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Friday, 31 July 2015

Blue Moon Celebration

Hymn: Blue Moon

Archdruid: Behold the Blue Moon!

All: Oooh!

Archdruid: The wondrous moon of blueness!

All: Oooh!

Archdruid: Blue is the moon and the moon is blue!

All: Oooh!

Charlii: But isn't it just a full moon?

Archdruid: No! It's a blue moon!

All: Oooh!

Charlii: So what's different about it?

Archdruid: Well, it's..... erm..... blue?

All: Oooh! Behold the blue moon!

Charlii: What colour is it?

All: Erm... bl...... white-ish?

Charlii: A blue moon is just a second full moon in a calendar month. Nothing special. Nothing unusual.

Archdruid: So you mean if the month started on a different day, the blue moon would be a totally different month - and nobody would think it was any different?

Charlii: Correct.

Archdruid: So what are we going to do with the Blue WKD, Blue Nun, Blueberry cider, blueberry muffins, Cordon Bleu cooking and blue cheese we were gonna celebrate with?

All: Have a blue moon party like we planned!

Archdruid: Behold the blue moon!

All: Oooh!

Charlii: Oh well. So much for logic and science.

All: Glass of 1970s-style Liebfraumilch?

Charlii: And also with you.

Hymn: Under the (blue) Moon of Love

Final Blessing

Archdruid: Peace be with blue.

All: And also with blue.

Every Day Dog-ism

Aromatherapy with Lavender and Mint
Down the vets with the Earless Beaker Bunny for her annual MOT today and I was intrigued to see this range. I mean, I know we think of them as little people, not as working animals, pest controllers or potential food as we used to. But I still think the "Groomers" range of dog spray is pushing the limits.

You can get them for detangling. You can get them for puppies. You can get them for gleaming coats. But I reckon this one takes the biscuit.

Aromatherapy for dogs?  Since aromatherapy works by placebo affect - how does the dog know it's meant to be feeling better? And is it for

But it's not as bad or as confusing as the second example I have collected for you. The "Boyzone" grooming product which is "subtle and masculine".

I mean - what? What does a dog think designates "subtle" or "masculine"? Given their senses of smell are thousands of times better than ours, what is subtle to us is probably an explosion of scent to a dog.  Our "subtle" is probably "overpowering" in dog years.

And then, "masculine". Whose take on masculinity is this? A dog's? Or ours? And given we have enough trouble defining what a "masculine" scent is - to Burton Dasset, WD40 is a defining masculine odour, while to others it can be sweat - then how does a dog do that?

"Subtle and Masculine"
There's one scent dogs do, I believe, associate with "masculine". That's the smell of territory-marking urine. But is that what this smells of? If so, shouldn't they be warning us?  Forget "aromatherapy" - "warning - smells of wee" would not be a great marketing message, would it.

And if the dog can smell "masculine", what about a scent that is "feminine"? Again, the smell that probably best captures "feminine" to a dog, is that  of "bitch on heat". That draws them for miles, that does. And yet, mysteriously, this isn't in the range.

No, there's no doubt about it. This is a seriously flawed, stereotyping, concept.

I reckon we should let dogs be dogs.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

οἰκονομία

The rules of the house....

We don't do being rude to people who comment on posts.
We get on in a friendly manner - this is a community for all religions and nuns.
We understand that you can speak figuratively, mythically, historically, scientifically or literally. They're all valid ways of describing things, depending upon the discussion. And they don't exclude each other.

The Point of Wasps

Eddie is running a kind of "Kouya Gold" on his blog,  today going back to 2009 to recall the question "why did God make tortoises?"

Which reminds me of the friend who asked me, what are wasps for?  Meaning is baked into our minds. Even a non-religious mind tries to walk out the point of wasps. Apart from the sting at the back, I suppose you could say that's the point of a wasp.

And there's lots of things you could say wasps are for. They eat a lot of things we regard as pests, for example. They provide examples of the apparently meaningless suffering of the world, when they lay their eggs in caterpillar.

But in the end, wasps are another example of the endless creativity that this universe is made with. Wasps just are. They don't need a meaning. The God who made this world, just loves stuff.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Imagine no Labour Theme Tune

The Guardian runs a piece on the @corbynjokes Twitter account. Which is worth reading for the lack of self-awareness in the comments below the fold, if nothing else.  Turns out the account was inspired by Jeremy Corbyn's response to the question, what would be his victory song? To which Corbyn replied "Imagine".

"Imagine" is a dreadful song. Not mainly for its replacement of old-fashioned religion with film of John and Yoko wafting around in white like smug hairy angels. Not just for its assumption, against all evidence,  that removing religion would somehow lead to everybody living happy lives. But for the hypocrisy that Elvis Costello pointed out in "The Other Side of Summer":
"Was it a millionaire that said 'imagine no possessions'?"

Wafting in white-pianoed opulence, "Imagine" is a New Labour song. It has the rhetoric of equality but none of its substance. Can't believe Jeremy Corbyn would like it. Thought better of him than that.

The Consultant's Confession

Hi God

Just pinging you to touch base
to regret our downside behavioural synergies
and request your assistance in our resolution process.

We've crossed your red lines
and gone outside tolerances.
And we're flagging a downgrade RAG-wise.

So we've actioned you here
as rectifying our own negative benefits
is above our pay grade.
It's a competency issue, really.

So we're reaching out to you knowing
that you'll align us with your governance going forward,
help us not to have all our balls in the air
or be short-suited at the final washup,
and before close of play
get us over the line.

We're sure you'll support us in socialising your message
and cascading the Good News.

Kindest regards.

Let Heaven Ping

Is it just me, or have you heard a new verb in use re: email?

"I'll just ping them an email. "

It's an interesting use of that verb. Implies the speed with which it is possible to send an electronic message, without hinting at the cluttering-up of people's lives that the 75-email-chain of responses (each "looping-in" another 30-odd people "FYI") will result in.

In this increasingly time-poor society (mostly because of abovementioned use of email) maybe this is the way forward. The concept of an "arrow prayer" (ie very quick prayers for people without the time to light a tea light or find a decent pebble) could be expanded. "I'll just ping a prayer for you" could be the new equivalent.

Which gave me the idea for "Pings Ancient and Modern". A set of very short hymns for worshippers on the move. Our newly rewritten hymns include:

Ping to the Lord
Hark, the Herald Angels Ping
We'll Ping a New Song
Ping to the Lord With All of Your Heart

So I'm hoping this is gonna be a winner.  If you have any views on this, why not ping me a comment?

Monday, 27 July 2015

λόγος and Logic

"In the Beginning was the Word".

And so John appropriates the first of the three Genesis creation myths and makes it all about Christ. And weaves the beginning of the world into the story of salvation. All the way from the back to the front.

I heard someone refer to the story of our lives yesterday as a "poem". That makes sense - the "Word" is interacting with your life - sustaining you, describing you, surrounding you, defining you - because how can anyone be described except in relation to another? The Word spells out your life - turns it into a poem. It's not simple narrative - because there's so much in there that you don't understand, can't describe. It's too multi-threaded. Too much you don't actually know about yourself. And when you can't quite put your finger on what's going on, poetry is what describes things so much more precisely than prose. It doesn't need to get it nailed.

And then the Word doesn't just tell the tale of your life. We are, after all, not individualists here. The Word tells the story of everyone's life. And there's a poem there for all - from the shortest ode, to the length of an Icelandic Edda, but each one formed as the Word sings to everyone, upholds them, takes the measure of their life and sets it to the lyrics of the universe. 

The Logos goes beyond just "word". The Logos is the truth underlying reality - the log-ic of life. The logic that sets out the rules of physics - that holds the stars in their paths, not through some bizarre rending of the law of Physics as an alien entity, but rather defines their paths, through velocity, mass and gravity as the most natural thing in the universe. The Word speaks the rules of life, the presurre of a light beam, the way four hydrogen atoms combine and glow as they step their way towards helium, If, as in Tolkien's Silmarillion, the story of the universe is a song, then the Word provides the bass line - and the baseline - forming the structure of the song, keeping the melody in place, shaping and driving forward and holding it all together.

And the Logos takes the music of the universe, and the poems of our lives - all of them, from the shortest to the longest - and weaves them into the song of Creation. All the highlights, all the dark, slow passages, From the frequency of gamma rays as the top notes down to all the depths of the darkness of space, All the joy, beauty, tragedy and lost-ness, yearning and love stories woven together into a symphony. Each of us bringing our own meaning and picking up our own lyrics.

And then the maker of the rules of sound became the lead soloist in the symphony he created. His melody picks out your line - highlights it - weaves around it and fits your words. Even the notes you fluff and the words you forget. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Slap Bad Weather Journalists With A Large Fish

Fellow English people (the rest of you will have to imagine this bit) - you remember that hot day we had back at the start of the month? I do. It was warm one Monday. And then on the Wednesday it was even warmer. 

And then I promised myself I'd remember a newspaper article, ready for the end of the month. Like about now.
"Second British Heatwave Could Bring Hottest Ever Temperature". 
Now had this been the weather-infatuated Express, or the global-warming-obsessed Indie or Gruaniad, I could understand it. But this was the Telegraph.

The sub-heading actually told you all you really needed to know about the headline's accuracy. I'll be honest, I didn't bother reading any further at the time. And I've not bothered now, either.
Some forecasters are predicting that temperatures could even pass Britain's all-time highest temperature of 101F (38.5C)
Which does some brilliant vagueness. If there were two forecasters in the whole world out of a million, predicting that the weather passed the record temperature, that would still be "some". And even the "some" aren't too certain. They're predicting that temperatures "could" pass the all-time high. Presumably all so the Telegraph can crowbar the all-important "101F" into the sub-heading.

That's the important thing. That's what we all read, isn't it? 
100 - Phew wotta scorcha 90 - Time for another cuppa 80 - Time for a cup of tea 70 - Nice Day  then boring temperatures nobody really cares about 5 Parky 0 Freezing -5 Taters -10 Brass Monkeys
For the rest of the world, and probably those under 30 years of age, I should explain something. The British have never quite taken on metric measurements. It's all we are taught at school, but then in real life we insist on dealing in feet, miles, pints and stones. But in temperature we do something that may appear really, really odd. This is what the British Thermometer looks like, as it exists in our heads.

So if the temperature is cold, we think in Centigrade. Because zero sounds like cold, doesn't it? Whereas 32 just sounds like it ought to be somewhere in the middle. And if the temperature is below freezing, makes sense it's minus something.

Whereas if the temperature is hot, we think in Fahrenheit. Because 32 (which is hot in Centigrade) sounds like it ought to be somewhere in the middle. And if the temperature is really hot - really apocalyptically hot - so hot even a third cup of tea may not help - it makes sense that it's 100.

So the Telegraph put that 100+ temperature in there specifically to draw our attention. Make us go, "oo - that's gonna be hot then." Tickled our weather obsession, gave us a nice little story to excite our early summer, and went on its way whistling thinking it would never be held to account for what is, when all is said and done, a non-story - "some people think it might be hot".

Well, no more. From now on, every time a newspaper makes a medium-range prediction of extreme weather, we should hold them to account. We should note the date and time of their prediction and, if they are wrong, the editor should be summoned to Marble Arch, there to be slapped round the face with a wet fish. If they're a bit wrong, or going on a Met Office warning and it turns out to be OK - that's fine. This happens. But if, for the following month they forecast record heat or in September tell us that one weather "expert", who lives in his shed with an owl and a piece of sea weed, claims it will be the coldest winter in history - if they're wrong, the editor must head for Marble Arch and the Royal Wielder of the Wet Haddock will be waiting for him or her.

Yes, it's rough justice. But this nuisance has got to stop. If Jeremy Corbyn proposes this law, I'll pay my 3 quid and vote for him.

The Wisdom of Frank Field

The Labour Party leadership election is being hijacked by Communists who want Jeremy Corbyn to win. According to the Telegraph, radical unions are encouraging people to join the party to vote for him. Which is, oddly, exactly the same tactic we're told some Conservatives are using. Then I read this:
Frank Field, a senior MP who nominated Mr Corbyn but does not want him to win, said: “The other three candidates need to confront Jeremy’s deficit-denial position." 
Well, maybe that's what the other candidates need to do. Or maybe Frank Field should reflect that, if he doesn't want people to win, he shouldn't nominate them. I presume he did it because he wanted a better debate. Unfortunately, given three cardboard candidates, it appears he also got a better debater. It's a bit like a Catholic Cardinal looking at the new, unexpected Pope and saying, "I only voted for Katharine Jefferts Schori because I wanted to open a debate about women's ministry."

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Some Things Not to Say in Sermons

"So I'm pretty sure God doesn't like it. But then, what do I know?"

"And I'm sure Mary won't mind me telling you, that time I discovered she was having an affair behind Bernie's back, it was very like what happened to Hosea."

"So I'm going to demonstrate how Paul wants us to run the race of faith, by preaching this sermon while running round the church. Obviously I needed hospital treatment after the last time I used this illustration. Which is why I've not done it since 1982."

"And was it St Augustine or Aleister Cowley who said that? Either way...."

"Can you  imagine what Sampson's last stand must have been like for the Philistines at the feast? Well,  you don't need to!  Leigh! Release the wrecking ball!"

"Gerry is going to represent Elijah. Brady is King Ahab. And the good news for the prophets of Baal is, you won't have to sing "Lord of the Dance" at the end of the service."

"Now this illustration isn't really relevant but it does show me in a very good light."

"And Eutychus was so tired he fell off the windowsill to his death. And would you believe it, when I was preaching just last week....."

"And the Trinity is very like the theory of Non-Inflationary Consistent Expansion in Economics. Inasmuch as they both sound fairly unlikely, I don't understand either, but I'm reckoning you lot don't either."

"And the unmerciful steward went to the servant who owed him 10 denarii and said, "would you like to roll all your debts up into one easy-to-manage loan?" And I think we can all learn something from this"

"OK. So everybody line up in order of how sinful you think you are...."

"As you all know, I regard sermons as a form of prophecy. Which means I don't actually prepare or research them but trust to the Spirit. So a few people have asked me since last week's sermon in which Gospel Jesus received that scar on his temple as a baby, and guess what...."

Saturday, 25 July 2015

A Church Projector Operator Wishes the Worship Leader Would Share the Song List in Advance

Well I know that David had a chord
with which he used to praise the Lord
but you don't want to pick that one though, do ya?
So I'm sitting behind this laptop now
And wondering just when or how
I'll have to find that song called "Halleluah"?

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

It was worse when we had acetate
The warning would come really late
Getting the wrong overhead, really threw ya
But now we've all gone digital
It doesn't really help at all
When you say "now the next song's Hallelujah".

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

Could it be the one by Fishel, D?
That's the one that means the most to me
Or is that actually spelt "Alleluia?"
Or the one where we to Jesus sing
Or the one where we let praises ring?
There's just too many songs called "Halleluah".

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

So you've gone up to the mic, so cool
And said, "now I think that we all
should sing that song that's so meaningful to ya."
And I'm looking at my PC folder
And feeling so many years older
There's 85 songs all called Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, hallelujah
hallelujah, hallelujah.

A Musical in the Next-door Key

Bloody Internet dating. Thought I'd try it out. Interesting sounding bloke. Made contact. Said he'd take me to "Wicked". Brilliant, I thought. Haven't been to a musical in ages.

Turns out he suffers from terminal fat-thumbs. I've just spent the afternoon in Wickes in Dunstable. Not the same thing at all.

If Labour Party Leadership Contenders Were on the Shortlist to be Bishops

Andy Burnham would be the safe pair of hands.  Smooth, bland, able to keep the organisation running smoothly without having any radical impact.

Yvette Cooper would struggle because who would dare appoint another female bishop who's married to a clergyman?

Liz Kendall would be "too young", "too lightweight*", "not enough experience in parish work".

Jeremy Corbyn would be the bloke who's done 40 solid years of parish ministry, worked hard, loved by his parish, but never become archdeacon or even rural dean. Which seems really odd. Until you hear his theories on Biblical inerrancy and the Last Times.

* about 8 stone, according to the Daily Mail

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Björn from Which No Traveller Returns

Some people don't like to introduce children to death too early. Asked where Flossy the Cat or Syntax Error the Goldfish has gone, they'll tell kids that they're now living at a lovely animals' home.

Of course, it's different with humans. There are many who believe in a future life. But even many of those who don't, still talk about Granny or Grandad having gone to heaven and looking down smiling as you flog off their porcelain collection.

Then there was the odd case of my uncle. They swore blind he was in a "happy place". Apparently in that place,  he was incapable of communication with the real world - indeed had no real idea of how we that were left lived our lives, and sadly we could never hear from him. But he was at rest. "Sleeping", they used to say.

Turned out he'd been elevated to the House of Lords. 

But in Milton Keynes we are made of sterner, more traditional stuff. We talk about a place where you always know that rewards are ahead of you, know there will ultimately be a way out - even if it is difficult to find. A place of yearning, of wandering, of hoping one day to see the brightness of final release.

Hence the old saying. Beaker Folk don't really die.

They just go to Ikea.

Lighting a tea light can get a Beaker Person 5 fewer days in Ikea.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Liturgy for a Pub Putting Up a Christmas Tree in July

The Greeting

Waiting Person: Have you eaten at a Harvester before?

All: Isn't that a Christmas Tree?

Hymn: The summer holiday and the Ivy

Waiting Person: Would you like to order drinks?

All: Isn't that a Christmas Tree?

Hymn: Do They Know it's Christmas?

All: Isn't that a Christmas Tree?

Hymn: I wish it Could be Xmas Every day

Waiting Person: How are your meals?

All: That is. That's a Christmas Tree.

Hymn: On the Minus 150th Day of Christmas

Waiting Person: Would you like desserts?

All: Christmas Pudding?

Waiting Person: What? In July?

Hymn: It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

Archdruid: Nights are drawing in.

All: Yes.  We've already done that one.

Lament Over the Labour Leadership Election

How long?
How long will this go on?

Every day we hear about the Labour Leadership Election
And by night the news is full of it

The tweeters tweet the tedious tidings
And the hustings go on forever.

See how the Tories rule unchallenged
Except by invaders from the North
People of strange speech who sit in other people's chairs.

All day they break parliamentary rules
And at night they dream of deep-fried Mars Bars and revolution.

But those who should oppose are in confusion.
They oppose only themselves.

Day after day they appear on TV:
The one we've heard of
The one who's like a Miliband without the charisma
The one from Leicester
And the one who we can't believe is winning.

For behold he stands there
Full of the faith of the ancestors
Looking like a prophet
But he profits only the enemy
Who carry on their work unnoticed
Stealing bread from children's mouths unseen.

And now the Destroyer has returned
Who destroyed Baby-lon in his anger
And Nineveh in his pride.

"Listen unto me, for I know of election" he roars
But they are all as the brazen serpent
Which hears not, charm he ever so wisely.
And who can blame them eh?

So a thousand ages in our sight
Will be as a hustings gone
Summer and winter;  springtime and harvest
And they still won't have anyone
To win them an election.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Mary Magdalene

As everybody knows, Mary Magdalene was also Mary of Bethany, who was also the sinful woman who poured perfume on Jesus' s feet, became Jesus's wife, and moved to a seaside villa with him after the Resurrection. Thus causing St John to be terribly upset.

That's everybody whose history of the early Church is gleaned by reading Press reports of Dan Brown's fiction, obviously. One of the great advantage of our post-modern life is that the big narratives - coherent history, research, rubbish like that - are filtered through the lens of what is more interesting by journalists who increasingly aren't required to understand what they're writing about.

Though, to be fair, the Pope that decided she was the original tart-with-a-heart didn't exactly help in this. She gathers wild ideas in fitting with the Zeitgeist, does Mary Mag.

We don't know what Mary thought about Jesus other than that he was the Rabbi she loved. Everything else is speculation. She followed him - as did so many others, men and women. She followed him to the Cross, followed him to the grave. Her own hopes and fears for the future blown to pieces, she goes down there on that Sunday morning.

Even later that day, the disciples will still be locking the door for fear of the authorities. Which puts the love and bravery of Mary and her mates into perspective. They go down to the tomb, without male muscle, in the half light of dawn, as women paying homage to an executed heretic and rebel. And that, knowing that there's a guard on the tomb.

After that there is all confusion. The women either say nothing "because they were afraid", or else Mary demands of an unexpected young man / supernatural being that he tell her where Jesus's body is.

But however it pans out, she is rewarded. She sees her Rabbi. She knows his love conquers even death. And she shares the best news of all with a bunch of fearful, confused disciples. And sticks by it despite the fact that it is, to all rational thought, ludicrous. Then if you're able to risk armed soldiers in the first light of dawn in a graveyard, you're not gonna worry too much about Peter, are you?

I guess with Mary, the story for me is about bravery, love and faithfulness. Everything else is poetic licence. Let's celebrate her for what she is. Not the story we'd like her to tell.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

An Enmity from the Depths of Time

It's turning into a really bad week for triffids.

The ones that were left over from the unfortunate conflagration turned up unexpectedly at our Folk Festival in the grounds this evening. Being creatures that make an ominous drumming noise to communicate, they were confused by the sound of the bodhran in our guest Folk act, Rusty's Dumpy Knuts. So the bodhran boy looks up from his folk-induced trance, to find he's surrounded by 7 foot carnivorous plants. Needless to say he screams.

The scream attracted the attention of a Morris side who had been lurking down by the electric fence we erect at every Folk Festival to keep them out. Being of a heroic nature, albeit annoying, they climbed over the fence, insulating themselves with their hankies, and rushed over to the lad's rescue.

And came face to tendril with the triffids.

Turns out that Morris dancers and triffids have an enmity from the depths of time. Born of a particularly nasty experiment by an evil mastermind that crash-landed in the Amazon rainforest when his spaceship crashed on its way from Polaris to Sirius, they share 99 per cent of the same DNA. But whereas Morris dancers can pass as human in dull light if you only ask them simple questions, the triffids have had to lurk in the hedgerows, avoiding the gaze of human kind - ever seeking for their evil soul-mates.

Naturally there was nothing for it but to battle it out in the most ancient and dangerous form of combat that has survived from those primeval times.

Croquet.

Gotta hand it to those triffids. Some of the most vicious croquet play I've ever seen outside the grounds of an English country vicarage. The Morris dancers were pretty resilient, and fought as hard as they could. But it was pretty clear none of them had been to Oxford. The triffids drove them off the court, out of the grounds, and into the Safari Park.

Where we made another discovery. Did you know that giraffes eat triffids? Oh boy, can giraffes eat triffids. Poor little human-eating vegetable terrors didn't have a chance. Who'd have though those spindly legs could kick the boles in like that?

Anyway. It's been a heck of a day. I'm just glad to get me feet up. And we've got an ecumenical meeting tomorrow. So it's only gonna get worse. I mean, triffids, Morris men and rampant giraffes are pretty wild. But two hours on whether you can put a tea light on the table in a Wesleyan Reform Chapel?  Pass me the triffid seeds, I say.

Jobs for the Triffids

Yes I should never have got the triffids involved in our daily worship. But my defence is that St Augustine is currently unavailable, except for prayer ministry.

And I've had to take the big triffid off its initial job as Stewardship Officer. Triffids essentially kill things, then sit around waiting for their prey to decompose so they can absorb the resultant nutrients. And that's a bad message to send when you're suggesting people might want to consider legacies.

So we gave them the job of holding candles in the procession. But turns out their stubby, leafless sticks are not as handy for bearing tea lights as for beating their boles to send out messages to other triffids.

And they're very rich in plant oils.

Still, look on the bright side. It's gonna be days before we have to switch on the lights in the Moot House. And, if not quite incense-like, burnt triffid does have a nice,   refreshing smell.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Churches Failing to Grow Seminar

I'd like to thank the delegates from communities across the post-Christendom worship spectrum, for their attendance at our ground-breaking seminar, "Reasons why Your Church Can't Grow No
Matter What You Do".

I've seen  too many churches feel they ought to do something, but then give up at the first failure: or even struggle in prayer and through growth strategy meetings, then give up later on. Too many mission committees do detailed sociological analysis, only to conclude that the people in their parish are basically not very suitable for saving. So my idea was, why not cut out the middle person and just get straight to the acceptance of defeat? Saves all that grief, and you can get on with useful stuff like polishing the brass.

The main aim of the day was to develop a comprehensive set of reasons out of which any church can develop what we call an "Agenda for Failure" - a set of reasons why there's no way your community could grow, no matter what you did. And I have to say we got a really good set. Everybody felt much better afterwards. Feel free to pick the ones that you know fit your own community, and then give up. You'll be amazed how the weight of guilt lifts from your shoulders as you accept your destiny.
  1. [Large Churches] The congregation is too big, and new people won't feel at home.
  2. The Minister won't take the lead.
  3. [Churches in town centres] Nobody lives round here - it's much easier to make contact when the church is in the centre of a community.
  4. Who on earth would believe what we do?
  5. It's the summer. Everyone's on holiday.
  6. The modern world is so scientific, they don't really believe in God or Jesus any more.
  7. [Churches in Schools / Community centres] Nobody realises we're here. We'd have to put banners up or something.
  8. We haven't got the car parking space.
  9. Nobody sings hymns in schools.
  10. People who don't go to church are weird.
  11. Society has changed. We just need to plan for decline.
  12. Nobody understands anything we are saying. You really need to grow up in the church. 
  13. Our songs are too old fashioned. We've got to move with the times.
  14. If anybody started coming to our church, they'd only decide they weren't growing and move on to a more exciting church in a year or two.
  15. We don't really have anything to tell people.
  16. People go shopping on Sundays. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  17. Nobody likes incense any more. But we like it.
  18. The Minister is too controlling.
  19. How can we get people to "come in"? We've tried lurking around in the Church waiting for them, but people who wander in get really jumpy when they spot us.
  20. The Holy Spirit was all very exciting in the Bible, but probably wouldn't want to turn up round here.
  21. Outsiders don't know what to do when. So they stop coming after a while.
  22. [Village Churches] There's mostly older people live here now. The Sunday School has folded.
  23. [Suburban Estates] People just drive past. The church in the town is right next to the shops, where people go on Saturdays.
  24. Kids these days play football on Sunday mornings. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  25. These days everybody is into alternative religion. That seems to be more spiritual.. We're too traditional and boring.
  26. It's the winter. It's always so cold in here.
  27. It's easier to clean up the monuments than explain a living faith.
  28. People who come for baptisms never come back.
  29. People these days play cricket on Sundays. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  30. The Minister preaches only sermonettes.
  31. People these days have a lie-in on Sundays. They didn't do that 40 years ago.
  32. [Small Churches] Nobody would want to come to a small church. Big ones are much livelier.
  33. The Minister preaches long, boring sermons.
  34. The music we sing is too modern. People like the old stuff.
  35. We don't believe our Church can grow.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Theology Smackdown: Augustine of Hippo v the Triffids

It's the question I'm always being asked. Which is better? St Augustine or triffids?

It's a narrow decision for sure. After all, Augustine (354-540) was the Bishop of Hippo. He took part in the formulation of the doctrine of Original Sin, developed the theology of predestination. and encouraged his flock at a time when  the city of Hippo was surrounded by the Aryan Vandals.

Whereas the triffids are a bunch of ambulatory plants with poisonous stingers. Their theology tends to a Gnostic reading of John's Gospel and strongly analogical approach the Psalms.
The triffids had a Gnostic theology and legalistic approach to James's epistle.

Although Luther leaned heavily on St Augustine's theology while putting forward the seminal thoughts of the Reformation, he makes absolutely no mention of triffids. Scholars believe this is because he completely rejected their legalistic approach to the book of James> There is a substantial minority, however, that believes it is because their stubby, leafless sticks on their boles are handy for making an ominous drumming noise, but useless for writing manuscripts.

Although making some progress in equality over the last century, there has still been no triffid bishop appointed by the Church of England.  However, with their terrifying sting and general approach to consuming the bodies of their helpless victims, it is believed it is only a matter of time before one of them is made a Spectator journalist.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Flexibility of God's Wrath

People who don't really understand faith frequently compare it to science unfavourably, as if they are the same kind of thing and in competition. And those of us with reasonable science backgrounds and faith are accused of having "compartmentalised" minds.

Whereas I generally consider people who think this and wonder how their brain can work with so few dimensions to play in. Do they watch Or read Game of Thrones and complain that dragons don't know exist? Do they read Wordsworth and object to the concept of daffodils "dancing" as if by their own volition when we are pretty sure that, excluding the one in the "Gerald the Gorilla" sketch , they aren't that bright? Would  they object that actually daffodils are pretty bright - bright yellow - and I am unthinkingly and ambiguously using "bright" as a metaphor when the word "intelligent" would be more accurate? Would they complain that in saying daffodils are bright yellow, I have taken the flower to be the sum of the plant and missed their occasionally quite dull, and later dried and brown leaves, not to mention the bulb, out of the story completely? Do they complain that the Lark Ascending doesn't sound much like a lark, which notoriously don't have the virtuosity to lay violins?

So I like this piece from Andrew Brown on a priest who used God's threats to the People of Israel, completely out of context, to say what God would do to us because of environmental damage. There is the irony that Andrew hints at, that other priests these days would ascribe exactly the same threats to us for tolerating same-sex marriage or Hebden Bridge. God's wrath, it seems, is highly flexible.

This is why apocalyptic, in particular, is so enduring. The symbols it give us are so powerful, so apparently precise and yet, through history, so capable of re-purposing. The Beast, down through the ages, has been the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholics, Capitalism, Islam, the European Union, the Soviet Union. God's threat hangs, flexibly and infinitely redefine-able, in the air.

The Bible as a whole is such a collection of books, in different situations, different times, for different purposes - encouraging a conquered people, defining moral and ritual purity, staking a claim against the gods of Babylon, telling the story of an unexpected Messiah - it's no wonder that almost anything can be derived from its pages and proclaimed, in holy certainty, to be the word of God.

And maybe that's why it still feeds our imagination. Across the world we are still looking for a right pattern of behaviour; dealing with compete unfairness; wondering about the use of money and property; wondering what happens when we die. None of today's certainties will necessarily be tomorrow's: the Synod debate on the ecology came on the very day that many papers promised us a new Ice Age (while others debunked it). In 100 years' time, almost any change in views on sexuality, or the right running of society, could be imagined. But faith will still fund hopes, despair, dreams and explanations.

The wrath of God is utterly flexible. But God's promises are, too. And the language God gives us is powerful - more powerful than death itself.


Friday, 17 July 2015

Job Humphrys Interviews God

John Humphrys: And now on the programme we have God. Supreme ruler of the universe and eternally sustaining Ground of all Being. So God - before you make any decisions about whether you are going to randomly destroy part of the world in a volcanic eruption, or send out a plague - and remembering that you are an eternal Trinity - do you talk to yourself? And does that affect the way you capriciously scatter weal and woe? Do you accept responsibility for all the suffering in the world?

God: Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook
    or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you.....

JH: Could I ask you to stick to the question.  Are you in any way responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God:  .....put a rope in his nose
    or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many pleas to you?
    Will he speak to you soft words

JH: But are you in any way responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God: Will he make a covenant with you
    to take him for your servant forever?
Will you play with him as with a bird,
    or will you put him on a leash for your girls?

JH: This is the BBC. We have to say "women". But are you in any way responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God: Will traders bargain over him?
    Will they divide him up among the merchants?
Can you fill his skin with harpoons
    or his head with fishing spears?

JH: But are you in any way responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God: Lay your hands on him;
    remember the battle—you will not do it again!

JH: But are you in any way responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God: Behold, the hope of a man is false;
    he is laid low even at the sight of him.
No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up.
    Who then is he who can stand before me?

JH: Well, I am at the moment. Are you responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God: Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
    Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.
“I will not keep silence concerning his limbs,
    or his mighty strength, or his goodly frame.
Who can strip off his outer garment?
    Who would come near him with a bridle?

JH: So are you admitting responsibility?

God: Who can open the doors of his face?
    Around his teeth is terror.
His back is made of rows of shields,
    shut up closely as with a seal.

JH: Are you responsible?

God: One is so near to another
    that no air can come between them.
They are joined one to another;
    they clasp each other and cannot be separated.
His sneezings flash forth light,
    and his eyes are like the eyelids of the dawn.

JH: Lord,  will you please stop diverting the subject onto crocodiles?

God: Out of his mouth go flaming torches;
    sparks of fire leap forth.
Out of his nostrils comes forth smoke,
    as from a boiling pot and burning rushes.

JH: It's not even anatomically correct and leads me to question whether this whole book is literally true at all.

God: His breath kindles coals,
    and a flame comes forth from his mouth.
In his neck abides strength,
    and terror dances before him.
The folds of his flesh stick together,
    firmly cast on him and immovable.

JH: Are you responsible for the bad things in the world?

God: His heart is hard as a stone,
    hard as the lower millstone.

JH: It's no good trying to drag George Osborne into this. He's not responsible for all the hardship in the world. Though we have Polly Toynbee on next, to tell us he is.

God: When he raises himself up the mighty are afraid;
    at the crashing they are beside themselves.
Though the sword reaches him....

JH: Are you responsible for all the suffering in the world?

God: .....it does not avail,
    nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin.
He counts iron as straw,
    and bronze as rotten wood.
The arrow cannot make him flee;
    for him sling stones are turned to stubble.

JH: But are you in responsible for the bad things that happen to people?

God: Clubs are counted as stubble;
    he laughs at the rattle of javelins.
His underparts are like sharp potsherds;
    he spreads himself like a threshing sledge on the mire.
He makes the deep boil like a pot;
    he makes the sea like a pot of ointment.
Behind him he leaves a shining wake;
    one would think the deep to be white-haired.

JH: I am both white haired and deep.  On earth there is not my like, a creature without fear. I snark the high down to their places, and consider not the low. I see everything that is high; I am king over all the sons of pride. I bring into being, and destroy. I am the source of life and of death. I bring down even Directors General in my might. Look unto me, O mortals,  and quiver.  For I am HUMPHRYMANDIUS, KING OF KINGS!

God: So.  Do you accept responsibility for all the suffering in the world? It would be nice for someone else to get the blame.

A Prayer in Times of National Cricket Calamity

Hymn: Rainy Night in St John's Wood

Archdruid: Our goose is Cook-ed

All: And there's no Root out.

Archdruid: We're right and proper at the mercy of mockers

All: Getting thrashed by Ockers. So........

Archdruid: In this time of summer and drought

All: Let it rain!

Archdruid: In this time of getting out

All: Let it rain!

Archdruid: If this service is doomed to fail

All: Let it hail!

Archdruid: Thunderbolt and Lightning

All: Very very frightening thing!

Hymn: Rain on me

Archdruid: We pour out this beaker of water upon the ground.

All: That's sympathetic magic, we'll be bound.

Archdruid: And magic isn't usually good

All:But would come in handy in St John's Wood.

Hymn: It's Raining Again

Blessing:

Archdruid: May rain soak the ground for you
May lightning crash around for you.
May snow stop play
And even hay
fever confound the Aussies for you.
May a hurricane meet you
And the Lord's Ridge rise up to greet you
Until we meet again.

Liturgy for a Sufferer from Mild Scalding on the toes

The lighting of the healing toe-candle

Archdruid: Oh Lord, how many are my toes!

All: How sore the way they rise up against me.

Archdruid: When people ask "how did that happen, then" I shall tell them, the dog knocked a kettle over them.

All: And then shall they snigger and ask how much I had last night.

Archdruid: But it is no laughing matter. I shall know their blisters by day.

All: And their throbbing in the night time.

Archdruid: And so shall I lay down with my feet in cold water.

All: From the rising up of the pain, until its going down.

Combined dismissal and alternative therapy suggestion

Archdruid: Frozen peas.

All: They're under the cod.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

UCL is Other People

Intrigued by the news that UCL, the institution that forced Prof Tim Hunt out for his [poorly-done joke]/[outrageous demand that women work in separate labs]* pay the male-member-only Garrick Club to use its premises for fundraising.

UCL has a fine record in life sciences and medicine. But as they keep proving, the one research field where they are woefully lacking is Differential Cubito-Proctology.

(* delete as appropriate)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Guidance on the Management of Trainee Druids

It's that time of year, in the scattered communities of the neo-Christendom alt.worship tea-light-handling Folk called Beaker, when trainee druids are joining their new communities to be trained in their craft. And so, as is the way in these things, Jennii, our trainee druid, is going off with our best wishes to be assistant archdruid at the Corded Wear Folk of Caddington. And Charlii has a new victim - sorry, trainee - to break in. So I'd like you all to welcome Noldor. She comes to us with a degree in Tea Light Studies and a Masters in Lavender Oil from the Angular, Rusty University.

Obviously, Noldor is the latest in a series of trainees we've had here. So I feel qualified to give you some advice on how to look after them.

First up - time management is very important. So the first thing I always do with a trainee druid is get their diary and get them to write the word "Work" on all the working days. That is, weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. And Christmas Day, obviously. St Francis would approve.

Some say that the newly-inducted trainee Druid should ensure he or she makes time for their family. And I can see the importance of this. It is bad modelling of leadership for a druid to neglect the family. Which is why I always think it's a good idea to select single people for the trainees in Husborne Crawley. People are always banging on to trainees about "make time for God and your family" - but clearly doing Community admin, dusting the worship focus table and digging the Community vegetable garden are all making time for God. George Herbert, whom I always think is just the trainee I could have done with myself, put it best when he wrote "Sweep the floor for Jesus, That's how to get to heaven." I'm paraphrasing of course. But nobody ever tells trainees to "make time for yourself". So let's not start giving them ideas.

Inculcating a sense of guilt in the trainee is always a good start. Though, unusually, you'll actually have help from the lay people on this one. Makes a nice change from everything else you try to do with them. But tell everyone that a Self-Supporting Druid (or "Not a Proper Druid Like Eileen") is entitled to a Sunday Off every month, and somebody will suggest that the best use for a Sunday Off is to be worshipping in the congregation rather than up front. Nice and restful. Or leading the children's work. Not that you'd expect anything specific from them. It's just nice to have them around. To talk to. Or hold things. Or, if you're short of a prayer ministry person, to step in for a bit of laying-on of hands. Before you know where you are, they'll be telling you not to bother with Sundays Off - they're too much like hard work.

Likewise, encourage the trainee to regard weekly Days Off as "study and sermon preparation days". After all, all that peace 'n' quiet will get to them after a while if they don't have something to think about. And since learning and discipleship are the key objectives of the trainee period, they've got to fit it in somewhere when the other six days are all about ministry and administration.

Bear in mind that, although in past lives the trainee may have been a musician, children's worker, social worker or teacher, that they are now first and foremost a trainee druid. In other words, they've got to add "youth worker" to the CV for the next three years, even if they can't stand youth. And, let's face it, after three years who could?

Consider also that Self-Supporting Druids have often been working all day - sometimes after long commutes. So make sure you reschedule all your meetings to the evening so they are able - nay, feel obligated - to attend. You may need to prod them occasionally to wake them up, or maybe make them Secretary of all the meetings, so taking minutes can help them stay awake.

Trainees have notoriously small brains, unable to know the names of everyone in the Community even after two or three days. And people can get offended. I deal with this by bar coding every member of the Community on the forehead, and giving the trainee a scanner linked to the membership records. It's a bit reminiscent of Revelation 13, but hey, why should the Devil have all the good organisational ideas?

On the subject of whether married or single trainees are more useful, I have mixed feelings which, thanks to the Discrimination At Work Act, I am completely at liberty to exercise. There's special exemptions for religious organisations for this kind of thing. I mean, obviously the tendency of a trainee's family to turn up outside the Moot House - kids' little faces pressed against the glass as they ask "is that our mummy?" can be distracting when the trainee is 7-hours into an all-important 9-hour meeting to discuss what wattage the replacement light bulb in the toilet should be. On the other hand, if the trainee is single, we have other things to worry about. There are mixed views as to whether it's right for the trainee to have a romantic attachment - even a chaste, paradigmatic, leading-properly-to-marriage attachment - to a member of the congregation. But I always reckon it's probably acceptable. Let's face it, they're not going to meet anyone else are they? Not if you've been doing your job properly.

That Space Cadet Glow

There are many worship leaders, I do believe, who have that "space cadet glow" moment.

I take the term from a line in Pink Floyd's album The Wall, when the protagonist Pink looks at the audience and realises that whereas he is in it for art for art's sake, the people there at the show, who should be hero worshipping / sharing in the artistic moment are merely there because:
"You though ya might like to go to the show to feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space cadet glow."
And how many devout worship leaders, ministers or general-purpose looker-down-uponers have never thought to themselves, "Here I am. preaching/praying/pebble-holding my spiritual heart out, and it is like unto pearls before swine to these pew-fillers / bean-bag-dwellers before me, who are probably only wondering whether there are Jaffa Cakes with the coffee again*. Oh why are they not as spiritual, as close to God - as talking-to-Jesus-with-every-breath as I am? Why can't they see how beautiful and loving God is - just like I can?"

And today I've had a bit of a weary day. It's been a lot of admin - those receipts don't burn themselves - and then there's been a lot of wondering about the cost of repairing the drains, and having to sit through three presentations as to the finer points of our potential new burglar alarms.

And so this evening, at the St Swithin's special service, "Throwing around of Beakers", I just felt that chucking water about in a liturgical way was just - you know - going through the motions. The meaning was gone, not even the space cadet glow. And if all you're doing is throwing water at people in a liturgical setting, I mean what have you achieved by the end? Just wet Beaker Folk and smashed crockery is about where we're at.

After the service, Ethyl came up to me. She thanked me for the "truly heart-changing act of worship." As screaming Beaker Folk had dodged flying earthenware, and water had splattered the walls, she found in it a poignant reminder of how precious and fragile the earth is, as Mother Julian of Norwich recorded, presumably recollecting a similar liturgy.

Ethyl's gone off to plant a clover bed to encourage bees, and raise a collection to support a school in a backwoods area of Malawi.

I wonder what a space cadet glow feels like? Might be an improvement.


* No. Do you think we're made of money?

Beware of the Leopard

George Monbiot hopes romantically to restore the Eagle owl, wolf and lynx to the British countryside. Thus explaining one of the mysteries of my college life.

Brasenose College, like Magdalen, has a quad called the "Deer Park". But it has no deer in it.

Now I know why. George had been re-wilding. Clearly the sabre-toothed tiger ate them.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Druidic Discernment Process

Well, that was a very gruelling Druidic Discernment Day.

The potential druids have been through an elaborate 4 year process of filtering, consideration and challenging, to get them to today's Preliminary Elimination Process.

Which we started last night in the bar with the offer to people to choose their own drinks from the available selection. Real ale or cider; gin and tonic; red wine and "just a soft drink please" are all acceptable, of course. But I felt sorry for Leo. He asked for a craft beer. But he hadn't ticked the box for "pioneer ministry".

At 5am we then woke them up for the "what's wrong with the boiler?" exercise. As trying to diagnose the problem with a heating system while sleep-stupid is a vital part of ministry. Many original, ingenious and borderline-obscene suggestions as to what the issue might be - including loose flanges, frayed bushes, blocked cocks and insufficient air supply - were received. Although some of that might have just been swearing, thinking about it. But the successful candidates realised that the real problem was no money to buy fuel oil.

As usual the candidates enjoyed the blindfold stock-car course, a good indication as to how they will perform when getting around a number of rural Druidic communities early in the morning.

And we had to give everybody a good rest after the five mile yomp through the forest while carrying the complete works of Karl Barth.

But it was the final task that really sorted the survivors from the rest. Our ministerial selection version of Just a Minute: "Speak for 10 minutes without repetition, hesitation or inadvertently saying something that gets you crucified on Social Media." Basically, if you can finish your talk without trending on Twitter, you're in.

I'd like to thank our ecumenical partners for their observation of this year's selection process, and their constructive feedback. The Anglican suggested dry sherry is also an acceptable ministerial tipple. The Catholic wondered what the women were doing there. And the Methodist thought we were maybe a bit soft on the candidates.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Shakespearean Social Media

Young Keith's messing around with his new concept of a Social Media platform.

Instead of being followed by a Grumpy Cat, you get pursued by a bear.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Surreptitiously Slapping Electrodes on the Minister's Head

What goes on in a religious minister's head, during the Sunday afternoon siesta?

It's a phenomenon recognised in ministerial manses country wide. After one, two or even three Sunday services, the minister returns home. According to character and denomination, they'll have dinner and maybe a drink of wine, beer or tea.

And then they'll wander off for a nap in the conservatory, study or front room.

The suspicion is that a minister after Sunday lunch is more tired than a grizzly bear in November. But what happens in the ministerial mind, in those vital couple of hours between snoozing off in the reclining chair and waking up ready for a shot of espresso before the hike back down for the evening service?

I snuck into the Beaker Conservatory, surreptitiously slapped a couple of electrodes on Eileen's temples.... And this is what I found.


Eileen woke up screaming "Please! Not If I were a Butterfly again!" 

I think she needs help.

Dowsing and Dousing

I'm starting to understand why the prophets were always complaining about syncretism - the merging together of two different religion's practices.

The whole idea, as an illustration of Amos 7, was for Daphnia to go around measuring walls with a plumb line, telling us which were straight and which were not true. A really good illustration in a post-modern community, littered with the walls of previous alt.lit scenarios involving building cairns and dry-stone walls to the point where they litter the landscape like Pac-a-macs  in the Peak District.

Turned my back, and by the time I'd got control of the situation Daphnia's found three thin places and an underground stream. Of course I don't really go for this dowsing stuff, so I insisted we dig down to see if the underground stream was really there.

Turns out she'd hit a water main. Still, it's not so bad. We now have another holy well. Shame it's in the library.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Cardbo-Clergy - The Vicarious Vicar

You know how it is. Any minister of religion will tell you. Ministry is not about doing - it's about being.

But the trouble with being is, You're always got to be somewhere.

And it's not easy. When the expectation is that you'll be at every school governors' meeting, every meeting of the Congregational Disapproval Committee, every social event - even when there's three running simultaneously, in three villages 8 miles apart and the fens have frozen. So you're checking the diary and discovering that your last day off was on Ordination Retreat. And yet still you need to "just keep an eye on" the set up for the jumble sale, or "show your face" at the "Come Dressed as a Llama Pot Luck Sausage Supper". And you've got to stand around not understanding what people are asking, and nodding enouragingly, only to find out that, when the sanctuary has been turned into a ball pit, "the minister agreed to it". It's endless.

And that's when you need Cardbo-Clergy....



Made in high quality recycled cardboard, with a fixed grin, Cardbo-Clergy turns up to the events you don't want to. Cardbo-Clergy will stand, smiling and waving, for hours on end without ever needing to leg it off to the next appointment. Cardbo-Clergy can listen to somebody's ailments for thirty minutes without ever yawning or passing out from boredom. Cardbo-Clergy can attend Circuit Meetings without having stab himself or herself in the leg to stay awake.

Or why not buy 5 Cardbo-Clergy and get the 6th one free? Then you can be "present" simultaneously at a number of events, and still get to spend your Monday cycling, fishing, knitting or fox-hunting according to choice. Just some of the ways in which Cardbo-Clergy can keep the clerical flag flying while you have a well-earned nap instead....

At the Fete

Supporting inter-faith events

Smashing the State
Getting down with the Youth

Clothed in the Last Shreds of Christendom

An interesting piece from Giles Fraser: "Money is the only god the Tories want us to Worship on a Sunday".  Giles Fraser goes to great lengths to explain how the Constantinian settlement lost Christians an interest in forgiving debts. And yet forgets somehow that it was the whole Constantine business that gave the Church the ability to dictate its day of rest to everybody else in the first place.

It's Giles Fraser here who seems to be trying to wrap himself in the last shreds and patches of Christendom. But it's all gone now. Christians can't claim privilege. If the Government decides that every day's just like the rest, then the conclusion that Sunday's best is one for faith communities, in their own right or rite. Giles Fraser can't decide that everybody else - atheist, Muslim, Hindu, 7th-Day Adventist - can't go shopping on the basis of his own faith story. Sorry, That't not how it works.

It's a post-Christendom world. We've got to learn to live with it. We can still have our own views, and we can still express them. We can still join  political parties, and vote in line with our conscience.

But we can't just tell people what to do any more.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

What to Call a Female Anglo Catholic Priest

There is a general perception that priests in the Church of England were initially a bit liberal.  But I think* that as time goes by, this will change. As the idea of women as ministers becomes more normalised, increasingly we'll see women from the Evangelical and Catholic wings of the C of E becoming priests.

But what does one call an Anglo Catholic woman who is also a priest? I would argue there are two alternatives: "Mother" or "Father".

"Father Angela" may sound a bit wrong. But if that's what a priest, of either gender or nun, wants to be called, then that seems fair enough.

"Mother" seems more sensible. "Mother Angela" has a Sister Act-y feel to it. For those who want to see the priest as a surrogate deity, it points out that God is our mother as well as our father. And if you object to it on the grounds that it sounds wrong, one can only presume that either you don't believe women can be priests, or that you shouldn't call male priests "Father".

Of course, in the Beaker Folk the Archdruid is always called "Auntie". And this is why there could never be a male Archdruid. "Uncle Eileen" sounds ridiculous.

* I've done no research, this is just prejudice. I'm hoping this kind of attitude will get me a job writing for the Guardian's Comment is Free

Liturgy for a Tube Strike

Archdruid: The Tube is down the tube.

All: And the lines are out of line.

Archdruid: Tell it not in Gants Hill

All: Proclaim it not in the streets of  Alperton.

Archdruid: For then might cyclists rejoice.

All: And Uber make a tidy profit.

Archdruid: As for me I will wander about near a Thameslink station.

All: The streets of Central London will look nigh unto Shaun of the Dead.

Archdruid: The sun will burn me by day.

All: But if the moon by night, I'm probably never going to get home.

Archdruid: All day long shall I wander about.

All: As things are all different to the Map, when you're on the surface.

Archdruid: But I shall rejoice when I take the trip from Leicester Square to Covent Garden.

All: Shan't waste our time taking that Tube journey again.

Archdruid: Where are now the wise man and the scholar?

All: Claiming to be "working from home" but mostly catching up on some DIY.

Archdruid: Bring me my helmet for my head.

All: Bring me my jacket 'gainst the rain.

Archdruid: Bring me my bike of burnished red.

All: But you can't take it on the train.

Archdruid: Stuff it then. Shall we go London next week instead?

All: Yeah. Smelly place anyway.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Raheem Sterling's Note to School

Dear Mr Rodgers

I'm sorry, but Raheem is not well enough for PE today. He's got a bad case of greed. Sorry. Flu. Flu. And he's scared of the big boys. Especially Martin Skrtel. And the dog ate my football boots. I mean, Raheem's football boots. And  he hurt his back weight-training, so he would be strong enough to pick up a Manchester City pay packet.

Lots of love

Raheem's Mum x

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Clergy A to Z

Not definitive.  Just a few definitions for your information.

Acolytes - Pair of people carrying candles. For best comic effect, ensure a two foot disparity in acol-height

Barbecue - Breaks out unexpectedly in clergy gardens in the summer. You can save the ash as a top up for next Ash Wednesday. As long as you don't mind the congregation smelling of old lamb fat.

Church - If you are a proper clergy as seen on TV, this is where you hang out all day when you leave the manse. Try to be really odd and adopt a few nervous tics when people pop in. They'll think they've wandered into an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Damnation - Inseparable or completely irrelevant to the Gospel. You decide. No really, apparently you do.

Epistle - The reading to preach from if you're Evangelical.  Clarity, precision, salvation by faith alone. Avoid James.

Flower Arrangers - The step on the Church fear hierarchy between the Bishop and God.

Gospel - The thing to preach from if you're a liberal. Narrative is so much easier to draw your own conclusions from.

Home Visits - An afternoon spent finding the people at the care home, who have a special communion because they can't get to Church, are at the sea side.

Iranaeus of Lyons - Bloke you last heard of at college. You vaguely suspect he may have been an early ice cream seller.

Joshua and Judges - Books you don't want to think about too much.

Kenosis - The feeling you get about 1.30 on a Sunday afternoon.

Latecomers - Also God's children. And a relief when the church is empty at 10 o'clock

Martyrdom - Feeling you get at Church Council when you try to replace the old hymn books.

Novus Ordo - Catholic Electro-pop group

Origen - Church Father who discovered evolution. Hence his nickname, "Origen of the Species".

Prayerbook - A "Goldilocks' concept - too old, too new, too childish but rarely just right.

Queering Theology - Evokes the reaction "nice sermon, Vicar".

Reverend - Word that automatically makes the ones around it the incorrect address. Nobody ever knows whether it's Reverend Brown, The Reverend Brown,  Reverend James, Reverend James Brown etc. You can take exception to all of them. Especially when your name is Mary Jones.

Sabbath - Day for working slightly harder than all the others.

Theology Book - Something purchased between 3 years and a month before ordination.

Unitarianism - Not as theologically distinct from many theologies as the Creed might suggest.

Vanity - If it really all is, you may be in for a shock these says. Just after you insist you know best.

Wedding - A lovely fulfilling afternoon with happy people in Church. Just enjoy it.

Xmas - Not an abbreviation worth getting het up over. Older than you think.

Year (Liturgical) - Starts at the wrong time. With variable length seasons. And Advent doesn't start on December 1. In fact half the time it starts in November. And don't even get me started on Year(Methodist).

Zoriastrianism - If you focus on the fear of the Devil as much as the love of God, you may be veering over here. Recalibrate your Theology. It's not like World War 2 was. We already know who wins.

Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes

From 2 Cor 8:14..... and Paul is laying it on strong about mutual financial support.

"Your abundance at this present time supplies their lack, that their abundance also may become a supply for your lack; that there may be equality."

It's just occurred to me where Corinth is.

When we get to heaven, the Apostle Paul is gonna be disappointed in us, isn't he?

7/7

10 years ago a group of fantasists ripped great holes in the fabric of the city I love. They tore holes out of tube trains, a bus and most of all out of God's children.

They killed and maimed Christians, atheists, Muslims and others with equal hatred. Because this wasn't really about religion. It was the sublimation of teenage angst into an act of stupid adolescent rebellion.

10 years on, that cause those wannabes thought they were fighting for looks old hat, as ancient as the world that had such brick-like phones. People have thought up nastier ideologies since then. London, which devours its children with such hunger, feeding on youth and energy, has grown ever taller, ever noisier and brasher. Londoners are that most flexible and resilient group of people, and inhabit a city awash with hybrid vigour. It's taken countless plagues, a Great Fire, a Blitz. It moves on, gets on with the job of making money and celebrating life, just as it always does. It's got more life than an ideology of death.

If there is a God of justice - my justice, at least - then the murderers will be residing at a satanic pleasure and their victims will be in the place of glory. We have a God of love and I can't presume to do the judging for him. But I can pray for the victims - alive, that they are healed. The dead, that light will shine upon them forever.

Monday, 6 July 2015

In Cyberspace, Everyone Can Hear Your Meme

Last time I help somebody out with a job.

Feeling sorry for Professor Tim Hunt the other week, and knowing he was in need of a new post, I used a contact and got him a little job in Social Media for the FA.

That worked out well, then.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Travelling Light

This is what Jesus told them: “Take nothing for your trip except a walking stick. Take no bread, no bag, and no money in your pockets. Wear sandals, and take only the clothes you are wearing. When you enter a house, stay there until you leave that place. If any town refuses to accept you or its people refuse to listen to you, then leave that town. Shake its dust off your feet. This will be a warning to them.” (Mark 5: 8-11)
So the disciples left behind their architectural guides; pergolas for fêtes on wet days; attendance record books; rules on how to count the congregation; 10-point guides to evangelism; silverware; capos; Powerpoint DVDs; service books; 25 years of Spring Harvest songbooks; little clicky machines for counting attendance; communion rails; Beryl tea services and books of canon law.

But they didn't throw them away.

They reckoned they'd need them later.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Blasphemy, Blasphemy, they've all got it Blasphemy

Iceland has repealed its Blasphemy law.

I should think so. The country whose economy was destroyed by usury has realised that Biblical constructs, of whatever form, are probably a bad way of running a country. After all, Christendom is over - especially in small countries in the North Atlantic. And all the others.

Of course, there are some people complaining, But they're just Thor losers.

Thor losers...

Yes, you can get angry with me.

But you feeling Loki?  Are you?

The Quick and the Half-Dead

There's a lot of claims round the Community that I've been responsible for a bit of poor planning on this one.

But the complaints that I organised the Beaker Charity Half-Marathon Fun Run on a hot afternoon are a bit unfair. I mean, yes it was a bit warm. But it's July, and we organised the run in April. And I think the trade-off between the risk of it being really hot, and the greater likelihood of warm weather, was probably worth it.

On the way in which it happened after last night's Full Night of Prayer and Party Poppers. Yes. I could probably have thought this through a bit better. The way Stacey Bushes ran straight into that tree could only be explained by the fact that she had been in REM sleep for the previous two miles. It's a wonder she got across the A5 at all.

And to those who say - why did I get people running a half-marathon in the middle of the 48 hour fast. Well, surely we are a community of believers. And if going without food for a day doesn't make people spiritual enough to run without toppling over into ditches, then frankly I don't know what's the problem with them.

I'm not angry, just disappointed. But I'm disappointed in you all. And, actually, that makes me quite angry.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Ministry of Church Plants

We've neglected Mission for too long. So I'm pleased to announce that Minniver is now going to be our Assistant Druid with Special Responsibility for Church Plants.

At the minute we've just got the herbaceous border and a few spider plants. But come December we're hoping to have a really good Xmas tree. So there's room for her to develop her role.


A Tricky Mission Field

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Entity Relationship Diagram of Church Committees



Stand and Deliver

It's been four years since my "friends" last organised a blind date for me. So they obviously thought it was time. Five minutes, it lasted. Five minutes.

They told me he was "something in packaging". So I presumed he was an executive in a company that, with the modern explosion in omni-channel retailing, would mean he was a walking goldmine.

Turns out he just likes sitting in a giant cardboard box. Not. The. Same. At. All.

Feast of Henry, John and Henry Jr Venn

Introit: Venn Morning gilds the Skies

Archdruid: Shall we commemorate some famous old Anglican priests?

All: That would be divine.

Hymn: Venn, we walk with the Lord

Totally unseasonal joke song: Venn, a Child is born.

Confession

All: We have sinned, now and Venn

Archdruid: In vot ways?

All: We're not going to draw you a diagram....

Hymn: Venn, I Survey

Dismissal

Archdruid: Venn, will I see you again?