Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Tea Light Terror

Some excitement at this evening's "Tea Light Labyrinth" service.

It was a lovely idea, based on Ps 119:105, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." A labyrinth of tea lights. The idea being that Beaker Folk would wander through the labyrinth, their feet literally lighted by the tea lights on the floor, and experience the sense of being on life's journey until they emerged, refreshed and ready for a glass of sparkling grape juice.

But Young Keith made a minor error or two in laying out the labyrinth, didn't he. Specifically, in accidentally laying it out so there was no way out from end to the other. As the Beaker folk wandered their meandering paths around the Moot House they started in awe, moved to confusion and ended up in some concern.

So the concern increased as they stacked up at the dead end. And then the concern turned to panic as one or two of their trouser legs caught fire. At this point the sprinklers should have gone off, but we'd put in the emergency override after the Streams of Water service. So the whole thing staggered to an end with Young Keith and I running around the Moot House, throwing beakers of water over the sizzling Beaker Folk. Completely messed up the whole filling up / emptying out of beakers cycle. It'll be 19 years now till we can get that straight.

The Well off Preacher

Nice little blog post from Doug Chaplin on the recent press reports that Church of England stipends are enough to live on.

Basically pointing out they are, as long as you've got other income....

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Just back from an attempt to arbitrate in one of the most bitter divisions  in world Christianity.

Yep, two groups of Roman Catholics from the Western World. Twitter got a bit scorched but I think we were able to contain the damage.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Streams of Water

Thanks to Young Keith for his latest experimental worship this evening, "Streams of Water."

You may remember that we have a "Mystic River" running under the glass floor of the Moot House. An junior tributary of the Hus Bourne itself, this stream flows from a natural spring, and meanders in a complex pattern under our feet. Thus representing ancient concepts of blessing, abundance and the living world. And reflecting the Biblical concepts of "streams of water" and the four rivers that flow through Eden.

Young Keith's idea was a "dynamic representation of God's love, transforming our ordinary into extraordinary - sublimating the natural into the supernatural, if not the preternatural."

What this meant in practice, as so often with Keith's experimental services, was a skipload or two of dry ice dumped into the "dunking hole" we use for initiation ceremonies.

Yeah, a bit of a misjudgement of quantities. The lasers that were intended to draw a delicate tracery through the gently rising mist in fact were incapable of penetrating a heavy CO2 fog. The temperature in the Moot House dropped by 6°C. And as the issue of gas exceeded its ability to percolate through the vents, the floor of the Moot House rose, lifting the choking Beaker Folk closer towards the Moot House ceiling.

At this point, the highly-sensitive Moot House safety override cut in. Unfortunately that involved the sprinklers all coming on and a deafening nuclear attack alarm kicking off, together with all the halogen searchlights rotating. Disorientated, screaming, soaking and gasping for oxygen, the Beaker Folk reacted by pushing through the fibre-glass simulated thatch in the Moot House roof and rolling down the outside to safety.

There's a deep theological symbolism to be drawn from this evening's events.

I just wish I was clever enough to draw it.

Frozen Parsons and Liquid Assets

Sometimes I realise how lucky I am. Being able to live in my family's ancestral Great House (now officially owned by an offshore trust), and charging the 50 or so resident Beaker Folk rent, means I live in warmth within the reasonably-sized Archdruid's Suite. Of course, the Beaker Folk are responsible for cleaning their own rooms, and the corridors and dining hall, on the George Herbert principle of sweeping the floors as for God's laws. So yes, the lot has fallen well for me.

Then I read the complaints about the selling off of the Church of England's old parsonages and I wonder. The basic complaint being that the old-style vicars used to live pretty much in mansions, and these days they want to live in 4-bed detached houses with a study and a double garage, and not have to pay for servants.

An old rectory

There's a few things wrong with Olivia Rudgard's article. Mostly that it's one-sided and uncritical. But to be more specific:

The headline suggests the Church of England has lost £8bn by selling off old parsonages. This based on Anthony Jennings guessing that 8,000 houses have been sold off that would now be worth a million quid each.

Thing is, this would only be true if the C of E dioceses had taken that money as fivers and had a giant bonfire with them. And I don't think that's happened all that often - though I know there's some odd types in Ely diocese. I know property has risen in value, but if they'd actually taken that money and used it for ministry, for mission, for buying smaller vicarages that would also have grown in value - then I don't reckon that's such a disaster.

Then the claim that  "They [clergy] feel some kind of guilt that they're living in a better house than everybody else, which is ridiculous, because everyone knows it's a parish parsonage and not their house."

Well, do you know, I've never heard that as an explanation of why a clergy might want to live in a modern house. I've heard them complain they can't sleep at night because the old vicarage is in the middle of town and right next to a pub that's open late into the night. And of course the vicarage was invented before karaokes, PAs and discos were invented. I'm aware that some old parsonages are freezing cold, and the diocese don't necessarily have the money to put in serious amounts of heating and double glazing for an unnecessary number of rooms. I've known a bachelor priest  living just with his mum in a 12-bedroom, 3-floor vicarage with extensive wine cellar. And I've wondered how the typical clergy family can keep such a leviathan of a building dusted, hoovered and clean. And it's lovely when you've got an acre of garden - but it don't half take some maintenance, when the clergy's busy tending the flock and the clergy's spouse has a full time job and they've got a few kids around the place.

Anthony Jennings goes on to tell us, "In the past everyone knew where the vicar was and now they wouldn't, because he's on a housing estate."

And that's the nub of it, isn't it? This isn't because huge vicarages are an asset to the Church or the community. It's because there are people who really still want to live in Bertie Wooster's England - where every village has a vicar, and every vicar has a huge vicarage. Where parsons are important persons (and, implicitly, all of them are blokes) and the Church is a power in the land.

Well, that's not where we are. The vicars are already full-time busy and probably don't need people doffing their tatty caps to them because they live in a big house. They need decent, warm, easy to maintain housing.

So it's a shame about East Coker vicarage. But it's not a building for an associate priest. The Church doesn't need listed vicarages and massive maintenance bills. And it's not like TS Eliot is buried in the rose garden.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Troubles with Trebles

And so to Harpenden, where the attitude of the "sharp elbowed" London commuter set, intent on standards of excellence, has apparently caused the choir master to resign.

And I am glad to announce this year's Beaker Award for Utter Naivety  in a Single Sentence for this cracker:
"The church choir is generally assumed to be a bastion of inclusivity, acceptance and love for all."
Has this woman never read Midsomer Murders? Hopefully she will be buying a copy of "Writes of the Church" when it comes out next week, for at least a hint of the organist - choir - minister - congregation dynamics that go on.

Let us consider some of the dynamics  in a typical church.

Inclusivity Versus Performance

People love their churches, and people love to worship. And people love to use music to worship.

But people also love to use music to perform.

So dynamic number one - inclusivity versus performance. Maybe this is the source of more choir and music group angst than anything else. We can accept there is a minimum level of performing ability for a choir or a musician to lead corporate worship. Broadly, somebody needs to be able to play or sing something that is roughly in time and tune. Anything less than that and you have the Beaker Quire, who are today busy trying to buy some brown paper for their kazoo.

But there is a tension when the music group decides they want to improve their performance. When a seven-minute guitar solo is introduced, it is often distracting to worship. Especially when singing "Abide with Me" at a funeral. If you introduce complex polyphonic singing, where does the congregaton sit? At the back of the church, obviously, same as normal. But you know what I mean.

I once had a Beaker Quire member (Buzfide, an ocarinist if I remember correctly) once resign because the Quire didn't "sound enough like Hillsong." I remember telling him - Hillsong has more guitarists than we have Beaker Folk. I can't train everybody in the Community on guitar. Not everybody has a guitar. Not everyone wants to play guitar. But he left, convinced I was disrespecting God with my low standards of worship. Then we had Gwyndolyn wanting the Quire to be "more like the Rend Collective." But that wasn't an artistic judgement. She just has a thing about blokes with beards.

And then of course, some congregation members actually want to hear high-quality music without the effort of joining in. The existence of cathedral choral evensong tells us that for some, it's enough simply to sit back and enjoy the space cadet glow. And that's fair enough. But it make it hard enough for those charged with pitching the music right.

Choosing the Hymns

Then there's the matter of who gets to choose the hymns. Options can include:

  • The minister
  • The "worship leader" for that service
  • The choir master / organist / music group leader 
  • The choir, changing the songs at the last minute when they decide they can't sing the ones the minister / worship leader has spent the last five days choosing.
  • The congregation at a "Songs of Praise" event, shouting out random hymns they hope the organist can play. Always beware the former Methodist who's always loved a 26-verse Wesley hymn in an unexpected meter.

Rehearsing

Few things more potentially divisive than the time and format associated with rehearsing. When Buzfide was demanding Hillsongesque levels of musicianship, he was really asking for the Quire to practice together for 3 hours a day, every day. For about 10 years, in my opinion. Whereas some more relaxed modern music groups like to just get together on a Sunday morning and busk it, maybe with a quick half-hour run through first.

And then you get the conflict between the experts and the volunteers. Because to get the best out of the weaker members, you have to spend longer on the relative basics. And the ones who think they're better get bored. Imagine a music group where the rhythm guitarist is still having trouble finding the fifth chord, but the keyboard playing  has a degree from the RCM. Where's the attention going to be? Not on the wizard of the ivories. And what's the drummer going to do during three hours of the lead guitarist telling her less talented / experience buddy "no - you just have to wrap the little finger round a bit more to get the D#?" He's gonna be happily drumming, isn't he. Drummers have no concept of time passing, boredom or most of their surroundings.

The Artistic Temperament vs Control

Because this is where a lot of it boils down to, isn't it? This is where the battle lines are drawn. When the vicar sacks the quire in Hardy's "Under the Greenwood Tree", it's to gain control over the music. The previous vicar told them to "blare and scrape what ye will," but the new guy wants things orderly so gets an organist in - ironically.

The Artistic Temperament! How best to categorise it? When it's spotting the perfect chord, the classic segue between two songs, the precise time to pause on "The...." in the fourth line of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" then it's genius and spiritual blessing.

When it's insisting that the whole song is shifted three notes higher, because the possessor of the Artisti Temperament has such a perfect A above top E, that's a different matter. That's where artistry becomes vanity - and performance has replaced worship.

So I've got the perfect solution to balancing the Artistic Temperament with the leading of worship and the need for control.

I'm sacking the Beaker Quire. I'm investing in one of them barrel organs. You can't go wrong with a barrel organ.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

The Circling Cycle of the Seasons

Could Beaker Folk please note that, as the world turns turns turns, we are now two weeks from the Autumnal Equinox. Therefore liturgical hi viz will be russet from now until Michaelmas.

You may think that russet is not a brilliant colour for hi viz.  You would be right. This time last year Marston Moretaine walked straight into the Doily Shed while wearing russet hi vi. You may think that it's not the colour you wear that determines what you can see, but Marston was always clear that the shed had "appeared out of nowhere."

Also as we approach autumn, we need to get some space free in the Beaker Bazaar for the Yule-themed tea lights. We therefore have a 2 for 1 sale on, on all summer-scented tea lights and candles.  These being:


  • Cut grass
  • Wallflower
  • Honey sandwich
  • Freesia
  • Sweet Pea
  • Barbecue Smoke
  • Petrichor
  • Wasps



Monday, 11 September 2017

All for Love

Social Media all abuzz at Stalky Luke, the Bristol Pianist.

Luke Howard was saddened that his girlfriend, who is apparently organised and  together, doesn't want to go out with him any more. Texts and phone calls make it worse, apparently. So he's dealt with that by pitching his piano in public and playing sad songs, and telling the press he won't stop till she comes back to him.

Because clearly "Rapunzel" is gonna think what a fool she's been. All those texts and phone calls, but now she's aware the press are going to all of Luke Howard's friends, if he has any, asking who she is - now there's a Facebook page dedicated to her - she's gonna realise what a catch she's missed.

My expectation is that Howard will play his piano until the weather turns, then pack it in. Though the thought of him, in his hipster clothes, piano decomposing, in Bristol in 50 years while everyone blasts past on jet packs, sounds quite appealing. A Miss Havisham for our times.

Trouble is, Howard's behaviour is potentially an inspiration to others. Burton Dasset just told me that, because I've spurned his love for a decade, he's now going to start serenading me. By singing "Kayleigh". On the ukulele. Daily.

I've given strict instructions to my head of security (Hnaef) that if he hears the words " dancing in stilettoes in the snow," then Burton's to understand - he's got to go.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Zoe Williams Guide to the Catholic Sexual Imagination

I should not be defending Jacob Rees-Mogg again. I don't belong to his denomination. I don't agree with him on Brexit. I'm well to his left on economics and benefits. Mostly due to his position, not because I'm a bleeding-hearted liberal.

But after the world's worst opinion piece, by Zoe Williams, has made me realise there's something odd about all the Guardianista Mogg-bashing.

Zoe Williams gives it away in the first sentence: " The problem with people who bring religion to their politics is that they’re obsessed with sex." Are they? Theresa May, daughter of a vicar and always happy to admit to her faith, never known for banging-on, if you'll excuse the expression, about sex. Gordon Brown - son of the manse - if he were obsessed with sex he never mentioned it. There's no evidence from Rees-Mogg's original interview, which confirmed that this posh Tory Catholic is in fact a posh Tory Catholic, to suggest he is -  he answered a question. In fact, a more accurate first sentence would be "the problem with Guardian columnists is they're obsessed with other people's attitude to sex."

The Guardian these days, given its online presence, seems to depend for what income it still gets on its dating site. So my assumption is that its columnists need to mention sex at every opportunity in the hope of exciting its readers with the thought of becoming romantically linked with other like-minded people. Yes, I know that sounds awful. But the Guardian don't get as many readers as it used to, so by getting them together they're offering a real social service to the rest of us. Although surely "Hobbies: Writing scathing BTL comments about sky-fairies" is probably not even much of an attraction to most Guardian readers.

Zoe Williams, having mentioned Tim Farron, then starts talking about Church and State. Rees-Mogg is a Catholic, so that's irrelevant. Tim Farron is a non-comformist. So that is too.

The article then goes off to a random set of non-sequiturs. Rees-Mogg never said he wanted to change any laws, he just told us what his view is.  He also never said he went around imagining other people in their bedrooms - curiously, that is what Zoe Williams has claimed, while also imagining Jacob Rees-Mogg in there as well. I'm starting to see who has the strange obsession with sex here.

The poor headline to this poor piece suggests the Pope should tell JRM that "you ain't no Catholic, Bruv". This appears to be based on the idea that the Pope is an environmentalist who wants all Catholics to be Green. That's not how being a Catholic works, Zoe. You could read into it. But you're probably too busy imagining Catholics imagining other people having sex.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Service for the Retirement of Henry Blofeld from Test Match Special

A bus passes down the Ridgmont Road. A couple of pigeons pick the ground for scraps.

HYMN: I Saw Three Ships, My Dear Old Thing

Archdruid: My dear old things!

All: And with thy dear old spirit.

A cake is mysteriously delivered. A lovely, juicy, madeira cake - lovingly hand made by a maiden aunt in Tonbridge.

James Bond: Do you expect me to eat that?

Archdruid: No, Mr Bond. I expect you...

All: WRONG BLOFELD!

Archdruid: I'd better lose this cat then.....

HYMN: Lead, Kindly Light Meter

A wallaby hops across the field, fleeing the Safari Park. A group of men dressed as Margaret Thatcher do a conga round the Moot House.

Archdruid: Well I make that the 7th man in a pink shirt to drive down School Lane today.

HYMN: All Dear Old Things Bright and Beautiful

Dismissal

Archdruid: My dear old things!

Friday, 8 September 2017

"Stella Maris" : For the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary



Stella Maris, Blessed Virgin
Bringer of true light to earth
Shining light upon the ocean
God-enfolding, at His birth.

Hailed by the archangel Gabriel
Eden's verdict to reverse
Second Eve, bring peace upon us
As your Son breaks Adam's curse.

Loosen now the chains that bind us
Look upon us, weak and blind
Shine God's light into our darkness
Pray to Christ for humankind.

Holy Mary, blessed Mother
Bring our prayers to Christ your own -
Earth-born; human; for us; like us;
Servant; Saviour; Holy One.

Virgin, there is no one like you
God-submitting, holy, true
Free from sin, may we be sinless
Humble, giving, chaste like you.

May our lives be pure and holy
Sea-star, shine upon our ways
Seeing Christ, your Son, our Saviour
We give honour, love and praise.

Glory be to God our Father
And to Jesus Christ, his Son
Glory to the Holy Spirit
Honoured Three, for ever One.


8:7:8:7 ("Firmly I believe, and Truly")

Based on Ave, Maris Stella: "Hail, Star of the Sea".

The Martyrdom of St Mogg

And all over the land at that time there was a dearth of honesty in politics. And some even called Jeromy Corbyn an honest politician, though you wouldn't trust him to tell you if there were spare seats in a train carriage.

And the people cried out saying "who will be honest with their politics?"

And at that time came young Mogg, who had nothing in his looks to attact - for he looked like Walter the Softy from the Beano. And he believed in destroying social care safety nets and withdrawing from Europe, and he said these things. And everyone scorned him because he tweeted in Latin.

And Mogg spoke to the nation saying that he disagreed with abortion, and equal marriage. And the people cried out saying "when we said people should be honest we didn't mean they should speak what they actually thought, unless they agree with us."

And the people cried out "Is the Mogg a Catholic?" And all the bears slunk off to the woods.

And Suzanne Moore said that views based on Catholicism had no place in public life. Even though many Muslims hold the same views about these two things and she didn't question whether their views have any place in public life.  In fact she said "The conflation of a Muslim identity with fundamentalism is wrong." But still did it for Catholicism and fundamentalism.

And so Mogg was martyred in the media. And yet he quoted some words in Latin, and just carried on. Believing what he believed. And not caring what people thought.

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

All Purpose Daily Mail Article Complaining About the State of the Church of England

The Archbishop of Canterbury has today said [fill in something about politics].

This is a bit rich, coming from the druid / oilman / weirdo / bloke in a frock that is supposed to be in charge of the National Church.

At a time when the church is within a generation of extnction / 51% of Brits believe Social Media is a religion / Abbey Clancey is wearng something exciting / pews are emptying / the faithful are now all in the local mosque, what the leader of the Church of England should do is restore the BCP in every church / flog gays / preach Victorian morality / send children down coalmines / ban woman priests / stop going on about gender and sexuality.

The Church of England was formed in the 16th Century. A time of strong government, beautiful liturgy, and enormous beards. The Archbishop of Canterbury should be getting us back to that time. Not trying to live in the present.

Believe us, if Jesus Christ had lectured people on giving to the poor, the spiritual dangers of wealth or the dangers of over-powerful authority, he would never have been so popular. If his mother had believed in the overthrow of rulers and the redistribution off wealth, we'd never have put her in so much stained glass.

(c) Quentin Letts, Stephen Glover, and George Carey (until we realised we ought to stop using him).

Monday, 4 September 2017

The Imprecise Wrath of God

A pastor in an American church has declared that gay people cause hurricanes, and in doing so joins a long, noble tradition.


For clearly the hurricane currently flooding the Republican-supporting state of Texas can be laid at the door of a lesbian former mayor - not an adulterous current President. In the same way, Hurricane Katrina was God's anger poured out on America for the election of Barack Obama.

But I think we can draw an important lesson, brothers and sisters, from the fact that tens of thousands of married heterosexuals have lost their homes in the Houston flooding resulting from Hurricane Harvey. God's punishment is inaccurate - more like carpet bombing than a precision missile.
Why, one might ask, does God strike so inaccurately? Clearly, brothers and sisters, because Heaven is so high up. There must be a margin of error.

And I know some will say that the layout of Houston - the urban sprawl, drainage of lakes, poor consideration of flooding risks, search for a quick buck - made the flooding much worse. But greed and lack of consideration for one's fellow men are minor sins compared to lesbianism. And how dare one try to set up hydrology against the word of God?

Then consider the time that Pat Robertson prophecied hurricanes would strike Florida as a punishment for homosexuality, and the first hurricane of the season hit the town where Robertson started his "700 Club".

And then there was Tony Perkins, who said hurricanes were God's punishment but had to flee his flooded home shortly afterwards. Did he have secret sins? Are meteorological disasters purely natural events? Or did God just miss a gay couple in the next street? I think the answer is obvious. God is not a very good shot.

My belief that God has a poor aim sustains me when I remember the time I was struck by lightning, walking across Lower Meadow. Clearly, in his Divine mercy but inaccuracy, he was aiming at Archdruid Eileen.



NB: Eileen, the self-styled Archdruid next door, has pointed out that at the time of Hurricane Katrina, Barack Obama had not yet been elected. However need I point out that God is able to see the future? Proactive punishment is well within God's range.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Neolithic Society Writes

Got two letters from the Neolithic Society last week.

The first was suggesting that we should leave the Moot House open, day and night, so anyone who wants to encounter "that authentic Beaker architecture whenever they want."

The second objecting to our replacing the old IBM PC XT we used to drive the 1997-vintage data projector. Apparently the XT is much more authentically Neolithic than our proposed replacement.

Still, the two issues have resolved themselves very neatly. Somebody went in the Moot House while we were at Not Greenbelt and  pinched the PC.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

No Need to Feel Down

Please can everyone be quiet around the Pilgrms' Block. There's people there need a bit of rest tonight.

There was a lot of trouble when the two groups met up in the bar last night.

The initial confusion was when the Fundamentalist Baptist Condemnation Society thought that the presence of so many bikers, builders, cops and cowboys in the other group meant that they, too, were manly men exhibiting manly manliness.

By the time it had descended to an all-out brawl, the "Spirituality of Village People" group were pretty glad they'd a number of Native American bows in their armoury. We've applied a lot of iodine to the wounds. But the Fundies have taken the worst beating since they upset those nuns.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Milton Keynes Statement

Article 1:

WE AFFIRM that marriage is a lifelong, procreative relationship between a man and a woman. And if the man should quietly nip off for a different, temporary relationship with another woman (or indeed man) we will try and keep that quiet.

WE DENY that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual or polygamous relationship. Obviously all that stuff with David and Solomon having lots of wives was a bit of a mistake. And Abraham and Jacob sleeping with the servant girls. Though God never told them off for it. Yet the Biblical record is absolutely clear. OK it's not. Still, gays - eh?

Article 2:

WE AFFIRM that adutery is wrong.

WE ALSO AFFIRM that any white, male, evangelical leader being caught in adultery can confess and then, once it's all blown over, get on with being a white, male, evangelical leader again.

Article 3:

WE AFFIRM that God created man and women equal.

ALTHOUGH OBVIOUSLY man is a lot more equal. Headship. You know.

Article 4:

WE AFFIRM that God has made man and woman differently.

WE DENY this means one is more important than the other.  Why aren't you in the kitchen?

Article 5:

WE AFFIRM that human bodies fit into one of two categories. Or nearly.

WE DENY that science will have any impact on our thinking.

Article 6:

WE AFFIRM there are some people who aren't made like us.

WE DENY they should be treated as if they are normal.

Article 7:

He who cites John Piper calls the tune.

Paul Burrell "Still Needs to Eat"

The world was shocked to discover, on the 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, that her former servant Paul Burrell still needs to eat.

"I was started to run out of press income," said Burrell, "what with it being a long time since the clearly non-suspicious death of Princess Diana - the one we think of as the "Princess of Hearts" and in my case "the Mother of all Gravy Trains."

"And I had run out of things to claim that Diana had told to me, but nobody else. But imagine my joy - I mean sadness - when I realised I had another chance to cash in with a load of drivel I'd get printed in the Mail. And guess what - it's only five years till the 25th anniversary! Surely I can get something out of the Express?"

Paul Burrell then looked a bit sad, but well-fed.

Birth of Mary Shelley

Thanks to Hnaef for agreeing to deliver this year's Mary Shelley Memorial Lecture.

Every year we consider the "Frankenstein Effect" at work - someone who is turned against by their creation.

And so Hnaef will be asking the question, "What is Brexit doing for David Davies's career?"

Children's Songs for an Angry God

Inspired by encounters with an angry Catholic and a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. People whose conception of the divine consists of God being really angry with everybody.

Ironically as well as believing that I am going to hell, each of this pair believe the other is going to hell, in effect for picking the wrong side. Which makes me the only one with an optimistic religion, as I believe in divine compassion on all that God has made. This does not make me a universalist - I believe, with CS Lewis, that we can choose to go to Hell because we'd rather not be in the other place. Because something else is more important to us.

In the case of both the encounters I mention earlier, it is fair to say that the thing they reckon is more important than anything else is sodomy. I reckon extreme Catholics and Westboro Baptists think about sodomy more than than the people of Sodom. Sodomy - or thinking about it, at any rate - is a fair chunk of their lives. But I reckon if you're picketing the funerals of dead soldiers, and yet your major concern in life is which socket a plug should go in, you've probably got your priorities wrong.

See I'm prepared to believe God gets really angry about things. Famine, pollution, greed, thoughtlessness, hatred, rivalry, the idea that people with Downs Syndrome are less worthy of life than others. I just think what consenting people do with their bodies ain't one of them.

So anyway. Here's my Children's Songs for an Angry God. By the way, if you're only here for the Children's songs, best not read the passage above. Bit racy.


Our God is an angry God
Our God is an angry God
Our God is an angry God
And he's really rather angry.


If I were a butterfly
I'd deserve to be caught and mauled by a cat
And if I were a wiggly worm
God would hate me just for that.


This little light of mine
Won't get me into heaven
This little light of mine
Won't get me into heaven.


Burn Baby Burn (Disco Inferno)  [Is this right? AE]


Angry Father, let me be
Scared of hell and fire
Help me not to upset thee
Or to raise your ire.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Parable of the Lost Belgian

Archdruid: Once a hundred French-speaking Belgians went on a package tour to Spain's Mediterranean coast. And it was a hot day. The sun baked down. And the tour guide noticed, as they were all sitting out on the beach, that one of the Belgians was missing.

So she went to search for him. And she left the others in the heat of the noon day sun. And after seeking in every bar, all through the afternoon, she found him and brought him back.

And when she brought him back to the beach, where she had left the others so long, what did she find?

99 red Walloons.

Give us Back Our Religious Sites

In the light of news that the Odinists of Great Britain have requested two churches from the Church of England, to make up for alleged "spiritual genocide", I am hereby demanding the return of every religious site in the United Kingdom to the Beaker Folk.

My argument is as follows: firstly, the Germans weren't "Odinists". They were "Wodenists". Quite a different thing. Secondly Beaker Folk have a sense of "deep unease" about the way in which the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Norse and Danes took our religious sites - already stolen by the Celts, and then the Romans - and converted them into whatever the Wodenists were doing in these glades.
Small child in big hat in front of Westminster
A very young Beaker Person stakes a claim

Thirdly, I have just as much continuity with the original Beaker Folk as modern day neo-pagans have with their alleged forebears. These forebears, being bloody-minded warriors who believed that those who died in battle would go to the Norse / Germanic heaven, would probably take about ten minutes to deal with their weedy, pacifist supposed successors. The Beaker Folk, on the other hand, being pacific, gentle and at one with nature, were inevitably wiped out by the Celts with their cheaty iron swords.

Fourthly, a process in which a tribal race changed their religion to stay in line with their leaders is not "spiritual genocide." It's simple good business. And it diminishes the word "genocide."

Make no mistake. If the Odinists do not hereby support my claim to every medieval church, every
Bronze Age burial site and every stone circle in these islands I'm going to light a tea light.  It could get as nasty as that.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

What Are Priests Paid For?

Good article by Zac Koons, "Priests are not paid to do anything".

But I've just been doing some sums.

Most priests are not paid to do anything six days a week.

But some benefices aren't big enough to justify not paying a priest to do anything full time.

Apparently a half-time priest is 3 days plus Sundays.  So that's the priest not being paid to do anything four days a week. The logic of this is that a priest could not do two half-time jobs as it would equal eight days a week. Unless they are not paid to do anything twice at the same time. Or somebody renames Saturday to be another Sunday.

And a "House for Duty" priest is not paid at all, 18 hours a week (2 days plus Sundays).

The logical end point of all this is that if a priest only doesn't do anything 2 days a week they should pay the diocese for the privilege. Somewhere in a diocesan church office, someone is probably already drawing up the job specification.

Friday, 25 August 2017

BoJo in Fantasy Land

Boris Johnson has admitted that the UK will have to pay a "divorce bill" to the European Union. He previously agreed in Parliament with one of his colleagues that the EU could "go whistle" for such payments.

Mr Johnson had to leave the press conference early as his pants were on fire.

Arriving at Not Greenbelt

All very exciting this morning. We've all set off en masse for Graham Hartland's alternative Christian arts festival, #notGB.

We set off early thinking the traffic would be hideous on this bank holiday. But in fact, we've got there OK. Unfortunately we're now queuing to get in. We're stuck behind 7 tankers of puckish progressive opinion, and someone has shed a truckload of establishment entitlement on the road. So obviously Giles Fraser has brought all his baggage with him.


Thursday, 24 August 2017

Season Change

Can Beaker Folk note we are now in "Greenbelt Season".  We are therefore wearing yellow hi vis until Samhaiin.

Pink is acceptable for day visitors and on Anglo Saxon feast days.

Grace for a Meal of Sausages Made from Pigs Previously Saved from a Fire

Let us give thanks for these tasty sausages. For though all flesh is grass, yet these little piggies were saved from the fire. Temporarily. The rescue operation was very successful. And now these sausages are well done. Amen.

Weekend Weather Forecast



Cool and Cloudy for Scotland - Warm and Dry for England - Pouring rain for Greenbelt

Liturgy for Patronising People Receiving Their GCSE Results

Hymn: Another Brick in the Wall

Archdruid: Let us all humble-brag our poor educational results.

Famous Columnist: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a Famous Columnist.

Twitter Vicar: I failed all my GCSEs and now I'm a vicar on Twitter.

TV Presenter: Failed all mine and now I get to read an auto cue for a living.

Famous Brain Surgeon: I failed all my O Levels but I worked my way up via carpentry

Businesswoman: I failed all my GCSEs and now I'm a successful businesswoman.

All: What about you, Eileen?

Archdruid: 9 O Levels and went to Oxford. Why do you think I'm the Archdruid?

All: No. You're supposed to say you failed and it didn't matter.

Archdruid: Well of course it matters if you fail. What is this? Self-delusion day? Self-publicising day for people who got away with not trying...?

The Archdruid is dragged out of the Moot House.

Hnaef: I failed all my O Levels and...

Archdruid  [From outside] : Liar! 
Mmmph!

Charlii: Let us all now praise ourselves...

All: Didn't we do this last week?

"Telegraph" Journalists: Can we take pictures of 16 year old girls jumping around? Is that allowed?

Hymn: School's Out

Stacey: Let us go in peace to big ourselves up.

All: Too right!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Patriarchy the Way Forward

What a fine piece in Anglican Mainstream on why Patriarchy is the best thing for society!

Clearly, brothers and sisters, I have problems with the early paragraph - referring, as it does, to the Papistical practice of Confession. Since the priest has no business forgiving sins in the first place, why would this even be relevant?

But Chris Sugden is right. The Government is encroaching onto areas of life where it has no competence. I myself, when my sons were young, rigidly enforced the Biblical injunction that we should thrash them whenever necessary, to keep their souls from Hell. But when young Ezekiel was persistently rude, and I enquired of the local magistrates what would be the appropriate form of capital punishment in accordance with Deut 21, suddenly I was "of concern" and the state poked its nose in.

And surely Chris Sugden is right regarding the way in which "easy sex" leads to innocent men being unjustly accused of sexual assault. I will be honest, I do not see any way in which sex could be easy. But that is beside the point. Clearly as we speak there are innocent young men being accused all over the country of sex crimes. My advice to all young men going to University in the next few weeks and being lured by the "hook up culture" into young sirens' bedrooms is clear. Video everything. You will need the evidence.

No, on second thoughts, forget about the videos - just do not be lured into their bedrooms. That will avoid all unnecessarily messy complications. And whatever you do, do not share a train carriage with anyone, ever.

And then Chris Sugden is right about creeping demands for rights. First homosexuals did not want to be killed for practising their hobbies. And, indeed, this was granted. Then they did not want to be imprisoned for them.  Some might regret this, but this was also granted. Then they wanted to get married to other homosexuals.

How much longer can it be, brothers and sisters, before they demand the criminalisation of sex between a married man and his wife? Surely we are well down the slippery slope. Marjory has just asked me what precise practical difficulty this would cause the two of us. But she is always sarcastic around bed time. Witheringly so, you might say.

So the argument is clear. Women, being the weaker sex, need protection from men. And who better to do the protecting than men? You know Father knows best. And when I say Father, I don't mean in the Catholic sense. So stop whingeing, and get back in the cupboard.

The Priest of the Future

Great excitement as a company in Japan unveils the first robot priest able to conduct funeral services.

In Japan, with an ageing population and Buddhist priests having to do jobs as IT managers and what have you, this may be seen as a reasoable option.

But in Britain there will be diocesan bishops looking carefully at this.

A robot priest, combined with driverless car technology, will be able to roam the parishes of multi-church benefices, covering anything up to 12 services on the average Sunday and thereby keeping village churches open - even long after their congregations have all died.

"The words of the Prophet Zarquon....."
Robots are perfect for unintellectual, repetitive tasks. This could include repointing the external stonework of the Lady Chapel, or filling in the latest Diocesan Return on the use of A4 paper.

They never sleep - so can take phone calls from people at any hour of the day or night.

They don't need a Day Off - so feel no guilt when they don't take them.

They will never feel a calling to another benefice.

They can be plugged in to charge up in the church at night, and kill people breaking in with their deadly laser eyes.

When they wear out, their CPUs  and memories can be upgraded and fitted into the chassis of the next model. Thus ensuring that when the PCC says "it wasn't like this in Father Marvin Mk III's Day", Father Marvin Mk IV can say "I think you'll find it was - let me project what it was like onto the wall with my inbuilt audio-visual display apparatus."

Robots need have no doubts, no existential crises. Are never tempted to join Rome or have affairs. Never get drunk and fall off their bikes. Have beautifully impassive faces, whether faced with good news or bad. Treat triumph and disaster just the same. And never have the slightest doubt as to whether they are in the wrong.

There are rumours that the Church of England has been trialling robo-priests in some parishes for the last 20 years. So far, not one has been rumbled.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Bring the Villages Closer Together

A recent short trip to Suffolk makes me reflect on the particular issues of the church there. Take, for instance, the "Benefice of the Saints". Which consists of:
Rumburgh with All Saints South Elmham & St Nicholas South Elmham; St James South Elmham; St Michael South Elmham; Ilketshall St John; Ilketshall St Lawrence; Ilketshall St Margaret; Flixton; Homersfield; St Margaret South Elmham; St Peter South Elmham; St Cross South Elmham.

If you're thinking South Elmham and Ilkeshall have lots of churches for two villages, this is because they aren't really villages. They're actually collections of villages, each one named after a saint.

So the church in the parish of "All Saints South Elmham & St Nicholas South Elmham" is, as you might imagine, dedicated to "St Michael and St Felix."

This is England.

Also being England, this whole patch is covered by an incumbent and one assistant, who also has two other jobs. And it's currently in vacancy. So of your mercy pray for Revd Ian Byrne, who must be shattered.

Of course the congregations in this scattering are small. Flixton, for instance, has a PCC with 3 members. And doesn't have a service this year between Bonfire Night and Christmas Eve.

Now when faced with this kind of thing, some people suggest a Minster Model. This is where the worship is based around the main church, and people are sent out - presumably on bicycles - to minister to the outlying parishes. I've never understood why this helps, or what the point is. Another solution is to close most of the churches. The churches are over-large for this age, and probably for any age - they were presumably built with money from wool, or rubber bands, or whatever that part of England made in the old days, and they were built big to the glory of God and bigger to the glory of the local squire.

But people like to have a church in the village where they live. Even if they never attend. Which leads me to my more radical suggestion.

Move all the houses closer together. Then close the churches that aren't where the houses are anymore, or sell them. The houses will be close enough together that not only will they have viable church congregations, they will also have enough people to support local schools, pubs and maybe even a shop with a sub-post-office.

You could call the clumped-together villages "towns".  I don't know why nobody has ever thought of this before.
If all the people in the graveyard rose, they still wouldn't fill the church

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Lament for the Last Bongs from Big Ben for Four Years

Hymn: "Ben" (M Jackson)

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: We lament as we hear the last bongs from Big Ben on this last bongy day for four years.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Surely our entire identity is tied up in the bonginess of these Westminster bongs.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: And if Big Ben bongs not, it is Health and Safety GONE MAD& © - for what is the hearing of a bunch of workmen - many of whom might not even be English - compared to our sense that there will always be an England?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: For if the bongs of Big Ben do not bong us out of Europe, will Brexit really be Brexit?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: If the 6 o'clock news on Radio 4 has just a recording, is it really the news?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: And if people realise that the whole Brexit exercise is a pointless exercise in failing to realise we have lost an empire and thrown away our entire purpose - will they not think we have lied to them in order to achieve a destructive, expensive, pointless exercise in vanity?

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Still, we stand, with heads bowed. The Empire has gone and we are just an island and a bit, on the edge of a continent, unable to accept our place in the world. Surrounded by evil foreigners.

Big Ben: BONG!

MPs: Let the French be gone - the Germans retire. Speak through recession, depression and fire... thou still small voice of ....

Big Ben: BONG!

MPS: Thou still small voice of.....

Big Ben: BONG!

Jacob Rees Mogg: Oh! There's nanny! I just need to get off for my lunch,,,

Big Ben: BONG!

Boris Johnson: Oh I say!  That lady over there is rather lovely.  I'd best get on my bike. Woof!

Big Ben: BONG!

David Davis: You know, with all the difficulty of Brexit on my shoulders, I'm starting to realise it's really difficult and sometimes I go home at night and I look at myself in the mirror and I...

Big Ben: BONG!

Jeremy Corbyn: Wasn't that..... ?

Diane Abbott: No, sounded like the right number to me.

Hymn: "Abide with me"

Crumbs for Dogs

A Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.‘ And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15.21-28)
If stories about Jesus were tweets, this might be the one that got deleted later...

Remember the other week when I was criticising a ridiculous Independent article that said the existence of Canaanite DNA proved the Bible was wrong when it said the Hebrews had killed them all? Well, here's a living, breathing Canaanite woman talking to Jesus.  Long after the Hebrews had any means of wiping them out. In the actual Bible. The one that Ian Johnston, the Independent's "science"correspondent, said was wrong because it said the Canaanites were all wiped out. If only the Independent's "science" correspondent understood the concept of research and looking for evidence.

Anyway, did I mention she's a Canaanite?

So this woman is a descendant of the race that Jesus's race set out to destroy, over 1,000 years ago. And to rub salt in, Jesus's name is the equivalent of the Hebrew "Joshua". That first Joshua - the name means "The Lord Saves" - was pretty specifically there for the Hebrews. His job, after Moses died, was simple. To go into the Promised Land and commit genocide in the name of the Lord.

In these days, we'd probably pull down his statue.


Robert Edward Lee Statue Lee Park Charlottesville
A statue that is no longer there

But since he's in the Bible we instead put him into stained glass windows.

In our defence, the vast majority of us no longer advocate wiping out other tribes as a means of consolidating power.

The vast majority, at any rate.

So the woman knows that Jesus is one of her race's historical enemies. A man who should see her as an enemy; as unclean. And she's a woman. And he's got his mates with him. A really embarrassing, really tricky situation. Because she's not going to want to go in there and ask him for a favour, is she?

But she does, because her daughter is ill. Of course she does. Which parent wouldn't?

And Jesus refers to her as a "dog".

Shocking words for us. Maybe less so for the disciples. They're good Jews, they know that the Gentiles are - if not still the enemy - at least not right. They worship strange gods. They eat the wrong things. They don't have Abraham as their ancestor. It's a working description and illustration - Jesus the Messiah has come for the Jews, God's family. Not for the others, the ones who don't even have the scriptures.

You know what dogs are like at meal times. They don't know they're different. They know everybody else is sitting round the table, and they're on the floor, but that won't stop them demanding what they want. The desire for food, in dogs, is more urgent than the fear of looking ridiculous.

And so they beg. And they scrape around hoping the kids will drop some scrap, or that dad will be sympathetic seeing those big, sad, brown, begging eyes. And so they stick at it.

And that's exactly what the woman does. With her urgent need, her refusal to give up - and her quick wit. " Even the dogs get the crumbs. And her conception of God's love is so great, she knows even the scraps of it will do for her child.

And Jesus is amazed. And Jesus responds in love. And God's love does for her what her heart's desire was. And a wall - put up a millennium earlier - is broken down.

It took a time for the message to sink in properly with the Church. And, being human, we keep forgetting it.

There is a constant temptation to think that others are not as good. That others are the enemy. That something they are; or something they do; makes them too different. We do it ourselves, in small ways. We do it instinctively. We shouldn't. Because small fears and exclusions lead to large ones.

The right-wing marchers at Charlottesville chanted "Jews will not replace us." Well, here's the news. Jews will not replace them. Jews included them. A Jew, Jesus Christ, died for them. That Jewish man is enthroned in heaven and prays for them. His Jewish mum prays for them to him. The Jews, Peter and Paul and Thomas and all the rest, spread the Good News.

And they spread the Good News of a Messiah who wasn't just for Jews. Who could heal a Canaanite child after all those long years of hatred. Who could pray for the Romans who killed him. Who reaches out his arms to all those - scattered through the world, and through all time - who will recognise in him the world's saviour and their own peace. Even for Jews. Even for Canaanites. Even for Samaritans. Even for us.


Saturday, 19 August 2017

Moving the Tea Light Stand

Yes it's moved again. Yes there have been objections.

Apparently the tea light stand has been just in front of the worship focus since Queen Anne's time. If we move it then we are spitting on the graves of our ancestors, and parciculary Archdruid Elspeth, who first introduced the idea of putting small pieces of paraffin wax into aluminiu cases.

For a certain amount of perspective. I invented the Beaker Folk in 2006. Young Keith made the original tea light stand himself a couple of years later. That particular tea light stand, and eight like it, perished in assorted Moot House explosions.

The current tea light stand was made in February. Until June, it was just inside the South East Door.

I'm going to have to move it back, regardless.

It's tradition, after all.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Brucie : The Last of an Age

Archdruid: Nice to see you

All: To see you, nice.

Archdruid: What's on the doors, Young Keith?

Keith: "All flesh is as grass."

Archdruid: True, but not as cheerful as I was hoping.

Burton Dasset: Charlii, can you give us a twirl?

Charlii: Sexist.

Burton: Hnaef, can you give us a twirl?

Hnaef does a twirl

All: Lovely Hi vis!

Hnaef: Just something I picked up in Arco.

Archdruid: Life is the name of the game.

All: Good game! Good game!

Archdruid: What do points make?

All: Prizes!

Archdruid: And so we must all reach the end of the conveyor belt of life. And whether we have collected a toaster, fondue set, saucepans or a cuddly toy, we know we must lay them all down and look to the biggest prize of all. And though no-one can know the destination of any other - whether higher or lower - yet we can remember the man who made us laugh and enlivened our childhood Satuday evenings.

All: Didn't he do well!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Liturgy of Patronising The People Getting Their A Level Results

Hymn: Another Brick in the Wall

Archdruid: Let us all humble-brag our poor educational results.

Famous Columnist: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a Famous Columnist.

Twitter Vicar: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a vicar on Twitter.

TV Presenter: Failed all mine and now I get to read an auto cue for a living.

Famous Brain Surgeon: I failed all my A Levels but I worked my way up via carpentry

Businessman: I failed all my A Levels and now I'm a successful businessman.

All: What about you, Eileen?

Archdruid: 4 A grades and went to Oxford. Why do you think I'm the Archdruid?

All: No. You're supposed to say you failed and it didn't matter.

Archdruid: Well of course it matters if you fail. What is this? Self-delusion day? Self-publicising day for people who got away with not trying...?

The Archdruid is dragged out of the Moot House.

Hnaef: I failed all my A Levels and...

Archdruid  [From outside] : Liar! Mmmph!

Charlii: Let us all now praise ourselves...

Hymn: School's Out

Stacey: Let us go in peace to big ourselves up.

All: Too right!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Garden Bridge : A Requiem

Hymn: Bridge over Troubled Waters

Archdruid: Ave Boris! Pontifex Minimus!

All: Is that real Latin?

Archdruid: I don't know.

Hnaef: Shouldn't that be 2nd or 3rd Declension Bor-e?

Archdruid: But how would you know that wasn't pronounced "bore?"

All: Sounds reasonable to me either way.

Archdruid: Oh, I dunno. We never did dead posh boys' languages at St Mitholmroyd's. I did Technology.

All: And even failed that.

Reading - Eccles 1

Reader:  "Vanity! Vanity...."

Archdruid: Yeah, that sums it up.

Hymn: The Eton Boating Song

Row, row, row your boat
When it's nice and sunny
You couldn't build a garden bridge
with the plebians' money.

Archdruid: Poor Boris laments and cannot be comforted.

All: His bridge is no more.

Archdruid: Where now can Joanna Lumley go to be absolutely fabulous?

All: Oh, she's got a few quid. She'll be comfortable.

Archdruid: So thank goodness Boris won't be allowed near any other vanity projects that will make us all much poorer just to bolster his ego.

All: Look, we hate to tell you this...

From afar comes the sound of treaties being torn up by a floppy-haired lecherous incompetent.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Boris Khan't : A Garden Bridge

Or a Vision in a Dream. A Fragment

In Westminster did Boris Khan't
A stately garden bridge decree:
The Thames, the muddy river, ran
Through Millwall, Barking, Dagenham
    Down to a frozen sea.
Three hundred meters in the air
were planned to thrill with flowers fair:
There would be gardens bright with planting grand,
Where blossomed many a commercially sponsored tree;
And here were Lumleys, honoured through the land,
Enjoying the privileges of chumocracy.

But oh! that deep unbridgeable chasm which yawned
Beneath the financials of this romantic venture!
And Boris Khan't, Tory, louche, mop-hair adorned
Ensuring Joanna Lumley was not scorned
Needed funding for this ludicrous adventure.
And from this river, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this City in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty funding momently was requested:
To assist which public finance was  sequestered
Like rain fell massive amounts of lolly
for the architects who designed this pointless folly:
Boris thought the cash would flow forever
for those engirdling the sacred river.
For years meandering with a mazy motion
Through city committees the planning schemes ran,
Still searching funding unmeasurable to man,
And still the Thames ran to the ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Boris did not hear
Those who said this was a bloody stupid idea.

Maximilian Kolbe /  Heather Heyer

Bracketing these two together, on the feast day of the former.

Both died because somebody else decided that some people, some lives, are worth more than others.

Did those who first supported Hitler imagine how it would pan out? They wanted to blame someone for their state of affairs. Supported the strong man who would put things right. Ended up with a Catholic priest being put to death by injection because they couldn't starve him fast enough. How, the guard that killed him might have asked, did we get from there to here?

By not recognising the humanity in others. Start with those who having nothing in common with you - once you've dehumanised them long enough, you'll soon enough not recognise it in anyone.

Same way when a bunch of child abusers can rape kids because they're not Muslims, because they're white - passing them around because they think they're worth less than their own kids.

Same way that the EDL and their friends can use those rapists to  smear an entire religion, a whole racial group. To make them somebody other, somebody less important, somebody who must be feared.

And so a racist who went on a racist march for racialist motives with people carrying Nazi flags claims he doesn't want to be called a racist. Well you  wouldn't , would you? That would imply you were the oppressor - being called that might cause a moment of self-realisation when you ask, in the manner of Mitchell and Webb, "Are we the baddies, Hank? You know, us with the swastikas and flaming torches shouting about blood, hanging out with the sort of fantasists who drive cars into innocent people?

If you don't recognise the humanity, the diverse image of God if you think that way, in people not like you - that's when you think driving cars into crowds, driving needles into priests' arms, is a reasonable way to behave. It doesn't start with murdering priests, Jews and gypsies. It starts with that suspicion that somebody is less than you - that that somebody wants your power - and that you'll support somebody who'll do something about that.

I'm not going to claim any moral equivalence between Heather Heyer and Maximilian Kolbe. Because some would object that one is better than the other, because one is a priest. And Kolbe's view of Jews has been a source of controversy in itself. But I can identify the common evil that caused their deaths - a fear of others that leads to making them less than human. As a snowball starts off downhill, and causes an avalanche, so do the smallest put-downs, the tiny fears, that lack of love turn into full-on hatred, death and oppression.

Tomorrow is the feast of the Dormition of the Virgin.  And here life turns the world's injustice on its head. If small fears and hates can turn to a terrifying oppression then here's a story where a small good thing turns to a great one - as one young woman says "yes" to hope and brings joy to a whole world, and the promise of a justice that makes tyrants and oppressors fear. 

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his humble servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed,
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear Him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

World Left Handers' Day

I'd like to thank all the left-handed people who came to our World Left Handers' Day service. We were ever so pleased that you all stayed to the drinks party afterwards.

Clearly there's some link between left-handedness and teetotalism.  Still, even though you didn't want to open any of the bottles of wine we provided, the Beaker Folk were ever so happy to pull the corks and enjoy them on your behalf.

Cheers!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Charlottesville Scream

"One day I was marching against the oppression of white people, the Universtiy was on one side and the good ol' boys on the other. I felt our story of oppression and exploitation was being called into question. The sun of white domination was setting, and the nation turning browner. I sensed a scream passing through my nature; it seemed to me that I heard the scream. The scream of those who had been in charge, who now had to reckon with everyone else as equals."





Thursday, 10 August 2017

Were There Aliens in the Roman Empire?

Controversy has broken out between the academic world and a bunch of conspiracy theorists over whether extra-terrestrial creatures were a common occurence in the Roman Empire, and whether they could have left alien DNA in the gene pool of western Europe.

A noted expert in the so-called "lady in red", Chris de Burgh, said:
A spaceman came travelling on his ship from afar,
'Twas light years of time since his mission did start,
And over a village he halted his craft,
And it hung in the sky like a star, just like a star...
Many alt-righ commentators have doubted the evidence of galactic diversity. One tweeted,

"If there were aliens in 1st Century Palestine how come they haven't appeared in BBC cartoons?"

While another suggested,

"Aliens in a space ship? You'll be suggesting the baby in a manger was God next."

In response, serious historians have suggested that in fact the whole thing was just a crappy 1970s song, played on CDs by department stores that don't have the theological or historical skills to point out the whole conceit is a pile of Roman era pants. Also that - if the best prophecy the aliens could come up with was that 2,000 years later a public schoolboy would rip off their chorus - then frankly they were hardly fit to be mistaken for the star of Bethlehem in the first place. The chances  of aliens having made it to Hadrian's Wall and fought off the Picts with a Martian Death Ray were described as "minimal."

The BBC, in an attempt to ensure balance, had a heated debate between someone who spends his nights on Solsbury Hill in the hope of seeing Peter Gabriel descend from the heavens, someone who believes that the world is flat, and the secretary of the Chris de Burgh fan club. The resultant debate was described in the Independent as:

"You won't believe how Gullible Greg from the Bath UFOlogists burned Brenda the de Burgh fan."

The argument continues. More heat than light is expected.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The Thinnest Christian Books in the World

Everything a pastor learns from books after they're ordained: A Digest

The Book of Three Readings everybody knows for Funerals, Weddings and Baptisms

Genuinely useful "alternative" worship ideas

Feminism by Mark Driscoll

Sydney Carter's Greatest Hymns*

The Holy Wisdom of Donald Trump

Sunny Days at Greenbelt: A Photographic Journal

Chord Diagrams for Christian Guitarists

Evangelical-Charismatic Theology

Wonders of 20th Century Church Architecture

The Book of Three Hymns Everybody Knows for Funerals

The Book of Three Hymns Everybody Knows for Weddings and Baptisms

Case Studies of Growth in Liberal Churches

Modern Christian Controversies that Don't Involve Sex

Christian Voice's Little Book of Calm

Anthology of Rowan Williams's Comprehensible Sentences



* technically a leaflet. Printed on one side only. With no hymn words on it.

Service for the Death of Glen Campbell and the Cancellation of Count Arthur Strong's TV Show

So that was a fraught, sad service. And very confused, as people weren't sure whether they were sadder about the death of a much-loved and world-famous singer, or the cancellation of a TV show about a confused imaginary music hall artist.

And "Witchita Lineman" wasn't the best-played hymn we've heard this year. Rodrik's claims that "It's really hard to play a G minor" were getting annoying every time we waited for him to check the fingering and play six buzzing strings.

And then the bit where a bunch of angry lions invaded the Moot House, and we had to rescue a couple of Beaker Folk. I'm pleased to say there was nothing more than some light mauling ,but it was touch and go for a while. If that Rhinestone Cowboy hadn't appeared from nowhere, and been chased out the Moot House, it would have been much worse.

Anyway, it's all over now.  We're all sitting in the Dining Room, drinking soup in our pyjamas. I've got asparagus. Which is an odd flavour for pyjamas.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

If Clergy Ads Told the Full Story

The "Bloodletting Benefice" seeks a House for Duty Priest.

Basically we need you to do a full time job. Patting the hands of those needing comfort. Refereeing the internecine warfare at PCCs. Running the four building projects that are going at any one time. But cheaper.

The Benefice has 7 parishes with no interest in working together. Which means you get to take seven services every week. Forget having "Everyone Together" services every month. The last incumbent tried that. Lost an eye to a well-aimed hymn book.

You may be a priest reaching the end of your career in an urban parish, dreaming of Dibley. We'll happily put you out of your misery.

And don't imagine you'll be able to cycle from appointment to appointment between parishes like you're Father Bloody Brown or something. You'll need a decent set of wheels to get round the place. Ideally a 4x4 as it can get a bit treacherous in winter. And just because even the snow plough can't get through is no excuse when Doris is expecting 8am communion.

There is a Church of England school in the benefice. Unfortunately, the head teacher is an ardent Dawkinsian with a pathological hatred of people in dog collars.

Obviously we're looking for a dedicated visionary, able to energise our mission and enable outreach to the community. We just can't afford to pay for it.

You will find this a rewarding and fulfilling end to your life. Sorry, career. Career.

An Injustice : Count Arthur Strong

Is it not the purpose of those of us who see a better future, a new world, a new hope, to speak truth to power? Today I am prepared to speak prophetically to oppose an injustice.

The BBC have decided they will not do another series of Count Arthur Strong on the TV.

For those who have not seen it, the Count is the funniest thing the BBC has produced in years. Brilliantly written, with characters as lovely as they are surreal.

The relationship between Arthur and Michael is as old as the hills - a straight riff on the Steptoe / Harold or Del Boy / Rodney theme. The older man's self-centredness constantly frustrating the younger one's attempts to find happiness. The relationship between Michael and Sinem is utterly baffling.  What, we ask ourselves, does the geeky, shy, balding Michael possibly see in intelligent, dark-eyed, funny, outgoing Sinem? While Eggy, John, Birdy, Bulent are a fine bunch of supporting characters.

The Count himself is an ineffable force of nature. Incoherent, self-important, utterly unaware of the chaos he sows around him. The incident where the gang are in a car in a lion enclosure at the safari park - where the car is on fire - is one of my favourite moments on TV. You'll have to watch it. If the BBC ever repeat it.

So I repeat. This is an utter injustice. The Count is no more, while Mary Berry gets another bloody cooking show. A light has passed from our lives. It may never be lit again.

I may need to organise a soupover to get over this.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Why Lazy Comics aren't very Funny about Religion

Tez Ilyas making some really good points. If anybody saw Marcus Brigstocke a couple of years ago - this is exactly what Tez Ilyas is talking about

Help for Heroes Fund Raising Plug

This month I'll be pointing you in the direction of two good causes. Of course being loyal followers of this blog you'll already be giving generously to various godly works. But should you be looking for somewhere to put a few quid to help others....

At the August Bank Holiday we will be encouraging people to contribute to  (or at least follow) Graham Hartland's "Not Greenbelt" virtual festival in aid of the Big Issue Foundation.



Burton Dasset did consider it, but realised he'd probably pass out after 30 miles. So if you can help, thanks.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Called to the Regions

As the Bishop of Burnley suggests that Church of England ministers are "called" to places with trendy coffee shops in the south of England, we ask the important questions:


  • Why has a bishop who was previously a vicar in Camden presented all of London like it's posh?
  • Who can afford trendy coffee on a Church of England stipend?
  • Apart from utter saints, who wouldn't prefer to serve a parish where you don't get the vicarage burgled every Friday?
  • Why is everybody in the Church of England so posh?
But to help every ordinand or curate reaching the end of their training with selecting their calling, we're happy to present this map of England.  Hoping it helps.


London: Check the Postcode. E Mids: Towns are OK. East Anglia: Huge benefices. W Mids: Brummies. Southern England: quite nice. South West; Called to retirement North: Working Class People NE: Too far. No data.




Deepening the Anglican Divide

Thanks to Sara Batts on Twitter for pointing out the lead picture in this Guardian article, "First Same Sex Marriage Deepens Anglican Divide", has more depth than a Magic Eye picture.

The first thing you think is that the two good-looking chaps are meant to be the happy couple. Then you realise that this is the sub-editor's little joke, you're meant to think that, and it's actually the Archbishop of Canterbury and a fellow bishop.

Then you hope they aren't holding those crosses up in the hope of repelling gay people, on the assumption they are like vampires. After all, there's been some pretty odd assumptions made about gay people over the years.

Then you wonder why Justin Welby has a shorter cross than everyone else.

And then you figure you should stop reading too much into out of context photos.

But still. GafCon is kindly sending a bishop to Scotland in an attempt to keep marriage heterosexual. I'm not sure what this activity would entail - setting up a small, evangelical sect of disaffected members of the Episcopal Church might be highly effective in terms of making a noise and getting publicity, while simultaneously letting the Piskies get on with things. While creeping into Episcopalians' bedrooms late at night to check their marriages are indeed heterosexual - maybe handing out something like an MOT certificate - is a bit extreme.

Mind, the Scottish nation would probably appreciate having a breakaway Protestant church, for the novelty. As it's not something they've ever had before.

The Archbishop of Canterbury's language is interesting however. He says the problem is "intractable." The Cambridge dictionary defines that as being difficult or impossible to solve. If the former I suppose that some more talking reasonably, while people ordain alternative bishops in the UK, might be an option. If the latter, I suggest a letter from the Western churches to GafCon saying "love you but can't live with you." Even heterosexual marriages can break down.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A Druidic Dynasty

Congratulations to Charlii and Keith as they are expecting a brother or sister to Celestine

If it's a girl they're going for Caroline. If a boy, either Terry or Elvis.

Friday, 4 August 2017

The Leaving of London: Peak Guardian

And so the end of days feel we have laboured with these two years becomes all too real as we face the terrible fact that the population of London is decreasing.

And there are many reasons why. London is hideously expensive. You have to sell a limb to buy a decent gin and tonic. The property bubble is leaving acres of empty prime apartments. To live in Central London you have to be either a multi millionaire or seriously poor. There is a tendency for companies to move out.  And Brexit will lose us City jobs and EU agencies.

But the Guardian has identified a lack of culture. Because if you have a choice between spending 2 million for a house in Highgate, or an eighth that in Leicestershire, the thing that makes the difference is whether the Corbynist Mime Collective is still going in Camden.
Near Regents Park, an outside pulpit costs £1,000 per week to rent

Apparently 400 venues have closed in London. Well nightclubs and their attenders are plummeting rapidly.  I mean, obviously the sorts of people that attend nightclubs tend to plummet - mostly around 3am when they lose control of their heels. But they're not even going to the trouble of all that pre-drinking, queueing up, fighting off harrassment and dancing round handbags. In Taunton for instance, both nightclubs have had to abandon their strict "no agricultural smocks" rules in the face of declining attendance.

The conclusion of the article, of course, is not that if only we had more independent breakfast shops and Taiwanese dance collectives, London would not be draining population. No, turns out the real solution is to get more livable property prices. Funny that. Turns out it's not culture at all.

The Guild of Obstructionists

Received the inevitable letter from the Guild of Obstructionists about my proposed changes to the Moot House. Apparently that Dali painting of the Crucifixion is "a much-loved image that to many is the most important focus within the Moot House. It is important that we preserve the Moot House as it has been loved for generations.

The fact that Young Keith only put the picture up last Tuesday has been somewhat glossed over.

This being the 9th Moot House since 2006 - its predecessors having been accidentally blown up during acts of unwisely creative worship - that is ignored too.

They're a smelly bunch, the Guild of Obstructionists. I don't say this to be rude. It's just they won't even change their underwear without a series of meetings, a public enquiry, and the go-ahead from the Victorian Society.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Stonehenge Wilts - But Somerset Shines

Willerby have announced the best and worst counties and regions to retire to.

Leaving aside that I've no idea what Willerby do, I was fascinated to see their bigging up of the beautiful region of the South West - home of so many Beaker relics.

Beaker relics, Somerset Museum

But I think Willerby are overdoing it with this bit of salepersonship:

"Home to sandy beaches, the great Dartmoor moorlands and the prehistoric Stonehenge monument, it was the South West of England who came out on top in our analysis."

Stonehenge is in Wiltshire, of course. And Wiltshire came... erm...6th worst as a county. Not as bad as Bedfordshire, it has to be said. But still. You can't big up a whole region on the basis of a feature that's in a county that is letting the whole region down.
Stonehenge - Nice, but would you retire here? There's no roof.

But then .I just don't see that Stonehenge is an attraction to living somewhere. How often can you see it before you get bored? Let's face it, even the Beaker Folk only went there once a year.

So my suggestion is this. Based on Willerby's analysis, the best bet is to live in Somerset.

And then just nip over the border to see Stonehenge once a year or so.