a young woman must surely suffer, help to drive down her physical needs - though only you know, Lord, why she'd expect those needs to be met by Young Keith - and let her instead focus on her spiritual life - spending time in pure and unsullied meditation, rather than succumbing to the lusts of youth. Lord, you know it's occasionally unavoidable but disgusting - and I'm sure you're right. 
Especially we pray for her to learn that the Book of James is not something to be used as a way of counterbalancing Salvation by Faith Alone. Give her the insight to realise her failings, and to amend her presumably slack approach to Bible study and meditation on the Holy Scripture.
And help her to realise that, in considering the relationship of faith and works - that faith always comes first, and that the works that we achieve are merely the window-dressing of a life of faith - and let's face it, Lord, it's just as well, isn't it, in the circumstances? 
And when she remarks that you love a cheerful giver, Lord, give her the discernment to know that many of us give an appropriate amount already - especially having taken account of mortgage payments, the new top-rate of tax, VAT and the increasing difficulty of finding suitable off-shore investments. Whereas she is living rent-free in Eileen's suite of rooms.
And above all, we pray for Charlii to gain an increased amount of wisdom and godliness, very fast. Or if that is not your will, we pray for a suitable replacement.
Amen"
In future, I'm going to move the prayers to before the sermon.

Consumer Church Order of Service

Introit - Grab a croissant or pain au chocolat, and your choice of skinny, black or full-fat coffee. Cappuccino extra.

First Hymn - Grab your voting pad, you can choose it yourself! This is real democratic church, so the biggest pledger gets to pick.

1st Reading - Our survey said the Bible was a bit predictable, so today we're offering a selection from "The Little Book of Calm"

Second Hymn - The winner of last week's "What second hymn should we have" poll was "anything but Teach me to dance"

2nd Reading - A selection of the least meaningful inspirational thoughts from Internet vicar bots. i.e. a load of random aphorisms that have more to do with self-help than Jesus.

Third Hymn - A few minutes of soft-rock, with a tasteful if slightly over-indulgent guitar solo after the third chorus.

The Message - Charlii's inspirational thought will be accompanied by an audio-visual presentation, dancers, 3D effects, haunting music to back up the key points and a fair number of anecdotes to make everyone feel good.

Prayers - will be mostly for ourselves. However if anyone has any particular political agendas, can they text them to the prayer-line and we'll project them on the big screen.

Closing Hymn - something to make us feel good about ourselves.

If anyone feels particularly challenged by anything during the service can they let a member of the leadership know? We'll try and make sure it doesn't happen again.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Aussie Hokey-Hokey

You put your whole team in
Then your whole team's out
In - out - in - out
What's it all about?
You worry about a whitewash
Then you all go home
That's what it's all about....

Labyrinthitis

We were impressed by the lovely Labyrinth design created by @DrBattyTowers. We like a labyrinth, do we Beaker Folk. Iit's a nice afternoon, and everybody had lost interest in the spanking of the Aussies, so we were in need of a spiritual exercise.

Thankfully, we have a 3D printer for producing labyrinths. All you do is scan in the floor plan, set the height, press a few buttons and waste a load of the earth's resources and, five minutes later, you have a gently cooling labyrinth in the middle of the lawn. We've nine or ten of them now. We really must work out what to do with them. We reckoned Dr Batty's was a good one, though, so we set the walls to 8 feet high, knocked it out fairly fast, gave it a few minutes to cool and then everyone piled in.

It was only when we got to the centre that we realised the fatal flaw. There is no way out. Obviously, you can just turn round and walk back the way you came, but that's not how Beaker People do Labyrinths. We like a way in and a way out. We believe in the old saying that you can only step in a river once.

So what do we end up with? All the Beaker Folk, compressed into one corner, screaming with claustrophobia. We shouted at Burton to give us the floor plan, so we could work out the best way out. But instead of letting me have it, he fell into a reverie as to how much the plan reminded him of the logo of Learning Tree International, and what happened to that mug he swears they should have sent him.

The moral of the story is obvious, and much-fabled in Beaker song down th anges. Never enter a labyrinth without a pick axe. Thankfully that was exactly what we'd brought - it is part of the necessary equipment, along with a ladder, emergency flares and emergency flairs - and we were out within ten minutes, the young and feeble crying and fainting around us.

Next time, we're going to check the plans more rigorously.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

A New Holy Well

I'd got a bit bored with the Holy Well.

It's in a dull place - down by the hedge. It's not near the Moot House, so we all have to wander across the Big Meadow to get there. There's no flowers near by, except in June when there's May blossom (get the irony there). It's generally, as Holy Wells go, a bit of a disappointment.

I understand the primal call of a Holy Well. The sight of water, the source of life, the solvent in which we are all born, the thing that makes Earth mostly Sea, springing from the rock. Marvelous, innit? We think Moses, we think that old hymn Eileen likes, we think all sorts of wonders. Then we think, it's a long way from the Moot House and the water doesn't spring from a rock, it oozes out of a load of moss and slime and mud.

So we've installed a new Holy Well. Conveniently, it's right next to the Moot House, and the water flows from the Holy Well into the Moot House, and off through the River of Life under the floor and then out and down to the Husbourne brook. Obviously, having the Holy Well halfway up the hill like this is a problem. It's way above the springline. And so we've cheated a bit, and plumbed it in.

I know some purists might complain, but look at it this way - the water coming out of the Holy Well is chlorinated to a Water Board standard of hygiene. It tumbles down from the Foliate Head / Gargoyle type thing we've cemented into the wall, down into a bowl of finest marble-effect tiles. Beaker People stooping to drink from the new Holy Well won't be suffering from typhoid, dysentery or any of the other issues we used to have with the real one. Especially the cholera. The cholera was bad. We can switch the water supply off at night, as well, so it doesn't get too annoying.

And so tomorrow we have the first Holy Well-dressing with the new well. We'll have to find something to do with the old well. Maybe we could throw some old bedsteads in it? That seems to be popular.

RIP Mel Smith

He was too young for us to produce a loving, hopefully-funny liturgy. Goodbye, Mel. Thanks for the laughs.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Modern Worship Music

There are great wailing and gnashing of teeth this morning. Charlii has re-written the list of permitted modern worship music.

Everyone is generally happy with the replacement of everything written in the 70s and 80s with stuff by Delirious. It is in the area of "alternative" music that the trouble is caused.

Out: Genesis; Pink Floyd; Marillion

In: Robbie Williams; Snoop Dogg; Eminem and (from Charlii's utter youth) - the Spice Girls.

So a real change for me. I used to detest it when Eileen claimed that Genesis' s "Afterglow" was spiritual. Now I'm loathing Angels instead.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Liturgy for a Sunny Day

Charlii: Forasmuch as we have been blessed abundantly with good weather,

All: Phew! Wotta scorcha!

Charlii: And for all that we are very grateful and all that...

All: Bletchley hotter than Benidorm.....

Charlii: And though the grapes flourish on the vine, and the sound of the turtle is heard in the land....

All: Climate change shock as turtles move to UK, live on land and start singing.

Charlii: And though it's the hottest day of the year somewhere....

All: I blame that Global Warming.

Charlii: Although it was the coldest spring in living memory.... 

All: I blame that global cooling.....

Charlii: And though I'm faced with a wall of sunburnt faces.....

All: I blame the hole in the ozone layer.

Charlii: And though we may be skeptical....

All: I blame the sceptics

Charlii: Do you know,  what with your annoying tabloid responses and the heat,  I'm feeling a bit.... [exits]

Burton: Obviously heat got to her.

Stacey: Or do you think......?

Young Keith: I think we'll finish this quick. Peace be with you, now if you'll excuse me...

All: And also with you.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Is There Life on Mars?

Sometimes the pastoral skills of a newly-installed Acting Archdruid are insufficient to deal with the challenges. I am afraid that Burton is still hiding under his bed, sobbing.

It came about at our Social Media Policy meeting. I mentioned that there is a theory that Alien space-probes are prowling the galaxy, searching for intelligent life. And Burton told us how relieved he was, and that he was glad to share his story of alien abduction.

"Last Saturday," he told us, "I was walking home from the White Horse when I was dazzled by bright lights. They shone directly into my face - causing me to feel like my whole soul was being sucked out of me. They revealed that they knew all about me - called me by my name, asked if I wanted to go home - lay me down on a flat, white surface and then - when I awoke - I was laying on the floor outside my own room. It's amazing"

Well, quite. It is amazing. It's amazing to think that Burton didn't recognise Young Keith's pickup, mounted as it is with spot lights on the roll bar. But then it's amazing that Burton didn't remember how he had, shortly earlier, been walking home with Young Keith, but fell into a ditch. It's amazing that Young Keith didn't realise he'd lost a companion until he got home, and I asked him what he had done with Burton. Most amazing of all is that I agreed to drive back to find him.  And it's amazing that Burton managed to confuse the act of being thrown into the back of a pickup with an alien placing him on a lab bench.

But most of all, it's remarkable that Burton doesn't remember saying to me, "Hello, Lord. I thought you'd be less feminine."

The article asks about whether the makers of the putative drone-swarm of probes would try to hide completely from the indigenous planet-dwellers, or try to make contact on a limited basis:
"That is, unless the builders programmed the robots to set up a threshold test of the intelligence and maturity of a native species. If the species passes the test they are allowed to communicate with the interstellar probe.
What sort of maturity test would you perform on Homo sapiens?"
I guess the first maturity test I would set would be not confusing the local archdruid with a celestial visitor, of whatever kind.

But let's face it, there's a flaw in the theory. Just because a species passes an intelligence test, you wouldn't necessarily want to communicate with it. Intelligence is no guarantee of amiability. If the human race passed the intelligence test, we'd use the communication clause to find out where the probe came back. And then send a few nuclear "probes" back the same way, to be on the safe side. I may be doing the human race a disservice, but I kind of suspect we wouldn't take any chances.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Wattle and Daubed

What an exciting day we had, daubing up the Moot House today. I really wanted to get that more natural look. Too often, I believe, we allow ourselves to be separated from Mother Earth - cut off, not really true human beings because we are not adamah - the humanity that is created from the dust.

We had a new, hi-tech method of applying daub, which Young Keith really wanted to try out. But on the other hand, I wanted to ensure that everyone got their hands dirty, so to speak - really got it under their fingernails. Came to know they are indeed born of the earth. So we agreed that the other Beaker People would daub one side, while Young Keith's auto-daubing machine did the other half.

Thinking about it, we should have done the two sides at different times. It was tragic, really. Beaker People eagerly climbing up ladders, eagerly clutching their handfuls of cow dung and clay - only to get a face-full at high speed from Young Keith's daub cannon. After ten minutes, one side of the Moot House was beautifully daubed. As was one side of the Beaker Folk.

We'll have to let Young Keith do the other side tomorrow. There's no Beaker Folk ever want to hear the word "daub" again. It's going to take weeks to get it out of their nostrils.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Incarnational Ministry

That was quite a weekend. I have only been Acting Archdruid for eight days, but it's so good of the Beaker People to take me to their hearts as they have.

I would be less than honest with you here, if I were to say that all four hours I spent looking at Rordrik's holiday photographs were massively exciting for me. Rordrik has a particular interest in fenland skies, and 700 photographs of what, as far as I could tell, were basically the same sky really did start to wear. Rordrik introduced each shot by saying "doesn't that cry out the wonder of the Hand behind creation?" And it would have been wrong to say no. But I can understand why my predecessor was inclined to walk softly and carry a Slazenger V400.

Then two hours of Burton explaining Double-entry book-keeping. The only way I escaped in the end was to shout "isn't that Archdruid Eileen over there?" and run out while he was hiding under the sofa.

And then the six hours I spent digging a pond with Gabbreau were - well, let's say they were probably good for my overall fitness. Gabbreau herself says she suffers from that terribly debilitating condition, a "bone in the leg", and therefore her assistance mostly consisted of saying "hot, isn't it?" and pouring herself another Pimms.

And in between all that, I have led six services. All the usual suspects who lead services were most insistent that, since I am the new Druid on the block, I should be covering all the acts of worship today. But six? How did we ever get to the point where we needed a "Blended Worship" service, a "Taize", a "Nu-Metal Orthodox", a "Contemplation of Pebbles", a "Messy Terce", and a "Complan Church"?

I am shattered. I like to think that I have exhibited an incarnation ministry - one in which I have been alongside the people I am to care for in their everyday lives. But somewhere at the back of my mind, I have that niggling feeling that I shall not be such a mug next week.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Confession (as amended in honour of Stuart Broad)

We may have wandered away from our ways like lost sheep.
We may have done things we ought not to have done
We may have omitted things we ought to have done
And we may have most grievously offended.

But we don't really think it's our job to decide.
So we'll just stand here, if that's OK.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Doing up the Moot House

It has always been my aim, ever since I first became a Trainee Druid and put on a squirrel outfit, to bring a prophetic view. Obviously, as long as my role consisted of entertaining the "Little Pebbles" junior Beaker Folk while dressed as assorted woodland creatures, I have not had the chance to exercise that prophetic gift. However I've now been in my post as Acting Archdruid for a week now, so I feel I've put the squirrel suit behind me. I can see clearly now the rain has gone, and I have a view on the way in which we should be moving.

In particular, and not just because the first thing any new leader looks for is a church reordering or building project, for a while now I've wanted to do something about the Moot House. It is now several years since Eileen, very sensibly had the entire thing rebuilt in a flame-proof, fire-proof, bomb-proof configuration. I feel it has served us well. We have had numerous explosions, fires and floods since, but we have never had to rebuild it from scratch.

That was OK in the late 2000s. Sleek lines and functionality were all the rage. But we are in a gentler, kinder, closer-to-nature kind of world now. I want to move to something more organic, more in its landscape, more expressive of the feminine nature. Something, in short, rather like this:

A gentler, more feminine, more natural Moot House
Now I don't plan to spend my time in charge in a dictatorial manner. So Beaker People have until tomorrow lunchtime to come up with their feeble objections to my brilliant plan. I hope I have made myself clear.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

12% Pay Rise for Druidical Synod

I'm pleased to announce to the Beaker People that we've this evening concluded the annual review of salaries for the Druidical synod.

We are raising salaries for the synod (ie myself, Young Keith, and the Hnaefs) by an average of 12%. This reflects the increasingly stressful nature of the job, the responsibilities we carry and the fact that we get to vote on our own pay. I hope you understand that it's very important that we pay all the druids well, as this level of pay attracts the right people for the job. ie, ourselves.

As a result of this pay rise, unfortunately all prices in the Beaker Bazaar will rise by 10% overnight. Also, voluntary tithes will, we hope, rise in line with these wages. Or, if not, we'll want to know why. After all, we're all in this together,

Liturgy of Dust and the Ashes (Day 1)

Charlii: Looks a bit overcast.

All: Should see some swing.


Confession

All: We confess that we have not moved our feet.
We have played across the line.
We have not got our bodies behind the ball in the deep
nor have we walked in as the bowler approached.
We have left alone balls we should have played
and swung at balls at which we should not have swung.
And there isn't a single century among us.
No, not even a fifty.


Liturgy of Blaming the Selectors

Charlii: Honestly, what were they playing at? 215 all out?

All: Why drop Compton? What did he do wrong?

Charlii: And as for selecting Pietersen....
All: all style no substance.

Charlii: Hope Swanny's going to hold up. Should spin by Saturday.

All: Monty might have been the better bet.

Liturgy of Hope

Though we are sore cast down at 215 all out
and though our middle order collapsed as it were in the days of Gatting, Gower and Gooch
and though our tail wagged as does the tail of the cat that is called Manx, 
yet my soul will not be downcast.

In this only will I hope
that the Aussies are even worse than we are.
In Jimmy Anderson will we trust.
And though a nightwatchman may last for the night
Hopefully Broad will come on in the morning.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Nobody Expects the Acting Archdruid Inquisition

Such a troublesome morning, dear readers. Let us sit on the ground and tell sad stories of the closure of the Northampton to Market Harborough line.

At around 3am, the door crashed open. In their torchlight I beheld three people wearing Guy Fawkes masks. Clearly this was to hide their faces, but as one of them carried a lacrosse stick and kept calling the other two "Marston" and "Keith", I have my suspicions. They said they had come to obtain any secret financial documentation.

Four hours they were there, going through the reams of paperwork in my cupboards and under the bed. Until they did finally accept that I am in possession of nothing more dangerous than a complete set of timetables from 1827 to the Beeching disaster, tasting notes on every beer I have ever drunk and details on the precise arrival time of the trains on the Bedford to Bletchley line, at Ridgmont Station, since 2008. I like to think that, the latter being unique, the British Library may want it when I am gone.

At the end of all their examinations - frequently delayed as Keith looked up from the tasting notes to ask such searching questions as why you would put an otter called Maris in your beer, or the difference between Hallertau and Fuggles - they provisionally accepted I was innocent. Although Charlii said "but you can't prove you're innocent". I started to explain that proving a negative is extremely difficult - but she hit me with her lacrosse stick.

Ah me. It's just like old times.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Eileen's New Address

For those who are wondering what she's up to now, Eileen's now established at her new address. You can find her at:

The Old Rectory
Main Street
Great Tremlett

Or - more importantly - A Reflex Anglican 

Waiting for Godot Service

Burton: My boots are hurting.

All: Then take them off!

Burton: Can't we just go home?

All: No! We're waiting for Jesus!

Burton: Did he say he was coming?

All: Yes. 

Burton: Was that yesterday?

All: We can't remember.

Charlii: No. That was Godot. You're getting them confused.

Confession:

Charlii: We bring our confessions.

Burton: Sins.

Charlii: Pecadillos.

Burton: Sins.

Charlii: Transgressions.

Burton: Sins.

Charlii: But wait!  Who's that coming?

All: We're saved! 

Burton: Are you Jesus?

Godot: No, I'm Godot.

Charlii: Well, that's a bit of a let-down.

Godot: Not very nice. Other people have waited for me.

All: Well, they could have saved themselves the hassle.

Charlii: I preferred Pozzo.

Burton: Or even Lucky.

Godot: Well, I'll just go then, shall I?

Charlii: Yeah, go on then.

They remain indefinitely.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

An aid to Counting

Charlii has asked me to ensure all numbers are accurately recorded at all Beaker events. She wants to ensure we are not ovet-reporting to give an impression of success - or, indeed, under-reporting so as to avoid some revenue revelations that might impact our year-end results.

To ensure we get this right please could all Beaker Folk ensure the following:

Please arrive at Occasions five minutes early.  I will lock the door at this point to prevent any late arrivals.
Sit down once I have locked the doors - and do not move!
If you must visit the "facilities", come to me and I will give you a "toilet voucher". Please return it afterwards. Please note that for statistical purposes I will issue vouchers with a time stamp.
Please ensure all Little Pebbles members are in the Children's Corner, aka the Holding Pen.
Do not leave early.  If you are taken ill, let me know and I will assess whether we have valid grounds to let you out.

If we all follow these rules very closely, I am sure we will all rejoice in our better-enumerated community. Don't forget - mathematics rules the Universe. And so numerical accuracy is next to godliness!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Sarcasm Detection Tool

Dear Readers, such excitement!

Now that Eileen is no longer with us, Acting Archdruid Charlii has been carrying out some "minor tweaks" to the organisational structure. In fact, she has appointed Young Keith as the new Treasurer, in order, as she put it, to "find out where the bodies are buried." This seemed fruitless to me - as I pointed out, that sort of job is more suitable for a sexton or fosser, and we do not have such roles in the Beaker folk. However, when I said this Charlii hit me with a lacross stick. It is good to see that she is already adapting to the role.

Naturally I wondered what my role would be. But now I am freed from the financial burdens I have carried, Charlii has given me the role of "Social Media Consultant." I confess I have no idea what this means, but apparently I can now spend more time blogging.

So I am particularly keen to point out this article I discovered on the BBC website - whereby somebody has invented a machine to detect sarcasm on-line.

Apparently some people say things they do not really mean. This is normally an attempt at humour. although it can be an attempt at deception. So armed with this shocking discovery, I read through the article with new eyes. I note, for example, that " A spokeswoman for the Home Office said she should not comment at this time."

Well, she would say that, wouldn't she?

You see - I've got the hang of it already!

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Nipping Out for a While

You know, it's three years now since I had a holiday. Admittedly it was six months in Hardy's Wessex, but it was still a long time ago. I need a break.  And thanks to the extortionate tithes I have extracted from the Beaker People over the last seven years, I can afford one.

Now, I've just put in an offer on a house a little way from here. Just far enough that I won't be tempted to leg it back. But close enough that I'm able to help if Charlii - who I am hereby appointing Interim Acting Temporary Archdruid - and Young Keith should start to anticipate the spark of tiny tea lights.

Obviously I'll be back if it doesn't work out. But otherwise you may be hearing from me shortly. Hopefully this is just au revoir....

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

When Cell Groups Go Bad - 20 Tell-tale Signs

You know, small groups are the fuel cell of any successful church community. They provide safe spaces - somewhere to ask questions, somewhere to share doubts, to wrestle with great thoughts. When they work well, they can be the engine of growth. Well-managed, with a decent strategy for growing leadership, they breathe life into the whole organism.

But they can have issues. For cell groups to work, the congregational leader has to delegate responsibility - which means that there should be more opportunity for the people to use their gifts. More people can share the burden of responsibility, and grow into positions of leadership. Or else you've just set a load of bulls loose in a number of china shops. One or the other. Here are those clues you need to look out for, and the pitfalls to avoid, if you want to keep your Cell Group programme on track.

  1. The study on Romans has spent the last six weeks on the word "therefore" in chapter 12.
  2. The people who meet in Privet Drive have declared war on the Holly Row group.
  3. After studying Revelation, one group cancels all meetings after August because "there will be no need".
  4. The quarterly report back from the leader focusses on the quality of the biscuits.
  5. The group that was set up for introverts has been meeting for 6 months, and they're still waiting for somebody to speak.
  6. One of the groups has elected their leader "the god of hellfire", and taken to wearing inflammable hats.
  7. The group leader claims to have a hands-on ministry, and half the group are objecting to what he's got his hands on.
  8. An unofficial league table springs up, charting which group has the most spiritual gifts.
  9. The output from the house group each week is a list of the shortcomings of your sermon.
  10. After a heated discussion, the people in the Church End group have decided that the physical world is an illusion and there's no point in leaving the house. Ever again.
  11. The group that met in the lounge bar of the Red Lion has been banned from every establishment in the Pubwatch scheme.
  12. Since there's just the four of them in the group, they've given up on the Bible study and taken to playing a few rubbers of bridge every week.
  13. Because you're not sure about the strength of the leadership, you find yourself at home looking at the broadcasts from the CellGroupCams in every leader's house.
  14. You suspect one of the groups has a relatively limited musician, when the leader asks if you know any  songs with only the chords E major and E minor. 
  15. The group musician has demanded the hosts take their French Windows out, so he can get the speaker stack installed.
  16. In discussing Romans, the Arminians said they have a choice about their own salvation, and the Calvinists responded that they would say that, wouldn't they? The leader's just phoned to ask where he can find a stake and a large amount of brushwood.
  17. Everybody in one group has acquired an enormous collection of Tupperware over the last few weeks.
  18.  Every time they discuss the book of Job, old Arnie tells everybody how his life is even worse. For three hours. And they have to look at his boils.
  19. The house group is such a success, they decide to meet every Sunday morning.
  20. Because of their flexible, fissiparous nature, your church fellowship now has 23 house groups. But the bad news is, there are only 23 people who are members of house groups.

And God Saw That it was Good

Bit of a theological debate today regarding the curses in Genesis 3. Mostly caused by Young Keith's attempts last night to get home from the White Horse, cross-country, in the dark.

As the King James has it, and Keith adopted it, "cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;"

And Young Keith's argument is, clearly this is the case. The ground, in Husborne Crawley at least, is curses to produce nettles, brambles and thistles - all of which Young Keith managed to fall in on the way back. How can we doubt that the earth is programmed against us, argued Young Keith, if an innocent stroll home 

I pointed out to him that sober people, walking along the road, don't end up in all those beds of nasty plants. But he said what about earthquakes, eh? He could have been walking soberly up School Lane and an earthquake could have opened up the ground beneath him. To which the response is, obviously, that the Husborne Crawley geology doesn't really allow of such excitement - although if he were wandering round Woburn Sands I guess he could have fallen into an old Fuller's Earth pit - but I take his point.

So what's to say? Do I believe that the symbolic misbehaviour of a mythical pair of ancestors and a performing snake have caused the development of nettles? Well, let's think... 

I'd reel it back to Genesis 1, which is mythical and symbolic beyond belief, and see what it tries to tell me.

Light, sky, sea, land, plants, sun, moon, stars, animals, vegetables, minerals and us - all on a sliding scale from "good" to "very good". God pleased with everything God made.

And I don't see that's all suddenly overridden by Genesis 3. The earth may be producing thistles and thorns, but they're still made of that same good stuff. The world's still blessed, and the stuff it's made of is still God-blessed. And the life of the humans is still God-breathed. And the world we live in may be scary, and random - but it's not twisted. The laws that mean a bird soars in the air, are the same laws that make a tornado scary. The properties of carbon that make the flowers of a rose are equally predictable in producing the thorns on the same plant. The gravity that holds me onto the sandstone of Husborne Crawley is the same force that sucks a gas cloud into a black hole.

Which I reckon still makes it good. We can apply reason to it, it's consistent. You know where you are. You may get into trouble occasionally - because thorns are still prickly, even if you know how they work - but it's not totally random. It's good enough to have God's beauty scattered across it - in colours, in shapes and forms, in the wonders of physical laws - in everything around us. It's good enough that, when it got lost, Jesus came to find it.

Beautiful nature with a sting in the tail
It seems to me that some of the stuff we see as bad is kind of built into the logic of this world.  If it weren't for the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics driving us forward, we wouldn't all die - but then we wouldn't be born, either. If we're going to be made of carbon and oxygen, then a star had to die. Maybe, as part of that package deal, if God wanted to have little people to relate to - then God had to create a dimensional, physical universe for them to be distinguishable in - the necessary space for the Pauli Principle of personality. And maybe, if the pay-off for that kind of universe is death and pain, and the pay-off for the space to be individual is the space to be isolated - then maybe that's why God decided to join in.

And if Young Keith wants to walk back from the pub without getting a thistle sticking into him, maybe he should wear leather trousers.

Chinese Lantern Petition

Somebody has created a petition against these darned nuisances. However it's not very popular so far. But if you're a non-imaginary British citizen and want to sign up, it's here. http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/52261

Liturgical Error

I'm sorry, my mistake.

When I saw Alrice thrashing around today, waving her arms in the air, hopping oddly and with that fixed expression, I thought she was having a funny turn of some kind. Naturally I gave appropriate treatment - ie lit an aromatherapy candle, applied Hopi Foot Massage, then threw a bucket of water over her and slapped her face when the massage and candle weren't working fast enough.

Turns out she was doing a Liturgical Dance.

Please can all Liturgical Dancers sign the Risk Register in future? This kind of misunderstanding is happening far too often. Last week we'd nearly completed Oddric's funeral before we realised he was merely comprehending the wonders of creation. He was almost a lot closer to the Astral Plane than he had been planning.

Monday, 1 July 2013

Richard Gets Out

I'd like to apologize to the Internet for the outbreak of trolling that little Richard has got carried away with.. He normally tries to keep himself under control, just snatching a few tweets when the satellite is in the right place, but yesterday he snuck out and managed to hook upon onto our WiFi. It was two days before we were able to get a couple of guard-wolves to wrestle him back into his cupboard.

People ask me why I keep an Oxford don locked in a cupboard in the China Room, and I always tell him it's becuase he's much happier there. He just likes to curl up on a couple of old jumpers and sleep most of the time. But we actually spent the afternoon discussing, through the keyhole, whether Seymour or Blamire was the best "Third Man" in Last of the Summer Wine. Richard prefers the more professorial Seymour, but I've always liked Blamire's childish ways.

The Other Wesley Boy

People nowadays only remember John and Charles, but Methodist scholars are trying to rehabilitate the hymnody of their brother Tobias.

Tobias burnt most of his work after John, Charles,  George and Ringo poured scorn on his efforts. Today we just have one of his hymns:

Oh Jesus,  I love you
Oh Jesus, it's true.
Oh Jesus, I love you.
Ooh-ah-ooh.

It's now thought that Tobias was actually 300 years ahead of his time.

Pwetty Lights in the Sky

I note from the BBC that the huge fire in a Birmingham recycling factory was caused by Chinese Lanterns.

So I hope whoever's party it was had a nice time. But their gooey feelings as their pwetty lights went up in the air have been paid for by the injuries to a number of fire fighters, and the release of untold toxins into the sky.

The Fire Brigade spokesperson has called for these idiotic toys to be banned. Fair enough. But just in case anyone's already got them, or brings some in - let's see whether we can't get their use defined as attempted arson.

If you release uncontrolled fires into the sky, you are being criminally reckless. You are the sort of idiot who, frankly,  shouldn't be allowed to play with matches.